Book Review: Waking Hearts by Elizabeth Hunter

Getting an advanced copy of a book by Elizabeth Hunter is like getting a really good early Christmas present. Waking Hearts was just that kind of gift. The Cambio Springs series works so well because the paranormal elements are grounded in plenty of real life. Important real life stuff like heartache, incredible loyalty, family, friendship and cooperation in a small town where everyone looks out for one another. Oh, and of course the best part…love.

One of the things I loved best about Waking Hearts is that it’s centered on a single mom of four, count ‘em, four kids! She’s harried, she’s stressed, she’s a hot mess, and yet she is a rock. Life turned upside down, and in the middle of a controversial mystery with bad guys hunting her and her children she never loses sight of what’s important. Even when she finds out about her long-term friend’s true feelings for her. Feelings he’s carried since they were kids but never had the guts to reveal.

Until now.

Ollie knows that Allie is the only one for him. He knows this is his shot. He would do anything for Allie, including not hesitating in taking her entire family into his home to protect them. We have a real, genuine hero here. The kind of man that backs up what he says. The kind of guy that isn’t taking Allie’s four kids as her baggage but genuinely loves them and cares for them and her. How much bigger can a hero get?

The next thing that’s great about this book is the way that Allie’s friends and community rally around her. Truly, everyone in Cambio Springs is family and they take care of their own, whether they turn into snakes, bears, wolves, big cats, other people or nothing at all, doesn’t matter. This community is tight in all the right ways.

Wondering about the romance? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Think you can’t find time for romance when four kids are part of the package? Think again. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Not only do Allie and Ollie find time to be alone together, but when they do, the sparks are even hotter.

You might want to get ready to read this one in one sitting because you probably won’t want to put it down until it’s done. Elizabeth Hunter weaves the kind of compelling story that may actually leave you somewhat breathless at times and with a warm sensation somewhere in the vicinity of your heart.

Go to Elizabeth Hunter’s website for more information on Waking Hearts, the rest of the Cambio Springs series and Elizabeth Hunters other books. You can preorder Waking Hearts right now and it’s out tomorrow, November 24th.

Book Review: The Scarlet Deep

The Scarlet Deep

On the waves of the North Atlantic, a poison spreads, sapping the life from humans and striking madness into immortals.

Patrick Murphy, the immortal leader of Dublin, has been trying to stem the tide of Elixir washing into his territory, but nothing seems to stop the vampire drug. While others in the immortal world work to cure the creeping insanity that Elixir threatens, Murphy has been invited to London to join a summit of leaders hoping to discover who is shipping the drug. If Murphy and his allies can cut off the supply, they might be able to halt the spread long enough for a treatment to be found for the humans and vampires infected.

Anne O’Dea, Murphy’s former lover, retreated from public life over one hundred years ago to help immortals in need… and to heal her own broken heart. Though powerful connections keep her insulated from the violence of vampire politics, even Anne is starting to feel the effects of Elixir on her isolated world. The human blood supply has been tainted, and with Anne’s unique needs, even those closest to her might be in danger. Not just from infection, but Anne’s escalating bloodlust.

When Anne and Murphy are both called to London, they’re forced to confront a connection as immortal as they are. As they search for a traitor among allies, they must also come to terms with their past. Behind the safe facade of politics, old hungers still burn, even as an ancient power threatens the fate of the Elemental World.

From paranormal romance/romance writer Elizabeth Hunter, author of the Elemental Mysteries, Irin Chronicles, and Cambio Springs series comes the latest installment in the Elemental World series. I’m so thrilled to have been selected to receive an unconditional Advanced Reader Copy of The Scarlet Deep.

Elizabeth Hunter’s Elemental World is dark, dreamy, action packed and pretty damned steamy. Romance vampire style is serious business, even after 100 years of separation, but I get ahead of myself.

First, I will say that although the book is entertaining by itself, you will get much deeper satisfaction out of it if you read the Elemental Mysteries and the first two books in the Elemental World series. Go ahead. I will still be here. And if you’re a paranormal romance fan, you won’t be sorry. If you’ve been waiting for The Scarlet Deep, you have not been waiting in vain.

