Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Charity Tuesday: Covenant House





Hello Everyone,

As we all know, spotlighting charities and worthwhile causes is important to SR.

As a group, Elli, Coco, Sere and I are also dedicated to promoting these endeavors. Therefore, we are happy to post a weekly series in order to take a more in-depth look at the various charitable organizations highlighted by SR. You can find a complete list of these charities on our blog by clicking on the "About the Charities" header.

Today's charity spotlight was submitted by one of our readers, Terry, who wanted to share her experiences with all of us.

We hope you will find the information in these posts informative and educational. If you have a particular cause that is close to your heart or you have personal experiences with any of the charities we spotlight, please feel free to contact us about it.

Take Care,
Jenn

PS Today is the final day of our fundraising campaign to aid those affected by the tragedies in Boston and West, Texas earlier this month. To date, we have raised $2,660.00.  Thank you, Everyone for your efforts in making this endeavor such a success.

If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com. Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.

The fundraiser concludes at midnight Pacific Time this evening. Winners will be randomly selected on May 1st and notified by May 3.





I was very fortunate to be raised by my single mom who was a fervent believer in the Jewish concept of Tikkun olam, or, “heal the world.” We were not observant by any means, but that phrase and the sentiment behind it has guided me since childhood and is the most active element of my faith. The idea that no matter how little you may have, you can help those who have even less is something that motivates me to try to be an active helper.  Both my nursing and teaching careers are rooted in my desire to heal – the mind, the body, the soul.  I wasn’t raised to sit on the sidelines by a mom who was a dedicated volunteer herself.

My charitable involvement with Covenant House Philadelphia is relatively recent, however, and is directly related to a storm and an author, both converging at the same time.  Hurricane Sandy blew through Philadelphia in late Fall 2012 and luckily left us relatively unscathed, but the tri-state area was devastated. Grass roots groups cropped up to deliver food and clothing, and I volunteered to join them.  Like in most disasters, the spirit of volunteerism surfaced with a ferocious energy, and I spent several days helping to deliver food and clothing to those affected in upstate Pennsylvania.  As the Red Cross moved in and opened shelters, less of the grass roots efforts were necessary. 

At just about the same time, something SR posted on his website about the effects of the storm caught my attention (as most things SR writes. Well, all things. )

Covenant House.  I'm including them because their house in Atlantic City, New Jersey had to be evacuated. Covenant House provides a safe place for teens in crisis, many of whom are running from abusive households. If you can, please consider giving to the Atlantic City Covenant House to help them continue to provide a home for their youth. (SR)

Living in Philadelphia, of course I had heard of Covenant House- -the local facility is not far from where I work. But SR’s posting grabbed my attention. Kids in crisis.  If I was frightened of Sandy as an adult (who sustained relatively little damage), what about the trauma to kids who were right in the middle of the superstorm’s flooding, darkness, and devastation and had who lost everything? What must they be experiencing? What could I do to help in the long-term?

I pulled together my staff at work who also felt the need to help. Together we purchased and packed up the necessities – cleaning supplies, clothes, toiletries, blankets.  When I dropped them off at Covenant House Atlantic City, I was inspired to see how ready these kids were to rebuild.  These are not just “teenagers.” They are teens who have seen  and experienced too much of the abhorrent side of life and are getting the help Covenant House provides in order to help them move away from the danger of the streets.  They are so wounded, yet so brave. I wanted to get involved in some way, but 120 miles is a long way to drive to routinely volunteer.

I did the next best thing. I called Covenant House- Philadelphia and asked how I could help our local facility.  Winter can be exceptionally cold here on the East Coast, so I was asked to collect as many coats and blankets as I could. Philadelphia may be full of history, but is also a gritty city, full of poverty and desperation for far too many. I see homeless kids every day warming up in the lobby of the hospital, or sitting on the subway steps.  Kids.  Homeless runaways, hungry, exceptionally vulnerable, and very scared. Now, at least, I could help Covenant House keep them warm.

 

I am fortunate to work at Temple University Hospital, a medical center whose mission is to care for the underserved and poverty-stricken.  Because the nurses there are so sensitive to the needs of the immediate community, before I knew it, my office was filled with donated coats, sweaters, and blankets. So much was donated, in fact, that I needed my nurse- colleagues to help me deliver it. And the smiles when we dropped off our donations could light up a room. I know it lit up our hearts. From that time, I was committed to providing blankets and coats to as many teens as I could.

While I would love to work as a nurse directly with the kids, CH requires a full time commitment to do so. Instead, I work my network of friends, colleagues, family, neighbors, and nurses to help collect the needed items that CH provides to both the kids on the street and those who are now residential. When a social service agency such as Covenant House serves over 5000 kids per year through outreach, a crisis center, and transitional living programs, their needs are significant, and sadly, endless. Every two weeks, I pack up my car with donated and/or purchased items and off I go.  The staff has come to expect me, and that makes my heart very, very happy.  I’ve tried not to let my chemo treatments slow me down with my deliveries, and so far, I’ve been able to stay on schedule.

If there’s a message in any of my experience, it is that to do Tikkun olam is something everyone can do, regardless of faith. We are responsible for one another, especially the most vulnerable among us. And thanks to SR’s post and his own dedication to Covenant House Toronto, I have been given the opportunity to aid an organization that heals, if not the world, but many of the defenseless in it.

If you live in or near one of the areas listed below, please consider calling your local Covenant House to see how you too can help. I know they will be grateful to hear from you.

 

Covenant House is dedicated to serving all God's children with absolute respect and unconditional love ... to help suffering homeless kids ... and to protect and safeguard all children in need.


