A Story About a Girl Called Annabel

In 1998, I was a college student taking a Creative Writing course so that one day I could fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. In that class, I wrote a short story called “The Attic”. It was about a teenage girl from the 1950’s whose parents die in a car crash, and the girl is sent to live with her aunt and uncle.  The uncle sexually abuses her. Most of the abuse happens in the attic. The girl doesn’t tell her aunt, and the abuse continues until the uncle dies. 

The girl endures her aunt’s mourning for the man she loved, while never knowing the monstrous behavior he was capable of. The abuse by his hands that sent her niece to bed shaking at the thought of being awakened by the creak of the opening of her bedroom door, is finally over.

He is dead. The abuse is over. At least Annabel believes it is and that he is gone for good until noises from the attic awaken her at night. Through more events we realize that his ghost lingers in the attic, to further torment the young girl because she hadn’t been through enough shit already.  

This was the short story called “The Attic”. The writing was shoddy. The plot was unbearable and extremely heavy-handed. The characters were underdeveloped, with dialogue that was completely unbelievable. No one is as oblivious as I made the aunt out to be, but it is a story my younger self wrote as she was beginning her journey to becoming a writer. It was far from perfect, but what of anything without experience and knowledge and practice is perfect?

The story of Annabel now is very different. The book that was inspired by that horrible short story hardly resembles the story at all. So why do I even write this? Why even bring up this plot that has nothing to do with the book? Maybe because I am certain Annabel and the Boy in the Window could never have been written without that short story. 

That day in 2013, when going through a bin of decades-old writing, I came across a folder with “The Attic” inside it. I read it and could remember writing it fifteen years earlier. I briefly wondered why the heck I had kept it that long. Why hadn’t I dumped it in the trash where bad writing belongs?

I don’t know what made me tuck the story away in an old bin, but I’m glad I did because that story was the catalyst for my recent published novel.

I would make many changes and countless revisions to the story. I would bring pages of those revisions to a writing workshop course I enrolled at a local community college and be so encouraged by the suggestions of my peers. They kept me going. Kept me believing I could be a writer. Over nine years later, I still have those pages with the markings of a class full of inspiring writers.

I worked on my new “Annabel” story. For a long time, I didn’t have a name for it. It was just “Annabel.” But I often got lost in the plot. On many occasions I had no idea where the story was headed or what the story was that I even wanted to tell. I set it aside many times to write and publish other stories like, Her Name, Loving Again, and A Penny on the Tracks. Until, finally, I said “Enough. Finish the story no matter how long it takes.”

And I did. I finished the story that would become Annabel and the Boy in the Window. 

Annabel and the Boy in the Window is a story set in the mid 1950’s about living against societal norms and expectations. Annabel is a teenage girl who has little interest in marriage or having children. She desires an education and a career, but her alcoholic father stands in her way. Annabel sneaks out of her bedroom window at night and walks the streets of her quiet suburban town, while dreaming of a different life. She peers through peoples’ windows, eager for a glimpse of what a normal and happy family life looks like.

On one of her nightly walks, she sees Danny through his window and is immediately captivated by him. His soothing smile and gentle demeanor give her the feeling of safety and security that living in her own home fails to provide. Danny, the popular high school quarterback, is two years older than Annabel. He and Annabel run in very different social circles, so when Danny approaches her in the school hall one day, no one is more surprised than Annabel that a simple conversation about schoolwork would lead to football games, dances, and affairs of the heart Annabel never experienced before but only read about in books.

Annabel has dreams of her own, but when her abusive father becomes a threat to wreck those dreams, all seems lost until a secret from his past comes out and changes everything.

And that’s the premise of my story about a girl called Annabel. She had many stories through the years, but we finally settled on the right one. 

If you’ve made it this far in the post and you’re a writer. Never give up on your writing. Keep writing. Also, never throw work away no matter how bad you think it is. It may come back to inspire your next published book.

