Friday, October 17, 2014

5 Practices for a Happier, Healthier Life

As many of you know, I turned 40 this year; and as such, it's become my year to quiet myself, listen to the source, be present more, and find my authenticity. I can't summarize every little "ah-ha" moment in one post, but back in August, I realized that for me to truly be happy and at my healthiest as a human, I need to practice five things every single day.

I'm not saying you have to do this. I'm saying, this is what I have found works for me. Every one's journey is their own, and if you don't practice these five things daily, you're not "doing life wrong" and you're not doomed to eternal unhappiness and poor health. Whether it's these five things, or something else, I encourage you to find your own list of what you can do daily to become a healthier and happier person. Because that's when we can all live our best lives (following our dreams) and fulfilling our purpose (serving others).
 
Ironically, I've been putting this blog post off for nearly two months. I jotted this list down in August, in a moment of quiet brilliance, and then let it sit...and sit...and sit...and then I got "busy" and let my roles and tasks take over, instead of listening to my soul.
 
And then...
 
Today I stumbled across a beautiful and timely post from Momastery creator and author Glennon Doyle Melton...and it was exactly the internal shift I needed in my life at exactly the right time. And there are no coincidences.
 
Glennon recently did a series of video interviews for Oprah Winfrey's OWN, and they were about "5 Habits Every Strong Woman Keeps." There are so many points I took away from this series that will live in my heart forever. She is extremely articulate at expressing the views that live within my soul, and I am thankful to her for putting words to my wings. I wish every human would watch these videos, not just women. Because to me, these "truths" are about nurturing and protecting your soul, your core, your authentic self, so that you can soar in this lifetime.
 
Like me, she is not telling you that you are not enough, or that you need to change. Rather, the secret truth is that you ARE enough. And she shares the five habits she has learned, to help others realize that as well. Because at the end of the day, she's just an average girl trying to change the world. She showed up. And she reminded me that I needed to show up, too.
 
So what five practices help keep me sane each day, and have moved me from "existing" to "living"? They're simple. But they are also some of the hardest things to do when you are hiding, existing, numbing. Sometimes finding the energy to just take one step in the right direction can feel like the hardest thing in the universe.
 
Do it anyway. 

My 5 Daily Practices

1) Move. We all know that exercise releases "feel good" chemicals in our brains. And I don't know about you, but every time I work out, I feel like I am ready to take on the world. And I always think to myself, "Damn! Why don't I do this every single day?" And then life gets in the way. I become "too busy." But I spend more time and energy feeling guilty about not moving, and coming up with excuses why I can't that day, than it would actually take to just move already!

I like Glennon's motto: "Show up before you're ready."
 
We all have hiding places where we retreat until we are "good enough" to "show up" in life. I recently experienced this with a fitness boot camp I have wanted to try for the longest time. But I kept feeling insecure, that I wouldn't be strong enough. I needed to get skinnier and stronger first before going to boot camp, so I didn't make a fool of myself in front of skinnier and stronger girls. So I get it. But I showed up before I was ready. And what did I find? A network of other supportive women and moms, many who were experiencing the same emotions as I was, whether they were skinny or not!
 
But moving doesn't have to mean grueling workouts that you hate. Find something your body and soul loves to do. Even if you feel like you will look like a fool. Show up. Find it. Move.

Here are a few fun ways to move*: Climb a tree, ride a bike, jump on a trampoline, have a dance party by yourself or with your kids, do some yoga, go to the park, take a walk, find a friend and play tennis (even if it's badly!), shoot some hoops, do a Wii workout, roller blade, or do some simple exercises while just "living." Seriously, I often do squats while loading the dishwasher, do side leg lifts while standing at the stove, do push ups with the kids, lift heavy toys up and down before putting them away. Are these silly? Sure. But they are the spark. The more you find ways to move and create positive forward energy (momentum) every single day, the more you will want to move, the more "feel good" chemicals are released, and it becomes a happy little cycle.
 
*Don't do anything dangerous. If you do, it's on your own accord. I'm not a doctor. Please check with yours if you have concerns about moving more each day.

2) Love. First let me start by saying: You don't have to be in a romantic relationship to show love every day. We can all find ways to be kind and loving to ourselves, a pet, a family member, a friend, a child, your waiter. The point is to find ways to be loving toward someone else. We get so busy in our lives that sometimes we simply exist side by side, forgetting how important it is for our souls to truly connect and see another person. Even the smallest words of kindness, or a simple act of love and friendship can turn someone's day around, and their whole outlook. You never know how one small act of love will ripple across the water and create a wave of positivity in someone else's life.

