The The Celwyn Newsletter Issue 13

 In this issue: 
The Celwyn Series book signing, MWA news, a reader’s POV, reviews, and an article on book trigger warnings.      

Celwyn’s Cats

She has read all the books in the series, have you?

Book Signing!

Please join us on May 4th from 2-4 p.m. 
Barnes and Noble
1530 Black Lake Blvd. Olympia, WA.

Lou Kemp will be signing all of the books in the Celwyn series, including book 5, The Wyvern, the Pirate, and the Madman.
Mystery writer Linda Norlander will also be there, signing The Death of Goldie’s Mistress and her Cabin by the Lake Series. 

Malice Domestic #18 Anthology

Linda Norlander has been busy. Not only will she be signing copies of her new book on 5-4-24 in Olympia, but she also has a new short story in this year’s Malice Domestic’s anthology Mystery Most Devious. Her story is called, The Plan.

There will be some copies of Left Coast Crime’s new anthology on the table, too.

See it on the Malice Domestic Website

The Edgars May 1, 2024

Trigger Warnings on Books

An opinion from author Benjamin X. Wretlind.
If you have questions or a rebuttal of the issues raised here, please forward them through the contact page.

1. Are trigger warnings needed? When are they mandated and does that need to change?

In my opinion, trigger warnings are not needed and should not be mandated. Books have contained challenging and potentially upsetting content throughout history, and readers can choose what they are comfortable with. Mandating trigger warnings infringes on creative freedom and treats readers like children who can’t think for themselves. In the same breath, however, I agree with the argument that times are changing as have reader perceptions. That is not necessarily a good thing. Mandating anything in the creative realm is a step in the wrong direction.

Trigger warnings were initially designed to assist individuals with posttraumatic stress (PTSD) symptoms in determining whether or not to engage with potentially triggering material; however, they have been linked to perpetuating avoidant behaviors that sustain the PTSD. Temporary relief can be obtained by avoiding trauma reminders, but persistent avoidance is connected to long-term psychological disorders and heightened posttraumatic stress symptoms (Pineles et al., 2011).

2. Do trigger warnings violate freedom of speech?

This is a different question. There is an argument that trigger warnings are a violation of free speech, and yet I don’t necessarily buy into that absolutist opinion. In 1975 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “[T]he Constitution does not permit the government to decide which types of otherwise protected speech are sufficiently offensive to require protection for the unwilling listener or viewer. Rather, … the burden normally falls upon the viewer to avoid further bombardment of [his] sensibilities simply by averting [his] eyes.” (Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 1975).

Yes, trigger warnings can be considered a form of censorship that stigmatizes certain content and pressures authors to avoid difficult topics. But they also give people the freedom to walk away from something they might feel would be triggering. Free expression means authors should be able to write what they want without warnings being forced upon their work by others, but if not including it impinges on the right to be free from triggering content, then does it constitute a violation of another’s right? I will argue that in a university or school setting, trigger warnings—while well-intended—can be used as a get out of class free card which is one reason the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is against them.

As someone who does not sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, though, I would have to say “I have no idea” to this question.

3. Do trigger warnings help or hurt sales?

My gut reaction is that trigger warnings likely hurt sales overall, and yet I have no data to back that up. They might make books seem more controversial and off-putting than they really are. I don’t know. Most people read to be challenged, not coddled. There is an argument that the small minority who demand trigger warnings probably don’t read that much anyway, but I doubt that’s true, either.

Typically, trigger warnings are a specific type of content warning designed for those who have experienced trauma or PTSD. Content warnings, however, are different, and that’s where the problem with this whole argument lies. Someone who suffers clinically from PTSD may be “triggered” by content that reminds them of past events. In this case, they probably wouldn’t buy or read that book and having a heads up may help. But can we stop calling them “trigger warnings” then? They are, in fact, content warnings like the kind you see handed out by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Tell me in one or two letters what I can expect from this book, and I’ll decide if it’s worth my time.

Again—I WILL DECIDE. Not the government, not a publisher, not some arbitrary committee made of members who do not know me.

There is no BAA (Book Association of America), and please don’t argue that it should be the government that sets up a censorship body. That’s frightening, and also goes back to my first point: trigger warnings should not be mandated. You want to put them in, put them in. You want to leave them out, leave them out.

4. Should an author have a say in trigger warnings (content or even having them) whether an indie or with a publisher? Freedom of speech should cover any lawsuit, if at all, right?