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Helen Carpenter Shares a Delicious Pear Recipe to Bake the Perfect Pie.

by Helen Carpenter We like to bake here in Carpenter Country, and we love to eat what we bake. Today we want to share one of our favorite recipes with you. Hope you enjoy as much as we do.
Photo by rakratchada torsap
3-2-1 Pear-Up 3 pears, peeled and sliced 3 tbsp. sugar 3 tbsp. oatmeal 2 tbsp. pecan pieces 2 tbsp. flour 2 tsp. lemon juice 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, if you prefer) 1 tbsp. butter 1 spritz nonstick cooking spray Preheat oven to 350°F Spritz the bottom of a 9″ round pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the pear slices in the lemon juice and add them to the pie pan. Measure the sugar, oatmeal, pecan pieces, flour, and spice into a plastic baggie. Shake to mix. Add the butter and knead the bag with your fingers until the mixture resembles soft crumbs. Empty the bag of topping mixture into the pie pan on top of the pears. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pears are soft. Tips and tricks Add a tablespoon of butter on top of the pears if you like a syrupy juice. Experiment with different types of nuts for different flavors. Raisins or dates add a sweet touch. Top each serving with sweetened whipped cream for extra yum. The last one is my personal favorite. Helen 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 every day, especially those without hurricanes. Stay connected on her blog and

Annabel and the Boy in the Window

 A Penny on the Tracks was the last book I published and that was back in 2017. Five years ago. Compared to my life now, those five years feel like years lived from some long-ago time. A life lived by some other person because nothing about the life I’m living now resembles anything of the days lived in 2017.

In 2017, I didn’t even know the word covid existed and health issues I thought were forever behind me were not even a consideration. But then 2020 thrust covid onto the world and 2021 ushered in health implications for me that 2022 is maybe, finally, hopefully, beginning to mend. 

But through all of that, after five years, I finally have another book coming out. Annabel and the Boy in the Window is a story I’d been writing on and off since 2013. For some reason, it was always the book I’d set aside to finish other stories. Until, finally, I said, “no more.”  No more procrastinating. No more pushing aside. Complete this book or never write another story again.  It took some time, but I finished. 

Annabel and the Boy in the Window is a story based in the 1950’s that centers around a teenage girl named Annabel. Unlike her friends, Annabel has little interest in marriage or having children. She desires an education and a career, but her alcoholic father stands in her way. 

Annabel sneaks out of her bedroom window at night and walks the streets of her quiet suburban town, while dreaming of a different life. She peers through people’s windows, eager for a glimpse of what a normal and happy family look like.

On one of her nightly walks, she sees Danny through his window and is immediately captivated by him. His soothing smile and gentle demeanor give her the safe and secure feeling that living in her own home fails to provide.

Danny, the popular high school quarterback, is two years older than Annabel. He and Annabel run in very different social circles, so when Danny approaches her in the school hall one day, no one is more surprised than Annabel that a simple conversation about schoolwork would lead to football games, dances, and affairs of the heart Annabel only read about in books.

When Danny is set to leave for college, he asks Annabel to wait for him. Annabel knows Danny can provide her with the blissful life she deeply longs for. It would be easy to let Danny save her. To wait for him and become the docile wife she resents in her mother, but Annabel has dreams of her own.

When her abusive father becomes a threat to wreck those dreams, all seems lost until a secret from his past comes out and changes everything. 

Annabel and the Boy in the Window will be released this fall. 

AnnabelandtheBoyintheWindow-hires

 

Author, Linda Lee Greene, Visits my Blog.

