Do What You Can

As Thanksgiving draws near here in the US, the joy of that holiday is dampened by continued surges of covid cases and deaths, by court cases and events that seem to elevate darkness and violence and an assault on our rights. I know I’m not alone in having to take a break from the news to focus my energies on more positive things.

photo: anncapictures, pixabay

I’m writing (not very fast) the third Little Sister Island book, tentatively titled The New Shore. I’m learning to enjoy the freedom of being retired – though my wife laughs at my tendency to make lists for myself of the things I want to get done daily. And I’m trying to take better care of my grumpy back.

Unlike last Thanksgiving when we could only zoom and FaceTime, we’ll be going to my sister’s house to share that meal with family, including my brother-in-law’s mother, who is here from Belgium.

We’ve been able to continue supporting our local food bank and Feeding Pets of the Homeless, both charities I used to donate to with spring and fall fundraisers back when the world was a friendlier, or at least a more predictable, place.

I long for that sense of what used to be predictable and normal, but I don’t know if that will ever come back. At times, it seems we’re headed for days of greater darkness, more threats to our rights and our freedoms – things we have long taken for granted. I don’t think we’ll ever take those things for granted again.

When the world feels like too much, when bad things are happening that are beyond our control, all we can do is do what we can.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy holiday with your loved ones.

Pax

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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 ūüôā ).

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

Food Deserts

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photo: livescience.com

Remember reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in school? “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” It’s a fantastic epic story in poem form. If you haven’t read it, you should. Even if you don’t like poetry (or think you don’t), this is very readable.

What does an eighteenth century epic poem have to do with anything, you might ask. Well, quite a bit. The poem is about a ship cursed for the cruel actions of one of the sailors. Caught in a becalmed sea, surrounded by undrinkable salt water, the crew becomes desperate.

Here in the U.S., we are blessed with huge swathes of our country that are agricultural, capable of tremendous food production. I’m not even going to attempt to explain (mostly because it’s inexplicable) the political calculus of paying farmers not to plant or allowing huge corporations to control and export so much of the agricultural production in this country. The point is, we should be able to feed every single person in this country, plus millions of people around the world.

Instead, we have innumerable areas – rural and urban and in between – where there are no viable sources of healthy food. Grocery stores close, leaving people with no place other than convenience stores or fast-food restaurants to purchase food. I have seen this happen in small towns in West Virginia, leaving people with hour-plus drives to my town to get to an actual grocery store. It’s well-documented how much more poor people pay for food in urban areas. If there are actual markets in poorer sections of a city, they typically stock fewer choices and have to charge more to cover increased insurance premiums and higher delivery costs. If there aren’t any markets, again, those people have to take public transport to get to a grocery store, adding time and expense to the trip.

It has even happened, on a smaller scale, here in my town.

I live in a fairly ordinary small city of about 25,000 people in a large surrounding county with a few smaller towns. In my city, there are areas of lower-income housing that were within walking distance of a local grocery store. More than once, I stopped to offer rides to people who were walking home, loaded down with heavy bags.

A couple of years ago, that chain of stores sold off most of its locations to another chain. Prices went up, but people still shopped there because they had to. Then that new chain shut the stores down for good. Those folks who depended on those stores now have to catch a bus to one of the other grocery stores further away from where they live. It’s doable, but it adds probably an hour to their shopping trip.

When you have a car and easy access to stores in any part of your town, like we do, you don’t think about how inconvenient it is for some people to perform that necessary chore.

All of this adds up to millions of people who are food-insecure – that is, they don’t know where their next meal (healthy or not) is coming from.

Ask any public school official in this country, and they will tell you how much the low-income students in their district depend on free breakfasts and lunches. Snow days, holidays, any days that students aren’t in school are days those kids may not eat at all.

Summer vacations – those days my friends and I longed for – are times of hunger for a lot of families. Instead of long days spent playing in the woods and nights catching fireflies, those kids wonder if they’re going to eat.

Food banks get hit hard during the summer. A lot of people think of donating to their local food banks at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not so much during the summer.

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To help my local Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, I am repeating my spring fundraiser. I will donate 100% of my May royalties to the food bank. Any books you buy this month will go toward this donation. I know in years past, some readers have contacted me to tell me they already own all of my books, but they were going to donate to their own local food bank. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have connected with such kind, caring people!

If you’ve been thinking of purchasing any of my books you haven’t read, this is a great time to do it. If you have all of my books and are in a position to donate to your local food bank, I know they would appreciate your support.