Okay, now that you’re prepared. Guess what? Chaos, doom, mystery, political intrigue, broken-furniture-love-making, sass, and maybe even a few tears are in store. That’s vampires for you. Never a dull moment…except when they’re sleeping…then they’re like….dead.

Elizabeth Hunter’s writing has a way of worming it’s way into your brain and pulling you into the story. Her books are the kind that you set down (if you can set it down before devouring the whole thing in one sitting) and feel like you’ve suddenly surfaced from another dimension, another world. It takes a minute to focus on reality, shake off the vivid elemental world, and remember when you last ate. This book is no different and when you finish, you’re already trying to figure out how to get your hands on the next book.

Like Elixir, these books are addictive and The Scarlet Deep is no exception. Vibrant writing, compelling characters, and an imaginative and yet coherent story give The Scarlet Deep and Hunter’s other books an otherworldly believeability that will hold on to you and not let go.

It’s a good thing books don’t have calories because after being introduced to the sassy Anne O’Dea and the magnetic scoundrel, Patrick Murphy sparks are going to fly and you’re probably going to be doing some binge-reading.

Look for The Scarlet Deep on retail book sites like amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Pre-ordering is open and the book is set to release July 7, 2015.

Feel free to let me know what you thought of The Scarlet Deep by commenting below, even if you don’t agree with my opinion.

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

I know, this one’s been around for a while and I’m a little late.

All the light we cannot See garnered a Pulitzer Prize for New York Times Bestselling author Anthony Doerr. It’s not his first award, but it may be the most recognizable. My feelings about this book are <dramatic pause> complicated.

On the one hand I can appreciate it for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that it is. On the other hand I found it a little tedious. So let’s get a few preliminary things out of the way. First, I avoided reading any reviews or opinions about this novel before I read it. I didn’t want any preconceived notions going in. Second, historical novels, especially those set in the middle of a war are not really my cup of tea. Third, I’m not a very patient person when it comes to getting to the point. That being said, I still appreciate it for what it is, a beautiful work of art in the form of words.

The story is about a blind French girl fleeing the war and a German boy drafted into the ranks of the German Nazi army. The convergence of their paths in occupied France is heartbreakingly beautiful as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Despite her blindness, 14-year-old Marie Laure lives in a world with rich and vibrant colors provided by her other senses and her glorious imagination. Her father nurtures her curiosity and builds up her independence every chance he gets. He tries to save her from the ravages of WWII by taking her to her great uncle’s house in the seaside city of Saint-Malo. Her father tries to protect her and help her understand her new surroundings. In the process, he is taken prisoner by the Germans. Losing the people who support her one by one, Marie does her best to survive the hardships of war as it inexorably marches toward her.  Then there’s her father’s secret that she must keep safe, but should she?

Werner is an orphan recruited into a brutal branch of the Hitler youth army and torn from his only family, his sister. His childhood obsession with radios and other gadgets attracts the attention of a German engineer at the Nazi youth school. Soon he is out in the field tracking down forbidden radio signals all over Russia and Europe, which leads him to Saint-Malo where his world collides with Marie’s in the middle of the occupation of the city by German forces followed by its liberation by allied forces. Yet Werner’s punishing training never destroys the tenderness in his heart, perhaps causing him some extra pain.

I said that historical war stories are really not my thing whether fictional or not. However, I would still maintain that this one is heartbreakingly beautiful. Although the story jumps between characters and flashbacks at break-neck speed, I was usually able to follow fairly easily. The couple of times I was lost for a moment I kind of felt like it added to the tumultuous times I was reading about and caused me to sympathize. Especially with Marie.

Some have spoken about this book being full of “purple prose”, that is to say, ornate and extravagantly overly descriptive writing. In general, that may be true and a no, no for writers. BUT in this case, I think it works. All the Light We Cannot See couples beautifully flowing, vibrant, and colorful writing against the stark, chilling, and gruesome background of WWII in a way that is compelling and full of emotion. If no one ever broke the rules, we’d never know what freedom can feel like. The statement applies to life as much as it does to writing. The trick is, knowing when and how to do it.

