Darlene Foster's Blog

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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.

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

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

Our tree is decorated and we are gearing up for Christmas, so I want to share a wonderful story by a writer friend of mine. Whatever your beliefs are, it’s a story that never grows old. I love her realistic take on this age-old story.

Christmas Story by Sue Champion

Mary stepped into the night with trepidation. She felt chilled in the evening air. The donkey ride had not exactly been comfortable in her condition but was grateful she did not have to walk.

Horrified when Joseph told her they had to go to Bethlehem to register for the census. She would have given anything to have stayed at home with her mother to have the baby. It was only when Joseph read the scriptures to her, which foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that she understood it was God’s plan, and she must go with him.

Nevertheless, it was scary being in a strange town with nowhere to stay, knowing her baby was due very soon. Joseph had many relatives in Bethlehem, and he was confident one of them would have a room for them. Most greeted Joseph warmly, but when they saw Mary, they seemed embarrassed and turned the couple away. Of course, they knew Joseph had been betrothed for some time. They had all been to the engagement party, but they also knew that no wedding had taken place.

At last, one cousin had compassion on them and took them in, but was very sorry all his upper rooms in the house were full, as with this census, many travellers wanted accommodation. However, he offered them the lower part of the house where the animals were kept. By this time the couple were grateful for anything and thanking him, they agreed. There were bundles of hay to be used as a bed, and he lent them a couple of thin blankets.

That night the baby came. There was no midwife, only Joseph. No clean towels or hot water, and only one of the animal’s feeding troughs to use as a cot. Yet, when Joseph eventually placed the child on her breast, she felt an astonishing sense of joy and love. The couple looked at each other in helpless wonder, the baby was crying, messy, covered in straw, not unlike a newborn lamb might be. Could this really be the Son of God?

Joseph went outside for some fresh air, looked up, and was amazed to see an unusually bright star right above the house. He then saw some shepherds approaching, and wondered where they had come from. They came right to the door of the room. One of them told Joseph that they had been in the field minding their sheep when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them to go worship the child, whom they would find by following the star above. The star now shining above this very house.

Joseph let them in. Mary had used one of the blankets to wrap the child and had laid him in a manger. Joseph gazed at the scene and imagined he saw an angel kneeling next to them. He thought he heard him say, “Fear Not”.

Susan Champion, December 2021

Bio:

Sue Champion spent most of her childhood and a considerable amount of her adult life in Africa. This is reflected in many of her poems, for as anyone who has lived in Africa knows, the continent steals a part of your soul. She only began writing after retiring to Spain, where she joined a writers group and discovered a love of writing, especially poetry.

Sue has written a heartfelt book of poetry called Prayer, Praise and Poetry which can be found on Amazon.uk.com

Amazon.com

and other Amazon sites.

This book is for anyone aged nine to ninety plus. Dip into it at any time of day. Read it quietly or out loud. Let it uplift you. It would also make a great gift.

Here is my review:

A wonderful collection of contemporary poems, written from the heart. Each poem holds its own story and addresses many topical issues. It is a perfect book to pick up and open at random. Every time I do, the page speaks to me. Like when I read, “Storms Never Last.”

The book is divided into sections such as Praise, Our Planet, On a Lighter Note, War, Kids, and Bereavement. It ends with a moving poem, “Tribute to Nelson Mandela” and a lovely piece, “Wild Swans” in honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday. And finally, “Why Write?” which will ring true to most writers or those who wish to be.

This feel-good book of poems should be on everyone´s night table.

I ‘ve read some amazing books this year. But the most incredible reading experience I’ve had was joining a read-along which enabled me to complete The Brothers Karamazov. The Book Club Mom has shared my review.

Book Club Mom

Title: The Brothers Karamazov

Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky

Genre: Classic/Literature

What’s it about? I have wanted to read this novel for years but found it intimidating. I recently joined a read-along where we read one chapter a day of this amazing book. That was one chapter a day for 96 days! I am so glad I did as it was the best way to savour this incredible story. It is essentially a story of three, possibly four, very different brothers from a dysfunctional family, and how their actions affect each other and the people around them. One brother is a ladies’ man and a spendthrift, another an intellectual and the youngest, kind and religious.

The story covers everything, love, hate, family, religion, history, philosophy, mystery and much more. Every chapter makes you think, some make you laugh and others make you sad. The themes are timeless and as…

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allauthor.com




Cover of the Month


Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Hey Everyone,

I’m excited to tell you that my book has been nominated for the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor.com. It will help me a lot if I could see some votes coming in, so please remember to vote my book. It’s quite easy.

