A Coffee Shop So Good It Gets Its Own Separate Post

For those of you who may have been hoping for a second round of MMmm Coffee! Where Should You Be Getting It, this isn’t exactly it. But, I can say that the coffee shop I wish to write about today IS where you should be getting coffee. If I lived closer to it, or if the coffee shop itself moved down to my area special for me (I know, keep dreaming), I would frequent it. As would (or should, if you’re lucky enough to live near it) you!

The Met Coffee House and Fine Art Gallery in North Conway, NH is this glorious shop I speak of. I was lucky enough to visit The Met mid-week when us tourists are scarce. College students were gathered around studying at the various tables and couches throughout the shop. Business men and women popped in on their lunch break for the steamy cup of coffee they thought would only remain in their dreams. Locals strolled in to check out the latest artwork donning the walls that rocketed up to the second floor. The Met is a piece of art itself, from the artwork for sale to their cups of coffee and hot cocoa.

This isn’t just any old coffee shop. You have endless options of lattes, teas, smoothies, hot cocoas, and more! I opted for a latte myself, the two times I stopped in. I selected a post-ski hazelnut and chocolate latte to warm my bones. I believe this was a “toffee” latte, if I’m correctly recalling the name. It was just the right amount of chocolate and hazelnut, a nice way to have a “hot cocoa” without the heaviness involved. The highlight: the fluffy, creamy, smooth milk. How does one make a latte so pristine? I thought perhaps the man behind the counter just had some special talent. But the second latte I had the next day was made by a woman who worked there.

I had the same glorious experience with this latte, the perfectly smooth and fluffy milk you want in every latte you drink. I had a hazelnut and white chocolate latte (I guess I like hazelnut and chocolate!), but I’m not recalling the name of this latte. This time, the young woman made a design in my latte! My first ever. I also made her day by taking the photo you see to the right of this paragraph.

Among the many options you have at The Met, you’ll also need to decide where you want to sit. When you walk in there are tables and a small couch area leading up to your visit to the register. You’ll also find a second room hidden behind the register, which is really small and cozy. It didn’t appeal to me since it felt more on the dungeony, dark side. To the right of the main room, there are stairs leading up to a room with tall bar tables and another couch area by a set of windows. I made my way up the stairs to a bar table. There was a lot of sun shining in through the windows and it was surprisingly quieter upstairs. I also had a nice view of tons of paintings on the wall, and could look down on the whole coffee shop at the stairway.

Finally, coffee mug collectors will find a selection of locally handmade pottery mugs throughout the shop. I’ve been needing a nice new cappuccino cup, regretting my purchase of a cheap plain white one to begin with. I found an awesome brown mug with a greenish rim. It keeps the heat inside the cup and I don’t burn my fingers when I pick it up to take a sip. It was expensive, but it was handmade and it rocks.

The Met Coffeehouse is worth the trip. Next time you find yourself heading to or through North Conway, this is a must visit stop. I give their coffee a 6 out of 5!

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Book Review: Forgotten Souls by Tiffany King

ImageForgotten Souls, a sequel to Meant to Be, is clearly a gateway into the next book in the series. I will say that I enjoyed it, just not as much as Meant to Be. King does an excellent job further developing the bonds between Guides and Protectors, which we were left wondering about in the first book. We learn a lot about the powers each of them holds, and it’s fascinating seeing the super powers King chooses for the Guides versus the Protectors. Be prepared to read a lot about these powers and how they learn to control them.

We get a sneak peek at what the Guides and Protectors can do to save the world at the conclusion of Forgotten Souls. King amps up the action and continually maintains a focus on the emotional bond between the Guides and Protectors throughout the entire book. I recommend having a tissue box by your side for those sad moments that arise in this second book. King is a true writer, the kind that will make you both laugh and cry. If you haven’t read Meant to Be or Forgotten Souls yet and you enjoy reading romance and/or paranormal books, I suggest you do. Forgotten Souls is a 4 out of 5 star novel, so it’s worth the read!

