Darlene Foster's Blog

I am pleased to introduce, Mark Durman, as a guest author today. Mark lives here on the Costa Blanca and we met at a local book fair. He writes exciting Thriller, Suspense, Crime and Mystery stories.

Tell us about yourself and your books and what inspired you to start writing?

My first career was as a British Army officer. During those years I served on combat operations in the Cameroons, the Congo, Borneo and Yemen. During the “cold war” period I  spent several years in Germany, in NATO headquarters in Brussels and in The Netherlands. After leaving the army, I was a director of Brinks, the US-owned international security company. These diverse experiences gave me much of the inspiration and motivation to write. My books draw heavily on these personal experiences.

Do you have a writing routine?

I have no particular writing routine. Sometimes my writing is confined to mundane business correspondence and letter writing to personal friends and relatives. When I get an idea for a book, I tend to spend a period on research, getting fully immersed in the subject and then writing the book in one concentrated period. There then follows the lengthy (and rather tedious!) period of proofreading, correcting and dealing with the production process with my publisher.

What sort of books do you read? Can you list a few of your favourites?

To relax, I enjoy reading fiction by such authors as Robert Harris, John Grisham and Lee Child but my main interest has always been on world affairs, politics and economics.

What writing project are you currently working on?

Much of my present reading and research is about philosophy, religions of the world and atheism. This is an enormous subject from which I’m focussing on elements for my next, fifth, book which I’m currently writing. This has the working title of “I think, hope and want to believe, yet still I don’t know.” There is such a mass of literature on this subject, that I find I’m constantly pausing the draft while I research further relevant texts. This is the most complex yet enthralling work I have so far undertaken!

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

Danièle and I are both keen walkers. Here in Spain we have belonged to a local international walking group for several years and meet with them once a week. We are blessed by having wonderful local areas to explore such as the Sierra Creviente and Carroscoy features. The excellent Spanish climate enables us to walk throughout the whole year. We are also fortunate to own an apartment in Paris where we spend about two months per year. There, we enjoy the theatres, cinemas and other cultural and social venues not available in this part of Spain. Later this year, subject to COVID restrictions, we plan to visit our two sons who both live and work in Asia; one in Bangkok, the other in Bali.

Mark’s latest book:

Adsum: Mission and Passion

Peter Chambers is eighteen when he is summoned to serve two years’ compulsory military service in 1959. He deliberates whether to defer or serve his country. After some tough infantry training, he is commissioned as a young officer and sent to join the Nigerian Army far away from England where he grew up. Peter is thrown in at the deep end and becomes immersed in combat operations in the Cameroons and the Congo where he must lead his platoon in many dangerous situations. He is also embroiled in politically sensitive and deeply personal issues including murder, mutiny, war crimes and passionate love. Adsum is based on the true story of a young man facing the harsh lessons of life.

A recent 5-star review of Adsum: Mission and Passion

Adsum means “I am present” in Latin. This book by author Mark Durman is based on his experience as a conscripted soldier in the British army from 1959 to 1961. He could have avoided the two years of military service by attending university, but he chose to serve his country instead. This interesting book gives you a sense of what it is like to be in an army training camp. You also get an inside look into countries in conflict in Africa and get to learn about his missions there. In some cases, people were killed, both friends and foes. The author himself killed several people in his tour of duty. What happened in the Congo when Durman was there as part of a UN peace-keeping force was particularly disturbing, although I thought he sounded heroic after reading about his description of the events that took place at a Catholic Mission hospital in the Congo.

I liked the author’s descriptive and sometimes humorous writing style. He was not afraid to use the F word when called for and that made reading about his experiences in the military more interesting. Although he seems to have been a capable and honourable military leader, it must have been quite frustrating for him to be frequently buffeted by political forces beyond his control, especially during his tours in the Cameroons and the Congo. For example, here is a typical quote from the author towards the end of the book, “Looks like I’m being dragged into some political quagmire just for doing my fucking duty.” Such is the life of many a soldier.

Reviewed by Nancy Blodgett Klein, author of Torn Between Worlds: An immigrant’s journey to find herself

Other books by Mark Durman

Mark’s books can be found on all Amazon sites.

