Darlene Foster's Blog

In a recent post, I wrote about a day trip to the Monastery of Montserrat high up in the mountains outside of Barcelona. As well as the impressive Basilica which houses a famous Black Madonna, there is a wonderful art museum on site. It is not very big but holds some impressive pieces of art and artefacts. It was worth an hour of my time.

From the website –

Most of the works of art that are housed in the Montserrat Museum have been donated to the monastery by private citizens. The Monks at the Monastery see it as their duty to display the artworks for those visiting Montserrat as a promotion of culture. This ideology originates from a previous monk at Montserrat called Father Bonaventura Ubach. He collected archaeological, ethnological and zoological artefacts during travels to the Middle East and brought them back to the Monastery.

I would like to share a few of my favourites.

At the entrance, a Guadi inspired sculpture of St George, the patron saint of Catalonia

Old Fisherman, painted by Pablo Picasso in 1895 when he was just 14 years old.

Unhappy Nelly, by Edgar Degas, 1885

Madeleine by Ramon Casas, 1892

The Tapestry Merchant by Maria Fortuny, 1870. I love the detail in this painting.

Café des Incoherents, Montmartre by Santiago Rusiñol

Le Givre, temps gris (Frost, Grey Weather) by Claude Monet 1877

Here is a short and very amateur video of the room of Black Madonna paintings and sculptures in the museum.

An then, as I left the museum, I noticed someone had left their clothes neatly folded in an alcove outside. There could be a story there. (and you wonder where I get my ideas!)

I stopped to purchase a jar of honey made on site by the monks and was thankful for a very special day in Montserrat.

I am so excited! Today is the long-awaited release of the seventh book in the Amanda Travels series. I can hardly believe it has been almost nine years since the birth of my first book, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask. Since then, Amanda has visited many places. Join me in celebrating book #7!

In Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, she explores the Netherlands with Leah and falls in love with the country, and an abandoned puppy she names, Joey. While trying to find a home for him, she learns about a missing gardener, tulips that have disappeared and an uncle who didn’t return from the war. Can she find these missing things without putting herself in danger?

Jacqui Murray from Word Dreams has written a fabulous review for Amanda in Holland on her blog. This is part of what she has to say –

The story is told in a conversational voice that will draw all readers in and deftly mixes the cultural details with how Amanda engages in and solves the mystery.

If you haven’t already, you can read the entire review on her blog https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2019/08/09/book-review-amanda-in-holland/

Thank you, Jacqui and everyone who has written reviews, they mean so much to a writer. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the book. I hope it has arrived safely. And a huge thanks to everyone who is planning to pick up a copy for themselves or for a gift.

Amanda and I are very excited to hear what everyone of all ages thinks of this adventure.

So pleased to be a guest on Amy Reade’s blog, Reade and Write where I give some advice to aspiring writers and talk about my upcoming release. Check it out!

Reade and Write

Today on Reade and Write I’m thrilled to welcome Darlene Foster, who’s here to talk about her newest novel, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Book 7 in the Amanda Travels series (it’s available for pre-order now–it will be released on September 3rd). You will love the covers of these delightful books, and I love the idea behind the series because I enjoy reading stories set in places all over the world. Darlene’s books are a bit different from ones I normally spotlight on this blog because they’re written with a younger audience in mind, but so many adults love the books, too. And I think you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Congratulations on your next release! Tell us all about it. 

In Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah, travelling the…

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During our stay in Tarragona, we took a bus to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, a place I have been wanting to visit for some time. The bus wound its way up into the Montserrat mountains in what seemed like hours. Why would anyone want to build a monastery all the way up here?  Our guide, a pleasant and well informed young man named Victor, explained it to us in three languages, English, French and Spanish.

The Montserrat mountains through the bus window.

Legend has it that shepherds discovered a Black Madonna in 880 AD when they heard music and saw a light coming from a cave high in the mountains. The statue, the oldest Black Madonna in Europe, is only 60 cm tall but when the bishop from the nearest town came to have it removed and taken to his cathedral, it proved impossible to move. So pilgrims began coming to the cave to see it. Eventually an abbey was built around the cave.

Once we reached our destination, the view from the top was incredible.

The sanctuary is built against the mountain to include the Madonna in her cave.

 

The Bascilica of Montserrat

Montserrat is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and a Benedictine monastery and has, for almost 1000 years, served pilgrims and visitors to the mountain. The building has been destroyed a few times over the years, including during the Napoleonic wars, when many of the monks were killed. It was also damaged in the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939). The building standing now was completed in 1949. Many pilgrms come to venerate the patron saint of Catalonia daily in La Santa Cava at the back of the cathedral. Montserrat has been modernised to continue attending to the needs of pilgrims one thousand years after it was originally founded.

