The Secret Sauce in a Writer’s Tool Kit

The Secret Sauce in a Writer’s Tool Kit

From Sharon Ledwith

A while ago, I took a LinkedIn course that explained the secret sauce to a writer’s success. It was interesting, but this course seemed to be targeted toward journalism. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the course as my ‘free’ window expired. I believe that the course was called ‘Write like an Elite Writer’, but don’t hold me to it. The teacher was well-spoken and knew his stuff. I watched enough of his course to glean what I needed and pass along what I thought was helpful to my followers.

So, what’s this secret sauce to an elite writer?

Apparently, there are four ingredients. Simplicity. Clarity. Elegance. Evocativeness.

The teacher breaks down the ‘ingredients’ that make up the secret sauce in each module. Mostly I found his teachings loaded with common sense. It’s like in the book, The Secret, the author reveals that it’s ‘like attract like’ or the Law of Attraction that will help you manifest the life of your dreams. But we all know there’s more to that than meets the eye. You just don’t go sit on your couch and ask for a brand-new car to show up in your driveway. Though, that would be awesome! You must take action. Even if it’s baby steps. In the case of writing a book, that means putting in the sweat equity needed by showing up at your computer and getting the words down. Even if it’s only a paragraph a day, you’re still taking action.

Here are ten takeaways I reaped from this course:

    1 – Write with integrity. Never show off or impress. Be true to yourself.

    2 – Simplify your writing by cutting out needless words.

    3 – Cultivate sensitivity to your readers.

    4 – Write for your readers.

    5 – Know your intent. Are you writing to inform? Persuade? Entertain? Inspire? Figure that out, and you’re halfway there.

    6 – Aspire for beauty. Get your ideas to flow more gracefully.

    7 – Balance the four ingredients like an artist. Don’t be obsessed with perfection and try to relax.

    8 – Simplicity calls for tight writing, so avoid flowery language.

    9 – Get rid of careless repetition. Don’t ramble. Share only what the reader needs to know. Writers are notorious for TMI (too much information).

    10 – Don’t be a lazy writer!

The last point is a no-brainer. The above information is nothing new. The teacher did give examples and solutions to make your writing cleaner and crisper. Still, many authors out there don’t heed the above advice, making their writing sloppy and unprofessional enough to let their readers down to the point of never buying another one of their books again. If you’re an author, don’t let this be you. If you’re a reader, share how you felt about the book (good or bad) through a review or even contacting the author personally. Trust me, we’d sure appreciate it!

I guess the takeaway from this course is that if you use the secret sauce (simplicity, clarity, elegance, and evocativeness) in your prose, you’ll raise yourself to the level of not just being an elite writer but feeling that you’re one too. And isn’t that what we writers strive for? To better our best? If you’re a writer, do you incorporate any of these ingredients in your writing? Readers, have you ever dropped an author because their book lacked sensitivity? Would love to read your comments. Cheers and thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate 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

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE

The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE

Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series: Lost and Found, Book One

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE

Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two 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

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New Release for Author Stella May

NEW RELEASE for STELLA MAY

It’s here for all you time travel fans to enjoy in e-book or paperback!

Time & Again, Book 2 in the Upon a Time series by Stella May, is by far her best novel yet. Here’s a little to intrigue you on May’s latest romantic fiction.

After months of working like a woman possessed, Nika Morris kept her promise. Coleman House is finished. It’s gorgeous. Spectacular. Brilliant.

It’s breaking her heart.

Because once the new owners move in, she’ll be cut off from the time portal to 1909, where she met and fell in love with Eli Coleman. Now stranded in her own time, she’s waited months for the key to reappear in its hiding place. Only it hasn’t. Which means Eli must have believed the terrible things she was accused of.

Back in 1909, Eli is stunned at his best friend’s deathbed confession of a shocking betrayal. Nika—his Daisy, his time-traveling wonder—was innocent. Once he finds the key, he wastes no time stepping through the portal, determined to make things right.

But the moment Eli stumbles into her shiny, noisy, confusing future, he realizes reconciliation won’t be simple. There is more than one emotional bridge to rebuild before he and Nika can return to the time their love was born—and live their destiny out to the fullest.

AMAZON BUY LINK

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.  

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Cover Reveal of Time & Again by Author Stella May

COVER REVEAL FOR STELLA MAY

Time travel fans have been waiting eagerly for Time & Again, Book 2 in the Upon a Time series by Stella May. Here’s a little to intrigue you on May’s latest romantic fiction.

After months of working like a woman possessed, Nika Morris kept her promise. Coleman House is finished. It’s gorgeous. Spectacular. Brilliant.

It’s breaking her heart.

Because once the new owners move in, she’ll be cut off from the time portal to 1909, where she met and fell in love with Eli Coleman. Now stranded in her own time, she’s waited months for the key to reappear in its hiding place. Only it hasn’t. Which means Eli must have believed the terrible things she was accused of.

Back in 1909, Eli is stunned at his best friend’s deathbed confession of a shocking betrayal. Nika—his Daisy, his time-traveling wonder—was innocent. Once he finds the key, he wastes no time stepping through the portal, determined to make things right.

But the moment Eli stumbles into her shiny, noisy, confusing future, he realizes reconciliation won’t be simple. There is more than one emotional bridge to rebuild before he and Nika can return to the time their love was born—and live their destiny out to the fullest.

This book releases August 25, 2022 in both paperback and e-ebook. In a hurry to get your copy? Pre-order the e-book on Amazon today. 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.  