An emotional bond is more binding than any chain could ever be.

by Pamela from https://butterflysand.com/

York, England January 22

45 years ago in York, England, a girl from the Canadian prairies married her handsome Yorkshireman. And there has never been a dull moment since! We´ve taken risks, travelled much of the world and had lots of laughs. We´ve lived through happy and turbulent times, collected amazing friends and have some wonderful memories. Not willing to be conventional, we even had a Dougal the Dog wedding cake. A few snaps of our wild and crazy life.

Paris. France 2018
Liverpool, England 2017
Spain with Dot, 2017
Spain, 2017
Mediterranean Cruise 2015
Orihuela Costa, Spain 2014
Budapest, Hungary 2012
Germany, 2012
Cozumel, Mexico 2010
Covent Garden, England 1998

May the adventure continue!

Emily Carr, The Indian Church, 1929

I have long admired the work of Canadian artist and writer, Emily Carr. She was known for her expressive paintings of British Columbia’s coastal forests and the First Nation tribes that lived there. Emily Carr herself was an interesting character and is considered a Canadian icon. I have been to her house in Victoria a few times and have always felt her spirit. I was delighted to see that blogger friend, Rebecca Budd, posted a video of Emily Carr’s garden, which I just had to share. Enjoy.

Emily Carr House, Victoria, B.C.

“Real art is religion, a search for the beauty of God deep in all things.” ~ Emily Carr

Check out some of Emily Carr’s artwork here

I have a wonderful set of Runes, made by my potter daughter. She makes her Runes from the local clay she mines on the small island where she lives and fires them in her wood-burning kiln. I love my Runes and the more I use them, the more comfortable they become in my hands. I also love how they speak to me.

Runes are letters in the runic alphabets of Germanic-speaking peoples, written and read from at least 160 CE onwards in Scandinavia, as well as in Anglo-Saxon England, to well into the Middle Ages. They have come to represent ideas and guidance.

I’ve decided to pick a rune every so often and write about it. I’ll use the description written by the potter in the little book that comes with each set. There can be other interpretations.

Today I picked Kano – Opening.

Kano symbolizes fire, a torch, spring, knowledge, gifts, fertility, creative expression, craftsmanship, and the first light of day.

There is light peeking through the darkness and an opening within yourself to take on new opportunities. There is a way out of every circumstance. You already know the way.

This is a perfect Rune for the start of a new year, especially a year following the last two we have had to deal with. It is comforting to know there is light peeking through the darkness and that we have it within ourselves to find it.

Taking on new opportunities, gaining knowledge and utilizing creative expression are things to look forward to, however they manifest themselves.

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

― Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

It is four days into 2022 and so far so good. January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. So it is appropriate for me to look ahead and set some goals, maybe try something new. It is hard to plan right now but without goals, I find I am adrift. Goals help me stay grounded and not dwell on things I can’t do anything about. 

So here they are, my goals for 2022

  1. Publish Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral
  2. Publish a collection of short stories
  3. Learn how to self-publish
  4. Start writing a new book
  5. Market my books in person and online
  6. Return to Canada and spend time with family and friends in BC and Alberta
  7. Travel to at least one new place
  8. Update my blog
  9. Buy a new computer
  10. Take an on-line course
  11. Read at least 48 books
  12. Keep up to date with technology
  13. Make new friends and stay in touch with old friends
  14. Keep calm and stay positive, no matter what

I have decided on three words for 2022

Learn

Calm

Flexible

And I’ll leave you with a quote I’ve always believed in.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is resilience.jpeg

I wish everyone an interesting year and would love to read about your goals for the coming year.

2021 is over! Many of us will breathe a sigh of relief. For me, it was a year of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, additions and losses. In the end, it balanced out. As I always do, I’ll look at the goals I set at the beginning of 2021 and see how I did. I never met all my goals and to be honest I doubted I would meet many in 2021. I was pleasantly surprised. You can read my post from last year here.

2021 Goals with results

  1. Come up with innovative ideas to market Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

I worked hard on this. I put more effort into using social media to promote the book as I was unable to do in-person presentations and signings. I created a blog launch for the first time with the help of many of my blogging friends. It was quite successful and fun.