Peace and full bellies to all,

Caren

 

Be Aware

I founded Corgyn Publishing in late 2012. Beginning in 2013, I’ve run two fundraisers a year: a spring/ summer fundraiser for my local food bank and a winter fundraiser for Pets of the Homeless. This organization is a wonderful boon to those homeless people sharing their lives with animal companions. They help to provide food and veterinary care, especially emergency care. Homeless people have so little, and winter is a tough season for anyone who is homeless.

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I will donate 100% of my December royalties to Pets of the Homeless. Any book purchases you make through any distributor will count toward this donation.

If you’ve read all of my books, thank you!! If you liked any of them enough to want others to read them, this is a great time to make a gift of your favorite to someone on your list. You can even gift ebooks now! All you need is an email address.

If, like me, you’re fortunate enough to have a steady job and a roof over your head and more than enough food for the human and animal members of the family, remember to give thanks. Be aware.

 

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

 

The Least of Us

“I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

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It’s that time of year, when the holidays are staring us in the face, along with the bombardment of Christmas commercials and displays in the stores.

I do love the holidays, but not that part. I love the music (which I was listening to in July). I love seeing the lights on the houses as we walk the dogs in the dark now (and yes, some houses in our neighborhood already have their trees in their windows).

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that since I founded Corgyn Publishing, I’ve been doing twice a year fundraisers for two charities: the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Pets of the Homeless.

So many people support food banks at the holidays that I have chosen to dedicate my winter fundraiser to Pets of the Homeless. They have collection centers at pet stores and vet offices all around the country. They help the homeless with food and veterinary care for their furry (mostly) family. These people have so little, that it’s especially devastating to them when something happens to what may well be the only family, the only source of mutual comfort they have.

I’ll be donating 100% of all of my November and December royalties to Pets of the Homeless. Please, if you’ve thought about buying any of my books (Amazon), this is a great time to do so. (This blog also has links to Ylva Publishing and Bella where most of my books can be found) If you’ve already read my books, thank you! (Books make great gifts, just sayin’)

I hope you and your family are safe and warm and fed this holiday season. But there are some people who aren’t any of those things. Please think about helping out. A direct donation to Pets of the Homeless or your local food bank would be a fantastic way to celebrate this season’s true meaning.

Pax,

Caren

Hunger Games?

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If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I’ve done spring and fall fundraisers for a couple of charities: The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Pets of the Homeless.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t help but know that our political world here in the US has been turned upside down since November. Part of the upheaval is the appointment of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education – a woman who has zero, absolutely zero idea of the role public schools play in the lives of ordinary people. Not only do public schools serve one of our founders’ primary goals in having a literate, educated electorate¬†but, for a long time, they’ve provided free breakfasts and lunches to kids of low income families. She’s playing games with the lives of millions of kids, especially poor kids.

We’ve long had a large portion of our population that is “food insecure” – the term used when families don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The problem has been worse since the 2008 recession. You can learn more about that and what you can to do help HERE. And you can go HERE to learn more about hunger world-wide.

When I was a kid, summers were wondrous times of reading all day or disappearing into the woods near our house to play all day. I always had food for snacks and lunches. I’ve never known a day with real hunger. That isn’t true for lots of people.

Summers are an overwhelming time for many food banks and soup kitchens, when families have to try and figure out how to make up for those breakfasts and lunches not being served by schools during those months.

In an effort to make a difference locally, I’m pledging 100% of my May royalties to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Any books you purchase – from Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Bella, or Ylva – they’ll all go toward the check I’ll write.

So, if you’ve been thinking about buying any of my books you might not have read, this is a great time to do so! If you’ve already bought all of my books, THANK YOU! If you’re in a position to do something in your community, I’m sure your local food bank could use any amount you can afford to give.

Thank you for your help with this project.

H in sun

(Hermione is always hungry, but that’s just because she’s a corgi…)

Peace and full bellies to all,

Caren

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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

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.

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(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

My Deal With the Devil

The fantastic folks over at Women & Words hosted me for a guest blog today. Check it out and see how you can win a copy of The Beast That Never Was!

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Like a lot of writers, I spent years penning my first novel, hiding it away, too embarrassed to admit to anyone I was actually writing a book. I wrote it privately, dreaming of someday being published, but not really daring to think it could happen.

After I finally finished it and let a few people read it, I took the plunge of trying to submit to publishers. Back then, that meant querying agents to get an acquiring editor interested enough to request the manuscript. Nada. Somewhere, I still have all of those rejection letters, and the manuscript slunk back into the darkness to languish for a long time.

Read more of this post HERE