The author should absolutely have the final say on any content warnings, if they are even included at all. It’s the author’s intellectual property and creative work. No one, including publishers, has the right to label or categorize an author’s writing against their will. And yes, lawsuits challenging compelled trigger warnings on First Amendment grounds would likely succeed. See the case of Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville (1975). If that gets overturned, I would recant this statement.

5. Considering books for children are in the children’s areas in bookstores, is this trigger needed?

I despise this argument. Physically, we can say someone is a child at this or this age, but mentally, children can be physically much older. I really don’t believe trigger warnings are needed for children’s books—remember why trigger warnings were created in the first place (for those who suffer from PTSD). But content warnings might be appropriate. They do that in movies, so why not books?

Here again is the problem. Who decides what “rating” a book gets? Age recommendations and general content expectations already exist for children’s literature. Parents can easily avoid more mature content for their kids if they so choose. Adding trigger warnings to children’s books is utterly unnecessary and against their intended purpose in the first place. It may also absolve parents of their accountability—something we don’t need, even if times are changing.

6. But, how would a parent on Amazon know of the violence content when they need to? Violence level is not a filter on the choices next to children’s books (that I can find) Or, should the parent be responsible to read the blurb where it talks about the book? What if the blurb didn’t disclose violent content?

It’s the parent’s responsibility to determine if a children’s book is appropriate for their child, not Amazon’s, not Barnes and Noble’s. Do you want to force a corporation to adopt a governmental mandate that restricts free speech? Again, see what the Supreme Court had to say. Parents can read the description, flip through the book in a store, look at reviews, etc. If a children’s book contains notably mature elements, the publisher may mention that in the blurb, but they should never be obligated to. Ultimately, it’s up to the parent to vet their children’s reading material.

Are we coddling to parents to who don’t want to accept responsibility for their buying choices?

7. What do writers organizations say about trigger warnings? What should they say?

I do not know what writers’ organization have to say about trigger or content warnings and my search really came up with nothing good. It seems to me the debates are prevalent amongst members, and if any of them have come out with a definite statement, then it’s so buried in their website that it’s unreachable.

That said, I do know what the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has to say:

Institutional requirements or even suggestions that faculty use trigger warnings interfere with faculty academic freedom in the choice of course materials and teaching methods. Faculty might feel pressured into notifying students about course content for fear that some students might find it disturbing. Of course there may be instances in which a teacher judges it necessary to alert students to potentially difficult material and that is his or her right. Administrative requirements are different from individual faculty decisions. Administration regulation constitutes interference with academic freedom; faculty judgment is a legitimate exercise of autonomy (AAUP, 2014).

It’s not a writer’s group, but there is an interesting point in this statement: “Administration regulation constitutes interference with academic freedom…” You can change that to “Government regulation—or regulation of any sort from any entity—constitutes interference with creative freedom…” and you get the message.

Writers’ groups should strongly condemn trigger warnings as antithetical to creative and intellectual freedom.

8. Would a voluntary simple rating everyone could agree to work? Or is it even needed? Should book jackets mimic what movies do in their warnings on language?

I’m actually fine with this. Like I’ve said before, give me a letter or two that says there might be content I could be disturbed by and I will make the choice of whether or not to read it. I will take responsibility for my actions. I will be in charge of my own choices.

As a writer, I probably wouldn’t use a voluntary rating system myself, however.

And that should be my choice.

Take away my choice and you have a whole new argument.

  • Bruce, M. J., Stasik-O’Brien, S. M., & Hoffmann, H. (2023). Students’ psychophysiological reactivity to trigger warnings. Current Psychology42(7), 5470–5479.
  • Charles, A., Hare-Duke, L., Nudds, H., Franklin, D., Llewellyn-Beardsley, J., Rennick-Egglestone, S., Gust, O., Ng, F., Evans, E., Knox, E., Townsend, E., Yeo, C., & Slade, M. (2022). Typology of content warnings and trigger warnings: Systematic review. PLoS ONE, 17(5), 1–14.
  • Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975). Retrieved from
  • Pineles S.L., Mostoufi S.M., Ready B., Street A.E., Griffin M.G., & Resick P.A. (2011). Trauma reactivity, avoidant coping, and PTSD symptoms: A moderating relationship? Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 120(1), 240-246.

