Pax Tecum 2020

One of the best things about writing this blog is that it’s a bit like journaling (which I’ve never done). Scanning back over past posts, it’s like having a window back in time to what I was thinking and doing back when. Without little hints like those, there are entire years that probably wouldn’t stand out for me in any special way.

But I don’t think any of us will ever write 2020 without remembering this year for so many things. The pandemic, of course, has overshadowed almost the entire year for all of us, regardless of where we live or what we do. Though my wife and I have been lucky enough not to have lost anyone close to us, we know those who have. My friend Jane, who lost her wife, Jacky. My co-worker, Rina, lost a grandfather and an uncle. It’s heartbreaking to read the statistics and know that each of those numbers ticking up the death count is a person who will not be at the table for the holidays this year.

I didn’t do my usual spring and fall fund-raisers for my food bank and Pets of the Homeless, mostly because I figured a lot of folks out there don’t have disposable income now for books. But because I’ve worked steadily through the year, we have been able to make regular donations to both organizations, plus a few animal rescues in Australia and California helping animals decimated by the wildfires both areas suffered.

Like lots of people, we won’t be traveling to spend Christmas with family. We miss seeing them, being able to visit, but we know this is the smart thing, the right thing.

If you’re lucky enough to still have the people you love with you, hold them tight. For those who have lost loved ones due to covid or any other cause, I wish you the peace of time and healing. Snuggle with your kids (fur or skin or both). Take time to breathe. See the beauty that is still around us.

Pax

The Next Best Thing

It goes without saying that this holiday season is different. Yay 2020. Chanukkah is almost over. Yule and Christmas are next week. The Northeast of the US is digging out from a massive snowstorm. But hey, snow, Santa, White Christmas. Look for positives where we can find them, right?

In normal years, there are a couple of massive holiday book sales and giveaways organized by some amazing women. I know many people look forward to the fun, the re-imagined (sometimes bawdy) holiday song lyrics, the little-kid anticipation of winning a book or being able to buy one at a reduced price.

Several of the lesfic publishers have been running giveaways or offering free or sales on books from their websites. You can check out Bella, Ylva, Desert Palm Press among others.

I’m not organized enough (obviously, as it’s already the 17th of December) to pull together a massive group of authors for a holiday sale. But as an indie, I can control my own sales and giveaways, so it occurred to me, I should!

So this is what I’m going to do: from today through January 1, 2021 (let’s hope it’s a better year for all of us), I’m going to draw two winners each day from commenters on this blog. Winner’s choice of any of my ebooks.

The rules:

  1. Please only comment once, and don’t include your email address. We don’t need to invite bad things to visit you.
  2. You can leave a comment anytime between now and the last day of this giveaway.
  3. I will keep a list of commenters and randomly draw two names each day. I’ll draw at 8 pm EST.
  4. Once you win, I’ll remove your name from the commenter list that I’ll be keeping track of. (this rule subject to change if I only get three people commenting… 🙂 )
  5. When/if you win, I will contact you to find out which of my books you’d like and in what file format. I promise not to bother you with uninvited messages beyond the giveaway.
  6. I will keep reposting reminders of this giveaway on my Facebook pages, but I’ll share more sparingly on group pages to avoid annoying people.

Please feel free to share this blog. If you’re unfamiliar with my books to even know if you’d like one, you can check out my titles HERE.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate the season, if you celebrate the season, I wish you the joy of family and friends, the comfort of a full belly (more food bank and Pets of the Homeless donations going out today), and plenty of books to read!

Pax, Caren

Night #1 winners: Dorothy, loulepl

Night #2 winners: Trish, laufkati

Night #3 winners: Etta, jiskeb

Night #4 winners: Eve, Sandra

Night #5 winners: Louise, piscesmoon2u

My apologies to everyone. About night #4, I started having wifi issues and am just now back online without skulking in parking lots hunting for wifi!

Night #6 winners: Widdershins, Beth Goodman-Williams

Night #7 winners: Penny, Shaz

Little Reasons

This Yuletide season will tough for so many reasons. There are still millions of people whose jobs have disappeared permanently. The unemployment aid some had will end right after Christmas if Congress doesn’t act. We’re facing a glut of evictions and foreclosures of those who haven’t been able to pay their rent or mortgages. Others are really suffering the effects of isolation imposed by pandemic precautions. Beth and I were just talking the other night about how very lucky we are to have each other (even if I think she tires of isolating with me sometimes 🙂 ), and how hard it must be for those who live alone. Over a quarter-million families in the US and thousands of others globally will be going through their first holiday season without loved ones who have died from covid.

I’ve read posts from people who are dealing with depression and other chronic issues that are all aggravated by the isolation and uncertainty. Lots of people have written that they’re not bothering with decorations or anything to do with the holidays this year. For them, there’s nothing worth celebrating.

