Terrible Things

“Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They’re allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they’re robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

— Anne Frank

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I know immigration is a difficult thing to tackle. I get that we need laws to regulate and control immigration. My brother-in-law has to go through an expensive and complicated process to keep his green card. But I also see the fear in the eyes of people fleeing violence in their countries; I hear the desperation in their voices as they describe the dangers they and their families were facing, and their desire for a better future.

The footage of this past week’s ICE raids in Mississippi, the kids left sobbing at schools, not knowing where their parents were or who, if anyone, would be there to take care of them—those scenes broke my heart. I have to admit, I was heartened and touched to see their neighbors step in to try and comfort those children and try to help make a horrible situation a little better.

There’s legal, and then there’s right. Those are not always the same thing. Slavery was once legal. Interracial marriage was once illegal. Segregation was once legal. There’s a clear discrepancy between what’s right and what’s legal. And the concept of “legal” changes over time.

In a time when ICE and CBP staff are being overwhelmed with the people trying to get into the U.S. at the southern border, was this really an appropriate time to pull staff to perform a massive raid, rounding up people who, though they may have been here illegally, are otherwise hard-working, contributing to their communities, raising families, trying hard to make a better life for themselves? Especially given the added trauma of the mass shootings last weekend that targeted the Latino community. There was a element of cruelty to this raid that cannot be ignored.

I am at a loss to understand how any of us descended from immigrants—and that’s most of us—can condone these actions.

My father’s family immigrated from Germany just two generations earlier. Many European immigrants who settled in the plains chose towns that were populated by others from the same country.  My dad’s entire small town in North Dakota was German. He didn’t speak English regularly until he was in high school (we’re talking the 30s and 40s here). The priest was German; my dad’s classmates were German. Everyone spoke the same language. There were tons of towns like his scattered across the Great Plains: Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Russians. They all clung together, hanging on to their language, their culture. Eventually, they assimilated, but it took a few generations.

But this isn’t really about immigration, is it? It’s about hatred—hatred of people of color, poor people, people who don’t speak English and aren’t of European descent. That’s what this is really about.

Holocaust survivors warned us in 2016 that the rhetoric they were hearing from the republikkkan campaign was eerily familiar, and the similarities have only grown. Earlier this week, when I first saw the quote at the beginning of this blog, I thought it was pulled from a current news story. When I saw that it was written by Anne Frank, it hit me like a punch in the gut.

I’ve been writing since November of 2016 that we have to keep fighting, feeding the right wolf.

I have tried to remember that some fights take time, that we can be like drops of water inexorably wearing away at the stone that anchors us, trying to crush us.

A few weeks ago, in a Facebook conversation with a friend who was feeling emotionally drained and exhausted, I likened where we are now to a choir. When a choir needs to hold a sustained note, they take turns breathing, spelling each other, resting their voices for a moment, and then coming back in. But the whole sound is sustained, uninterrupted, unwavering.

That is us now. We are tired. We are emotionally wrung out. But we have to hold each other up. Take rests when needed, and then come back, stronger than before. Together, we can take back our country. We can bring back a sense of rightness to our government.

We cannot accept what’s happening without a fight. Rest when you need to. Breathe. Hold someone you love. But come back. We need you as we head into 2020 and the upcoming election.

Terrible things are happening, but we will, we must stop them.

Pax vobiscum

 

 

 

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye

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courtesy: Wikipedia

Update: 22 June 2019

I assigned each commenter a number in the order in which their comments are listed below, and then used a random number generator to pick the winners. I’ll be emailing each of you. If you don’t hear from me today, Saturday, 22 June, please contact me: cjwerlingerbooks AT yahoo DOT com. Thank you to everyone who participated! Happy listening!

Looking Through Windows: Ashley Wilson

Neither Present Time: Beth Goodman

The Beast That Never Was: Heather

Year of the Monsoon: roxie

Cast Me Gently: Susie Smythe

In This Small Spot: Bev

A Bittersweet Garden: Cyndi Heet

It’s June, it’s Pride month, and it’s audiobook release month for 7 of my novels!!

