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.



Where in the world is Deb Salonen?

Remember last Friday when I said I was going to South Dakota for a taste of Autumn?

Got it. And brrr…it’s colder than I remember. ;-)

We arrived in Sioux Falls on a warm, beautiful night of a full moon.


The next morning, we stopped in my old hometown of Brookings for a trip down memory lane. The place has really changed. Even my beloved Carnegie library where I spent every Saturday morning as a child has evolved into a home for art.

deb-salonen-trip-down-memory-lane-to-the-library Then we headed north on the Interstate, which provided an author-type all sorts of interesting images like giant wind generator propeller blades (I don’t get out much remember). It’s good to know somebody is benefitting from all this wind. ;-)

deb-salonen-the-things-you-see-on-the-highway I thought this photo would make a good “Where In The World Is Deb Salonen?” image. Eastern South Dakota isn’t as flat you thought, I bet.

where-in-thw-world-is-deb-salonen My new office faces Lake Poinsett. The views are everchanging—just like the weather. So far, I’ve seen the water as smooth as glass, pink sunsets, puffy white clouds, fog and mist that obscured the other side of the lake and whitecaps that remind me of the Central Coast of California. (Just hoping it doesn’t snow before I leave.)

twilight-in-sd-is-inspiringand-then-the-clouds-moved-in But for a girl from parched California, here is a sound that is music to my ears.

Happy Friday, my friends, wherever you are. If you haven’t signed up for my NEWSLETTER, I have more pics PLUS a new giveaway coming out on Sunday.

Signing off from South Dakota,


PS: I’ve gotten tons of writing done, too. CALEB’S CHRISTMAS WISH is uploaded and ready to go when I get back home!



Dancing for Fun – Carolyn

Yesterday I went to the showcase given by the studio where I have been taking ballroom dancing for almost a year now. It’s a far cry from the dance recitals I was stuck in when I was a whole lot younger, skinnier, more agile, and took ballet at school as a matter of course. In my family we always referred to it as “tap and twirl,” although it was strictly classical ballet—no tap and certainly no baton twirling. That would have been incredibly tacky so far as the school was concerned.

From the first grade on, if there were boys’ parts and girls’ parts (it was a girls’ school with no real boys), I was stuck dancing one of the boys’ parts. I was a head taller than my classmates, and my bones were large enough to have served as part of the skeleton of a small T-Rex. And agile I was not. I continued to be stuck even though by the time I was thirteen I had a forty-inch chest. I used to resent the ethereal bird-boned size zeros who got to wear the floaty costumes. I have never, ever, worn a tutu and never will. Talk about the dancing hippopotamuses in Fantasia! The mind boggles.

I did a lot of ballroom dancing of whatever was going at the time. That is, until I married an army officer who managed to survive for his entire career without dancing a step. After George died, one of my friends who had lost her husband turned me on to ballroom dancing as a means of dealing with grief and getting some exercise beyond Tai Chi. I love it. The instructors are fun, patient, and expert even with clunks like me. I’ve made a bunch of friends.

But there are limits. Although they continue to impugn me to join in one of their showcases complete with fancy choreography and expensive dresses, that is definitely a bridge too far.

Still, I love watching my friends do their showcase performances. I was sitting next to a stranger who had come to see his niece dance. As we were chatting, he told me he was worried that he was developing dementia. Dancing is a good way to avoid or slow dementia. It helps balance. Stimulates mental acuity. Lightens your mood. There are several students older than I am at our studio, including both male and female. One of the ladies warms up with incredible yoga. I personally couldn’t stand on my head to win the lottery. Downward facing dog is about my limit. I am a strong advocate of ballroom dancing for sexes, young and old. Whether it’s a father who wants to look good waltzing with his daughter at her wedding, or the bridal couple showing off their moves at the reception, it’s worth taking some lessons. And who knows, you may decide to keep doing it.

If you want to get those happy endorphins up and running, ballroom dancing is a great way to do it.

But no way am I ever going to perform in public. Nope, not gonna do it.



Please Excuse My Absence/Pat

So sorry I’ve been absent the past two weeks, but they have been harrowing ones..

Two sick dogs and revisions that had to be done in record time took over my life.   I’ve missed every social commitment, read not even one page of any of my books in waiting.   I’ve had as many as  six  veterinarian  visits during this time and  one medical appointment of my own (poison ivy).

Katy, my Australian Shepherd, has slipped disc problems in her back.  The only thing that seems to help her move are steroids.   She also has Cushings disease and the medicine for that nullifies the steroids and vice versa.   It’s been a balancing act and visits to three different vets to find an answer.   Haven’t found a permanent solution yet, but we’rel doing a balancing act between steroids and the Cushings medication.

Then Little Guy, my newly adopted elderly poodle, had voiding problems   Off to the vet only to hear there was a mass and she needed a biopsy.  I waiting for results now.and in the meatime she’s in misery.

In the midst of this, I received  revisions on my last book and they had to be finished in four days while nursing two dogs.  Usually I do a lot of rewriting at this stage, but I didn’t have time.  But I sent them back on Wednesday, then received  the copy editor changes Friday, and they have to be  reviewed and back Monday.   Fortunately  they are   few but still time consuming.

