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>

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>

Looking Back

Cold, dark, January nights are hard to cope with on any occasion, but they’re practically unbearable when you’re already down. It was late. I’d already done my reading for the night, and I didn’t have another page in me to write. I was tired, but not tired enough to fall asleep fast on my pillow, and I knew my mind would wander too much into thoughts I’d rather not have, so going to bed wasn’t an option. 

I was fiddling around in my room and came across some old journals I used to keep. It had been years since I looked through them. They begin in 1995. I was nineteen years old. I still keep a journal. It’s therapeutic, but I discovered that night, as I read about the days of my life from twenty-seven years ago, journaling is also a time-travel machine.

I was suddenly transported to the home I grew up in and in the bedroom I dreamed of being a rockstar, and, much later, a writer. Most of the entries from my college years, and into my twenties, mention a lot about the writing courses I was taking and the stories I was writing at the time. 

Which was a bit surreal since I am currently working on one of those stories right now. It was my first completed novel. I was twenty-three years old, three years after coming out and writing about the love between two women that was still so new to me. 

The novel itself wasn’t very good, but I kept it and decided it was worth a revision. I have since turned two short stories I wrote in college, that also wasn’t very good, into two published novels. The first, A Penny on the Tracks, and the newly contracted novel, Annabel and the Boy in the Window

Little did I know then, as I wrote those stories, that they would be kept for over two decades and rewritten by the older, but not always wiser, and somewhat jaded forty-five (soon to be forty-six) year-old self. 

I miss my younger self. I often wonder if the nineteen-year-old me would be happy with where her life ended up. In reading my old journals, I didn’t live up to everything my younger self had wanted, but of course, nothing then could have warned me about health issues that would get in the way of work, love, life. 

So, I didn’t get everything checked off on my “life list,” but I am a published author, and as I spent my twenties at some dead-end jobs, that was all I dreamed of being. 

 

journal

 

 

How to Make a Zombie by Sharon Ledwith

HOW TO MAKE A ZOMBIE from Sharon Ledwith Much has been written about the walking dead we’ve come to know as ‘zombies’. Immortalized in movies, television shows, books, comics, and music videos (remember Thriller?), zombies have become so much a part of our culture that people can’t get enough of these brain-eating horror icons. When researching for The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, the third installment of my young adult time travel adventure series, I wanted to incorporate a Voodoo ceremony that included creating a zombie. Oh, where to start, I asked myself, as there was so much information out there to glean, and only a chapter to fit it in.
Buried Zombie Rising Out Of Ground In Misty Cemetery
So do zombies exist? The people of Haiti certainly think so. Here they are considered to be more than spooky stories, but rather very real entities. Stories of zombies persist in Haiti right up to the modern day, with sightings of the poor, haggard creatures fairly common in many rural areas. In fact, cases are so prevalent that there have been wild estimates claiming that there are as many as up to one thousand new cases of zombies a year. Wow, that’s a lot of the undead roaming around a small island! Zombification is even a crime under the Haitian Penal Code (Article 246), in which it is considered to be on par with murder despite the fact that the zombified individual is technically still alive. Bet you’re dying to know how to make a zombie? Read on… The zombies of Haiti were said to be corpses that were reanimated through black magic by powerful Voodoo sorcerers or priests known as bokors, for manual labor on farms and sugarcane plantations. Zombies can allegedly be made from those who are still living if the bokor is powerful enough to wrest the victim’s soul from their body. The process of turning a living person into a zombie is said to follow certain steps. First, the bokor will place a hex on the target of the ritual, who will subsequently fall mysteriously ill and die soon after. The exact methods and concoctions used vary among the bokors, but many use a powerful neurotoxin derived from pufferfish. Some zombification processes use blood and hair from their victims in addition to using Voodoo dolls. Ohers involve a carefully prepared mixture called ‘coup de poudre’ (powder strike) made of mystical herbs, human remains, and animal parts. Administrating this mixture can also vary from ingestion, injection, or even a blow dart. Once the family of the victim pronounces the victim dead, he or she is buried in the family tomb (usually above ground), where the responsible bokor will steal the body from its grave and set about reanimating it through dark sorcery. Next, the bokor performs an ancient Voodoo rite where he or she captures the victim’s ti bon ange (the part of the soul connected to an individual) within seven days following the death of corps cadaver, while it is still hovering over the corpse. This effects a split in the spiritual parts of the victim and produces two complementary types of zombies: the spirit zombie and the zombie of the flesh. The bokor then traps the spirit zombie in a small clay jar or container, and replaces it with the loa (Voodoo spirit) that the bokor controls. The container is hidden in a secret place and is wrapped in a piece of the victim’s clothing or some other personal possession. After a day or two, the bokor then administers a hallucinogenic mixture called the ‘zombie cucumber,’ (made from the plant Datura stramonium) that revives the victim and is used to keep the zombie in a state of submissive confusion. In this brainwashed condition, the zombie cannot speak, has no memory, and no longer resembles its past human personality. Now easy to control, the zombie is completely under the control of the bokor who created them until the bokor dies. Once released from bondage, the zombies can finally return to their home village or place of burial, and die. There seems reason to believe from work and research done in the past that there may possibly be a concrete, scientific basis for stories of zombies, so perhaps time will tell. For now, these mysterious creatures lurk along the fringes of Haitian villages and our imaginations. Whether drug addled slaves or corpses reanimated through dark sorcery, the enigma of real zombies beckons us. Perhaps one day we will bring them out into the light and have the answers we seek. With that, I’ll leave you with this line in the song Thriller, by Michael Jackson: It’s close to midnight! Something evil’s lurking in the dark! Hopefully, it’s not a blood-thirsty corpse. Stay safe, my zombie-loving readers! Here’s a glimpse at my latest time travel mystery.

