07 July 2015

Pride and Forgiveness in Elizabeth Hunter's The Scarlet Deep: A Review

I betrayed the woman I loved because of pride…I broke her trust. 
I might have lost her forever, if she wasn’t so forgiving. 
Pride is…seductive.  Addictive. 
And a harder habit to break than any drug.
~ Elizabeth Hunter,  The Scarlet Deep

July is National Anti-Boredom Month.  It should be Writers Block month. 



W
hen she dreamed, she dreamed of death and madness.  Of the deep and of forgotten things.  The moon shone full through the water, and the drifting weeds surrounded her as she stared into the night sky….She sank past the touch of moonlight, where the chill of the water crept into her bones and settled her soul.” (Prologue, The Scarlet Deep)

The narrator’s voice fades, along with the spotlight and the curtain rises on Patrick Murphy, a familiar figure for Elemental World readers.

That is how a novel should begin.  I was immediately lifted out of reality and ordinary life and dropped into another world, my curiosity aroused:  Who is this woman?  Why is she dreaming of death and madness?  And how is she connected to the most powerful vampire in Ireland?

From the Pen of a Master Storyteller
Publishers and readers alike tend to dismiss the Romance genre as pulp fiction/fluff writing.  And I have come across my fair share of authors (Romance or otherwise) who give the genre a bad name.

But a romance has the potential to not only take you away from the real world, it also has the power to inform and transform you. If it’s well written and the pen has been wielded by a master.

And when you find a master storyteller, you don’t let go. 

You buy every book she has written.  You pre-order the ones she’s still working.  Because you know she won’t let you down.  Her imagination is rich and deep; an eternal well of plots, themes, and witty repartee.

Image © Elizabeth Hunter
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Hunter. I own (and have read several times) every book she’s written.  They are well written and remain as fresh as the first time I read them.

Ms. Hunter’s latest creation, The Scarlet Deep went live today and for fans of the Elemental Mysteries Series, it fills the emptiness left behind when we finished The Secret in March.  And once again, she does not disappoint in giving us more than “just” a romance.

Pride, Grace, and Redemption
The Scarlet Deep takes us back into the Elemental World and while it can be read as a stand-alone, IMHO, it is even better when read after the Elemental Mysteries series and the other books in the Elemental World series.  Characters who had starring roles in the other books return as supporting actors.

At the center of it all is Patrick and Aìne, who love each other but have let past mistakes – mistakes that were a betrayal of trust – and pride come between them.  But with the deadly Elixir still in production and killing both mortal and immortal alike, they will have to get over their past and join forces (and fangs) in order to find – and stop – the person responsible.

This book touched me deeply, because I too have had my trust betrayed.  Like Aìne, I have longed to bury myself in isolation to escape the pain and to deny the part that I played in allowing those betrayals to dictate my path. 

And as Aìne stubbornly refuses Patrick’s blood - essentially starving herself - my own fears and pride prevent me from seeking the help and connection I need.
Life is one long series of making mistakes and seeking grace.
Carwyn, The Scarlet Deep

We all make mistakes – sometimes really big ones!  So we are in need of forgiveness and grace.  Does that mean that everyone deserves to have access to our heart and soul?  Of course not.  Some people have truly toxic behaviours and for our own health, we need to limit our interactions with them or forego them altogether.

Forgiveness isn’t about forgetting. It’s about letting go of the past, trying again in the present, and taking back control of the future.


And you don’t have to be a vampire to take that lesson to heart.
 
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela


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I received this book as an ARC from the author.  I have not been paid for this review.

Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.




01 May 2015

Not All Wounds Are Visible: Blogging for National Mental Health Month

It's up to you today to start making healthy choices.
Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.

~ Steve Maraboli

May is National Mental Health Awareness month



F
or a society that can communicate in a nanosecond with everyone in the world about what they ate, who they’re dating, and what they feel about their favorite sports team, when it comes to discussing mental health, we clam up faster than a viral Tweet.

And there are as many reasons for that lack of communication as there are personality types and psychological disorders.

Which is why this year, I once again

“…pledge my commitment to the 

Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. 
I will blog about mental health topics 
not only for myself, but for others. 
By displaying this badge,
I show 
my pride, dedication,
and acceptance for mental health. 
I use this to promote mental health education 
in the struggle to erase stigma.”

