heat index – yukk = carolyn

The heat index is over a hundred and five degrees, and there is no sign of rain or a break in the heat for most of next week. I’m not surprised. This is why I hate summer. I have to drag out to the barn three times a day to top off the horse’s water. Even if it didn’t evaporate or get drunk much more than normal (and a good thing too), sitting in the sun it literally gets to hot to drink.

They spend their time under the big fan in the barn, and only go out at dusk when there are long shadows. Then they spend all night grazing in the pasture. It’s always amazed me how well they can hide in plain sight at night. They stand still under a tree or even in the open. Unless the moonlight catches their eyes, you can walk to within five feet of them without seeing them. I think they do it on purpose. If horses could snicker (as opposed to nicker, which is a whole other thing), I think they would snicker at us human beings, who can’t see what’s right in front of our noses.

My big old Zoe mare has the remains of an abscess in her off fore hoof (that’s the right side). My farrier dug it out, but I think it may actually have graveled before we got to it. When a horse has a gravel, it means that the abscess, rather than going down the hoof wall until it bursts with a lot of nasty stuff, works its way up the hoof until it reaches the top and bursts out there. Same nasty stuff, but it takes longer and is harder to dig out.

That means that my friend Beverly and I have not driven Zoe in a month. We tried a couple of Sunday afternoons ago, and that’s when we discovered she was obviously in pain. One of the ways to tell is that a lame horse will nod its head when it steps on the painful hoof. And according to my nurse/driver friend Beverly, I should be treating the sore place in her hoof by soaking it with sauerkraut juice—something about the acid. I don’t consider myself a real horseman, but I have been around horses for a long time. Never heard of the sauerkraut cure. I do know about the caster oil ointment for arthritis, and the DMSO pain killer. I know about giving garlic and vinegar to horses in their feed to keep them from being bitten by flies and mosquitoes. I know about soaking beet pulp and feeding a handful of it in the winter with horses who suffer and lose weight during cold weather.

But there is a ton I do not know that the old timers knew and used when there wasn’t a friendly neighborhood veterinarian around.

And horses can be stupidly counter-productive. I would like to run the cold water hose over them when they are hot. I’ve had horses that love it. Not mine.

And the best way to draw an abscess is to stand the sore hoof in a solution of Epsom salts. My Zoe, however, who is never even tied when my farrier works on her, will absolutely not put her foot in a soak of warm Epsom salts. When Zoe does not want to do something, it is wiser not to ask her.

We will continue to fight the heat the best way we can.



Summer – phui! – Carolyn

Well, it’s finally summer the way we expect summer to be in the mid-south. Nuts. The living is definitely not easy. My horse children are standing in the barn in front of the fan and giving me the skunk eye when I walk in to feed or water them. Obviously the heat is all my fault. And this morning my friend Beverly and I intend to drive Zoe. She will not be happy, but we have to do it early or we won’t be able to do it at all.

We have had a relatively mild summer so far, which probably means that it will be over a hundred in October. And seventy on Christmas. Don’t talk to me about climate change! Tell it to Antarctica.

In the meantime, those of us who can hunker down in the air conditioning and try to avoid doing much else. I did get my story into Belle Books for the new Mossy Creek book on Christmas in Mossy Creek. Since it’s been a while since the last one came out, I’ve forgotten everybody’s names, though I do remember that the Garden Club drinks lethal Mimosas at their meetings.

Forgetting characters’ names is apparently endemic among writers. It’s like being in a play. It closes on Saturday night and by Monday morning the actors can’t remember their lines. I asked one of my friends one day what she was reading, and she told me a book about so-and-so and so-and-so. I asked her who wrote it. She replied, “You did, fool!” So remembering the names of the Mossy Creek Garden Club ladies is way beyond my pay grade. That is why God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us copyeditors, may they be blessed.

