Lucky 13!

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

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

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

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


Here’s the blurb:

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

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

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


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

* * *

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

She jumped when a door slammed behind her.

“You should come inside.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not.”

“Not what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Coffee, please.”

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

“Thank you,” Kathleen said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you,” Kathleen said.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Caren J. Werlinger 2018




Sassenachs and Broomsticks

We just got back from a trip to Scotland. I mean just. Like last night. I’m still muddle-headed, both from jet-lag and from the cold we shared while there. Despite the fog in my brain, I had to start writing about our time there. It really was incredible.


Gorgeous scenery in the Highlands

I know some people go to Scotland to trace their clan connections, but I’m Irish, so no family connections there. When we went to Ireland two years ago I blogged HERE about how it was a terrible beauty – wild, desolate, lonely, and lovely beyond words – all wrapped up together. Scotland was much the same. I know America’s history is bloody, but Scotland’s seems more so. I think maybe part of the mystique about Scotland is that there’s so much more of it.


A not-so-wee Highland bull

We’re kind of Outlander fans, but not nearly as rabid as we are Harry Potter fans. The fun thing is, there are lots of signs of both everywhere! We were blessed to have found the services of a wonderful guide, Kirsten, who runs Secret Scotland Tours. She is a real Outlander fan, and the number of local sites they’ve used for filming is absolutely amazing! I think we’ll find the series more interesting to watch now that we can say we’ve seen and been to some of the locations they’ve used. Still not into hunky Highlanders, though… but Claire on the other hand!


Doune castle, which serves as Castle Leoch in Outlander

We saw all kinds of places and things that helped inspire JK Rowling as she wrote the Harry Potter books: the statue of St. Mungo at Kelingrove in Glasgow; the closes and crooked buildings of Edinburgh; the wild hills and lochs as you travel north into the Highlands. It was so easy to see where the inspiration for Daigon Alley and Hogwarts came from.

When I wrote The Dragonmage Saga, I did a LOT of research into Irish history and geography. But when I wrote the third book of the trilogy, in which Caymin and Péist travel beyond Ireland, I had to dig more into Scottish history and geography. It was gratifying to visit these places and have it feel familiar enough that I got it right.


The Standing Stones at Clava Cairn

Our last day touring with Kristen took us to Culloden, the somber moor where the Jacobite rebellion brutally ended. It’s a sad, beautiful place.

We got to other places as well, Stirling and Rosslyn Chapel. I’ll blog more about those soon, but for now, wanted to share these thoughts and images with you.

Thanks for reading!




An Even Dozen!

I cannot even believe I’m writing this blog to announce that my twelfth (12!) novel, The Standing Stones, is now available for pre-order HERE. It will go live on June 6!


This is the third novel in The Dragonmage Saga, and it wraps up this part of Caymin’s story. I did the leave the door open a tiny crack to revisit these characters and their further adventures. I probably will after I get some other books written that have been squirreling around in my head for a while.

But it is hard to leave Caymin and her friends and the world they inhabit. They’ve all inhabited my head and my heart for a long time now.

I wasn’t sure I could pull off a venture into fantasy, but this trip has been more than I thought it could be. I have learned so much. In practical terms, I’ve learned tons about ancient Ireland and Celtic folklore (and badgers!). In writerly terms, I’ve learned even more about how to create action and how to plan a story arc over multiple books.

I hope you like this third entry to the Saga and find it a fitting continuation of Caymin and Péist’s adventures.

Here’s the blurb:

Caymin and Péist, the young dragonmage and dragon who helped to end the last dragon war, have returned from that conflict longing only for peace. But peace is not to be found. Éire is on the brink of being torn asunder as Christians battle pagans, raiders from the north attack the coast, and their enemies—the power-hungry dragonmage and dragon they fought in the otherworld—have escaped from their prison.

Caymin and Péist are the only ones who can thwart them but, in order to do so, they’ll have to do the unthinkable—bring all of the dragons and their mages back to this realm. The dragons can only be summoned and controlled by one who holds the Méarógfola—the Bloodstone. The problem is, the Bloodstone hasn’t been seen since it was stolen a thousand winters ago.

