New York City!!

I love to travel. I love to experience different cultures, different foods, different people.  I’ve traveled to France, London, China, South America, New Zealand, Denmark, and soon I’m going to Scotland and Ireland.  But amazingly, when I go to New York City, the differences are almost as great as going to a different country

I’ve never grabbed an Uber or a taxi in my home of Tomball, Texas.  My heart got a workout when I got into a taxi whose driver had road rage and screamed the entire drive as he delivered me to my Grand Central author party.  (All I could think of was that I’m glad not everyone had guns like they do in Texas.) I’ve never bumped into so many people on the streets of Tomball. In New York you are shoulder to shoulder.  And in Times Square, some of those people are “over-the-top” characters.  Like a women wearing nothing but a thong and paint.  Like the Mickey Mouse characters with bobbling heads. As crazy as it was, I loved experiencing it all.

Restaurants are everywhere.  The food is phenomenal. And I can’t say enough about the play Hamilton.  Wow!!  I mean, wow!

And because this was a RWA, Romance Writers of America, conference, attended by writers, it felt like most of those folks were family.  And because I’ve spoken at so many writer’s conferences, I know so many faces. 

I spent time chatting with Tina Dick, who is a reporter from Germany. I love running into her every year, and it’s not just because she brings me German chocolate.  But the chocolate is amazing.  I ran into Joss Wood, who lives in South Africa and whose books sound wonderful, and was such a pleasure to chat with.  I ran into some folks from New Zealand who were at my workshop I gave there.  Then there were the fans who came to the signing.  They got C.C. Hunter T-shirts just for showing up, too. I ran into old friends, Arel Jansen, from Maine, and we had some great visits, hugs, and laughs.  I hung with Ruth Kenjura, a Houston RWA member.

I shared wine and conversation with Diane Kelly, Lori Wilde, Kerrelyn Sparks, Shala Patel, Pintip Dunn, Dyranda Jones, Miranda Liasson, and Carolyn Brown.  Laura Drake, Susan Muller, and I got turned down by two angry Uber drivers, but we finally got to the Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, where great food and laughs were had.  Susan and I roomed together again, and you know you need a roomie who agrees that what happens in the hotel room, stays in the hotel room.  Oh, the fun! (By the way, all of these are amazing authors, try them!)

I met with editors, my agent, bloggers, librarians, and I may have drunk a little too much wine.  But I did not dance on any tables.  So don’t believe anyone who says I did.  And remember photos can be altered.  I went to workshops, heard Alyssa Cole speak at the Librarian breakfast, which was fantastic and met authors Tee O’Fallon and M.A. Taylor, whose books sound amazing and I’m ordering them today. 

New York City was amazing.  A blend of culture, good food, better friendships, and tons of laughter. 

Giveaway!!

And . . . I got some free books, double copies, and I snagged a few extra RWA tote bags. So today, I’ll give away a bag, and at least one book that I snagged at the conference.  So leave a post and tell me about one of your travel adventures or a dream vacation, and one person will win a tote and at least one new book. (Sorry, but this giveaway is for U.S. residents only. And if you’re reading this on Goodreads, you must post your comment on my blog to enter.)

Happy Reading!

What Are You Reading?

Summer time is in full swing. Time for trips to the beach, car rides across the country, sitting by the pool, and lots of time to relax and read. I love sitting on the deck of a beach house overlooking the ocean and catching up on my reading.

One of the many perks as an author is that I get asked to read and blurb about new books.  So I’m often discovering new books and new authors.  Recently, I read a great page turner, Jane Anonymous.  Now it doesn’t release until January, but if you like nail biting suspense, preorder it now.

Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz’s thrilling novel Jane Anonymous is a revelatory confessional of a seventeen-year-old girl’s fight to escape a kidnapper—and her struggles to connect with loved ones and a life that no longer exists. 

Seven months.

That’s how long I was kept captive. 