One of my favorite quotes of all times says: "It doesn't take a Herculean effort to be a miracle in someone else's life." 

 
Sometimes, just one little word or act of love will do. The best part? You can't give love without feeling love.    
 
3) Connect. What do I mean by connect? I mean connect spiritually. Each day, it's important for me to find some way to feel connected to a higher source. For some that's church. For others it might be the feelings of connectedness and stillness that arise in meditation or yoga. For others it's praying or journaling or singing. I do a handful of things to connect daily, including talking directly to God. Whatever fuels your soul and humbles you in the presence of something bigger, greater, seek it. Seek those moments. That's where the magic happens. Where you feel a deep sense of purpose and reckoning.  
 
One of the things Glennon does is she "spends time in the quiet." That's a place where she can disconnect from the craziness of life around her, and connect internally, soulfully, peacefully.
 
For me, I feel happiest when I've spent even a few moments each day to stop the noise, shut off the inner chatter in my neurotic head, and listen. Listen to my intuition, to my heart, to the voice that guides me...allow myself to reach out to God, to the infinite, to something bigger than myself. This connectedness does such a wonder for my soul and the peace in which I move through life. It makes me feel healthier inside. Happier in the way I treat myself and others. Calmer. More grounded.
 
There is a phrase that speaks to me in regards to this practice, and I'm sure you've all heard it before. It's this: "Let go. Let God."
 
In these quiet moments, I let go of my day. I let go of my stresses for just a few moments. I lay them down and am free. Empty. Open. I breathe. I connect. I listen. And in these moments, when I have truly connected to something higher than myself, and listened with an open heart, that's when I feel the closest to reaching the vast answers of the mysterious infinite, to understanding the meaning of life and my place in it.
 
Being free of judgment and self, and full of something greater.

4) Be Present. In the hustle and bustle of every day life, it's damn hard to be present all the time. And, in fact, I don't think you can be. We would never get anything done if we didn't mentally disconnect and zip through some of our day-to-day tasks. But the more I slow myself down, and the more present I can be in each moment, the happier and more fulfilled I feel at the end of the day. And the better choices I make for myself throughout it.
 
Another quote I love is from philosopher and poet Laozi, or Lao Tzu. You may better know him as the founder of Taoism. He said: "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
 
Whether you agree or not, what I take from this philosophy is this: To be truly at peace, I have to be live more fully in the moment. Not feeling regrets about yesterday, not thinking about the zillion things I have to do tomorrow. But truly living in the moment, experiencing it and appreciating it as it happens. Slowing down. Breathing. Listening to and hearing those around me (really focusing on them and not multi-tasking on my cell phone). When I can let go and appreciate the exact moment I'm in, and just enjoy it, I am infinitely happier overall.
 
5GratitudeAh, last but perhaps the most important. Gratitude. We hear the term gratitude thrown around so much these days we almost become numb to it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm grateful for everything I have. I know how lucky I am, blah, blah, blah. Pass the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte already.

This goes deeper. Sure, it is important to express our gratitude each and every day. Because energy gathers where intentions scatter.
 
So when your intentions are thrown out there to the universe as positive, and coming from a place of abundance and gratitude, guess what? More surrounds you. When you can appreciate things on a soul level, you are more content. Even with the little things.

If it helps, at the end of each day, jot down things you're grateful for. Or, say them out loud. No, really. When you see something you're grateful for, say it out loud. "Hey, thank you for this book. I am so grateful to get a chance to read today. For having eyesight, and access to books whenever I want a new one. For getting five minutes to myself to read. Thank you, Universe!" Even if your gratitude seems petty and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it's not. This gratitude becomes embedded in every cell of your body. And gratitude builds upon itself and multiplies.
 
But I like to do something even more than that, and it's this: Every morning, I wake up and put on my gratitude goggles. Yep. The first thing I do is put those puppies on. Why? Because when I consciously try to live from a place of gratitude, instead of negativity, the world opens up for me. When I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, and everything is going wrong, I have  a choice. I can either choose to stay there, down in the dumps, or I can choose to look toward the light.
 
Just for one day, try looking at things from a place of abundance and gratitude, and don't dwell on what's imperfect or lacking. Whether it's in reference to our bodies, our homes, our spouses, our kids, or our jobs, when we are truly able to find something positive and recognize it, love it, honor it, nurture it, proclaim it, own it...that's empowering. That's life changing.
 
