Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I am pleased to feature Mike Biles from A Bit About Britain (ABAB). Since we can’t travel right now, and who knows will we will be able to again, it’s good to read travel blogs. ABAB features great articles about fascinating places in Britian, a small island with an immense history and fabulous places to visit.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me onto Darlene Foster’s Blog, Darlene. I will try to behave.

A bit about myself? Well, I was born, at a very young age, atop a remote, windswept, tower one dark night in a thunderstorm.  The lights flickered at the appropriate moment. A surprisingly uneventful childhood was then spent in the deep South of England, followed by a slightly more exciting spell at university in the Midlands (history and a post-grad teaching certificate) with more than two fairly serious decades thereafter in and around London.  I am now exiled in the frozen north, surrounded by moss and flat vowels.  It’s a cliché to say that I always enjoyed writing, though for many years, whilst running my own business, this was mostly limited to tedious documents like project plans, specifications and contracts.  Along the way, I conspicuously failed to become world tiddly-winks champion; but I have maintained a life-long love of Britain, history, idle scribbling, beer and conversation.  I also enjoy a good movie and would be lost without music.

  • You have such an interesting blog. How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start your blog?

Thank you! A Bit About Britain was conceived some time ago and trundled along quite happily for a year or three as a kind of hobby, but the current website https://bitaboutbritain.com/ was launched in 2016. In some ways, the inspiration had always been there, because a love of heritage attractions and good stories had been drip-fed into me.  But, staying at various places around the country for work, I often found myself falling into conversation with people about local places of interest and began thinking about creating some kind of independent online database for visitors.  Much of the information out there at the time seemed rather partisan, often with pompous articles at one extreme, sometimes vacuous ones at the other and occasionally written by people who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  I had no idea to start a blog, but perceived a gap for an unbiased, accurate, resource that didn’t always take itself too seriously, and arrogantly thought I may be able to fill it – somehow.  Of course, it’s not that easy, it is a hopelessly ambitious aspiration – and I’m also lousy at the technical stuff; but we try.

  • Tell us about your books and how they came about.

Ah, well. The first one, A Bit About Britain’s History, pretty much had to be written in some form before the website was launched.  If you’re banging on about places to visit, particularly castles, stately homes and what-not, a little context is helpful. So I created a potted history of Britain and the book ripened from there.  It is not a tough read; I like to think of it as accessible history, from prehistoric to modern times, neatly pitched somewhere between arcane academia and dumb drivel.  It could probably do with more illustrations, but it does contain three maps and offers a respectable introduction to Britain’s story if you don’t know the subject, a refresher if you weren’t paying attention at school – and the context that visitors need.  Some very kind people (let’s hope the cheques don’t bounce) have even said it should be in school libraries, to give an idea how the topics studied as part of a curriculum fit into the bigger picture.

The second book, A Bit about Britain’s High Days and Holidays, has a similar pedigree. The website features articles about Christmas, Easter and other occasions. The book explores a baker’s dozen of these notable annual celebrations, or commemorations, their origins and the traditions associated with them. For good measure, it includes a couple of recipes, an A-Z of Christmas and a list of Britain’s Big Days – the events that normally form part of our calendar, some mainstream, some obscure, through Spring to Winter. It’s the kind of book I hope people might like to have on their bookshelves; I know I would.

Available on all Amazon sites
https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

In your opinion, what is the most fascinating place in the UK and what makes it so?

That is a very good question, but almost impossible to answer.  I can get fascinated among a pile of stones, imagining children playing thereabouts thousands of years ago.  I find multi-layered places, where the stories almost pile one on top of the other, absorbing. At Wallsend (literally, at the end of Hadrian’s Wall), for example, is the site of the Roman fort of Segedunum. After the Romans, the area reverted to agriculture; later, coal mining arrived; then shipbuilding – and a whole community around that. They built some of the biggest ships in the world there.  Now that community has vanished too and we’re left with the outline of the Roman fort.  Or Fotheringhay – tumble-down deserted birthplace of Richard III and the site of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution.  Places where big history-changing events took place and your imagination can run riot, such as Hastings and Bosworth, are fascinating and it takes no effort to get captivated by the atmosphere of sites like prehistoric Avebury and the Anglo-Saxon burials at Sutton Hoo – both of those places fit my ‘multi-layered’ description, actually. Come to think of it, I also got extremely excited on the trail of The Beatles in Liverpool; like a kid in a chocolate factory. So – tough question.

But I guess, if forced to choose just one fascinating place in the UK, it would – reluctantly – be London.  ‘Reluctant’, because everybody goes to London, there is so much to see beyond its boundaries that visitors miss and London is so untypical of the rest of the UK.  However, there really is so much in and about our capital; and not only the obvious must-see attractions and museums, excellent though many of them are. The place has a two-thousand-year history with intriguing tales and obscure facts lurking everywhere you go, round every corner, behind the street names, plaques on walls, statues, memorials, churches, pubs, wonderful parks, squares and traditions. If you’re of a curious mind, it’s a hard place to be bored in, that’s for sure.

