Darlene Foster's Blog

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Stevie Turner has invited all writers to enter her short story competition for January. I would suggest you give it a go. Enter at https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/share-your-short-story-january-2018/

This is my entry. Let me know what you think.

Solar Eclipse 

by Darlene Foster

Audrey rolled out of bed, looked out the window and decided this day would be her last. She saw no point in going on. Her life had become abysmal.

No one called except telemarketers and people taking surveys. As if her opinion counted. No one ever stopped in for a visit either. Many of her friends were dead; the others had gradually disappeared from her life.

A dish with mouldy cat food sat in the corner. How long had the cat been dead? How long had she been so unhappy? She had lost track of time.

Loneliness engulfed her and left a crater in her heart.

She pulled apart the curtains and peered out her kitchen window. The rain continued to pour down like it had for months, or so it seemed. Audrey couldn’t remember the sun anymore. The sun had disappeared like her friends.
When did her life change? How did it happen? She recalled that once she laughed, and sang, and danced. The sun used to shine. That was a different person – another life.

It grew darker outside. Audrey shivered and let the curtains drop.

Was it after Charlie died? That was a tough time. She felt sad back then and cried a lot. Her friends rallied around her, took her out, kept her busy. She concentrated on her job as an employment counsellor, helping others find work. She got through it. Life carried on.

She cleared a corner of the dining room table laden with newspapers, dirty dishes and used tissues. After pouring herself a bowl of cereal, she opened the fridge. The smell of rotten vegetables and stale bread wafted out as she searched for the milk carton. The light in the fridge burnt out a while ago. Three drops of milk dribbled from the container. So much for that. She certainly wasn’t going out for more. Why bother eating anyway if she wasn’t going to be around for much longer.

No point in getting dressed either. Nothing fit. She looked down at the stained nightgown she had been wearing for weeks. A threadbare housecoat that refused to close in front, covered her heavy body. Where did this body come from? Clearly, it was not hers. She ran her hands through her greasy, grey hair. When did she stop colouring it? What did it matter?

Perhaps it was after she retired. Was that when her life went to shit? When the sun went into hiding? She spent the last few years submerged in a virtual fog.

She lumbered to the mailbox in fuzzy slippers. Nothing of interest ever came but checking the mailbox was a habit. Her spotted hand shook as she inserted the key. The door swung open and a multitude of flyers tumbled out. She left them on the floor of the apartment lobby. Someone else could pick them up and throw them away. Someone who was going to be around tomorrow. She began to close the miniature door.

A flash of colour caught her eye. The blue was so bright it hurt her eyes. Like someone had suddenly turned on the overhead light while she watched TV in the dark. She squeezed her eyes tight and then opened them again. The patch of blue remained and beckoned like a neon light outside a downtown bar.

She reached in and pulled out the small rectangular object. What´s this? A postcard? She studied the picture of dazzling-blue water and a clear blue sky. A lone palm tree overlooked the scene and a white sailboat floated in the sun. Sun! She thought she would never see the sun again. Her frozen body began to feel warmth.

Audrey turned over the card.

The unexpected jolt of colour was from her old friend and coworker, Lillian, one of the disappeared who moved to Spain a few years ago. She was inviting Audrey to come to Spain and spend some time with her.

Audrey returned to her apartment, blew the dust off the neglected computer and turned it on. She checked her savings account. Charlie left her a decent amount of money that she barely touched. She had almost forgotten about it.

She placed the postcard on the mantle, took a shower, pulled on jogging pants and a sweatshirt, applied some makeup and ventured outside. After calling in at the travel agent where she bought a ticket to Spain, she purchased a new housecoat, some clothes that fit and milk for the next day’s breakfast. She cleaned the apartment and threw out the cat dish, food and all.

The rain stopped and the sun emerged from behind a cloud.

Her last day could wait.

 

I am delighted at the response to Amanda’s latest adventure. Here is a wonderful review from Patricia Tilton on her blog Children’s Books Heal. Patricia reviews meaningful books for children and I am so pleased she has included Amanda in New Mexico. Check out her blog for great ideas for the young readers on your list.

Children's Books Heal

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind

Darlene Foster, Author

Central Avenue Publishing, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Adventure, School trip, New Mexico, Haunted hotel, Ancient pueblo, Ghosts

Synopsis: Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. She shares a room with Cleo, an anxious classmate who insists she see ghosts. Although Amanda is determined to prove there is no such things, she can’t seem to shake the feeling that something or someone is watching her.

Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit a rugged and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past.

Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps The Day of…

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I love my blogging community. Everyone is so supportive and I am delighted when I´m featured on their blogs.

Robbie Cheadle and her son Michael have been reading the Amanda Travels books and recently wrote a wonderful review on Robbie’s blog. This is what she had to say about Amanda in Arabia – the Perfume Flask

The story was sufficiently fast-paced to keep him interested and he wanted to read every night [instead of his usual practice of procrastinating for as long as possible before getting down to his reading]. I enjoyed the book too and thought the language was pitched at the right level for a middle school reader. 

You can read the rest of the review here

https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/book-reviews-the-amanda-travels-series/

Please check out her blog. Robbie and her son not only write exciting children’s books featuring Sir Chocolate, they create the most amazing things out of fondant. The series of books about Sir Chocolate and his friends are also cookbooks. Each book includes a children’s story written in poetry form about the world of Sir Chocolate and five recipes that children can make with adult supervision. How cool is that?

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Fishing boy cake created by Robbie Cheadle. Love those fondant cows!

My good blogging friend, Sally Cronin is running a feature on her blog called The Ultimate Bucket List and invited us to share two things on our personal bucket list. If you want to know what mine are read on.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/smorgasbord-sunday-interview-the-ultimate-bucket-list-meeting-other-writers-by-darlene-foster/

Sally has also asked us to share posts from our archives. I decided to share one of mine from three years ago that features inspiration for my most recent book, Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/smorgasbord-reblog-posts-from-your-archives-ghost-hotel-by-darlene-foster/

Sally, a talented writer herself, works tirelessly at promoting other writers. She is like the Fairy Godmother of Writers and we all appreciate everything she does. Check out her blog Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life if you haven’t already. There is something for everyone.

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The Fairy Godmother of writers and bloggers

 

whats-in-a-name-volume-two-by-sally-cronin

Check out this and Sally´s other amazing books https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Thank you to everyone who reads, likes, shares and comments on my posts. It makes my day!!

Stevie Turner is running a month-long short-story contest on her blog. You may want to enter. Writing short stories is a good way to get inspired to write. Here is the link https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/novembers-share-your-short-story-competition/

Since we are getting close to November 11th, I thought this would be an appropriate entry.

Home Fires
By Darlene Foster

Carol tried not to think of him. It hurt too much. She never thought loneliness could be so painful. The farm chores kept her busy. She promised him she would look after the farm in his absence and keep it thriving. In a trance, she went through the day-to-day motions of feeding the kids, the livestock and herself.

The children stopped asking where their daddy was and when he was coming home. There had been no letter for months. The neighbours helped when they could, but they had lost two sons and reminded her of unpleasant things.
What did she know about farming? She was a city girl before she met John. Her parents begged her to move back to the city with them, but she had made a promise. She convinced herself if she stayed and kept the farm going, he would return.

The baby cried. Carol held her close, inhaling the sweet smell of baby powder. Poor little thing, she doesn’t even know her daddy. How could he leave me with three young children? He said he had to do his duty. Wasn´t his duty to me, the children and the farm?

Carol shook the thoughts from her head. She didn´t wish to be angry. Of course, he had to go. She was proud of him.

He looked so handsome in his uniform the day he left. She wanted to hold him one more time. Hold him and never let go. But with his buddies all around, he wouldn´t have liked that. She kissed him quickly, smiled and made her promise, “Don’t worry. I´ll look after the farm until you come home.”

The baby slept. Carol laid her in her cot. Did she look like her father? She wasn’t sure. She couldn´t quite remember what he looked like anymore. All the pictures of him were put away in a drawer, even their wedding picture. An unbearable pain pierced her heart every time she looked at them.

Some things she would never forget, like the way her body responded to his and how she felt safe and secure in his arms at night. With him there, nothing could hurt her. With him gone, everything hurt.

“Mom, Mom! Come quick. There’s a fire in the barn,” John Junior shouted as he ran into the house.

Carol sprang to action. She ran to the pump, picked up a bucket and filled it with water. She handed it to her son and said, “Quick! Pour this on the fire and come back for another.” She filled a second bucket.

She couldn´t let the barn burn down. It had to be standing when he came home. She had promised to look after things. Carol ran into the smoke-filled barn and dumped water on the smouldering hay. The smoke filled her lungs and made her eyes sting.

