Gradoo – Carolyn

Last week I wrote a short story and five pages of my new mystery. That’s a tiny step in the right direction, but nothing like what I should be doing. I’m not certain at what point immobility and lingering depression turn into sheer laziness, but I think I crossed the line a while back.

When the book is not speeding along, look for a writer to clean her closets. I haven’t even done that. Last week I had to find a pair of shoes with leather soles to wear to my ballroom dance lesson. I wound up digging out practically every shoe in my closet looking for a pair with leather soles that actually fit and didn’t have three inch heels. Guess what? I found the shoes, but the rejects are still strewn all over my bedroom.

At some point what I call the gradoo grows to the point where I would prefer to sit on the floor, suck my thumb and read a book. As always. Ain’t gonna happen, or I will end up like the Collyer brothers or that hoarding show on the telly. Gradoo, by the way, is the sort of grunge that collects at the top rim of the dishwasher. It’s essentially uncatalogable mess.

I did get the Pacific cloth I ordered. My next project—after the closet and the shoes—is to get the silver polished and wrapped up so I don’t have to polish it the next time I use it, whenever that might be. Pacific cloth is that felt-like fabric that retards oxidizing (?) of silver. I had no idea where to get it, so Google came to my rescue. Guess what? I ordered it from Amazon. I suspect NASA could order its next nose cone from Amazon. They are definitely a valuable resource for stuff like that. Since I usually read a book a day, I’d probably slit my wrists without them. And they carry my books, bless their hearts.

Our Malice in Memphis writers group has begun accumulating ghost stories for our next anthology. I love writing ghost stories. I’m not certain I believe in the existence of ghosts, but the idea that some part of some of us remains to deal with problems encountered in life fascinates me. I think that if there are ghosts, they are probably like the image that remained on old televisions after the switch was turned off. That’s why I like the movie High Spirits, one of the funniest movies ever made. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. You’ll laugh yourself silly.

It’s spring, even if it snows tomorrow. The jonquils have already come up part way, and I’m going to spend this afternoon driving Zoe, my big old draft horse, and possessing my soul in peace. (I hope). Then tomorrow I face the gradoo. I promise.


The Mystery (Pat)

I like to talk about the mystery of writing because I really don’t understand it myself.  I discuss it a lot at reading club tallks or in speaking to libraries, but I’m still surprised at what comes out of my own head or, more accurately, my heart.

Probably nothing puzzles me more than the series I’m writing now about veterans and dogs.   It started as a stand alone book — :The Soldier’s Promise — that was sold to a publisher as a troubled returning vet and a military dog with PTSD who help heal each other.

But I fell in love with the ficitional town where they took up residence and there was a character who just wouldn’t go away.   She wanted her own book and her own happy ending, and thus developed  Tempted by A Soldier.  That book will be released next Saturday.   It can be pre-ordered now.Potter_TemptedbytheSoldiercover

The first book was an emotional story about wounded souls.    But the second, from page one, was full of fun and charm.   I didn’t plan it that way.   I don’t do funny often, but these two characters just had a chemistrry from page one, and I ran with it. Clint, unquestionably, is the most charming hero I’ve ever had the pleasure of following.

Now I’n working on the third,   It doesn’t have a name, but it’s a much more intense, emotional book.   And it’s far more difficult to write because I’m going into the head of  an army nurse who lost everything — her fiance, her surgical team, the use of her hand — in a terrorist attack.   It doesn’t have the pace of the other two.   It can’t, because she’s not ready to respond to others, to fall in love again.

I often try to explain ‘Voice’ to writer workshops.    To me, it means that you can pick up a book and, without knowing the autthor, can often identify  her, or him.   Sometimes it’s a gentle charm (Julie Garwood); sometimes it’s emotional family tales (Kristan Hannah): sometimes it’s fast paced romantic suspense (Jayne Ann Krentz and Nora Roberts).    I can’t seem to fall into a category and stay there.   The characters define themselves as they grow on the pages.  They set the tone.   I don’t.

And so I worry a lot that those readers who liked books one and two will not like book three, although I think it will be my favorite because of the complexity..

