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!

 

 

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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!

 

Number 14!

A Bittersweet Garden is now in the hands of the formatter, almost ready to greet the world. I cannot believe this is my fourteenth novel! I still remember so clearly what it felt like to see my first novel in print. This never gets old (of course, the nerves about a new release never go away, either).

For those of you who enjoy previews, I’m posting an excerpt from the first chapter below.

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Here’s the blurb:

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.

 

And here is the excerpt:

Nora McNeill pressed her forehead to the glass, peering through the airplane window, trying to see through the clouds below. The sun, brilliant here above the cloudbank, was blinding. The video screen built into the back of the seat in front of her showed their little plane had been flying over Ireland for the past thirty minutes as it descended toward Dublin, but she hadn’t been able to see anything.

She’d wanted to come here her entire life—maybe even longer than that, she sometimes thought.

The flight crew had already cleared all the coffee cups and debris from the breakfast they’d served to the sleepy passengers nearing the end of their overnight flight. Most of the older people around her seemed to know one another and were apparently all part of the same tour.

She’d carried on a stop and start conversation with Iris, the grandmotherly woman beside her, who had knitted nearly the entire night, her green and yellow baby blanket spilling onto Nora’s lap. Nora now knew that Iris was a widow from a little town an hour west of Minneapolis, had five grandchildren—with a sixth on its way, thus the baby blanket—and had never flown outside the States. Neither had Nora, for that matter.

“And you’re traveling alone? I could never do that. Don’t you think you’ll miss home?” Iris had asked upon learning that Nora’s plans were to spend the next three months in Ireland. Iris had only been gone a dozen hours, but claimed she was already missing her grandkids.

Deciding it was probably more diplomatic not to scoff, Nora simply shrugged. “Probably, but I’ll be visiting family.”

Nora snugged her seatbelt as the plane bounced through a bit of turbulence. The window was suddenly obscured by white. When the plane emerged from the clouds, there was Dublin, spread out below them in the distance.

Her heart pounded at her first glimpse of Ireland. Beside her, Iris harrumphed, clearly unimpressed, but Nora ignored her. It didn’t matter that it was gray and dreary and looked almost like the view of Northern Virginia around Dulles airport. She sat back with a sigh. Nothing mattered except she wasn’t going to be stuck in Fredericksburg for her entire summer.

The plane quickly descended and, soon, Nora was wheeling her carry-on off the plane with her backpack slung over both shoulders, following Iris and all the other passengers through the airport toward the baggage claim carousels. She grinned at the signs, all written in English and Irish. She’d been studying and could read some of the words. Of course, being able to say “That’s a yellow bicycle” or “I have a black cat” probably weren’t the most practical phrases, but still.

When she’d collected her one checked bag and had her passport stamped—“my first stamp!” she’d said stupidly to the sleepy-looking agent—she made her way through the airport, bustling even at this early hour. Following the directions the customs agent had given her, she went outside to find the bus, her luggage trailing behind her.

The morning was misty, and the air smelled of diesel fumes, but nothing could dampen her excitement. She found the bus, with a uniformed driver chatting to another man in a different uniform with a reflective vest.

“This is the bus to Galway?” she asked.

The driver turned to her, looking her up and down. “American?”

She nodded and shrugged out of her backpack straps.

“That’ll be a hundred fifty euro,” he said.

She froze, her hand searching for her wallet inside her backpack. “A hundred fifty? I thought the website said eighteen?”

“Not for Yanks.”

She stood there, her mouth open, until his buddy burst out laughing.

“Stop teasin’ her.”

The bus driver grinned and climbed into the bus where he punched a few buttons on his console. It spit out a ticket that he handed to her as she passed him a twenty-euro note.

“Just leave your bags,” he said, pointing to a few others sitting on the pavement as he handed her change. “I’ll load them.”

She hoisted her backpack up the steps onto the bus and dropped into a seat, stashing her backpack in the seat beside her. She listened to the low conversations taking place around her and realized all the other passengers seemed to be either American or European—anywhere but Ireland. She supposed she’d been stupid to think anyone from Ireland would be catching a bus from the airport. Of course they’d all be tourists like her. She was also the only person on the bus traveling alone.

It doesn’t matter. It’s going to be like that all summer. All that matters is that you’re here. She unzipped her backpack and dug out a bottle of water and a granola bar.