Locked in a room with a bed, refrigerator, and adjoining bathroom, I was instructed to eat, bathe, and behave. I received meals, laundered clothes, and toiletries through a cat door, never knowing if it was day or night. The last time I saw the face of my abductor was when he dragged me fighting from the trunk of his car. And when I finally escaped, I prayed I’d never see him again.

Now that I’m home, my parents and friends want everything to be like it was before I left. But they don’t understand that dining out and shopping trips can’t heal what’s broken inside me. I barely leave my bedroom. Therapists are clueless and condescending. So I start my own form of therapy—but writing about my experience awakens uncomfortable memories, ones that should’ve stayed buried. How far will I have to go to uncover the truth of what happened—and will it break me forever?

Find out more about Laurie Faria Stolarz and her books at https://lauriestolarz.com/stand-alones/.

I also just bought Lea Nolan’s Hoodoo Apprentice series. I haven’t started it, but I’m about to. It sounds amazing and came highly recommended. I’m going to start it tomorrow, curled up on my porch swing, sipping sweet tea. I can’t wait!

Be careful what you wish for…

Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry–hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.

But when a strange girl bent on revenge appears, demon dogs become a threat, and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before the last days of summer–and her friends–are lost forever.

Find out more about Lea Nolan and her Hoodoo Apprentice series at http://leanolan.com/ln/books-new/.

What are you reading? Any books you’d like to recommend?

Winner!!

The winner of last week’s t-shirt giveaway is Elizabeth Kenney. Congratulations! Please email your postal address and your t-shirt size to cc@cchunterbooks.com.

Scoop Out the Litter Box

Riley has a lot on her plate in Three Heartbeats Away. She’s dealing with a Bridezilla ghost, a jealous girlfriend, an alcoholic dad, and a hot guy that doesn’t remember her. But at least she has her best friend.  Kelsey and Riley have each other’s backs.  They talk, share secrets, and offer each other advice.  Do you have a friend like this?  Someone who listens, commiserates with you?  Here’s an excerpt showing Kelsey and Riley’s friendship.  Riley has just confided in Kelsey that she feels something is off with Hayden and her. 

Excerpt

Kelsey sits up, crosses her legs, and stares at me. “Maybe you’re not as attracted to the real Hayden as you were the spirit Hayden. The whole ghost thing could have been what turned you on to him! Like bad boy versus good boy. Dead versus alive.”

              “Are you crazy?” I pop up. “No. I look at him and I melt. At night, when I’m alone, he’s all I can think about. And he’s ten times more attractive now than he was!”

              She holds up a hand. “Chill. I was just putting the worst-case scenario out there first. I have a few other possibilities.”

              I exhale and drop back on my headboard. “Okay. What are they?”

              “Maybe you’re scared.” She bites down on her bottom lip. “Like I am.” Her words come out sincere. “I know you were hurt when Carl started dating only a few weeks after you left. Maybe that scared you more than you know and now you’re afraid to love someone. Afraid they’ll walk out on you or yank your heart out and feed it to a Rottweiler.”

              I let that reasoning crawl around my head and heart a second. “That’s not it, either,” I say. “Yeah, Carl hurt me, but even then I knew it wasn’t true love. I was more upset about Shala, my ex-best friend, than I was with him.”

Kelsey holds up three fingers. “Okay, third and last possibility. You need to close a few doors before you open up another one.”

              “Huh?” I ask.

              “Metaphorically. You’ve got a lot of open issues. Your mom issues. Hunting down a murderer. Things with your dad. That’s a lot of crap in your litter box. Maybe you need to scoop some out.” She sighs. “Which is another metaphor. A bad one, I know. What I mean is you need to solve something before you begin something.”

              While her analogy feels a little off, it’s like I just heard the hammer hit the nail. I know she’s right. And her number-two reason isn’t that wrong, either. Though it’s not about Carl or Shala. This is about being abandoned and done wrong by the people I should have been able to trust. It even kind of explains why I went bonkers with the whole Brandy issue. Hayden’s needing time made me feel as if he was about to abandon me. Then when I thought he’d been seeing Brandy the same time as me, I felt like another person I loved hadn’t been honest with me.

