Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I am submitting this story to Stevie Turner´s Short Story Competition  You may want to submit one as well.

This story was inspired by a visit to Clifford´s Tower in York.

Terror in the Tower
Darlene Foster

The tower ruin overlooks the city from high on a grassy mound. Angela pulls her sweater tighter around her as she glances up. She experiences the same chill every time she walks past the site.
When she was seven, her mother took her up to the old stone keep. From a small window, she saw a girl looking out at her through iron bars. Fire blazed behind the child. It had frightened her so.
“Mommy, we need to help that little girl,” exclaimed Angela.
Her mother took her hand and said, “There are no children in there. It must be a trick of the sun reflecting off the water.”
The sad, terrified and helpless child appeared very real.
Angela shudders as she recalls that day. She rushes to work.
It was the feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol. Instead of the usual tables overflowing with food, around her lay the dead bodies of friends and neighbours. The smell of fresh blood and smouldering wood filled the thick air. Ester searched for Jacob and Marta in the crowded tower. She witnessed parents slitting their children’s throats and then their own. Terrified, Ester tried to look away, but it was the same everywhere.
Since she didn’t have any parents, she stayed with old Jacob the moneylender and his kind wife, Marta. For her board, she cleaned the house, made meals and ran errands. Ester stumbled in the smoke-filled keep looking for the only family she knew. Eventually, she found them, dead in each other’s arms on a bed of straw soaked with maroon blood. A curved butcher’s knife lay beside them.
Did they forget about me? Did Jacob slit his wife’s throat and then his own?
The flames and smoke of the burning wood tower closed around her.
A growing mob outside yelled, “Come out, you dirty Jews.”
Why is this happening? We were promised safety in the tower.
She peered through the iron bars of a low window. Angry people outside the tower waved swords, scythes and pitchforks. It was safer to stay inside. It was better to die by your own hand. That is what the Rabbi said.
In the crowd, she caught the clear blue eyes of a girl her age. A girl dressed in fine clothing. Maybe she can help me. Ester mouthed the word Help.
The girl pointed to the window and said, “Look, Mother, there is a little girl in the tower. It is burning. We must help her.”
Ester saw an elegant woman take the child´s hand and pull her away. “There are no children in there, Angelina. Let us go away from this awful place.”
Ester coughed from the thick smoke and fell backwards. The flames engulfed her.
Nine centuries later Angela feels the eyes of Ester pleading for help as she hurries past Clifford’s Tower on the way to her Hebrew lessons. One day she will stop and help the child.

I´m pleased to be featured on Don Massenzio´s blog today. Pop over and say Hello.

Author Don Massenzio

Welcome to the 2018 author interview series. Author interviews will be posted every Friday throughout the year.

I am honored to continue this series with author Darlene Foster.

For those of you that have read my interviews in the past, you’ll find a new set of questions in this series. You can catch up with all of my past author interviews (nearly 200) on my Author Directorypage.

If you’re an author interested in being interviewed in this series, I still have limited spots available for 2018. You can email me at don@donmassenzio.com

Now, please enjoy this interview with Darlene Foster:

_MG_0156sm-Edit Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to do a bit of both. I certainly want to be original but not to be so out of touch that nobody will read my books. On the other hand, I am…

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My guest today is Debra Purdy Kong, a fellow Vancouver author who writes entertaining mysteries. She talks about where she gets her ideas and gives some great advice to anyone thinking of writing.

Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs inspired her to write mysteries set in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for her two Evan Dunstan mystery novellas, as well as her Casey Holland transit security novels.

Debra has published short stories in a variety of genres as well as personal essays, and articles for publications such as Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, B.C. Parent Magazine, and The Vancouver Sun. In November 2017, she released her 5th Casey Holland mystery thriller, KNOCK KNOCK, and her 2nd Evan Dunstan humorous mystery novella, A TOXIC CRAFT.

How long have you been seriously writing? I’ve been writing for over thirty-five years and published my first short story back in 1982, for which I was paid $95. I hadn’t been writing long, and thought “well, this isn’t so hard”. Another three years passed before I published a single story and that was for free. It was quite a while before I was paid for my stories again. After that first piece was published, though, I’ve written nearly every day of my life.

Where do you get your ideas? While working on short fiction during the first decade of my career, ideas came from real-life experiences. For example, one day I was at a wading pool in the park and saw a baby nearly drown. Another time, I overheard a woman dissing her grandkids for being weird. Later, ideas for mysteries such as A Toxic Craft were inspired by my work experiences in security. I usually worked on Sundays which were really quiet. Patrolling empty buildings turned out to be a great experience, as it allowed my imagination to run wild.

What is your writing process? My writing process has changed a lot over the years, depending on circumstances. These days, I have a part-time day job Monday-to-Friday, so I’ll write for about an hour before work, again during my break, and again in the late afternoon before dinner. By early evening, I’ll switch to social networking or writing-related tasks because I’m too tired for major editing. I seem to concentrate best for up to forty-five minutes at a time. After that time, the focus fades away.

