Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
I am pleased to introduce you to my special guest today, award winning children’s author, Gina McMurchy-Barber. Gina is the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Canadian History and the author of the Peggy Henderson’s adventure series, bringing history to life. Enjoy reading about her author’s journey and how she combined her love of archaeology and story telling to create an amazing series of books enjoyed by all ages.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Ontario and moved to BC when I was 9 years old. I am the
youngest child of four and led an active life on our little farm with
horses, ducks, geese, chickens and lots of barn cats. I married in my
early 20s and have two sons. My first degree I majored in archaeology
–which eventually gave rise to my four part archaeology adventure series.
I became a teacher when my boys were small and have now been teaching in
the Montessori Schools for over 20 years.
2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
While I was studying archaeology I also started my writing career by doing
short stories for my community paper. I enjoyed doing that so much I later
studied journalism and became a newspaper reporter. I wasn’t too
interested in covering late night city council meetings or the garbage
workers strike so I turned my attention to creative non-fiction. I worked
as a freelance writer for local magazines until my first child was born.
That’s when I entered the amazing world of children’s books. I was very
tentative when I started—not at all sure I had what it takes to write
fiction. Now I’m working on my seventh book.
3. What motivates you to write?
Love of stories came from my Dad, who told us bedtime stories even after
we were grown. Then I started telling my own children stories. That’s what
led me to want to start writing them down.
4. How do you make time to write?
It’s hard these days as I work 80% —but I manage to get writing done
during the holidays. It’s a difficult thing to dedicate yourself to
staying put each day for a certain amount of time—especially when it’s a
beautiful day and the family is urging you to join them.
5. What is your writing style, a plotter or a pantster?
I always start out with a plan, but it rarely works out the way I thought
it would. But it feels comforting to begin with a some kind of a road
map—and I always feel free to take detours.
6. Where do you get ideas for your books?
So far they’re all from some seed of experience in my own life—but on the
other hand I’ve also had to branch out and learn lots of new things. For
instance, I have an archaeology background, but knew nothing about
underwater archaeology or scuba diving. So when I wrote Bone Deep —an
underwater excavation of a two hundred year old fur trading ship—I had a
steep learning curve.
7. What books did you read as a child?
Lots of books about animals. I loved Wind in the Willows. But we also got
the National Geographic and that was probably my greatest inspiration—it
led me to study orang-utans in Borneo and to study archaeology.
8. If you could have lunch with any writer, past or present, who would you
Since I’ve already had a nice lunch with Darlene Foster, I guess I’d pick
Lois Lowry. I’m a big fan of her books—The Giver being one of my
9. For fun, if you could be any kitchen utensil, what would it be and why?
I’d be a ladle so I can take big scoops of life at once.
10. Tell us about your most recent book. Do you have a work in progress
and can you give us a hint as to what it will be about?
My fourth archaeology adventure book came out in November, 2015 and is
called A Bone to Pick. It’s about the arrival of the Viking to the shores
of North America at L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland a thousand years
ago. I’m also working on a new book called “What Other People Think” and
explores why we try so hard to look good in the eyes of others—especially
11. Any advice to other authors or aspiring authors.
It’s so valuable to have a writing community. If you can form an small
group of friends to critique each others work in a supportive way it can
be the best thing to motivate you and keep you on track.
Great advice. Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog Gina. Your books are fascinating!
I can’t believe you have included me in the same sentence as Lois Lowry!
You can find out more about Gina and her books on her website www.ginabooks.com
and on Amazon
I love blogging for many reasons, but the best part is the wonderful people I have connected with in the blogging world. I am not sure how I met Paige, but I fell in love with her blog site immediately and have been following it for some time now. It is apply called, The Nice Thing About Strangers. Since I have always followed the philosophy of Will Rogers who said, “A stranger is just a friend you haven´t met yet,” the title grabbed my attention. Paige has the amazing ability to notice the smallest details of human interaction during her travels and record them in entertaining vignettes. Do yourself a favour and visit her blog, you will be so glad you did. She has recently collected some of these blog posts and published them in a book called, The Nice Thing About Strangers. In spite of the fact she is busy travelling again, she has agreed to be a guest on my blog.
Welcome Paige Erickson
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am an American professor with a background in literature, philosophy, and playwriting. I’ve been working for several years on writing creative non-fiction from my travels on a blog called The Nice Thing About Strangers and recently collected about 150 of the stories into a book by the same name. I love reading, roaming, and long walks where I get a bit lost.
2. What made you want to travel?
This question made me pause. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I didn’t travel to Europe for the first time until I was 27, and there was something very freeing but also very intimidating about it. Now I want to travel because it always pushes my boundaries, opens my eyes, gives me gratitude, and connects me with people I meet.
3. What countries have you travelled to? Can you name a favourite and why.
I had the opportunity to live for a few months in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Turkey. I’ve been to Bosnia-Herzegovina several times and loved it. I traveled with my brother to Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Then, I first came to Europe for an extended stay, I took a lot of four-to-five day trips to Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Serbia, and Montenegro.
Turkey is a favorite for me. I’ve been toiling over the language (then going home and forgetting it all!) for several years. I find the people to be very warm and encouraging. I’ve enjoyed both the big cities and small towns, the grand adventures and the local supermarkets. Iris Murdoch wrote, “If you long and long for someone’s company, you love them.” This sums up how I feel when I am away from Turkey for a long time. I must be in love.
