Privacy and GDPR

If you’ve been online at all recently, you probably realize that there is a new set of online privacy laws going into effect in the EU that are affecting pretty much all of us. Any website or other online entity that does business in Europe or reaches readers in Europe must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

I’ve been as concerned as everyone else about my own online privacy, and I’ve done what I think I can to protect it. But I’ll be honest. This new set of regulations is an absolute pain in the butt. I am not computer literate. WordPress is not making this easy, at least not for me. And I am finding this a real time and brain energy drain.

And cookies. Cookies are supposed to be something to eat. I don’t now and never have understood the use of cookies online.

So, to keep it simple for now: I’ve deleted the Facebook button that connected to my author page because we all know what they’ve been up to. I have never had a contact form on this page, but you have had the option of signing up for email updates when I post a new blog. If you don’t want to receive those any longer, you have the option of unfollowing. I’m going to delete the “Follow this Blog” button in the sidebar for the time being.

If you have commented on this blog, you’ve been asked for a user name and an email address to differentiate you from the tons of spam out there. If you do not want WordPress to have your email address, you may delete any comments you have made. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, I can delete them for you. Contact me at: cjwerlingerbooks AT yahoo DOT com

I’m going to create a new privacy page for this blog and copy this info into it. Until I can figure out how to upgrade to the new version of WordPress that is GDPR-compliant, this is the best this computer dummy can do. If I can’t figure it out, I will simply delete this entire blog and send it into oblivion.

 

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The Hungry Time

I’m a bit late in posting this announcement of my spring fundraiser for The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have done a spring fundraiser for the food bank and a fall/winter fundraiser for Pets of the Homeless.

Food banks get lots of support during the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas see a surge in donations to many of them. What many don’t realize is how much more demand there is at food banks in the summertime when school is no longer in session.

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So many kids in low-income families depend on free or discounted breakfasts and lunches at school. Even snow days, those magical days for most of us, aren’t good days for those kids. NPR did a story HERE on how devastating it is to those families when school is called for snow.

I remember clearly now astonished I was to read about how much demand there was in the summer – a time of gardens and fresh veggies and fruit and picnics with my family when I was growing up.

So, to do my bit, I’ll be donating ALL – 100% – of my May royalties to my local food bank. Sales are already off to a great start for the month, so thanks to everyone who has purchased a book of mine thus far. But we still have over half of May to go!

If you’ve been thinking about buying any of my books, this is a great time to do so! If you’ve already bought them all, bless you!

If you’re in a position to donate to your own local food bank, please do so. They can use all the help they can get at this critical time!

Peace and full bellies to all!

Caren

 

Why?

Why do we do what we do? For a living, for fun, for fulfillment?

Hermi Why

Have you ever known someone who loved her job so much she said, “I’d do this even if they didn’t pay me to do it.” Maybe you feel that way about what you do. I think I used to. In fact, when I had my own physical therapy practice, I did just that. Often. Staff and bills and rent all had to be paid before I could take a paycheck. It was just the nature of the beast. Or maybe I was just a really bad business owner. But I loved what I did, even when I didn’t get paid. Of course, it helped to have a very understanding and supportive partner.

Then I rediscovered writing, something I had loved doing when I was a child. I wrote on and off for ten years before I really thought about trying to get published. I’ve written before about what a strange journey that was. I finally got published just as the recession hit and bookstores—both LGBT and chains—closed all around the country. Then e-books and Amazon took over and changed the game for everyone.

Fast-forward ten more years.

I now work for someone else. I’m lucky enough to have a good job that pays the bills and provides me with good benefits. I know how blessed I am to be in that position, but I no longer am doing it just for the love of it. Most of the time, I like what I do, but when I’m ready to retire, I’ll gladly walk away and not look back.

And that day job makes it possible to do what I really love, but most definitely doesn’t pay the bills.

Writing is a weird thing. My PT degree and license tell me I’m a real physical therapist. It’s the same for other professions—your degree or qualifications or license tell you you’re real.

But when are you a real writer?

When you write? When you finish a novel? When you publish? When you win an award or hit a certain sales rank?

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I have now published thirteen novels, most of them under my own imprint, which means I’m back in business. And it wasn’t until this past March, when my most recent story, When the Stars Sang, was published that I started to see a significant bump in my sales.