Anchorage, AK
Los Angeles, CA
Oakland, CA
Washington, D.C.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Orlando, FL
Atlanta, GA
New Orleans, LA

Detroit, MI
St. Louis, MO
Atlantic City, NJ
Newark, NJ
New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Houston, TX
Vancouver, British Coumbia
Toronto
Mexico City, Mexico
Guatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua

 
Web site: http://www.covenanthouse.org/
Twitter: @CovenantHouse
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CovenantHouse

 

Friday, April 26, 2013

You Did It!




$2,500 raised in 10 days!

We'd like to thank everyone for participating in our fundraiser to aid those affected by last week's tragic events in Boston and West, Texas.  

Although we've reached our goal, we still have 4 days left to go in our campaign so please keep those donations coming in.

If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com.  Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.

Whether you've donated, tweeted, posted, reblogged or all of the above, your group efforts have achieved great success. But don't just take my word for it...

This is really great news. Thank you & please pass my thanks to the others, too. What a great milestone, SR

 With Our Gratitude,

Jenn, Elli, Coco & Sere









Thursday, April 25, 2013

More Goodies For The Giveaway!






Hello Everyone,

As I type this post on Wednesday evening, I do so with a smile on my face.  Our fundraiser took a significant leap in donations today, and our current total raised to help aid those affected by last week's terrible events in Boston and West,Texas now stands at $2,305.00!

We're a mere $195.00 away from reaching our ultimate goal of $2,500.00.  With 46 donors currently entered in our giveaway, this means the average donation received has been $50.00. The kindness of SR's fans has been appreciated and noticed within our community, and so I'm happy to make another special announcement.

The Professor Gabriel O. Emerson Fanpage on facebook has generously donated five of SR's books so that we can draw for additional winners when we hold our giveaway on May 1st. Those winners will be able to select one of SR's books (either paperback or ebook) and they can choose either Gabriel's Inferno, Gabriel's Rapture or Gabriel's Redemption (which is now available for pre-order).



                                        


Because these books are being donated by our sister site, please be aware they will not be personally signed by SR.

We are so grateful to the Professor Gabriel O. Emerson Fanpage for this spectacular offer! Please be sure to stop by to say hello and thanks!
 
If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com.  Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.
In addition to the books mentioned above, SR has graciously agreed to sign UK edition copies of both Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture for one winner.




Our fundraiser will continue through April 30th, no matter when we reach our fundraising goal. If you haven't done so, please consider donating, and if you have please help us continue to keep word of our fundraiser on the radar.

We're crossing our fingers that we can make a celebratory announcement tomorrow.

Until then, take care,
Jenn, Coco, Elli & Sere






Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Reader's Journey...


Hello Everyone,

Today we are taking a break from the fundraising campaign in order to share a review of the Gabriel Series by a reader named Margaret. Her piece not only highlights her favorite moments with The Professor, it tells the journey she has experienced as a result of reading the books.  It's an experience we here at Argyle Empire can relate to very well and we want to thank Margaret for sharing it with us and with you.

Enjoy and Take Care,
Jenn

PS In case you haven't heard, our total funds raised at the moment I type this are $2,055! We're only $445 away from reaching our ultimate goal of $2,500 and have several days left to get there. Thanks again so much for your support of our campaign to aid those affected by last week's events in Boston and West, Texas.






My thoughts on Gabriel's Inferno & Gabriel's Rapture

Firstly I haven't included any spoilers for those who've not read Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture. I strongly recommend giving these books a read and I promise you'll hold them close to your heart forever.

Until last summer I was not an avid reader of books, I tended to read now and again but mainly on holiday around the pool. I only read light hearted romance, a genre that would be guaranteed to cheer me up and be an easy read. I was obsessed with television and spent most of my evenings after work and dinner glued to the tv.

In the early long wet summer of 2012 I noticed a new book appear in my local supermarket 'Fifty Shades of Grey' I was put off by its dark cover at first but decided I'd give it a go. I was soon obsessed with Mr Grey and wanted other books to fill the gap. My husband offered me his Kindle as it was cheaper to buy books and let me use his Amazon account. I soon discovered the very established Sylvia Day and devoured her books over my summer holidays.

I began to run out of Sylvia Day books and wanted other books about hot men to read. Amazon had been recommending a book called Gabriel's Inferno to me throughout the summer but I thought it sounded weird, a professor? I imagined a stuffy older man with bad teeth, not my cup of tea. So I ignored the recommendation and as I had to go back to work and move house my reading tapered off as real life took over once more.

In October 2012 I had a small operation and needed to stay off work for a few weeks to recover. By the middle weekend off I was bored, my husband was out of the country and the weather was terrible, cold, blustery and dark by early evening. I thought 'I need a book to read to see me through to Monday'. So I got on to my husbands Amazon account and looked for something to read, Gabriel's Inferno appeared in the recommendations? Mmmmmm should I risk buying it? I did and by end of page one I was hooked 'He was ruggedly handsome, but in that moment bitterly severe', I thought oh a handsome professor, clever and good looking this is going to be good. However, the story didn't quite pan out as I thought, this was not just a sexual romp, a sexfest or a no holds barred sexual affair.

Within pages the angry Professor Emerson who I'd hated minutes before was sobbing in his office and I was desperate to know what turned this severe cold man in to an emotional wreck? And what was Julianne's connection to him? As the story unfolded and long into my night from my lounge to my lonely bed I found I could barely breath at times I was so invested. I neglected my housework and teenage son for most of the weekend and stayed up into the early hours of fri/sat/sun gripped. I didn't even wait until I was half way through Gabriel's Inferno to purchase Gabriel's Rapture.

