M. Carolyn Steele


About Carolyn

Author's mother, Melba Kent Kalkins
I have friends who always knew they wanted to write, often penning stories while still in elementary school. That wasn't me. Long after I was settled into a commercial art career, I was pushed into writing by a promise--a promise made to my mother several months before her death.

During my early teen years, Mom, an ardent Native American historian, labored over a novel set in 1836 Oklahoma. We didn't own a typewriter and, as a twelve-year-old, I often wrote on lined yellow tablets while she dictated the struggles of a half breed Seminole to find a home among the Creek nation. The story and the characters were imprinted upon my psyche, and when she failed to find a publisher, I was as devastated as Mom.

Though my education had been in journalism and art, I was thoroughly unprepared to keep the one thing my mother asked of me--don't let the story die. When the time came, I took the manuscript she entrusted to me and stored it under the bed. Keeping the promise was just too painful, besides I had two daughters and a career to keep me busy.

Hidden and gathering a layer of dust, the manuscript haunted me. Finally after fifteen years, I couldn't keep the promise pushed to the back of my head any longer. Unfortunately Mom's writing style was too passive for today's reading audience. So, I embarked upon what has become a passion for me--I became a writer.

It didn't happen overnight. I took writing and Creek language/history classes, entered contests, attended conferences, and joined a weekly critique group whose members pointed out my errors and encouraged my efforts. I wrote and rewrote Mom's novel, garnering a number of awards. I like to think the skeleton of the story is Mom's and I just put meat on the bones. Released March 24, 2017 by Wild Rose Press and titled Spirit of the Crow I think my mother would be pleased with the final result.

An unintended consequence of trying to keep a promise was the awakening of the writer in me. Steeped from childhood in Civil War history and Indian lore, my genre has been historical. This complements a hobby my husband and I shared--genealogy. Perhaps I am just comfortable with ghosts, but I've crafted two Civil War novels and a number of short stories from family legends.

Perhaps I am just comfortable with ghosts, but I've crafted a number of award-winning short stories from family legends, including a Civil War novel. Released July 24, 2019, Out Run the Bullets is a fictionalized account of my father's oft-told story about his grandfather's near death experience at the hands of Confederate bushwhackers.

Combining my knowledge of storytelling and genealogy, I often speak to groups on the need to record family legends. These front porch or fireside stories survived through generations of telling before the distraction of television and high energy movies replaced after dinner or Sunday afternoon gatherings.

This belief in the need to remember the lives of our ancestors led to the recent creation of the book, Preserving Family Legends for Future Generations. Filled with writing tips and examples of crafting ancestor stories, it is my hope that readers will be inspired to look back in time and dust off the bones of family members who reside only in memory or as names on a genealogy chart.

After all, who lives to be forgotten? Not me, and certainly not our grandparents or those who came before them.

M. Carolyn Steele