I thought I’d be glad when this book was over. Yet in the end, it was one of those stories that left a kind of aching emptiness in its wake.

5/5 Stars
5/5 Stars for beauty and character

Easy Over Easy Eggs

Tired of trying to flip over-easy eggs in the pan with a spatula or tossing them in the air hoping that they all end up in the pan and the yolks don’t break? Simple as 1, 2, 3. The secret is medium heat and a pancake turner.

Today I’d like to talk about eggs. My favorite type of eggs, actually. Over easy.

Over easy eggs have two crucial characteristics. 1. The egg whites are tender but done. 2. The yolks are runny so that they can make a yummy sauce for toast, hash browns, grits, whatever you like. However, making great over easy eggs can be a challenge so if I’m feeling particularly challenged, as I am on most mornings, I can use this handy hack.

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  1. Don’t skimp on the cooking fat (EVOO, coconut oil, butter, whatever) and use a small frying pan over medium heat. Mmmmmmm… melty butter.

Pancake turner

  1. When the egg white is mostly solidified, slide the eggs out of pan onto a large pancake turner. Note: I don’t have a fancy schmancy tripod, so no pictures of action scenes. They’re pretty self explanatory anyway.

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  1. Hold pan inverted over pancake turner and gently, but quickly turn eggs back into the pan (do this over a plate or paper towel to catch any drippings from pan). Cook for just a minute or two to finish the whites.

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No more trying to scoop them up in a spatula and no broken yolks from tossing (although the tossing may impress last night’s date when done right). Voila! You’re welcome. 🙂

What’s your favorite food hack. Let me know in the comments below.

2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference: What a Blast!

Two days after conference I am finally getting my bearings again. I go to a writers conference to learn and to connect like most everyone else. Like most everyone else I work my ass off doing it. 14 hours of workshops, 7 hours of connecting and schmoozing whilst having a meal and several more cocktail hours of connecting and schmoozing. All this over the course of a three-day weekend (there is a fourth, optional day on Thursday that I didn’t participate in). By Sunday morning I am usually hiding behind copious amounts of coffee, overstimulated, exhausted, and walking around in a bit of a fog.  At the same time I am content and happy to be among my people all weekend and thrilled with the learning experience. I noticed several others in the same condition. I tell people it’s like going to Hogwarts. Well, I think there is a clear correlation anyway.

Conference Experience

The Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) is known as the friendliest conference in the country and ranks as one of the top ten writers conferences in the U.S. This year the conference earned attendees from as far away as Ireland. So is it true? Is PPWC the friendliest writers conference in the nation? You betcha! This was my second year at conference. I was so overwhelmed my first year I kept to my workshops and didn’t talk with much of anybody. That was not for lack of trying on the staff’s part. PPWC staff made me feel so welcome and comfortable that first year that when I returned this year I made nearly two dozen connections including authors, publishers, and editors in several different genres. I practically felt like an old pro at this conference stuff.

Registration is a breeze, swag bags are awesome (this year included a free book!), and if you even think that you might be feeling lost or overwhelmed there is always someone nearby to help you out. In fact, they may know you need help before you do. Most likely they have been there and done that.

How friendly are these people. Well, I walked up to a keynote speaker’s table and asked if a seat was taken. Staff members piped up trying to gently tell me the table was reserved when I saw the sign. I played it off with some clever comment (at least I hoped it was clever) and ended up being complimented on my “radio voice” (I was a little hoarse that day). No snooty upturned noses, no rude comments or questioning of my cranial fortitude. No, instead I was complimented.

 Speakers

Holy cow, the speakers! Move over Tony Robbins. Get out of the way Zig Zigler. Find a new gig Mike Dooley. Meet the 2015 PPWC speakers, Mary Kay Andrews, Andrew Gross, R.L. Stine (I call him Bob), and Seanan McGuire! All wonderful authors, highly inspiring, with impressive histories, and individual flair and styles all their own. If you’re not motivated about your writing by the time these people are done with you, you need to find something else to do with yourself. You should have heard some of Bob’s fan letters, hysterical!