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The Power of the Witch

POWER OF THE WITCH Curses, Spells, and Love by Leigh Goff

The light of Protection, I carry it strong.

No ill wishes or trouble, can come along.

You cannot harm me, or weaken my soul.

My light is my weapon, and peace is my goal.

–Author Unknown

 

What is a witch, but a powerful woman? In my stories what makes her powerful is more than magic. It is the willingness to sacrifice herself for the ones she loves. It is the ability to face her fears with courage she didn’t know she had. It’s also having the heart to tap into her talents when needed, and if that includes spell casting and curse breaking at any cost, so be it.

Because of reader interest in the witches’ spells in my books, I compiled a few from Disenchanted and Bewitching Hannah to share. In my latest novel, KOUSH HOLLOW, the magic comes from the women of the bayou–it embodies the mysticism of the Deep South and is equally powerful.

DISENCHANTED

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Goodchild from the wickedly wonderful town of Wethersfield, Connecticut struggles with her magic as she finds forbidden love along with a centuries-old true love curse. Here are a few spells, some spoken in Latin, from Disenchanted. “Ictus.” Sophie hopes for a windstorm when she encounters a boy who should be her family enemy, but she’s love struck and only flower petals rain down on her and Alexavier.

“Verum.” Sophie casts this spell on the boy she thinks she must hate, but instead of him speaking the truth, a heart shape appears in the bark of a mulberry tree trunk behind him. The tree is significant in this story as it is in Pyramus and Thisbe. They are the ill-fated couple, like Romeo and Juliet, and they planned to meet under a mulberry tree.

Semper memoriam tui delebo Diamond”- She commands Judge Mather to forget about the rare red diamond used as a blood charm that has caused so much trouble.

BEWITCHING HANNAH

When an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald realizes she can no longer repress the magic that has taken away so much. There’s also the Grey witch’s Arundell Curse plaguing Hannah and her mysterious love interest, W.

“By the power of fire, I do summon and churn, and call thee forth to blaze and burn.” Hannah casts this spell, needing heat from her hands to burn through a seatbelt when she’s trapped in a fiery wreck.

Her frenemy, Arora, demonstrates her dark magic when she captures an insect and kills it with this spell, “By my command and desire, your pesky little death I require.”

The nefarious Emme using magic to fight with Hannah says, “For the trouble you have inflicted on me, double shall I inflict on you.” She snaps Hannah’s icy doppleganger statue in half and Hannah doubles over in agony.

KOUSH HOLLOW

As Jenna Ashby, the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior, is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive New Orleans social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow. She’s also cursed with her cold, narcissistic mother, Rayna, who’s ambitions are limitless.

  In the excerpt below, Jenna is drawn to Voodoo priestess, Mama Ismay. She watches her create a mystical potion using bayou magic, but then Jenna is left with more questions than answers when she sees what’s in the mysterious aquarium.

EXCERPT

Mama Ismay reached for another bottle. The blue-green liquid within shimmered. “From da horseshoe crab.” She dripped blood into the malevolent liquid. From a bowl, she scooped silver-colored flakes and tossed them into the flames followed by a fistful of fine blue crystals.

I had to know. “Copper chloride?”

Feu bleu. Blue fire.” Orange flames flashed to a cerulean blue and burned hot enough to heat my face from a distance. She sprinkled a fine pink powder onto a conch shell and held it over the fire for a few seconds while chanting.

“What are you saying?”

She raised the shell over her head. “I am summonin’ da magic of my ancestor spirits who came before me.” She dropped the whole shell into the pot and turned to me.

I lifted my eyebrows with surprise. Did she really believe she could summon magic from dead people?

“How did you find us?” A crease appeared between her brows. “I doubt our location was given readily.”

I stared, mesmerized by the mystical concoction, steam rising from its gurgling depths as it reduced over the crackling, blue fire. “I, um, did my research.”

“Dat’s what scientists do, no?”

I wasn’t sure about her so-called magic, but she was using quite a bit of science herself with that potion. Her expression left me wondering. “I know we don’t know each other that well, but you look like there’s something troubling you.”

“You shouldn’t have come here.” She covered the pot with a grassy cloth and headed to another room. I followed.

“Why not? I had a lot of questions and I felt you were the only one to answer them.”

Next to a chair covered in oyster shells was an antique aquarium with beautiful, brass seahorse legs and brass oyster-shaped lights that illuminated the water. Within the water delicate, glass spheres the size of golf balls in varied pastel hues floated up and down in a slow, rhythmic pattern, never reaching the surface. I stood over it for a better look. An unexpected wave of heat rose up and warmed my cheeks. “What is this?”

She snatched a dried, green strip from the table next to her and snapped off a mouthful. “Sea grass jerky. Want a piece?”

“No thanks.” My gaze returned to the mysterious floating balls. “I mean, why are there balls in a fish tank and what’s in them?”

“Da balls contain somethin’ more precious dan air.” She stepped closer and hovered her hands over the water and when she turned back to me, her cheeks were flushed with color.

Amazon Buy Links

Koush Hollow

Bewitching Hannah

Disenchanted

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

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

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Are Friends Electric? Farewell, Fridge-Freezer!

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.

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What Is the 80-20 Rule for Writers? – Author Sharon Ledwith Has the Answer.

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  

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What’s in a Name? – by Author Stella May

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 secrecy. 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.

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