What’s on your bucket list?

Two years ago, the universe aligned to bring Jack Hooper back into our lives. A successful agri-businessman in Merced, California, Jack had hired Salonen Construction off and on over the years to help him restore/refurbish the C. Ray Robinson house, a beautiful, iconic but run-down mansion. In the years between our last job for Jack and his call in 2011, Jack had lost his wife of forty-plus years, lost a daughter to cancer and suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair. He called us in early March to build a handicap ramp so he could breakfast with guests staying at the now completely refurbished Hooper House Bear Creak Inn B&B.

The Hooper House Bear Creek Inn B&B
The Hooper House Bear Creek Inn B&B

 When our job was completed, Jack mentioned to my husband that he’d been working on his biography, but it was slow going because he could only type with one hand–his left (and he was right-handed). Paul immediately scribbled my email on the back of his card and gave it to Jack, saying, “Call Deb. She just published her first e-book. She can steer you in the right direction.”

Jack and Paul on the new ramp into the back door of the Inn.
Jack and Paul on the new ramp into the back door of the Inn.

 Jack called. Would I be interested in co-authoring his biography? I said, “Yes.” And so began one of my most interesting work adventures ever. I tell people, “Helping Jack put together his book–From The Ground Up: The Life and Times of Jack F. Hooper–was like going back to school for my Ph.D. in history.”

Despite his physical limitations, Jack’s mind remained razor sharp. He’d already crafted a timeline of events that helped to shape the man he’d become. I merely had to flesh out the bare bones of his story so people could see this journey as something bigger than one man’s trials and tribulations. Jack lived in a unique time period. His parents encouraged him to dream and demonstrated by example that hard work got results. He did things most people only dream of doing–he traveled around the world, taught college, consulted on huge agricultural projects from Alaska to Texas. He was a cowboy, a pilot, an inventor, a public servant, a loving husband, father and grandfather.


 Like the wonderful book, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Album, it’s difficult to know who benefited most from Jack’s and my weekly meetings. I stirred up his memory. He reignited my love of research. He’d mention something offhand–like his father visiting Neptune Beach in Alameda. I found photos of it on the Internet. Neptune_Beach_postcard Smashwords

 We completed the e-version of the book by Christmas. Then, over the course of the next few months, Jack labored over a new ending for the print version. He wanted to share what he considered “Life Lessons” he hoped would benefit his grandchildren.

We held a Book Signing at his beautiful inn last November–the culmination of months of work and a lifetime of living. Jack happily crossed off one item from his bucket list. 

Jack and Deb autographing copies of his book.

At the same time I was helping Jack write his biography, my resourceful, multi-talented husband, Paul, was completing a ground-up restoration of Jack’s 1947 Mercury Woodie station wagon, which had fallen into the wrong hands. A few weeks ago, Paul drove the car–in all its restored glory–to Merced and took Jack for a ride. Jack’s health had been failing since the start of the year. He was very frail, but he managed to sit behind the wheel once. Another item crossed off his bucket list.

Jack and his beloved '47 Merc are reunited.
Jack and his beloved ’47 Merc are reunited.

 Jack Hooper passed away last Thursday. He was 78.  Here’s the obituary I wrote:

Longtime Merced businessman Jack Hooper passed away June 6, 2013. He was 77. Jack Frederick Hooper, a fourth-generation Merced County resident and farmer, was born in Berkeley on December 2, 1936, to Earl R. and Anna (Jorgensen) Hooper. Although raised in Berkeley, where he graduated from Berkeley High and the University of California, earning a Ph.D. in Economics in 1966, Jack remained close to his family in the Gustine area. When the opportunity arose in 1987, he returned to Merced to shoulder the task of restoring the iconic Merced fixture, the C. Ray Robinson house, to its current charm and beauty.

Jack Hooper lived an industrious life and wore many hats. He taught Economics at Utah State in Logan, Utah. Later, he became an economic consultant for the global investment firm, Oppenheimer Industries. A pilot, Jack served as Vice-President of World Airways, working with larger-than-life, charismatic owner Ed Daley, who became well known for his effort to airlift orphans out of Vietnam in 1975. As a consultant, he traveled the world over, but his heart was in agriculture and he returned to the Central Valley in 1977 to manage Red Rock Farms on Highway 140 between Merced and Planada. A resourceful inventor, Jack designed and constructed a portable grading station, which could be transported to the crops. He continued to grade carrots in the Westmorland area until 2011 when he sold the facility to Grimmway Farms.

