Tea That Tastes Like Cake

Photo by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

I’m not a big fan of cake. Actually, as a kid I wouldn’t even eat it. Cupcakes are a different story, though—I swear they taste better. See, cake is great in theory but it never tastes as good as it smells. Or as good as the batter.

I tend to keep things casual with cake, but I’m always craving it. More specifically, I’ve been looking for a tea that tastes like cake. While grocery shopping, Bigelow’s vanilla caramel blend caught my eye. I was actually looking for something else, but I think I still walked out a winner.

Here are some other things I’m obsessed with this month.

Books

I just finished re-reading Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. It’s about a teen girl in the 1800s who can go to another world called the realms, where anything is possible, and everything is trying to kill her. Libba Bray is always a good time.

TV & Movies

I’ve been watching Once Upon a Time, which I’d caught in brief episodes here and there but never watched from the beginning. It’s a fun show that retells all of the fairytales. I also watched Bright, which was amazing. Most recently, I went to see the new Star Wars movie. I liked it… but didn’t like it. I have complicated feelings. What else is new?

Music

I’m in somewhat of a music rut. I tend to be a snob, so probably don’t bother giving me recommendations. I’ve just been listening to the Atheists Who Kneel and Pray book playlist on repeat, which I’m deeply in love with. I’ve been listening to it over and over for months, to be honest. I have a book playlist hangover. 😂

What I’m Waiting On

My work wife J.C. Hannigan has a novella coming out in February that I’m dying to get my hands on. Even the title is badass: The Key to 19B. It’s coming out in an anthology, though, so I have to be patient. *sits on hands*


This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase any of the items I linked to here, I get a teensy commission—which keeps me in coffee and helps me write books.

10 Kick-Ass Books I Read in 2016

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One thing I was determined to do in 2016 was read more. I often get caught up in the “should”s, as in I should be _____ instead of reading. (Really, you can replace “reading” with anything. I so need to stop “should”ing on myself!) My goal was to read 25 books; I read 31—or at least, that’s what Goodreads says. I didn’t track all of my reads, so I’m sure this number is a bit off.

The following 10 are my favorite reads from this year, in no particular order. Check them out, and load up your Kindle!


F*ck Love, by Tarryn Fisher

F*ck Love would, gun to head, be my favorite book of 2016. I read it during a weekend while Mike was away at an art show, and I couldn’t put it down. Helena and Kit’s story was absolutely insane, in the best way possible. Months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. This dark and gritty romance is exactly the tone of book I hope to write someday.

Buy Now on Amazon


Lex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton

What’s better than a revenge story? A best friend’s revenge story! Lex Talionis also joined F*ck Love in my list of all-time favorites. This was another one that I couldn’t put down. It’s also got a romantic element that had me rooting hard, plus an ending that is super rewarding.

Buy Now on Amazon


Luther: The Calling, by Neil Cross

My mom kept recommending I watch Luther, the show on BBC about a detective who might be just as crazy as the killers he chases. I borrowed this from her and had to seriously reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. I then proceeded to binge half of the series; it’s going to be a while until the next season comes out, so I’ve slowed down quite a bit to savor it. Complex, mysterious, and smart, Luther is one of my all-time favorite characters. It doesn’t hurt that Idris Elba is so damn sexy.

Buy Now on Amazon


If I Stay and Where She Went, by Gayle Forman

These books are a back-to-back must. I can’t imagine having to wait for the sequel. I borrowed If I Stay from the library and basically cried my way through it. It was so poignant and heartwrenching. Where She Went was just beautiful, and worth running back to the library for.

Buy Now on Amazon


Collateral, by J.C. Hannigan

The final book in the Collide series, Collateral was quite the grand finale. I’ve loved Harlow from the moment J.C. told me about her, and it’s been such a great experience watching her grow and come into her own. A suspenseful romance, Collateral is raw and real. And don’t even get me started on how freakin’ hot Jax is. He’s seriously the perfect boyfriend—and my all-time favorite book boyfriend!

Buy Now on Amazon


The Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen

This was the first book—that I can remember reading—with a disabled heroine that fully captures what it’s like to live in a limited body. I devoured it in one sitting because I loved Corey and I absolutely had to know whether she and Adam would be together. Though Adam is only temporarily injured, he’s the epitome of the perfect partner. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I really need to get on that!