Grabbing a horse blanket, she beat the flames while the children brought buckets of water to douse the hay and wood floor. The flames died, but she kept beating and beating.

“Mommy! Mommy! You can stop now. The fire is gone.” Her daughter tugged at her sleeve.

She leaned back against the barn wall and slid to the floor, exhausted. Holding her head in her blackened hands, Carol sobbed, for the first time since she said goodbye to her husband.

Thanks for reading. The Amanda in New Mexico giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Melinda who won the package!

 

Today I´m a guest on a great site 2 Cooks Crafting Books. Stop in, check it out and leave a comment. Also another opportunity to enter the give away if you haven´t already.

Note: The giveaway is over. Congratulations to the winner. 

2 Cooks Crafting Books

Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Darlene Foster, author of a series about a traveling twelve-year-old named Amanda.

In book six of the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind, the book follows Amanda and her class on a school trip from Calgary to New Mexico. Their exploration of different parts around Taos, New Mexico, is interrupted by a ghost. Ms. Foster’s description of the New Mexico geography, architecture, and artifacts is truly amazing! Ms. Foster brings New Mexico to life for readers as she details Amanda’s travels. 

Amanda in New MexicoWelcome, Darlene!

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Elizabeth.

You asked me what drew me to Amanda as my main character. The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can create any character, place and situation you want. You are totally in control. Well almost, sometimes your characters…

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Book six in the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind has been officially released on Amazon, Kobo and other sites. A recent reviewer stated: This story combines a good young adult adventure story with hints of the paranormal while also providing some well placed educational material lightly in the text and great ideas for other young people to aspire to.

Thank you to everyone who has already purchased a copy of the book. I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you like the story, a short review would be most welcome.

To celebrate, we are featuring a fabulous giveaway that includes a copy of the book, a colouring book, the cutest little ghost stuffy, cookie cutters and an Amazon gift certificate. All in time for Halloween!!

PrizePack

You can enter this great giveaway here:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4e6fad2120/?

Please note it’s only available to US & Canadian entries. Any international winners will be granted digital copies of the full Amanda Travels series.

And there´s more! I was honoured to be invited to be a guest on The Maltese Tiger´s Tips From a Pro.  My responses to his excellent questions.

Do you think that creative writers need to pursue a formal education, or can you learn the craft on your own?

Foster: I think creative writers need to continue learning as long as they breathe. But I don’t believe they need a formal education, although it certainly doesn’t hurt. But not having a formal education should never stop one from writing. There are so many ways to learn and improve the craft of writing. Reading everything you can get your hands on will always be the best teacher. I’m a great believer in workshops and seminars, both in person and online. Critique groups also provide a fount of knowledge. Hanging around other writers, not just those who write in your genre, can teach you so much. Every time I attend a writers’ conference, I come away feeling like I just received a degree.

What kind of research do you do when writing a book or story?

Foster: I usually start my research during my travels by being curious, taking a lot of pictures, keeping notes and chatting with people. When I return home and start the story, I do more detailed research on certain topics I plan to include in the book, usually on the internet.

Read the rest of the interview here and leave a comment if you wish.

Don´t forget to enter the giveaway http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4e6fad2120/?

I hope everyone is having a super autumn, whether you are basking in the sun or enjoying the freshly fallen snow, it is always a lovely time of the year. Life is good!

 

 

Stevie Turner has a new feature on her blog site called share your short story. I encourage you to submit a story   https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/new-category-share-your-short-story/     Here’s mine!

Prize Winner

By Darlene Foster

We were close to being a perfect family and we didn’t need anyone else to disrupt things. Mom, good at family planning, spaced the three of us out evenly. Three years apart seemed just right, as far as I was concerned. A sister would have been nice. But in spite of the fact that little brothers could be annoying, I felt happy with the way things turned out.

I was not happy when I heard another baby was about to join our family. At almost sixteen, I didn’t relish the idea of looking after a little kid and missing out on parties and fun stuff. Why did mom have to have another baby? Couldn’t she be more responsible and think of the rest of us? Besides, wasn’t she too old to be lugging around a small child? Angry at this turn of events, I decided not to speak to her ever again.

Mom explained that she hadn’t planned this and it disrupted her life too. “Things don’t always turn out the way we want but we have to accept them and make the best of the situation,” she said.