In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Jack served on the Merced Irrigation District Board for twenty years and was named Outstanding Individual in Agriculture: Business in 2001 by the Merced Farm Bureau.

Jack married the love of his life, Mona Briand Hooper, on October 18, 1958. They had three daughters: Rose-Anne, De-Anne and Cari-Anne.

Jack is preceded in death by his beloved wife, his parents and daughter Cari-Anne. He is survived by a brother, Dan Hooper, of Sacramento; daughters Rose-Anne Gross (Harvey) of New Jersey and De-Anne of Piercy, son-in-law Larry McClung, two granddaughters, Nicholette and Andréa Barajas, and three grandsons, Cristián Barajas and Ian and Logan McClung. His Hooper House family includes Adrian Munoz, Babatte Pareira, Bonnie McGowen, Rhonda Prothro, Cheryl Smith, and his devoted nurses Lisa Piceno and Jessica Meza.

 What I find most intriguing about this story is the timing. If Jack had approached me a year earlier and asked for my help, I would have been under contract with Harlequin, juggling deadlines and unavailable to give this the attention it deserved. If he’d waited another six months to start the restoration on his Woodie, he wouldn’t have lived to see it done.

What’s on your bucket list?





Pinterest for Writers

Writers write…and pin

For those of you who didn’t just flee the room with your hands over your ears, crying, “No more social media. No more, I say!”…pull up a chair. I’ll make this short and simple.

Why would any author add another time suck to her busy life?

One answer: Visuals.

We tell stories about people. The people in our stories live in houses.

Judy's judge's home.
Judy’s judge’s home.

 Like the judge.

They wear clothes.

The judge shows up in jeans--like Harrison Ford. What's not to love?
The judge shows up in jeans–like Harrison Ford. What’s not to love?

Like the judge.

Some are tall, with silver-hair and a commanding look.

The judge, of course.
The judge, of course.

Like the judge.

They drive cars.

The judge's sweet ride - a '64 Mustang.
The judge’s sweet ride – a ’64 Mustang.

 Like the judge.

Sometimes, they eat at Greek restaurants.

Judy and the judge had to eat somewhere. How romantic is this?
Judy and the judge had to eat somewhere. Romantic or what?

All of these photos were pinned from Google images. I don’t own the copyright to any of them. I haven’t edited them in any way. I’m certainly not claiming ownership and I’d happily take them down if asked. These photos are starting points for my imagination. And they’re saved for reference on my Pinterest board, which makes a valuable archive.

The second value in Pinterest pins is they provide new content for your website and/or blog and on Facebook and Twitter. According to Mari Smith (http://ExtremeFanbaseGrowth.com), an expert in online marketing, the top-viewed type of content on Facebook is: #1 photos, #2 status updates, #3 video, #4 links.

Pinterest makes it very easy to share your Pins on Facebook and Twitter. One click and it’s done. What you do after that is up to you.

For example, this morning I Googled: Greek restaurants. I clicked on images, found a lovely setting, which I pinned to my Bang! Pinterest board. I also shared it on FB and referenced it by asking my friends to teach me about Greek food. Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 4.57.26 PM

That post garnered a bunch of likes and replies, which is awesome connectivity in this busy day. I even got in a plug for my book “Bang! You’re Dead” and the one I’m writing “The Big Bang! Theory.” But best of all, I learned about Greek food from people with honest preferences. This was a writing win-win for a small investment of research time.


You. In the far, far back.


No. You may not be excused. Pinterest is a valid writing tool. don-t-be-a-tool Don’t be one–use it wisely. And have fun.


Square Peg Characters

Square peg Salonen blog

You know the type. The square pegs that won’t fit in that lovely, convenient pigeon hole people use to classify books, characters, authors.

I’ve written 29 novels filled with characters I loved. They felt real to me when I wrote their stories, but I admit they fit nicely in the parameters of the series romance line I sold to or they wouldn’t have been published. They weren’t cookie-cutter characters by any means, but there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in their pigeon holes when I got done with them.

My 30th category romance manuscript is sitting unfinished on my computer. I like the characters, but their stories all felt familiar and left me a little bored, although I really liked the cat. So, I set them aside and told them I’d be back. Then, I went in search of someone new. Different.

Now FREE on Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords!

Hello, Judy Banger.

Even her name doesn’t fit as a romance heroine.

Plus, she’s 54. Divorced. Chubby. And she lives in a trailer park. She makes dubious choices but for all the right reasons.