  • Is there some place you have not yet visited that you would love to see?

Er – how long have you got?!  I will never finish exploring Britain; there simply isn’t time.  I need to visit the west more: the lovely border country between England and Wales, Wales itself (did you know it has a designated path all the way round its coast?) and the West Country. I have been to them all – just not enough. One thing I have never done, but have long-wanted to do, is island-hop off the west coast of Scotland – and I’d also love to visit Orkney and Shetland too. Rumour has it that some of my ancestors came from Caithness, so it would be great to go there as well; perhaps drive the North Coast 500 route, the circuit around Scotland’s North Highlands; fabulous! Think dodgy single-track roads, wild scenery, stunning beaches, remote castles, legends and malt whisky. This is all subject to Head Office approval, of course; much depends on the incredibly tolerant, long-suffering, Mrs Britain.

  • Do you feel that reading about travel destinations will help us get through this time of pandemic, when we can no longer travel freely?

Yes, I think so.  Frankly, pretty much any reading is helpful, and a gift – as is the Internet, for all its faults and dangers. The pandemic forced western society to change its priorities and it’s certainly been an opportunity for many to take stock and learn, to ease the path through odd, and awful, times, without going anywhere.  So, there is the chance for those that can to look around, get some background, soak up the stories behind places, and plan.  But we do need to be phlegmatic and remember that the world waits beyond the boundaries of our personal lockdowns, that it’s been there for a very long time indeed and it’s not going anywhere.  It doesn’t help to get all emotional about what you cannot do, how terrible you believe the restrictions are, and so on.  It is not only pointless, but some people don’t have that luxury.  And don’t get me started on the flat-earth conspiracy theorists!

  • What is your next writing project?

There are big plans for the website, but I’m painfully slow.  Book-wise, it is hoped to bring out at least one further volume of ‘A Bit about Britain’s something or other’ before I shuffle off this mortal coil. My follower will be the second (or maybe the third) to know!

Thanks so much, Mike, for this informative and entertaining interview. If you want to do some armchair travel or start planning that next trip for when we can travel:

check out Mike’s Blog https://bitaboutbritain.com/

his books https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

follow him on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19553725.Mike_Biles

I am honoured to be featured on Tea Toast & Trivia where I am interviewed by Rebecca Budd. It is my first podcast, so I would love to know what you think of it.

I was excited to be interviewed by accomplished author Molly Ringle on her blog where she features, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. This book will be launched on May 11th, 2021. I also give some advice to aspiring travellers.

Check out Molly´s blog where she offers editing and proofreading services.

https://mollyringle.livejournal.com/

https://mollyringle.com/editing-and-proofreading.html

Molly is an excellent editor with a keen eye for details. She edited my latest book and now I have a clean copy I’m proud of. I highly recommend her services. 

Guest feature: author Darlene Foster takes us to Malta! by Molly Ringle

It’s been too long since I’ve brought on another author for Q&A, and I’m pleased to be doing so again with Darlene Foster! I met Darlene (in an online sense) through our publisher in common, Central Avenue Publishing, and she’s one of the most upbeat, easygoing, fun-loving writers I know. Her Amanda Travels series is a wonderful set of books for middle-grade readers in which the young Amanda visits a new country in each book and always encounters an adventurous mystery to untangle. They’re perfect for the young armchair traveler—or real-world traveler—in your life.

Author Darlene Foster
Author Darlene Foster

The eighth book in the series comes out this May: Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. I got to read an advance copy of it, and was instantly longing to go to Malta and soak up the sun and stroll between the stone buildings with their artistically idiosyncratic door knockers! 

Cover for the book Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
Cover for the book Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Darlene was kind enough to answer some questions for me as well, so let’s dive into those:

Q: When did you start writing fiction? What were your earliest stories like?

A: I’ve been telling stories since I learned to talk. My grade three teacher, Miss Roll, encouraged me to write them down. When I was twelve years old I had a short story published in a local newspaper. Called Stretch Your Food Dollar, it was about two friends having an adventure in Woolworths department store. I guess the idea of two girls having an adventure has been there for a long time! 

Q: When you visit places, how much are you thinking about a possible story while you’re there? Or does the story idea come later?

A: When I visit interesting places, I am always thinking about how I could use it in a story. When I was in Malta, I kept saying to my husband, “Amanda would love it here!” I take a lot of pictures and jot down notes wherever we go. I once read that a writer never really takes a vacation as they are always looking for story ideas. I can attest that is true.  