The fact that the characters didn't immediately have sex actually made the story better, it allowed me to concentrate on their story and not be distracted by yet another sex scene (I mean seriously who has that much sex?) I felt Julianne's heartache when Gabriel couldn't remember her and I felt Gabriel's heartache when he realised he'd been a massive dickhead! But their discovery of each other was not the end it was the beginning of a painful journey for both Gabriel and Julianne. So painful that I sobbed my heart out at 2am, so much so that I couldn't read or breath until I pulled myself together. But my tears were cathartic and healing not wasted, like Gabriel and Julianne I had to ride out the storm to get my reward.

We can all relate to the themes of this book, regret, we've all been stuck in a 'Lobby'. We've all felt guilt, fear, heartbreak, loss and a need to be forgiven. I think that's why this book affected me so deeply and moved me to sobbing tears. But it also reinforced the goodness of life, love, giving, patience, acceptance, 'sticky little leaves' and redemption. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes but if we can learn form those mistakes we can move on and live a better life. That's what these books mean to me, that's what Sylvain Reynard means to me.

As a result of reading these books I tweeted Sylvain to let him know how his books had affected me and kept me awake! To my surprise he responded and so I began to follow him and the Gabriel's Inferno fan accounts on twitter. Within a short time I'd made connections with women across the globe who loved Sylvain's books as much as I did. Six months down the line and I've made some fantastic friends on twitter, ladies who share my thoughts on life, love and of course book boyfriends! I still tweet with SR as do so many of you lovely ladies and he is always gracious with his time and tries to reply to our many tweets. SR also tweets the shit out of charities which I love! We all need to be more charitable and giving and his daily reminder of that has made me think more about others and less about myself.

So thank you E L James for leading me to Sylvain Reynard and thank you SR for writing these books but also thank you for introducing me to the world of twitter and for the many new friends I have made along the way. Please keep writing and don't get so famous that you can no longer tweet with us. Big love, hugs and kisses to one of my favourite authors SR mwah mwah mwah xxx

Mags

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Glimpse of Heroes by Kat Bastion

 
Hello Everyone,
 
Today we'd like to share a post written by our friend, Kat Bastion.  This piece was originally posted over the weekend on Kat's blog, Talk To The Shoe .  Kat has been a strong supporter of our fundraising campaign to aid those affected by the tragedies in Boston and West, Texas, and we were so moved by this post we just had to share it here.
 
As I type this note, we have raised $1,810.00 toward our goal of $2,500.00.  There is still one week left to go in our fundraiser/giveaway and so we appreciate everyone's continued support via donations and mentions.
 
We're so close to breaking the $2,000.00 mark and would love to be able to say that we crossed that all-important line by this time tomorrow.
 
Until then, take care,
Jenn, Sere, Elli & Coco
 
 

 



In a week of events that rocked our lives and caused great suffering, heroes emerged to help those in need during the tragedies of the Boston Marathon 2013 and the Texas plant explosion.

My continued thoughts, prayers, and support go out to everyone affected and all the heroes who helped the victims…and risked and gave their lives.

I have a story I’d like to share for the first time. Also, I’m providing information again for you to help in the fundraiser for the American Red Cross and The One Fund Boston. Please help in any way you can.

A Glimpse of Heroes in Action

One fateful night many years ago, I caught a glimpse of heroes in action that had such an enormous impact on me; I still remember every vivid detail.

I’d signed up to go on a police ride-along.

Of course, I’d chosen a night shift, as I wanted to see the brave officers chase down a suspect and handcuff him. Or at least…be in a speeding car with sirens blaring and lights twirling as we neared one hundred miles an hour to catch the bad guy.

I was given a basic safety rundown by my assigned officer and made to understand my role during the course of my ride-along. I was strictly an observer. Should anything bad go down, especially bullets flying, I was to follow the officer’s instruction without hesitation, remain in the safety of the police car if possible, and stay out of their way.

The first hour went by. Not even one single call came out over the radio. My images of excitement drifted to officers congregating at the corner doughnut shop, and I began to empathize with them. My hope, you see, wasn’t for criminal acts to happen during my ride-along…only that the crimes statistically being committed as we drove around in the midnight hour would be noticed, and we would be the ones to apprehend them.

Then it happened. An event beyond any of my imaginings for that night unfolded and my life was forever impacted. Many lives were forever impacted, far greater than mine, that night.
A fire had broken out in a multi-building apartment complex. When we arrived on the scene, a raging fire had engulfed an upper corner of a thirty-unit two-story building. Adjoining units had black smoke pouring out of every vent and opening. The police officers were the first to arrive on the scene.

My assigned officer pointed out various places I could stay safe amid the mayhem, but allowed me to wander freely, as he ran off with two other officers.

An observer. It’s what I was, and it was surreal watching each participant execute their roles as if born to them.

So many things happened simultaneously, I stood there for a while in shock as I witnessed the events unfold.

The three officers systematically raced from unit to unit, both upstairs and down. They pounded on doors and escorted residents to safety as they cleared the building. Within minutes, several laddered fire trucks arrived, the sounds of their sirens blaring into the night.

The sound of a fire destroying a building is unlike any other as it roars, things inside creaking and moaning, snapping and exploding. The smell is noxious and choking and fills your nostrils no matter how far away you stand. The heat is overwhelming and you find yourself backing up to a tolerable and survivable distance. Glowing cinders fly up in the direction of the wind…or sometimes where ever they’re shot to…and soot rains down from the sky.

Although I’m sure everyone in the surrounding buildings watched the rising orange flames and felt the intense heat as the fire devoured everything it touched, I didn’t notice them. I noticed the ones who’d lost their homes.

