Darlene Foster's Blog

It is my pleasure to welcome Sally Cronin as my special guest. Sally has a daily blog covering a variety of subjects close to her heart including writing, health and music, which is apply called Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life. Sally is a generous person who shares blog posts and promotes other writers. Please check out her site and say Hello. Her Christmas grotto has some wonderful gift ideas.

DSC_0869 a

Without further ado, here is the lovely and talented Sally Cronin!

Thank you Darlene for offering me the opportunity to talk about my new book and also some background on my life and those that have influenced me.

1. You have had a very interesting life Sally. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself.

My father was in the Royal Navy and we travelled with him whenever it was possible to do so. This meant a disruptive but fascinating childhood living in Ceylon which of course is now Sri Lanka, Malta and South Africa. By the time I was fourteen I had been to seven different schools and enjoyed some amazing experiences.

After school I trained as a dental nurse but then moved through a number of industries including hospitality, retail, advertising, telecommunications and radio and television broadcasting. I have always been interested in health and nutrition so trained as a nutritional therapist nearly twenty years ago and I have worked with clients in Ireland and the UK. My own weight issues led to my first book which in turn led to forming Moyhill publishing in 2004. Since then I have not stopped writing and hope that will continue until I drop. It is one of the few jobs that you do not have an age or physical limit.

Since David and I married in 1980 we have lived in the United States, Ireland, Belgium, UK and of course currently in Spain. That has added a wonderful richness to our life and as a writer I treasure all of it.

2. Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Tales from the Garden. Fairy stories for all ages from five to ninety-five with the usual fairy princesses, monsters, magic and romance. As it has 80 illustrations I hope it will appeal to children and those that like to read a good bedtime story.

Tales From the Garden small- Cover

3. What inspired you to write this book?

We will be leaving our home for the last 16 years here in Spain once the house is sold. The garden is large and has several small areas that are mostly hidden from view. We inherited several large stone statues that we uncovered when cutting back hedges and bushes. Most are very heavy and there is no way that we can take them with us unfortunately and I decided to write stories around them. I now have a book that contains happy memories that I can take with me wherever I go.

From Sally´s garden

From Sally´s garden

4. You have written other books, perhaps you could tell us something about them.

My first book in 2001, Size Matters, was my story of how I became morbidly obese at over 330lbs and my journey as I studied the human body and nutrition and designed a programme to lose 150lbs. This led to a family health manual, Just Food for Health which was also the name of my diet advisory service that I opened in Ireland and then in the UK. I have always written short stories and this resulted in Flights of Fancy and other fiction including two novels, Just an Odd Job Girl and Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story. I have gone back to health in two other books including a health manual for men and an anti-aging book, Turning Back the Clock.

5. What sort of books do you read?

I love to escape into the books I am reading and tend towards thrillers, epic novels that span centuries and adventure. I also enjoy reading non-fiction; usually science and health.

6. What are some of your all time favourite books?

I love all of Wilbur Smith’s books but in particular the sagas of the Courtney family that take you through the challenges of settlers as they explored deep into Africa. Jean M. Auel has written an amazing series Earth’s Children with six stunning books set around 25,000 years ago. The series follows the life of a girl called Ayla from childhood through to motherhood and is captivating. I had my DNA tested in one of the genetic ancestry programmes when they first began and discovered that I was related to a woman whose bones were found in a cave in Southern France 20,000 years ago. This began a fascination with that era and those that inhabited the dangerous environment.

7. Who has influenced you the most in your life?

That is difficult because there are so many people and events that have impacted on the way that I feel, live and write. From my first teacher, Mrs Miller who slipped me more advanced books to read to my husband David who believes that everyone should have the freedom to be the best they can. I have had some great role models and mentors in my various careers and personal life and I am grateful for every one of them.

8. What is your idea of a successful life?

My perception of success has changed over the years. When I was younger of course, there were a few things that needed to be ticked off the list including money, status, nice house, car etc. I was quite prepared to work for them and over the years most were achieved. However, by that time I realised that in fact there were other much more important goals in life including health, great relationships, good friends and a constant access to new ideas and experiences. I feel incredibly successful and it has nothing to do with material wealth but down to simple pleasures that we can all enjoy if we choose to.