Prior to that, I averaged 0-3 e-book sales per day. That is not a typo. I had ten novels published (plus two others with Ylva that I don’t have daily sales info for), and would often sell no books at all, for days at a time. A great day was 4-5 copies sold.

There were many days I wondered why I was doing this at all. I had started writing because I love it. It was a big leap to go from writing something just for the enjoyment and sense of fulfillment it gave to putting my work out there for others to read.

No matter how much I told myself it didn’t matter how many copies I sold or how many reviews I got, that I would still be doing this, that sense of gratification gradually shifted. Once I had published, which involved laying out the up-front costs of editing, cover, and formatting, gratification became inextricably tied to sales and reviews. Without those, it became really difficult to remember why I was doing this whole publishing thing. I don’t know if that change can be helped once you publish.

Recently, another writer I really admire was lamenting being in that very boat. Andi Marquette is an incredibly busy woman—writer, blogger, publisher, fangirl of various fandoms, advocate. She blogged HERE about her struggles with whether to continue writing for publication (and losing money at it) versus going back to her roots in writing fanfiction, where she puts her work out there for free. From what she says, that type of writing frees her from the very soul sucking worries of not recouping the money she has laid out to publish her books, and gets her back in touch with writing purely for the love of it.

I can absolutely empathize with her thought process. I know many authors who have stopped writing—or at least stopped publishing—altogether. That whole notion of the starving artist who can’t help but create even without success may be romantic, but publishing, if you do it right, is expensive.

When I released When the Stars Sang, it was with half a mind that if sales didn’t pick up with this book, I was going to have to do some serious thinking about whether this publishing gig was worth it.

For some reason, this book did reach more readers than my previous titles. It’s funny, because it’s not inherently different from my other novels. I felt a bit like the over-night success that only took twenty years to happen. It kick-started sales for all of my books that I’d not seen before. I’m still not a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination, and I fully expect sales will probably taper off again. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I’m trying to be realistic about this. After all, anything more than zero is an improvement, right?

I still don’t know the answer to when a writer becomes real, but this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams comes to mind:

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

So, to those of you who have read my books from the beginning and to those of you who have only just discovered me, thank you. I don’t know if I could really stop writing, but your support makes it possible to keep publishing. And getting to do both is a gift I don’t take for granted.

Pax

On Eagle’s Wings

“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.” Michael Joncas

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That hymn by Michael Joncas was another one my parents loved, and I loved playing and singing it for them.

This March 15th was the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing, and the 26th of March was the thirty-second anniversary of my mom’s death. I’ve written before about how Mom passed in the wee hours of Good Friday night, so even though the dates don’t often match up, Good Friday is always the day I mark to remember that milestone in my family’s lives.

Tonight, as the Christian world marks the vigil hours commemorating the days that Jesus was buried, Jews are keeping the festival of Pesach, Passover. It was Passover that Jesus and his friends were gathered together to mark for what became the Last Supper.

The same night… so many different interpretations of its meaning.

No matter what you believe or what traditions you keep or what you celebrate to mark the coming of spring, I wish you the joy of family and friends.

Pax

 

When the Stars Sang

My thirteenth novel is now published! When the Stars Sang is a beautiful story of a woman longing for the kind of home she hasn’t known since she was a child. She returns to Little Sister Island off the coast of Maine, the place she and her brother spent magical summers with their grandmother until the summer he drowned. It’s been almost twenty-five years, and she is pulled back by a call she can’t resist.

proofWHEN THE STARS SANG_dflat

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

Living In Between

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m up early as usual, sitting in the dark with the dogs all sleepy around me. I love these mornings, but it got me thinking again.

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photo: William Wegman

On Thursday morning, a co-worker wished me a happy Thursday. Thursdays are early days for our clinic as we open and close an hour early, and it’s a running joke how much we drag coming in that extra hour early. I replied, “Happy Friday Eve.” And then I stopped.

It’s not the first time I’ve been struck by the fact that, recently, I seem to measure my life from Friday to Friday, with little to no memory of what has been happening in between. When I schedule patients, my life jumps a week at a time. All of 2017 leapt by me, as I watched it disappear week by week.