Between animal health and finishing touches on the manuscript, I’ve had precious little sleep so please excuse any typos..

The new book is the fourth in the Covenant Falls Series.  It’s been officially titled ” The SEAL’s Return” and will be available in February.    My editor has told me Harlequin  wants more books in the series about returning veterans and the animals — and loves  –who help them heal.   Thus far I’ve featured a chopper pilot, a battlefield surgical nurse, and an Army Ranger.   As the title indicates, my current hero is a SEAL who finds healing with the town’s new doctor and her troubled brother.

In preparing for the book, I did a lot of research on  SEALs, and my admiration for them is greater then ever.

Now off to take care of my dogs.

Have a great weekend.



editggeb reTuesday,  I just Y I had a few problems My  rTheIfdduplori  s, but raI

.   be


And we’re off…

Hubby and I are leaving for South Dakota in the morning. It’s been two years since I’ve been back. I’m really looking forward to a taste of autumn.


Plus, it’s been a crazy busy month for me so far.

Wednesday was release day for my new Black Hills Rendezvous book: BLACK HILLS NATIVE SON. This book always tugs on my heart. It came to me one night as I closed my eyes and a voice said, “There’s an old black woman who lives in my head.” As you might imagine, that caught my attention. I tried to ignore it, but I HAD to find out more so I went to my office and wrote–just wrote. I was too tired to think, so what came out was quite a story. One I knew belonged to Char Jones, a member of the Wine, Women, & Words book club. And once I met Eli, I was seriously hooked.


Here are the links, chickadee:


Yesterday, I turned in my manuscript for my next Tule Publishing book. I’m super excited about MONTANA SECRET SANTA because it’s part of a 12-book series with 5 fabulous, celebrated and successful authors: C.J. Carmichael (who’s 2015 Tule Christmas book just sold to Hallmark!), Melissa McClone, Roxanne Snopek, Steena Holmes, and me. Here are the first three covers. Aren’t they gorgeous?


SAVE THE DATE : Oct 12, from 4-7 PM (Pacific) to join us for a Launch Party in the Main St. Marietta Facebook group. You’ll need to join the group to attend, but feel free to leave after the event! Click here to go to the group. There will be prizes!


I may not have the best wifi during my stay in South Dakota, so if I’m not here blogging here next Friday, you’ll know why. But hopefully I’ll be here to share some great fall photos.

Happy reading, my friends.



New website – Carolyn

Our Malice in Memphis web site is up, although that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, as we figure out what folks want to know about us. Malice in Memphis, for those of you who are new to Storybroads, is our local mystery writers group. It’s small, but it’s feisty. A couple of years ago we decided to do a writing exercise. A “learn to write” thing in which each of us wrote a short story based around Memphis landmarks in which some crime (usually murder) took place. Amazingly enough, Dark Oak Press published our stories to what amounts to success in this day and age. The anthology was called Bluff City Mysteries.

Actually, it was so successful that Dark Oak agreed to publish our second anthology. Ghost stories set in West Tennessee. Now that second anthology is in final edits and is about ready to come out. Sooooo—this time we are doing an anthology loosely based around the spring festival, Memphis in May. I already have several stories from our members to edit. What matters is not that we are being published—although that is fabulous—but that we are actually improving our writing. That’s what we wanted in the first place.

A writer in another group for whom I was giving a program on plotting a mystery blew me off last week because what she wanted was marketing. As she said with disdain, “I know how to write.” Lord, I wish I did. Every seminar or class I go to, even on subjects that I have heard a dozen times before (like Deb Dixon’s brilliant Goal, Motivation and Conflict), I always learn something I didn’t know or had forgotten or simply ignored. I always say that writing a book is like building a birdhouse. If you don’t know how to use a tape measure or a Skil saw or a hammer and nails, you’re probably going to build a pretty awful birdhouse. More likely, you’ll get started, and if you don’t cut your fingers off with the saw or take off your thumbnail with the hammer, you’ll give up in disgust halfway through. In writing, that’s what a great many of us do. We don’t learn our craft before we plunge into what is an amazingly complicated process.

Writing can be learned. But it’s hard. I read too many amateurish ebooks that don’t even use proper grammar or syntax. Don’t get me started on commas. And pronouns? How many times have you read, “Between he and I?” That’s just wrong. As an old English teacher, I find it hard not to edit some of the more egregious errors. Only problem is that there’s no way to send my edits back to he author. They wouldn’t appreciate the effort anyway. Everybody makes mistakes, but if you know how to use your basic tools, you give yourself leeway to come up with the creative stuff.

Check out our new website:


Autumn is here. What happened to summer?

First, let me apologize for being MIA for the past couple of Fridays. This is what happens when you overbook your life–with good things, don’t get me wrong. But when you’re go, go, going and you’re some place that doesn’t have wi-fi (yes, those spots exist, believe it or not), something has to give. For me that something was blogging.