True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

Eleven-year-old Drake Bailey is an analytical thinker and the genius of the Timekeeper crew. However, no logic or mathematical acumen can change the color of his skin, or prepare him for this third Timekeeper mission in antebellum Georgia. To survive, Drake must learn to play the role of a plantation slave and when confronted with the brutality, hatred, and racism of the deep south, he’ll have to strategically keep one move ahead of his sadistic captors to ensure his lineage continues.

In a dark world of Voodoo, zombies, and ritualistic sacrifice, the Timekeepers must ensure a royal bloodline survives. Can Drake remove both literal and figurative chains to save both himself and a devout slave girl from a terrible fate? If he can’t summon the necessary courage, humanity could stand to lose one of its greatest leaders.

Amazon Buy Link

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.

Sharon Ledwith Shares Her Chocolate Cherry Chunk Loaf

Please welcome author, Sharon Ledwith to my blog as she shares a delicious sweet treat that I am excited to try, but with vegan ingredients, of course. 

from Sharon Ledwith A real crowd pleaser at small gatherings such as book clubs or intimate bridal and baby showers, this chocolatey, sweet treat will tempt even the most disciplined of us. If cherry is your go-to fruit that makes your mouth think you’ve swallowed a piece of heaven, then read on if you dare to concoct this sinful chunk of bliss. CHOCOLATE CHERRY CHUNK LOAF A bit of butter for greasing the loaf pan 1¼ cups + 1 tsp. all-purpose plain flour ¼ cup cocoa 2 tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. salt ¾ cup granulated or caster sugar 1 cup cherry yogurt 3 large eggs lightly beaten 1 tsp. vanilla ½ cup mild vegetable oil 1 cup cherries ¼ cup sweet chocolate chips 1 cup walnuts, chopped, use less if you prefer Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C or 165° for fan ovens, Gas Mark 4). Grease a 2 lb. (8 ½ x 4 ¼ x 2 ½ inch) loaf pan. Remove the pits from the cherries and cut each one in half. Place cherries in a small bowl, sprinkle the 1 teaspoon flour over top and toss gently. Sift 1¼ cups flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in sugar, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Set dry ingredients aside. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and oil. Add yogurt mixture to dry ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until all the flour is mixed in and the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the flour-coated cherries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then remove cake and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. THE GLAZE 1 cup icing sugar, confectioner’s sugar 2 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice 1 tbsp. water Drop of pink food coloring, optional Pour icing sugar into a bowl. Whisk in maraschino cherry juice. Gradually whisk in water, a drop or two at a time, until a smooth, drizzle-able consistency is reached. Whisk in the food coloring, if using. While you’re waiting on your loaf to bake and cool, how about taking a break by delving into one of my books? 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 entertain and engage, pulling you into another time and a different place. Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series: Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries… Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power while trying to have a normal life. 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. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected. 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. The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series: 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.

