Grab Your Halo

I don’t mean the cute little oranges.

Today, I had a BookBub promo start for She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things.

proofSHE_SINGS3

I love a lot of things about this story, and I hope new readers will love it, too! But I don’t just want them to love this story.

I’ve blogged before about the seeming weirdness of paying to give your book away for free to folks who’ve never heard of you. But that’s the point. Because they’ve never heard of me, maybe they’ll take a chance on a free book, discover they like it, and then buy my other books. Francis Guenette called it “the halo effect”, and it’s real. Book sales do blossom under its effect.

But there’s another reason to buy my other books – the ones that aren’t free. It’s time for my fall/winter fundraiser. For several years, I’ve donated all or part of my royalties spring and fall to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, with some matching donations from friends. To date, I’ve donated over $1500 to them.

Homeless2

Last year, I discovered another charity, Pets of the Homeless. I researched this because one of my novels, Cast Me Gently, released October 2015, featured a homeless man with a dog. Last year, thanks to a matching donation from a friend, we were able to send a check for $700 to Pets of the Homeless.

Around the holidays, a lot of people remember food banks and food pantries. Churches host Thanksgiving dinners and make up food baskets for needy families. I know there’s never enough to go around, but they get way more help now than they do in the spring when schools are letting out for the summer.

So, I’m going to make Pets of the Homeless my fall/winter recipient again. I will donate all of my royalties from now until the end of December to Pets of the Homeless.

halo-effect

(Source: people2people.com.au)

So now, grab your halo! Do something great for a terrific organization. Buy any of my books, give them as gifts (did you know you can gift e-books with just an e-mail address?), build up your To Be Read pile a bit more, and help me help homeless folks who aren’t just taking care of themselves, but a four-legged companion as well.

homeless4

(Source: Pets of the Homeless)

Pets of the Homeless helps with food donations, emergency veterinarian care and surgeries. Some of the stories are heartbreaking.

Your support is really very much appreciated.

Peace and full bellies to all.

UPDATE: For those of you who have already purchased all of my books (thank you so much!) but still want to help, you can donate directly to Pets of the Homeless HERE. They also have a list of donation sites around the country where you can drop off pet food, leashes, beds, etc.

Feed the Right Wolf

Like the rest of the country, I woke this morning to the news of the 2016 election results. To say we were devastated is a complete understatement. The feelings of despair are so raw, it’s impossible to put into words.

It’s beyond comprehension that Hillary’s opponent was elected (he who will not be named – not out of fear, but because I don’t ever want his name to issue from my mouth). It’s partly disappointment and disillusionment that this country is still so sexist that it will not elect a woman who was eminently more qualified than her opponent; it’s partly the blatant lies the orange one told, but even more so, that so many were willing to buy into the lies wholeheartedly without questioning them; but it’s mostly that so many bigoted, ignorant white people were willing to ignore or excuse his boorish behavior, his meanness, his mean-spiritedness, his littleness. He will never be my president. He is undeserving of any respect. I cannot imagine what the future will look like these next four years.

That’s my anger and bitterness talking. It’s going to be a long time before that goes away, if it ever does. But if I do nothing with that anger, that bitterness, then what good is it? What good will come from it?

We recently watched the movie “Tomorrowland”, a film that did not get nearly enough attention in my opinion. It had a fantastic message. Near the beginning of the movie, the main character, Casey, reminds her father of a parable he had told her many times:

“There are two wolves, and they’re always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins?”

wolves

(source: youtube.com)

Whichever wolf we feed wins.

My sister has texted me today about her own sadness and despair at having to explain to her young sons how America has come to this – how we could have elected someone like the orange one, someone who is exactly opposite all the values she and my brother-in-law have tried instill in their boys.

Which wolf will we feed? What kind of America will we get?

When people watch reality television and obsessively follow celebrities who contribute nothing positive to society (sex videos don’t count as acting), they are feeding the wrong wolf.

When people bully and harangue each other, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, they are feeding the wrong wolf.

When people refuse to call our politicians on lies and half-truths, when they rally behind bigots and racists and misogynists because it makes them feel entitled to spew their own hatred, they are feeding the wrong wolf.

If any of us contributes in any way to the darkness and the despair, we are feeding the wrong wolf.

How do we feed the right wolf – the one of light and hope?

Fellow author Cindy Rizzo wrote a beautiful post earlier today urging people to work for all of the things that we hold dear: hold your loved ones close; embrace your faith, if you have one; work to support the elderly and the homeless; work to save the environment; do what you can with whatever resources you can.

Every single social justice and environmental cause is going to need our energy and  support more than ever before.