Forgotten Souls is available in ebook and paperback right on Amazon. You can get this fascinating read for a bargain price of $2.99 in ebook form and just $8.99 in paperback. This is the second book in the Saving Angels series, so you will need to read Meant to Be first (the first book). Once you start reading the series, you’ll want to keep reading. Now to await the third book :).

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When December 1st Rolls Around…

Hi Readers!

December 1st has finally arrived, and a huge burden has lifted off of my shoulders. NaNoWriMo was a ringing success, that beautiful “Winner” bar glowing into my face at 8pm last night upon the completion of 50,000 words. A huge smile squished my cheeks back, and a camera flashed in my face. Did I become a celebrity over night, I wondered? No, no. It was just my goofy boyfriend capturing the moment. No, that’s what I thought, but he was just attaching my face to my phone number in his phone. Regardless, it was one of my most exciting NaNoWriMo wins.

So here it is. My web badge that gives me bragging rights:

It was one of the toughest NaNoWriMos for me yet. Smack in the middle of the month, days would pass and my characters would still be strolling down the street or sitting around the kitchen table talking on and on. I felt like I would never break out of the cycle. I’d keep writing and writing, hoping I would overcome the block I had reached in The Controllers of Zaraline. But thanks to my Monday blog subscriptions hitting my email, a few tips here and there reminded me of how to beat down the wall. Conflict. A writer’s best friend. The last half of November was filled with excitement: My villain breaking out of his shell and committing evil acts while also struggling with the desire to be a better person; Two characters taking a step up into important roles I hadn’t foreseen previously; Connections developing from beginning to end. It was overall a success.

Though I have reached the required 50,000 words to call myself a NaNoWriMo winner, my novel isn’t complete. I still have at least three chapters that are unfinished, and more to add on so that a few of my characters aren’t left floating in the middle of nowhere (this hits close to home, they may just be floating somewhere unknown). My goal this time around is to complete these chapters, add in what I need, THEN go back and read it over. I made the mistake of editing before writing the ending in my other work in progress. If I could turn back the clock, I would continue writing and writing until that wall disappeared. Then once the ending came to life I could go back and edit. It’s amazing the crippling effect editing can have on a work when you’re writing a first draft. There’s definitely still hope for my work in progress, and I WILL complete it. My creativity is surging right now, and that ending is bound to escape onto the pages of my computer.

Here’s to another year ahead to write, edit, and revise, then write for 30 days straight when November 2012 arrives. Congratulations to all of the winners of NaNoWriMo. Thank you all for your support. I look forward to sharing my two works in progress with you, when they’re ready to enter the big scary world.

Love,
Renee

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The Controllers Of Zaraline – A NaNoWriMo Novel

I’ve been hard at work writing for NaNoWriMo, when I’m not at my full time job. This year, I thought I’d try my hand at a bit of Fantasy. It’s been going well, but a lot more difficult than I expected. For a while there, I didn’t feel like my novel was fitting into one genre, but branching out into crime, fantasy, superhero fiction, and more. With the help of a friend, I’ve finally categorized it as “Urban Fantasy”.

Surprisingly enough, I’ve already given my novel a title! What?? I know, crazy. I can’t even give a title to my second novel which is nearly complete. Granted, this title may change, but for now, I give you “The Controllers of Zaraline.” Think superhuman people who can control things everyday humans can’t. Think force fields, flying, dissipation, resurrection, and much much more. But how did they get these powers? Simple – discovering the meaning of life. Bam!

As I was writing down my ideas, I realized that I hadn’t painted a picture of Zaraline in my writing. I had created it in my mind, but I was focusing solely on my characters and dialogue. In the past, I’ve been told I need to work on my dialogue and development of my characters. In doing so, I left out my strengths which lie in setting the scene.