              I let out a deep breath of angst. I need to find my nerve. I need to scoop the poop out of my litter box.

              I look at Kelsey. “You make a damn good shrink.” I hug her. “Now about you and Dex.”

              “I’m okay,” she lies.

              “No, you’re not.” I grab her hand. “Promise me that you won’t shut Dex out again. If he tries to kiss you, kiss him back. Take a chance. You know, if I’ve learned anything dealing with spirits, it’s that life is short. And I think we end up regretting more of the things we don’t do than the things we do. Give Dex a chance. He may not end up being the one. But he really likes you.”

              Right then, the temperature in the room goes cold. Kelsey gets her wide-eyed there’s-a-ghost-here look. And she’s right.

Giveaway!

You can order all three books in my Mortician’s Daughter series now from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo.  Leave a comment to be entered to win a C.C. Hunter T-shirt.  (Sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. And if you are on Goodreads, you need to go my blog at http://cchunterbooks.com/blog/ to leave a comment to be entered.)

When You Hug Someone

Did you know that hugging increases levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which is beneficial for stress levels, heart health and so much more? Did you know a ten second hug a day may fight infections, boost your immune system, ease depression and fatigue?

In Three Heartbeats Away, Riley learns about some of the science of hugs and discovers a twenty second hug (or longer) holds the greatest health benefits, especially for stress relief. And boy, could Riley use less stress.  I mean, she’s only trying to stop a killer. So, she starts counting the seconds when she hugs people and when they hug her. Here’s an excerpt of one of her best hugs from Hayden, the guy she loves that’s dating someone else.

Excerpt

We leave the hospital, and I barely get seated behind the wheel before Hayden says, “Tell me about your dead-bride search.”

I consider telling him it’s not his deal, but Hayden helped with my last two spirits. I start driving and give him the lowdown on the bride and about going to Delicious Donuts earlier.

A wrinkle appears in the middle of his forehead.“You went by yourself.”

“It was daytime. People were around.”

He shakes his head. “You’re trying to find a murderer. You shouldn’t go there alone.”

“I’m not trying to find him. I’m trying to find evidence to take to the police.”

“Same thing.” Frustration sounds in his tone.“Do you realize how crazy it is that you are even doing this?”

“What am I supposed to do? Not help them?”

“Maybe,” he says.

I halt at a stop sign and look at him. “I can’t not help them. I didn’t ask for this, but they come to me and it is what it is.”

For the next mile, we don’t speak. Then he says, “Sorry, I just… It still blows my mind. I’ll do some checking on the Internet, too.”

“Don’t you have enough on your plate?” I pull up in front of his house.

“I’m by myself all day.”

I cut the car off and pull out the keys to get his walker out of the trunk. When I set it down, I say, “I should go.”

He frowns. “You said you didn’t have to be home until five-thirty. You’ve got—”

“I know, but…my big showdown with my dad about Mom is supposed to happen this afternoon, and I need to wrap my head around what I’m going to say.” My voice almost trembles.

“You going to be okay?”

One look at his blue eyes and the truth slips out.“I don’t know.”

Hayden stands there. “Call me when it’s over. I’m sure you’ll need to talk.” He picks up the walker and sets it on the curb and uses it to step up.

I worry he did too much today.“Hand me your keys and I’ll unlock your door.”

He hands them to me, and I move with him up the walkway.

We get to the porch, and I unlock the door and hand him his keys.

Our hands touch, and the brief contact is almost painful. “Riley, I’m sorry you’re having to go through this.”

“I know.”

Before I realize his intention, he pushes his walker aside and hugs me.

I close my eyes and let my head rest on his chest. I know this spot. I can smell his skin, feel his chest rise and fall. Alive. The boy I was so afraid of losing is alive and walking. And he cares. About me. Emotion stings my eyes.

His cheek comes down to the side of my temple. I savor the closeness, relish the feel of his arms around me. I memorize his whispered breath against my cheek. Counting the seconds, I pray for twenty. Or more than twenty. I get to thirty before Hayden says, “I’ll be thinking about you.”