How long does it take you to write a book? The first draft of a book takes several months to complete. It’s tougher to determine how long it takes before the book is ready for publication because I never work on one book at a time. After a first draft is written, I’ll put it away for a few weeks or even months before starting the second draft revisions. Right now, I have three novels and two novellas in various stages of editing. On a daily basis, I work on two books at a time. One novel in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I don’t publish a book every year, although, in late 2017, two of my books were released which was unusual.

Who are some of your favourite authors and why? One of my favourite authors is the late great Sue Grafton who recently passed away. I so admired her writing style and her commitment to one series. I also admire her principles. Having worked originally as a screenplay editor, she refused to ever let anyone turn her books into movies.
I also admire the late British author John Mortimer of the Rumpole series. I loved the characters and Mortimer’s sense of humour. The same is true of the late Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is still one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
Some of my other favourites are Tony Hillerman, Maya Angelou, Alice Munro, Deborah Harkness, Diana Gabaldon, and Ray Bradbury. There are so many more, but the list would go on forever!

What advice would you give an aspiring author? I have five pieces of advice for an aspiring author. One is to read as much as you can in every genre. Read the best books that you can find as they’ll teach you a lot about voice and style. It’s hugely inspiring to read a beautifully crafted paragraph. You can learn so much from a well-crafted book.
If you’re afraid to start or are stuck on a page and can’t seem to move forward, jumpstart things by writing in a journal. The very act of writing, regardless of topic, will put you in touch with your creative side. If you can’t think of anything to write, try a writing prompt. There are plenty of sites that offer writing prompts.
Once you’ve started, or even if you need inspiration to write, join a good writers’ group. There is nothing like learning from those who are working through stories, novels, and memoirs. Great discussions can ensue and just as importantly, you’ll learn that mistakes, self-doubt, and rejection are a natural part of the process.
If there are no writers’ groups in your area or ones that appeal to you, take a writing course or a workshop. There are good ones online, but many cities offer courses through local community and recreation programs, and of course, libraries are a valuable resource for courses and information.
My final piece of advice is this. Writing is not a quick trip to fame and fortune. The truth is that it simply doesn’t happen for most authors. Writing success (and success is how you define it, not anyone else) is a long journey without shortcuts. Many writers are goal oriented, which is fine—I have plenty of them—but if you aren’t enjoying the journey along the way toward achieving those goals, then do something else. Life is too short to resent what you’re doing because fame and fortune haven’t shown up. Be realistic about your expectations. The best part about a writing career for me is the writing itself. That hasn’t changed in all these years.

Tell us about what you are working on now. I’m currently working on the sixth installment in my Casey Holland mystery series. This book has been in the works for six or seven years, but other projects needed to be completed first. I’m working on draft #5 right now, and I hope to have it ready for publication next year.

The other novel I’m working on my first urban fantasy that focuses on Wicca, witches, and healing. At the moment, I’m struggling through draft #2, which is slow-going as it requires a lot of work. I’m over 200 pages into the second draft, which is over the halfway point. This is a whole new genre with new possibilities and connections creeping into the story every day. At this point, I’m not even sure what other types of changes this revision will bring, but I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges over the coming months.

Thank you so much for being my guest today, Debra. I look forward to more books coming from you as it seems you have an endless supply of ideas! 

Links to the 5th Casey Holland mystery, KNOCK KNOCK:
Apple (itunes): http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls
Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

The latest attack in a string of violent Vancouver home invasions kills senior Elsie Englehart. Security officer Casey Holland is devastated. She is supposed to be watching over elderly bus riders in an affluent, high-risk area, but she’s let Elsie down. Determined to keep others safe, Casey escorts an elderly man home, but an armed intruder attacks them both. Hospitalized and angry, Casey struggles to regain control of her life, despite interference from family and colleagues—and the postponement of her long-awaited wedding. Yet another home invasion compels Casey to take action, but at what cost to her health and her relationships? In Knock Knock, Debra Purdy Kong’s fifth installment of the Casey Holland series, the risks have never been higher and the consequences more deadly.

Links to the 2nd Evan Dunstan novella, A TOXIC CRAFT:
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/ycsvuaj5
Amazon: http://getbook.at/AToxicCraft

My review of A Toxic Craft

A fun read set at a craft fair. Evan Dunstan, a security guard, has his hands full. His feisty grandmother is in charge of the craft fair and things aren’t going well. His best bud, Scully, is head over heels in love and his coworker is not being very helpful. Who is sabotaging the fair and why did one vendor pass out in the washroom? Full of interesting characters and lots of action, this book will keep you on your toes. Wait till you hear what some of these seniors get up to. Can Evan find the culprit before it’s too late? Darlene Foster

More information about Debra and her books at www.debrapurdykong.com

Debra’s blog  https://debrapurdykong.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebraPurdyKong 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/debra.purdykong

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


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?


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.


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.


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.


The Fairy Godmother of writers and bloggers



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!


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