Author, Chris Pavesic, Visits my Blog

Please welcome author, Chris Pavesic, to my blog. She is sharing a Butternut Squash soup recipe that can easily be veganized with plant-based butter and vegetable broth if, like me, vegan is your thing.  Chris is also talking about her books, Starter Zone and Traveler’s Zone. 

from Chris Pavesic  My sister-in-law Breen loves to cook and occasionally works her magic in my kitchen. Just the other day she prepared one of our family favorites. We thoroughly enjoy a bowl or two during winter as lunch or dinner. For me the pepitas make this dish a hit. I love scooping them out one at a time with a spoonful of soup! Roasted Butternut Squash Soup 4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in. cubes 2 tbsp. olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 1 onion, roughly chopped 8 cups chicken broth 1 tsp. dried thyme Pepitas (Shelled pumpkin seeds) Preheat oven to 400° F. Place squash on baking sheets; avoid overcrowding.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Pour in the chicken broth and add thyme.  Bring to a boil. Remove the squash from the oven and add to the broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using a regular or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Serve warm.  Top with pepitas if desired. Why not read a good book while you enjoy your soup? May I suggest one of the books from my LitRPG series The Revelation Chronicles?  In Starter Zone Cami kept herself and her younger sister Alby alive in a post-apocalyptic world, facing starvation, violence, and death on a daily basis. Caught by the military and forcefully inscribed, Cami manages to scam the system and they enter the Realms, a Virtual Reality world, as privileged Players rather than slaves. They experience a world of safety, plenty, and magical adventure. In the Traveler’s Zone magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as Cami continues her epic quest to navigate the Realms and build a better life for her family. But an intrusion from her old life threatens everything she has gained and imperils the entire virtual world. Time to play the game. Traveler's ZoneAbove the tree line floats an airship close to three hundred feet long with a slightly rounded wooden hull. Ropes attach the lower portion of the ship to an inflated balloon-like aspect, bright white in color with an identification symbol, a red bird with white-tipped feathers extended in flight, inside a round yellow circle in the center of the canvas. The deck is manned with archers and swordsmen. There are two sets of fore and aft catapults. What I don’t see are cannons or any other type of a gun large enough to account for the sound of the explosion. The ship pivots in the air, coming around to point directly at what looks like an oncoming flock of five large birds. Or creatures. They are too big and too strange looking to be birds. They drift closer, flapping their wings. A moment passes before I realize that they are not creatures either. They are some sort of gliders. A person hangs below each set of the feathered wings, which flap and move with mechanical precision in a sky washed out by the morning sun. The archers nock their arrows and aim at the flock. The gliders draw in their wings and dive toward the deck, covering the distance in a few heartbeats. Most of the arrows fly uselessly past the attack force and fall like black rain from the sky. The archers aimed and released the volley too late. The forward catapult releases a torrent of small rocks at the lead glider. It is a scatter-shot approach that proves effective. There are so many missiles that it is impossible to dodge them all. But at the moment the stones strike, the other four let loose with fireballs. Spheres of crackling flame spring from their hands, glowing faintly at first and then with increasing brightness. The balls of fire shoot from their hands like bullets from a gun and fly toward the ship, exploding. Pieces bounce off the hull and fall to the ground, throwing hissing, burning globs of magic-fueled fire in all directions, setting everything they touch aflame.

AMAZON BUY LINKS

Starter Zone

Traveler’s Zone

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. Learn more about Chris on her website and blog. Stay connected on FacebookTwitter, and her Amazon Author Page.    