Since then, I’ve gone back and created the world of Zaraline in words, but before doing so, I sketched out a nice map of it to really imprint it in my brain. Plus, I wanted to give you all a sneak peek. Zaraline isn’t exactly the fantasy world you want to live in. It’s more of a place where superhumans are imprisoned so that they can’t share their powers with the world. Though they are under the impression that they voluntarily moved to Zaraline. I know, it sounds like I have some influences from Heroes the TV show. I admit, I probably do. I love Heroes.

Anywho, here’s a map of Zaraline (I apologize for the low quality – I had to take a picture of it with my camera since the scanner kept yelling at me):

I’ll leave you to contemplate what I have in store for you. Time to get back to writing!

Love,
Renee

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Writer’s Block? That’s What NaNoWriMo Is For!

I apologize for the lack of posts as of late. My second novel has been kicking my butt, and it’s been stressful. I’ve thought of ways I could overcome this block I’ve hit, such as changing the outcome of a situation halfway through, leading my main character into a new direction, etc. etc. So far, these ideas haven’t been working out in my favor. I know I said that I’d be releasing Novel 2 this month, but I need to set it aside, switch gears, then come back to it.

In the meantime, I’m getting prepped for NaNoWriMo! I’ll have far more to entertain you with as I face my third year of literary abandon. This time around, I’m jumping into a whole new boat. With my love for fantasy, I decided that I should try my hand at writing a fantasy novel. I have some crazy ideas stewing in my brain for this novel, and it’s quite exciting. Though previously I may have focused on one idea in my novels, I’m wrapping together a whole slew of ideas into one writing experience. Granted, all of these ideas mixed together may not turn out well, NaNoWriMo is the time to just write. What better time to experiment than November?

I’ll keep you guys updated with how this process is going. There’s only 11 days until November, so it won’t be long until you hear from me again. I have lots of new strategies I want to try out this time around, such as sketching out specific characters or scenes to provide a better description in the novel itself. I think it’s going to help out a lot. I don’t think I have the best way of sharing these images with you all, but if I can manage to find a way, I will share.

The winter months really get me into the writing mode, so don’t worry. Novel 2 will be around eventually. Maybe not this month, but within a few months. I need to get my creative juices working on something new to get my passion reignited. Then that ending will come, a title will be in a place, and all will be well in the world.

Thank you all for your patience!

Love,
Renee

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Travel Review: A Trip To Gillette Castle In Connecticut

Heading down to Gillette’s Castle in Connecticut, I was under the impression that the castle would remind me of the one I imagined up for Tearing Honor. I haven’t done hands-on research for novels before and was convinced that I would be disappointed that I didn’t visit this castle in the making of Tearing Honor. To my surprise, as I toured the castle, nothing screamed out to me that I should have visited before writing up an imaginary castle.

Gillette Castle is a more modern castle than ones you would typically find in the medieval time period. It was built in the 20th century, so no surprise there necessarily.  The outside itself reminded me of medieval castles, but inside was where my opinion rapidly changed.

Gillette designed his castle with comfort in mind. Though a theater actor for years upon years, he wasn’t too fond of ‘unwelcome’ guests. Along the walls above his living room area, he implanted various mirrors in just the right locations to see who was entering his home before physically running into them. If he saw in his mirrors an ‘unwelcome’ guest, he snuck out a secret door in his office, leading to an exit on another side of the castle. It would’ve been really nifty to actual experience going through the secret passage and see what kind of tunnel he had designed, but that wasn’t part of the tour.

He had mirrors for other purposes too. The man had quite the sense of humor. For instance, one mirror was adjusted in such a way that he could see the bar area when he was standing in the upstairs halls above the living room. He designed a bar that closed in such a way that the top needed to be lifted up before the door handles would open the cabinets where his liquor was stored. Most people were unaware of this, so he’d tell them to grab a drink while he went and grabbed something upstairs, and they’d go to open the bar’s door to get some drinks to find that it was ‘locked’. He’d stand upstairs and laugh while he watched his friends attempting to grab a drink, fidgeting with the bar believing it was locked, all from a mirror above the living room. Then he’d proceed downstairs and ask them why on earth they didn’t have drinks in hand yet and get the same answer “it’s locked.” What a prankster! Not exactly something I would expect to find in a medieval castle.