4. What made you decide to create your blog, The Nice Thing About Strangers?
I am a professor and my students were always interested in the fact that I traveled alone. Many were worried about my safety and wanted to hear if I had any horror stories to share. Originally, I wanted a place to share the good news from my travels, since almost all of my encounters abroad have been positive, full of helpful strangers, or moving to me in some way. Also, I wanted to give myself some writing deadlines to produce stories and share them with others. I’ve loved to write most of my life, but it can be intimidating to share one’s work. I thought if I could get into the habit of writing on a schedule, this could give me some confidence. Also, I opted to write very short, non-fiction stories because I had a lot of notes about my experiences, but if I wrote long pieces I would procrastinate and/or quit. By keeping it brief, I could discipline myself to let go a bit.
5. Tell us about your book
The book is a collection of about 150 stories from the blog. I have friends and relatives who were interested in my stories, but who weren’t really into blogs. My aunt encouraged me to publish my work, and it’s been nice to hear from readers of the blog and new readers as well. Since each story is about a page long, people seem to like to read a few stories at a time with breakfast or over coffee. I hope it will help them to be on the look out for opportunities to connect with the people around them throughout their day.
6. What do you like to read? Can you name some of your favourite books and/or authors.
I think I learn the most about myself when I read fiction. Since I was a child, I could really get caught up in stories and feel the rest of my day was a matter of walking around in those stories. I love the Hungarian author Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight. My best friend is reading it in Hungarian and, of course, I read it in translation, so we are anxious to see if we’ve loved the same passages. I love Iris Murdoch and Flannery O’Connor. I read Orhan Pamuk when I am “homesick” for Turkey. On this trip, I packed Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which I am reading for the third time and I love it more and more on each read. I get caught up in lines that really stick with me, so I keep a “book book” with lines that I love. This way I can re-read those passages or lines and meditate on the story once more.
7. What inspires you?
Small moments that I get to observe inspire me and make me grateful to be able to wander as I do. Sometimes I will pause and imagine what my grandparents would think of my life. Surely, they couldn’t have imagined that I could go rent an apartment in Istanbul for a month and chit chat with the elderly ladies at the market. I also try to remember my childhood self, who was unafraid to make up stories, plays, and plans, but quite afraid. I want to be faithful to “young Paige” as I keep writing and remain optimistic.
8. What is next on the horizon for you?
I am hopeful that I can finish an often-abandoned novel this year. It is a sort of thank you note to the people who became my friends during my travels. As often happens when you want to thank someone, it can be hard to find just the right words. This is where I am stuck now.
Thank you so much Paige for sharing your thoughts. It was great getting to know more about you. My favourite line is, “I want to be faithful to “young Paige” as I keep writing and remain optimistic.” We all need to be faithful to our young selves.
Check out the book http://www.amazon.com/The-Nice-Thing-About-Strangers/dp/0692590781
The Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thenicethingaboutstrangers/?rc=p
A couple of weeks before Christmas, my Spanish publisher, Pablo Solares Acebal, arranged a school visit in Villaviciosa, a small village in the province of Asturias, in Northern Spain. This was my first school visit in Spain and it was a remarkable experience. I read from my bi-lingual book, Pig on Trial/Cerdito a juicio to the grade one and two classes. The children and teachers had limited English skills, so I read the English side of the book and Pablo read the Spanish equivalent. The children greeted me with enthusiasm and loved the story. They asked great questions and were eager to learn about my life in Canada. The book is a medieval tale set in rural Europe which the kids enjoyed as Villaviciosa is in a very rural part of Spain. The best dairy products come from Asturias. Since some of the children live on farms they were delighted to know that I grew up on a farm in Canada. One young man introduced himself and informed me he was from New York and could speak English very well.
I was given a tour of the elementary school, Colegio Publico Maliayo by the Head Mistress (or Principal as we would call her in Canada). The students were learning about the Olympics and had created displays of various countries that have hosted the Olympics over the years. They were proud to show me the display of the Montreal Olympics in Canada. Don´t you just love those beavers!
The school was laid out very similar to Canadian elementary schools. I was pleased to see there was a well stocked library. Cerdito a juicio is now in it as well.
I was treated very well by the friendly staff and students at this school. The students were a delight. There was much cheering and clapping from them when I said muchos gracias and wished them Felize Navidad. They made me feel like a rock star! I am now on their website http://cpmaliayovillaviciosa.jimdo.com/
I really appreciate Pablo Solares for arranging this great opportunity.
Since we were in the area, hubby and I decided to explore. I´ll tell you about our time in Asturias in the next post.
I hope your new year has started out well!
Pictures taken by myself and Daniel Solares
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.
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.
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.
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
Thank you, Sally for making an appearance on my blog site. All the best for your exciting new book.
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.
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.
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
I can´t get enough of the rich history and fascinating castles around here.
A writer friend of mine, Christa Polkinhorn, recently posted a picture tour of her latest book, The Italian Sister, which I thought was a great idea. Check out her blog, and her wonderful books that take place in interesting places. christa-polkinhorn.blogspot.com
This prompted me to think about how my pictures have inspired me while writing my Amanda books. Visiting the United Arab Emirates was a dream come true for me as well as for Amanda. So here are some photos that inspired my first book, Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask
What have I been up to lately?
As you can see, I have been very busy finishing the next Amanda travel adventure book.