Q: What draws you to writing middle-grade fiction as opposed to stories for other age groups?

A: Some would say I have never moved past twelve myself! For some reason, I can easily relate to this age group. I think they are wonderful. Tweens are not little kids anymore but not yet terrible teenagers. They can be so astute and mature at times but still naïve and unsure of themselves at other times. It is the age when they start to assert their independence and become curious and questioning. It is my favourite age and I have no intention of growing up. 

Q: I admire Amanda’s fearlessness and willing to take on adventures. Is that what you were like at her age?

A: It wasn’t what I was like, but it was what I wished I was like. I lived on a farm and we didn’t travel or have a television. So my world was very narrow. I was timid, bookish, and the only adventures I had were in my imagination. So I created a character I would have liked to be. 

Q: Give some advice to the aspiring travelers of the world: what are your must-bring items that lend to happier traveling?

A: The most important thing to bring is an open mind. Accept that things will be different wherever you go, the food, smells, people, climate, customs, etc. Embrace those differences and you will have an enjoyable and enriching time. Also bring a camera, a notepad, and pen. Everything will be overwhelming and you will never be able to remember it all. Pictures and notes bring it all back. I would rather look at my travel photos than watch TV. 

Q: What are you writing now, or planning to write next?

A: I am halfway through writing Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral. Amanda will fall in love with Paris, Versailles, and Monet’s garden in Giverny. Oh, and she will get to stay in a bookstore! Wouldn’t every young girl like to visit France? I know I would have loved it.  

—-

Darlene Foster is a Canadian author who has written the popular Amanda Travels series, featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places where she encounters mystery and adventure while learning about another culture. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in various countries. Darlene has won prizes for her short stories and a number of them have been published in anthologies. She has also written a bilingual book for English/Spanish readers.

Darlene grew up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where her love of reading inspired her to travel the world and write stories. Over the years she held wonderful jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter, and retail manager, and wrote whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired and has a home in Spain where she writes full time. When not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, she likes to spend time with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

Her books include Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain: The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England: The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube: The Sounds of Music, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, and Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. 

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady will be released in the spring of 2021. 

Buy links

Amazon Canada here

Amazon UK here 

Amazon US here 

Barnes and Noble here

Chapters/Indigo here

Thanks, Molly for the great interview.

Today is National Internet Friends Day and I am lucky to have many wonderful internet friends! I am pleased to introduce one of them, Teri Polen, as a guest author. I love her answers to my questions, especially which fictional character she would want to spend a day with.

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium.  She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat.  Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  Subject A36 was voted one of the 50 Best Indie Books of 2020 at ReadFree.  Visit her online at www.teripolen.com

1.Tell us about yourself including something that may surprise us.
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Darlene! I’m a multi-genre
YA author—sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, a mom of two polar opposite sons,
a Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Walking Dead fan (I’m such a
nerd), and enslaved to Bond, my feline overlord. Considering my usual
entertainment preferences, most people would be surprised to know that
I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning. I’m not a Meredith
Grey fan—it’s Miranda Bailey and the medical cases that keep me tuning
in.

  1. How long have you been seriously writing?
    Around eight years I think? I started writing while waiting for my son at
    soccer practice—long hand because I didn’t have a laptop then—and
    stayed with it until I had a completed manuscript. And it was truly
    horrible. Once I understood I’d created a monstrosity, I read books on
    the craft of writing, took classes, and learned just how difficult it really is
    to write a book.
  2. Where do you get ideas for your stories?
    I’ve gotten ideas from dreams, billboards, asking lots of ‘what if’
    questions, and merging movie ideas, but the spark for my first book
    came from my cat. Weird, but true. We’d moved into a new house with
    no previous owners and Shadow, fur bristled while emitting deep
    throated growls, stared at something on the stairs no one else could see.
    It started me thinking about how a house could be haunted if it was
    never inhabited. I gave him credit in the acknowledgements!
  3. What is your writing process? Are you a planner or a panster?
    I lean more in the panster direction, but I’m constantly struggling to
    claw my way in the direction of the planning side. I tend to be a slow
    writer, and I think things would move along considerably faster if I had
    some sort of outline. I’ve gotten better, but I’m not there yet.
  4. Where and when do you do your best writing?
    I don’t have a designated writing space. I tend to move around the
    house with my laptop to whatever space inspires me that day.
    Afternoons seem to be my most productive time.
  5. What kind of research do you?
    For my second book, The Gemini Connection, I researched twin
    relationships and quantum physics. With my newest release, Subject
    A36, I spent a lot of time reading about genetics and DNA. I took great
    liberties in those areas with both books, but that’s why I write fiction.
  6. If you could spend a day with a fictional character, who would you
    choose and why?

