I Am a Hobbit

I’ll begin this post by cautioning readers that I’m on the eighth day of a cold that began while away from home, and I’m (still) very grumpy.

Whatever…

This all began with plans three years ago to attend the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along came covid, and you know. Two years virtual con, but this year was in person. So plans resumed. Time for the con in Albuquerque, then on to Santa Fe for a few days. Flights were booked months ago, before the freaking global disaster that is the airline industry.

This trip began with a two-hour delay before we even left the gate at our departing airport, caused by a malfunctioning weather radar sensor. “Everybody off the plane.” “Everybody back on the plane.” Anyhow, we arrived in Denver twenty minutes after our connecting flight to Albuquerque. All other flights that day were full, and rerouting would have put us on stand-by. Maybe one of us gets on the plane, but probably not two. So, the airline put us up at a hotel near the Denver airport overnight. Fine. Except our rescheduled flight for the next day wasn’t going to get us to Albuquerque in time for the presentation I was supposed to give.

So, there followed a mad scramble of texts and phone calls and emails to explain, see if we could reschedule the presentation, let the Albuquerque hotel know we wouldn’t be checking in as scheduled, blah, blah, blah.

By the time we did arrive at Albuquerque a day late and got to the hotel, things were looking up. It was good to see con friends we hadn’t seen since 2019. I did my two Thursday afternoon things (a reading and the presentation last thing that afternoon), and we went out to get some dinner. While there, we met a couple from England, also attending the con. Delightful women we’ve now become friends with.

But by the next morning, my throat was full of marbles and my head was full of… we won’t go into details. I had another panel to do. I stayed masked everywhere except while eating. The covid test we’d brought from home was negative, and it really did feel like a cold, but these days, I guess that doesn’t mean anything.

Anyway, I stumbled through Saturday, think I might remember some of the Awards ceremony, but it’s kind of blurry. And Sunday we left for Santa Fe with our friend, Danielle, who really likes to travel. Together, we’d planned to fill most of our days there with things on hers and my wife’s must-see list.

But, I gotta tell you, at this point, I was like, “Hey, desert with scrubby bushes.” And a few minutes later, “Oh, more desert with the same scrubby bushes.” And then, “Oh, look! A rock sticking up out of the desert, among the scrubby bushes.” I’m sure my cold and feeling generally lousy affected my lack of appreciation for the scenery. After three and half days of staring at the hotel room walls in Santa Fe, limited to fifteen minute walks before my energy was all used up and I had to return to stare at the same walls, I was so over it.

Which brings me to my desire to be in my home, among my books, with my chair that my back likes, our dogs happily snoring away. Thus, I’ve decided that I am not an adventurer. Adventures do more than make you late for supper. They take me completely out of my comfort zone. Don’t tell me that’s good for me. I’m not in the mood. I love my bed…

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Crowded Tables

It’s no secret that I am almost off the scale on the introvert end of the Introvert-Extrovert continuum. I treasure time alone, and the isolation that the pandemic has imposed has not really been a hardship for me. But I balance that with the knowledge that I haven’t really been alone. I went to work every day and got to come home to my wife and dogs.

The social distancing has been much harder on her than it has on me. She’s about as far off the E end as I am on the I end. We balance each other nicely. She’s made do with Facetime visits with a knitting friend (I don’t know why she’d want to sit and knit and talk to someone other than me?).

But yesterday, we got to visit with my sister and niece for the first time since Thanksgiving 2019. I mean a full face to face, hugs and talks and laughing visit. We’re all fully vaccinated but have still been masking and isolating. We Facetimed last Thanksgiving as we celebrated separately. In normal years, we would have gathered in her house with anywhere from 13-20 people. It’s crazy and chaotic and noisy – and utterly wonderful.

Seeing them made me realize how much I missed it. Even me. There was a pretty big lump in my throat as they drove off.

Thanksgiving 2019 with a motley crew

It’s also time for the Golden Crown Literary Society to be planning their conference, which will be virtual again this summer. It’s funny that as strong an introvert as I am, I so look forward to seeing the friends we’ve made at that conference. I move from one group to another, doing more socializing in that week than I normally do in an entire year!