My Novel, A Penny on the Tracks

 

In college (22 years ago), I wrote a short story titled, The Hideout.  It wasn’t very good, merely acceptable for a college Creative Writing course.  The characters were bland. The dialogue dragged. I told more than I showed (a writer’s cardinal sin). The story was everything good writing isn’t supposed to be, yet some five years ago, I stumbled upon the twelve or so pages, stuffed in a binder, in a bin in my closet. There were a few short stories in that binder, all equally bad. But for some reason I’d hung on to them, and it was a good thing that I did. 

After many revisions, I’ve turned that cringe-worthy short story into a published novel. The Hideout, now titled, A Penny on the Tracks, is a coming of age story that follows the friendship of two eleven-year old girls, Lyssa and Abbey, who spend the summer of ’86, mostly unsupervised, relishing the freedom in riding their bikes in the streets of their hometown, watching MTV while singing and dancing wildly on the furniture, and eating as many messy bologna sandwiches and junk food they want. 

But we soon see, despite this seemingly juvenile heaven, the girls each carry heavy burdens of their own, that come to the breaking point late in their teens. As children, the girls discover a hideout in a remote area near the train tracks, and spend much of their summer days there, using the place as a safe haven from the angst of their unsettled lives. 

Lyssa resents her single mother for not being home when she needs her, while Abbey would prefer her mother to be gone for most of the day. This provides the backdrop of their friendship and the strong bond between them. It also is the catalyst for personal discovery, sexual identity, and tragedy. 

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

 

Back of the Book

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death. 

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth. 

 

 

 

Author, Leigh Goff, visits my blog with her new release, Koush Hollow.

This is the book you’ve been waiting for! Leigh Goff has written another fabulous story that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Koush Hollow is a definite read for all ages. Be sure to grab your copy today.

Koush Hollow:
Where bayou magic abounds and all that glitters…is deadly.

After her father’s untimely death, Jenna Ashby moves to Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans, dreading life with her wealthy mother.

As the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow.

 How do the Diamonds & Pearls look so young, where does their money come from, and why is life along the bayou disappearing?

As Jenna is drawn into their seductive world, her curiosity and concerns beg her to uncover the truth. However, in this town where mysticism abounds and secrets are deadly, the truth is not what Jenna could have ever imagined.

EXCERPT
This excerpt is from Chapter 1 of Koush Hollow. The sixteen-year-old main character, Jenna, seems to have a waking nightmare where an interesting creature appears, but only to her. Is it real or is it a dream?

Tap, tap.

My eyes flashed wide. A curvy, gray-haired lady tapped on my passenger side window. Jenna, snap out of it, I thought to myself. I breathed and remembered how to roll the window down.

“You okay, hon’?” She stared at my hands. “You’re shaking like you drank ten café lattes.”

“I’m j-just a little on edge. I mean, I thought I hit that…that woman.”

She jolted upright and looked around. “What are you talking about?”

My gaze flitted all around her. “She w-was r-right there—the painted woman,” I stuttered and pointed. “Where did she go?” My knees finally stopped knocking, allowing me to slide out of the car.

“You didn’t hit anyone. Are you on something?”

I stumbled to the front and bent over searching underneath the car. Nothing. No one. I stood up and scanned the sidewalks, but I didn’t see the mysterious woman anywhere.

“Maybe you shouldn’t be driving, hon’.”
Maybe I shouldn’t be.

“Is there someone I can call?” she asked.

I wiped my sopping wet forehead with the back of my hand. It had to be stress affecting me. It had been a tough few months and maybe it was catching up with me. I turned to the kind woman. “I’m only a few minutes from my mother’s house.” I’d get the Diet Cokes and vitamins later. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

We both returned to our cars. She waited for me to move. With trembling fingers, I managed to shift into drive. I pumped the brakes to see if they worked. They worked fine. The rattling sound in the engine was gone, too. I could hardly think straight. Was that Voodoo woman real or a figment of my imagination? I shoved aside the bad feeling, inhaled a calming breath, and decided to apply logic, which suggested the whole thing was a brain-glitch from stress. However, no matter how logical I tried to be, the uneasy feeling remained.