Just like last year, all my blog posts in May will be about mental health in some way.  No, I’m not a professional counselor, but four years ago, I stopped trying to battle my cyclothymic depression on my own and asked for help.  And then last year, I decided that the stigma surrounding mental health and illness needed to be eradicated.  So I “came out” about my depression.

It was the most freeing decision I ever made.

Since then, in an effort to further my own healing and learn better coping skills to deal with family members suffering from psychologically disorders, I’ve continued to educate myself about mental health, generational dysfunctions, and the different modes of therapy. Maybe my battles ~ both those I've won, and those I've lost ~ can be helpful to you.

Even if it’s only to realize that you aren’t alone in this battle.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Not all Wounds are Visible.

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year! (YTD Word Count: 44,891)

In addition, for the next 50 days, I’m participating in the Abbey of the Arts’ Pilgrimage of Resurrection: A Creative Journey through the Easter Season.  Join us!

27 April 2015

Unlocking the Prison Cell: MHA-F Walk for Mental Wellness

The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.
~ William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year! (YTD Word Count: 50,750)

In addition, for the next 50 days, I’m participating in the Abbey of the Arts’ Pilgrimage of Resurrection: A Creative Journey through the Easter Season.


I
live in a prison cell. 

The foundation and the walls were built by others, but sadly, I contributed to its design.

Jailers pace outside, hurling insults and criticisms and verbal abuse through the bars, but ultimately, the worst jailer is behind bars with me.  She holds tight to the key that would free us and alternately cringes in a corner or returns verbal fire with even nastier fire. 

But it only eases the pain of confinement and isolation a little.  In the end, me, myself, and I are still trapped. 

I do have one consolation ~ friends who come to visit me here in this dark, sad place. They offer encouragement to me and my cell mate~ encouraging us both to take out that key, put it in the lock, and break free.  We refuse to leave the familiar comfort of our pain; but they don’t leave in disgust ~ they sit with us and love us anyway.

Mental, emotional, and psychological illnesses are debilitating and more often than not, they can feel like a prison.  My coping mechanisms ~ which had provided safety and security from a hurtful childhood and un-diagnosed cyclothymic depression ~ at some point, trapped me in a cycle of habits and though patterns.  Instead of safety and security, I found I couldn’t move on in freedom and compassion.

About four years ago, I found my current psychologist and he was able to pry that rusted old key from my frightened hands and slowly, we’ve been oiling that old cell lock, working on setting me free.  I’m not out yet, but there’s a window open now, and there have been some psychological earth quakes that have weakened the foundation of this prison.

And I’m not the only one here.

In this prison, there are many cells and at least once a day, I hear the hopeless weeping of other prisoners ~ some who have been here longer than I’ve been alive.  Many of them can’t hear the others; they are locked deep in isolation.  

But I hear them. 

And it breaks my heart that they have no friends to sit with and comfort them, and no trusted therapist to help loosen the chains.

Which is why on May 2, I’m walking for them.

It is deplorable that in our “enlightened” society, there is still a stigma attached to mental illness.  No one but an idiot breaks their femur bone and insists on setting it themselves or calls all orthopedists quacks.  

Mental illness is real; it causes physical pain and has far-reaching effects and consequences.  And currently, one in four adults in the United States suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

Mental Health of America is a non-profit that is passionate about making mental health a critical part of our overall health and wellness.  On May 2, they are sponsoring a 1-3 mile walk to raise awareness of mental health issues specifically affecting teens and seniors citizens.  And yours truly, along with a few friends, will be one of the people walking to help #EndTheStigma.   

I hope you walk with us or donate money to Team Grizzly (seriously, would my team be named anything else?! *wink*) and help raise awareness of the prison of mental illness and stigma.

The cell you unlock might just be your own.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela


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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

06 April 2015

The Road: ADHD/ADD and Our Good Intentions

It is a bottomless pit of feeling you're failing, but three days later, you feel you can do anything, only to end the week where you began.
It is not learning from your mistakes….
It is a hyper focus, so intense about what bothers you, that you can’t pay attention to anything else, for very long.
It is a never-ending routine of forgetting things….
It is beauty when it has purpose.
It is agony when it doesn’t.
It is called Attention Deficit Disorder.
~ Shannon L. Alder

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year! (YTD Word Count: 44,891)

In addition, for the next 50 days, I’m participating in the Abbey of the Arts’ Pilgrimage of Resurrection: A Creative Journey through the Easter Season.