Another oddity that stuck out to me was his sun-room, just aside of the living room. It was absolutely gorgeous (not to say something like that wouldn’t be found in a medieval castle). But his elaborate fountains and blooming plants/flowers didn’t seem fitting for the business you would find in a noble’s castle.  War, politics, and religion tended to be the center of attention for those who lived in castles. Gillette, on the other hand, believed in relaxation and meditation. Of course, the man wasn’t running a kingdom; he was simply living beside the Connecticut River putting on Sherlock Holmes plays and generally enjoying life.Gillette also created his own railroad on the grounds. Though only a short ride, the railroad was one of his guilty pleasures in life. He would bring visitors and friends for rides when they’d stop by, just for fun. Yet another attraction you wouldn’t find in the medieval time period. Again, you weren’t able to ride the train, but you could view the front and the cabooses in the educational building before walking up to the castle.

There were a decent amount of walking trails outside, donning a covered bridge and a giant stone archway. For those who are looking for trips with a decent amount of exercise incorporated, Gillette has you covered.  There are two trails: one that just leads you into a random area in the woods and another that leads you down to a small beach along the Connecticut River. The woodsy trail is simpler to walk and a bit more scenic. You’ll come across dozens of wine-berries (depending on the time you visit) and lots of trees. The second trail is more man-made, with flattened out dirt trails and wooden half-steps to lead you down to the beach. Not the prettiest of walks, but it at least gives you a good cardio workout.

Needless to say, Gillette’s unique and modern interior and exterior designs kept it far from portraying the typical medieval castle I described in Tearing Honor. Though I would like to do hands-on research for some of my coming novels, I’m glad to see that I didn’t miss out on anything useful visiting one of the few nearby castles to my home. Perhaps the castle’s exterior would’ve developed my descriptions of the walls and doorways a bit more, having viewed the castle’s outside hands-on. But not so much the interior.

Gillette Castle is a quick and relatively entertaining trip to make in a day. You only need about 2 hours to enjoy all of the castle and the grounds, that is unless you plan to bum on the beach the rest of the afternoon. It’s a great start to a day trip to Connecticut, allowing you to squeeze in other activities along the way. As far as I can recall, there wasn’t a fee to take a tour of the castle. It is more of a self-run tour, but there are tour guides around to provide information about the castle and Gillette himself. Be warned: Gillette Castle doesn’t seem as large as they claim it is in the tour or online guides. It may be, but what you see doesn’t encompass nearly the size of building they describe. I give Gillette Castle a 3.5/5. Mainly, I discounted its score because I would’ve like to see a more medieval-esque castle, and I was disappointed that the size of the castle wasn’t what people had hyped it up to be.

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Book Review: Violet Midnight By Allie Burke

A paranormal romance novel, Violet Midnight is captivating and surprisingly mysterious. Allie Burke leaves the reader reaching for more information consistently, but in a “this is so good, I want more” kind of way. A paranormal romance novel about a group of people called Enchanters who control various elements, Violet Midnight presents a fresh perspective on people with “super powers”. The history behind these Enchanters and their relationships gradually reveals itself, beautifully leaving room for sequels.

Allie portrays her characters so well that you can feel their emotions as you read. To start, she switches points of views from Jane to Elias, back and forth, developing their mindsets before placing them together. Even once they’re brought together by their gravitational pull, their points of views are presented separately while also introducing their melded points of views. As a couple, they share more than one could imagine. Allie writes so intricately that the varied views just feels natural.

It took a few chapters to really get sucked in, but once I was, I absolutely couldn’t put Violet Midnight down. I had to make an effort not to start the next book in this series to ensure that I didn’t drop any spoilers in here for the next one. That’s how amazing this novel is. A great paranormal romance novel filled with conflict and fascinating powers, and a dreamy love, Violet Midnight is a 5/5, hands down. In fact, I’d give it a 6/5 if that was an option!

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