Now I’m going to be writing the next book about those wonderful people, animal rehabilitators. I turned in the first in the series a week ago, and the Mossy Creek story on Thursday.

Maybe it’s a good thing it’s hot and getting more miserable every day. I have no desire to go running around in the out-of-doors collecting sunspots and getting dehydrated.

Oh, and by the way, despite what Hoagie Carmichael says in his song, there is no oleander in Memphis. Pity, because it’s a lovely poison. I’d like to use in a mystery some day, but I’d have to have it harvested in California.


Summer heat alert: treat your laptop like your puppy

(I’m sharing my cautionary tale because, although it makes me look dumb, it might save you from a similar experience–or worse!)

laptop summers

We’re dealing with record-breaking heat in the Central Valley of California–and most of the West–right now. Triple digits means the day is a groaner. But you still have to live your life. For me, that means getting in my car to deliver my granddaughter to her gymnastics practice while I do my normal weekly shopping and errands. I slipped my laptop into its padded carrier in case I finished my errands early and had time for a little work at Starbucks. To keep it safe from theft, I placed it on the floor of the backseat then went about my business.

Sadly, an extra stop for my hubby meant no computer time over an iced latte. And while my groceries were safe and chilled in the two coolers I brought, my poor laptop was sweltering in its padded–not insulated–carrying case on the floor of the car. I unloaded it last (had to get the cold stuff in the fridge, right?).

Even before I unzipped the bag, I could feel the heat emanating through the padding. My sweet silver MacBook Pro was almost too hot to handle. I slid it to the counter in the air-conditioned room and prayed to the computer gods that I hadn’t just killed it. I also watched it carefully hoping it didn’t combust. I gave it an hour to return to normal temperature, then with heart in my throat, I opened it.

To my profound surprise and relief, although it had shut down in a desperate act of self-preservation, no doubt, it started and seems to be working fine. But that hour of gut-wrenching worry was not fun–especially when it was completely avoidable.

Here’s my advice: if you’re traveling with a laptop, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Treat your laptop like a puppy. You wouldn’t leave your puppy in a hot car, you shouldn’t leave your laptop, either.

Never leave either in a hot car.

Have you ever experienced this? Do you have any tips for summer time writing or traveling your laptop? I’m going on a road trip next week and plan to bring my laptop, so there may be moments when I can’t carry it with me. Mine was on SLEEP mode at the time. Would turning it off completely have helped?

Stay cool, my friends.



Join the crowd – Carolyn

Writing is by its very nature a solitary occupation. Even if you have a co-writer, only one set of hands can rest on the keyboard at one time. That’s why it is so great to be able to meet other writers to talk about writing.

Yesterday was our monthly meeting of Malice in Memphis mystery writers group. Last week was the monthly meeting of the River City Romance Writers. And every Friday (or almost every Friday) five of us meet at the local IHOP as a critique group. It’s scary to think we’ve been meeting for years. Not always exactly the same group, but mostly. Not always the same venue, but mostly.

A good critique group is a pearl above price. I have been singularly blessed.

Our group writes different kinds of stuff. Time travel, mystery dinner theater, thrillers, romance, romantic suspense and mystery, historical and contemporary. We share one thing, however. Each of us wants the others to succeed. I must admit I was for a very short while a long time ago in a much larger group—too large—in which at least two members were invested in destroying the self-esteem of the other members in the group. Valuable criticism is one thing. Attacking the talent or skill of another writer is simply mean-spirited. I firmly believe that if you point out a problem in somebody’s manuscript, you should offer a viable solution to fix the problem. Not always possible, but the attempt should be made.

And we were all unpublished at some point. Some of the best writers I’ve known have not been published yet. A good deal of that is luck.

One of my friends received a contract for a time travel several years ago. Her closest friend was refused a contract for a romantic western a week later.

They lost the friendship. Her friend could not forgive her for getting published first.

