on January 30, 2024

Dear Friends and Readers,

I have certainly had a lot of practice learning how to live with loss, and one of the mainstays of my growth has now moved on to the next challenge. Ms. Velma Dossett Brown died at the age of 96. She was a part of my life for over 40 years.

I met Ms. Velma when I started working in the PR office at the University of South Alabama. She ran the “snack bar” in the basement of the administration building. Her BLTs and tuna sandwiches were legendary. Coffee, at that time, was 10 cents a cup and Ms. Velma always had a fresh pot brewed. She was magic. Her meals, her kindness, her caring. And her sense of humor! Oh, goodness we had some fabulous laughs. Her foolishness was always tempered with kindness and a truly genuine love for the people who frequented the snack bar.

When we both retired from the university, I stayed in touch with Ms. Velma. For many, many years she made my dressing, sweet potato fluff, and lemon meringue pies for any holiday meal I hosted. I can cook—but not like Ms. Velma. She lived “across the lake” in Mississippi, but I visited her whenever I could. She had a hint of mischief in her and a few times I engaged her in helping me pull a prank. She knew I was a devil and she loved me anyway.

Ms. Velma loved her family—her son Mike and his wife Terry, her grandson Jason and his family. Her granddaughter, now an almost grown and beautiful young woman, Abby, was her pride and joy. They were her heart. And they rallied around her when she needed them.

She was also deeply religious and worked tirelessly in her community to cook food for those grieving and helping with fund raisers for community projects or families in need. photo: clouds

In the end, when her eyesight had failed and she could no longer get out of bed, she was surrounded by those who loved her. I miss her. I miss her calls to check on me, her laughter when she caught me up on news from my hometown. And I miss her love, because she shared it with me so generously. She was like a second mama to me. And because of all that, I can accept my loss knowing she is no longer in pain.

Blitz pretending to be a giant Diesel from Dean’s books (

This loss, on top of the death of one of my younger friends, Cissy Hartley, has made the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 a real challenge. Cissy ran a service for writers to help promote their books, which is how I met her. Writerspace is a terrific service that will continue on. But Cissy, who happened to live in Mobile, was someone very special. Her kindness, sweet nature, and genuine concern for others made me work harder to be like her. When she could no longer care for her pets, I took her little dog Izzy, who is diabetic. Izzy adores the pack of animals here. She is bossy. Ha ha ha. And so far she has become the dominant dog. She weighs about 12 pounds and she bosses the 90 lb dogs (and me) around. I do this work because I know it is the right thing to do. Whenever I feed or medicate Izzy, I am touching a little piece of Cissy that remains here.

Okay, so enough talk of loss. Let’s manifest some emotional gains, good times, and good health for my friends and all critters. Good books. Fun stories. Time with friends—fictional and real. Those are the things of value.

I bought a book on plant and crystal magic and I am learning so much! It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and many of the plants are considered weeds. So interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

Mandy is working on some book covers for THE BOOK OF BELOVED and THE HOUSE OF MEMORY. I got the rights back for those books and I am thrilled to bring them back to print. I have a very cool story about the book covers, cardinals, and a bit of winter magic.


I was out in my yard before New Year’s putting out energy to protect my horses and other wild creatures from the asshats who thinking blowing things up is fun. Mandy came out and we were talking about how to safeguard the horses as much as we possibly could. (There is literally nothing I can do because I have a horse that has seizures and panics at the lights and noise.) But I was still gathering energy to protect them as much as I could when I looked up and a flock of cardinals flew directly over us—very low. The sun caught their bright red feathers, and they were incredible. It took my breath away. I have a lot of cardinals and I feed them well. But I’d never seen them fly in a flock, a murmuring. About 30 of them. So beautiful. Then Mandy found a full-grown cardinal in her yard. It was stunned, likely from the bitter cold. She picked it up and warmed it and before long it flew away, uninjured. So we have cardinal energy here. The old belief is that cardinals are messengers from the spirit world. Perhaps Ms. Velma and my mama were letting us know they are watching over us.

Mandy dressed like Dean

The story Mandy and I are writing together, SQUATTERS, is coming along nicely. I can’t wait to see what happens with this. So much to do and so little time to do it. More about this later.

Now, I’m off to work. I did an event with the Haunted Book Shop and a group of gothic readers and writers as we talked about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, one of my favorite books. And yesterday I did an event with thriller writer Kate Alice Marshall at the Haunted Book Shop. I am trying to get out and be more social since I am fully vaccinated! I can’t afford to get sick. Too many animals depend on me and though my friends would help, I just don’t need that to happen. But I have girded my loins with vaccines and I’m ready for some fun and action.

Shoutout to Mandy Haynes for creating these new covers. I’ll let you know when they’re available to order!

So that’s the news for this new year. Winter is always hard on the elderly of all species. Put out birdfeed, boxes of straw for feral and possums, etc. Create a space where all creatures can stop and feel safe. And seek your magic—for healing, health, and a better planet.

I’ve been watching a Hulu show, HELSTROM. I’m not a comic book person, and I started this unaware that it was based on comic book characters. The brother and sister are fascinating, though. And the show has the very best musical inclusion. Such an odd combination of content and music. Enjoy this beautiful song and video. What a remarkable planet we live on: Follow the Sun.

Adieu from Carolyn and the Critters!



Scooter (who is 19) and Rachel (who is feral)
Nut and Cup