Buy Now on Amazon


I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

My sister brought this over one day, urging me to read it. I’d been wanting to, so no argument there! Malala tells the story of how she defied the Taliban and fought for girls’ education alongside her supportive father. It was such an inspiring and enlightening read. I was 13 on 9/11, so I remember it well but there was still a lot that I didn’t know; it was fascinating to read about the global effects of the so-called “War on Terror.” More importantly, Malala’s bravery was so empowering and uplifting.

Buy Now on Amazon


Pretty Pink Ribbons, by K.L. Grayson

Going in, I didn’t know that this was a breast cancer book, but I figured it out pretty quickly, as I have several loved ones who have fought breast cancer. Though it’s in a series, Pretty Pink Ribbons is a complete standalone. It’s quite the rollercoaster, emotionally speaking, but the ending is so worth every second of heartache.

Buy Now on Amazon


Kaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras

This was another one that I devoured. Contreras writes so beautifully, and I fell deeply in love with Estelle and Oliver. I related to a lot of their problems, and I got really attached to their friends and family members. I picked up the complete series box set, so I’m still making my way through the rest of the books. Kaleidoscope Hearts was just lovely.

Buy Now on Amazon


Let’s Get Digital, by David Gaughran

And now for something completely different! If you’re new to self-publishing or have been at it for a while and looking for a refreshing book with some publishing and marketing tips, Let’s Get Digital is an insightful, quick read. I promptly grabbed Let’s Get Visible to widen my education, and have already learned a lot.

Buy Now on Amazon


There were some books that I started but didn’t finish because I just didn’t get into them, and there were others that were re-reads of old favorites. Honestly, I’ve been watching a lot of TV; by the end of the day, I’ve got too much brain fog to focus on reading. Still, I’m really happy with my reads for 2016.

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments below!

November 2016 News and Goals

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via Unsplash

Just One More Minute comes out in 12 days! You can pre-order your copy for only $0.99 here. Books2Read will either automagically detect your favorite retailer, or you can choose from their list.

It’s a beautiful thing indeed.

This month is already proving to be a tough one, so I’m trying to take it easy. Easier said than done, of course. I’m flaring hard, so pacing and resting are important. But I also have a release, which means promotion! And of course I’m writing SOF4 (see my latest update here).

Goals for November

  • Write at least 50K for Twisted Broken Strings (South of Forever, Book 4). (My total goal is 75K, but I’m taking it slow.)
  • Release Just One More Minute. Thank goodness for pre-order. I don’t have to lift a finger on release day, other than to change the price to $2.99. I’m also looking for bloggers who’d like to share Chapter 1 sometime this month, and maybe even review an ARC. If that sounds like you, you can sign up here.
  • Finish beta reading for my CP. She is seriously a doll; I’ve been taking way longer than forever on this and she’s been nothing but patient. The worst part is, I love her novel! Time is not my friend.

There are a lot of other things I’d like to do, but I’ll be grateful if I can accomplish these three. I’ve been scheduling important social media posts so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook (plus I can get some extra rest). I struggled a lot with doing this—in my silly mind, I felt like scheduling them was disingenuous. But Rachel Thompson and all the wonderful people in #bookmarketingchat assured me that it’s all still me, and that it’ll make my life so much easier. They were totally right.

Speaking of chats, I’d really like to make more of these. Unfortunately, by the time they start I’m usually shot for the day. That’s typically the hour that all I’m good for is curling up in front of the TV and fighting sleep. There are some really good ones, too, so it’s a bummer. If this sounds like you, let’s high five and make matching #TeamTiredAuthor T-shirts.

I’ve slowed way down with my reading. I still have the rest of Claire Contreras’s Hearts series, and my pre-order of J.C. Hannigan’s Rebel Heart came in and I can’t wait to re-read it! Plus I have about a dozen books I’ve bought but have yet to read. Reader/writer problems, am I right?

However, I’ve started writing morning pages again! I’m beyond broke, so I picked up an $0.88 composition notebook. My pages are not usually in the morning; often I’m scribbling in them just before bed, to try to alleviate my mind. Not to mention it kills my wrist and fingers. But I get those three pages done anyway.

There are a few writing books I’d like to pick up, especially Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant’s The One with All the Writing Advice. I’m fascinated by the concept of cultural shorthand. I also realized I never finished Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering. I didn’t even make it halfway through, because there was so much to absorb. But I think I’m ready now.

So many books, so little time.

