Sharon Ledwith Visits my Blog to Share her Rules for Writers

THE 80 – 20 RULE FOR WRITERS from Sharon Ledwith Apply the 80-20 rule to everything you do. Especially when it comes to your writing. What’s the 80-20 rule? It’s a simple formula. The basic idea is that 20 percent of the things you do will account for 80 percent of the value of your work. For optimum performance in any job, it’s essential that you work on the top 20 percent of the activities that account for most of your results. This rule is also known as the Pareto Principal or Power Law. How does this law apply to Writers? Read on…
  • Time Sucks: You know what I’m talking about. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. TV. Email checking. Web surfing. These activities can be gigantic time sucks. Get a timer or set an amount of time for yourself for these simple pleasures. If you do this, you’ll free yourself up to dedicate time for your writing. Do it. Be ruthless.
  • Great Writing Sessions: Some writing sessions are more productive than others. Know when is the best time for you to write, and when is not. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Know yourself well with regards to this advice. You will generate roughly 80% of your writing in the best 20% of your writing sessions. When you have a great day of writing, take notice on the factors that make it productive, and try to repeat those factors in all of your writing sessions.
  • Not-so-great Writing Sessions: A small number of your writing sessions will be far more wasteful than the rest. What happened in these sessions? Distractions? Your special someone knocking on your office door? Pets demanding attention? Do the math and figure out the factors that prevented great writing sessions. What can you do to fix these sessions in the future?
  • Writing Quality: Pretty much 20% of your writing will be of a high quality. That’s the good stuff you should publish. The other 80% will be crap. Buck up. It happens to the best of us.
  • Know Your Audience: What’s selling for you? Your audience will vastly prefer some 20% of your writing. Know this. Embrace this, especially the enthusiastic reviews. Then create more stories like it. It should drive more success your way.
  • Creating Ideas: You’ll think up 80% of your best ideas in 20% of the time you dedicate to creative activities. Figure out what puts you in these highly creative states and try to recreate those conditions every time. Was it the music you were listening to? The tea or coffee you sipped? Perhaps it was incense you were burning. On the flipside, you’ll trash 80% of your time spent generating new ideas. Maybe that time would be better spent on editing, reading or other activities.
  • Productivity: Some days will be more productive than others. Period. Exploit those days by pushing yourself to write as many hours as you can. Make the most of it and you may complete more work in one day than in several average days.
  • Book Sales: A cold, hard fact: 80% of book sales will come from 20% of authors. This explains why the publishing industry tosses huge amounts of money at a small number of authors while it ignores great work from everyone else. Life’s not fair for those in that 80% range.
  • Success and Failure: Some 80% of your written work will likely fail to gain an audience. However, all it takes is one major success to turn that percentage around and claim your stake in the publishing world. Grow a thick skin and keep trying.
Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series: The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures… Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time. Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past. Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries… Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with its freakish power. There’s no hope for a normal life, and no one who understands. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Until mysterious things start to happen. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected. The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series: The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, Book #3 MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀ The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links: MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀ The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links: MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀ Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links: MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀ Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:   Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links: MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀ Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links: MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀       Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE  

June is Freedom

I’ve been spending a lot of time these days looking back. Looking back on better times, better days. I read my journals written pre-2020, before Covid, before my health took a nosedive in early 2021 and has continued into 2022, to try to remember what normal life was like. How I used to live. What waking up and doing and going wherever I wanted felt like.

It’s so strange that you can live a certain way for most of your life, and then a year of a lockdown caused by a pandemic, followed by a year of bad health, can make that life you used to live feel so foreign to you that it’s as if someone else had lived it. You have no visceral connection to the past experiences you read about in your journal or see in pictures because that person doesn’t feel like you anymore.

No longer seeing yourself in yourself is a peculiar, isolating feeling.

The summer months are approaching. Though my favorite season is fall, (who can pass up hot cider, cozy sweaters, comfy slippers, the smell of crisp leaves, and, of course, Halloween and all of its scary movies) June has always felt like freedom to me. I’m assuming that sentiment has carried over from when I was a child and June marked the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation. Freedom!

Sunshine, barbeques, baseball games, outdoor concerts, carnivals, and fests.

June starts tomorrow, but I’m not feeling as free as I once did. The sunshine of June that ushers in the summer months used to fill me up with excitement for potential summer adventures.