Unfortunately unlike a lot of careers and accomplishments, being published is the touchstone writers are judged by all too often. Tell a stranger at a cocktail party that you are a writer, but unpublished, and watch his eyes glaze over with that dismissive stare. Before I sold my first book, one of my colleagues at Memphis State University, where I worked, said over lunch, “Isn’t it nice you have that sweet little hobby.” She nearly wound up with a horrendous dental bill. I wanted to slug her.

There was a TV commercial several years ago in which the spokesperson said, “Everybody deserves to be published.” Oh, no they don’t. Our task is to keep learning and working so that we deserve to be published. So join a good writers’ group, find a wonderful critique group, go to workshops, read, listen, and most of all write, write write. Than if you’re lucky enough to find an editor who loves your work…


A new release!

Happy Book Birthday, SWEET SUMMER’S KISS.

Kiss newsletter header


I’m celebrating the release of my second Love at the Chocolate Shop book! Release Day is always filled with butterflies in the tummy. Will readers like it? Did I cross every T and dot every I? What if they hate my characters or don’t get my humor?

You’d think after 40-some books I’d be past this, but no…it’s still the same. Until that first review comes in and then…there’s champagne.

Kiss Reviews Shelagh

I don’t expect everyone to love every book I write, but I do appreciate the generous reviews from readers who truly felt a connection to the story. This makes me over-the-top happy.

So, thank you, kind readers for taking the time to share your feelings. And in case you missed my newsletter, our Love at the Chocolate Shop series is almost done! I can’t believe my book is #10 out of the 12. In case you missed any, here they are.

#1 – October 2016
Melt My Heart, Cowboy
by C.J. Carmichael
#2 – November 2016
A Thankful Heart
by Melissa McClone


#3 – December 2016
Montana Secret Santa
by Debra Salonen
#4 – January 2017
The Chocolate Cure
by Roxanne Snopek
#5 – February 2017
The Valentine Quest
by Melissa McClone
#6 – March 2017
Charmed By Chocolate
by Steena Holmes
#7 – April 2017
The Chocolate Comeback
by Roxanne Snopek
#8 – May 2017
The Chocolate Touch
by Melissa McClone
#9 – June 2017
Sweet Home Cowboy
by Marin Thomas
#10 – July 2017
Sweet Summer’s Kiss
by Debra Salonen
#11 – August 2017
Captured By Chocolate
by Steena Holmes
#12 – September 2017
Sweet Dreams Baby
by C.J. Carmichael





Deadlines – Carolyn

I met my deadline! Hooray. The book went out to my editor on the 28th. I had until the first. Now, let’s hope she likes it. I expect to get my usual five page revision letter, but that’s par for the course. Now I have two weeks to deliver two short stories to Belle Books for the last of the Mossy Creek series. And I’ve finished editing the Malice in Memphis Elmwood series of short stories. So I am ginning. For those of you who are not southerners, ginning is what is happening when the cotton gins are running twenty-four hors a day, thereby making money and doing good work. So if you’re ginning, you are cranking out the work.

And I finally got the man to come over to bait my house to get rid of the mice. If they’d stay outside or in the barn, they could conduct their lives in peace. Last week, however, was the last straw. I was curled up in the recliner in my bedroom reading my Kindle—as I do much more frequently than I should—when Mr. Mouse took a stroll right down the center of the side table beside my chair. He didn’t run either. He ambled. I was sitting not more than a foot from him. He could not have cared less. Now, that is too cheeky even for my Janist tendencies. So, the stuff the exterminator used is supposed to draw them outside the house. I don’t want to think about what happens to them then.