And it's actually harder than it sounds. But the next time you look around at your messy house, try not to see just a messy house. Use your gratitude goggles and see the love that surrounds you. Rejoice in the fact that you have a home, and furnishings, and stuff to make it messy with. See that the pile of blocks on the floor isn't a nuisance, and your kids aren't lazy. It means that your children had a good day. Be thankful for that.
 
Another aspect of gratitude and abundance is the power of paying it forward and empowering others to succeed. When you realize that there is more than enough to go around, it's easier to get outside of your head (and insecure thoughts) and truly encourage, champion, and empower others to succeed. One of my favorite quotes from Glennon's time on OWN was about just this (please forgive me, Glennon, for changing "women" to "people" to make it more universal for the sake of this post). 
 
"We are all insecure. But insecure [people] mask their insecurities by tearing others down. Strong [people] raise each other up."  
 
It's like the author Colleen Hoover says, there's no need to compete against each other. When a reader is done with one book, they're going to want to read another.
 
I am not perfect by any means, nor do I ever want to be, because then my journey will be done. But when I am at my happiest, and feel the most at peace, I find it's when I am making time for myself and for these five little practices each day. If you're interested in implementing them, but can't find the time, try focusing on one a week for five weeks. See which ones make you feel better mentally, physically, spiritually. Use what works for you, toss the rest, or better yet, create your own. Because after all, it's not about being perfect and having to do everything just so. That won't lead to happiness. Happiness comes first and most when you truly understand and believe that you are enough.  
 
And you are.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Flash Fiction: Shades of Blue

Shades of Blue

The following short story was first published about a year and a half ago on the Writing Upside Down Web site, which has since been revamped and previous author blog posts removed.
 
The story was the result of a flash fiction writing challenge asking writers to create a short story based entirely around one of several one-line sentences. The one I chose was: "I miss the warmth of her body the most."
 
The concept ate at me until I could no longer stand it, and my vision for the story was clear from the beginning. I could picture the scene unfolding faster than I could write. It was a special piece to me, which is why I wanted to share it again here - so the story lives on. I hope you enjoy it, too.


"Shades of Blue"
flash fiction by CM Albert
 It's Tuesday. With nothing left to do, I go upstairs to straighten her room. The crisp, antique-white sheers hang like a fine, ghostly mist down the soft-blue walls she'd fought for. Blue ashes. What kind of color is that? I straighten an Ugly doll that sits crooked on her bed; Ugly  Charlie's bright-pink felt form, with one X and a button for his eyes, looks strangely out of place in her sanctuary. In my sanctuary.
            Her tiny, sparkly shoes litter the closet floor, but I can't bring myself to straighten them. She'd left them lined up toe-to-toe for a reason. I may never know why, so I leave them be.
            "Honey, are you upstairs?" I hear Garrett calling from the main floor. My body tenses, unable to respond. Not with love. Not with an answer. It's all I can do not to shove my fist inside my mouth and scream.
            I want to shout back, "Yes, I am. You know I am. Now fuck off and let me have this time to myself!"
            But I don't. I fall to my knees, head on the floor, in something that resembles a child's pose. At least, that's what my yoga teacher calls it. Others call it Ardha-Kurmasana, the half tortoise. Do you see why mine calls it child's pose? It's simple. Or, as Kendra likes to say, "Easy-peasy, mac-and-cheesy."
            Liked, I catch myself.
            I hear his socked feet padding down the hallway toward Kendra's room. He dares not enter, but he likes to stand at the door and chide me.
            A light tap against her white, wooden door. Do not enter, I want to say. No one's here anymore, remember? I'm cold as ice. Hardened.
            "Molly? You in here again?"
            I sigh. Why won't he just leave me to my grief? Why can't I just pretend she'll come running through the kitchen door, fresh off the school bus, with her wild pig-tails messily framing those plump, reddened cheeks?
            I sob, like I always do. The last time I'd held her we'd been at the kitchen counter. I straightened the knee-high socks required for her Blue Daisies soccer uniform. I ruffled her hair and pulled her in close. Kissed the top of her head, and held her just a moment too long. I'd have held her even longer had I known. I'd never have let her into the car with you, Garrett.
            Instead of leaving me alone, this time, you peer around the corner, quietly taking in her room. You sit on the floor next to me, pulling my limp body against your chest, forcing me to meet the cerulean abyss of your gaze. I hadn't realized how hollow your face had become.
            You speak, so softly at first that I almost miss what you say. I lean in to the musky scent of your skin.
            Then I hear it again, between your sobs, "I miss the warmth of her body the most."
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Dark Prophet Blitz ~ Free Book, Exclusive Excerpt, & Rafflecopter Giveaway!