I can’t tell them they’re wrong, but it feels more important this year than ever before to find those little reasons there are to celebrate. Like a lot of folks, we got the house decorated early this year. Not being with family will be tough, so we’re going to do the season up a little more than we usually do.

And we’re trying to be extra aware of the blessings we have. We have a nice house with warm radiators, and we never have to wonder where our next meal is coming from. We have two healthy dogs to dote on. We live in a town where most people are considerate enough of one another to wear masks in public and try to give each other space when walking. We don’t have to worry about money, and we’re blessed with enough to be able to donate to various charities to help those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

We always put up two trees – the bigger one in our library (used to be our dining room), and a smaller one in our sunroom, where we eat most of our meals. This year, we decided to adorn the small tree with all of the miniature reproductions of my books that I’ve been gifted by my friend and editor, Lisa. These beautiful tiny books have been part of our Christmas décor for the last several years.

I know it can be hard to find reasons to celebrate, things to be grateful for, when it feels as if this year has given us nothing but sadness and grief. But I hope, if you look around, you’ll find things in your life, no matter how small, that give you joy.

Pax

Cast Me Gently Re-Release

I am very happy to let you all know that Cast Me Gently is available now through Corgyn Publishing!

If the cover looks familiar and you’re reading this like, “Whaaaaaa?”, I love this award-winning cover so much, and had worked so hard with Ylva to get the cover I wanted for this book, that I purchased the rights to it. There are small tweaks, but the image is the same.

Because Audible had chosen this as one of my titles they wanted to produce as an audio book (which got a terrific narrator, by the way) in 2019, I couldn’t really make any major changes to the story. Not that it needed any. I corrected a few typos that had slipped into the original version (it’s always a mystery to me how they do that despite multiple sets of eyes trying to find them), but that’s the only real change. So if you purchased the original version, there’s nothing significantly new in this version.

For any of you who haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and other distributors.

Samhain Blessings

Photo: Jane Morrison

It’s early in the morning of 31 October—Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain. A time of shorter days, longer nights. Tonight, the night when the veil between worlds thins, and it is said the dead can walk among us.

I don’t know if I believe the dead walk among us on this eve, but I do believe we can feel their presence, and not just on this night. This year, especially, there are so many who have gone on, passed through to the other side of that veil. This pandemic has ravaged the globe, helped along in many places by incompetent politicians who wouldn’t listen to science and, sadly, by humans who simply won’t alter their behavior.

This Samhain will be particularly poignant for all who have lost someone, all who are missing a loved one, as there are so many who were with us a year ago and are no longer.

A rare blue moon will also grace us tonight, lending her light to this night, maybe lighting the way for those souls who are trying to speak to us, to let us know it’s all right. Going on is not something to be feared. They’ll be waiting for us on the other side of that veil.

source: Farmers’ Almanac

Wishing you all Bright Blessings.

Pax, Caren

Some Days V

It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of these “some days” posts, and this one might better be titled “some weeks”. I’m not sure I can even put my thoughts and feelings into words. I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.

I’m so, so tired of being angry. All. The. Time. The news has been an unending onslaught of new revelations of the total and complete corruption – moral, financial, ethical – of this administration and everyone associated with it. There is just no bottom too low for those people. It feels as if they’ve broken the entire country.

At work this week, another of our patients was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the prognosis is not good. One of our doctors is dealing with his wife’s cancer, and they’re now out of treatment options. She’s been trying to make sure he’ll keep working after she’s gone, because she’s worried about what he’ll do without the focus and distraction work provides.

This past week, I’ve also been dealing with the realization that someone I haven’t seen in a very long time died several years ago. Although I hadn’t expected we’d ever have contact again, just knowing it’s now not even a possibility has cast a different light over things.

I don’t think I’d realized how much everything was weighing on me. This happens. You absorb these day-to-day things, like one stone at a time being added to a backpack on your shoulders so that you don’t realize how heavy it’s becoming. Until that last stone is added.

For me, the last stone was reading last night about the fires in Oregon and learning about the 13-year-old boy who died with his dog in his lap, as they took shelter inside a car. They’re only two of dozens who have lost their lives, but for some reason, I was suddenly unable to stop crying. I still can’t.

I know it’s not just the boy and dog. I know it’s not just any one of these things. And I also know it won’t stop until it’s ready to stop. But damn.

I’m so grateful to have my wife, our dogs, our home. Our family and friends are all safe. We’ll donate and do what we can for those who have lost everything, but…

Some days, it just feels too much.

Let the Light In

A few nights ago, we were watching “Little Voice” on Apple TV (a great show, by the way), and one of the characters said, “Everybody’s broken. That’s how the light gets in.” They attributed it to Hemingway, but when I tried to verify that, I found references to similar quotes by Hemingway, the Persian poet Rumi, and songwriter Leonard Cohen, all with slight variations. Whoever said it, I love the sentiment.

source: inclusion.com

It has felt dark. For some of us, the darkness fell on 9 November 2016, and it hasn’t let up since. The disastrous effects of that election will reverberate long after chump has left office — by whatever means that happens.