My GoFundMe page for donations and author services to help my husband and me catch up on bills is still up. I was able to pay a couple of bills thanks to your help, but we have a long way to go. We didn’t make our electricity bill, so we now owe that plus next month’s. I’m thinking of coming off the budget plan, because ours is set way higher than what we’re actually using, and keeping up with it is killing us. It’s only in the brutally cold January and February that we go over and it comes in handy. If you’re an author in need of budget-friendly services or would just like to help, you can donate here.

This month What Happens on Tour (South of Forever, Book 3) is part of Kobo’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend sale. It will be $0.99 from November 22nd to 28th, no code required! And the first book in the series, Diving Into Him, is forever free (everywhere). So if you’ve been eyeing the South of Forever series and are a Kobo reader (you can even use their free app), now’s a great time to start. I recommend getting the free Book 1, then the $2.99 Book 2. Then when the sale goes live, pick up Book 3 for only $0.99! Check out the series page on Kobo here.

A lot of people ask me when I’ll have paperbacks in stock again. I have a few on hand in my office that I’m using as rewards for the GoFundMe. Eventually I’d like to get all of my books back in print, but here’s the thing: it’s less budget-friendly than publishing an ebook. If you’d like a paperback, please consider picking up an ebook copy and telling your friends. My hope is, once I get ahead of my bills, I can finally get started on paperbacks.

I think that’s it for now. To keep up with everything I’m doing, join my email list!

The One Where I Ask for Your Help

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via Unsplash

I’m stubborn. It’s literally in my blood; my great-grandmother, both my grandparents, and my dad are all super stubborn, so it was inevitable that it’d be coded into my DNA. My motto is basically “I’ll handle it myself,” which means that I’ll mulishly insist on DIYing it until it gets really bad and I’m forced to let someone help me. And I hate asking.

In the past nine years, though, I’ve had to let go of my pride and learn when to ask for assistance (like when I can’t walk to the bathroom or when I need to open a jar of sugar for my coffee). Being sick has forced me to change perspective… yet I still hate asking.

Which is why it’s really hard for me to write this post.

I need help—we, meaning Mike and I, need help. We totally thought we had everything under control, but his “full-time” job regularly cuts his hours and we’ve been falling further and further behind on bills. Despite dozens of applications and several interviews, he’s having a hard time finding something else. Recently, our refrigerator died and we had to replace all of our food. Immediately after that catastrophe, our rent went up. Mike has been sick with an upper-respiratory infection and is out of work for now, and I’ve been struggling with a flareup. We’re both super stressed, and while we’ve been able to borrow money from wonderful friends and family (and pay it back), we’re still falling behind.

It’s a rat race.

We don’t have a lot of bills—just rent, electricity, car insurance, two credit card payments, and groceries (which we receive SNAP for, but it fluctuates and we often pay for food out of pocket). We don’t even have cable (but thanks to a sweet friend, we do have Netflix). We live simply—for example, I make almost all our meals from scratch and rarely buy pre-prepared foods like sauce or Rice-a-roni—but with one income, it just isn’t enough.

I feel weird asking people to just give me money; if possible, I’d like to work my ass off in exchange. I love helping my fellow indies, and in the past five years, I’ve gotten good at a lot of things.

Recently I sat down and came up with some author services I can offer to my fellow indies:

  • social media banner design
  • ebook formatting
  • beta reading
  • blurb writing

These are all things I enjoy doing for people, and have done in the past for brief stints. But I need as much freelance work as I can possibly get right now.

I’m also offering the following to those who would like to help but don’t necessarily need any services:

  • ebook copy of one of my books
  • ebook copies of all 10 of my books
  • signed paperback copy of one of my books

And both J.C. Hannigan and Molli Moran have generously offered ebook copies of a couple of their books in exchange for donations.

I’ve opened up a GoFundMe page. Click here to donate and select your reward. Or, if you’re more comfortable, email me at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com and I can invoice you via PayPal. Alternately, I have both the banner design and ebook formatting gigs set up on Fiverr.

If you can’t donate, I completely understand; I know a lot of us have fallen on hard times. Virtual hugs and good thoughts are much appreciated and needed! And if you can, please share this post with your book community friends.

I’m grateful for any help at all—even if it’s a simple comment on this post wishing us well.

Thank you so much.

Click here to donate via GoFundMe »

XOXO,
Elizabeth Barone

Cover Reveal: Rebel Heart, by J.C. Hannigan

new-cr-bannerIt’s cover reveal time!

