Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘guest author

I am honoured to be asked about inspiring children to read by Sue Slaght of Travel Tales of Life.

Why would a child want to read? How can a book compete with the tantalizing glow of a screen? As the months, or has it been years, of time at home drag on, parents’ nerves are fraying. How can we get kids excited about adventure? Is the love of reading in children a forgotten skill?

We reached out to an expert for advice. How can we turn reluctant readers into book loving kids? Darlene Foster is an award winning author, publishing seven books about a spunky young girl named Amanda. The popular series inspires adventure, travel and reading.

Darlene Foster on inspiring reading in children

Thanks, Sue for inviting me to your awesome blog which encourages travel and appreciating other countries and cultures.

I write my books to inspire children to explore the world and appreciate our unique differences as well as our similarities. Unlike when I was a child, children today are well travelled. Which is great. But right now, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, their parents aren’t able to take them on trips. By providing children with books that take place in other countries, they can go on a vacation without leaving the safety of their home. And by reading the books together, the whole family gets a holiday.

At what age should parents start reading to their children? What types of books are best?

Read the rest of the article here.

Today I am excited to feature Mr. Geoff Le Pard, an author of prose, poetry and memoir, a blogger, an excellent gardner and an all around good guy who loves his dog. Mr. Le Pard has a great way with words. He has recently released a new book, The Sincerest Form of Poetry, and has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, perhaps the Reader’s Digest version.

Ah, the difficult personal bit first, eh? I’m a former lawyer, happy to have put down the quill pen but happy too to use the absurdities of a pompous and self-regarding profession for inspiration in my writing. It also pays the bills still so I’m not knocking it. Much. Nowadays, I try and believe it when I call myself a writer but, odd for someone who once wore his pretentious facade like a coat of armour, I still struggle with imposter syndrome and tend to whisper it, in case it triggers a little too much sniggering. My writing career overlapped with my legal one and probably – no definitely – accelerated its end. The writing piece started in 2006 like a clunky gear change and has accelerated until I reached third where I currently cruise happily. To wring every last drop out of this motoring analogy, I’m now happily enjoying a pretty full tank of ideas, an open road of time to write and a satnav that lets me choose the direction my writing takes. Happily, the flat tyre of writer’s block hasn’t struck and I avoid the fender-bender of agent rejections by sticking to the back roads of indie publishing… blimey, I milked that, didn’t I? I’ve twelve published works: six novels, three anthologies, one memoir of me and my mother and now a book of poetry. They are, of course, the Rolls Royces of literature… honestly, I will stop that now and all available on Amazon.I’ve been married for thirty-cough years to a woman whose erudition, sense of humour and lack of a sense of smell have kept us together all that time. We have two adult children, one married, one trying to get spliced if only that witch, Rona Pandemic would back off a little and a small menagerie of pets, led by Dog, an eleven year old mixture of fishy breath, randomised barking tests and infinite love, plus two Methuselah old cats (twenty-two and going strong even if their fleeces are now more corduroy than cashmere) and a tortoise whose passion for my trainers says more about her than me. 

2. What or who inspired you to write in the first place?

In July 2006, my wife was told by our children they wouldn’t be joining her, as they had done for several years, at a summer school run at Marlborough College, one of Britain’s poshest public schools (Princess Kate Thingy went there). This had taken place during the first week of the school holidays and while the three of them had gone off, I stayed and crunched a bit more legal nonsense. She wondered if, this time, i might like to join her. We’d just started ballroom and Latin dance classes and they did a week’s intensive course during the morning, leaving her to do something arty and me… well, look at the brochure… to do something in the afternoon. I still don’t know what drew me to the ‘Write a ten minute radio play in a week’. The woman who ran it was a touch eccentric but she taught the basics, got us writing and performing and I loved it. I was buzzing – my first experience of finding out the joys of immersing yourself with others addicted to writing. But the week soon ended and the children returned from wherever they’d been invited so we could all go to a house in Devon we’d hired. While they splashed about in the hot tub and my wife played about with her textiles, I pulled out my laptop, took one of the ideas I’d had while on the writing course and began to write. I wrote in the evenings, at weekends. I got up early and wrote before cycling to work. I wrote in airports while off on business trips and in hotels while struggling with jet lag. Inside three months I’d written a novel of 130,000 words! It was utter crap. But it was my utter crap. After that, I went on courses – meeting other nascent authors at Arvon and at the LSE before I did a creative writing MA at Sheffield. The book I wrote for the course was my first published work, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, a comedic coming of age story set in 1976, that has autobiographical notes in its genesis. That was 2014. I started blogging then, too. And what about that first book? I rewrote it countless times and eventually the story that I wanted to tell pop out. I published it earlier this year, a dark thriller Walking Into Trouble. 