Maybe I’ll feel that excitement next June.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

Covid Got Me Again

I have covid…again. I first got covid back in Nov 2020. It was a breeze. My only symptoms were mild congestion and loss of taste and smell. I wasn’t vaccinated then. Vaccinations weren’t available yet, but I am double-vaccinated and boosted now, and covid is kicking my ass.

I was healthier in Nov 2020 when I dealt with covid as an unvaccinated person, as opposed to how I’ve been the past year, and I’m sure that is making a difference.  It’s almost laughable that someone like me gets covid. At the time I tested positive I hadn’t been out of the house (except for dog walks) in almost two weeks and the only people outside my household I was around was my neighbor, who came over and sat with me and my dog in the grass and chatted for a bit, and four members of my extended family who visited for a couple hours. But that’s all it took. Being in contact with five people I don’t live with was enough to give me covid. It’s no wonder cases are starting to surge again.

I’ll get through this bout of covid just as I did a year and a half ago. My only concern is any long-term effect it may have on the Myasthenia Gravis that I have. I can’t be one hundred percent certain that the flareup I’ve been living through the past fourteen months wasn’t triggered by my Nov 2020 covid diagnosis. The doctors I’ve talked to can’t say for sure. I had no lingering effects from that first covid case. I went back to living normally for four months until my current flareup started and fourteen months later, I’m still living it.

I only hope the covid inside my body now won’t make me worse months down the road because I desperately need to get better. Get my life back. It’s crazy and awfully scary how fast life can change. I look at pictures from 2019, just three years ago, and it feels like another lifetime because it’s been so long since I’ve lived “normally.” I went from isolating in 2020 because of a deadly virus, to isolating in 2021 because of a flareup in my health that now, over five months into 2022, I’m still dealing with.

I know I’m not the only one dealing with lingering health issues that make getting out of bed feel like an Olympic accomplishment. You’re not alone. I know that can be an easy concept to forget when health issues can frustrate and depress every fiber of your soul. But you’re not alone. Reach out if you need help. I do. All the time. I have friends that must feel like veteran therapists of fifty years after dealing with me this past year.

I tell them every day how appreciative I am of them.

Margaret does what she wants

Wrinkles cover her thin-skinned ninety-two-pound body, compliments from her eighty-seven years of living in this, at times, tumultuous world.  But she’s as easygoing as they come, mostly unbothered by external noise.

She’s a headstrong, entirely capable, and stubborn woman. I love all of those qualities about her.  She minds her own business and lives the way she wants. She talks to me in her beautiful Irish accent. She was born on a farm in Ireland. She rode a horse to school with a trap in the back where kids hitched rides on the way. She misses the horses. The farm had rabbits and dogs and pigs, but she loved the horses the most.

A couple years ago, her son privately talked to her doctor to persuade the doctor to tell her she couldn’t drive anymore. One day she joined me for a walk with my dog Phil and she had a disgruntled look on her face. I asked what was wrong.

“I know my son told my doctor to tell me I can’t drive anymore. I’m not stupid.” She looked up at me with her thin lips pressed bitterly against each other and her short brown hair swaying in the breeze. “But I do what I want. He’s not the boss of me.”

Later that day I was sitting on my front lawn with Phil and her garage door opened. Seconds later, a blue van backed out of the garage and down the driveway. She pulled into the street and gave me a wave from behind the wheel as she passed.

She’d found her keys. She’s determined like that.

Another day I was walking Phil past her house, and she was in the garage pounding out a dent in her car. I asked her what happened. She said she hit something in the garage but had to hurry because her son would be over soon. I asked if she needed help, she answered, “No, just don’t tell my son.”

That made me smile. Most everything about that special woman makes me smile. I wish to be more like her. I was down one day and told her about it. She told me she doesn’t think about thoughts that bring her down. I imagine that isn’t something she just started doing in her later years. I’m sure she lived by that adage even when she was younger and raising six children. She talks of her past without regret or resentment. She had a hardworking husband, (whom she also tells me wasn’t the boss of her) but times weren’t always easy, especially the early days in Ireland when work was hard to find or when one of her children took their own life.

