Author Sharon Ledwith Visits my Blog.

From Sharon Ledwith I discovered this healthy recipe from an online diet and exercise program I purchased last year and loved it! It packs a different punch to your taste buds while providing a healthier choice to add to your personal menu. Who said a burrito needed to be unhealthy? This easy recipe provides anti-inflammatory properties from apple cider vinegar, immune boosting benefits from garlic, and healthy, inflammation-cooling fats from olive oil. Instead of heading to your local fast-food Mex-Tex joint, try making your own burrito at home. Chipotle Chicken Wrap 1 garlic clove 1 tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp. chili powder 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar Juice from ½ lemon Pinch of salt and pepper ½ tsp. paprika 4-6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced 1 cup romaine lettuce or spinach, chopped 1 tbsp. shredded carrots ½ cup quinoa, cooked, optional Sliced avocado, optional Salsa ½ tomato, diced ¼ onion, diced 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro Squeeze of lemon juice Note: you can use your favorite brand of salsa if you choose Make your chipotle sauce first by blending blend together garlic, olive oil, chili powder, vinegar, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper until smooth (ideally in a blender). Use this sauce to marinate your chicken in a zip lock bag for a minimum of 30 minutes. Mix together all of your salsa ingredients in a bowl. Cook the chicken in a sauté pan until thoroughly cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve on a bed of lettuce with chicken and salsa on top. Add cooked quinoa and or avacado if desired. While you’re waiting for your healthy wrap to digest why not put your feet up and relax on the couch with a good book? May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, either series will transport you to another time and place, taking you away from whatever troubles you. 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/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the award-winning 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 spoiled hubby, and a moody calico cat. Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, LINKEDIN, INSTAGRAM, and GOODREADS. BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE

Summertime

It’s the last day of July. We’re well into the “dog days of summer.” The hot, sticky part of summer you either embrace with your suntanned face ready to take on the sunshine or you escape to your cool basement to ride out the heatwave.

I’m the latter. Give me seventy-degree days and air conditioning for anything hotter.

There are sun people. Then there is me.

Though I loved and now miss my summer softball leagues and my days spent at the community pool as a kid, I was always an indoor person, even as a kid who loved being outside for a certain amount of time. Then you could find me in my room listening to my favorite cassettes, which in the late 80’s probably included Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and White Lion, or in front of the TV watching MTV, waiting for the videos of my favorite bands to play.

I can’t think of the summer of ’88 without George Michael’s song, “Monkey”, popping in my head. That video was on auto play every hour on MTV, as well as the radio, which was fine with me because I loved the video and the song.

Though I love summer and all its baseball games and outdoor concerts and barbeques and fests and beaches, I have my limits. As long as it isn’t too crowded or too hot. Maybe that’s how most people feel, but I have friends who think anything less than ninety degrees can’t be considered “summer weather.”

They are insane.

They live to sweat underneath the sun’s rays.  I remember as a teenager when my sister would grab a lawn chair with a towel and lay out in the sun. She loved “laying out.” If you asked her on a summer day what she was gonna do, she’d say, “I’m gonna lay out.”

I found no appeal in it. To just lie underneath the sweltering sun as your skin burned. No thank you. I remember going on spring break trips with friends as a teenager and being amazed at how they could spend hours, every day of the vacation, just melting beneath the summer sun.

I needed to read a book or listen to my headphones to lay out there and once I was bored with that, I was done.

But that’s just me. You do you.

Enjoy your summer.

On a sidenote, thinking about the George Michael song brought to mind a couple other songs that will always make me remember the summer of ’88.

Gloria Estefan’s “1-2-3.” Def Leppard’s “Love Bites.” Richard Marx’s “Hold onto the Nights.”

 

A great summer with amazing music.