Question to readers:  How do you feel about a change of tone in a series.   Your fictional friends are still there, ready to help, but would you be disappointed?    I would really like to know..

Typing The End

“Debra Salonen, you just finished writing Montana Maverick, the final book in your 4-book series, what are you going to do now?”


“Well, imaginary, sports commentator, I’m sure as heck not going to Disneyland. Darn it.”

The end is just the beginning of the next step for me. You’ve heard of R&R, I call this R&R&R:




Since I compose in Scrivener, which I love for its organizational snazziness, I “compile” my chapters and export to Word when I’m all done, so I can make use of Word’s layout, font, thesaurus and dictionary. First thing I do is: spell check. Then, I make a global search/replace for any names I might have changed part way through. (Yes, this happens. A name I like in the beginning might sound wrong for a certain character as I get to know him or her. Example: baby Missy is actually baby Misty. Her dead mother told me so.)

After that little bit of housekeeping, I read–on a single screen with no distractions. I take my laptop to a different location than where I’ve been composing, and I try not to judge or line edit (this is the tough part). I just want to see if the story talks to me, makes my heart race or brings a tear. (I sobbed twice while writing this, but that doesn’t mean the reader will “see” what I felt when I wrote it. One can only hope.)

After I’ve read it, I send the unedited file to my: first reader. This used to be my sister, Jan. I miss her so much. Not just because she’s not here to read and tell me how much she loves my stories, but I miss that, too. ;-) Luckily, I have a good friend–shout out to Jackie!!!–who also likes to read my stories. Plus, she has a very discerning eye and mad editing skills, as well. Life is good.

My editor gets it next.

That’s were “revise” comes in. Hopefully, a few fixes will make it stronger, then, it comes back to me to read–this time to look for typos. This pass, I use a trick I picked up from a writer online: I convert the text to two columns, so it looks like a book. Funny, how your eyes see it differently from when you wrote it.

I’m sharing this because most people hear the words “The End” and think “Hooray! You’re done.”

Not quite, but I’m a lot closer than I was last week. ;-) Now, you know what I’ll be doing all weekend. What do you have planned? If you tell me you’re going to Disneyland, I’ll cry. ;-)


Cut to the Chase…. Er, Cheese

Comfort foods. That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. The truth is, I think about food a lot. All right, all the time. I love to eat and I love to cook!

Today I’m sharing two of my favorite comfort foods, each made from scratch right in my kitchen.


If I could only choose one comfort food, it would be mac and cheese. I love this stuff so much that I only make it when I truly need to comfort myself. Why? Because I always go back for seconds and thirds, until I could pop! If I made it too often, I wouldn’t be able to button my jeans. :-)

My all-time, favorite recipe is Patti Labelle’s Over the Rainbow Mac & Cheese (with a few alterations, some of which I simply cut from the recipe and others  in parentheses below).

Patti Labelle’s Over the Rainbow Mac & Cheese
serves 10
Preheat oven to 350
Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish

1 lb macaroni (I use 1 1/2 lb macaroni)
8 tablespoons butter (No need for all this butter– I use 1 Tbs)
1/2 cup muenster cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 cups half-and-half (I substitute nonfat, evaporated milk)
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Cook macaroni in boiling water for 7-10 minutes, until al dente (which means not quite done).
Drain well, (rinse with cold water to cut down on sticking together), toss with the butter, and return to the pot.

Meanwhile In a large bowl, combine all of the shredded cheeses.

To the macaroni, add 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheeses, nonfat evaporated milk, Velveeta and the eggs, and the seasoned salt and pepper.

Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

Cover with foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and bubbly (I usually cook for 45 minutes). Remove foil the last 15 minutes.

Serve hot.


Coming in a close second is chocolate pudding.


Chocolate is always a go-to comfort food. But I eat it regardless whether I need comforting or not. :-) This recipe is easy. I love it!

Chocolate Pudding

If you’re a chocoholic like me, you just might eat the entire batch yourself! But if you’re more of a dainty eater, this recipe will serve 2-4.

2 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs flour or 1 1/2 Tbs cornstarch ( prefer the cornstarch, as it thickens better)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cocoa powder, flour or cornstarch and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Add 2 Tbs of the milk and whisk until blended. Add 2 more Tbs and whisk again. When fully blended, whisk in the remaining milk. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool or go for it right away. :-)

Eat plain, or serve with whipped cream or just regular cream.