2. Plan a trip to Canada to launch Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Once it was safe to do so, I travelled to Canada in September, four months after the launch. Due to COVID restrictions, I was not able to visit schools, libraries and bookstores as I usually do to promote my book. I did have one book signing at a Medicine Hat bookstore which was well attended. Other events I had set up ahead of time were cancelled. It was a tough year to plan anything.

3. Visit family and friends in Canada as soon as it is safe to do so

I feared this might not happen, but in September restrictions were lifted and I was able to return to Canada to see my family and friends. My daughter from BC flew to Alberta so we could all be together. It had been two very long years. Meeting this goal was the best!

4. Finish writing Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral

The book is completed and ready to be sent to the editor. We have scheduled the publication date for September 2022, all being well.

5. Read and review at least 40 good books

As the last post indicated, I exceeded my goal by reading 46 books. All very good books too!

6. Visit new places in Spain

Years ago I vowed I would visit at least one new place a year. With COVID, I thought it would be more realistic to plan to visit a new place within Spain. Well, that didn’t happen, but I went to beautiful Arran Island in Scotland for a writers retreat! Sometimes when you don’t meet a goal, a new one shows up.

7. Continue to help other writers

I did a lot of this and will continue to do more. I really feel it is time to give back and pass on what I have learned over the years. I am no expert and am still learning, but if I can help a new writer to move forward, it is a good day.

8. Organize computer files

I did some organizing but not as much as I should have. Only half marks here.

9. Attend conferences and workshops on-line

I didn’t attend any conferences online but did do some workshops online which were valuable. Half marks here too.

10. Do podcast and video interviews and presentations

I participated in some podcasts and video interviews which were a lot of fun to do.

11. Visit schools digitally and in-person if possible

I did online school visits in Ireland, England, New Mexico and New Jersey and loved it!

12. Find markets for my short stories

Didn’t do this.

13. Adopt a buddy for Dot

We adopted little Lia! (and I will never get to sleep in again). But she keeps us on our toes and we love her to bits.

14. Stay safe and stay positive

So far we have not been sick. We have had both vaccination shots and I get my booster on January 4th. I have managed to stay positive.

These were my words for 2021.

Strength

Love

Hope

Watch this space for new words and goals for 2022

“A good goal is like a strenuous exercise — it makes you stretch.”– Mary Kay Ash

I wish you all a wonderful 2022 full of surprises!

One of my goals for 2021 was to read more and to read a variety of books. I set my goal with the Goodreads reading challenge at 40 books. I am pleased to see I have read 46. And what a variety. From classics to contemporary, humorous to serious, books for children, middle grade and young adult, cosy mysteries, romance, historical, fantasy, poetry and short story collections, I covered a lot of ground. It’s good to expand your reading interests.

Check out all 46 books I read in 2021. I wanted to list my favourites but it would be too difficult as they were all good. I have left a review for each of them on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/25837732

Wishing all my followers a wonderful Holiday Season. Here is a little Christmas story for you.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Year I Discovered Santa Claus by Darlene Foster

Most children dream of seeing Santa Claus. I stayed up as late as possible every Christmas Eve but always fell asleep, only to wake up in the morning to see the jolly fellow had visited and left gifts.

***

It was to be our last Christmas on the farm. Mom and Dad had purchased a house in the city and planned to move in the next spring.  The whole family was gathering at the farm one last time to spend the holiday with them.

We lived in Calgary at the time, a three-hour drive away. The morning of the 24th, Hubby was busy loading luggage as I pulled gifts out from under the tree to take with us. We had a couple of stops to make before arriving at the farm. It was important that the gifts that were to be dropped off first, went into the trunk last. Crawling under the tree to retrieve the carefully wrapped packages at the very back, a searing pain shot up my spine. I couldn’t move forward, backward or sideways. Paul came in for another load only to find me under the tree on all fours and in tears.

“I’ve put my back out and I can’t move,” I croaked.

He managed to lift me out from under the tree and lay me on the couch. From there I gave him instructions as to where to place each gift.

My ten-year-old daughter panicked when she saw me. “Does this mean we can’t go?”

“Are you sure you can manage the drive?” Paul asked.