3. Do you prefer writing poetry or prose, and why?

Neither, or both. They are very different. One – prose – is an intellectual process, that’s like any creative skill, trying to explore ideas in a subject of which I will never be the master, always the pupil but always enjoying the process of learning on the way. The other – poetry – is capturing an emotion, an idea, a sense of the moment. It might be very personal – the love of another, loss, longing; it might be a personal passion – sport, Dog, politics, climate change; it might be humour, the need to see the absurd in live’s clumsy tapestry. I want to do both but one comes naturally and I can always tap into it, the other emerges unbidden often when I least expect it.

4. Has your father´s poetry influenced yours in any way?

For sure. He was debilitated by his perfectionism and I’ve determined to be good, or as good as I can, but not perfect. He used poetry to convey his loves and I have followed suit. He wasn’t afraid to use obscure, sometimes grandiose language to create the imagery he wanted and I’ve ignored voices, esp of poets of much regard on courses I’ve undertaken who try and drive me into the utilitarianism of coming phraseology. For someone who resisted many calls to write, he loved reading his work if he felt it worked for his audience, but he was rubbish at it; I’ve made myself passable as a performance poet and enjoy the process of communicating my poetry as a spoken format and not just written. Mostly however he was driven to keep writing and I’ve followed that lead. I’ve often wondered what he’d have thought of mine. Probably ‘not bad, boy’ would be high praise, but only if he genuinely felt I deserved it. He would have been a harsh but entirely fair critic.

5. If you could choose a fictional character to spend a day with, who would you choose and why?

Pooh or Paddington; they are my sort of philosophers and I could do with some of their calm, offbeat wisdom in this jigsaw-puzzle of a world – as well as enjoying some communal honey or marmalade treats

6. Tell us about your next writing project.

How long have you got? I’ve finished a novel that is a sort of modern sci-fi/magical realism romance, titled ‘The Art of Spirit Capture’. It’s been edited and read and currently is, like all my novels, in purdah, namely a three month hibernation. Every time I write or edit a novel, I leave it for three months before I go back to it. After the next read through, I will have it professionally edited and then it can be published. I might ask for beta readers, if anyone is interested, but it won’t be for a few months. While that bubbles away, I’m deeply immersed in a comic fantasy involving a trainee exorcist, Pearl Barley who has appeared in short fiction on my blog. Set in a parallel world to today – so a lot of features are familiar – Pearl works for a secular exorcism agency, Spirits Release at a critical time for the business. Not only is the Government looking into regulating exorcists but there is a surge of spirits that refuse to pass to their chosen hereafters and the possessions are beginning to overwhelm the likes of Pearl’s company. The question is, is this surge merely a cyclical boom or a manufactured explosion with sinister undertones. Only Pearl with the help of Sharon, a deceased hairstylist who has taken up residence in Pearl’s hair and her personal personality enhancer in the shape of a mirror that allows Pearl’s reflection to help her out can find out the truth, while battling sprites and possessed gnomes and sort of falling for a red-headed weather manipulator who may or may not be what she seems. This is book one, provisionally titled Pearl Barley and the Surge of The Spirits, of maybe two or three and I plan on writing the second immediately I finish the first. That book, also provisionally titled Pearl Barley and the Georgian Goblin will take Pearl to the next stage of a conspiracy that is revealed in book one. Enough said, for now. Behind that, and almost certainly to be published before Pearl will be the next anthology of short fiction. For the last three years I’ve brought together short stories and flash fiction that I’ve written for my blog into anthologies. The first one Life, In a Grain of Sand came out in 2017, then there was Life in a Flash and Life in a Conversation. This one, Life Sentences is with my editor and should appear in time for the Christmas rush!! And behind all of them, I have a three quarters finished thriller based on my experiences at the London Olympics which, someday, I’d like to get back to… whew…

Geoff´s latest book of poetry. Don´t you just love the cover?