  
I
ntentions.   We all know what road they pave, don’t we?
Pithy, but it doesn’t apply to all people at all times and in all circumstances.

Take someone who suffers from ADHD.   For many, something vital is missing from the prefrontal cortex.  Executive functions, or management system of the brain, should have developed over time; functions that would enable them to make decisions, focus on tasks, and exert self-control.

They truly have the best intentions, good intentions, but with a neurobiological disorder like ADHD/ADD, these ideas and intentions and dreams often fall by the wayside.  Their brains aren’t like other brains, and until they receive treatment (therapy + medication + nutrition), they will continue to forget vital information, overbook their calendars, and leave tasks chronically unfinished.
They lack the abilities to handle frustration, start and complete tasks, recall and follow multi-step directions, stay on track, plan, organize, and self-monitorADD/ADHD therapists and other professionals who can evaluate and diagnose ADD/ADHD typically point out executive-function problems, but many families dismiss them as less critical than other learning challenges. However, it is clear that effective executive functioning is a key factor in remedying academic difficulties.
Executive functions are the skills that an individual of any age must master to deal with everyday life. Self-monitoring is particularly important for students, because it governs their ability to evaluate their work and behavior in real time.  (Executive-Function Deficits in Children)
When this happens, it causes great distress for the person with ADHD/ADD.  They feel guilty for letting people down.  Depression– whether it is a chemical depression related to the ADHD or situational depression based on societal and familial attitudes and treatment of the person, usually follows.

My cyclothymic depression mimics certain aspects of ADHD/ADD. So I understand all too well how those with ADHD/ADD feel.  My desk at home is layered with projects that were started, but never completed.  I have a notebook full of bits and bobs of poetry and poetry ideas, story lines, dialogue – but no draft manuscript.

However, I did write and complete one today – in honor of #NationalPoetryMonth, for all my friends who suffer from ADHD/ADD and depression, and based on the 50 Days Pilgrimage word for today: Intention. 


I hope you enjoy and it reminds you to take a step back, support your loved ones who are suffering, and join me in fighting to #EndTheStigma.  (Learn more about ADHD/ADD here.)

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

You are not alone.

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

01 April 2015

A Lump in My Throat: National Poetry Month

A poem begins with a lump in the throat.
 ~ Robert Frost


In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 46,144



T
oday marks the beginning of National Poetry Month ~ no foolin’! 

Last year, April found me participating in the A-Z Blog Challenge.  Since I’m already writing (mostly) every day, this year I’m celebrating #NationalPoetryMonth by reading or writing a poem a day.

Mother Goose was the first introduction to poetry for most of us.  But I didn’t really fall in love with the genre until junior high ~ when I had to memorize and recite several poems.  My favorite at that time was Kipling.

That love deepened in high school when I took a course on British Literature.  Because let’s be honest, not many do poetry better than the Brits.  Heck, not many do literature better than the Brits.

So, although I began this post with a quote from an American poet, I’ll end with a Brit:


Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Do you have a favorite British poet?

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

27 March 2015

The Art of Poetry: A Blended Art Show

One ought, every day at least,
to hear a little song,
read a good poem,
see a fine picture,
and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 44,891



A
pril is National Poetry Month and one week from today (April 3), yours truly will be one of the poets featured in a blended art show at Water Street Studio!

Wait….blended art....what? 

A picture is worth a thousand words (see what I did there?):


Image © fffranz

An art show that combines visual art with written art held during National Poetry Month?  What a novel idea!

I would love to see you if you’re in the area and I know you will love the art and the poetry that will be on display from local artists and poets.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are you doing for National Poetry Month?

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.


Image: © ffranz

19 March 2015

I Would Pull Down Heaven: A Review of The Secret: The Irin Chronicles Book Three

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain.
It's the loneliness of it.
Memories need to be shared.
~ Lois Lowry, The Giver

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 38,796



I
s it still love if you can’t remember your lover? 