I remember one college-aged man who stood there staring in shock. I walked up next to him, and he glanced at me with a forlorn look on his face.

“I lost everything,” he said.

“Did you have renter’s insurance?” I asked, hoping to help, if only to talk to him.

“No,” he replied. “It wouldn’t have done any good anyway. I lost thousands of dollars in photography equipment, but ten times that value was in the photos I’d taken over many years.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

Condolences for his loss were all I could give, but I gave them anyway. It didn’t matter that I’d been relegated to an observer in the situation; my heart went out to that man.

Our attention diverted to a firefighter who burst out from a doorway. Thick black smoke poured out, as if chasing after him. He stumbled forward in the heavy tan protective gear they wore and pulled the helmet off his head, tossing it onto the grass. His captain, dressed in a navy t-shirt and cargo pants, jogged over as his firefighter double over, bracing his hands on his knees, sweat pouring from his face while he sucked in the cool night air. The captain pointed at another firefighter, and the man put on his helmet and ran into the same opening, taking the place of the one who’d tagged himself out of the ring.

A paramedic ran over with his kit seconds later, but the firefighter waved him off, shaking his head. I stood another thirty feet beyond them and felt the heat from my distance. I could only imagine what that firefighter was going through, overcome by the heat of being inside that building.

My officer waved an arm at me, approaching. I followed him behind the building, walking with a respectful wide berth around the smoking side of the building as he explained they’d been making sure the scene was secure and intended to remain there unless called away.

The parking lot behind the building had changed. A couple dozen families stood back there, clinging to each other. All of them looked lost. Many were crying, including grown men. My heart lurched for them.

One little girl’s cries rose above the roar of the fire.

From the driveway side of the parking lot, a lone woman walked up to the group. The woman was a volunteer from the American Red Cross.

Did she wear a red vest? I don’t recall. All I remember was the teddy bear she held up as she walked. The crying from the toddler stopped instantly, and she walked up to the stuffed animal being offered to her and embraced it. Tears filled my eyes as I watched. (They’re in my eyes again now as I type, a cramp at the base of my throat.)

Every adult standing there slowly gravitated toward the little girl and the woman, drawn to a shining beacon of hope in their disastrous night.

I stayed to the fringes and out of the way, but I heard what that American Red Cross volunteer said to them. She’d arranged for a place to stay for the rest of the night, where they would have somewhere to sleep, something to eat, and fresh clothes to change into; she asked if any needed medications and if any had any special health considerations; and she mentioned that she had resources for them to begin rebuilding their lives one step at a time once they made it through the night.

That American Red Cross worker pulled two dozen families from their shock and devastation and offered to help them in their time of crisis.

While the police secured the scene, and as the firefighters put out the blaze, the American Red Cross led the victims to a place of safety and recovery. All of those heroes worked together in a scene that happens every day and night all across our country and around the world.

I’m forever grateful to have gotten a glimpse of true heroes in action and be able to share the story with you. It’s led to my support of the American Red Cross throughout the years and I hope it inspires you to support them as well. Whether the disaster is natural or man-made the American Red Cross is there to help.

I hope none of us ever suffer a disaster, but should we find ourselves in need, look for that American Red Cross worker. They are there for you.

Support The American Red Cross

There’s a special fundraiser still ongoing through the end of the month to help those impacted by the tragedies of the Boston Marathon 2013 and the Texas plant explosion. I encourage you to participate by donating and entering the contest. I’ve done both, and should I win the giveaway, I intend to give away the rare set of books signed by Sylvain Reynard to a very special person who would be over the moon to receive them and was personally affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Here are ways you can help and information about the fundraiser and giveaway:

1. Please donate to the American Red Cross, who responds to those in need of support when disaster strikes.

2. According to a recent Tweet from the American Red Cross, “To help people most affected by the tragic events in Boston on 4.15.13 visit theonefundboston.org #BostonMarathon”. Click on The One Fund Boston link to donate and learn more.

Also, I’d like to share with you the following message from my friend Jenn at Argyle Empire…

In response to the tragedy in Boston, Argyle Empire is hosting a fundraiser to aid the American Red Cross.

Given that part of the Gabriel series is set in Boston, we felt it was an appropriate thing to do.

If people donate at least $5.00 to the American Red Cross and/or The One Fund Boston and email a copy of their receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com, they can enter a giveaway by visiting argyleempire.com. SR has agreed to sign UK edition copies of both Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture for the winner.

The fundraiser will run between now and April 30. The winner will be selected on May 1 and notified by May 3.

If you could help us promote this, that would be great. If you would like to donate and enter the giveaway, please feel free to do so. This is really about helping out the charity, after all.

Thank you all for all the donations you’ve made so far. Keep them coming and please spread the word through your social channels. They’ve already raised over $1,500 in five days. Their goal is $2,500 by May 1st. Shall we knock everyone’s socks off and make it a cool $5,000?

It’s by stepping out and embracing others with love that we shine a bright light of hope in our world.

Thank you for being heroes, my friends.

Your humble shoe,
~ Kat

© 2013 by Kat Bastion

Monday, April 22, 2013

IT'S HERE! The cover for "Gabriel's Redemption"!


And it's beautiful!





Now I think I know what SR meant when he hinted that the cover is "primordial..."

What do you think?

What's your interpretation of the cover?

And are you even more excited to read what's underneath that cover?

December 3 can't come fast enough!

(Link to the announcement on SR's blog:  http://www.sylvainreynard.com/  )




Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reflections on the Past Week...