And now we have bunnies. In the last couple of days I have walked up on two very big, very pretty brown rabbits in my carport. The moment they see me, they take off in hysterics—no ambling for them. I like them. I also like the quail, of which we used to have a bunch. Don’t see them very often recently with their funny top knots. So far I haven’t found any live armadillos. And I’ve only seen the dog fox once recently. He’s a beauty–gray with a bright red tail with a white knob on it. No raccoons of late, no possums, and (Thank God) no snakes. Usually where you have horses, you don’t see many snakes. Horses to not like them and tend to stomp then when they can. They aren’t bothered by the king snakes that live in the barn and keep other snakes away. The king snakes keep the mouse population in the barn at bay as well. My elderly Burnese cat presented me with a dead mouse two days ago. He’s too old and too frail to keep up with the population, however. Me too.

I like the critters with whom I share my life. There is something about having a cat asleep in your lap that removes a great deal of aggravation from life and gives me the energy to go back to ginning.



One hawk down: a lesson in survival

While waiting for my Sweet Summers Kiss copyedits, I thought it would be a good time to help my hubby build an extension on our deck. (The photo is Paul on the coast on Father’s Day, knowing we were going back to triple digits.)

Paul on Fathers Day

After a long and grueling day of deck building on what was possibly the hottest day in history, we were sitting on the new deck when our Queensland spotted something moving near our shop. Something large that didn’t belong. Binoculars confirmed it was a hawk—but hawks generally fly. They don’t walk.

I put my shoes back on and raced to the rescue—of my dog or the bird–I wasn’t sure which. Even injured, the hawk impressively puffed out its chest feathers, opened its very large wingspan and scared the heck out of my dog. I kept my distance, too.

Once I had Jessie on her leash, I could figure out why there was a redtail hawk standing on the ground. As soon as it started hopping away, I could see its right wing was not functioning. By now, night had fallen, so I followed the bird at a respectful distance until it managed to get to the top of a wooden fence post.

Smart bird. The day before I saw a very large coyote emerge from the creek bed not ten feet from where the bird had been standing.

I left him/her on the post and trudged home, anxious and concerned. Then, I consulted with the multitude on Facebook. I was hoping for a simple fix—you know, the name of a nearby raptor rescue group that would swoop in (pun intended) to take the bird and make it all better. Yeah…that didn’t happen.

At dawn, I spotted the bird still sitting on its post. Relief. Or so I thought. Five phone calls later, I realized NOBODY was going to come and rescue the bird. It was all on me—and my sweet hubby. Here’s the video. (Please cut us a little slack. We are rank amateurs, and apparently got “raptor” confused with “velociraptor” from the Jurassic Park movies. Sigh.)

Long story short, I was able to locate a place to take the bird. It was in a town an hour and a half north of us, but despite the people who said the bird would probably be put down, I drove “him,” it turns out, to the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center. http://www.stanislauswildlife.org/

Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center

A kind lady took my info and gave me case number so I could call to check on him.

Here’s the reason I didn’t post this last Friday: 

I called on Monday and I’m happy to say he’s still alive and EATING. This is huge. It will take time to see if his eye recovers. They believe the break will heal with care and an extra healthy diet that encourages bone growth. I’m relieved beyond words and I’m glad I went the distance for this beautiful wild thing.

 In other news, my Love at the Chocolate Shop book releases wide next Thursday! Some of the scenes take place on the 4th of July, hence this fun meme. Have a wonderful holiday!

Fireworks memeIf you like to be the first to get a new release, you can pick up your preorder here (click on image):

Sweet Summer Kisses Open

And since tomorrow is Canada Day, I’d like to share this adorable video I spotted on FB. Made me laugh! Go, Canada!!!


Have a great weekend, all!



Mouse in the house – Carolyn

I have mice. I expect them out at the barn. Field mice with small pink ears. That’s why I keep my horse feed in metal garbage cans with tight-fitting metal lids. Since I had never lived in the country before we moved out here to raise horses, I was not aware of how little space a mouse requires to get into any container that is not metal and shut tight. When I had thirteen horses on the property (I was younger then) I used to stack the fifty pound feed sacks up in the far back of the feed room. Amazing how many pounds of rolled oats mice can steal. They also tend to spread around their leavings and made an incredible mess.