If every meeting, every conversation, every smile, every little thing that pulled you in and made you hers is just…

Gone. 
Erased. 
Blank.
Always just out of reach.

Is it still love if your lover returns to you a different man, with no memory 

Of the first time he saw you.
Of the first time you made him laugh.
Of the first time he kissed you.
Of the first time he made your soul sing.

How do you cope with the crippling fear that his return is a dream and you’ll wake only to lose him all over again?

The Last Chapter
A good writer pulls us out of our world and entertains us, taking the edge off a weary reality.

A great writer pulls us into our soul, showing us that we are not alone.  That pain and joy and love and loss are universal. 

She does this discreetly, weaving an entertaining and moving tale that not only takes that edge off, it helps us cope when we are forced to return to it.

Elizabeth Hunter is one of those great writers. 

Since I discovered the
Elemental Mysteries Series, I have yet to read a book that hasn’t led me to a deeper level of self-awareness while it soaks off the day to day stress.  Every story is well written, meticulously researched, psychologically accurate, and balances entertaining dialogue with a believable, dramatic love story.

The Secret is no exception. 


In fact, it may be her best story so far (no worries, Gio ~ you’re still my #1 book boyfriend).  If you aren’t familiar with
The Irin Chronicles, stop reading this right now, go buy all three books (The Secret is live today), cancel any appointments and Read. It.  With a large box of tissues beside you. 

If you have been following
Malachi and Ava’s story, then you know this last chapter is their most crucial.  That this is no ordinary love story.   It is real.  It is complicated.  Because when is love ever simple?

Malachi has yet to remember much if any of his past, including Ava.  And his talesm are slow to return.  Meanwhile, Ava still doesn’t know where her power comes from and she lives in fear of losing her reshon again.  

Have they healed enough to learn the secret the archangels have been hiding for millennia? A secret that could change the Irin forever?

To Know Her is to Love Her
The Singer dealt with loss and grief and the desire to give up when it feels like your soul has been shredded.  The Secret also involves loss ~ but it is the loss of memories and the seeming loss of a loved one who is physically present, yet no longer remembers you or why and how he fell in love with you. 

Loss that is real for those whose loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps because my own parents are aging, or perhaps because I’m constantly searching for the why in everything, The Secret made me wonder: if love is defined by knowledge of the other, a knowledge gathered over time in shared moments, goals, purpose, and mutual respect, trust, and commitment ~ is it still love if all of that is erased?

We don’t love ~ truly love ~ a person until we know them.  It’s why I love the Biblical translation of sexual love as knowing.  My deepest desire is for my truest self to be fully known…and unconditionally accepted.  Because that is in part what healthy, interdependent love looks like.

So what does it mean to suddenly be unknown again?  To love someone who no longer seems to be the person they were when we first loved them?  And what does it mean to suddenly un-know?  To be told that you have a life, a shared history with someone that you can’t remember?

Pulling Down Heaven
Because Ava isn’t the only one suffering from loss.  In losing his memories, Malachi has lost a vital part of himself.  This causes him pain, not just for himself, but because this loss pains his mate.

Then comes a moment where a memory returns to him…a memory of where he was after he had been taken from her.  A place of “Perfect love.  He cries with joy because he is home….He is surrounded by love.  Complete. Replete.  He needs nothing.”  But he hears her voice and makes a choice.  A choice he does not regret.  A choice that is bittersweet.  A choice that hurts in the remembering.

Because although he regains Ava, he loses being in the presence of Perfect Peace.

Gifts given freely are more precious.
Barak, The Secret: The Irin Chronicles Book Three

Yet it is a choice Malachi made freely and one he would make again. 

Even if his memories never return. 
Even if he only has one year to spend with Ava.
Even if the pain of loss never completely goes away.

Because love is defined not just by fully knowing or being known by your beloved.  Nor is it defined solely by the presence of either joy or pain or the lack of them.  Love is always a choice.  A choice freely made.  A gift freely given.  Love is still love even if the particular memories of it are gone. 

Because love is always a choice.
 
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What did you think of the end of Ava and Malachi’s story?

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I received this book as an ARC from the author.  I have not been paid for this review.

Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

My Irin Chronicles Playlist: 
Irin Chronicles by Mikaela D'Eigh on Grooveshark