Author Carol Browne Visits my Blog

Are Friends Electric? Farewell, Fridge-freezer! From Carol Browne Humans tend to become emotionally attached to inanimate objects. People love their cars, for example. I don’t have a car, but I do have a fridge-freezer. Or rather, I did. It died on me this week, announcing its demise by tripping out all the lights and the other household appliances and sending me into a panic that had me phoning my landlord for help. He sent round an electrician who restored equilibrium to the fuse box and read the fridge-freezer its last rites. I joked with the electrician: “How dare it break down after twenty-eight years of constant service!” He agreed that they don’t make white goods like that anymore. But when he’d gone, I felt a bit sad. I remembered the day I bought that fridge-freezer brand new. I had escaped from a bad marriage and found a place to rent and was filling it with what I needed to start my new life. Things were not destined to go smoothly, however, and there were to be many house moves and relationships ahead. Throughout all those house moves my longest-lasting relationship has been with my fridge-freezer! I sat at the kitchen table and reminisced. All the things I had been through over those twenty-eight years! And that fridge-freezer had stood without complaint in whatever kitchen it found itself in (and for a few years, in a draughty back porch). It moved between houses and bungalows, from the town to the countryside, bumping about in removal vans and trucks. Along the way it lost its pristine-white sheen and gathered fridge magnets like barnacles. Its edges became a little rusty, the shelves cracked and the little light no longer worked when the door was opened. But it steadfastly did its duty, a silent witness to the dramas around it and the passing of time. And sometimes when I woke in the night, its gurgling and purring sounds drifted from the kitchen to my room and reassured me, though I don’t know why. It was just a machine but somehow it had become a friend. I remembered as a child the time before we even had a fridge and how difficult it was for my mother to keep food fresh. The day the first fridge arrived was everyone’s birthday come at once! It had an icebox and that meant ice cream! Nowadays, we take such devices for granted. What a shock it is when they stop working for us. Yes, I had taken that fridge-freezer for granted. It never let me down until this week and I am lost without it until a replacement is delivered. We have been through a lot together and I know I will never see its like again. It will be a wrench to see it loaded onto yet another truck, because this time it won’t be going to another kitchen in another home. This time it will make its final journey when the city council hauls it away to put it out of its misery. Yes, it’s an inanimate object, insensate and soulless and just a hulk made of plastic and metal, but I know that when they take it away, I will be thinking, “Goodbye, old friend. Thanks for everything. It’s been a blast.”

Once upon a time a little girl wrote a poem about a flower. Impressed, her teacher pinned it to the wall and, in doing so, showed the child which path to follow. Over the years poems and stories flowed from her pen like magic from a wizard’s wand. She is much older now, a little wiser too, and she lives in rural Cambridgeshire, where there are many trees to hug. But inside her still is that little girl who loved Nature and discovered the magic of words. She hopes to live happily ever after.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Fantasy author Carol Browne is a published author who is currently seeking an agent.

Those Really were the Days

It is strange when you can think back to only three years ago and struggle to remember with any ease of relation to how life was back then. “Back then.” It is astounding that I am attributing the words “back then” to a life lived only three years ago.

But I am.

Three years isn’t even a full presidential term. Three years doesn’t even get you through high school. Your driver’s license isn’t even expired in three years, yet still, three years feel like the distant past.

At least to me it does.

And I know everyone’s personal perspective on this differs. For most of us, life changed in 2020. We all quarantined from loved ones. Didn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary. Social lives for most were non-existent.

And then 2021 rolls in and vaccinations and everyone is excited to get back to life. Sports are back. Concerts are back. Restaurants and bars are alive again. I, too, was looking forward to getting back to life.

In March of 2021, I went to a restaurant for just the second time in a year. I spent the day at a riverwalk with my nephew. I was walking amongst people again and was starting to feel normal.

Then symptoms of a muscle disease I have started to rear its ugly head and with it wiped away any semblance or hope of getting back to what I considered “normal” life.

I look at pictures from three years ago and I hardly recognize myself or that life lived just three years ago.

2019.

The last time I went to a concert. The last time I went to the movies. The last time I went to a coffee shop to relax with a cup of coffee and a book. The last time I went to the library, where I’d sit at my favorite desk to work on what I hoped to be a good story. I miss the smell of books. I miss the quietness of a library that forced me to stay focused on those words I wrote. A good portion of my book, “A Penny on the Tracks” was written at my local library.

I miss the change of scenery. I miss getting up and going wherever my mood takes me. I had many different writing destinations, and I miss them all.

My circumstances are different from most people. My health, or lack of, plays a huge part in why life isn’t normal for me. It isn’t just covid. But with covid cases rising again, along with hospital rates, even if I felt better and was able to do everything as I had done before, would I still look back at 2019 as a far-away time?

A life where facemasks weren’t needed to enter medical facilities or grocery stores or banks.

A life where you’d give an odd expression to a person walking past you wearing a facemask because the concept was so foreign to you.

A life where you could impulsively hug a person hello without asking first if they’re okay with hugs because the not-so-distant past had no personal boundaries.

A life where if a person sitting at the table over from you at Starbucks coughs and you hardly notice because it is just a cough. How harmful can a simple cough be?

Oh, those were the days. 2019, I really, really, really miss you.

I fondly remember the time I met a woman at Starbucks. Betsy. She was in her 60’s and had MS. She wanted my seat at the window. She liked sitting by the window. I gave it to her, and she peppered the top of my hand with kisses. At the time I considered that a sweet gesture. She made me smile. Not once did I think about germs and rush to squirt sanitizer on my hands.

Those really were the days.

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