THE DARK PROPHET

Vampires and angels and demons, oh my!
 
The Dark Prophet, the bestselling second novel of the Chronicles of Koa series, by International bestselling author, K.N. Lee, is FREE for a limited time on Amazon.
 
{You can download this dark fantasy novel for free here, and make sure to tell a friend!} 

DARK PROPHET
Book Two of The Chronicles of Koa series. 

Not all vampires are created equal...Koa is a half-blood vampire with not only the ability to fly, but survive in the sun's light. She will do anything to protect her mother and break her curse. The demon, Bund, wants more than her mother's life. He wants something from Koa, a power that she doesn't even know she has, and will rip through as many humans as he can to get her to surrender.
 
Agent Koa Ryeo-won, and her boss, Halston, formed a crew of supernatural agents to stop Bund. But is a prophet, a temptress, a War-Breeder, a half-blood with an enchanted sword, and a few angels enough to stop what Bund has planned
 
In the midst of a war between the humans of the mortal world, and the creatures of the Netherworld, Koa discovers the truth of her past. She finds herself torn between two men, and in the center of everything. Faced with all of her returned memories, Koa also finds herself more powerful than ever.
 
Being a half-blood is hard enough, but what exactly is Koa's other half? The Truth can save...or destroy everything.
 
Will the Netherworld Division stand behind Koa once they learn her secret?
 
***Bonus Material*** 
Chapter 1 of K.N. Lee's young adult fantasy, Academia of the Beast, is included at the end of The Dark Prophet.

 
 
AMAZON-VERIFIED EDITORIAL REVIEW Author Michael Holman, author of Resolve and Retribution, gives Dark Prophet 5 out of 5 stars!
 
The best sequel novel I've ever read - period.
 
When I finished reading K.N. Lee's The Chronicles of Koa: Netherworld, I remember the anticipation which began to build from that moment for the story I knew was coming. Well, Dark Prophet...certainly did not disappoint.
 
Koa and Halston are back, better than ever. It sets a precedent for me to finish reading fictional works the very same day I start them, but that's EXACTLY what happened this afternoon. An original, detailed plot -- unique characters a reader finds themselves investing in readily -- true hang-on-for-dear-life action...this book has it ALL. Lee writes in such a way she engages her audience from the opening sentence. I'm thrilled to say I've seen it happen twice now.   
 
At this point, allow me to make something crystal clear: I'm not the type of reader who simply decides to review written material with the coveted 5-star rating just because others have before me. That's just not "how I roll." But...I'd already seen Lee's talent with her first Koa publication; Dark Prophet validates my anticipation.

Five stars? By all rights, there SHOULD be a 5-star PLUS designation specifically for K.N. Lee.

There's already a legion of fans out there who share my opinion. Join us and get this book, folks. It's that simple.

GET MORE OF K.N. LEE
Amazon | Web site | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Write Like a Wizard Blog


EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT: Dark Prophet

Raven closed her eyes and sighed.

Eunju.

She missed hearing her real name. To be free from her curse to live as a cat. To have her beloved daughter back. Those were the things she now fought for.

The carnage before her was sickening, but she had to remember why she was there and what they were up against. Still, days of tracking Bund’s crimes were beginning to wear on Raven. She only hoped that soon Koa and Halston would return from the Netherworld with the one vamp that could reverse her curse.

“This is awful,” Alice said to Raven as she knelt over the little girl’s body. “For someone so young to suffer this way.”

Alice covered the girl’s mangled face up and stood. She had to be careful not to step in the puddle of blood. She shook her head. “It’s fairly fresh. I’d say this was probably his first kill of the morning.” Alice let out a long breath. “What a damn shame. He’s certainly not trying to be discreet about any of this.”

Raven followed behind her, saddened by what she had seen. “How are we going to stop Bund?”

Alice flicked a hand and the two detectives who had been investigating the murders woke up from their trance. She sidestepped them and disappeared into the crowd on the sidewalk before they even realized what had happened.

“First, we should tell everyone to keep their children inside, lock their doors, and pray that Bund doesn’t become bold enough to start snatching little girls out of their bedrooms.”

Raven squeezed her eyes closed. She hated to imagine what happened to the girls that Bund chose. Just thinking that Koa had been harmed by him brought back terrible feelings of sorrow and worry.