None of these characteristics would fit your typical romance heroine. But the more I learned about Judy, the more I liked her. She made me laugh. And blush. She was outrageous, ridiculous, over-the-top, provocative, true-to-herself—all things I wished I could be (but know I never could pull off). Above all, she was honest. She wasn’t blowing smoke. And I felt her pain. Life hasn’t always been kind to Judy Banger. Surprisingly, she isn’t bitter. I admire that about her.

I’ve written three of her stories and I’m just about done with the final one–The Big Bang! Theory. My square peg just met someone who would make the perfect romance hero. Luckily, I think Judy is going to save him from his “pigeon-holiness”. She’s shaking up his life, his world view and how he sees himself. Maybe that’s the value of square peg characters–they push us outside our comfort zone.

The problem with square peg characters comes in marketing them to a reading public. I recently received my first ever 1-star review. The reviewer wasn’t mean or disrespectful. On the contrary, this person mentioned reading and liking my series romance books, but she found Judy too raw for her taste. I respect that.

Luckily, I’ve also received reviews from people who enjoy Judy’s unconventional approach to life.

Here’s my latest review on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars Judy, Judy, Judy… May 30, 2013

Judy breaks out the bustier for this installment of the Screw Senility Series by contemporary author Debra Salonen. Buddy’s son blames Judy for his father’s death and threatens to take legal action. But what’s a BFF with a whip for if not to help teach a naughty boy a lesson. Judy finds herself in a rather interesting situation with handcuffs, an eye opening visit from officer Canby and the Judge.Some light, laugh a minute BDSM. You’ve never read anything like a Judy Banger erotic encounter so don’t let the sex toys scare you.

Much, much appreciated!! Still, I would like to be able to reach new readers without scandalizing my former series romance readers.

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Or, maybe, I’ll borrow a page from Judy’s manual on life: “You can’t please everybody, so please the one person who counts most–you.” 🙂

And because I couldn’t resist: round-peg-square-hole

Give me your best Judy-ism and it might show up in her next book. But hurry, I’m anxious to move on to my new series: paranormal romance, no sex, almost no cussing. LOL.

Happy reading,


More Bang! For Your Buck

Just released! Click HERE to buy:

More Bang! For Your Buck – A third short, erotic encounter of the Judy Banger kind

Kudos to my wonderful cover artist Kim Van Meter. She found the perfect “vector” to represent my heroine Judy Banger, tweaked the image as needed added the great lettering and special accents–notice the handcuffs. And lips.

When I showed the first draft to my husband, he said, “Where are the lips? You gotta have lips.”

Be still my heart. He noticed. 🙂

I may have mentioned that when I started this series, I assumed there’d be three books. Who doesn’t love a good trilogy? But when I came to the end of this book something amazing happened. Someone unexpected showed up and took Judy’s–and my–breath away. Suddenly, I knew Judy had a chance at her very own HEA (happily-ever-after, for you non-romance junkies).

Here’s Judy’s first glimpse of the man (from More Bang! For Your Buck):

Fletcher’s annoyed snarl gave way to a sigh of resignation. He swallowed a big gulp of wine then said, “Hello, Dad. Imagine meeting you here.”

He made a sweeping gesture with his free hand. “Gang, let me introduce you to my father, Judge Wilson Canby.”

“Judge?” Lewis repeated before levitating off the bed to disappear into the bathroom.

Pru, Judy noticed, had apparently snatched her purse and hightailed it at the first sign of trouble.

Judy shrank against the cushion pinned by the blue steel gaze that surveyed her from toe to head. The man’s expression was as unreadable as his son’s, but tightly clenched fists and the rigid cast of his shoulders spoke volumes. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. And something else. Grief? Despair?

She’d seen the same look on Buddy’s face when he talked about the pain of losing his wife or the regret he felt over the vast chasm of disconnect between him and his son. Buddy had thrown in the towel and let Lewis manage their relationship. This man, Judy guessed, wasn’t the type to give up without a fight. His Armani suit might as well have been made of chain mail.

Poor Judy. Caught in a most compromising position by the man of her dreams. How could any writer write her out of this mess?

That’s a very good question. I’ll let you know as soon as THE BIG BANG! THEORY is published (hopefully mid-June).

In the meantime, please help me get the word out about this series. Every review and social media “share” is greatly appreciated. And please sign up for my May Contest.

You may be the lucky winner of a $25 Amazon gift card,

your choice of any one of these three current Screw Senility titles

AND a free copy of On Fire Fiction’s LOVE ME SOME COWBOY, a box set of five great books by five awesome authors.

So, Happy May Reading, my friends!  Deb