    You nearly stumped me with this one, Darlene. It took me days to
    decide, but I tried to narrow it down by only considering fictional book
    characters. I’ve read plenty that fascinated me, but I might not survive
    the day (I’m a fan of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy novels—lots of dangerous
    stuff going on). I finally decided on Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter
    series. I adored his large, loving family, and I’d have a blast hanging out
    with them for the day. Harry and Hermione would visit, and I’d
    undoubtedly be the victim of Fred’s and George’s pranks. Maybe I’d even
    get my own wand for a day!
  7. Tell us about your next writing project. I’m currently working on the sequel to Subject A36, and I swear this
    book may be the death of me (see above planner vs. panster). 2020
    really slowed the writing pace for me, but I’m getting there.

Thanks so much, Teri. Always good to hear from a fellow panster. I have so much respect for planners but I just can’t seem to do it either. What fun it would be to spend a day with Ron Weasley! Great choice.

You can connect with Teri on her Social Media sites:

Website:  https://teripolen.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TeriPolenAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TPolen6

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16114393.Teri_Polen

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/tpolen6/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/teripolen/

Purchase Link:  https://www.amazon.com/Teri-Polen/e/B01MYOUA6V

Planet Tage is dying, and the best hope of saving it is gone.

Seventeen-year-old identical twins Evan and Simon share an extraordinary bond, a trait that’s both useful and invasive. They use their connection in their work at Scientific Innovations. Evan is a Mindbender, someone who enters the minds of scientists to spark ideas, join thoughts, and battle nightmares. Simon is a science prodigy and Tage’s best chance of survival.

Unfortunately, their unusual link often bleeds into their private lives. When Evan discovers his brother is keeping a secret from him, he lashes out and ignores requests to talk, and even pleas for help. By the time Evan tunes back in, he finds their connection severed and Simon missing.

He suffers a terrible case of survivor’s guilt. Moreover, he’s desperate. The fate of the world rests on Simon’s return, and Evan is willing to do anything to get him back—even working with his greatest rival, who also happens to be Simon’s boyfriend.

Evan finds allies among enemies and adversaries among friends. When nothing is as it seems and everything is depending on him, he must explore a dangerous aspect to his twin connection he never knew he had.

If he fails, he’ll lose both his brother and his world.

My 5-star review of The Gemini Connection
A great sci-fi/dystopian YA novel. I don’t often read this genre but the idea of twins intrigued me. I was not disappointed. There is plenty of action and some clever world-building, but the character development and the relationships between characters are the stars of this show. The tie between the twins, Evan and Simon, is amazing and the story is written from the POV of both of them. The secondary characters are also interesting and round out the story. Evan is devastated when Simon goes missing, but when he realizes Simon is alive, he will do anything to rescue him and bring him home, even work with his sworn enemy. How this plays out will keep you on the edge of your seat. The author has a vivid imagination and is capable of using it to create an awesome reading experience.

Teri’s other books:

Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

Thanks for being an internet friend, Teri!

Following up on my previous post I am reblogging a post by Geoff LePard that explains the fundraiser contest. I’ve started writing my 99 word story based on the prompt. I hope some of you will join in as well, in whatever way you can.

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Is Live

Posted on Feb 2, 2021 by TanGental

Yes it’s here. it’s a lovely idea and it’s got a prize attached. Read on…

It’s time to saddle up and get in line, because the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic is happening NOW at the Carrot Ranch! Writers will have the opportunity to support Sue Vincent, a stalwart center of our blogging community, as well as compete for a $100 prize! That’s right – we’re trying to make this the biggest writers’ Rodeo yet and celebrate Sue Vincent’s work and writing in the process. On the Rodeo Classic page, you can find a beautiful photo (from none other than Sue herself) to serve as a prompt. Write a story of 99 words or a poem of 99 syllables – no more, no less – based on the prompt photo on the Rodeo page. Also on the Rodeo page is an entry form where you can put up to two entries for the contest. And don’t worry, entries will be anonymized – everyone’s on an equal playing field at the Carrot Ranch, even if you get some TUFF bulls to ride or horses to break! But don’t lollygag – you only have until February 19th to get on your bull and ride out the chute.

There are many ways to participate in the rodeo. Every Rodeo has multiple events, and the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic is no different. In addition to participating in the contest and donating to the cause, we have multiple events you can participate in!

  • The Sue Vincent Reblog Barrel Race – Check out Sue’s website or the website she shares with Stuart France. Find a poem, essay, or photo that speaks to you, and re-blog it. Feel free to include links to the contest and make sure to include a comment on the re-blog!
  • The Great Book Parade – Buy and read one of Sue’s books. If you’re feeling adventurous, leave a review or publish it on your blog!
  • The Comment Riding Contest – The prize for this one is a fuzzy good feeling and the sharing of community. Like and/or comment on Sue’s posts, whether new or old.
  • Snack Stands – Share the contest on other social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or others! You can definitely follow Sue Vincent on Twitter.
  • The Prize Ceremony – Winners will be announced on March 21st, 2021. It could be you, but even if not, come see what Sue’s prompt invoked.