 Workshops

There are up to six workshops going on at any given time between breakfast and dinner. Open and closed critique groups and speaker panels round out this portion of the conference. Authors, editors, agents, and specialists present workshops on everything from craft to the business of writing. Tough stuff like plotting, keeping the pages turning, query letters, what agents are really looking for, platform building, how the process of writing a book and getting published works and many more. My best advice, fork over the cash for a recording so you can get all the fabulous workshops you’re going to miss while attending to your priorities or stuff that’s not recorded. So many talented people including Barbara (Samuel) O’Neal, Josh Vogt, Robert Spiller, Angie Hodapp, Cara Lopez Lee, Kevin IkenberryLaura DiSilverio, Liz Pelletier, and many more! Once again, if you’re not on fire about your writing after these people are done with you, you need to find something else to do. Maybe even check to see if you still have a pulse. Just sayin’. No, there is not Kool Aid.

 The Zebulon

The Zebulon is a comprehensive writing contest that includes a rounded list of genres and mimics the process of submitting a story for publication…only much faster. You can purchase a critique of your story and you will receive a scorecard so you can identify your strong points and work on the areas you’re not so strong in, including your query letter. So worth the small investment.

 Start Saving Up Now

So much more is available including query 1-on-1 and professional headshots as well as a book store. Then there’s the friends, comradery, and priceless moments to be had at every turn. This year there was even a ghost hunt. I save up all year just to go to this conference. I suggest you do the same and I’ll see you next year! There is a payment plan, so there’s not much of an excuse. I met writers of all kinds from erotica to nonfiction and everything between.

If you’re a writer and wondering if a conference is something you should do, let me save you the trouble. As the Nike ad says “Just Do It”. It could be one of the best decisions you could make about your writing career. Until Next year, adieu, magical PPWC. Back to the muggle world for now.

As always, feel free to drop comments or questions below and discuss. Love to see what you think.

Bigot on Facebook Says We Are All Stupid Sheep

Not long ago I had a bit of a spat with a friend on facebook about manifestation. I know, I know “A spat? On facebook? No!” Specifically, the practice of manifestation. I say specifically, because that will become significant in a few moments. First, a little background info.

I was joyfully procrastinating through my news feed when I came across his post. To protect the innocent (who are welcome to comment below), let’s call my facebook friend Apollinaris Paul. Hey, I didn’t choose it, this random name generator did. Now I’ve pretty much thought of Apollinaris as a reasonable and intelligent kind of guy. I’ve been friends with him on facebook for years. My friends on on facebook include a very eclectic group of people from all walks of life and many different belief systems. The reason for that is, I don’t judge. I absolutely love the mixed up mix of people in my friends list. There are times when I don’t agree with what someone has posted and sometimes I feel like I have to put in my two cents and sometimes I just don’t think it’s worth it. Apollinaris made a post attacking people who practice manifestation, (especially for their own gain) as selfish at best and resorted to name calling and insinuation of complete, moronic, stupidity right out of the gate.

Obviously Apollinaris has a bug up his butt about something. Maybe he lost a friend or family member to manifestation. Maybe he attended a seminar of some kind and came away less than enthused. Maybe he was just having a bad morning. I don’t know, but I was moved to say something. I commented that there was nothing wrong with focusing on bettering myself or my circumstances. After all, how could I make the world better if I couldn’t make myself better? He said I had the wrong context and the wrong conclusion.

Wait a minute? Who died and made you the stupidity labeler? It was then that I decided to bow out and that my response required way more than a facebook post. I posted that I agreed to disagree and that was that. How about we break down some definitions here.

According to Dictionary.com, prosperity is a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects, good fortune. Manifestation is an outward or perceptible indication, materialization, or spiritualism. I think the latter definition of spiritualism is more applicable in this case and I still stand by my statement that it is not wrong for me to focus on my own betterment, including my financial situation.