Me, Danielle, Jae

I recently heard this song from the Highwomen, and it really speaks to the need so many of us are feeling to be able to gather with friends and family again. Here’s to crowded tables soon!

GCLS 2018

At the beginning of the month, we got to attend the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Las Vegas. It was so much fun to reconnect with friends from around the world: England, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Texas. (Just kidding)

While I have to admit to having an aversion to Las Vegas itself, the surrounding terrain is incredible, with some gorgeous parks and astounding sights. Our friend, Danielle, was a terrific tour guide. I swear she could hire herself out!

 

Those are wild burros we saw on our way back from Red Rock Canyon. The bridge is from our trip to Hoover Dam.

The conference itself was better than I had expected it to be. My reading group included some fantastic authors (from left: me, Radclyffe, Barbara Ann Wright, Ann Roberts, Lynnette Beers, Susan X Meagher, Suzie Carr) and was a lot of fun.

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But it wasn’t all work – you know, readings and panels and classes. Oh no. We were in Las Vegas, after all. The fundraising auction included some “surprise packages”, as Lynne Pierce found out when she won herself a gaggle of authors “not” to dance with!

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Lynne in the middle, surrounded by: Lynn Ames, Jae, Karin Kallmaker, Jessie Chandler, Patty Schramm, Lori Lake

Awards night was stress-free for me this year, as I didn’t have a book that made it to the finals, but I did get to present the award for Paranormal/Horror. Jae, of course, won an award for her beautiful book, Perfect Rhythm.

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One of the most exciting things about this year’s con was all the new faces! There were over 100 Con Virgins, including many younger women and more women of color than in years past. They were terrific sports when they got tapped to participate in ways they probably hadn’t anticipated – like going up on stage at the awards to present. I would have been scared to death! One of the highlights this year was meeting so many new people – Brenda, Elizabeth, Gerda, Anissa – who were all brave enough to come up and say hello.

One of the coolest things about GCLS is the Writing Academy, a year-long writing course for the bargain tuition amount of $1000, whose participants also receive personalized mentoring from established authors. What a great way to learn and get their manuscripts in shape to submit for publication. In addition, the WA participants wrote short stories which were gathered into an anthology published by Brisk Press, courtesy of Susan X. Meagher, with all the proceeds going to the WA. Anyone interested in the WA can check it out HERE.

To be honest, prior to this year, I wasn’t sure I’d continue to attend, but this year re-energized me (even if all the cigarette smoke and some of the sights in Las Vegas put me off and can gladly stay in Las Vegas!). I’m looking forward to Pittsburgh next year, especially because it will be in easy driving distance. It will be my first visit back to the Steel City since 1981. I can’t wait to see how it’s changed.

One of our stops was at Bonnie Springs, a delightful watering hole in the middle of nowhere.

I know a lot of people enjoy Las Vegas, but in the future, I’ll just use it as a jumping-off point for way more interesting places.

(Nearly) Perfect Timing!

In my last post, I mentioned that I had proposed and moderated a panel for the GCLS conference titled: Hopeful Ever After: A Different Kind of HEA.

The basic premise was that in the 50s and 60s, all lesbian and gay novels HAD to end tragically (suicide was a favorite, or institutionalization) or with the main characters marrying someone of the opposite gender, otherwise the US Postal Service would not deliver them in the mail. Probably hard for younger folks to believe, but true.

When the next wave of lesbian novels came out in the 70s and 80s, it seemed everything had to have a happy ending — an understandable reaction to all that came before.

So what we were discussing was whether lesbian fiction has grown to the point where we can have realistic depictions of lesbian life, including the drama and trials of everyday life with characters who happen to be lesbian — just like normal people (go figure!) and how readers react to stories that end hopefully rather than happily.

It should come as no surprise that we did not arrive at any unanimous agreement. Some authors and readers love the happily ever after endings that are expected with romances, and they write and read to escape. Others don’t mind tackling tough subjects. If you’ve read my books, you know where I stand on that.

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Then, today, I saw this review on Goodreads for Year of the Monsoonexcerpt below (please note English is her second language… remarkable how well she expresses herself!)