Vote Now »

This is one of my favourite covers designed by my amazing publisher.

Thanks so much for your votes. I hope to get enough votes to get to the next round.

Just when I thought life couldn´t get any better, I woke up to this fantastic review the other morning. I love when the reader gets what I try to do with these books; inspire a love of reading as well as provide some interesting facts about a place. Thanks, Toni.

Toni Pike

My book review this week is a five-star review for Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady by Darlene Foster. This is the eighth book in the Amanda Travels series, mysteries ideal for children aged 9 – 12 years. If you’re looking for an exciting children’s adventure set in a fascinating country, then I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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Please check out this amazing post about adulting, as well as an interview with me, a sort of adult. You can also listen to this article as a podcast! https://anchor.fm/depe9/episodes/Adulting–Why-Darlene-Foster-Writes-For-Children-e175nif

Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

What was the day you became an adult?

Young Adult (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there. Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday…

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I am so excited to share this amazing 5-star review by Annika Perry. It made my heart dance to read this review and to see that the reader gets it! Annika, a published author of a series of short stories The Storyteller Speaks: Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart and a lovely picture book, Oskar’s Quest has a great blog you should check out.

Annika’s 5-Star review on Goodreads:

With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her class mate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and the history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

These reviews make all the hard work of writing and publishing a book worthwhile. Thanks Annika.

The year is more than half over so it might be a good time to see what we’ve read so far. I read about this book tag on There’s Something About KM’s blog

https://theressomethingaboutkm.com/blog/mid-year-freak-out-book-tag-2021/

I thought it would be fun to join in.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

My review: “A wonderful story told from the point of view of a stiff, emotionally repressed English butler whose only goal in life was to provide perfect service to his employer. Even though his employer was a man of dubious character and misplaced allegiances. The author does a superb job of depicting a man devoted totally to his job, at the cost of friendship and romance. This is writing at its finest.”

Best Sequel You’ve Read so far in 2021

The Family Way by Laura Best

My review: This much-anticipated prequel to the popular Cammie stories did not disappoint. Even if you have not read the other books, this story stands alone very well. The fact that the story is based on a tragic part of Canada’s history, makes it even more intriguing. The writing is so engaging, I felt transported back to the days of the start of WWII.
Like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Laura Best knows how to write an awesome story from the point of view of a young person. Tulia May is a delightful character who tells it like it is. She is a twelve-year-old seeking independence, a young girl who wants to do what’s right. She is wise beyond her years, as is often the case of the youngest of a large family. She says, “I understand that sometimes you do things not because they’re the right thing to do, you do them because sometimes you have no other choice.” Tulia, I couldn’t agree more!

I loved Tulia May but there are many other appealing characters in this story as well like Tulia’s mother, a widow who raised a number of children and is struggling to make ends meet. And Finny Paul, a First Nations boy who faces overt racism. And the delightful Millie Turple, who arrives in a tizzy and takes the world on by storm. This book kept me guessing until the end, and then I wanted to read it all over again. I wish there were more than 5 stars for this book.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

The Gentleman’s Daughter by Bianca M. Schwarz

Biggest Disappointment

I haven’t been disappointed with any book I’ve read so far this year.

Biggest Surprise

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My review: Wow! A terrific read. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happens to Andy and Alex. History is skillfully woven into a story with contemporary themes. Present-day Andy is suffering badly. Not from your regular teenage angst but with serious issues. The reader feels her pain. A visit to Paris with her distant and estranged father, the discovery of a diary belonging to Alex, a young girl who lived during the French Revolution, and her connection to a mysterious musician from the past will either help her or drive her over the edge. Vivid descriptions of today’s Paris and the Paris of 1795 add to this engaging novel. 

Favorite New Author

Nancy Blodgett Klein

Newest Fictional Crush

Prince Larkin from Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle

My review: A gem for readers of fantasy. Ms Ringle has created an awesome world where humans and fae live together in somewhat harmony. When the Sleeping Prince is accidentally woken up, all hell breaks loose. (You read that right, it is not a Sleeping Princess). It is Merrick, half-human, half-fairy, who breaks a 250-year-old curse by waking up the handsome prince and now he has to pay for it. And pay for it he does as he enters forbidden and dangerous territory to find and stop Ula Kana before she destroys everything and everyone on his island. What he doesn’t plan on happening is falling for the handsome prince from the past, which complicates things. There is plenty of action, fabulous world-building and amazing characters. But this is more than a fantasy novel, this is a story about family and relationships. And ultimately it is a love story with a Fairytale/Lord of the Rings feel written with a humorous undertone. An enjoyable read even for those who don’t usually read fantasy.