Within a few minutes, the bus was pulling away from the airport. She craned her neck, trying to take it all in. The bus passed through Dublin, pausing at a couple of stops to let more people on. She snapped photos through the bus windows with her phone, half-wishing she’d planned to spend some time here, but money was tight, and she hadn’t felt quite brave enough to tackle Dublin on her own.

“I’ll be back,” she whispered as the bus drove along the river with its arched bridges.

She fought to stay awake and take in the views of the flat countryside outside the city, but her eyes fluttered closed and her head bobbed as she fell asleep despite her efforts.

When she woke, the bus was winding its way through Galway’s streets to the bus station. She stood with the other passengers to collect her bags as the driver unloaded them from the cargo compartment, and then stumbled into the station where the pleasant young woman at the ticket counter checked the bus schedule for the next leg of her journey.

“You’ve just over an hour before your bus leaves,” she said.

Nora paid for the ticket. “Is there anyplace close by where I can get a cup of coffee?”

“Sure there’s a Starbucks just round the corner,” the ticket agent said, pointing. “You can leave your bags here if you like.”

Nora stashed her luggage and thanked her before going in search of caffeine.

By the time the next bus was underway, she was jazzed on a double-shot cappuccino and a scone.

Unlike the express bus, this one stopped in several towns as it made its way north. The terrain had changed quite a bit, becoming hillier and the roads much narrower. She held her breath a couple of times, wondering how on earth the bus and the oncoming vehicles—on the wrong side of the road—were possibly going to pass without scraping each other or the hedges and stone walls bordering either side of the road. She whispered several prayers of thanks that she’d decided not to rent a car and drive herself.

The bus’s elevated height gave her a great view of small houses with neat front yards—gardens here, she remembered—separated from the road by low walls. She chuckled at the tiny cars tucked into impossible parking spaces, sometimes seeming to have just been pulled up onto the sidewalks.

The sun came and went as clouds drifted, soft rain misting the windows and then passing to allow slanting beams of sunlight to sparkle on the drops. Passengers boarded and left at each stop along the way. She tried to catch snatches of conversation, delighting at the accent.

Her caffeine was wearing off, and the jetlag was beginning to weigh on her as the bus neared her destination.

“Cong,” called the driver.

She roused herself to wheel her bags along the center aisle.

“Visiting?” asked the driver as he carried her bags down for her.

“For the whole summer,” she said.

He winked. “Have a grand summer, then.”

The driver waved as the bus drove away. She stood in front of the Crowe’s Nest Pub, debating whether to go in for a real meal, but the day was fading and she had a ways to go yet.

She hoisted her backpack straps higher on her shoulders and took a suitcase handle in each hand, rolling them along the street. The narrow sidewalk was crowded with people, most of them part of a tour, judging by the badges they wore on lanyards around their necks and the cameras and phones they held up, snapping photos as they walked. She dropped off the sidewalk into the street, her head swiveling as she walked, trying to take in everything. Some things felt as if she’d been here before: the corner with the Celtic cross the bike flew around, Cohan’s pub. She’d watched The Quiet Man so many times, she had the dialogue memorized. She especially loved the scenes with the villagers who’d been the extras in the movie.

“There we are,” Mamma said every time, pointing.

“Oh, those were fine days,” Pop said, his pipe firmly clamped in his teeth as he nodded fondly.

From the time she was sitting on her grandfather’s knee, she’d listened to the stories of how the movie people had come to their tiny village, transforming it for those months, even bringing in electricity where it hadn’t been before.

Nora couldn’t wipe the grin off her sweaty face as she tromped along, passing the ruins of the abbey, walking past the ivy-covered cottage that had been the vicar’s house in the movie. When she reached the church at the curve of the road, she paused to catch her breath. It was Church of Ireland, but it had served as a Catholic church for the movie. She leaned on the wall, panting. Behind her, a vehicle’s motor drew near. She turned to see a dark green Land Rover approaching. The driver braked as he passed her and backed up. The door was emblazoned with “Ashford Castle”.

“Where are you bound, Miss?” he asked.

“The Lodge.”

The young man jumped out and hurried around to her. “I’ll give you a lift.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, but he was already loading her bags into the cargo area.

“It’s my pleasure. I’ve just got to drop off these guests for dinner, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Thank you.”

He got in behind the wheel as she climbed into the passenger seat. She smiled and nodded at the couple in the rear seat.