My Audible link is HERE.

I have to admit, prior to this, the only audiobooks I’d ever listened to was the Harry Potter series. I’ve read them I don’t know how many times and have listened to them at least 4 times. Jim Dale does such an incredible job reading those books. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience, but the narrators and folks at Audible have been incredible to work with.

From the bits I’ve had a chance to listen to, it’s so cool revisiting these books in this format! It reminds me of being a kid and being read to.

I think a whole new world has opened up for me!

The books currently available are:

Looking Through Windows    

Neither Present Time

The Beast That Never Was

Year of the Monsoon

Cast Me Gently

In This Small Spot

A Bittersweet Garden

To celebrate, I’m going to give away one free code for each book! To win, just leave a comment on this blog between now and 21 June. On the Solstice, I will draw 7 winners, one for each book!

Yay June, Blessed Solstice, and Happy Listening!

 

 

Food Deserts

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photo: livescience.com

Remember reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in school? “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” It’s a fantastic epic story in poem form. If you haven’t read it, you should. Even if you don’t like poetry (or think you don’t), this is very readable.

What does an eighteenth century epic poem have to do with anything, you might ask. Well, quite a bit. The poem is about a ship cursed for the cruel actions of one of the sailors. Caught in a becalmed sea, surrounded by undrinkable salt water, the crew becomes desperate.

Here in the U.S., we are blessed with huge swathes of our country that are agricultural, capable of tremendous food production. I’m not even going to attempt to explain (mostly because it’s inexplicable) the political calculus of paying farmers not to plant or allowing huge corporations to control and export so much of the agricultural production in this country. The point is, we should be able to feed every single person in this country, plus millions of people around the world.

Instead, we have innumerable areas – rural and urban and in between – where there are no viable sources of healthy food. Grocery stores close, leaving people with no place other than convenience stores or fast-food restaurants to purchase food. I have seen this happen in small towns in West Virginia, leaving people with hour-plus drives to my town to get to an actual grocery store. It’s well-documented how much more poor people pay for food in urban areas. If there are actual markets in poorer sections of a city, they typically stock fewer choices and have to charge more to cover increased insurance premiums and higher delivery costs. If there aren’t any markets, again, those people have to take public transport to get to a grocery store, adding time and expense to the trip.

It has even happened, on a smaller scale, here in my town.

I live in a fairly ordinary small city of about 25,000 people in a large surrounding county with a few smaller towns. In my city, there are areas of lower-income housing that were within walking distance of a local grocery store. More than once, I stopped to offer rides to people who were walking home, loaded down with heavy bags.

A couple of years ago, that chain of stores sold off most of its locations to another chain. Prices went up, but people still shopped there because they had to. Then that new chain shut the stores down for good. Those folks who depended on those stores now have to catch a bus to one of the other grocery stores further away from where they live. It’s doable, but it adds probably an hour to their shopping trip.

When you have a car and easy access to stores in any part of your town, like we do, you don’t think about how inconvenient it is for some people to perform that necessary chore.

All of this adds up to millions of people who are food-insecure – that is, they don’t know where their next meal (healthy or not) is coming from.

Ask any public school official in this country, and they will tell you how much the low-income students in their district depend on free breakfasts and lunches. Snow days, holidays, any days that students aren’t in school are days those kids may not eat at all.

Summer vacations – those days my friends and I longed for – are times of hunger for a lot of families. Instead of long days spent playing in the woods and nights catching fireflies, those kids wonder if they’re going to eat.

Food banks get hit hard during the summer. A lot of people think of donating to their local food banks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not so much during the summer.

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To help my local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, I am repeating my spring fundraiser. I will donate 100% of my May royalties to the food bank. Any books you buy this month will go toward this donation. I know in years past, some readers have contacted me to tell me they already own all of my books, but they were going to donate to their own local food bank. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have connected with such kind, caring people!