Newest Favorite Character

Brody Cody from Brody Cody and the Haunted Vacation House by Toni Pike. I just love this kid.

My review: I fell in love with Brody Cody and his friends in the first book, Brody Cody and the Stepmother from Outer Space. I was pleased to learn there was a second book in the series. In this book, Brody learns he will be a brother soon and is not sure if this is a good thing. Then on a holiday in the Blue Mountains, Brody and his friends discover there is a ghost in the vacation house. They are determined to catch the ghost. This fun book is perfect for kids 6 to 9 as they will easily relate to the characters. The descriptions are vivid and clear with just the right amount of action and tension. I hope there will be more books in the series. 

Book That Made You Cry

Sword of Destiny by Sue Vincent. It made me cry because this wonderful author is no longer with us.

My review: Yorkshire is the perfect setting for this sublime adventure that includes ordinary mortals, ancient deities and Merlin! If you are a follower of Sue Vincent’s blogs and books, you will recognize her wise words and incredible wit. Merlin, one of my all-time favourite characters, echoes the writer’s wisdom, especially when he explains things like happiness, good and evil, light and dark. At one point the mage says, “We can bare far more than we think we can.” Another character says, “Yet by surrendering to beauty and joy, the darkness could find no hold on me anymore.” Pure Sue Vincent gold. The seriousness of the quest to find the sword of destiny is offset with clever humour. This from the ancient Merin had me laughing out loud, “It gets harder to stay up all night after the first millennium or so.” A readable fantasy with plenty of life lessons, humour, romance and gorgeous Yorkshire descriptions. I will never look at the moors the same way again without thinking of Sue Vincent and her amazing words.

Book That Made You Happy

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub

My review: I loved this book. A laugh-out-loud collection of stories based on the author’s life. Vacations with her mom, dad and nine siblings, as well as later vacations with her husband, four kids and a dog – what could possibly go wrong? The stories are written with heart, humour and truth. I found myself nodding as I recognized the frustrations of motherhood, smiling when the love of the author’s family shines through and choking on my tea at the hilarious episodes in Barb’s life. If you have read her blogs, you will know that Barb finds humour in most situations. This book does not disappoint but makes you want more of the same. My favourite chapters were about her dad, the WWII hero who fathered ten, a wizard at fixing cars long after their best before date, and saw that all his children got a good education. These are the heroes who have made our world so great. Thanks for the reminder, Barb, and for the giggles. 

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (OK, I didn’t buy this book, it was on my mom’s bookshelf and now on mine. I love the cover and the beautiful words.)

My review: A profound story full of emotion, told by a master storyteller. The author states in the prologue, “They say you can bear anything if you can tell a story about it.” I believe this to be true. The story centres around Jessie, a woman in crisis. When her mother does something horrible, she returns to her island home to look after her and try to discover why she did such a thing. Immediately she is thrust back in time and besieged by memories of a much-loved father who died when she was very young. “The wind is spiked with the smell of my childhood.” Filled with interesting island characters and fascinating descriptions of the area, the story takes the reader along Jessie’s journey to find independence, answers and acceptance.

Books You Need to Read by the End of The Year

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky I have recently joined a readathon where we read a chapter a day of this book. We will finish it on the 200th anniversary of the authors birth. A great way to read a classic that is a bit intimidating.

Of course, I read many other great books. This is just a sample.


Now into the first week of August, I tag you, my dear readers, to look back (and forward) at your 2021 reading up to this point. I’d love to hear your answers in the comments or on your own blog.

Once again Sally has come up with a great way to help promote new authors and their books. I am delighted to be part of the Smorgasbord Coffee Morning and I brought along a special guest, Nancy Blodgett Klein with her latest books.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Recently I ran a series Public Relations for Authorswhich focused on how we are perceived by those who view our profile photographs, biographies and presence on social media. This included guest posts on other writer’s blogs. Here is an opportunity to not only promote your own blog or books, but those of someone you admire as well.

Is there an inspiring individual, blogger or an author you would like to give a boost to who might enjoy joining you for a coffee and a piece of cake with us all?

Details on how to participate are at the end of this first post in the series.

Today children’s author Darlene Foster brings along her guest fellow Nancy Blodgett Klein. Nancy I am delighted to say will be joining Darlene and the other authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.

Author Darlene Foster and guest Nancy Blodgett Klein

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