COMING IN ON FLIGHT 79 From Linda Lee Greene, Author/Artist “You know what the trouble is, don’t you?” the man in the aisle seat in my row said to me. My head on its stiff neck cranked in his direction, an enquiring eyebrow lifted in irritation. It had been my habit over the years to avoid airplane conversations. I used such occasions to let loose full-bore my intrinsic reserve. “It’s all that heavy baggage stuffed top to bottom in the hold,” the man went on to explain. “You’d think that people would learn by now that if they want an easier takeoff and a smoother flight, they’d pack lighter than before. Seventy-nine of these flights and nobody seems to have learned that lesson—nobody but me that is. This is the extent of my gear,” he said as he placed a small leather pouch no larger than his open hand on the empty seat between us. “Cheeky fellow,” I said to myself and then turned my face back to the window. All of a sudden, fuming, black clouds split open and barraged the airplane with a torrent of rain. The vessel rose and dropped, rose and dropped like a rollercoaster car. My knuckles white on the armrests, I nearly lost my breakfast. I stole a glance at my seat companion and was astonished at his utter composure. His hands folded softly in his lap and eyes closed, his chest expanded and contracted in gentle, easy breaths. It appeared that his experience of our journey was the opposite of mine. Moments that seemed an eternity passed by, and the plane leveled and found its balance for a while. I thought it expedient to discover the source of the man’s serenity. “What’s your destination?” I inquired. “As far as the plane will take me,” was his reply. “Further along than last year,” he added. “I never seem to get very far at all from my starting point,” I admitted. “There have been trips where I even went backwards.” “Same here,” he confessed. “What’s different this trip?” I asked. “I had a dream. I take messages in dreams to heart. In the dream, a voice told me flat out that I had to lighten my load if I expect to ever get where I’m supposed to go, and especially to get off the ground for my very last trip, which the voice told me is still far in the future. So, I started unloading my enormous suitcase.” “Unloading it of what?” “The voice told me to begin by dumping outworn regrets and then pointless guilt; childish resentments and envies and jealousies and grudges; unspoken apologies; unattended amends, and pernicious unforgiveness. Getting rid of those things alone would lighten the load a whole lot. But that wasn’t enough—not nearly enough. There is this thing called ‘yearning,’ that wistful longing for things that will never be. Do you know what I mean?”
Pastel and acrylic painting, “Coppers” by Linda Lee Greene
“Do I ever!” I answered. I pushed back into my seat, closed my eyes and thought about all my companion had said. Without a doubt, unforgiveness would continue to stick to me like glue. And must I accept that I will never live in that villa-of-my-dreams in Tuscany; that I will never know if so-and-so really loved me; that I will never be sure that my children will be okay without me? Hardest of all will be to give up agonizing over those unfinished things: the paintings I will leave undone; the poems, essays, blog posts, and books I won’t complete. If I rid myself of all those things, I guess my suitcase will be pretty empty—probably not entirely empty, because I’m quite sure nobody gets out completely clear and clean. But maybe I can get it down to a small pouch like my companion’s. If I keep chiseling away so that by the end of this spiritual journey known as ‘my life,’ maybe, just maybe I will be as weightless as a butterfly, and who knows how wonderful my final flight will be and where it will take me? “Happy 79!” my companion said to me. “How does he know I’m 79?” I asked myself. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I remembered that nobody boarded Flight 79 any other way. Outside the window, the storm raged again, and I was no longer afraid. Linda Readers were introduced to American Nicholas Plato in multi-award-winning author Linda Lee Greene’s A Chance at the Moon, which is available for purchase on Amazon. In Garden of the Spirits of the Pots, A Spiritual Odyssey, Nicholas boards a plane for Sydney, Australia with bags that are stuffed full of anger and heartbreak and other life-defeating issues. Little does he know that he is arriving at the time and place to empty his baggage, and to risk himself to love. Here’s a peek at multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene’s latest book, Garden of the Spirits of the Pots, A Spiritual Odyssey. It is a blend of visionary and inspirational fiction with a touch of romance. The story unfolds as ex-pat American Nicholas Plato journeys into parts unknown, both within himself and his adopted home of Sydney, Australia. In the end, the odyssey reveals to him his true purpose for living. The novella is available in eBook and paperback.

Driven by a deathly thirst, he stops. A strange little brown man materializes out of nowhere and introduces himself merely as ‘Potter,’ and welcomes Nicholas to his ‘Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.’ Although Nicholas has never laid eyes on Potter, the man seems to have expected Nicholas at his bizarre habitation and displays knowledge about him that nobody has any right to possess. Just who is this mysterious Aboriginal potter?

Although they are as mismatched as two persons can be, a strangely inevitable friendship takes hold between them. It is a relationship that can only be directed by an unseen hand bent on setting Nicholas on a mystifying voyage of self-discovery and Potter on revelations of universal certainties.