Alice glanced back at her. She smoothed her short pink hair with the palm of her hand. “But we can’t exactly tell the humans about the existence of vampires and psychotic demons, can we?”

Raven sighed. “I suppose not.”

Alice made a face. “You know, I sometimes think ignorance isn’t quite as blissful as it seems. Maybe the humans wouldn’t be so foolish if they knew that supernatural creatures were targeting them.” She gave Raven a look. “What do you think?”

“Don’t some of them know though? The kids that go out and become pets know.”

“True. But that’s only a slim portion of the human population. I wonder what would happen if we just hopped on the television and made an announcement.”

“The Netherworld Division wouldn’t be a secret organization anymore.”

Alice grinned. “Exactly. Halston and I could fight crime in the open, instead of trying to hide it. But oh well. It would never work. The humans are lucky to not have such worries on their mind. I guess that’s why we do what we do.”

Raven quickened her pace as Alice turned a corner towards a cemetery. “I suppose.”

“Indeed, little kitty. I am searching for the powerful, the fearless… the perfect crew.” Alice reached in her pocket and pulled out a small device that resembled a compass. Raven wished she was taller, to see its face. She heard a tiny clicking sound and saw a gold light shoot from it and stretch far into the maze-like mausoleum buildings.

“Alice,” Raven called, pausing to stare at the light. “What is that?”

Alice lifted a brow. “What? Oh, it’s something Halston made for me.”

Raven sat on her back legs. She licked her paws. She hated being dirty, and the cold dirt was getting stuck in between her claws.

“I can’t wait to see what gadgets he’s created for you.” Alice smiled, walking in the direction of the light.

Raven lifted a brow and hurried behind. “What?”

Alice chuckled. “You didn’t think that Halston would let you into the division and not give you some sort of weapon, did you?”

Raven was speechless. She’d never thought of such a thing. She’d never needed gadgets before, but when she was in her true form, she had enough power to not need the use of weapons.

Raven’s fur stood on end. She looked up at the sky. Clouds slowly began to block the sun and the air grew colder. Night would soon be upon them. She felt herself growing a little weary. There was so much evil that awoke when night fell.

“He makes the best toys.”

“What is that light that comes out of your compass?”

Alice frowned. “What light?”

Raven nodded towards the gold glow. “The one you’re following.”

Alice paused. “Oh wow. You can actually see where the compass is directing me?”

Raven nodded. “Why yes. Can’t you?”

Alice shrugged. “No. It links with my telepathy, leading me by force to other nephilim.”

“Oh,” Raven said. Her eyes began to glow and reflect the moonlight as the sky darkened. “I see gold light.”

Alice smirked, staring down at her. “Cats. It is kind of cool to be able to talk to you. Inquire about what it is that you see and what not. You’ll be an excellent sidekick. In and out of the shadows, there she goes!”

Raven’s ears perked up. She thought that she had heard something out of the ordinary sounds that she always heard. Crickets and rustling leaves were her everyday soundtrack, but she was certain she heard a faint scratching sound coming from one of the keeps. Alice quieted and seemed to sense something as well.

Alice lowered her voice. “We’ll discuss the whole sidekick thing later. Deal?”

Raven looked up at her, unblinking. “I am not a sidekick.”

“Suit yourself.” Alice shrugged, whispering. “I am one hell of a superhero.”

Raven almost laughed but instead she yelped as she heard a loud crash of stone. She jumped, standing on her tiptoes, her black fur on edge.

Alice put her hands in her pockets. She tossed her pink hair out of her eyes. “Oh sweet. The freak show is awake.” She folded her arms across her chest. Raven froze as the large stone door started to creak open. An angel statue loomed down at her, as if daring her to make a sound. Raven held her breath, waiting.

“Don’t worry, kitty. It’s just Spoons.”

“Spoons?” Raven stepped back as a small man crept out of the mausoleum. He was ragged, with shaggy gray hair and large icy blue eyes. He appeared to be over a hundred years old. His spine was curved and his limbs were as thin as rails.

He walked over like a zombie, his feet dragging and his jaw slack. Raven gasped. “Is he… a zombie?”

Alice scoffed with an amused laugh. “No kitty. He’s a ghoul. But don’t worry, he’s pretty tame.” She lifted a brow as she noticed the human hand in his fist.

Spoons took a bite, ripping the flesh off the thumb. He chewed and swallowed. “Well, pretty tame, considering…” Alice’s voice trailed and Spoons stood a little taller, in an attempt to straighten his back.