His arms fall from around me. I step back. Our eyes meet, hold, and I feel it, the connection I’ve never felt with anyone else.

“Call me,” he says. “If only to say you survived. I’ll worry if you don’t.”

Nodding, I walk back to my car. I get inside. The warmth of his embrace lingers. I look out the window. He’s still there watching me. Part of me wants to run back and hug him again. But I remember my appointment with Dad.

I start my car.When I pull out, I see a candy-apple-red Honda parked across the street. And I recognize who’s in the driver’s seat—recognize who’s staring at me. Brandy.

She had to have seen us hug. This can’t be good.

I keep driving. The moment I come to a side street, I turn, put my car in park, and text Hayden: Brandy’s parked across from your house.

Three dots appear, then disappear. And so does the sweetness of Hayden’s hug. I remember his figuring-out comment.

Why does everything in my life have to be so screwed up?

***

Want to read more about Riley and Hayden and their adventures? You can order all three books in my Mortician’s Daughter series now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Are you a hugger? Do you easily hug your family and friends? Or is it something you are uncomfortable with?

Three Heartbeats Away Excerpt

Have you read Three Heartbeats Away, the final book in my Mortician’s Daughter series? Riley’s dad has been drinking again, and she isn’t sure what to do about it. She’s afraid he’s an alcoholic, afraid he’ll drive drunk or lose his job—again. That’s a lot for a teenager to deal with, really it’s a lot for anyone to deal with. But Riley’s got spunk. I mean she faces down homicidal ghosts, she can deal with her dad. Can’t she? So, she gives him an ultimatum: go to an AA meeting or she’s gone. Will she be disappointed? Or will her dad be there for her?

Excerpt

The good feeling wanes as I fill the Crock-Pot with one of Dad’s favorite meals. Beef stew with carrots, potatoes, and pearl onions. I even picked up some frozen rolls to sop up the gravy. Dad likes to sop.

Scared my heart is about to be broken again and not wanting to dwell on it, I do something I’ve let go these last few weeks. I vacuum, do laundry, and give the downstairs a good cleaning. When I finish, the meaty aroma of beef stew fills the house. I check the clock. It’s five-thirty. Is he coming?

Not coming?

How the hell am I going to deal with it if he doesn’t show?

No, I tell myself. Dad loves me. He’ll be here.

I run upstairs to put on a little makeup and try to figure out the appropriate attire to wear to an AA meeting. Is it like church? I choose plain black pants and a light green blouse. Again, a color I remember Mom wearing. I keep moving, pretending Dad will walk in any minute. Pumpkin follows me around the house, happy that I’m here.

At five-fifty, I go back downstairs. Put the rolls in. Then I lean against the counter. I could set the table. Fix some tea. I could call Hayden just to chat. Text Kelsey and see what she’s doing. I could.

I don’t.

Instead I stare at the clock on the wall. Watch the minute hand tick, tick, tick.

I don’t move. I just breathe.

The timer for the oven dings. The rolls are ready. But I’m not.

I’m not ready to face that Dad’s not coming.

I pull the rolls out. They are golden brown. The smell of fresh-baked bread rises from the pan. Glancing at the time, I see it’s six. I drop the pan on the top of the stove. The rolls could be burnt for all I care.

Will Riley’s dad come home? Will he go to the AA meeting? You’ll have to read Three Heartbeats Away to find out. What do you think will happen? (If you are reading this on Goodreads, please go to my actual blog to leave a comment.)

You can order your ebook or print copy of Three Heartbeats Away at Amazon,  Barnes & Noble or Kobo.

Winner!!

The winner of last week’s t-shirt giveaway is Taylor. Congratulations! Please email your postal address and t-shirt size to me at cc@cchunterbooks.com.

Preorder Contest Winner!

A big thank you to everyone who preordered Three Heartbeats Away and entered my preorder contest. Your support is greatly appreciated. The winner is Jennee. Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to cc@cchunterbooks.com.