“I have come to known that all the stories written by Caren have a very mature tone in them. What I have only come to realize after the third book is that, despite all the complicated characters with turmoils, lies, complicated relationships, broken hearts, distrustful partners, damaged minds and all things negative, Caren makes sure that there’s always a sense of hope in between. It’s always there, hidden between the words. And instead of being drown by all the negative feelings evoked by all the dramas, you actually feel hopeful in a very tender manner. It’s the way Caren crafts her words, her sentences and her stories that make you believe that there is always light and everything will be okay. There is always a positive note to all things that happen. It’s like telling you “Yes, everything in life is falling apart right now” and then there’s a silent whisper behind “Maybe they are now falling into the right places”. That’s how I feel when reading her stories, I feel more inspired; more encouraged knowing that.

This book: Year of Monsoon. I really love how Caren uses Monsoon as a metaphor to life. I live in Asia, and we have monsoon seasons. I have witnessed how Monsoon could damage a city or a town every year. And every year after it passes, life goes back to normal again. We pick up the pieces and rebuild whatever that has lost during the season. I used to think that Monsoon was a curse, but I don’t think I would ever look at it the same way again after reading this book. Now I see hope, because I see that now after monsoon passes, everyone, strangers, friends or foes will come together and pick up the pieces for each other, patting at each other back, laughing, smiling, leaving all the animosity behind. Because they know, the monsoon has passed, the houses are going to be rebuilt, the land is soiled, the crops are going to grow again. Life is going to begin anew.” 

I cannot tell you how this review made my heart sing! YC summarized exactly what I was getting at during our panel. Even when we aren’t all perfect and rich and beautiful (e.g. almost every character in most romance novels), and though life throws things at us sometimes, books can be written in a way that inspires, that leaves a sense of optimism and hope. And the destruction that comes with the storms that buffet us (literal and otherwise) is not permanent; we do rebuild, we do come back stronger than we were before.

We’ve said it many times, but it can’t be said too often. Thank you, thank you to those who take the time to read and review our books. Maybe our words give you hope, but you give it right back!

Pax

GCLS 2015

If you’re involved in the lesbian fiction world at all, you know that the Golden Crown Literary Society’s 2015 conference just wrapped. It was only my second time in attendance. New Orleans is… different. Not my cup of tea (and the boiled water advisory and lack of showers in the middle of it didn’t help), but it was a good time, nonetheless.

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Now, I am by nature an extremely shy, introverted person. If I were to attend this event by myself, I would probably spend all my time sitting in a corner during the sessions and then hightailing it to my room to eat all of my meals. Luckily, between my partner’s very extroverted nature and the friendliness of the other women attending, I have felt only a warm welcome. It saddens me to read posts by a few people who felt they were excluded or weren’t part of the tribe. All I can say is, yes, there are “cliques”, but I think they are born more of common connections those women share rather than any desire to be exclusive. I had wonderful conversations with all kinds of people: Sandra Moran, Rachel Spangler, Jeanne Barrett Magill, Ann McMan, Lynne Pierce, Lee Fitzsimmons, Jae, Cindy Rizzo, Dawn Carter, Rosie Moore, Mary Deutcher, RJ Samuel, Linda Hill and her right arm, Becky Arbogast. I know I’m leaving names out, but those are just some of the writerly people I spoke with. There were tons of readers I got to catch up with as well.

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As hard as it was for me, I also put myself out there, proposing a panel which was fantastic! Titled Hopeful Ever After: A Different Kind of HEA, my panelists included KG MacGregor, Kenna White, Jaime Clevenger, RJ Samuel and Jae. We had a packed room listen to us debate the merits and pitfalls of nothing but Happily Ever Afters in lesbian novels, and it was enlightening to hear what everyone had to say.

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I also did my first ever reading. Aside from trying not to hyperventilate and pass out, my reading from Turning for Home went well, and Bella Distribution sold all the copies they’d brought with them.