Alice gave Raven a sidelong glance. “Good guess though. He does like human flesh as much as a zombie. But I can tell you with about 99 percent certainty that zombies don’t exist.”

“I hear ya,” Spoons drawled in a deep voice. “Talkin ‘bout me, like I’m not even here.”

Raven shivered when his eyes looked down at her. Spoons frowned. “What is dat?”

Alice grinned. “A kitty cat.”

Spoons twisted his mouth. “I don’t like dem creatures.” He sniffed the air. “Hey. You little lyin bitch. That ain’t a cat!” He moved with the shadows, and knelt before Raven before she could run. He had her by the back of her neck, and held her up to his face. He put his cold pointed nose to Raven’s belly and sniffed. “What is dis?”

Alice kicked him in the gut. “Put her down,” she growled. Spoons dropped Raven and she ran behind Alice. “She’s a friend, and that’s all you need to know.”

He looked up at her. He slowly stood. His gaze landed on Raven who hid behind Alice’s leg. “Jus tell me. What is dat?” He scrunched up his nose. “I never smelled anythin’ like it before.”

Alice stepped to him. “You listen to me, Spoons.” She got really close to his face, leaning down to his height.  Her voice lowered. “I would love to offer you a deal. You know, get you back in good standing with Halston and all.”

Spoons head shot up. “Halston?”

Alice grinned. “Yes. You heard me right. Halston is offering you a second chance. Once upon a time you were the best Navigator any of us had ever encountered.”

Spoons backed away. “I don’t do dat stuff anymo.” He scratched his head.

Raven shuddered as his long nails disturbed a group of spiders that had nested in his hair. They ran along his scalp and into his ears. He didn’t seem to mind.

“Come on, Spoons. Do it for me.”

He lifted a bushy white brow. “I don’t care bout you! Angels! Demons! Lemme lone!” He turned to walk away.

Alice chuckled. She winked at Raven. “Ah come on, Spoons. I was just kidding with you. Come back here.” She made her voice soft like a little girls. “Pretty please.”

Spoons kept walking.

Alice frowned. “All right. Have it your way. I’ll be sure to let Greggan know where you are.”

Spoons paused mid-step. He craned his neck around with a terrified look on his face. “G-G…Greggan… is here?”

“He is. And I think he’d love to find you and rip your head off.”

“I’m outta here!”

Raven squealed as he transformed into a ragged looking jackal before their eyes. Thick brown fur covered his body. Still, his blue eyes stood out, even though his face now resembled a feral dogs’.

Alice threw her hand out and as he prepared to run, she made him freeze. He growled. His eyes darted from side to side.

“Lemme go! You bitch!”

“Damn shifting ghouls! Why the hell did you get such a cool trick?” Alice huffed and stepped closer to him. She leaned down. Her voice lowered, almost menacingly. Raven’s ears perked up.

“Listen here, Spoons. I’m not here to force you to join our side, but really, what is the alternative? You join us and you have a chance of surviving what is coming. No one betrays Greggan and survives. You helped smuggle that girl out of the Netherworld years ago. I know there’s something good in you.” She stood up and her voice softened. “Even if you try to hide it.”

Raven felt her heart pounding. She looked from Alice to Spoons and back again. Spoons’ big blue eyes stared at Alice. His fangs were dripping with saliva, and yet he was unable to move to catch the drool, not that he would have otherwise.

“Fine. Just lemme go.”

Alice smiled and in an instant, Spoons was loose. He shifted back to his ghoulish figure and looked at Raven.

“That thing right der… smells like dat girl,” he whispered.

Alice nodded. “Nice observation. She is Koa’s mother.”

Raven felt a sting of grief at the mention of Koa’s name. She prayed that her daughter was ok. She looked at the two of them. It was a surprise to learn that this ghoul had helped save Koa’s life.

Spoons frowned. “What da hell happened to her?”

Alice rolled her eyes. “Enough questions. Can I count you in, or not?”

Spoons spit in his hand and held it out to Alice. “I’m in.” He gave her a pointed look as she stared at his hand in disgust. “But no funny business. I help ya kill Greggan and ya leave me alone, foreva. Deal?”
         Alice grimaced and shook his hand. She groaned in dismay as she pulled her hand away, mucous stuck to her hand like glue. “Ugh. Deal.”