But the darkness has spread well beyond him and the election. I always knew there was a certain segment of our society that was racist and xenophobic and bigoted in so many other ways, but I was not aware of just how deeply ingrained that ugliness is until it felt emboldened to rear its head.

All around the world, there’s been a rise, a resurgence of far-right, fascist sentiment. In some places, it’s taking root more strongly than in others. Throughout history, any time fascism has reared its ugly head, only horrific things have followed.

Not to be forgotten are other issues like the climate crisis or the ongoing wars in Yemen and Syria and Afghanistan. And then, let’s throw a pandemic on top of everything else.

There are times when it all feels just… too much.

The fear of getting sick, or mourning the loss of family and friends to covid-19. The loss of jobs and health insurance; food insecurity; not being able to see and hug family and friends; not being able to travel.

source: spinningpots.com

Potters will tell you that there are often hidden defects in a pot — air bubbles, impurities in the clay, thin places in the walls — any number of stressors will cause the pot to crack. If it’s heated or cooled too quickly, it will crack. No matter how perfect it looks on the outside, those hidden stresses will rise to the surface.

Each new social and political upheaval — crack! Each news report about the virus surging in a new area — crack! Each new attack on our norms and our society — crack! Each story of a person of color dying unnecessarily from disease or violence — crack! Each new worry — crack!

I feel like a broken pot some days, and then I know I have to turn it over.

“So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel. Then this word of Yahweh was addressed to me, ‘Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine.’” Jeremiah 18: 2-6

But, is a crack necessarily a defect? Is being broken a reason to throw something away? Or is it an opportunity for light to find its way through?

What if, instead of trying to hide or repair the cracks, we celebrate them? The Japanese have made an art of that. They call it kintsugi — the art of precious scars, using lacquer mixed with gold or silver to fill the gaps and make them part of the beauty rather than trying to conceal them.

source: Lifegate.com

When I think about everything happening around us now, everything we’re facing in the next several months, I believe new cracks are likely to appear in me. As much as I’d like to cover them up, hide them, I think that may only tend to make them crack open even wider — and I can bet it will happen just when it’s least wanted.

Instead, maybe we all need to embrace those times of feeling broken. Acknowledge them. Reach out to those we trust to hold our fragile selves, and remember to let the light in. It may not erase the cracks, but oh, we’re all the more beautiful for the fragility.

Pax

Bring Back the Wolves

“There are two wolves, and they’re always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other light and hope. Which wolf wins? The wolf we feed.”  (from the movie “Tomorrowland”)

Actually, the wolves never went away. The fight has been ongoing since 9 November 2016. Even before that, during the last nasty campaign. But it has been going especially hard since the last presidential election and its disastrous outcome.

I blogged HERE and HERE about how we need to feed the right wolf, because that’s the only way to make sure it wins. And we’ve been trying, though I think we’ve all experienced moments of wondering if the feeding and the fighting were having any effect.

We wondered from those first initial moments of chump’s Muslim travel ban, through the caging of children and separation of immigrant families, and then with his attacks on environmental regulation. Oh, and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and then his attacks on NATO, and then initiating our withdrawal from the WHO. Let’s see, there was the call to Ukraine’s president that got him impeached, and the blatant corruption and retaliation since the Senate shamefully refused to convict him. He and his cronies like William Barr don’t even try to hide it any longer. All the while, as Nancy Pelosi said, “All roads lead to Putin.” There are so many more assaults on our institutions and alliances that I can’t even begin to enumerate them all.

Now, we’re living through the disastrous consequences of a total and absolute abdication of any kind of leadership from this administration during a pandemic and its concomitant economic collapse.

All while we tumble toward what will be the most consequential election of our lifetimes. There are some important things we all need to do NOW.

First, make sure you’re registered to vote. Go to usa.gov/ to register or to check your registration. BUT also check it to make sure your address and name are accurate. Remember, hackers don’t need to actually manipulate our votes. All they have to do is change a house number or street spelling or a couple of letters in our names. In a state with a voter ID law, if the info in the voter rolls doesn’t match your ID, you won’t be allowed to vote. On my page, it also gives me the option of asking for a mail-in ballot, but that may vary by state.

Second, if your state allows vote by mail, but doesn’t automatically send mail-in ballots, request yours EARLY and return it EARLY! We got our requests for mail-in ballots in today’s mail.

We’ve all seen how the new Postmaster General is doing everything he can to slow down mail delivery, so don’t take chances. And double-check whether your ballot requires postage or extra postage! Some people have noted that their ballots require more than one stamp (another ploy to invalidate some, I suppose). The old USPS policy was to deliver presidential election ballots, even if they lacked sufficient, or any, postage, but we can’t count on that policy under this administration.