I don’t want to get old(er) and wonder where all those in between days went.

When my love and I first got together, we celebrated the eighteenth of each month as a month-versary. We went out to dinner and acknowledged that special day every month. We did that for probably two years, but at some point, I can’t remember exactly when, we stopped.

Our time together is now measured in fractions of a century, as we celebrated 25 years at our last anniversary. Yikes!

We recently lost the last of our parents, and we’re analyzing finances in preparation for retirement, if we can ever afford to retire with all the changes in the political and financial reality we find ourselves in.

But it hit me this week. We really need to make a renewed effort to live all of these in between moments, the days in between our weekends – the eighteenths and the sevenths and the twentieths – we need to live them all, not just breeze through them, waiting for the weekends, while life passes us by a week and then a month and then years at a time!

When I think back on the past, certain things stand out in my memory, but there is so, so much living that goes on in between those things!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, wherever you are, and a better week ahead – reading, talking, visiting, loving – just living your in between.

Pax

 

Lucky 13!

My upcoming release, When the Stars Sang, will be my 13th published novel. I can hardly believe that. It really doesn’t feel that long ago that I was celebrating the publication of my first novel.

If you’ve followed my blog and my writing, you know I’ve been kind of immersed in fantasy for the last couple of years, with the three books in The Dragonmage Saga and The Beast That Never Was.

When the Stars Sang is a contemporary story, set on a fictitious island off the coast of Maine.

I’m really proud to show off this gorgeous cover, courtesy of Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica.

proofWHEN THE STARS SANG_dflat

Here’s the blurb:

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

 

I’m aiming for a publication date of 1 March 2018. I’ll keep you all updated as the date draws nearer. In the meantime, for those who would enjoy a teaser, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter.

* * *

A blast of cold wind hit Kathleen, nearly knocking her over and misting her glasses with sea spray so that she could barely see. She couldn’t recall ever having such a rough crossing before, but she’d never made it at this time of year. She tried to ignore the little voice telling her this was a sign—a sign that she’d made a huge, impulsive mistake.

She jumped when a door slammed behind her.

“You should come inside.”

She held to the rail of the ferry and turned to the man who had shouted at her over the wind. “I’m okay. We’re almost there.”

She pointed to a hump of land only just visible through the gloom.

The man bent over at the waist, laughing so hard he nearly lost his balance as the deck heaved. “That’s Big Sister Island. We got nother hour before we get to Little Sister. Maybe more in this chop. It’s wicked cold. You’ll be froze by the time we get there.”

Her heart sank while her stomach rose uncomfortably. She followed him back into the little cabin. One bare bulb illuminated the interior. Two steps up, in the pilothouse, sat the ferry’s captain, his hands firmly gripping the wheel and the throttle.

“Aren’t there any other passengers?” she asked.

She took off her damp jacket and sat on one of the hard plastic benches that lined either side of the cabin. Using the hem of the T-shirt under her sweater, she wiped the droplets off her glasses and put them back on.

“Nope.” The man who had invited her in held out a cup of coffee in a dented enameled cup. “Just you and supplies.”

With a nod of thanks, she accepted, trying not to grimace at the dark stains that dyed the interior of the cup. The black coffee itself was so thick, it was in little danger of sloshing over the lip, no matter how the ferry pitched. She turned the cup so that the handle was away from her, telling herself no other lips had touched this part of its chipped rim.

“Fred,” the captain called, holding out an empty mug of his own.

Fred obliged by refilling it with more thick coffee and handing it back up before taking a seat across from Kathleen.

“So you’re Maisie Halloran’s granddaughter.”

Kathleen, who had just taken a sip of scalding coffee, could only nod through watery eyes as she tried to swallow the bitter sludge. She forced it down. “How did you know that?”

Fred shrugged. “Small island. Not much happens everyone don’t know about.”

Up in the pilothouse, the captain raised his own cup in a kind of toast. “We were sorry to hear about Maisie’s passing,” he said over his shoulder. “Not many left like her. Kind lady.”

Kathleen nodded again, cradling the cup in her chilled hands. She decided it worked better as a hand warmer than a beverage. Below them, the ferry’s engine vibrated as it churned them onward. “You both knew my grandmother?”