I assured both of them I would be OK. I was not missing the last Christmas on the farm. So I took medication and hobbled to the car. I managed fine on the three-hour drive. Paul dropped off the gifts we needed to deliver on the way, while I stayed in the car. Once at the farm, getting out of the car proved difficult, but my dad and brothers were soon there, giving me a hand. Dad put me in his comfy chair and immediately put a heating pad behind my back. My brothers helped remove my boots and Mom made me a cup of tea. I was feeling the love, and happy to be home.

The kids of all ages, bundled up and went for a sleigh ride, a tradition in our family. Instead of using horses as he did in the past, Dad used a tractor to pull the open sleigh over the snow. I wished I could have gone along as it wouldn’t happen again, but didn´t want to risk it. I stayed back with Mom who prepared food for the evening meal and the big feast the next day. She wouldn´t let me help with the cooking preparations either.

I took more medication and by dinner, I felt better. We had a great meal as always and played a rousing game of marbles. We are a competitive family, so there was shouting and grabbing and perhaps a bit of cheating. All good fun and no one got hurt. Once the children were put to bed, Mom and I kept everyone out of the living room while we filled the stockings and arranged them around the tree. After a midnight drink, we all turned in. The beds at my parents´ house were comfy but old. The one we were given to sleep on had a very soft mattress and I kept rolling into the middle. Every time I did, the pain in my back worsened.

In spite of the extra dose of medication, I wasn´t getting much sleep. I finally grabbed a quilt, took my pillow and moved into the living room to sleep on the nice firm couch. Mom always left the tree lights on all night on Christmas Eve, which I found comforting. I felt like a kid again and soon fell fast asleep.

All of a sudden, I was woken up by someone switching on the bright overhead light. My brother, bare-chested and wearing a pair of beige jogging pants, popped things into everyone´s stocking. He obviously didn´t see me as he went about playing Santa. Then he left the room, switching off the light behind him. I smiled and fell back to sleep with no problem.

The next morning as we stuffed ourselves with pancakes, Dad asked me, “Did you sleep all right, dear?” 

I replied, “I moved to the living room and slept just fine. And I saw Santa. He came into the room while I was sleeping and filled the stockings. And – he was stark naked!”

My brother turned red and shouted, “I was not. I had my jogging pants on.” 

That was the one and only time I saw Santa Claus.

Enjoy the season, and if you’re lucky, you just might see Santa!

Hi everyone. Dot here. This is my sixth Christmas in my forever home and I’m looking forward to it. At least Mom hasn’t tried to put those silly reindeer antlers on me again. Mom decorated the tree and put up stockings for me and the little terror, I mean Lia. I’m trying hard to be good so that Santa brings me something nice. I hope he remembers I don’t like squeaky toys. I like bones to chew but sometimes Lia takes them away from me. (Even though she has one of her own) That’s crazy little sisters for you.

Dad put sparkly lights outside. We like Dad. He takes us along for coffee and if it’s cold we wear our coats.

This is Lia. I’ve never written a Christmas letter before. They tell me to be good because if I am, some guy named Santa will come and bring presents. I don’t know anything about this Christmas they keep talking about. Dad brought a tree into the house and Mom hung shiny things on it. I didn’t think trees belonged in a house, but this one doesn’t smell like the trees in the forest. I like living in a house. It’s cosy and warm and there are three blankets on the bed for me to cuddle up in. I guess one is supposed to be for Dot. The bowl is full of yummy food and I get to run on the beach with Dot. I’ve made other friends too when we go for walks. I used to bark at them until I realized they weren’t going to hurt me even if they are much bigger than me. I hope there will be treats for Christmas, whatever that is. Dad gives all of us treats if we are good. Maybe he is like this Santa Claus they keep talking about. I’m trying very hard to be good. Honest.

Dad giving out treats to everyone.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope you get many treats and lots of cuddles!

Here is something from all of us. Well, Lia wouldn’t sit still long enough to be in the video.
https://www.jibjab.com/view/make/feliz_navidad/478d81d8-b35e-4789-b9ca-1714d6aed07e

Love, Dot and Lia

Today I am featured on Bernadette’s New Classic Recipe blog where I tell the story of how I got the family trifle recipe and share my version of it. Enjoy!

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