If you’ve been thinking of purchasing any of my books you haven’t read, this is a great time to do it. If you have all of my books and are in a position to donate to your local food bank, I know they would appreciate your support.

Peace and full bellies to all,

Caren

 

Angels? Or Leprechauns?

Shamrocks

A few really incredible things have happened recently. One, I already posted about – that When the Stars Sang was one of four finalists in Contemporary Fiction in the Sarton Women’s Book Award. I now know that it didn’t win (congratulations to the winner, Mary Avery Kabrich), but it was still an incredible honor to be one of the top four.

Sarton Seal

Then, about a month ago, I was contacted by a rep from Audible, saying he’d been given my name by a colleague, and wondered if I would be interested in signing with them to produce some of my novels as audio books. At first, I was certain it was a hoax. Turns out it wasn’t. And, now that the contract is signed, I’m ready to announce that Audible will be producing SEVEN of my novels!

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Ann Etter had already agreed to narrate When the Stars Sang for me, and that book should be ready by early summer. But the others will be:

Looking Through Windows, In This Small Spot, Neither Present Time, The Beast That Never Was, Cast Me Gently, Year of the Monsoon, and my newest, A Bittersweet Garden.

I have no idea who the colleague was who first brought me to Anthony’s attention, but she (or he) is my angel. Or maybe my leprechaun, since this all transpired during March as I released A Bittersweet Garden.

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Speaking of angels, I offered a promo copy to a friend who reads and reviews, and she replied that she prefers to buy a copy to help support my fundraisers. It’s nearly time for my spring/summer fundraiser for The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and I’ll be announcing that in a few weeks.

But for all of you who have supported the spring Food Bank fundraiser or my fall/winter fundraiser for Feeding Pets of the Homeless, I want you to know that WE have raised and donated over $3800 to those organizations. And that doesn’t count the donations from readers who already own all of my books but told me they were donating directly to my charities or to their own local food banks! I truly am blessed with the most generous, thoughtful people in my life.

The other incredible thing that happened in 2018, six years after I founded Corygn Publishing and began publishing my own books, is that my sales tripled! Of course, that came with a heftier tax bill this year than I had planned for, but it’s all part of the growth and that is thanks to all of you! For the longest time, I was certain I had about twelve (maybe fifteen on a good day) dedicated readers, but that seems to finally be changing.

I really cannot thank you all enough – those who have supported me from the beginning, those who have newly discovered my books, and those who review and recommend my stories to friends. You have all become my leprechauns, helping me help others.

Sláinte!

The Garden Blooms

My fourteenth novel, A Bittersweet Garden, is ready to meet the world. I hope you like this story as much as I do! Also available at Bella and Smashwords (soon to be available at B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and others).

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Nora McNeill has always dreamed of exploring her Irish roots. When she finally gets the opportunity to spend a summer in the village where her grandparents grew up, the experience promises to live up to her very high expectations. Except for the ghost that is haunting her rented cottage and is soon invading her dreams.

Briana Devlin has arranged her life the way she likes it: a good dog, good mates, and work with horses. There’s no room in her life for a relationship. Especially with an annoyingly clumsy—and attractive—American who is only going to be around for a few months.

The weeks fly by, and Nora’s ghost becomes more demanding, seeking her help in solving the mystery surrounding her death. Briana watches as Nora becomes more wrapped up in the past, seeming to fade away before her eyes.

Past and present are on a collision course, leaving Nora and Briana caught in a ghostly intrigue that could cost them not only their chance of a future together, but their very lives.

Imbolc

I’d like to think the Celts were on to something by celebrating the start of spring on 1 February, but it sure doesn’t feel like spring is anywhere near us right now in the U.S.