“Oh, we know most all the islanders. Not too many folks live there. Bobby here,” Fred pointed to the captain at the wheel, “he was born and raised on Little Sister. Still got family there.”

He nodded toward the rear of the ferry where Kathleen’s car was now thoroughly drenched in seawater. “Good thing you got to the landin’ when you did. We was late pushin’ off or we’d’ve already been underway.”

“I could have caught the next ferry,” Kathleen said.

Fred bent double and guffawed again. She wasn’t sure what she’d said that was so funny. He gestured with his cup, proving her wrong by slopping some coffee onto the stained linoleum tiles of the cabin.

“You’d’ve had a long wait. Ferry don’t run again for a week. We’ll probably have to put in overnight ’fore we go back.”

She frowned. “But the ferry schedule had lots of ferries listed.”

“Yup.” Fred nodded again, rubbing the backs of his fingers over the gray stubble bristling along his jaw. “For Big Sister. Only boat goin’ to Little Sister is this one. State ferry runs once’t a week once the season is over. Once’t a month come winter, and that’s weather permittin’.” He turned to look out the droplet-covered windows, but Kathleen couldn’t see anything through them. “Tons o’ folks go to Big Sister. Not many wants to go the extra to get out to Little Sister. Get some tourists in high season, but usually the only passengers we carry this time o’year is just the islanders goin’ to the mainland for a few days and back home.”

Kathleen watched a rivulet of spilled coffee run toward her feet as the ferry rolled with the waves. She clutched her coffee cup, trying to keep the semi-liquid inside from splashing onto her jeans.

Fred tilted his head as he regarded her. “Weather’s gonna be turnin’ soon. When you plannin’ on goin’ back?”

“I’m not.”

“Not what?”

“I’m not planning on going back.” She pretended to take a drink from her coffee cup. “I’m moving to Little Sister to stay.”

Fred’s bushy gray eyebrows rose as he lifted his cup to his lips. His silence clearly communicated his surprise. And his doubt, she realized when he scrutinized her over the rim of his mug.

Just as quickly, his eyebrows scrunched together in a puzzled frown. “If Maisie was your grandma, how come you didn’t recognize Big Sister?”

She turned to gaze out the window behind her, though the only thing she could see in the harsh glare from the naked bulb was her own pale reflection staring back. “It’s been a long time. Almost twenty-five years.”

If he was waiting for further explanation, he was going to be disappointed. A moment later, she heard his heavy boots clomping and then the cabin door opening and closing with a gust of wind.

She took advantage of his absence to quickly dump her coffee in the little sink near the coffee pot, grab her jacket, and slip out the rear door of the cabin. Grasping railings and crates to keep her balance, she made her way to her car. She got in and closed the door just as another heavy gust of spray washed over the windows. The cabin’s yellow glow floated in and out of focus through the wet windshield.

She pulled her phone out of her jacket pocket and opened the last text she’d received as she’d sat on the ferry dock.

“Don’t do this to us. I know we can work things out. I didn’t mean what I said. Please call me. Please come back. I love you, Suze”

She powered the phone off and put it back in her pocket. She closed her eyes and drifted into a restless sleep.

It was dark when a rap on the window scared the life out of her.

“We’re here,” Fred called through the glass.

She knuckled the sleep from her eyes and turned the ignition. Following his hand signals, she drove off the ferry and onto the island.

The sweep of her headlights sliced through a heavy fog, and she realized she hadn’t the first clue where she was.

“It’s a small island,” she muttered to herself. “It can’t be hard to find one little cottage.”

But she hadn’t been here since she was ten, and it all looked turned around in the dark and the fog. She crept down what she remembered was the main street of the island’s only town. She supposed things could have changed in twenty-four years. A trash can appeared out of nowhere, and she jerked the wheel away from the curb.

Cursing under her breath, she put the car in park and got out. Most of the shops along this stretch of the street were dark, but there, like a beacon from a lighthouse, was a larger building with lights glowing a welcome. She got out, locked the car, and made her way toward the lights.

She peered through the glass door into a cozy dining room. About a dozen people were seated at tables and along the counter. Every single one of them turned at the tinkling of the bell on the door as she entered.