***
 
Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveawayAuthor K.N. Lee is giving away two eBook sets of the Netherworld & Dark Prophet! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cover Reveal: Sin-Reaper, by K.N. Lee

Back in February, you got to meet the wickedly talented fantasy author, K.N. Lee, during my interview with her. You also got to see the cover for her current release, The Dark Prophet (from the Chronicles of Koa series).

Now, I am thrilled to give you a sneak peek at the cover of Sin-Reaper, the first book in her Darkest Day trilogy, coming this summer, 2014. And because she's so awesome, she's also giving us an exclusive peek at Chapter 1, in honor of the cover reveal!

Sin-Reaper Cover
 
 
Chapter 1
 
Set between two rows of buildings that reached as tall as the dark storm clouds above, the central market filled the cities square until every inch of free space was filled with either people, creatures, or goods for sale.
A whistling sound made Raina and Allen pause. Everyone turned and looked above as six armored Wind-Walkers flew from the south of the city and stopped in formation above them. With their swords held upwards with the silver blades resting against their shoulders, they hovered in the air. While they seemed to be there only to patrol the market, everyone gradually returned to their business.
“Wonder why they’re here,” Allen whispered.
Raina shrugged as she gazed at them from beneath her gray cloak. Her dark blue eyes contrasted with the bright blue of the people surrounding her. She caught the attention of one of the Wind-Walkers. A fluttering sensation flooded her stomach, and Raina found herself holding her breath in anticipation.
Wes glanced down at her from his position at the head of the troupe. Even in uniform, he stood out from his brethren. While most Wind-Walkers had blonde hair, Wes was one of the rare ones with white hair. It signified that he was Enlightened and of the ruling class. His was long, and braided in a single braid that hung down to his mid-back. He’d never cut it. It was forbidden.
            Long hair was just one of the ways the ruling class was separate from the others classes.
Raina’s heart raced when his gray eyes met hers. He gave her a quick smile and nod of acknowledgement. His attention to her didn’t last long enough. He returned to surveying the crowd for any unusual activity.
“Interesting,” Allen murmured. “You didn’t tell me you knew a Wind-Walker.”
Raina grinned despite herself. She was on a mission. She had a plan and must stick to it. 
“Who says that I do?”
Her smile faded as she began into the crowd once more. She tripped on a raised stone and felt her face flush with embarrassment. She hoped that Wes hadn’t seen that. She found it hard to walk the wide stone-paved street without tripping or bumping shoulders with someone else.
Her black boots made soft thuds on the stone as her eyes scanned the crowd for anything out of the ordinary.
Allen shrugged and followed behind her. “I saw him look at you is all.”
“Means nothing,” Raina said. “It was just a look.” She pulled her cloak’s hood further down, so that only her blue eyes were seen. The black cloth that covered her mouth left nothing to decipher her identity.
The lace of her long sleeves brushed just below her wrists, only to be met by black gloves. No one could see her white flesh that set her apart from the people of Jinn’Ah. She looked different because of her complexion, but it was the way her eyes glowed that made the people make a path for her.
She ignored their whispers. She was used to them by now. She pushed her yearning for attention from Wes aside and focused on her plan.
Raina looked for someone. Someone with thoughts of malice. Someone that could feed her soul with enough power to escape her servitude as a Royal Reaper.
Heat filled her body as she searched for sin. She used to think her power was a curse, keeping her up all night with horrible nightmares of things that she didn’t understand as a child. She’d seen too much. She knew the evil in everyone around her. It was enough to drive one insane. And yet, somehow, Raina still had her wits about her.
She frowned to herself, disgusted with what she saw in the souls of the people around her.
“How can I judge these people?” Raina asked Allen. It was the same question that she asked herself that every day.
“It is who you are. You cannot veer from destiny, Raina. Just like I cannot deny my own path,” Allen said.
She glanced back at him, seeing the hurt in his own eyes and feeling guilty for being so selfish.
He adjusted his glasses and looked away from her gaze.
“But I see nothing but good in you,” Raina whispered. Allen was much taller than her. She reached upward and stroked his soft brown cheek. “It is a rare thing to see such innocence.”
Allen’s blue eyes widened as he looked down at her. “Please stop, Raina. Do not read my soul. I beg you.”
He took her hand and lowered it back to her side. He adjusted his glasses, embarrassed by the thought of her learning his secrets.
Raina nodded silently. “Forgive me.”
Allen couldn’t look at her. Raina bit her lip. She knew what he was hiding. She sighed. She could never give him what he wanted.
Anyone that gained their power from the energy of sinners, bad people, murderers, rapists, and such must surely be bad as well, she thought. Allen deserves better than a girl like me.
“It’s fine,” Allen said under his breath.
Raina sniffed the air. The smell was what overwhelmed her at first. Spices and perfumes, raw fish and sweat. The early hours of dawn were the most popular times for the people to shop or sell their goods.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, raw or smoked meats, exotic smelling salts, carpets, and silks were all spread out over wooden tables draped with cloth and carts that had been pushed from far below the city’s boundaries. One might not think it due to the emerging storms, but spring had arrived, and the land was bountiful and generous with its gifts.
Raina held Allen’s hand tightly as they weaved into the crowd, afraid that if she let go she’d get swept away. She was afraid that if that happened, she would enjoy being lost and would be happy to never be found again. She had a plan, and running away too soon would ruin it. Raina knew how to be patient. She knew how to fake a smile and bow to the authority.
Something caught her interest, breaking her from her quest for a sinner. Raina smiled in wonder as she watched two twin boys dancing in perfect unison to the tunes of an old man’s drum.
She stopped and watched, captivated by the paint on the boy’s faces. White paint on brown skin and their black hair slicked back. They wore the same outfit. Black trouser pants and red shirts with large silver buttons. They smiled and continued their choreographed dance and bowed.
Raina let go of Allen’s hand and clapped. She fished a large gold coin out of her pocket and before Allen could stop her, she tossed the coin into the basket set beside the old man. The old man looked down at the coin as it glowed beneath the light of the red sun. His dull blue eyes looked up at her and a crocked grin came to his face and then, Raina saw it.
His sin.
He knew it as well. He knew what she saw and his grin faded. Before he could speak, Raina was yanked away by someone strong.
Raina’s eyes widened. She pulled a dagger from the belt beneath her sleeve that was wrapped around her forearm. Her eyes glowed bright with power as she swirled around to slit the throat of whomever had grabbed her.
 