See you on the Carrot Ranch circuit, cowfolk!

Sue Vincent is one of those special bloggers and writers that inspire people all over the world. Readers have long been captivated by her posts about mythology, ancient ruins and medieval churches, and her daily #midnighthaiku. Many have participated in and grown as a result of her #writephoto prompts. She is a person of considerable talents, and in addition to posting her prompts, Sue has tirelessly supported bloggers by hosting guest bloggers and sharing blog posts. She has 19,000 and counting followers.

I’ve not met Sue in person but feel I know her through her wonderful blog posts and consider her a friend. She has taken me the width and breadth of Great Britain, to places I would have never got to myself, providing amazing historic details and wonderful photographs. To appreciate just how talented and wise Sue is, pop over to her blog. I particularly love her outlook on life. Here is a link to a recent post that I found to be extremely insightful: https://franceandvincent.com/2021/01/31/rooted-in-earth/ Her sweet dog Ani has his own cute blog! https://thesmalldogs.blog/

Recently, Sue has been faced with a new and difficult challenge: lung cancer. You can follow her blog to find out more directly from her. The Covid pandemic has served not only to pose a specific threat to a person with a severe respiratory illness, but it has caused the loss of human connection through self-imposed quarantine. Those that follow Sue know that she has been a carer for her son, who gained several disabilities due to a vicious attack, and cancer has made it impossible for her to continue in that role. Because she’s been a carer for so long and not made as much money as she could have otherwise, the core group of the Rodeo Organization Team has decided to hold this fundraiser.

It’s time for Sue to receive something back from the community she’s been a cornerstone of for a decade. Let’s bring the Rodeo into Sue’s house through her computer, and let’s come together with hearts full of joy. Join us for the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic at the Carrot Ranch – a contest, parade, and celebration all in one!

I am pleased to be one of many bloggers sharing The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic.

There are many ways to participate. One is to visit the prompt image, “Hidden”, at the Carrot Ranch. The prompt image and entry form will go live on Monday, February 1st, 2021. Enter a flash or a poem by Friday, February 19th, 2021, and you could win either $100 or a copy of one of Sue’s books. The form will allow you to give a small donation for Sue and her family, and a link can be found on the contest page. The winning entries will be announced at the Carrot Ranch on March 22nd, 2021.

If you’re not ready to rodeo, there’s always the “Parade”. Reblog one of Sue’s posts from any of her sites (Daily Echo or France and Vincent) with a comment about why you found it special. Follow her blogs. Read one of her books, then leave reviews where you can. Several people are already gearing up for the parade – so feel free to check out other people’s blogs for suggestions.

Also, go ahead and reblog, tweet, Facebook, or somehow otherwise share the contest! 99 word literary art is a fantastic way to celebrate a blogging hero and a very deserving person.

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins tomorrow, February 1st. There is a request for donations that will go directly to Sue and her family, and Charli Mills has graciously set up a PayPal functionality on the Carrot Ranch post that will give the cash directly to Sue.

Saddle up, everyone! It’s time for a Carrot Ranch Rodeo like none ever held before. The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins on Monday, February 1st, and it’ll be a TUFF prompt to fit within 99 words. 
I hope to see you at the Ranch, buckaroos!

Visit Sue’s Links: 

Giddy up folks to the rodeo and show support for our dear friend!

It´s launch day for Molly Ringle´s latest book Lava Red Feather Blue. Don´t you just love the cover!!

The Blurb:

Awakening the handsome prince is supposed to end the fairy tale, not begin it. But the Highvalley witches have rarely done things the way they’re supposed to. On the north Pacific island of Eidolonia, hidden from the world by enchantments, Prince Larkin has lain in a magical sleep since 1799 as one side of a truce between humans and fae. That is, until Merrick Highvalley, a modern-day witch, discovers an old box of magic charms and cryptic notes hidden inside a garden statue.