BUY LINKS AmazonThe Parliament House

Leigh Goff writes young adult fiction. She is a graduate from the University of Maryland and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Her third young adult novel, Koush Hollow, a Southern gothic set in New Orleans, will release on September 1, 2020 from The Parliament House.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Author, Sharon Ledwith, Finds Her Comfort Zone.

An Author’s Comfort Zone

by Sharon Ledwith

This post could have also been dubbed ‘Balance 101 for Authors’. It’s been almost eight years since the first novel in my young adult time travel series hit the cyber bookshelves. To this day, I remember that there was so much to do, and it felt like there wasn’t enough time to do everything. Sometimes, I still don’t. I needed a time portal just to get all my marketing and promoting put in place or at least a diary. This included getting a website up and running, ordering promotional giveaways, setting up blog hops (are they still a thing?), writing a multitude of blog posts, and joining the appropriate social media networks. The lists seemed endless, and when the date finally arrived for my book release, I was wearing my shoulders as earrings.

Needless to say, by the end of my first book blog tour, I was exhausted, spent, and bent out of shape. Even my eyelids ached.

What I learned from the whole experience years ago is that authors need to learn to structure their writing life, or their writing will take a nose dive. We need to learn to create balance so that the task of being a writer plus a marketer plus a promoter doesn’t wear us down. So, how do we do this when so much is expected of a writer nowadays?

Start with finding your comfort zone. Find your personal comfort level with promotion or marketing, do that and do no more. That’s it. Do it. Or you’ll get burned. If you don’t heed my advice, then sure as shooting, negativity will leach into your writing. And that’s the last thing a writer wants!

Need help finding your comfort zone? Go to the dollar store and buy a timer or download a timer app on your phone. It will be one of the most important investments (and cheapest) as a writer you will make. For less than two dollars you can purchase a piece of sanity to help you organize your writing life and keep you in your zone. Set your timer to check emails. Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Then do the same for Facebook and Twitter. But keep in mind which activity will help you as an author in the long run. Apply the 80/20 rule. Write (produce) for 80%, promote and market for only 20%. After all—social networking is a marketing strategy—as long as you treat it as such. Then, once you have laid the timer law down, set it for how long you want to sit and just write, with no interruptions (unless the dog or you really need to pee).

So, stop pushing the zone. Relax. Let go. Breathe.

That doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t learn or try new things. By all means learn and try. Get your hands dirty if you must. But don’t burst a vein in your brain doing it. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you collapse into a quivering mass of writer goo. As writers, we must protect our work—and ourselves. It takes time to build an on-line (and off-line) marketing presence in this publishing world. Learn this, cut yourself some slack, and prosper.

Thank you for reading my article! How do you find balance as a writer? Do you use a timer, or have you tried other ways to create balance in your writer’s life? Love to read your comments!

Ready for a trip to Atlantis? Here’s a brief intro to one of my time traveler books.

There is no moving forward without first going back.

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.

Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

AMAZON BUY LINKS
KindlePaperback

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, Google+, Goodreads, 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.

A Penny on the Tracks

A few years ago I published a book called, A Penny on the Tracks. The story is loosely based on my  friendship with my childhood best friend. The piece started out as a short story I wrote for my college Creative Writing class twenty-one years ago. It wasn’t that great, but luckily I held onto the pages and after many revisions was able to turn the mediocre short story into something publishable.

I could not have foreseen sitting in that classroom two decades ago that that badly-written short story would someday be published. So if you’re reading this and you’re a writer, HOLD ONTO YOUR STORIES! No matter how bad you think they are. Typed words are not permanent. You can always make them better.

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

“When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else.”

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when their hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa feels guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the tracks is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Alicia+joseph+a+penny+on+the+tracks&ref=nb_sb_noss

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Alicia+joseph+a+penny+on+the+tracks&ref=nb_sb_noss

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Alicia+joseph+a+penny+on+the+tracks&ref=nb_sb_noss