He drove into the village along the way she’d just come, stopping at Cohan’s. He got out to open the rear door for the woman, confirming a pickup time for later that evening.

“Your first time in Cong?” he asked Nora when he got back in.

“Does it show?”

He chuckled. “Just a bit. You’ve got that gleam in your eye.”

She laughed. “I guess I do. My grandparents were born here. They’ve told me about Cong my whole life.”

“Is that a fact? Who are they?”

“Brigid Cleary and Thomas McNeill. I’m Nora McNeill.”

“And I’m Craig O’Toole,” he said. “Do you still have family here?”

“I have cousins, second or third, I guess,” Nora said. “My grandparents’ siblings’ grandchildren. It’s so confusing. I mean to look them up while I’m here.”

Craig had taken a different road out of the village, Nora realized.

“Why aren’t we going back the way we came?”

“One way into the village,” Craig said.

He took a right and drove past a vast stretch of manicured grass with a few golfers in the distance. As if he knew what her reaction would be, he stopped the Land Rover at the curve where the castle came into view. He grinned at her gasp. It was better than her dreams, the picture-perfect stone castle with the crenellated towers and the lake just beyond.

“Do you ever get tired of it?”

“I don’t, no. I keep seeing it through fresh eyes when I drive guests here.” He chuckled. “Would you like to visit the castle? I can drive you up to the Lodge after.”

As tempting as it was, Nora could feel her body rebelling if it didn’t get sleep soon. “That’s really nice of you, but… I’ll visit it tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow, then.”

Craig drove on, pointing out the Thatched Cottage restaurant before taking a turn that bore them left and then right again, through deep shadows and mossy trees until they emerged into golden sunlight and a different view of the lake, with small boats bobbing in the cove below.

“Here you are. The Lodge.”

He opened the tailgate and insisted on carrying her bags inside for her. “Got a guest for you, Sarah. She was walking all the way from the village.”

“Oh, you poor thing.” Sarah clicked her computer keys, fingers flashing with vivid red polish.

“See you later, Miss McNeill,” Craig said with a cheeky wink in Sarah’s direction.

“McNeill?” Sarah stared at her screen. “Here you are. Three nights with us, right?”

“Yes.” Nora sighed. “I wanted to stay at the castle, but…”

Sarah laughed. “No more need be said. We’ve a lovely location at a fraction of the cost.”

Nora nodded sheepishly.

“How about I make you a reservation for tea at the castle tomorrow evening, if you’ve no other plans?”

“I don’t have any other plans. That would be wonderful.”

Sarah scanned Nora’s credit card and handed her a key and a stack of brochures. “Just call if you need anything.”

Nora found her way to her room. As soon as she got inside, all her plans to wander the grounds were forgotten when she saw the puffy white duvet on the bed. It was only mid-afternoon here, and she knew all the travel advice said to stay up and get used to the new time zone, but…

“I’ll just close my eyes for a minute,” she muttered as she stretched out and promptly fell asleep.

 

* * *

 

The room was nearly dark when she woke. She sat up, feeling shaky and drugged, her mind sluggish, as she tried to remember where she was.

Cong. She was at Ashford. She flopped back down with a happy sigh.

Her stomach growled, reminding her she hadn’t fed it anything healthy in several hours, and that airplane meal hadn’t gone down well.

She glanced at her watch, mentally moving the time ahead five hours. Almost nine o’clock here. She had no idea what would be open at this time.

She rinsed her face, patted it dry on a luxurious towel, ran a brush through her honey-blonde hair, and went in search of food, grabbing her stack of pamphlets on her way out.

A few minutes later, she was seated at a table in the bar with a bowl of creamy vegetable soup and thick slices of hearty brown bread.

Sated, she sat back, sipping her tea and letting her body settle. She leafed through the brochures. Among them was a map of the Ashford grounds and surrounding area. She scooted her chair closer and leaned over the map. She already knew the layout of the area around Cong from her grandparents, but it was cool to see it drawn out like this.

She pushed back from the table and gathered her papers. On her way back to her room, she stepped outside where a misty rain was falling.

“’Tis a nice, soft evening,” she said, chuckling to herself.

Today, despite all the obstacles and opposition, she’d arrived at the destination of her dreams. Tomorrow, she’d start living her dream.

copyright © Caren J. Werlinger 2019