None of her pains from the past show on her face now. At least none that I can see, though it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. She chooses to live as happily as she can. Not many people make that choice. Some live bitterly and filled with anger. When my nieces and nephews were young, they’d come over and play in the street. Naturally, they’d make a lot of noise. She’d always come outside, not to yell about all the racket, but to sit on her front porch and watch the kids play because she loved to hear the sound of children’s laughter.

Margaret lives across the street from me, and she loves to sit at her front window with her cat. No matter how bad of a day I may be having, when I see her face at the window I always smile because she waves at me with such excitement, huge smile and arm waving fast and high, as though she’d been waiting all day to see me. I will miss that when the day comes where she is no longer at the window. Hopefully that won’t be for a while.

Margaret came over a couple days ago to tell us she and her son and daughters are going to England but won’t be stopping in Ireland. She doesn’t have much family there anymore and doesn’t want to impose on the ones still there. We sat and got to talking and she shared with me how happy she is that we are neighbors. She went on about how comforting and safe she feels that we are right across the street from her. Margaret doesn’t live alone. She has her daughter, and her son stops by almost every day, yet still she appreciates that we are neighbors.

That meant something to me, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate that we are neighbors, too.

Author Stella May Shares the Life of her Great-Grandmother

¬What’s in a Name? from Stella May Have you ever wondered if or how a person’s name affects his/her personality? Does your name determine your fate? Or was Shakespeare right to shrug off labels? The older I get, the more I am convinced that the Bard was wrong—that there is something in a name, after all. My great-grandmother was named Tatyana. There are several different meanings of that name. From ancient Greek, it translates as “founder of order” or “organizer.” According to other translations, it means “a fairy queen,” or “fairy princess.” She was both. Born to a noble Russian family, she was raised like a princess. Later in life, by fate’s capricious will, she became head of the household, where she reigned supreme, bringing order and organizing the lives of her family. Let’s start from the beginning: Tatyana Fortushina was born in 1901 in Qusar (Kusary), located in the foothills of the Great Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan. One of her brothers was an orthodox priest. The other was in the army. She also had two sisters. Unfortunately, the details about my great-grandmother’s family are sketchy at best. According to all the people I have talked to, Tatyana (or Baba Tanya, as everybody called her) wasn’t close with her parents or siblings. My guess? Probably because of her highly unusual marriage. As I said, my great-grandmother was raised and educated like a princess, graduating from an establishment (St. Nina’s) for girls of prominent Christian families, and was the apple of her parents’ eye…. until she met my great-grandfather, that is. Here, we draw a big, fat blank. To this day, no one in the family knows how or why Meshady Abbas, the son of an Iranian manufacturer, ended up in post-revolutionary Azerbaijan. When did my great-grandparents meet? And how on earth did a Muslim merchant get parental permission from one of the prominent members of Christian society to marry his daughter? The details are shrouded in secret. One thing we know for sure, though, is that in order to marry my great-grandmother, my great-grandfather converted to Christianity. And so, Meshadi Abbas became Artemy Kurdov and married my great-grandmother. Vera, my grandmother, was born the next year. Their small family was happy—at least I want to believe that they were—but not for very long. When my grandmother Vera was a toddler, Artemy Kurdov, who embraced the Communist ideology wholeheartedly, was executed as an enemy of the nation. Ironic? Not in the least. It’s hard to understand now, but, during Stalin’s regime, just sneezing the wrong way was enough to be labeled as an enemy of the state—literally. And my daredevil of a great-grandfather had managed to become something of a Major in the small city where he lived. I assume that’s why he was ultimately executed… or perhaps he just said something, or did something, or looked at someone in passing, and some zealot took a notice and reported it. I don’t want to think about my great-grandfather’s days in prison or the beatings he endured. Torture was a regular practice of the NKVD—the original name of the KGB. Thus, my great-grandmother Tatyana was left a young widow with no income to support her and her daughter, and no family to turn to for help. But instead of falling apart, this delicately built dark-haired princess squared her shoulders and spat fate in the eyes. She showed everybody what a graduate of St. Nina’s was made of! Remembering the sewing lessons she took in school, Baba Tanya soon became one of the most sought-after seamstresses—all the wives of the city’s elite were dressed by her. Much later, her granddaughters, my mom and my aunt, paraded in the clothes that were the subject of envy to their friends. She had finally found her footing, and life in her household became content. They had a roof over their heads, food on the table, but, most importantly, they had each other. And then… Her only daughter, her whole world, the reason of her being, fell in love with a man almost twice her age… and had to get married, or else. I can only wonder what Baba Tanya felt, when her nice and quiet world suddenly fell apart, as her own daughter repeated the same fate she had? As a mother, how would I react if I were in her shoes? Would I let my daughter chose her own fate, or would I try to interfere? I honestly don’t know. In the end, my great-grandmother gave the couple her blessings and stepped aside. For the next five years, she lived alone. Was she hurt? I imagine she was. Feeling lonely? Abandoned? Oh, absolutely. But she was too proud to show her emotions. Always restrained, now she became coolly aloof. Years later, when her beloved daughter became a widow with two small children at the age of twenty, she immediately took all of them under her wing. How could a woman, a mother, and grandmother keep harboring grudges when three people she loved more than life itself needed her? Hence, she became the head of an all-female household, one she ruled for almost three decades. The second meaning of her name – the founder of order—had come into play. According to my family, she was a stern woman, fair and loving, but reserved. She didn’t suffer fools, didn’t forgive easily, and meted out punishment with a precision of a surgeon. Her scalpel was her tongue—sharp, cold, and merciless. But her love for her girls, although never visible, ran deep and was true. My grandmother Vera always said that, if not for Baba Tanya and her sacrifices, they probably wouldn’t have survived the hunger of World War II. During that horrible time, to suppress her own hunger, Baba Tanya started to smoke. She went hungry for days, giving her tiny bread portions to her granddaughters. She learned to cook from bran and waste products, conjuring meals out of things unimaginable. She stood hours on end in bread lines, barely alive from hunger, all the while puffing away her disgusting handmade cigarettes. That cheap tobacco mix affected her lungs, ultimately causing her to pass away years later when I was barely three years old. My memory of her is vague: a frail figure in a starched white kerchief, thin and pale-faced, coughing loudly. I remember I was afraid to enter the room when the ‘scary old woman’ was lying in bed. I suppose, for a small child, her frailty, her illness-ravished face, that horrible dry cough could and did look scary. But still…to this day, I feel ashamed of myself. Interestingly enough, while I don’t remember much of my great-grandmother’s face, one thing that stuck with me is her hands, which I can remember clearly. Isn’t that just strange? Or is it just the wonders of human memory? Here is a peek at my latest time travel romance novel for your reading pleasure.