***
 
You can find author K.N. Lee at:
 
 
 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Summer of My Heart

You know when that tiny voice creeps in, the one called intuition...the one called your highest self...the one you know you need to listen to?

It's been screaming at me for a long time now to:

Slow down.
Simplify.
Quiet my mind. 
Tune out noise. 
Eliminate distractions. 
Focus on what matters.

To that end, I am taking a summer sabbatical from social media, being online, getting distracted, not being present.

I am at a very interesting crossroads in my life, having just turned 40 and trying to figure out where I want my life to head during this next decade. There's a lot we all juggle in life, and sometimes we do it better than at other times. Right now, my heart is yearning for silence. The spiritual path I've been on these last few years is blossoming, and I need quiet time to digest, to self-reflect, to listen to God, to learn, to heal. 

I will still be "around," and available to friends and family. I'm not actually going anywhere, except inside my own heart and truth on a more frequent basis. I will continue to write in some form or fashion, and I'm still working with my editing clients during this time, as well.

But my blogging, social media presence, and days of being online are all going on hiatus from today until September, 2014.

Have a beautiful summer with your family and friends. Take time to disconnect and truly be present with them. Play outdoors more, and be inside less. Close your computers and pick up a "real" paperback book. 

I recently read an amazing quote that said: "Today is the youngest you will ever be."

If I am trading one day of my life for today, this day, my youngest day, I want to make the most of it. See how much I can learn and grow and be kind and love.

Find my truth north.

So, with gratitude and excitement, please consider this my "out of office" and "in my heart" notice.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Birthday: Stone of Destiny

Today we are celebrating the book birthday of The Danaan Trilogy's book 2, Stone of Destiny! It's the much anticipated release following The Forgotten Ones. It's a New Adult paranormal romance, written by Laura Howard.

Stone of Destiny

Allison thought it was crazy enough when she found out that her father, Liam, wasn't entirely human. But now she has to join his magical allies to unravel his former mistress's plans. Aoife wants to keep Allison's parents apart forever. Despite Allison's efforts to keep Ethan, the only guy she's ever cared about, out of this supernatural mess, fate keeps throwing him back into the mix.

Will Allison be able to find the amulet that holds the enchantment Aoife placed on Liam and destroy it? Are Ethan's feelings for Allison strong enough to endure the magic of the Tuatha De Danaan?

About the author

Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of six when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, and other girly novel were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn't until the release of a little novel called Twilight, eight years later, that she discovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known.

To find Laura Howard: Facebook | Twitter | Blog| Goodreads
To buy:  The Forgotten Ones | Stone of Destiny