In a race through time, Caymin and Péist will have to go back through the Portal, back a thousand winters, back to set in motion everything that must unfold as it was meant to. Finding the Méarógfola is only the beginning of their challenges. Old factions among the dragons make them as difficult to control as the human clans. Destroying the Bloodstone is the only way to end this once and for all, but there are those who will do anything, anything, to get their hands on it.

The Magic Starts Here

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I am an author. I know we all got gobsmacked by the results of our national election last November, and we’ll be dealing with the fallout from that for years, maybe for the rest of my life given the speed at which the world I know is being dismantled right before my eyes.

Anyway, for that reason, I’ve decided to write this blog post about writing.

I am now (trumpets blaring) at 92,000 words and nearing completion of the third book in my fantasy trilogy-that-may-not-stop-at-three-books.



For any of you who haven’t read Rising From the Ashes and The Portal, what in the world is wrong with you? For those who have, thank you!

So, for the uninitiated, this trilogy (we’ll stick with that for now) is set in ancient Ireland, about 700-800 CE. This era in Éire’s history is fascinating. Christianity had been introduced only about 300-400 years previously. We really don’t know how stubbornly people clung to the old ways because the monks who wrote the histories had their own agenda. (And we thought fake news was a new thing…)

In my world, the old ways and magic aren’t giving up that easily. Mages and keepers of the old ways are still finding children born with magic, training them and teaching them the old traditions.

We know the Romans never bothered to cross the Irish Sea to conquer Ireland. Too much trouble, I guess. So the Irish Celts were left to the rival clans fighting things out amongst themselves although they had a High King… sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement on just how widespread the High King’s influence was, and there’s a lot of evidence that the rival clans continued to war with one another.

I took a bit (or more than a bit) of liberty with the political environment of Éire in my stories in terms of which clans were Christianized versus which still straddled the line between the old ways and the new.

And then, just to make things interesting, enter… the Vikings! These seafarers from the north countries – modern-day Norway, Denmark, Sweden – were expanding their territories, either for trading, raiding and/or settling. The Viking invasions of Ireland began in this same era that my stories are taking place. The invasions were sometimes successful, sometimes thwarted. The Irish gave as good as they got, and the fighting was by all accounts pretty brutal. We know monasteries throughout Éire and Britannia were sacked repeatedly. Eventually, the Vikings did manage to conquer enough territory in Ireland, that they had their own settlements, such as Dubhlinn, now the capital city of Dublin, as well as Cork, Waterford – mostly coastal settlements.

So the factual part of the history was all stuff I needed to research. See the folder in this photo?

Folder 1

This is where the magic begins!

This is my treasure trove of most of the research I’ve done for this trilogy. There are tons of bookmarked websites as well, but this folder has traveled with me daily for well over a year and a half. It has all kinds of scribbled notes, lists of Irish names, tons of maps of which clans ruled where in which era.

Folder 3

It even has a page detailing the sexual habits of badgers. They are horny little critters and apparently quite loud while doing it. They love sex almost as much as they love digging! And female badgers can hold their embryos in a kind of suspended animation so that they implant in the uterus when conditions are favorable for the cubs to survive. They really are fascinating. As we all know. Broc and Cuán were two of my favorite characters in this trilogy.

Folder 2

Anyone who writes historical fiction can tell you how much research goes into tracking down authentic details. You really have to get it right, because someone out there knows more about everything than you do, and if you mess with the details, they will let you know about it (hopefully kindly).

Not everyone enjoys doing research, but I do. I’ve learned so much in the historical novels I’ve written. Only a tiny bit of the research actually makes it into the stories, but hopefully, the knowledge base that is there comes through in a feeling of authenticity when you read the books.

The magic comes when  readers say they felt transported into the world you created. When that happens, it all comes together.

Soon, you’ll be able to delve into The Standing Stones, the third book in The Dragonmage Saga! I’ll reveal a cover and blurb soon.