One key unlocks the love of a lifetime…but could also break her heart.

Nika Morris’s sixth sense has helped build a successful business, lovingly restoring and reselling historic homes on Florida’s Amelia Island. But there’s one forlorn, neglected relic that’s pulled at her from the moment she saw it. The century-old Coleman house.

Quite unexpectedly, the house is handed to her on a silver platter—along with a mysterious letter, postmarked 1909, yet addressed personally to Nika. Its cryptic message: Find the key. You know where it is. Hurry, for goodness sake!

The message triggers an irresistible drive to find that key. When she does, one twist in an old grandfather clock throws her back in time, straight into the arms of deliciously, devilishly handsome Elijah Coleman.

Swept up in a journey of a lifetime, Nika finds herself falling in love with Eli—and with the family and friends that inhabit a time not even her vivid imagination could have conjured. But in one desperate moment of homesickness, she makes a decision that will not only alter the course of more than one life, but break her heart.

’Til Time Do Us Part is available in Kindle and Paperback at AMAZON.

Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website. Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors. When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business. Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.a>

Standing on that Bridge

Years ago, as teenagers, whenever a friend and I would drive over a bridge and see a person standing at the railings we’d yell, “Don’t jump!” and laugh as if it were the funniest, most original thing ever done. Sometimes we’d honk at the person as we screamed those words.

Yes, we were outrageously cool.

We’d continue on to our destination, usually with the radio blasting, driving and singing and never thinking again about the persons we left behind on the bridges we crossed.

Chances are the people we yelled those words at were not thinking of jumping but were merely walking along the bridge and stopped to see the view, or tie a shoe, or take a rest. But what if just one of those people were actually going through a tough time. Maybe they’d just suffered a devastating loss or received a life-changing health diagnosis or just felt so lost and hopeless that they weren’t sure if life was worth living anymore?