If I let myself think about all the things I don’t like about me: my voice, the way I waddle when I walk due to a wonky back (how’s that for some alliteration!), on and on, I would never have the nerve to get up in front of people. So, my advice to those who struggle to feel like they belong at this conference is just work up the nerve to volunteer for something, anything! A panel, a chat/reading, the registration desk, anything. The organization is totally run on volunteer effort and if you put yourself out there, you will meet people and there will be more of a sense of belonging.

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Another highlight of this conference for many of us was meeting Rita Mae Brown, who received the Lee Lynch Classic Award for Rubyfruit Jungle. (Personally, I think Six of One is her best book.) While everyone else in the line had a book (or five) for Rita Mae to sign, I merely wanted to thank her. When my first novel, Looking Through Windows, was published, I naively sent her a copy asking for advice. She very kindly took the time to write me back, including a little blurb for the book, encouraging me to just keep writing. I have. I’m sure she doesn’t remember, but that letter and her kindness meant a great deal to me.

IMG_0706Year of the Monsoon’s cover made the finals.

I posted some other photos on my Facebook Author page: Caren Werlinger Author

Next year’s conference will be in Washington DC (kind of, actually it’s in Alexandria). If you have a chance to attend, please do! And be sure to say hello, even if you’re sure it will kill you.

In Gratitude

I have tallied the royalties from May and June book sales and I am very happy to let you all know that the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank will be receiving a check for $300. That amount includes a generous contribution from a friend, GB. That brings the total that Corgyn Publishing has donated to the food bank to over $1000!

Thank you to everyone who bought books in support of this fundraiser. And a further thank-you to all who have written reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and Smashwords. Even when they’re just a couple of sentences, reviews really do help other readers decide to give a new author a try.

On the subject of gratitude, I want to share a couple of stories that have deeply touched my heart. Last year, when In This Small Spot won a Goldie at the GCLS Awards night, I shared that a woman who has since become a dear friend had told me that that book helped her during her own cancer diagnosis. I recently heard from another woman that she’d started reading that novel just as her ex-husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.  She told me that she hadn’t known at first why she’d felt compelled to read that particular book, but now she knew. She was writing to thank me!

How can any book or author be paid a higher compliment than that it helped someone at such a critical time in her life?

And while I’m on the topic of gratitude, I want to thank all of you who have followed the story of my patient, “Brian”, offering up healing energy and prayers for him. He is now officially in remission from his pancreatic cancer. He is the only person I have ever known who has successfully completed a chemo regimen for that diagnosis. June marked one year since his diagnosis. He’s back in physical therapy and I am delighted to say that he now complains that his exercises are his source of pain, but it’s a good pain!

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be at the Golden Crown Literary conference again, renewing friendships and greeting people I haven’t seen for a year. Something else to be grateful for.

Pax

At the Con

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Well, I’m finally home and kind of caught up on sleep after we spent a few extra days at the coast then then caught a red-eye from Portland to DC. It’s hard to believe it’s nearly been a week since the GCLS Conference in Portland drew to a close. My mind has been so full of the things I learned in the various sessions I attended, listening to icons like Ann Bannon and Katherine V. Forrest, meeting authors and readers I had only known as online friends. That’s Jae with me, above. Meeting her was a definite highlight of the conference for me.

The vendor room was a beehive of activity, culminating with the autograph session. Here are a couple of photos of that session.

IMG_0067 With Jae and Sheila Connolly.

IMG_0071With Liz McMullen and Lee Fitzsimmons of Desert Palm Press.

One week ago tonight was the Awards Ceremony. I cannot imagine  the work that goes into organizing the awards – getting books to all of the judges, summarizing all of the judging forms, ordering the awards themselves, coordinating the slides for the presentation. It was spectacular. To hear my name called was surreal. I was thrilled to have the award presented by Ann McMan and Carleen Spry.

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The entire evening was like that – unfortunately, I don’t have photos of all of the other folks whose names were called. Here’s another photo of Jae and myself with our hardware.

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For an introvert, I was out of my element among 300 women, but everyone was so warm and welcoming that they made it easy to approach folks and say hi. I hesitate to try and name everyone I met, because I’m sure to leave someone out. It was my first GCLS conference, but it will definitely not be my last!

This clip was posted to Youtube and Facebook a couple of days after the conference.