So there you have it–the best comfort foods, ever–in my opinion. :-)

What are your favorite comfort foods? I would love to know.

Until next time,


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Hedgehogs! What’s not to love? (Suzanne Forster)

Cute wittle hedgehogI don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as cute as this video of mostly baby hedgehogs, doing what hedgehogs do.  Who knew?   I wasn’t in any way acquainted with the daily doings of hedgehogs, other than their ability to roll up into balls, and even that I didn’t fully appreciate.   They look like round bristly throw pillows until you spot the little snout and feet poking out.

They also like to lodge their heads in cylindrical objects and stumble around trying to dislodge themselves, just like my cat, Mandy!  Unlike Mandy, they really seem to enjoy floating on their backs in the bathtub (so adorable!) and bowling for strikes, among many other entertaining things.

Here.  See for yourself.  I can’t do the little throw pillows justice.  Maybe you’ll come up with a better description.

Hedgehogs being impossibly cute!

Hope that made you smile.  One caution:  If this has encouraged you to think about a hedgehog as a housepet, please do your research.  Apparently they can be challenging.

Happy Tuesday!

Forebears – Carolyn

My daughter has recently become fascinated by our genealogy. She is basically the last of my line. She’s an only child as am I, and she and her husband don’t have children. She grew up listening to my mother’s stories about our forebears, added to my own recollections, but only recently she has become interested not so much by the ancestors she found, but by the stories about those ancestors. And, of course, a great many of the stories are like the old gossip game—they morph a little bit every time they are told.

But the primary sources are out there if you’re willing to dig for them. They turn historical figures to real human beings.

A cousin already did the background work that would qualify us for the DAR and the UDC, We’ve had family here since the mid-sixteen hundreds. I already knew that we had a bunch of relatives who were Confederate soldiers. I didn’t know that they mostly rode with General Forrest, whom Robert E. Lee (who never met him in person) said was the best general in the war on either side. Nor that two of my cousins were spies for Forrest—very good ones, apparently. At least they survived, which so many on both sides did not.

Several of my earliest ancestors were kicked out of England by Cromwell because they didn’t approve of Cromwell’s cutting off Charles I’s head. They did, however, approve of religious freedom. Didn’t sit well with Cromwell, who firmly believed in his way or the highway. More relatives got kicked out of Scotland after Bonnie Prince Charlie lost at Culloden. Serves them right for committing to that Francophone who was about as Scottish as R2D2. I know that will get me into trouble, but it’s essentially true.

The thing is, of course, that if you were rich, powerful, well-connected, an eldest son who would inherit, you had no reason to take a miserably scary sea voyage to heaven knew where to face God knew what. My relatives came to South Carolina and Georgia. Swamps and mosquitoes and yellow fever and smallpox and never-ending forests that had to be tamed before crops could be grown. Since they had no idea about crop rotation, they wore out the land in a generation.

So, one of my patriarchs picked up his family, his goods, and his slaves (yes, he did own slaves), and went across the Smokey mountains all the way to the Mississippi River. The plantation is still there.

How on earth did he con his wife into doing something that crazy? I think I would have told him to find me and the children a nice little cottage in Charleston and send money home to us after he sold his crop.

The poor woman had a bunch of children in an era when childbirth was the most dangerous thing most women did in their lives. But the more children, the more farmhands.

After she worked on our family, my daughter worked on George’s family, then on her husband’s. She discovered that he is directly related to the Dalton Gang. Oops.

That’s nothing. She traced me all the way back in a direct line to Atilla the Hun. I’m sure all of you out there are nodding and saying, “I might have known.”

Scottish Week (Pat)

This is always one of my favorite weeks of the year.   The Memphis Scottish Society holds its Burns Night dinner on the  fourth Saturday in January to celebrate the life of Robert Burns, known as the national poet of Scotland.   The annual event comes complete with a scottish menu, kilted gentlemen, bagpipes, celtic entertainment and the traditional march and  presentation of the Haggis.  There’s plenty of Scottish spirits, and a highlight is original toasts to the lasses and the laddies.   It all ends with a toast to “Bobbie Burns” and a rousing round of Auld Lang Syne with everyone standing in a circle and holding hands.   A silent auction of all things Scottish (proceeds go to scholarships) is an added (and, for me, expensive)  pleasure.    There’s always wonderfully unique items.   I’ve been going to the dinner for years, and I  dearly love it.