We were young and hadn’t yet lived long enough to experience the hard realities life can force in our paths. We were just beginning our journey in life and when you’re driving fast with the windows down on a gorgeous sunny day while belting out the lyrics to your favorite song, life is good. Life is great. And when you’re young and healthy it’s hard to believe life can be any other way.

Until it’s not. And then life experiences make you understand why some people linger on that bridge. People who don’t live their days, but merely get through them. People who watch life work out for others, but not for them, and then agonize over what they did wrong.

They get through life, as best they can, hoping and waiting for the day they are back in that car belting out their favorite song, only now they say nothing to the people on the bridge.

Life has taught them to know better.

People on a bridge

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Missing Old Times

The basement ceiling is still streaked with marks from when we used to play football. Made-up goal lines, just in front of the bar. I really don’t know how we didn’t break the glass case, shelved with wine and beer glasses, in the corner behind the bar. It’s a good thing. Grandma would have lost her shit.

How many touchdown passes had been thrown in that basement from when you kids used to live here? So many the Bears would have been envious.

The bin of swords we used to fight with, sometimes against each other, other times against imagined zombies, has been packed away a long time ago. That time I took your swords from you and hid them in my closet because you scared the dog, chasing him with a raised sword in your hands.  Phil didn’t understand the game. You were young, but old enough to understand the innocence of a dog. You were just being mean, because you were the youngest and used to being a menace.

So, I had to take your swords away. Not forever. Just for a little while.  Your older sister, always the protective Mother Bear, tried to sneak and steal them back, but I wouldn’t let her. She was mad at me. Her little brother could do no wrong. Ever. I used to always say that you could burn the house down and she’d yell at me if I gave you the slightest sideways look.

She used to knock on my door late at night. Two o’clock in the morning was nothing to that nine-year-old girl. I’d stop writing and we’d talk on my bed, mostly about the divorce, sometimes about other things. But we talked. The divorce happened when you were so young, and you were forgetting the memories you had of your mother and father being together. That was sad for you.

So, we talked through some memories. Popcorn movie nights with your parents. Watching Elf with your dad. That Thanksgiving at your house, when I came covered in puke because I’d thrown up with my head out the window, while Grandma sped down I55. A mixture of motion sickness and being hungover.  Your oldest brother, just a young boy then, yelled out “Auntie!” and ran to greet me at the door. I shot my arm up and stopped him like a traffic patrol.  “Don’t! Auntie has throw-up all over her.” Your father hosed the car down in your driveway, as I hosed myself down in his shower.

Birthday parties at the house you grew up, with the backyard you missed so much. The giant trampoline. The swing set you loved to hang upside down from that always pulled at my nerves. But you were fearless.

The day you came home from school after learning I was writing a lesbian book, because you’d crept up behind me the night before and read over my shoulder as I wrote on my computer, and shouted, with your backpack on your shoulders, “How’s your lesbian story coming, Auntie?”

I laughed. Your mother laughed. You were a funny nine-year-old girl.

Your other brother, just a few years older than you, was a homebody. He loved nothing more than cuddling on the couch with me watching sports or shows, mostly Pitbulls and Parolees and the Friday Night Lights series. “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” You loved that.

In public, you were never the kid we had to worry about running off. You were a scared and anxious kid at times. You never strayed from my side. Ever. But your older brother, I’d lost him once at a Blockbuster on a busy Saturday night, and it was the most terrifying thirty-seven seconds of my life. I eventually found him kneeling at the end of an aisle, going through stacks of videos and DVD’s.

But you would never scare me like that. You were the boy who would take my hand in a parking lot before I even had to tell you, because you were scared of getting hit by a car. You told me your entire school schedule so that at any time during the day I could look at the clock and know what you were doing, what class you were in. You then wanted to know my daily schedule so that you could do the same with me.

That was the cutest thing. Well, maybe not as cute as the love notes you would write me when you happened to be over, and I wasn’t home. Sometimes you’d leave the notes right on top my desk, so I’d see it right away. Other times, you’d put it into a drawer and sometimes days or weeks would go by before I found the note telling me you love me. How happy you are to have me as an aunt. You’d tell me that I’m a great writer. I have all of them. All your notes. You’d ask me how many nephews love their Aunties as much as you love me. I’d say, “Probably not many.”