 


Hello Everyone,

Over the past five days, Argyle Empire has been hosting a fundraising campaign to aid those affected by the tragic events in both Boston and West, Texas. Within hours of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, Coco, Elli, Sere and I began brainstorming about ways to help. Once we had an idea or two, we decided to see if we could quickly organize our plans into action. What has happened since then has been nothing short of amazing.

SR immediately agreed to offer up signed UK editions of "Gabriel's Inferno" and "Gabriel's Rapture" as an incentive for donors. When asked, many of our online friends stepped up without hesitation to promote our campaign. Some of these friends run blogs and can reach large numbers of people with a post, while some have used their personal social media accounts to support our efforts non-stop for the past five days.  From this side of the screen, I can tell you it was uplifting to watch word of the fundraiser radiate throughout our global online community.

As far as the logistics were concerned, everything had fallen into place effortlessly. All that was left to do was sit back and see if people would be willing to donate funds to support the Red Cross, The One Boston Fund, or any other charity that has dedicated its resources to helping people in the effected areas. If you've ever worked a fundraiser, you know the most nerve-wracking moments are the ones that tick by as you wait for the first donation to arrive. Needless to say, we didn't have to wait long.

Over the first 5 days of our campaign, we have received $1,525.00.  This averages out to $305.00 per day, with an average donation of $38.00.  With 9 days left to go on the calendar, we have set an ultimate goal of $2,500.00 and are 60% of the way to reaching it.

But there is more taking place here beyond the statistics.  Over the course of the week, as I thanked one donor after another, I heard one message over and over again:

"No need to enter me in the contest as much as I would love an opportunity to have a signed book by SR my motivation is different this time."

"I already have the books and enjoy them so much on so many different levels, that I'm really not in need of another copy."

"Of course I'll be donating but would prefer others to win the giveaway."

"Don't enter me in the giveaway. I'd like for someone else to have the opportunity to win them. I'm just happy to help."
 
Responses like this presented us with an interesting situation. We actually found ourselves in a position of motivating donors to enter the giveaway.  Thankfully one donor approached us, asking if it would be all right to pay it forward. She was willing to enter the giveaway as long as she could gift her prize to someone else. Once I began sharing this idea with those who'd turned down the opportunity to win the signed books, giveaway entries begin flowing in.
 
What an incredible group of people you are. Truly.
 
As we approach the halfway point of our fundraising campaign we find ourselves at a critical phase. Recovery efforts are well underway, but the need to assist victims has not yet been fully met. As the emergent nature of both disasters begins to recede, the work these charitable organizations do will carry on. Several families are mourning the loss of a loved one, and many more are praying at the bedsides of injured relatives. Some have lost their homes or their jobs, possibly both. And countless numbers of people who were firsthand witnesses to these horrific events will need time to psychologically process what they have experienced.
 
The four of us at Argyle Empire are highly motivated to meet our goal, but we need your help to get there.  If you haven't donated already, please consider doing so.  If you have donated, please keep reaching out to friends and family to participate.

Donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, and simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com. Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.

Every effort you make is a worthwhile one, and we thank you for proving that goodness surrounds us.

Take Care,
Jenn, Coco, Elli & Sere
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cupcakes For A Cause...

 

Hello Everyone,

I am typing this post on Friday evening after the conclusion of an incredible day of developments in the Boston Marathon Bombing case.  Given the sensational events of the past twenty-four hours Elli, Coco, Sere and I wondered if many would be too caught up in the unfolding news to pay much attention to our fundraiser. This is one of those cases where I love to be proved wrong. 

For the fourth day in a row, we set a fundraising goal and for the fourth day in a row the goal was not only met it was exceeded.  At this moment, our current total stands at $1,255.00!

One of the donations we received today was from Susi, who runs a small baking/catering company in Miami. While filling an order for an event, she saw an opportunity. She made extra cupcakes and sold them to colleagues and neighbors and then used those funds to make a donation to the American Red Cross.  She happened to mention this plan to me last evening on twitter and I asked her to share some pictures:




Looking at these attractive red velvet cupcakes, it's not surprising to hear that she sold them all!

Many thanks to Susi for taking the time and making the extra effort for a delicious bit of creative fundraising.

Remember, if you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com. Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.

SR has graciously agreed to sign UK edition copies of both "Gabriel's Inferno" and "Gabriel's Rapture" for the winner.




As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or post them in the comments section below.

On behalf of everyone here at Argyle Empire, I want to thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support this week.  Even though the manhunt in Boston has ended, there are families that will be healing for a long time to come. And the same is true of the tragedy in Texas.  Disaster can strike at any time, and donations to charities like the Red Cross keep these organizations prepared to respond at a moment's notice to those in need.

I'll be back tomorrow with another positive piece of news I'm anxious to share.  I'll be talking more about the encounters I've had with donors over the past few days.  There is an amazing story to be told about the entire group.

Until then, take care,
Jenn, Coco, Sere & Elli

Friday, April 19, 2013

Expanding the Scope of Our Fundraiser...




Hello Everyone,

As I type this post on Thursday evening I'm thrilled to report that after just three days of fundraising for the Red Cross, donations have surpassed $1,000.00! 

Elli, Coco, Sere and I are so glad we could organize this worthwhile endeavor and hope you'll continue to encourage family and friends to participate over the next 11 days.

We'd also like to announce that we've expanded the scope of this fundraiser to include donations which will help those affected by the disaster in West, Texas. The Red Cross is actively working this site in addition to their ongoing efforts in Boston.




If you haven't yet donated, please consider doing so. Every dollar added to the effort makes a real difference.

If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com. Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.

SR has graciously agreed to sign UK edition copies of both "Gabriel's Inferno" and "Gabriel's Rapture" for the winner.




As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or post them in the comments section below.