Together, we can feed the right wolf. We can bring light and hope to a world that is desperately going to need it over the next four years.

The Portal

One of the absolute coolest things about writing a fantasy is getting to create a world and make up the rules for that world. I had no idea when I sat down and started my fantasy trilogy, The Dragonmage Saga, how far this story arc would take me and how it would stretch my writing muscles.

I have now completed the second book in the trilogy, The Portal. It is scheduled for release December 1st, but I can’t wait to show off the gorgeous cover for this book! A HUGE thank-you to Jane Morrison for the use of her wonderful photo and Patty G. Henderson for her cover work.

Drum roll…

the-portalfinalflat

The blurb:

“The Dragonmage Saga continues as Caymin and Péist return to Ireland. Together, mage and dragon seek allies to try and stop a pending war with a fanatical monk determined to rid Éire of magic. But the spreading tide of Christianity isn’t the only threat. An ancient evil—one that dates back to the last dragon war a thousand winters ago—threatens the present.

The Portal into the otherworld is the only way to the past, but the otherworld is the realm of the gods and goddesses and other creatures of the old stories, and it is unforgiving to those who do not belong. Caymin and Péist soon learn that, in the otherworld, the deepest desires of their hearts become traps. While there, the young dragonmage and her dragon realize they are pawns in a struggle for power that was set in motion long before they were born. Even those they trust have been using them. Only through their bond with each other can they hope to survive the trials awaiting them and find their way back through the Portal to this realm. But returning may not be an option if they have to sacrifice all to bring peace to a world that no longer holds a place for dragons and mages.

Book Two of The Dragonmage Saga”

For any of you who haven’t yet read the first book in the trilogy, Rising From the Ashes: The Chronicles of Caymin, what are you waiting for?

RisingFTAshes_Smashwords

I know not everyone likes to read excerpts, but for those who do, here’s the Prologue:

Prologue

Shadows

Deep in a cave, a slender woman rose from her bed. Rubbing her arm, she neared the fire and flicked a hand to bring the flames to life. The dancing light threw shadows against the rock walls. Nearby, nestled in a depression in the cave floor padded with many skins, a solid black shape lay. One eyelid opened, revealing a yellow eye.

“What is it, Ailill?”

The woman shook her head. “I do not know. I am restless.”

An enormous black head rose on a sinuous neck, and the edges of scales gleamed in the firelight. “Your old wound pains you. I can feel it.”

“Yes.” Ailill rubbed her shoulder again, kneading the muscles. Her eyes and mouth were marked by fine lines and her dark hair glinted silver in places. She sighed a sigh that was weary with age and time. “Do you feel it, Ríona? The weight of all we have seen and done?”

“We did what we had to do. It was war.”

Ailill turned to look at her companion. “And it is coming again.”

The great black dragon laid her head on the rock floor of the cave next to Ailill. “What have you seen?”

Ailill shook her head. “It is not clear.” She unfurled a scroll, holding the parchment so that she could read by firelight. “He wrote of a girl and a white dragon. The time is drawing near. Somehow, they will meet.”

She rested a hand on the dragon’s jaw. “All is shadows. I can see that they have left Inishbreith, but beyond that, nothing. What I can see is that they will be hunted and tested in ways they are not prepared for. I wish they were not alone. They are but cubs themselves.”

The dragon sighed, and sparks flew from her nostrils. “What choice did we have? Whom would we ally with if we were there? Our presence would only put them in more danger.”

“You are right,” Ailill said. “They are the only ones who can do what must be done.”

“They are strong and true. They will not fail.”

They sat looking into the fire for long heartbeats. Ailill fingered a crystal hanging from a leather cord around her neck.

“It is out there, somewhere. I feel it calling to me in the deep places of the night.” Ailill’s voice was heavy with trepidation. “If it is found, all we fought for will have been for naught.”

“No,” said Ríona. “We bought the world a thousand winters of peace. That was not for naught. But… you are right. I, too, have felt it. If it calls to us, it must to others as well. If it is found, the world will be torn asunder.”

“What if we helped them to find it first?” Ailill tilted her head as she considered. “If it is to be found, mayhap we can assure it is found by Caymin and Péist.”

“But how? Even we do not know where it was hidden.”

“There may be clues to be found in the scrolls here.” Ailill frowned. “Have we been neglectful? Content to retreat to this land to lick our wounds and forget the world we left? Or were we just blind to think that our part in it had ended, and we would never need be troubled with that world again? Either way, we must try to help.”

“It may be that we can guide them from here.” Ríona nudged her head closer and Ailill obliged with a scratch on the ridge above her eyes. “We will call to them and pull them to us in spiritwalks. In the spirit realm, we may be able to teach them what they must know.”