A blend of visionary and inspirational fiction, and a touch of romance, this is a tale of Nicholas’ journey into parts unknown, both within his adopted home and himself, a quest that in the end leads him to his true purpose for living.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene describes her life as a telescope that when trained on her past reveals how each piece of it, whether good or bad or in-between, was necessary in the unfoldment of her fine art and literary paths. Greene moved from farm-girl to city-girl; dance instructor to wife, mother, and homemaker; divorcee to single-working-mom and adult-college-student; and interior designer to multi-award-winning artist and author, essayist, and blogger. It was decades of challenging life experiences and debilitating, chronic illness that gave birth to her dormant flair for art and writing. Greene was three days shy of her fifty-seventh birthday when her creative spirit took a hold of her. She found her way to her lonely easel soon thereafter. Since then Greene has accepted commissions and displayed her artwork in shows and galleries in and around the USA. She is also a member of artist and writer associations. Visit Linda on her blog and join her on Facebook. Garden of the Spirits of the Pots is available in eBook and/or paperback on Amazon.  

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

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  

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

 

 

Author Stella May’s Childhood and New Year’s Celebration in the USSR

from Stella May When I was a child, December 31st was the happiest and most anticipated day of the year. You see, in my old country, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even know what Christmas was. Instead, we celebrated New Year. How come? Well, I was born in the former USSR, the communist country, where Christmas as a religious holiday was banned since 1928. (I think they reinstated it in 1991, but I am not positive.) But, back to my story. As sad as it may seem to you, our New Years were festive, and happy. We decorated our flats with an abandon. A fresh pine tree was a must. I still remember how it smelled—fresh and green like hope. And, oh God, the decorations! Hand-made, or store bought, and the garlands… We had our own version of Santa Claus—Ded Moroz, who had his lovely granddaughter, Snegurochka. Oh, the New Years of my childhood! It was pure joy, and expectation of something wonderful, and magic rolled into one. The smell of tangerines permeated the air. Those little orange delights were an absolute necessary attribute of any New Year’s celebration–- even more than champagne. My mom slaved in the kitchen for days to put the biggest and most scrumptious meal on the table. And the most favorite dish of all? Olivier Salad, of course. (Look for the recipe in December on this blog.) It was, and still is, a synonym of New Year. Then, on the big day, we would put our best china and gather around the table for dinner. For children, it was the biggest thrill, because only on New Year’s Eve we were allowed to stay up all night, eat sweets, and watch TV until we dropped. And only the children received presents. Mostly, it was sweets, fruit, books, and an occasional toy— nothing the modern children would consider a ‘present’, especially a Christmas present. But we were waiting for those special presents all year and treasured them immensely. To us, they were precious. They represented something special–New Year. No one wrapped our presents simply because we didn’t have any wrapping paper. I remember my mom used cellophane and some ribbons to make our presents a little more festive. I remember how she would hide these funny-looking bundles from us, and how happy she was when she’d manage to transfer them in the middle of the night under the tree, and then looked surprised when we find them in the morning. But most of all, I remember the feeling of absolute and total happiness. Oh, what a joy it was, that magical New Year’s night! The exhilaration, anticipation, celebration! I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday, and my heart breaks a little each and every time. In my family we keep the tradition and celebrate New Year’s in a big way. Now I am slaving in the kitchen, using my mother’s recipes to put on a celebratory dinner. And every year, there are tangerines, champagne, and Olivier Salad. And presents? There will be plenty of presents for everyone— not only for children. And they will be wrapped in a pretty paper, and adorned with festive ribbons and bows. Just in a little over a month, we will sit around the table, and raise our glasses to toast 2022, wishing for health and happiness, peace and prosperity. May this coming year be kind to everybody. Stay safe and healthy, love each other, care for your loved ones, and always keep a positive attitude. Happy New Year, or as we said in Russia, с Новым Годом! Stella 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.

Moving On

When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a Creative Writing course where I wrote two horribly-written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts. 

About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start. 

Turns out, I was right. 

Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel called A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out.  The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near some train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death. 

As for the other story, The Attic. Well, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes, taking me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but I kept writing until I got the story right. Not only have I finally finished the story, but I got it contracted. The name of the book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally being able to put that story to rest.

I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after I graduated from college. I ended up finishing it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible. 

So in the bin those pages went. Then a couple years back, I fished the pages out of the bin and just like with the short stories, I’d found a storyline I could work with. I’m hoping to be finished with the story by next summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I need to take a look at and see if there’s a storyline in them I can work with. 

Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They’re taking up too much space in my head and I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on anything new. 

If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones can be salvaged and which ones to let go? I’ve realized it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go.  Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.

It’s hard to move on, isn’t it? 

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.