But you’ve all grown up and moved on with grown up lives, as children tend to do.  We can’t go back in time or relive the past, but if we could, 2014 was a good year to live again. You guys still lived here. We were so close and spent so much time together. I was healthier. Happier. I hadn’t yet known the stress of a Donald Trump presidency.  And covid was nothing but a word.

We can’t go back in time and relive the past. We can only hold our most cherished memories close to us and relive them in our hearts by never forgetting them.

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How Many Books in a Year do you Read?

At the start of every year, one of my “new year’s resolutions” is to read 52 books. One book a week. I just finished book number six. At just about ten weeks into the year, I am four books shy. But I won’t lose much sleep over it, I have yet to achieve my reading goal.

Closest I came was in 2015, where I capped off at 34 books. 2017 and 2018 were my slowest years. I read a total of 10 books in each of those years. I remember those years. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that our former tumultuous and chaotic president had something to do with that. 

Reading is something I do to relax. Clear my head. Get out of my real life and escape into another. I read in my bed, mostly at night, and sometimes in the morning. I hardly ever bring my phone to bed with me.

Of course, that changed during the Trump years. Feels like my hands were tied to my phone, constantly checking social media to see what idiotic, dangerous, or embarrassing thing he’d said or did.

I just finished a book that was stuffed in the back of my bookshelf for a long time. The Cave, by Anne McLean Mathews. Suspense thrillers aren’t my favorite genre to read, and this book was just too disturbing for me to enjoy. But if psychological thrillers are your thing, with overly detailed descriptions of torture, then this book is for you.

My list so far for the year is:

The Tao of Pooh– Highly recommend.  We all need to live more like Pooh. 

Emma – Loved it, though not my favorite Jane Austin book. That would be Pride and Prejudice. I was also clueless to the fact that the movie Clueless was based on Emma.  A genius rendition to a classic novel. 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware- A neighbor gave this to me to read.  The writing was simple and the story, easy to follow.  I enjoyed the plot and appreciated that the story wasn’t overly written.  No detail was given that I felt wasn’t needed.

The Catcher in the Rye – What in the hell took me so long to read this masterpiece? Just gonna leave it there. Salinger certainly doesn’t need me to sing his praises.

Goode Girls Lie by J.T Ellison- I really enjoyed this book. Great plot twists. Gave an excellent portrayal of an elite border school for privileged girls, minus all the murder. 

Tonight, I’m starting the book The Reader. It’s been on my list for a little while now. I have few more books to check off my list but am always open to suggestions.  

Anyone? What’s your favorite book? 

coffee

Helen Carpenter Knows Just How to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

CUPCAKE FANTASY from Helen Carpenter The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume. Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park. She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce. She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool. Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand. After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers. When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon. Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste. Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd. There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day. But she didn’t think so.
Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Batter 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature 2/3 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped ¼ cup heavy cream 1 cup flour 1 tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. salt 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice Preheat oven to 350° F. Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool. Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick. Fold chopped apple pieces into batter. Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups. Bake 20 minutes. Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely. Frosting 1 stick of butter 1 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup heavy cream ¼ tsp. salt 2 cups powdered sugar Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt. Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes. Caramel Sauce 1 cup white sugar ¼ cup water ¼ cup butter 2/3 cup heavy cream Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes. Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes. For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt. Makes 12 cupcakes Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning. Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes. Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .b>

My Best Valentine

My Valentine never makes me feel guilty about eating too much pizza. He’s always ready for a slice.

My Valentine never puts me down for spending another day lounging on the couch. He happily lies beside me, always game for a nap.

My Valentine never turns away when I go in for a smooch or a cuddle (and I do this a lot!). He loves me as much as I love him.

My Valentine always happily greets me at the door, never holding a grudge, no matter how long I am gone. He’s just glad to see me again.

My Valentine lets me have charge of the remote control, never complaining about what movie or show I want to watch.

My Valentine eats whatever I put in front of him, happy to just have food.

My Valentine is the best listener. He knows when to say nothing and just being there is comfort enough.

My Valentine lets me soak him in tears when I need a good cry, no matter how wet he gets.

My Valentine gives kisses on demand, no matter how many kisses I demand. He knows I need it.

My Valentine’s snores wake me up at night, but I don’t nudge him. I let him snore away, because I love him, and he deserves a good night’s sleep.

Thanks for being the best Valentine ever, Phil.

Mommy loves you soooooo much.