Ailill leaned against the dragon, drawing comfort from her nearness. “I fear the days of dragons and mages are coming to an end, even here.”

A low rumble came from Ríona, echoing within the cave. “Two-legs will reap what they sow. If they permit a world with no magic, no connection to the earth, no balance among the life forces, they will have to live with the consequences.”

“Those are the shadows I cannot see past. If humans do not act now to restore balance in the world, it will be too late.”

Ríona closed her eyes. “It may already be too late.”

© 2016 Caren J. Werlinger

Carving Words

Most of us have some kind of creative outlet: photography, painting or drawing, cooking, knitting, making jewelry, whatever. Something to let our creative side run wild.

Table1(Mortise and tenon joinery)

One of mine, when I’m not working my day job or writing, is woodworking. I enjoy crafting furniture, especially the challenge of handcrafting joints. I have always admired the simple beauty of Shaker furniture – the clean lines, the perfect utility of their pieces. I love working in cherry. It has a gorgeous grain and color, but it has its own peculiar characteristics. Each species of wood does. They like to be planed in certain directions; some cut and carve easily, while others are more like glass or a jewel.

Table2

(More mortise and tenon with ebony pegs)

Manuscripts are like this as well. Some flow out of your mind and hands, smooth and silky, while others resist being carved into finished form. Some take more rough work, like research.

I’m writing the second book of a trilogy set in Ireland of about 700 C.E., and I am constantly checking on the origins of words to make sure they would have been in use then. It’s amazing how many words associated with warfare didn’t come into being until the Middle Ages. Says something about that era I guess.

I have to check which plant and animal species were native to Ireland, even if they’re extinct there now. I was describing one character who was carrying a bag on her back as looking like a tortoise, but then thought to check. Ireland has no native turtles or tortoises. Oops.

pens(My collection of fountain pens)

Tools are another thing I love – fountain pens for writing and hand tools for wood. I have some power tools – a planer, a jointer, a table saw – for the big work, but what I really love are the hand tools. Especially the antique ones. A lot of people collect these to have them sitting around on shelves. I look for ones that still have soles in good condition and whose irons are in good enough shape to take an edge.

Tools2

 

Getting the boards cut and jointed into some semblance of whatever they will eventually be is a lot like writing a first draft. Get it down on paper (or in a computer). Give it form and substance, then the fun begins.

 

I start the planing, the shaving, the carving away of extraneous material until each piece fits together seamlessly. Whether it’s carving wood or words, the process is similar. Sometimes, I make a mistake and realize certain things don’t fit together very well, then I have to go back and patch it.

Tools3

Thank you, EGK, whoever you were.

Tools1

My furniture will never be mistaken for anything made by a professional, like the late Sam Maloof. His furniture – especially his chairs – are works of art. You can’t help but want to touch them.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 4.12.07 PM

(Source: sammaloofwoodworker.com)

I like to touch the pieces I’ve made, too. Something about wood is very tactile. Unlike Sam’s pieces, mine will always have the plane marks and little tear-outs and boo-boos I made (along with some of my blood somewhere in each piece), but I’m probably the only one who will ever know about some of them. I absolutely love running my fingers over wood I have worked, feeling those little ridges and undulations made by my tools and my hands.

Tools4

(Here’s a bead made with an antique beading plane)

 

Likewise, the result of my writing is unmistakably mine. My stories and writing style are not everyone’s cup of tea – and that’s to be expected. But when I hold a book in my hands and run my fingers over the print (yes, you can actually feel the print on a page of a real book), and know that those are my words… that is a really, really cool feeling.

Here’s to our creative sides!

Tools5(Tools can tell a story too. This one has been around!)

Ripples…

Well, June is gone, and that means my fundraiser for my food bank is now over. Time to tally up the donation.

But before I do that, I wanted to update you on some other things that have happened over the past few months. When I try to think about the more recent ones, I realize that they actually began with things that happened before.

Ripples. One thing intersecting with another. Life is amazing sometimes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.51.13 AM

(Source:  quotesgram.com)

So I have to back up a bit. Months ago, when I was searching for review sites for books, I came across a wonderful team of reviewers at Rosie Amber’s site. I normally reach out to reviewers for my newest releases, but earlier this year, I was friended on Facebook by a woman whose twenty-year-old gay son had committed suicide a few months earlier. It’s so tragic that young LGBT people still feel so desperate that suicide feels like their only option. I decided to see if anyone on Rosie’s team was interested in reviewing Turning for Home. I think this particular story is an important one for a few reasons: it depicts the difficulties of growing up gay in a small town (then and now), but it also shows how the things we think we understood as teenagers can continue to haunt us as adults until we see those events through the lens of time.