I received a message from a donor this evening who has a special idea for securing donation dollars for the cause.  She'll be holding a fundraiser of her own on Friday and I look forward to sharing her story and the results of her efforts with you tomorrow.

Until then, take care,
Jenn, Elli, Coco & Sere

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Red Cross Fundraiser Update




Hello Everyone,

We wanted to take another moment to thank those who have participated in our fundraiser for the Red Cross organization.  As I'm typing this post I can report that we have raised $565.00 in just two days!

If you haven't yet donated to our fundraiser, please consider doing so. Every dollar added to the effort makes a difference. 

If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com. Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.
SR has graciously agreed to sign UK edition copies of both "Gabriel's Inferno" and "Gabriel's Rapture" for the winner.



 
If you have donated, please share news of this fundraiser with others and encourage their participation. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or post them in the comments section below.

Last evening, I received a lovely, personal testimonial from Margie (moderator of the Professor Gabriel O. Emerson Fan Page) informing me about her family's experience volunteering with the Red Cross. I was so moved by her story that I asked if I could share it on the blog. She agreed and what follows are her own words. Please take a moment to read them and reflect on the service her family has made to assist those in need.

On behalf of Elli, Sere and Coco I send our heartfelt thanks.

Take Care,
Jenn

~~~~~~~~~~~~



I am the daughter of a Red Cross volunteer.  

I grew up in the Red Cross.

My father was the chairman of our local Red Cross chapter for many, many years. As kids he would take us to local disasters to help. I remember going into colonias after storms (colonias are communities, where thousands of people live without running water, sanitation, or electricity). We would help by passing out food, water and clothes to the people. Many of the families lost their homes which were shacks and had no way of withstanding the winds of the storm. These areas were hit hard after heavy rains, storms and hurricanes in my area.

I remeber thinking how lucky I was to have a home. I remember the earthquake that hit Mexico City in 1985 and my dad having to leave town to attend that disaster. I think it was then when I realized just how important the Red Cross was and how proud I was of my father. I can still see my dad in his Blue Red Cross jumper with the big Red Cross patch on the back. I was very proud of him. 

He was a Social Worker and a volunteer for many organizations. He taught us how important it is to help those less fortunate and to give back to our community. I volunteer, just like my daddy and give a lot of my time to Literacy organizations. But the Red Cross will always hold a special place in my heart. That big Red Cross symbol gives me hope, reminds me of the resilience of people, and makes me think of my father and all the wonderful people just like him who give from the bottom of their hearts and expect nothing in return.

Thank you for this.  
Margie

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Special Fundraiser/Giveaway for Boston



 
 
Hello Everyone,

 
In response to the tragedy in Boston, Argyle Empire is hosting a fundraiser to aid charities that will be helping in the recovery effort.

Given that part of the Gabriel series is set in Boston, we felt it was an appropriate and essential thing to do.

If you donate a minimum of $5.00 to either the American Red Cross, your local chapter of the Red Cross or to The One Fund Boston, simply email a copy of your receipt to me at jenn@argyleempire.com.  Then enter the giveaway posted at the top of our homepage.
 
SR has graciously agreed to sign UK edition copies of both "Gabriel's Inferno" and "Gabriel's Rapture" for the winner.
 
 

 
The fundraiser will run between now and April 30. The winner will be selected on May 1 and notified by May 3.
 
We began the fundraiser yesterday and I'm happy to announce that our first day generated over $300.00. Our sincere thanks go to our fellow moderators at all the SRFans accounts worldwide, THESUBCLUBbooks, Bookish Temptations, Kat Bastion and Darwin Blake for their assistance in promoting this endeavor. We're off to a great start and we'd love to see this effort grow by leaps and bounds over the next two weeks.

If you could help us promote this, that would be great.  
 
If you would like to donate and enter the giveaway, please feel free to do so.
 
After all, this is really about helping a worthwhile charity and finding a way to deliver some kindness to a community that is hurting.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask by email or in the comments section below.

Many thanks in advance.
 
Take Care,
Jenn, Elli, Sere & Coco

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Charity Tuesday: World Literacy Canada and Pro Literacy



            If you're reading this post, you’re very fortunate. There are too many people in the world who lack one of the fundamental skills of self-sufficiency: the ability to read.

            Today, we’re highlighting two more charities promoted by Sylvain Reynard : World Literacy Canada and Pro Literacy. Both organizations bring resources to people in the United States, Canada, and around the world to help them learn to read, giving them the chance to create a much better future for themselves, their families, and their society.




            World Literacy Canada uses literacy to fight poverty and promote social justice. The organization views literacy as a crucial tool in advancing the cause of equality, and it focuses many of its programs on women and children.  They work through community-based projects in Canada, India and Nepal. WorldLit Canada believes that the knowledge, enlightenment and confidence fostered by the ability to read help ensure democracy in the areas they serve.


            ProLiteracy is an international organization based in Syracuse, NY. It was formed in 2002, when two leading literacy groups (Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America) merged. ProLiteracy remains committed to using the power of literacy to improve the lives of adults, their families, and their communities.  The organization features a national network of literacy programs, new international initiatives, and expanded opportunities for adult learners.

             I’ve been fortunate enough to see first-hand how effective the adult reading programs can be. Years ago, I was a tutor with the literacy program in the city where I was living at the time. My student was a young man who’d barely mastered the most basic words, and yet sadly, he’d been passed along from grade to grade in school. He wanted to marry his girlfriend, and as part of their life together, he was determined to learn to read better. He was also very interested in advancing in his job.

            He worked in maintenance for a local cemetery, but he was clearly bright and ambitious enough to work up to a higher level.  One of the things I’ll always remember about him, besides his commitment and intelligence, is an experience he relayed to me when we first met. He was charged with the responsibility of bringing the deceased, in the coffin, to a gravesite. He said he had a card in his hand with the person’s name on it.  He had to look among all the headstones and match, letter for letter, the name of the person to make sure he’d brought the coffin to the right location.

            Can you imagine if your loved one was placed in the wrong grave because someone couldn’t read?

           Think of being unable to read the directions on a bottle of medicine for you or your child. Imagine a world where magazines, newspapers and the Internet were beyond your reach because you couldn’t comprehend what’s written. 

            (If that doesn’t get to you, just consider how empty your life would be if you weren’t able to read  “Gabriel’s Inferno” and “Gabriel’s Redemption.”)

            Please consider donating to these worthy causes. If you or a loved one has any experience with them, please let us know.



World Literacy Canada
Web site:  http://www.worldlit.ca/
Twitter: @WorldLit
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/worldlit


Pro Literacy
Web site:  http://www.proliteracy.org/
Twitter:  @ProLitWorld
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ProLitWorld

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Gabriel's Redemption" news!



Lots of news to report from the Empire today!

The cover for the long-awaited “Gabriel’s Redemption” will be revealed on Monday, April 22!  We’re all curious and excited to see it.  We know it’ll be beautiful, and it will be perfect for the third book of Gabriel and Julia's journey. Check the Twitter accounts for SR (@sylvainreynard) and AE (@Argyle_Empire) next Monday for current info and links.

But the BIG news today is, we have the official description for “Gabriel’s Redemption”! Talk about a major teaser!  It’s on SR’s blog  ( http://www.sylvainreynard.com/ ) so please tell him what you think!

Here it is:

"Professor Gabriel Emerson has left his position at the University of Toronto to embark on a new life with his beloved Julianne. Together, he’s confident that they can face any challenge. And he’s eager to become a father.

But Julianne’s graduate program threatens Gabriel’s plans, as the pressures of being a student become all consuming. When she is given the honor of presenting an academic lecture at Oxford, Gabriel is forced to confront her about the subject of her presentation – research that conflicts with his own. And in Oxford, several individuals from their past appear, including an old nemesis intent on humiliating Julia and exposing one of Gabriel’s darkest secrets.

In an effort to confront his remaining demons, Gabriel begins a quest to discover more about his biological parents, beginning a chain of events that has startling repercussions for himself, Julianne, and his hope of having a family."

Whoa.

(Take a moment to pick yourself up off the floor.)

Graduate school demands coming between our beloved couple?

Parenthood for Gabriel and Julia? (Is anyone else hoping to read about Gabriel changing diapers and dealing with a stubborn toddler?)

Julia gives a presentation at Gabriel’s alma mater with research that squares off against his?  How will his ego handle that?  (Is that the first question that came to your mind, too?)

And WHO is the old nemesis coming back into their lives?  There are a few possibilities…

Discuss here in the comments!  What do you think the description means for Julia and Gabriel?



(PS: “Gabriel’s Redemption" is already available for pre-order on Amazon. Go ahead and fill your cart:  http://www.amazon.com/Gabriels-Redemption-Inferno-Trilogy/dp/0425266516/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_t_1_PGW3  )





Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Charity Tuesday: Asociacion Espanola Contra El Cancer





Hello Everyone,

As we all know, spotlighting charities and worthwhile causes is important to SR.

As a group, Elli, Coco, Sere and I are also dedicated to promoting these endeavors. Therefore, we are happy to post a weekly series in order to take a more in-depth look at the various charitable organizations highlighted by SR. You can find a complete list of these charities on our blog by clicking on the "About the Charities" header.

Today's spotlight focuses on a charity based in Spain. We send sincere thanks to Ana of GIFansSpain for writing about it for us.

We hope you will find the information in these posts informative and educational. If you have a particular cause that is close to your heart or you have personal experiences with any of the charities we spotlight, please feel free to contact us about it.

Take Care,
Jenn