When we first moved out here, we also had rats in the lean to, the only shed we had to protect the horses in bad weather. Before we got our fancy new barn built. We got rid of the rats quickly, and after my two big king snakes took up residence in the new barn, we had very few mice as well. Never kill a king snake! They are the first line of defense against poisonous snakes and other unpleasant critters. I speak very politely to my two when I see them, which is seldom. They are private, but they are competent.

I do not, however, go so far as to invite them into the house. Not gonna happen. My two cats, Monti, the Burmese, and Midgie, the slightly deranged black cat, used to be good mousers. Cats get old just like people. Monti is seventeen; Midgie is twelve with a mental age of three. Still, Monti delivered a dead mouse to me this morning, bless him. But he can’t keep up with them, and I don’t think Midgie has a clue what a mouse is, much less that she’s supposed to kill it.

Which I just cannot do. I finally got a mousetrap, baited it with peanut butter and set it out. The mouse thoroughly enjoyed the peanut butter. He did not, however, spring the trap. I worried all night that he’d kill himself slowly and painfully. I have visions of a lonely wife and babies waiting for him. Isn’t that stupid?

So, abnegating my responsibility, I am bringing in professionals to get rid of the little darlings. Don’t want to know how or where they go, so long as it’s not in my house. I’m adding the destruction of any brown recluse or black widow spiders and every wasp I can find. I actually like the big black and white writing spiders—Charlotte’s Web—but not the poisonous ones.

The book I am about to turn in is about the wonderful people who work as animal rehabilitators. I have incredible respect for them and for the fish and game officers who try to keep the rest of us from getting lost, falling overboard, hunting out of season, fishing without licenses and keeping undersized fish—the truly stupid things that human beings do in the woods. It’s no wonder most wild animals are terrified of us. We are the nastiest predator out there.

Be kind to your game wardens. And the rehabilitators out there saving wildlife from our predations. And forgive me for getting rid of my mice.


Almost Done – Carolyn

It is remarkable that I remembered today is Sunday, the day I blog. I am coming down to the wire to finish the book I have due on or before the first of July. It will be a close thing, largely because I was too sick to write for almost ten days and got behind.

I was listening to an interview with John Grisham on one of the morning news shows last week. He says to write a page a day no matter what. That’s okay if you include the weekends, but five days a week is only 260 pages a year. Not acceptable. I try to do at least five a day, and at least one weekend day. But not always. I am easily seduced away from my computer, usually by a book. Last week a book I had pre-ordered and forgotten about showed up on my Kindle. I hate that! Who could NOT open a Christmas present on Christmas? No me. I have to dip in, and once dipped in, I am usually caught—if the book is a good one. And it usually is.

It would be interesting to know which of you writers out there writes a continuous manuscript, straight through start to finish. Or do you write scenes that are not necessarily contiguous? That’s what I do. When I am truly bored, stuck, or just generally disgusted, I write a highly emotional scene to get me past the closed door. And I always know what the last scene will be. But not always who the killer is. I’ve been fooled by a character several times. I know who the killer is planned to be, but by the time I get to the point where he is revealed, I know the character I have written would never kill somebody—well, not in that way at least. Thank heaven, there’s always another character standing there all ready to take the blame—I just didn’t know I was setting him or her up at the time.

I have enormous respect for writers who write extensive outlines that constrain their characters to do just what they’re told. Mine never do. They start off listening to me, but somewhere along the line they get fractious and off they go in a direction that I had not planned for them to take. My friend Pat Potter does the same thing. She thinks, and I tend to agree with her, that our way makes a more interesting book. But the outline-makers would probably disagree.

The main thing—one age a day or five, or outline or not—is to write. Even if it’s the line of K’s that everybody gets when they fall asleep over their computer. K’s can be fixed. Blank screens can’t. Hang in there and wish me luck on my deadline. I intend to make it with time to spare.



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