I think I speak for all readers when I say we have an obsession with pretty book covers. So I’m not biased at all when I say my work wife J.C. Hannigan’s cover for her next release, Rebel Heart, is fucking beautiful. CPJB Designs—who I’ve worked with too—really captured the essence of Elle and Braden’s story. It’s just perfect.

See what I mean?

Rebel Heart (The Rebel Series, Book 2), by J.C. Hannigan Rebel Heart, By J.C. Hannigan (Full Wrap)

BLURB

In the four years since Elle Thompson’s first love broke her heart, she hasn’t been able to get over him and move on. Luckily, a tempting new romance begins to simmer—but then fate throws Elle and Braden back together again, and Elle is trapped between her past and her possible future.

Braden Miller regretted pushing Elle away from him the moment it happened. Blindsided by grief, he lost sight of what and who mattered and quickly hit rock bottom. Since then, he’s kept his head down and worked on becoming a man he can be proud of. But coming home to Parry Sound means seeing Elle again. As they’re constantly pushed in the same direction, Braden realizes that he has to make amends with more than just his family.

Elle’s yearning for both men in her life intensifies. Wavering between loyalty to one and memories of a long-ago flame with another, she struggles with her feelings. But fear of having her heart broken again keeps her from diving in either direction with both feet. Too bad it’s not only her heart on the line…

AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 3RD

PRE-ORDER NOW
Only $0.99*

Amazon (US) · Amazon (UK) · Amazon (CA)
Add to Goodreads

Every time I see this cover, I swoon. Plus, Hannigan’s prose is just as beautiful. She always writes such raw, heart-gripping stories filled with emotion, but this one really got me.

If that blurb didn’t get you, you obviously need to look at these teasers!

rebel-heart-teaser-1 rebel-heart-teaser-2 rebel-heart-teaser-3

You guys. Braden is officially my all-time favorite book boyfriend. 😍

ALSO AVAILABLE IN THE REBEL SERIES

Rebel Soul (Rebel Series, Book 1), by J.C. Hannigan

Book 1: Rebel Soul
Amazon (US) · Amazon (UK) · Amazon (CA)
Free in Kindle Unlimited

I’ve raved about Rebel Heart before, in my summer NA reads recap, by the way. So if you haven’t checked it out yet… What the hell are you waiting for? 🙃

ABOUT J.C. HANNIGAN

J.C. HanniganJ.C. Hannigan lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, their two sons, and their dog. She writes contemporary new adult romance and suspense. Her novels focus on relationships, mental health, social issues, and other life challenges.

CONNECT WITH J.C. HANNIGAN

Website · Facebook · Twitter · Instagram · Goodreads


Congratulations to my dear friend and work wife on another beautiful book! I wish you much success and happiness. You deserve it! XOXO


*Offer good until release day (November 3rd).

5 Kick-Ass NA Books I Read This Summer

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via Unsplash

Even though summer isn’t officially over, the PSL is back within my reach and the weather has turned a little cooler. Mornings and evenings are now for soft sweaters, and I’ve broken out my boots again. It’s back to reality, and I’ve been busy writing a new book. My iPad is loaded up with books to be read as soon as I type The End, but I’m still mooning over these brilliant New Adult books that I read over the summer.

Kick back, and prepare to load up your Kindle!

Lex Talionis, by S.A. HuchtonLex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton
Standalone. New Adult suspense / romance.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

When Lexi receives a message from her dead best friend after Randi is senselessly murdered, she decides to take revenge into her own hands. A dangerous and calculated cat and mouse game begins, with Lexi holding the strings. I cheered Lexi on, even when her moves were morally questionable. The romance is a small element of the story; it mostly focuses on the friendship between Lexi and Randi. This was a stellar read that I couldn’t put down. A standing ovation for S.A. Huchton.

1-Click buy on Amazon

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, Book 1), by Sarina BowenThe Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen
First in a series. New Adult romance.

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

I read this book in one sitting, staying up late into the night because I couldn’t stop. It was the first time I’ve read this author but now I’m determined to read every word she’s ever written. Unlike your typical college sports romance, this book tells a love story between Corey—ex-hockey player who was permanently sidelined after a life-changing injury—and Adam, a hockey star out on temporary injury leave. The author perfectly captures both the frustration and beauty of disability, and the HEA romance that unfolds is a rollercoaster worth the ride.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Fuck Love, by Tarryn FisherFuck Love, by Tarryn Fisher
Standalone. New Adult dark romance.