~~~~~~~~~

ASOCIACION ESPAÑOLA CONTRA EL CANCER (AECC)
SPANISH ASSOCIATION AGAINST CANCER

The AECC integrated within it patients, families, volunteers and professionals working together to prevent, raise awareness, accompany people, and fund cancer research projects that will better enable  diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

It was launched on March 5, 1953 for the purpose of fighting cancer in all forms known or discovered in the future.

MISSION AND VALUES:

Our mission is to fight against cancer leading the Spanish society effort to reduce the impact caused by this disease and improve the lives of people

Mission
Inform and educate: educate society in all possible measures and mechanisms to prevent disease.
To support and accompany: to be close to patients and their families, offering encouragement and support to reduce their suffering.
Promote research: promoting excellent cancer research, bridging the gap between society and the scientific community.

Sometimes helping the person with cancer is not enough. The AECC transfers the voice of society to public authorities to develop appropriate policies for prevention and control of cancer.


INFORMATION ON THE WEB SITE:

Cancer
In this section you will find information about cancer. The word cancer is a broad term that encompasses more than 200 kinds of diseases.


Children and Young Adult Cancer
Information, stories, games and activities for children and youth to help them feel better and understand what is happening. Parents and professionals also offer information and practical strategies.


Coping with illness
Undoubtedly facing a cancer diagnosis is a difficult situation, but there are many things you can do. If you are ill or have a person familiar with the disease you are interested to know the guidelines to feel better.


Treatments
The scientific and technological advances in recent years have provided new insights into the emergence, development and growth of cancer.

Living with Cancer
In this section we want to help you face your illness in a healthier way. In your everyday life, all around you, your partner, family, friends ... will be an important support.