A couple of reviewers accepted, including Francis Guenette. In addition to her wonderful review (HERE), Francis has a fantastic blog. She is an author whose books have been added to my TBR list; she posts gorgeous photos of her garden, but she also blogged about her experience with BookBub.

For those of you who don’t know, BookBub is a subscription service where readers can sign up to receive e-mails listing free or discounted books in their preferred genre(s). Authors or publishers can submit books to be offered on BookBub. At first glance, it makes no sense to pay to list your book for free or a discounted price, and it’s very competitive to get a book listed, but it works.

I was able to get Neither Present Time listed for a BookBub deal on 15 June. Over 10,000 people downloaded it for free. So how did this contribute to my fundraiser?

Well, Francis described it accurately as the “halo effect”. Not only has Neither Present Time received about twenty additional reviews between Amazon and Goodreads from new readers, but those same people have discovered my other books, generating more reviews for those books, and on and on.

Another unexpected benefit of all of this is meeting new people, including a new on-line friend who wrote me yesterday to let me know that she was just accepted to the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Writing Academy. The GCLS conference starts in two days, where I’ll be moderating a panel and doing a presentation on publishing.

So all of these ripples have led to my writing a check for $400 to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Thank you to everyone  who bought books these past two months. Your support is so very much appreciated.

Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the U.S. and, to everyone else around the world, have a wonderful Monday.

Pax

Interview with Jae

I am really happy to bring you an interview with best-selling fellow Ylva author, Jae! Her brand-new release, Shaken to the Core, went live on Amazon today.  It’s also available from Ylva and Smashwords

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.17.58 PM

So, on to the good stuff!

Tell us briefly what this story is about?

Shaken to the Core is a lesbian historical romance set during the Great Earthquake and Fires in San Francisco in 1906. One of the main characters, Kate, is the only child of a wealthy family. She’s expected to marry well, but her true passion lies with photography—and with women.

The other main character, Giuliana, comes from a completely different background. She’s an immigrant from Sicily who barely makes ends meet by selling crabs at the harbor.

As you can imagine, Kate’s family isn’t very happy when the two become friends.

But then a devastating earthquake hits San Francisco and everything changes.

 

What prompted you to write a story set in this turbulent event in history?

For one thing, the turn of the century was a very interesting period in history. It was a time of great change. Many inventions were being made; automobiles and electricity became part of everyday life, and immigration thrived. People had an optimistic outlook on the future.

The Great Earthquake, followed by three days and nights of an inferno, suddenly tilted their world on its axis. Over three-quarters of San Francisco were destroyed; thousands of people lost their lives, and others had to flee from their homes. Wealthy families suddenly had to stand in the breadlines next to working-class people. That’s what prompted me to write Shaken to the Core—finding out what would happen if a rich heiress and a hard-working immigrant are thrown together, having to fight for survival on the streets of their burning city.

Jae author

Tell us about the research you had to do for this story.

I started doing research for Shaken to the Core about two and a half years before I wrote the first word. I knew I’d have to do extensive research to make the story as realistic as possible. I spent countless hours researching how people lived in 1906. What kind of clothes would they wear? What food would they eat? What did they do for entertainment? What medicine was available? How did the servants live, and what did the houses of the rich look like?

I also spent a lot of time reading everything I could about the Great Earthquake of 1906 and about what dangers people would face in the city afterwards. Each and every adventure Giuliana and Kate live through in Shaken to the Core is based on events that really happened.

 

 Which character in this story was your favorite and why?

That’s a difficult choice. I like both main characters, and I’m also pretty fond of Lucy Hamilton Sharpe, the book’s most important supporting character and one of few female physicians at the turn of the century. If I had to pick, I’d say my favorite might be Kate. She’s so determined not to be just someone’s wife but to achieve her own goals, mainly becoming a photographer for a newspaper. I found that really endearing.

 

What was the easiest part of writing this novel?

Probably the action-packed scenes once the earthquake happens and fires break out all over the city. It felt almost as if these scenes practically wrote themselves.

 

What was the most difficult?

I’d have to say the hardest part was getting Giuliana’s dialogue just right. Since she’s Sicilian and has only lived in the US for five years, I didn’t want her to sound like a native speaker, but neither did I want her dialogue be too hard to understand for readers.

I found it amazingly hard to write incorrect English, maybe because I, as a non-native speaker, worked hard to improve my own language skills.

But after a few editing passes, I think I achieved just the right balance. Giuliana now makes all the typical mistakes that many Sicilian people make when they speak English.