This book, this book, this book. Another first for me, but I’m itching to read everything by this author now, too. I ripped through it, pausing only to sleep a little. It was like a good but strong drink that goes down like water. I got a little buzzed off Tarryn Fisher’s words; she truly is a fantastic writer. The story is about Helena, a Harry Potter obsessed door mat who begins pursuing her best friend’s boyfriend after she has a dream about what their life could look like. The whole thing is so insane, but I couldn’t help but root for Helena and Kit. This is another rollercoaster that will frustrate you but the ending is so very satisfying.

1-Click buy on Amazon

Rebel Soul (Rebel Series, Book 1), by J.C. HanniganRebel Soul, by J.C. Hannigan
First in series. New Adult romance.

Disclaimer: J.C. is my good friend who I’ve dubbed my “work wife” because even though our publisher closed, we still do a lot of strategizing (and laughing and commiserating) together. I love all of her books, but her latest release is just beautiful. It’s not as heavy as her other books are, though there are still plenty of social issues woven in. Tessa is enjoying her last summer before college when fate shoves her into the arms of bad boy Brock. This book encompasses that hazy, warm summer love feeling, complete with bonfire parties and tender nights full of burning, slow kisses. Though this book is HEA, there’s plenty of aching push and shove between these two. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

1-Click buy on Amazon

Kaleidoscope Hearts (Hearts, Book 1), by Claire ContrerasKaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras
First in series. New Adult romance.

This NA is a bit different from the usual, because the main character Estelle has recently graduated college. But that whole “adjusting to being on your own” element is still there, because Estelle’s fiancee died in a freak accident, leaving her alone in their house and the gallery they co-ran. Estelle has to pick up the pieces of her broke heart, and just when she thinks she’s recovered, a flame from the past walks back into town. There are a few chapters in Oliver’s point of view, but mostly the story is told through Estelle’s eyes. It’s a beautiful novel with some really brilliant lines.

1-Click buy on Amazon
(You can also purchase the entire three-book series here.)

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Gift (and a Gift for You)

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via Unsplash

The Story

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling these last few months—especially financially. Being in the hospital cost me valuable marketing time. My income tanked, to be honest. I’ve been trying to catch up on bills and get back into the swing of things. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m on my way. (I’m even writing a new book! More about that later.)

Last week, my husband came home from work with the mail. It’s almost always junk and bills, but some Christmas cards have been trickling in. Buried in the stack was an envelope, handwritten, addressed to me—no return address. I opened it up, expecting another Christmas card, giddy with the warmth of the season. It was a card, but what was inside shocked me.

Money tumbled out. On the card, handwritten, was the word “Enjoy!”

Santa came early.

photo_thegift

I immediately started to worry. I didn’t feel comfortable taking someone’s money. It just wasn’t right. But there was no one to argue with. I couldn’t even thank them.

I scrutinized the handwriting. I thought it looked vaguely familiar, but I’m no expert. I asked a few family members to see if anyone knew anything about it. None of them knew what I was talking about.

They all had a gentle laugh at my stubbornness, then suggested I simply pay it forward.

I’ve been racking my brain, trying to think of something good. And I think I’ve finally got it. But first, if my Santa is reading this, thank you. You are so sweet. You made me smile. I took your advice to heart; I got myself a little gift, and used the rest to pay off some bills. Now there’s one more thing I’d like to do.

Paying It Forward

I want to pay it forward, but I also want to spread even more cheer.

A few months ago, I joined forces with three other New Adult authors: Molli Moran, J.C. Hannigan, and Rebecca Paula. We created a group on Facebook, Romance Readers Anonymous. It’s a fun group for romance addicts. We post something new every day, sharing romance writer confessions, crushes, games, and more. Sometimes, on Wednesdays, we give away books.

For this Win a Book Wednesday, I’m throwing in a little twist.

❄️❄️❄️

One lucky winner can pick one of our Kindle books. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the app FREE for your computer, phone, tablet, etc.)

To enter, simply join Romance Readers Anonymous. Do something nice for someone, and let us know here. It can be something small, like holding the door for a stranger or texting something nice to someone you cherish.

I’ll draw a winner at random sometime next Wednesday (December 30th).

❄️❄️❄️

No matter what you celebrate, the holiday season is about spreading goodwill toward others. And I don’t know about you, but I think our world needs some light right now.

Let’s do this.