Just as pleasurable is the annual Patron’s Reception which took place last night (the reason for a belated blog).   It was held at an amazing private residence with a huge natural rock fireplace and any number of  facinating nooks and crannies,  and I am still hearing Scottish tunes in my head today..  One of the society’s members is a very gifted pianist and singer who spent the entire evening taking requests.    He was pure magic. The food included Scotch eggs, salmon canapes and shortbread along with other Scottish delicacies.   There was a tasting of various Scotches and a wealth of wines. I was an extremely happy guest and am now properly prepared for the Burns Night Dinner next Saturday night.

It couldn’t come at a better time. I’m enmeshed now with the production of covers for my Scottish trilogies backlist.   They will go electronic March 3rd, thanks to Open Road Media.  They will quickly be followed by my westerns (several with a Scottish flavor) several weeks later, and finally by all my romantic suspense titles.   I’m thrilled they will be readily available now.     You can take a look at them on Amazon.

I’m also busy promoting “Tempted By A Soldier,” the second in the Covenant Falls series.   Another Vet finds a new life and love with some canine help, this time from the timid Pit Bull in “The Soldier’s Promise.”   I can take little credit for  the story..  Clint and Stephanie wrote the book themselves.   From the moment they meet, sparks flew.   It’s now available for pre-sale.

Off now to continue the third book in the series.   The returning vet is an army nurse who survived a devastating attack and loss in Afghanistan.   It’s going to take the entire town to help her heal.

Have a great week, and all you Scottish lovers out there remember to tip a glass to Bobbie Burns.

Release day, Part 2 (a new baby)

Life is quirky, and the timing of even the best things can be interesting.

Point in fact: last Friday my new book was released–and a few hours later, my daughter called to tell me she was starting to feel labor pains. Two new releases in two days–now, that’s interesting timing!

The pains remained few and far between all of Friday, but by Saturday morning they were coming faster, harder and doing some serious work. My eldest granddaughter woke us up at 7:00, her bag packed. “Can I ride with you?” She’s eleven, and although she witnessed one home birth–her younger sister–she was only three at the time. This time, she planned to take notes.

This new baby is my daughter’s second. Her first, Daisy, was delivered at a hospital. Although it was a good experience that went off without a hitch, my daughter wanted very much to have a home birth this time (in the new home you might remember me talking about in an earlier blog). Kelly is a school bus driver and she teaches work out classes in her down time at a local gym. She’s in the best shape of her life.


Kelly, two days before giving birth.

Her wonderful midwife, Jenny, was called, and we were told to relax, take a walk and get the bed ready. My wonderful daughter-in-law, Ruth, went to Kelly’s to prep the room and make ginger tea (which is both soothing and makes the whole house smell inviting). Eldest granddaughter and I headed over about 9:00.

We heard moans.

Eldest granddaughter changed her mind about watching.

My husband was in charge of picking up my youngest granddaughter from a sleepover. This is the perfect sort of a job for a dad who doesn’t like to see his daughter in pain. he took middle granddaughter with him. They returned in time for the worst of it, though.

If this sounds like a house party…well, it sorta became one. Kelly encouraged her daughter and her nieces to be as involved as they wanted to be. All three (11, 9 and 7) stayed occupied elsewhere. Team Baby consisted of my daughter-in-law, the baby’s daddy, the midwife and her assistant, and me…with my hubby in the background as moral support.

The birth was flawless. (I won’t say painless–we all know that would be a lie.) Poppy Ray was born at 11:57AM, weighing 7lbs 14oz, and 21″ long.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Big sister came around once the “gross” stuff was over.


Daisy and Poppy.

And Grandma Deb has a new princess to spoil.

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt  (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

So, my past week as been pretty eventful. How was yours? ;-)


PS: my new book, MONTANA DARLING has 32 fabulous reviews and is making me very proud! Click HERE , in case you missed it.