I didn’t care how Mom felt and refused to look up from my book as she spoke. My life was about to be ruined.

Mom looked awfully tired at times, and although I was not speaking to her, I tried to do as many of her chores as I could. I had a packed schedule with school, choir practice, drama club and Canadian Girls in Training. There’d be no time for the extra work a new baby in the house would entail. What if the child cried and I couldn’t do my homework or study for exams? Could we even afford another mouth to feed?

February arrived, soon time for the annual Valentines Day dance at school – and I had nothing to wear! Mom had a piece of burgundy baby-wide corduroy in her sewing chest and we bought a Chanel style suit pattern the last time we were in town. She promised to have the suit made for the dance. After doing all the farm chores and cooking meals, she was always too tired to start the project. I would die if I had to wear something old to the dance. We had no money for a store-bought dress.

Besides being a good seamstress, Mom was a great cook and baked mouth-watering desserts. She often entered her recipes in contests, attended the bake-offs and won prizes. That year she entered her Apple Cottage Cheese Pie recipe in the Medicine Hat News Recipe Contest. She passed her love of baking and cooking on to me and we enjoyed trying different recipes together. Once I entered a recipe contest and won a Five Roses Cook Book for honourable mention.

Mom also taught me to sew long before I took Home Economics in high school. I had already made a few things for myself: a shift dress, a couple of pop tops and a pair of shorts. By the time I took Home Economics, the obligatory pot holder and apron were a piece of cake for me. I ended up assisting the others with their sewing projects which was much appreciated by the overworked teacher.

The new baby was due mid-February. Mom finally cut the suit out of the corduroy and assured me it would be completed for the Valentine’s Dance. During the night of February 9, Dad woke us up to say he was taking Mom to the hospital as the baby was coming – and would I look after my brothers.

I mumbled, “Sure,” while I snuggled deeper under the warm quilt.

My third brother was born on February 10. Dad reported mother and baby doing well. The news didn’t have much effect on me except that mom would not be home until after the dance, and she had barely started on the suit.

I moved the sewing machine out of my parent’s bedroom into mine, studied the fabric pieces and sewing instructions, and with much care, made the A-line skirt. I admired the finished product in the mirror. It fit just right and actually looked store bought. I had never made anything as difficult as a jacket. I followed the instructions to a T and took my time. After a couple of frustrating hours fitting the sleeves so they were smooth, the jacket was finished – the night before the dance. Even the buttonholes looked good.

I felt like Jackie Kennedy in that suit. I received many compliments and didn’t sit out one dance. My town friends, in store-bought dresses, asked me if I could make them a suit just like it. It was my shining hour.

There was still the issue of a new person soon to inhabit our already crowded home, and I was not looking forward to it. They better not think I would babysit or help out in any way because I just wouldn’t. I had too much too much to do already. This baby wasn’t my concern.

I began to put things away in Mom’s sewing chest and considered sewing myself something else after the success of the suit. Mom had lots of pieces of material that she never got around to sewing. In my search through the fabric, I came across a large piece of canary yellow flannelette and a package of baby patterns.

An idea started to form. The sewing machine was still in my bedroom and it would be a couple more days until mom came home. I spent the entire weekend sewing a baby bunting bag for my new little brother. It turned out so cute. I looked forward to seeing him in it.

On Sunday I gave the house a good cleaning since Mom was coming home the next day. First, she had to go the Medicine Hat News office to collect her prize for the Apple Cottage Cheese Pie recipe and get her picture taken. Dad took the dress she requested when he went to pick her up from the hospital. He also took the bunting bag.
Dad, Mom, and baby arrived home soon after we got home from school. Mom beamed as she handed me a cute little person in a canary yellow, flannelette bunting bag. “Thanks for making this for your little brother.”

I held the precious bundle and fell in love. We had lots of room in our house and our hearts for this little guy. He would be fun to look after.
The following weekend Mom’s picture appeared in the Medicine Hat News. With a big smile, Mom held her prize-winning pie in front of her. No one could tell she had just had a baby and could not do up the zipper in the back of her dress.

Mom may have won an electric frying pan for her prize-winning recipe but I got the best prize – my wonderful little brother!

Featured in the anthology, In the Moment – Inspiring Hope 

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Dad and my three brothers.

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Lunch with my youngest brother and my awesome website designer.


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