Bio: Benjamin Wretlind has several speculative fiction/science fiction series, including the Transit Series and the Aebris Series. His non-fiction books include Creating Atmosphere with Atmosphere which is a great book for writers who like effective scene setting. The Widening Gyre is out on Amazon along with his newest, Aebris Storm

A Sampling of Reviews

Review of Deadly Keepsakes a cozy mystery by Anita Dickason

Reviewer: Karen Siddall5.0 out of 5 stars   A modern Gothic romantic suspense/mystery like Phyllis A. Whitney.  Reviewed in the United States on July 25, 2022

 “Deadly Keepsakes” is a modern recreation of the Gothic romantic suspense novel in the vein of such great authors as Phyllis A. Whitney or Daphne du Maurier. Rather than the setting of the big house on the dark, remote, craggy-cliffed island, author Anita Dickason has reimagined the genre by placing the story smack in the middle of hot and sunny, small-town Texas.

Dickason amps up the suspense from the very start with Tori fleeing her home in Springfield, only months after her mother’s death, to escape the intimidation and revenge of the Russell family. But thankfully, Tori is a bright, capable, and determined heroine (unlike some of the fragile, helpless females of old), and she takes matters into her own hands to keep herself safe.

When she reaches her new town in Texas, she is immediately surrounded by the influential, successful people at the core of Granbury society: men who seem to feel they know more about what’s in her best interests than she does. I was so glad to see her set them straight quick, fast, and in a hurry. Two handsome men are also personally interested in the new heiress, and both are deliciously suspicious. But our girl keeps a wary eye on them both, though. Even as she feels attracted to one, she doesn’t let this blind her to his possible participation in the strange goings on. She keeps them both at arm’s length as she figures things out.

Review of The Bench, a thriller from Ty Carlson
Reviewer: Sandra Bruxvoort 5.0 out of 5 stars Achingly sad…with a twist. Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2022

“Love isn’t a feeling. That’s called infatuation. Love is what happens after the infatuation fades, when it becomes the choice you make every morning. Will I stay committed to this person, or will I choose to do what I want based solely on what’s best for me? Choosing to work with that person—whether you want to or not—that decision is what we call ‘love.’”
A treat.
Reading The Bench is a little like falling in love. You set upon the path, objectively recognizing that although this story is new, you can’t quite shake the feeling of familiarity as you fall deeper and deeper into the heart of it. You give yourself over to it completely.
By the time you realize what’s happening, it’s gone, and you’re crying. And it isn’t until you look back that you see the signs were there all along, but that doesn’t ease the emptiness that sits with you. I guess it’s a bit like grieving in that regard, too. You’re left to pick up the pieces, and you wonder, “Well, what do I do now?”

Ty’s writing is emotional and atmospheric while not being flowery. He writes real people with real vices (and real demons), and his characters feel like people you actually know in real life.

Being from Arkansas, I loved coming across the local Easter eggs. I also thought the themes presented were so tragic and poignant for the times. There’s a strong sense of lost time and of places long forgotten that are felt heavily throughout the book.

The Bench casts a light on the whole matter of ethics and technology’s place in society. Whether a line exists, and if so, where? This is why I enjoy good science fiction—you get to explore the implications of technology by being plopped into a story about everyday people.

Review of Hare Today Gone Tomorrow a cozy by Pat Pratt
Reviewer: Hussong’s Cantina 4.0 out of 5 stars It moves faster than a hare! Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2023

“Pat Pratt’s cozy is full of personality and the scenes keep the plot moving. At no point did the story drag. The writing isn’t complicated, opting instead for smooth reading.
The author used great economy in her introduction of the characters and their descriptions—another way of keeping things moving and interesting. One thing this series displays is the friendship within the retirement home, and dispels the myth that because they are old, the residents can’t be useful and intuitive.
A grumpy narrator is featured, one who “says” she doesn’t like animals. That is novel and interesting, while in reality the narrator is vulnerable to the welfare of Frodo the dog.
I liked the character Bernie the best for his unwavering persistence in the face of the narrator’s bad moods and attempts not to get too close to him.
As the story moves along, clues fall into line along with the mis-directions while the action rolls forward.
Bonus: if you want a killer rhubarb cake recipe, there is one just before chapter 31.
This is pure cozy, and a great tea drinking read.
As part of the tidying up, the original chars that brought them this murder case are looking forward to a better life, and the Children’s choir won the regional title!