 

How smooth was the editing process for this book?

Pretty smooth, actually. I had a team of ten beta readers work with me on the first drafts of the novel, helping me to revise the plot and deepen characterization. I extended the ending a bit to make it a more satisfying conclusion for readers. So by the time I sent the manuscript off to my editor, the rest of the revisions were pretty painless.

 

Would you consider revisiting this setting in a future novel?

Actually, I’m already planning a sequel. I want Lucy, the female doctor, to get her own book. By the way, she’s the granddaughter of the Hamiltons from my historical romances Backwards to Oregon and Hidden Truths. Her book will be set a year or two after Shaken to the Core, so readers will get to see how Giuliana and Kate are doing and how San Francisco is faring after the earthquake.

Jae, thank you so much for giving us some insight into your newest book. I hope it’s a huge success, as all of your books have been!

Jae’s web site: http://jae-fiction.com

Jae’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaeAuthor/

Jae’s e-mail: jae@jae-fiction.com

We Will Find a Way

Like many people around the world, we spent much of the weekend in a daze of sorrow and bewilderment at the events in Orlando. Another mass shooting. Another list of innocent victims of hatred.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 5.13.03 PM

I grow tired of listening to the talking heads on television speculating about the event. I don’t want to read any more stories about the ignorant “they deserved it” posts being put out there. I don’t even want to read any more angry posts by members of the LGBT community.

I get it. I understand the anger, but did we really think this would never happen? I’ve been expecting something like this every June for the past few years, except I thought it would happen Boston-style at a Pride parade because they’re so much harder to provide security for. We know that radicals – be they Christian or Muslim – find us an abomination, but this shooter apparently wasn’t even motivated by religious fervor, just his hatred.

On Sunday evening as everyone was still absorbing the reality of what had happened, I was walking my dog and we went down Stonewall Avenue – a tiny, quiet street in my town, but the irony struck me.

People in the LGBT community feel targeted by the hatred behind this attack. They are taking this personally. And it is personal. Hatred always is when you are its target.

But my brother-in-law is from Belgium, and his mother and sister were in that very concourse of the Brussels airport just a couple of days before it was bombed, and I can tell you they felt it personally. People in Boston took it very personally when the marathon was bombed. Parisians also took it personally when their city was the site of violent hatred.

There are so many people spouting off about this solution or that solution to this ongoing epidemic. Everyone is scrutinizing the shooter’s past and wondering why this couldn’t have been prevented. I have no answers except to say that, no matter how we look at this incident in hindsight, we are not (yet) a nation that jails people for being angry or weird or mentally ill. We don’t charge people with crimes they might commit, short of having a cache of weapons and an actual plan in place. That gives law enforcement a very narrow window in which to charge someone with a crime ahead of actually committing it.

There are, of course, renewed calls for gun control. One of the saddest news stories I saw was that the trading stock in two arms manufacturing companies jumped almost ten percent in anticipation of another run on gun sales due to fears of gun control legislation. Gun control is a monster of huge proportions in the United States, and the fact that the shooter legally purchased weapons is another issue that we as a nation will have to struggle with.

I have no answers except to say that hate will find a way.

It may sound fatalistic to put it that way, but I believe it’s true. If someone wants to do something bad, they will find a way to do it. The terrorists in Boston didn’t need guns (not for their main attack) – they used pressure cookers for crying out loud. Timothy McVeigh didn’t need guns in Oklahoma City. The Paris terrorists used guns and bombs, while those in Brussels blew themselves up.

What makes us a bit different from other targets of an attack like this is that so many LGBT people have been attacked before, maybe not in such numbers or quite so violently, but most of us have experienced hatred.

When someone hates that much, they will find a way. But every time hate finds a way, so will we – all of us who don’t carry that kind of hatred around inside us.

Like the people who carried friends and strangers to safety while bullets were flying around them. Like those who used their bodies to apply pressure to bleeding wounds to prevent someone from bleeding out. Like those who stood in line for hours to donate blood, and the store and restaurant owners who brought food and drink out to those who stood in line. Like people all around the world who attended vigils. Like all the people who have donated over three million dollars to the victim fund.

People like my sister wonder how their children are going to look at a world where things like this can happen. It’s more important than ever for us to show them that love always wins.

We will still march in Pride parades. We’ll cry as we remember those lost in Orlando and other places around the world. We’ll love and laugh and do our best to bring more light to this world.

Every time hate tries to rub us out, to divide us, we will find a way to remember that we’re more alike than we are different.

If you would like to donate to the fund spearheaded by Equality Florida, go HERE.