Experimenting with the charms, Merrick finds himself inside the bower where Larkin lies, and accidentally awakens him. Worse still, releasing Larkin from the spell also releases Ula Kana, a faery bent on eradicating humans from the island. With the truce collapsing and hostilities escalating throughout the country, Merrick and Larkin form an unlikely alliance and become even unlikelier heroes as they flee into the perilous fae realm on a quest to stop Ula Kana and restore harmony to their island

What people are saying about the book:

“Come for the Sleeping Beauty allusion, but stay for the incredible world-building! Fans of fantasy, especially anything fae-related, will find this a very rich, satisfying read.” –Brett Hartinger, Author of Geography Club and Three Truths and a Lie

“Lush and imaginative–an epic fantasy for a new generation, full of love, vengeance, redemption, and forgiveness.” –Pam Stucky, Author of The Universes Inside the Lighthouse 

About the Author

Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. Though she made up occasional imaginary realms in her Oregon backyard while growing up, Eidolonia is her first full-fledged fictional country. Her previous novels are predominantly set in the Pacific Northwest and feature fae, goblins, ghosts, and Greek gods alongside regular humans. She lives in Seattle with her family, corgi, guinea pigs, fragrance collection, and a lot of moss.

Buy links:

Paperbacks via Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3ARingle%2C%20Molly

Ebooks via Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=molly%20ringle&fcsearchfield=Author

Print and Nook via B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22Molly%20Ringle%22?Ntk=P_key_Contributor_List&Ns=P_Sales_Rank&Ntx=mode+matchall

Print and Kindle via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Molly-Ringle/e/B003OSSOF8?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1609448504&sr=8-1

I´m pleased to have Molly here as a guest on this special launch day as I have been a fan of hers for a number of years. Learn more about this intriguing author.

  1. Tell the readers about yourself, including something quirky.

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest almost my whole life: born in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and grew up there, and moved to Seattle as an adult. The only major exceptions, not counting vacations, were three years of grad school in Davis, California, and three months of working abroad in the UK in 1996, spent mostly in Edinburgh, Scotland. And speaking of Scotland, I suppose one quirky thing is that I genuinely do like haggis! (I’ve found that if you like meatloaf, you can handle haggis. It’s not as scary as it sounds.)

  • You are a very diverse writer, how do you manage moving from one genre to another?

I’m glad it seems diverse from the outside! To me it feels like I usually write variations on a few themes: there’s always a love story; there’s NEARLY always a gentle, hopeful, even humorous tone; and there may or may not be paranormal elements, but even if the story is real-world, there’s still something of a fairy-tale feel in that remarkable events take place. When looking to start a new project, I usually decide what I most feel like writing at that time in my life—fantasy or real-world, epic scale or more intimate scale—and then proceed to figure out the characters and their goals and obstacles.

  • Where do you get ideas for your stories? What inspired Lava Red Feather Blue?

The ideas can come from anywhere—dreams, random thoughts, retellings of myths, mashups of various elements that interest me. I write the brief thoughts down in a story idea file if they seem good enough to someday become a book. One such note was the idea of creating a new country, a large island somewhere off the west coast of North America. I also liked the idea of it having royals (because to an American that can be a bizarre yet intriguing feature). And when I needed to pick a new story to write in early 2017, I settled on that one, and furthermore, decided I wanted to do more with the idea of humans living alongside fae, which I played with in The Goblins of Bellwater. So Lava Red Feather Blue eventually became all of that: humans and fae living on an island country in the Pacific. Plus a hint of a Sleeping Beauty retelling.

  •  If you could choose a fictional character to be your best friend, who would you choose and why?

Hmm, that’s a question whose answer could change for me from day to day! But today the one who comes to mind is EIinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. I love the whole Dashwood family and would be happy to visit with all of them, but Elinor seems the most steadfast and (to use the book’s title) sensible of the lot. Plus maybe being her best friend would mean I’d always have a place to stay in England, which I would find quite appealing as a perk.

  • If you could personally see one natural phenomenon that you have never seen, what would it be and why that one?

Fireflies. I have never seen them in person! We don’t have them in the western states, and I haven’t happened to be anywhere that does have them. (I did visit NYC in late May and early June one year, but the fireflies were stubborn and did not light up for me in Central Park.) I love bioluminescence, so I want to experience them some magical night. Until then, I’ll have to settle for the lovely sea sparkle that we get in Puget Sound on the occasional warm summer night.

  • Tell us about your next writing project.

I’m returning to Eidolonia, the island from Lava Red Feather Blue, but with a new set of characters. As such, it isn’t really a sequel, but I expect it will overlap in time with Lava Red Feather Blue and will reflect some of the same major events. Mostly, though, it will be about characters in a different town than those visited in the first book, and it will focus on the frictions between fae and humans there, and the ways love and magic complicate their lives. I have a lot to figure out yet, but that’s likely to be the vague outline of it!

Follow Molly on the following social media sites
Blog: http://mollyringle.livejournal.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MollyRingle/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905269.Molly_Ringle
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writermollyringle/
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/mollyringle/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mollyringle
Website: http://www.mollyringle.com/

A selection of Molly´s books.