Kathleen stood there a moment until a rosy-cheeked woman bustled from behind the counter, the lights glinting off the streaks of silver running through her dark hair.

“Land sakes! What a cold night!” she said, taking Kathleen by the arm. “Table, dear?”

Kathleen nodded even as she was being propelled to an empty table.

“You’ll want something hot,” said the woman, her fists propped on her wide hips. “Coffee or tea? Or hot chocolate maybe?”

“Coffee, please.”

The others all watched her with open curiosity as the woman hurried back behind the counter and returned a moment later with a white mug filled with coffee.

“Thank you,” Kathleen said.

The woman slid a menu in front of her, pulling a pencil out of the bun at the nape of her neck. “You look that over and let me know what you want. We still have a little of the chicken and dumplings left.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Kathleen said, not even bothering to look at the menu.

“My name is Wilma. You just holler if you need anything.” Wilma stuck her pencil back in her hair and hurried off.

The bell on the door tinkled again, and Fred and Bobby came in.

“Hey, Wilma,” said Fred loudly. The locals all nodded in their direction. “See you already met…”

He looked in Kathleen’s direction. “She’s Maisie’s granddaughter we heard, but never got her name.”

Kathleen felt like a zoo specimen as the curious glances intensified. The heat rose in her cold cheeks. “I’m Kathleen Halloran,” she said, apparently to the entire diner. “And you never really said. How did you know I’m Maisie’s granddaughter?”

Fred chuckled as he and Bobby took stools at the counter. “Sadie, at the ticket window, told us.”

Kathleen remembered now, the nosy young woman wondering why anyone would go to Little Sister Island this time of year.

Her eyes widened in alarm as chairs scraped and stools swiveled. Every person in the dining room got up to come to her table and shake her hand, some with murmurs of condolence and others of welcome. A few people mentioned remembering her from when she was a girl.

Wilma shooed them away as she bustled back over with a steaming bowl. “Let the poor thing eat. She looks half-froze.”

“Thank you,” Kathleen said.

The coffee—she wondered if Fred noticed the difference as he gulped his down—and the chicken and dumplings were all delicious. With hot food and drink and the cozy warmth of the diner, she began to feel drowsy.

“Can you tell me how to get to my grandmother’s house?” she asked when Wilma brought the check.

“Land sakes,” Wilma clucked. “You can’t go out there tonight. We didn’t know you were coming. No one’s been out to start up the furnace.”

Kathleen hadn’t even considered that there might be things that would need to be tended at the house after sitting empty in the months since Nanna’s death.

“Well…”

“How about a room here tonight,” Wilma suggested. “And we’ll call Mo Cooper to meet you out at the cottage tomorrow and set things right.”

Kathleen hadn’t planned on spending money on a hotel, but she supposed it was the smart thing to do. She went out into the cold night and tugged one bag loose from the crammed back seat of her car, trying not to cause an avalanche of boxes and suitcases.

Wilma led the way through a door at one end of the dining room, up a wide staircase padded with a faded Persian runner with old-fashioned brass rails holding the runner in place. Upstairs, the long hall had crisp white woodwork and a series of rooms with open doors.

“You’re our only guest at the moment,” Wilma said. “Do you like morning light?”

“Sure,” said Kathleen, following Wilma into one of the rooms.

“We keep the doors open to air them out this time o’year.” Wilma switched on a bedside lamp. “You can flip the bolt to lock up. Breakfast starts at six. Welcome home.”

She pulled the door shut behind her, leaving Kathleen alone in the clean, simple furnishings. She stepped into the bathroom and groaned when she saw her reflection in the mirror.

“I look like a drowned cat,” she muttered, staring at her lank auburn hair, courtesy of the dried sea spray from the ferry. “Nice first impression.”

She rinsed her glasses under the tap to wash away the salty film coating the lenses and dried them before stripping to take a quick shower.

A short while later, she lay under clean sheets, covered with a heavy quilt worked in nautical patches of cloth. She stayed stiffly on the left edge of the mattress, listening to the continued howl of the wind outside. She swept her arm out over the empty mattress beside her and shifted to lie sprawled across the middle.

“Welcome home,” she whispered to the dark room. “If only.”

© Caren J. Werlinger 2018