Quick catch up. So this happened:

Annual High Country Creatives Retreat, which included my son and granddaughters this year since we had some cancellations. It was fabulous. We hiked, soaked in hot springs at the wonderful Muir Trail Ranch, swam in icy lakes at 10,000′ elevation (by swim, I mean I jumped in and survived the shock long enough to get out without dying), road horses and–best of all–my eldest granddaughter and I collaborated on a young adult novel. Discussing motivation, story arc and point of view made the trip worth every penny. And the views weren’t bad, either.




I went from 7,400′ to sea level…


San Simeon Revision Intensive - me, lap top, sand, waves and editor notes for my next Tule Publishing book: MONTANA SECRET SANTA. Good news: my editor loves the story. Extra good news: I love, love, love my new cover!


Available for pre-order on iBooks now, but it will available wide 12/6/16. PREORDER.


And there’s this: I got my rights back to the only Black Hills book my former publisher had retained. Smack-dab in the middle of my 9-title series. But, now, that book is officially mine again, and I couldn’t be happier. I worked with a freelance editor and my favorite cover designer to get this into production ASAP. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I’m very proud of the end result and excited to add Black Hills Native Son to my Black Hills Rendezvous series.


Releasing wide on Tuesday, but available for pre-order on all platforms:



So, I’d like to tell you I’ve settled back into my comfortable routine and I’ll faithfully blog every Friday, but…I leave next week for a trip to South Dakota (more research for my next Black Hills book) and I have two self-pub books releasing in October (what was I thinking?!), so…all I can do is try. Thanks for your patience and your interest. And thanks to my fellow Storybroads for putting up with me.

Happy reading,




Plotting a mystery – Carolyn

The summer has broken—for the moment. Everybody feels reborn. After the summer we have had, autumn can’t come fast enough. My friend Beverly and I finally got the time to drive my Zoe horse. We had a lovely time simply meandering. I think even Zoe enjoyed it, although I spooked her when I cut a corner too tight and scraped a carriage wheel. I have to stop doing that! I have absolutely no depth perception, so I have to be extremely careful. In this instance, not careful enough, although we didn’t hurt the carriage. There is something so joyful about watching the world over a big fat horse rump.

Yesterday I did a program for our local romance writers group, River City Romance Writers, on plotting a mystery. They said they did indeed learn from it and get some usable tips to make plotting simpler. I have been having trouble with the plot on the mystery I am working on at the moment. This was a good chance to go over old notes and old workshops. It was a case of Physician, Heal Thyself.

I am also binge watching Midsommer Murders on my Netflix. Since the series lasted eighteen seasons—not in this country, of course, but in England—I have quite a bit out there to watch. After a while, they become formulaic, but every once in a while they still surprise me. I do get tired of the witness who swears he’ll speak to the police tomorrow. Does he survive the night? Certainly not. Like the sorority sister who wanders down into the dark basement, because she thinks she hears a noise down there. Neither is a great loss to the gene pool.

One of the most important things to remember about mysteries is that the detective is the protagonist. Next in importance comes the corpse. Finally the villain. Great villains make great books. I once heard an acting coach tell his Richard III that all villains are deeply wounded. Play the wound, not the anger. Villains don’t, as a general rule, see themselves as villainous. They almost always know why removal of one or more (usually more) people is a perfectly valid choice. And they are always distressed when the cops arrest them. They are, at least in their own minds, justified in what they did and should certainly not have their lives disrupted by something like prison for doing what they should be allowed to do with impunity.

But then seeing the removal of a human being for any reason is loopy. Let’s face it, the killer steps outside of the human race when he kills another human being. He can’t ever get back. You can’t fix dead.

So we want our detectives to win, to defend us from the loopy ones and put the world back in order. Thank heaven we have them or we’d be in worse shape morally than we are.


Learning by teaching – Carolyn

You know those teenagers who are addicted to playing video games? I have decided I am truly addicted to reading. If I don’t get my Amazon fix, I am a wreck. They say addiction is recognizable when it impacts your day-to-day life. Mine does. I don’t know whether to attempt to quit cold turkey, or try to cut back to a reasonable length of time each day. I need to be writing and cleaning house and doing paperwork and editing the Malice short stories and… But curling up with a 1920s era golden age mystery and binge watching Midommer Murders is so much more fun.

So this week I decided to drag out all the boxes of papers and manuscripts and filing that I have not dealt with in much too long and dig in. The only result is that my den is even more cluttered than it usually is. Whatever happened to the paperless society we were promised twenty years ago? Seems to me we use more paper than we did before computers. Now it is so simple just to print off a hard copy of anything at a moment’s notice. And in my case, promptly lose it.

I am doing a session at our local romance writers group next Saturday on plotting mysteries. So, I decided to dig out my old notes, upgrade them, and create some new handouts that may be of value to the people who are listening. I found them (eventually) on my computer. Guess what? A couple of them are pretty good. I am having problems with the plot of the mystery I am working on now, and it occurs to me that reading my own advice might be a valid jump start. I ought to have internalized all this stuff, but maybe I internalize too deeply—information winds up not just filed away but buried. I know that when I start working out characters I always go to Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I have heard her do that program at least a dozen times, still, I invariably learn something new.

So, as in almost every teaching experience I have, I hope I’ll help my listeners, but I know I’ll help myself. Remember that the next time somebody asks you to do a program.