My review of the Goblins of Bellwater

I am a huge fan of Molly Ringle’s novels. The Goblins of Bellwater didn’t disappoint and proved the versatility of this talented writer. Set in the picturesque Pacific Northwest, there is plenty of magic, romance, and action to engage any reader. Ms Ringle’s vivid descriptions take the reader into the unbelievable world of goblins – believably! Her portrayal of the contemporary human characters living in a small town and their relationships are very realistic. Can a mechanic, who is also an artist, a dedicated environmentalist, a talented chef and a barista/aspiring artist be able to withstand the power of a goblin’s spell and return to their normal lives? This page-turner will keep you guessing as they race against time and the elements to release an age-old evil spell, that is affecting all of their lives. And not in a good way.

Check out Molly’s books for a real treat.

For many years I have set goals for the coming year. They help to keep me focused and be productive. This year I was reluctant to set any goals because it is hard to make plans when things are still so uncertain. But then I decided the best thing is to just carry on as usual. Goals are not written in stone. They can always be adjusted or carried over to the next year. So before I went to bed on January 1st, I wrote down some goals. I also believe goals need to be shared in order to be effective. Here they are!

Goals for 2021

  1. Come up with innovative ideas to market Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
  2. Plan a trip to Canada to launch Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
  3. Visit family and friends in Canada as soon as it is safe to do so
  4. Finish writing Amanda in Spain: Fire in the Cathedral
  5. Read and review at least 40 good books
  6. Visit new places in Spain
  7. Continue to help other writers
  8. Organize computer files
  9. Attend conferences and workshops on line
  10. Do podcast and video interviews and presentations
  11. Visit schools digitally and in-person if possible
  12. Find markets for my short stories
  13. Adopt a buddy for Dot
  14. Stay safe and stay positive

In recent years, I have been encouraged by other bloggers to pick three words for the year. I really like this idea and usually pick the first three words that come to mind.

These are my words for 2021.

Strength

Love

Hope

My wish for everyone for 2021 is to be strong, share the love and never give up hope! And drink good tea and read good books.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is happy to see this year over. Here´s what the crew of Starship Enterprise felt about 2020.

For someone who loves to set goals and make plans, this has been a tough year. So many plans were ruined and goals not met. But we are safe and healthy and as we speak, our family is OK as well. That is really all that matters at the end of the day.

So, as painful as it is, here is my report on the goals I set a year ago, never imagining a global pandemic!

2020 Goals

  1. Edit Amanda in Malta:The Sleeping Lady, and send it to the publisher

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady has been edited, beta-read and with the publisher. It is scheduled for release in May 2021 and is available for preorder. I am so excited about this book as it takes place in a unique country, with tons of history, action and fun. Fans will be pleased to know that Caleb is back too.

2. Write Amanda in France

I am halfway through writing Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral. It is coming along slowly. Like many writers, I had trouble concentrating at the start of the lockdown. Amanda falls in love with Paris, Versailles and Giverny and gets to stay at a bookstore!

3. Decide if I should continue writing Amanda stories or venture into something else.

I haven’t made that decision yet. I’ll see how the next two books do.

4. Write more short stories

I did write new short stories and revisited and polished some old ones. Short stories were easier to focus on this year. My short story, Lockdown With Anne, was included in an anthology about the pandemic called, With Love, Comes Hope.

5. Write more travel articles

I didn’t write many travel articles. The fact that we couldn’t travel, didn’t inspire me to write travel articles.

6. Help others with their writing as many have helped me

This is something I did a lot of. I had the time, it could be done online and it made me feel useful. I did some editing as well which I enjoyed.

7. Work on my TBR list, read at least 40 books 

Another thing I had time to do and it took my mind off the situation. I read 40 books, many I had wanted to read for a long long time. They are listed on my Goodreads Reading Challenge page

8. Visit Venice

We had planned to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday in Venice. All booked but sadly, cancelled due to a global pandemic.

9. Attend a family reunion in Alberta

Cancelled as well. I was very dissapointed as I love to see my aunts, uncles and many wonderful cousins.

10. Travel to the UK and visit friends

Also booked, plans set to meet up with a number of friends, but cancelled.

11. Organize my office

I did some organizing but more needs to be done.

12. Organize my computer files

Again, not as much as I should have. It´s not like I didn´t have the time!

13. Learn more about writing and publishing a picture book.

Lost interest in this for some reason.

14. Publish an anthology of short stories

I´m working on this.

What I did do was a lot of cooking and baking, walking the dog and connecting with friends and family through social media.

My three words for 2020 were:

support – Support others in whatever way I can, as so many have supported me over the years.

connect – Connect with people, stay in touch, facilitate connections.

motion – Keep moving, physically and mentally.

Little did I know how important these three words would become.

By supporting others, I was able to take my mind off of my concerns. Since I have learned a few things over the years of writing and publishing my books, it has been great to be able to share that knowledge. I enjoyed interviewing and featuring other authors on my blog and helping promote their books.