Review of Talia, Heir to the Fairy Realm, a adult fantasy by Joel C. Flanagan-Grannemann
Timothy Wolff 5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining yet surprisingly dark novel Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2024

Thoroughly enjoyed this buddy read, though I admit the tone changes were wild lol. What starts off with carefree characters trying on clothes and dancing somehow becomes a super dark examination into betrayal, war crimes, and other atrocities. It’s kind of like Ferngully meets the Poppy Wars, which is a sentence I never expected to write.

The world-building was my favorite part. There are plenty of interesting tidbits for both the humans and fairies, and some hilarious phrasing. Looking forward to whatever happens in the next two books of the trilogy

Review of Robert J. Lewis’ Shadow Guardian, an unusual thriller
Reviewer: Roger Robb A Great Sequel!!!! Reviewed in the United States on July 31, 2023

“This is the second book in the “Shadow Guardian” series. I had been anticipating the book after reading the first one which I loved! I loved this one as well! I couldn’t stop turning the pages until the end! Now I am having to drum my fingers until the third book comes out! 5 stars reading from me!

The story continues with the adventures of Diego and Alex (from the first book) where they had to work hard to keep Alex safe from that bad wolf who seemed to really had it out for him. In the meantime, their friends, Esmeralda and Freddy had been trying to keep the bad wolf contained until they could find a spell to break it. Diego and Alex felt frustrated with Esmeralda and Freddy for defending/denying the bad wolf’s behavior and couldn’t understand why. That’s where I’m going to stop and have you pick up the book to read to find out why and how! Happy reading!”

Review of Stacy Wilder’s Carmel Conundrum, a romantic mystery
Karen Siddell Reviewed September 3, 2023

“Carmel Conundrum” is the second book in Stacy Wilder’s “Liz Adams Mystery” series and is a follow-up to last year’s popular and entertaining “Charleston Conundrum.” Accompanied by her lie-detecting dog, Duke, PI Liz Adams is on vacation in Carmel, visiting the attractive, attentive, and well-heeled Brad O’Connor and checking out the oceanfront property she inherited from her best friend, Peg. Liz decides to mix pleasure with business to stop whoever is using Brad’s confidential client information to create fake online identities that could destroy his company and reputation should it become public knowledge.

The main character, Liz Adams, may have discovered the perfect antidote to the emotional trauma of her divorce. Brad is a charming and kind man who seems genuinely into her, likes Duke, and appreciates her professional skills.”

Gina Rae Mitchell

Three Reasons I Love Reading Children’s Literature
By Gina Mitchell
Full list available on

I am a firm believer in adults reading children’s books, even if a “child” is not present. There is so much adults can learn from literary jaunt through the children’s book section at your local library or bookstore. This is a snippet of my post, “7 Reasons Adults Should Read Children’s Books”

  1. Fresh Perspective: Children’s books often tackle universal themes in a simple and accessible way, offering valuable insights and reminding adults of important life lessons.
  2. Creativity and Imagination: Children’s literature tends to be imaginative and creative, inspiring adults to reconnect with their own sense of wonder and imagination.
  3. Broadening Perspectives: Reading children’s books from diverse cultures and backgrounds can help adults gain a deeper understanding of different perspectives and experiences.
    Reading children’s books can be a hidden, delightful, and enriching experience for adults, reminding them of the joy of simplicity, the power of imagination, and the enduring magic of storytelling. So, pick up a children’s book today and expand your horizons

Upcoming on Gina Rae Mitchell’s blog the week of May 7th:

** Book Review – AXION: The Memory Rights Uprising by David Shulman, London producer, director, author

**Short Story Book Review – Cut & Thirst by Margaret Atwood

**Friday Finds – A curated list of books, Indie Author news, recipes, crafts, and trivia contests.

**Book Review – Legacy of the Witch (Book 1 of The Mystery School) by Kirsten Weiss

**Cover Reveal – Exiles by L.J. Ambrosio

The Celwyn Series YouTube channel

An interview with reader “Liz”

“….But truthfully many more characters deserve to die than there are authors willing to kill them….”
  1. As a reader, what do you look for when trying a new author? ( Cover, theme, recommendations, or?)