A New Way to Reach Out…


Several months ago, I was talking to a friend about finding someone to help with a small electrical repair. She didn’t know of anyone, and suggested I ask for recommendations through I’d never heard of this organization and decided to check it out.

I’m glad I did!

Nextdoor is a way to connect with people in your community to share information, get advice and connect. I simply input my zip code and filled out a profile (with very little information, which was how I wanted it).  Then I joined my neighborhood group.

It’s been interesting. I get a short digest of posts every day, and am able to post my questions, answer others, and share information. When I asked for help finding an electrician, I got several recommendations. Some good, some not so good. The man I finally hired fixed our problem quickly and inexpensively. He’s a keeper, and I’m saving his card for future problems.

Through, I learned that a family in the area had rented a cider press. (That was back in October.) They invited people to bring apples and jugs over and make their own cider.  I took my grandkids with me, and we had a ball! The gallon of cider we pressed was delicious, too.

HDRtist HDR Rendering -

While I was there, I learned about the coolest library around: The Northeast Tool Library. This is where the people hosting the event borrowed the cider press for the weekend.

Through, I’ve learned that the crows that flock overheard in the early evening have been doing the same thing for decades, and about the coyotes that sometimes roam about. Poor things have been edged out by all the development.

Occasionally, the local police and fire departments post on, informing neighbors about classes, safety issues, and things we should know about. For example, over the summer, mail was stolen from various mailboxes, and we were warned to keep an eye on our mail. Eventually the police caught the culprits–a big relief.

I hope you have a in your area. Check it out. Maybe you’ll join. If you’re like me, you won’t be sorry.

A reminder before I leave you: My January release is available now! Check your favorite brick and mortar or online bookstore, or order at .

front MVet

Until next time,


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Let It Happen (Tara Taylor Quinn)

My moniker this year is “Make It Happen.”  Each year Tim and I start the year looking at our goals.  Determining what we want out of the year.  And choosing one phrase which we repeat to each other and keep as our moniker for the year.  Every year, we have reached our goal.  The goals are realistic. If not in our grasp, then at least within our near reach.  They are things that require things of us – not of others.

This year is the year to make it happen.  Make it.  That applies to anything we can do.  Because we cannot change others.  Or force others to do what we want.  We can only do what is within our own personal powers to do.  We have a list of specific things that we intend to make happen.  But the moniker applies to everything we do.  When I stop and look at what I want, I see so much that is not within my personal power to make happen.

The first instinct is to try to figure out a way to make it happen anyway.  To force it to happen somehow.  But I know that not only is that not right, but it’s out of my reach.  And even if I got ‘lucky’ and made it happen somehow, ‘it’ would not be what I want and need.  Because I need it to happen in the right way.  In a way that is abundant – not fleeting.  A way that is lasting.

And so…as I look at the year ahead, look at how I might best succeed in ‘making it happen’ I’ve come down to this:

I will let it happen.  Important words but they have depth, too.  Letting it happen means that I will get up everyday and do all I can do.  Each and every day.  I will not give up.  I will not lose hope.  I will not concede defeat.  I will do all I can do.  I will be determined and strong and fight for the things that need me to fight for them.  I will be diligent and accountable.  I will do what I say I will do.  And then I will let go of the need to control everything else around me, to try to force it to fit the molds I see in front of me, to ‘make’ the things out of my control happen.  I can love, but I cannot force others to love me back.  I will continue to do all I can do, and let the rest…happen.  As it will.  As it needs to.

We all have wants and needs.  We can all go around trying to force everything around us to fit our wants and needs.  And we might succeed in some ways.  For a time.  But if we want true abundance, true joy, we need things to be as they were meant to be.  We need to allow the wants and needs around us – apart from us, outside of us – to be as they need to be.  That doesn’t mean accept injustice because someone is corrupt and wants to hurt others.  Or allowing bad things to take place because someone wants to be bad.  It applies when life is being lived sincerely.  To those who are trying to follow conscience and heart.

So, this is my year.  I will make it happen.  And I will let it happen.  I am buckled up and ready for the ride.  I pray it’s a good one.