I connected with so many people, some I haven´t been in touch with for quite a while. These connections kept me sane. Connecting through social media has been a godsend. I Zoom with my writers’ groups here in Spain and in Canada, and video message and Skype with family members and friends near and far. Connecting through blogging has been my social life and I so appreciate those connections. So a huge thank you to all my blogging buddies!

Walking the dog three to four times a day has kept me moving and kept the baking off my hips. Walking has been good for my mental well being as well.

Although many of my goals were not met, it has still been an OK year.

I stole this from a writer/blogging friend, Janet Givens. I love it.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Stay safe and well so that eventually we can all travel and meet up again soon.

One of the good things about 2020 is that there was more time to read. My goal was to read 36 books this year and I read 39. I read an assortment of books, including many I’ve wanted to read for a long time – classics, contemporary, children’s and books of poetry and short stories.

Check out my report from Goodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2020/2916220

They were all good. My reviews of the books I completed can be found on Goodreads.

Here are a few of my favourites:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is not a 5 it is a 10!! It is one of the best books I’ve read, up there with One Hundred Years of Solitude and A Fine Balance. It is a story within a story. It is complicated, full of many interesting and complicated characters. But I was never confused. Barcelona is the perfect place to set a story like this; a tale of books, writers, history, lovers and mystery. The author uses words so well – “Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” I loved every word.

Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book dear to my heart. It is the history of the area near where I was born and raised, told by someone who lived there as a child when it was just being settled. It is so cleverly written, in a narrative that makes history come to life. He tells the good, the bad and the ugly of prairie life in the early 1900s. The writer returns to the small prairie town 40 years later and this is what he says, “Things look the same, surprisingly the same, and yet obscurely different.” Things haven’t changed that much in these places. The smells, tastes, heat, cold, and sounds of the prairies are all there between the covers and brought back vivid memories. The descriptions of blizzards, cyclones and drought are so real. My favourite line and there were so many, is this one. “I may not know who I am, but I know where I am from.” Reading this amazing book, masterfully written, reminded me of where I’m from.

The Hermit by Jan L. Coates


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book for kids and those of us who think like kids. I loved this book. When Danny and his friends discover a hermit living in the woods, they are intrigued. Danny is determined to find out more about him. He also needs to find a way to stop land developers from building condos on the soccer field. Plenty of action, believable characters and real-life situations. The kidspeak was perfect. I liked the main character, Danny, kids will identify with him. The events unfold in a timely fashion with a satisfying ending, and there is a loveable dog in it! I highly recommend this book.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible book by the incomparable Toni Morrison. The reader is taken on the fantastic journey of one man´s life, with prose that pulls you in, as he tries to find his place in the world. The importance of family, even a dysfunctional one, and the relevance of knowing where you come from is woven in with a cast of diverse and quirky characters and intriguing settings. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, one that will stay with me for a long time.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this classic tale. It took me to another time and place; to a coal mining village in South Wales at the end of the 19th century. The writing is so descriptive I felt I was there with the Morgan family. Every sense is used so that you can taste the food, smell the earth, feel the grime of the coal dust, see the verdant valley, and hear the singing of the choir. The feelings and emotions of young Huw Morgan, the main character and point of view, are so vividly described that you laugh and cry along with him. The book was written 80 years ago, so some of the words are old and unfamiliar, but it doesn´t matter. In fact, the lovely Welsh way of speaking comes through and makes the story even more endearing. If you are looking to read a classic, I highly recommend this book.

Good Mothers Don’t by Laura Best

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What would you do if you were a mother and felt you were losing your mind? This incredible book introduces us to Elizabeth, a wife and mom in the early 1960s who is grappling with her sanity. Then something happens to push her over the edge, resulting in a family that is torn apart. This well written, gripping story is told by Elizabeth and those affected by her. I have enjoyed everything Laura Best has written in the past, but she has outdone herself with this story. She has created characters so believable you begin to think you have met them somewhere before, perhaps a neighbour or a family member. I felt the pain, the hope and most of all, the love. I closed the book and wanted to start reading it all over again. This story will stay with me for a long time. Thank you Vagrant Press for the ARC.

Fragments of a Dream by Ruth Larrea

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A well-written story about love, regrets, and possibilities. The story takes place in Greece for the most part. I like how the author skillfully incorporates the sights and scenery within the story of Rosie and Angelo without info-dumping. Both characters are believable and well developed. It is a story of cultural differences and misunderstandings, family and friends. I highly recommend this enjoyable read that will keep you turning the pages wondering what will happen next. This is more than romance, it is about complex relationships in a captivating setting.

Perhaps you will be inspired to read some of these books. I would love to hear about your favourite reads from 2020.








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