    I’m starting with reviews or word of mouth from specific sources whom I am familiar with their tastes. Reviews can be helpful but require some framing to analyze the reviewer themselves to be useful. I’ve purchased many novels (particularly fantasy) over the course of my life on the strength of an imaginative cover and it’s never been a particularly great idea.
  2. When you read reviews, do negative reviews influence you?:(or if not a review reader, talk about why you do or don’t do reviews)

If it’s a negative review by an anonymous or unknown source it’s more likely to pique my interest than not. If a book can provoke a strong negative reaction it is a lot more likely to have something interesting to say and suggests an interesting experience from the read. I value a reading experience that challenges my thoughts and knowledge and expects my engagement for full value.

  1. Do you stick with one genre, or love several of them? If you plan try a new genre in the near future, which one and why?

I don’t really categorize or judge value based on a concept of genre, It is for me too vague a descriptor and a vast number of quality books don’t hesitate to cross genres within themselves. A “fantasy” book can just as easily be a hard-boiled detective novel with noir influences or a classic swords and sandals adventure that’s far more concerned with pure swashbuckling action. Both may be satisfying and well written fantasy novels that provide entirely different reading experiences. I try to enter into a read with as few prejudices as possible and expect any “genre” elements to be incidental to a well-constructed narrative.

  1. If you have had an author kill off a favorite character, what was your reaction? It is supposed to be good for a series to do that—do you agree?

The context does matter of course and every early death is not necessarily the best narrative decision, particularly when done for pure shock value. But truthfully many more characters deserve to die than there are authors willing to kill them. I enjoy fiction that isn’t afraid to give characters the endings they have earned or may strive to, and death is unfortunately an excellent and often natural way to provide closure and redemption for such arcs. It was certainly a formative moment when I read A Tale of Two Cities as a child and spent hours debating the value and morality of Carton’s sacrifice.

  1. If you read a new author and were not happy with the book, what kind of things do you see that swayed your opinion? (Not enough drama, or tension, or action. Or plotting?)

“Boring” is the kiss of death. However what I find boring and others may find boring are entirely different things as I have a significantly dryer taste than many readers. I can handle being challenged on a huge number of technical issues or even process jargon with an effective companion or narrative support (Patrick O’Brian threads this needle brilliantly but even so many bounce off his works due to the jargon still) but if I genuinely find a book tedious or plodding I am likely to lose interest rapidly. Exploring and elaborating on conflicts between the characters and their environments is an essential key to maintaining my interest in a story and is critical to maintaining any kind of narrative momentum in the greater plot.

What is New with the Celwyn Series?

What is new?

Book 6? it is still in queue for editing at the publishers and due out this fall. It introduces a new direction and genre to the series, and I’m pretty sure you will like it—a weird imagination is a shame to waste.

For book 7, Lucky and Mrs. Nemo, nothing has changed since the last newsletter. About half of the rougher-than-sandpaper- first draft is still in the middle of my desk and not input into my pc. (And no screaming fights with the Dragon software about it have occurred) The good news is that I have about six months to get that done and edited. It is probably a sign of a sick mind when you meet your publisher’s deadlines by that much. However, I wanted to get on paper something that had been swirling around in the back of my mind like a Tasmanian devil chased by a rabid dog.

While on a river cruise in Germany, I recently wrote about 150 pages of book 8. There was none of the usual drama in my head….what will I do? what will I write? oh that is terrible!! More tea!!! ( then rip it up and throw it). Instead, I could do no wrong—- the words literally flowed like the Danube. Most interesting of all? I liked what I wrote. There is no tentative title for book 8, no hints forthcoming until I complete the first draft. I can’t afford another trip right now, so let us pray the magic continues.

Volunteer your time

For months, I’ve been volunteering with the non-profit group Engin to help Ukrainians speak and write English.
No degree needed, or experience. Just an hour a week per student you want to help. The sessions are over Zoom. Engin supplies support and everything you need. Engin is a non-profit, and donations are always welcome. My students waited more than 8 months for a volunteer, and still others are hoping for a volunteer match soon.

If you can donate or volunteer, even for an hour a week, they would be so happy to hear from you.

visit for more information

Shameless buy links

The links below lead to booksellers who carry the Celwyn series.

The Violins Played before Junstan  book 1

Music Shall Untune the Sky   book 2

The Raven and the Pig     book 3

The Pirate Danced and the Automat Died  Book 4

The Sea of the Vanities. Companion book.

The Wyvern, the Pirate, and the Madman  Book 5

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