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Source: irelandcalling.ie

But this celebration is ancient. And it marked the start of my trilogy, The Dragonmage Saga. In the beginning of Rising From the Ashes, a mage, Enat, comes in search of a child who is exhibiting magical powers. Here’s an excerpt from the second chapter:

Enat stopped to survey the village below her. It was like countless others – a small grouping of perhaps a score of dwellings – some made of stacked stone, others of wood daubed with mud and moss to keep out the cold and wet. She rested her staff against a tree and chewed on an early stalk of asparagus while she watched the activity for a while. The village was situated in a broad, shallow valley. In the distance, a herd of sheep and cattle and goats grazed, tended by older children. There was a large plot of cultivated land outside the cluster of dwellings, the soil in neat rows even this early in the year. It was near a stream for ease of carrying water. Some of the dwellings had smoke rising from a central smoke hole in the roof, but most had fire pits outside their doors. She saw a mix of women and young children below, but only a couple of old men. She hadn’t passed any signs of war parties, so most likely, the other men were off hunting for the celebration. Several dogs roamed the village, sniffing and digging for any leftover bits of food near the fires. She hitched the ropes of her basket higher onto her shoulders, grabbed her stick, and began the trek down the hill. As she neared, she bent over and began to hobble, leaning on her stick as if she were lame.

“Herbs? Shells?”

She called out as she entered the village, and the women paused to watch her. She slipped the ropes off her shoulders and set her basket down, sitting on a log pulled up near a fire.

“Welcome, grandmother,” said one of the women, her belly large with new life. “May we offer you some cold water?”

“Thank you, daughter,” said Enat, honoring the hospitality accorded her. She accepted a gourd filled with water and drank deeply. “That makes an old woman feel refreshed.” She reached into her basket, soft and pliable, woven from reeds, and pulled out a purple shell, already strung on a woven cord. “For you and the wee one to come.” She placed a hand on the woman’s belly. “Health to you both.”

“Thank you,” the woman said. Her face lit up as she turned the shell over in her hands.

Other women gathered around, looking to see what the old woman offered. They had little to trade: some bone needles and gut thread, dried meat and salted fish from their stream. Soon, all Enat had brought with her to trade was gone, all but her salves and potions.

“Have you a healer?” she asked the women.

“We did, grandmother,” said the woman who had offered her water. “But she was very old and passed on this winter past. Are you a healer?”

Enat nodded. “I am. Tomorrow eve is Imbolc. It will be a full moon as well. A good omen for the spring.” She smiled at the woman’s bulging abdomen. “Not that you need more. Brighid has been good to you?”

“Aye, grandmother,” said the woman. “My man and I have five others. All have lived, praise Brighid.”

“You are blessed,” said Enat. She looked around. “Are there others here, anyone your healer was training?”

“None. None here have the gift.” The woman sat beside Enat on the log, grunting a little with the effort of lowering her bulky body. “Oh, many of us know a little of healing herbs and roots, but none have magic.”

Enat smiled. “I will stay through the celebration of Imbolc, if you like.”

“We would be honored to have you,” said the woman. “I am Rós.”

“I am Enat.” She reached deeper into her basket and retrieved a heavy woolen cloak. “I am weary. I am going to rest in the sun.”

She made of her cloak a pad to sit on and placed it at the base of an oak tree standing on the edge of the village. She sat with her eyes closed, her face tilted to the warmth of the sun, just now moving toward spring where it would soon give life to all. As she sat, her hands rested on the roots of the tree, and she listened. She cast her mind out, probing. Nothing for the moment. All was quiet. You will come.

copyright ©2015 Caren J. Werlinger

Awards Season

I don’t usually follow the big awards that most people have heard of: Golden Globes, Academy Awards, Screen Actors Guild, Grammies, Tony Awards. But awards do tend to move through seasons. So do book awards.

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I am very pleased to announce that When the Stars Sang has been named a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award in the Contemporary Fiction category. This is a prestigious award, named for American author May Sarton. It is administered by the Story Circle Network, an organization dedicated to women’s literature. You can find the entire list of finalists at: http://storycircle.org/SartonLiteraryAward/pressrelease_shortlist_2019.php

The winners will be announced in late March or early April. 

To celebrate, I’ve put When the Stars Sang on sale for $2.99 until 17 February. Thank you for reading!

There will be other awards pending as the spring and summer progress, so I hope to have more good news to share. Fingers crossed!