Prevention
We now know that certain unhealthy habits pose a high risk factor and can cause cancer. We all have the ability to lead a healthy life. Seven out of ten cancers are preventable.

Palliative care
In this section you will find all you need to know about palliative care in addition to tips to help you relieve certain symptoms.

Patient Rights
Knowing your rights and obligations as a user of our public health system can help improve the care that is received.

Resources and social assistance
As a result of the disease a crisis situation is aggravated by social or economic problems. In this section you will find information about available resources.


SPANISH ASSOCIATION AGAINST CANCER IN THE WORLD:

The Spanish Cancer Association is active in numerous organizations, extending their actions in the fight against cancer diseases beyond our borders.

The activity of the Association focuses on these forums:
• Awareness campaigns and awareness about cancer.
• Political lobbying.
• Communication and information dissemination.
• Participation in studies and international projects.


The AECC is a member of several international organizations and cancer networks worldwide.

ADDRESSES:




Monday, April 8, 2013

Destination Toronto: Professor Picton's House


On April ninth, Julia walked through the melting snow to Professor Picton's house, clutching her printed thesis in one hand and a bottle of Chianti in the other.



Julia stood on the front porch of Katherine's three-story brick home and rang the doorbell.  She wiped her palms on the front of her pea coat, trying to eliminate the clamminess.

Gabriel's Rapture, Ch. 32

~~~~~~~~~

Before I get into the heart of this post, I'd like to apologize for missing last week.  In case you don't follow my ramblings on twitter, I've been ill since Easter weekend.  I wasn't even sure I'd make this week's post, but have finally begun to feel better. 

I should also mention that this particular location requires more imagination, but given the timing of Julia's visit to Professor Picton's home, I thought it was only right for us to tag along.  After all, Picton is not a woman easily ignored.

"Julianne, welcome." Katherine opened the door and ushered her student inside.

If Julia's small studio was a hobbit hole, then Professor Picton's house was the abode of a wood elf. A wood elf with a taste for fine, old furnishings.  Everything was elegant and antique; the walls were paneled in dark wood with expensive carpets blanketing the floors.  The decorating was aristocratic but spare, and everything was extremely ordered and tidy.

After taking Julia's coat, Katherine graciously accepted the Chianti and the thesis, and directed her to a small parlor off the front hall.  Julia promptly sat herself in a leather club chair in front of the hearth and accepted a small glass of sherry.




In my discussions with other readers, Katherine Picton is always held in high esteem.  She is a character we all want to know more about and want to hear more from. And I'm crossing my fingers that she'll make an appearance in Gabriel's Redemption.

Personally, when I first read this scene I was reminded of my grandmother, Marguerite, and her home. 

She was not a professor, but she had the highest of standards in all areas of her life. Her home was small, but impeccable with only the finest furnishings.  She was beautiful. Even in old age, my Grandma Marge possessed both a model's figure and height. Her fashionable wardrobe was always the talk of the town. 

But beyond this, my grandmother was the feistiest woman I have ever encountered.  She was tough and she was opinionated, and you really didn't want to tangle with her because you'd lose. She was also free-spirited, athletic and the best cook in our family. She had a great sense of humor and continued to educate herself on anything she could for as long as she could. She was well-read, well-informed and even kept up with her granddaughter on all the newest trends.  For anyone who knew her, there was no denying she was a force to be reckoned with and I have no doubt she was one of the strongest, most elegant women I will ever know.

So I cannot help but think of her when I read about Katherine Picton. I can guarantee that if she were still here, she would have been one of the first people I would have gifted with this series of books.  She would have read them with enthusiasm and we would have had some very interesting *ahem* discussions as a result.




"Julia examined the large books about English architecture and gardens gracing the low coffee table. The walls were lined with pastoral scenes interspersed with the occasional severe black and white portrait of the ancestral Pictons.  She sipped her sherry slowly, savoring the warmth as it slid down her throat to her stomach.  Before she could finish, Katherine was escorting her to the dining room.

"This is lovely." Julia smiled, in an effort to mask her nervousness.  She was intimidated by the fine bone china, crystal, and silver candlesticks that Katherine had set atop a white damask tablecloth that looked as if it had been ironed.

(Not even the linens would dare to wrinkle without  Professor Picton's permission.)



I expect to be back next week, and pack your suitcases because we'll be leaving Toronto for a quick visit to the U.S.



Until then, take care,
Jenn


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Charity Tuesday: To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA)




This is the second in a series of posts to spotlight charities that are promoted by Sylvain Reynard.

We hope you find these posts informative and helpful. If you have a charity you’d like to bring to our attention, or if you have any personal experience with the ones we feature, please let us know!


Mission Statement: To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.








In a world where depression is a serious issue, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a unique and compassionate resource. It offers help, inspiration and encouragement to anyone who is struggling with mental health problems, either personally or through a loved one.
The World Health Organization cites depression as one of the leading causes of disability.  WHO also estimates that 350 million people around the world suffer from some form of it. The pain of depression often manifests itself in a number of unhealthy habits, such as drug or alcohol dependency, self injury, and attempts at suicide.  The TWLOHA Web site has information on the symptoms of depression and features links that offer background and advice.
TWLOHA recognizes the importance of treatment and suggests reputable options for counseling. The non-profit also believes community and connection are equally as important as treatment in any recovery. The organization presents a vision of understanding, comfort and optimism that is sure to connect with anyone touched by the despair of depression.
“We know pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real and help is real.” (From the TWLOHA Web site)
 Here are links if you're interested in finding out more about TWLOHA:
Web site:  http://twloha.com/

 

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