Sculptures of monks killed by Napoleonic soldiers. Sad times.

 

Inside the chapel

Pilgrims and visitors lineup to ascend the stairs and view the Virgin.

The Virgin’s Chapel from inside the Basilica

The Black Madonna

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while paying homage to the Black Madonna. But Victor explained that from inside the basilica, from the floor of the chapel, I could take pictures. Later by enlarging and cropping, I was able to get a fairly good picture. It is amazing to see and left me awestruck.

Saints in the courtyard of the Basilica surrounded by amazing views.
A funicular takes visitors even higher up into the mountains
It was wonderful to wander around the grounds and take in the peaceful scenery.

Montserrat means Saw Mountain, as the range looks like the serrated edge of a saw and is the name of the Mountains and the sanctuary. It is a perfect place for walkers with many hiking trails available. A place to enjoy nature and contemplate life. There is also a fabulous art museum onsite which I will tell you about in another post.

I purchased a jar of honey made by the monks. I left feeling refreshed and at peace, satisfied I could tick off another place on that long list.

I was asked to be a guest on Campbells World. Check it out and let me know what you think of my favourite affirmation.

Campbells World

Hello campbellsworld visitors.

Welcome back to WordPress Wednesday.

I’m proud to say that things here in campbellsworld are fully functional once again and in celebration I’ve got a wonderful guest here with me this afternoon. Her name is Darlene Foster, and way back in the beginning of June she answered my call for guest authors, and then when my blog, and then my computer went down she along with many others who will be featured during the next couple of days waited patiently while things got sorted.

So, without further delay I give you, Darlene and her wonderful interview.

DarleneFosterprofilepic

First, in your own words tell us a little about you.

I am a Canadian author who has written the Amanda Travels series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places where she encounters mystery and adventure.  Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one…

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Book Festivals are so much fun. You always learn something new, meet great people and get inspired. But it is not always possible to get to one. So how about a virtual Book Festival? Anne Stormont has created a wonderful Book Fest and invited me to be a guest speaker. All readers, writers and everyone else, come and join the fun.

Put it in Writing

Hello and welcome to event number eleven in the Virtual Book Festival. Today’s guest is author of children’s books, Darlene Foster, and she’s here to talk to us about her writing and to tell us about  the wonderful novels she writes for eight to twelve year olds.

Welcome Darlene, it’s lovely to have you here today. Let’s start with you telling us why and how  you became a writer.

No one is born a writer. But you can be born a storyteller. I come from a long line of storytellers and have been telling stories out loud or in my head for as long as I can remember. We were encouraged to tell stories as I was growing up on the farm, as we didn’t have a television until I was almost a teenager. My grade three teacher encouraged me to write my stories down and when I was twelve…

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Here is my entry in Stevie Turner´s August Short Story competition.

You might like to enter as well. Here is the link https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/share-your-short-story-august-2019/

A Good Day

by Darlene Foster

Erin Arnold cocked her head to one side and narrowed her eyes as she entered the coffee shop. Her favourite table appeared to be free. She bit her lip and suppressed a smile. Good days were rare for Erin. The new medication was working.

Keeping her eyes on the seat by the window, she clutched her handbag and cautiously made her way. She dusted off invisible crumbs from the chair before settling down. Erin removed a wet wipe from her purse and gave the already clean table a swipe. She ordered her regular mint tea and chocolate macadamia biscotti and stared at the people walking by the large front window. The china pot of tea arrived and, after steeping for the full three minutes, she began to pour into the white porcelain cup. She set the pot down abruptly when hot liquid slid down the spout and onto the table.

“Damn, why does this always happen? When will they invent a teapot that doesn’t drip?” Her face burned crimson.

She sopped up the drips with a paper napkin. With a fresh napkin, she dabbed the sweat off her upper lip and began to pour again. The tea continued to dribble. She could feel herself losing it. She clenched her fists and then unclenched them. She wiped the table once more and took two deep breaths. The third time she poured the tea without a drop on the table.

She sighed. A minor glitch in an otherwise good day.

Erin dipped the biscotti in the tea. Biscotti was perfect as it didn’t immediately disintegrate in the tea. She savoured the combined taste of mint, chocolate and macadamia nuts. She felt vaguely happy and satisfied.

The blast cut through her pleasant thoughts like a volcano erupting in a tranquil mountain scene. The teapot jumped from the table to the floor, shattering as it hit the tiles. The biscotti followed, dissolving into mush as crumbs mixed with the brown liquid. The window shattered showering flakes of glass throughout the coffee shop. People shouted and screamed, a child cried.

Erin put her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. She felt tea running down the side of her face. She lowered her hand and opened her eyes. Blood dripped onto the pristine table.

She knew something like this would happen.

The day had been too good.

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