9. Anything else you would like to tell the readers.

First and foremost I am a reader and I would be devastated if I did not have access to books in any format. I am so grateful for anyone who picks up one of my books and enjoys reading the story. I hope that readers understand how vital and appreciated they are. Without them what would be the point of writing? Also avid readers are potentially the top writers of tomorrow and I encourage everyone to get their stories written on a blog, novel, short story or poetry collection. It is an excellent way to get your voice heard.

10. Where can we find your books?

I have my own bookstore which is accessed through any of the individual book sites. The latest book Tales from the Garden can be found on http://moyhill.com/tales/ and because it is my own store the Ebook is discounted by 50%.

My books are available on Amazon and the quickest route is through my author page.
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/author/sallycroninbooks

Thank you very much Darlene for featuring my here today… I always love an opportunity to talk about myself and my books.
Social Media Links
Blog: smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Thank you, Sally for making an appearance on my blog site. All the best for your exciting new book.

The first stop on our cruise was Marseilles, France. This was my very first visit to France! Another dream come true. We took a bus to Aix-en Provence as we had heard so many wonderful things about this charming place, the home of Cezanne. We were not disappointed. The only problem was that we wanted more time to explore. What we did see we loved, and promised to return.



Mont Sainte-Victoire, Cezanne´s favourite subject to paint, overlooks the city.



The bakeries and pastry shops are mouth watering.

DSCN2333 (2)



A pleasant walk took us through the historic town centre with interesting architecture and stately houses

DSCN2347 (2)

At the town hall we witnessed a wedding about to take place.


Carvings grace the outside of the impressive twelfth century St. Saviour´s Cathedral  built on the site of a former Roman forum


Inside the dome of the cathedral


Original frescos from the 12th century discovered in the cathedral


Not surprising that we stumbled upon an artists´market

SAM_1668 (2)

Aix-en-Provence is famous for its many gorgeous fountains

Aix has a long and interesting history and has been an artistic centre and seat of learning since the twelfth century. We enjoyed a café au lait at one of the many outdoor cafés that Paul Cezanne, Emile Zola or Ernest Hemingway may well have frequented. My first visit to France was a favourable one and I can´t help but wonder why it took me so long to get there.

In light of recent events, I dedicate this post to the good citizens of France who are in my heart and in my prayers.

We started our wonderful Mediterranean cruise in Barcelona. Lucky for us, good friends from Canada were there at the same time, so we arrived a day early to spend time with them. We met our friends at a Starbucks right across the street from Casa Mila, one of Gaudi´s masterpieces. There I was treated to a pumpkin spice latte which made me very happy as I had been lamenting being left out this year. (there are no Starbucks coffee shops where I live.)

Who would have thought in 2015, I would be sitting across the street from an iconic building in Barcelona, sipping a pumpkin spice latte? Should this be a dream, please don´t wake me up!


Casa Mila

Casa Mila designed by Antoni Gaudi

A short taxi ride took us to Park Güell. We had been to Barcelona once before and loved it. But we had not visited Park Güell, so we took the opportunity to explore this fascinating park created in 1900 by Antoni Gaudi. In order to preserve this heritage site, a limited amount of people are allowed into Monument Precinct, the main park area. Our ticket was for 1:30 so we had plenty of time to wander the lush gardens around the park and take in panoramic views from the top of the hill.

SAM_1606 (2)

Entrance to the gardens

Gaudi´s Sagrada Família from Park Gruell

Gaudi´s Sagrada Família from Park Gruell


Art and nature


Once inside the Monument Precinct, we were instantly mesmerized. There was so much to take in. The colours and fantastical designs were mind boggling. A combination of greenery and art amazed us at every turn. We sat on the famous ceramic bench, which was surprisingly comfortable. I read later that Gaudi had one of the workers take down his pants and sit on it to make sure it fit the human derrière perfectly.

Brightly coloured mosaic salamanders, whimsical houses fit for elves and fairies, gargoyles, and a mosaic clad ceramic undulating bench held up by 86 columns are just a few of the delights of Park Gruell. Everyone who visits can´t help but turn into an excited child in a fantasy land! (or maybe that was just me)



The ceramic bench

DSCN2276 (2)

This mosaic salamander is the most photographed item in Barcelona!



DSCN2262 (2)

Hypostyle Room with 86 columns

Inside the Hypostyle Room

Inside the Hypostyle Room

small peices of broken tiles and ceramics, often taken from demolition sites were used to create the mosaics in the park

Small pieces of broken tiles and ceramics, often taken from demolition sites, were used to create the colourful mosaics.