In fact, according to the bible, God encourages manifestation through spiritualism. It’s called faithful prayer and it is generally not considered a con or woo-woo horse crap. In fact, God makes a habit of promising prosperity in exchange for believing in him, having faith, praying to him, and following his word. I can’t make this stuff up. It’s already written down. There are dozens of verses in the bible that mention going to God in prayer for whatever, anything, including prosperity. I think this one sums them all up: Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24. This is the definition of the practice of manifestation, as is praying to God about your problems and laying them at his feet, then trusting that he will help with them. Most spiritual practices use something similar. Ask for it. Believe it. It will be yours.

Apollinaris also used the not quite seaworthy statement that there was no way that the starving little girl in a 3rd world country could manifest her way out of it by humming about it. Whatever that means. But would the visiting Christian missionaries tell her to pray about it and quote a verse like the one above? You betcha. He also charged the manifesters with manifesting food for the world’s hungry and manifesting world peace. Who says we aren’t already working on that???

Later in the discussion, long after I had stopped commenting and someone else who was not quite as nice as me had begun defending the practice of manifestation. Apollinaris admitted the mistake that had caused the whole argument. He conceded that he had made a sweeping generalization about those who use manifestation, mentioning me specifically as someone in the tiny minority with actual good intentions. He later deleted this comment along with the comments of the other manifestation defender, leaving only the comments of the one person who agreed with him and my initial comments which he ridiculed and tried to make me look the fool for. He continued the conversation with his comrade, bashing people who had the audacity to desire prosperity. I shake my head in disgust. At least have the courage to let the conversation stand as it really happened. But hey, it’s your wall, you get to do what you want. This is my blog. I get to manifest whatever I want on it.

The problem with sweeping generalizations is that they tend to skim over the very people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world. Sweeping generalizations at best, become arguments and at worst start wars (the Christians are infidels and must be cleansed, the Jews are inferior in every way and must be cleansed, the Muslims are bloodthirsty warmongers and must be cleansed, people who practice manifestation are stupid sheep, people who follow a God that has no name are stupid sheep, people who don’t believe in God must be saved or die, all Native Americans are lazy alcoholics, White people think they’re entitled everything and are better than everyone else, all black people are criminals, the rich are inherently evil). You get the picture, right? Sweeping generalizations are obviously quite dangerous. Apollinaris defends this as the generalization of the masses being observable. What? Rather than the few or the one? So…

Jesus wasn’t observable? Died for our sins. Prayed to God to forgive us.

Ghandi wasn’t observable? Starved while praying for peace.

Buddah wasn’t observable? Left the palace to pray for enlightenment.

Martin Luther King wan’t observable? Changed the face of human rights.

Really?

I thought Apollinaris would be respectable and had the ability to have a civil conversation, or debate. Instead, he came off as a condescending, rude, bigot. And now, after discovering he deleted portions of the conversation, I must add, coward.

Look, I’m not trying to bash a religion, a belief system, a way of thinking or even poor Apollinaris. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. I’m not saying that we don’t need to think of all the starving people in the world (by the way, let’s think about the starving families, and forgotten veterans in our own country before we start sticking our noses in other people’s business and save the word, shall we?).  I’m saying that maybe before you post a sweeping generalization on public media that calls into question the foundations of people’s very belief systems, you might want to think it through just a little bit more and be prepared to have an honest, open, and civil discussion about it.

For the record, my manifestation practice includes, but is not limited to: praying for world peace, the starving, the homeless, the forgotten, the forgetters, my daughter, my grandkids, my son, my husband, my mom, my granny, my family, my neighbors, my city, my state, my country, my planet, the dogs, the cats, animals everywhere, the good people, the bad people, Apollinaris Paul, and yes, myself.  I practice random acts of kindness, I save empty medicine bottles because there are places in the world where they have to put people’s medicine in folded scraps of cloth or paper and I have to take a lot of meds because my body doesn’t work right, I donate to local humane society, I recycle, I help out where I can. How about you? Sometimes I’m petty, sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m jealous, sometimes I’m lazy sometimes I’m mean. I’m not perfect, but I strive to be the best I can be in my own way. How about you?

Apollonaris had his say on facebook. Now I’ve had mine. Feel free to comment and/or discuss below to put in your two cents.