Here in Virginia, early voting begins 21 September. We plan to go to our registrar’s office where we can turn in our request for an absentee ballot on the spot, and get our ballot right then. Then we can scan it into the machine, so no chance of ours getting lost in the mail. If that’s an option for you, think about it. There will only be a few of the voting office workers there, so any potential virus exposure should be minimal. Way less than the usual polling places on Election Day.

If you live in a state that has ballot drop boxes, USE THEM!!! Again, anything we can do to get our ballots in and counted early will help. The last thing we need is chump stealing the election because late ballots didn’t get counted.

When I hear people say they didn’t vote in the 2016 election, it makes my blood boil! Remember, not voting is a vote for four more years of this garbage! I honestly don’t know if the U.S. can survive another four years of this level of incompetence and mismanagement. We’ve already sustained so much damage, it’ll take us decades to undo all the damage done in these last four years.

Enough for now. Stay safe, stay healthy. Let’s all feed the right wolf!

What is Normal Now?

This year is only a little over half-over, and it is already one that will go down in history. There are times when it feels as if this is just a “phase” we’ll get through, because, hey!, we can all remember when just a few months ago, we were going to restaurants and ball games and concerts and conferences. I’ve been reminiscing about GCLS conferences from past years.

Crazy friends at GCLS 2018

And then I watch the news, with the coverage of the spikes of covid cases in states where people behaved as if the coronavirus isn’t real, and it becomes clear that we won’t be doing any of those things for a very long time. At least, we shouldn’t if we’re serious about getting the viral spread under control.

Me, Danielle, and Jae in New Orleans 2015

Work life is another thing that may never return to the pre-pandemic status quo, large numbers of employees working together in office complexes. What will school look like? And how do parents work from home long-term if their kids aren’t able to be back in school?

For the last several years, I’ve done a spring fundraiser for my local food bank (The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank), donating my royalties for the month of May to help them as they try to meet the increased summer demand. Even though we think of summer a time of seasonal produce, farm markets, picking strawberries and tomatoes fresh from the garden, there are so many low-income families who depended on schools to give free or reduced breakfasts and lunches.

But this year, with so many folks out of work, with schools having been out since March, demand for food bank assistance has exploded. We’ve been donating to our food bank regularly.

We’re blessed to be in good shape financially, and we’ve stayed healthy, thank goodness.

I don’t know what life will look like a year or three or ten from now. I hope we’ll find a vaccine soon, and we’ll be able to gather with friends again – in person and not just virtually. But I am grateful for the tech that has allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family (even if they have to give us tutorials on how to use it 🙂 ).

While we adjust to whatever normal will become, I’ll hang onto the things that bring me peace of mind: my spouse and our dogs, my work, our friends, my writing and reading, my music.

I wish for each of you is peace of mind and spirit, wherever you can find it, whatever brings it.

Pax

Shifting Winds

A few bits of news are in the offing today. For starters, I would like to unveil the cover and blurb of my upcoming release, Face the Wind. It’s a sequel to When the Stars Sang, a chance to revisit Little Sister Island and her people.

Here’s the blurb:

Kathleen Halloran has never been happier. She and Molly Cooper have built a life together, living in her grandmother’s cottage. The family drama of the past has calmed down. She and Molly will soon be aunts. Life on Little Sister Island is everything Kathleen could wish for… until the island begins to send ominous signals that change is in the wind.

Living beside a different ocean, Meredith Turner tries to make sense of her dreams—dreams of an island she’s never seen but can’t forget. After an ancestry test throws her family into chaos, the tempest that follows blows Meredith and her parents clear across the country, to the island of her dreams.

For Louisa Woodhouse, it feels the end is near. With no one to follow after her, she’s the last of her line on Little Sister, and her secrets will go with her. Soon, the Woodhouse name will join the others that now exist only in the island’s genealogy records.

But Little Sister Island has its own magic—rhythms and seasons and tides and currents that even the best-laid human plans can’t fight. And in that magic is a warning—a storm is coming.

And, as has happened globally, the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Albuquerque had to be canceled due to the pandemic. They are putting on a more limited selection of virtual panels and, for the first time, they will be virtually presenting the Goldie Awards on Saturday, 11 July at 4:00 pm EST. There is no cost for registering to attend via Zoom. You can find the links HERE.

I am honored to have two books in the finals this year. A Bittersweet Garden is a finalist in the Paranormal/Horror/Occult category. And Invisible, as Music is a finalist in the Historical Fiction category. Best of luck to all the finalists!

I did a reading from Invisible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdDi5zlPKc0

Best of luck to all the finalists!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and take care, everyone.

Pax, Caren