The Monumental Flight of Stairs, the ceramic bench is on top of the Hypostyle building.

Trying out the ceramic bench (with our pants on)

Trying out the ceramic bench (with our pants on)

The last stop of the day before boarding the ship was Gaudi´s Casa Batllo. Another fabulous house designed by the master architect for the Batllo family. The roof top with its fascinating chimneys is something else.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo


Roof top of Casa Batllo

A bonus to see all this with good friends who brought us a year´s supply of Maple syrup. What a great start to our trip.

More to come…..

All photographs by Darlene and Paul Foster


My story, Terror in the Tower, is in this Friday FANTASTIC Flash. Thanks aliisaacstoryteller for including me.

Originally posted on aliisaacstoryteller:

Friday FANTASTIC Flash Writing Challenge. www.aliisaacstoryteller.com Friday FANTASTIC Flash Writing Challenge.

Last week I challenged you to write about a building. Here is the prompt…

Tell me about a building which is important to you; are its walls ancient and crumbling, or modern shining glass and cold steel? Does it mean home to you, or prison? What happened here? Why do you care?

First off, I’d like to welcome a newcomer to Friday FANTASTIC Flash, Darlene Foster, who submitted this stunning story…

Terror in the Tower

Angela glances at the tower ruins that overlook the city from high on a grassy mound and pulls her sweater tighter around her. She experiences the same chill every time she walks past the site.

When she was seven, her mother took her up to the old stone keep. From a small window, she saw a girl looking out at her through iron bars. Fire blazed behind…

View original 1,312 more words

I am featured today on the wonderful blogsite Mother Daughter Book Reviews where I discuss how my photographs inspire my writing.

How Photographs Can Inspire Ideas

by Darlene Foster

As a writer of children’s books, I am often asked where I get ideas for my stories. I’m inspired by my travels for the most part and eager to share what I have seen and learned with my young readers. I start with a place, somewhere interesting, and include an adventure or a mystery for my main character, Amanda, to solve. Although I have the main idea, I often get stuck while putting the story together.

Read more of the article here


I´ve been away! Yes, I took a vacation from retirement. Hubby and I went on a Mediterranean cruise and saw some amazing sights. We started with a day in Barcelona seeing the sites with good friends from Canada who happened to be there on a holiday. From there we boarded the fabulous ship, Fantasia. Our ports of call were, Marseilles in France (with a side trip to Aix-en-Provence), Genoa, Naples (with a side trip to Pompei) and Messina in Italy, and Valletta in Malta. A quick night time stop in Palma de Mallorca and back to Barcelona. Except for Barcelona, I had never been to any of these places before. It was incredible! I will write more about the individual stops, but for now here is a taste of what we saw.

Park Guell in Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona


Park Guell, Barcelona

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France

Aix-en-provence, France


Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy


Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy

Pompei, Italy


Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy

Messina, Italy







Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca


Dinner on Fantasia

Dinner on Fantasia

We moved to Spain to be able to see more of Europe and so we did. It was another dream come true!!



Our day trip to Villajoyosa ended with a stop at Santa Barbara Castle, overlooking the city of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea. The very capable bus driver took us to the top of Mount Benecantil, 166 meters above the city, on a narrow, windy road. This was a large bus and we all held our breath as he barely made it through the castle entrance, built for horse and buggies.

The narrow entrance to the castle

The narrow entrance to the castle

Once there we had an hour to wander the castle and discover the history of Alicante on display in the museums throughout the castle. Archaeological remains from the Bronze Age, Iberian Age and Roman Times have been found on this site.



I enjoyed climbing around the many levels, checking out the dungeons, chapel, guardroom, bastions and turrets. I loved the wrought iron warriors and archers strategically placed around the castle.

The dungeons

The dungeons


The chapel ruins


Watch out for the archers!

Watch out for the archers!


Fascinating views of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea

Fascinating views of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea

This was fun for me as I visited this site a number of years ago and set a scene in Amanda in Spain in this very castle

kids posing with a warrior while dad takes a picture

Kids posing with a warrior while dad takes a picture

Another person posing for the camera.

Another person posing for the camera.

I can´t get enough of the rich history and fascinating castles around here.

click to purchase

click to purchase

Click to purchase

click to purchase

Pig on Trial

click to purchase

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Join me on Twitter

Darlene Foster Writer

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,041 other followers



click to read review

Super Sweet Award


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,041 other followers