Famous poets reimagined, sonnets of all kinds, this poetry selection has something for all tastes, from the funny, to the poignant to the thought-provoking and always written with love and passion.

All of life in one easy couplet

To write poetry I need inspiration. Often that comes from my appreciation of the craftsmanship of other, better poets, whose skills I aspire to emulate. For this anthology, I have chosen two such sources: in part one, the search for Britain’s favourite poem led to the publication of the top 100 and I have used a number of these to craft my own take on those beautiful and inspirational works; in part two, my love of the sonnet form, fostered by reading Shakespeare’s gems has provided a selection covering many topics and themes. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

You can purchase this book here:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Geoff in his garden of sunflowers

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

Geoff is a prolific writer and here is a selection of some of his books:

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

In this, the second book in the Harry Spittle Sagas, it’s 1981 and Harry is training to be a solicitor. His private life is a bit of a mess and he’s far from convinced the law is for him. Then an old acquaintance from his hotel days appears demanding Harry write his will. When he dies somewhat mysteriously a few days later and leaves Harry in charge of sorting out his affairs, Harry soon realises this will be no ordinary piece of work. After all, his now deceased client inherited a criminal empire and several people are very interested in what is to become of it.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

The third instalment of the Harry Spittle Sagas moves on the 1987. Harry is now a senior lawyer with a well-regarded City of London firm, aspiring to a partnership. However, one evening Harry finds the head of the Private Client department dead over his desk, in a very compromising situation. The senior partner offers to sort things out, to avoid Harry embarrassment but soon matters take a sinister turn and Harry is fighting for his career, his freedom and eventually his life as he wrestles with dilemma on dilemma. Will Harry save the day? Will he save himself?

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

More of Geoff´s work can be found on his Amazon Author Page

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

Follow Geoff on his entertaining blog:  https://geofflepard.com

and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/geoff.lepard

You´ll be glad you did!

I am delighted to have as my guest today John Howell, a fellow blogger, author, dog lover, and friend. He is here today to tell you about his latest book which I think you will just love. Take it away, John.

 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Darlene, and thank you for helping me launch this book. I know you are busy with your projects and Dot so thank you for taking the time to help. Speaking of the book, let me describe it. Eternal Road is the story of two people finding their way through the selection process leading to the place where one will spend eternity. Yes, it is true. They both have passed away. James Wainwright just died in an auto accident. Samantha Tourneau died seventeen years before. Sam is James’s guide to help him decide where to spend eternity. This is not your usual thriller or paranormal romance. It is a piece of fiction that is a combination of inspiration, adventure, time travel, sci-fi, a touch of erotica, and a dash of spiritual. In short, it is a lot of things, but hopefully, a story that will make you happy to have read it.

It is now available on Amazon in paper and Kindle. The Kindle edition is introductory priced at 99¢ until October 15th

Here are the universal links for both editions

Kindle

Paper

The blurb

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer, who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save humankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

An Excerpt

“The date on the paper is October 26th,1881.”
Sam grabs the news sheet. “The date of the gunfight at the O. K. Corral? We have to find out what time it is now.”
“Why does that matter?”
She gives the paperback to James. “The gunfight happened at 3:00 PM. We might have missed it.”
James shakes his head. “Don’t you think a newspaperman like John Clum would have dashed to the scene instead of sitting in his office if we’d missed it? The sun looks fairly high. What about my watch?”
“Go ahead and look at it.”
James glances at the watch and then back at Sam. “Oh, man. It’s smashed.”
“Yup. The accident.”
James puts his hands to his face. “Why didn’t I notice that before?”
“It didn’t matter before.”
“So, let’s say we are on time—where should we go to view the gunfight?”
Sam chews on her bottom lip. “Might be best to go to the photographic studio right next to the vacant lot where the fight took place. We could stand on the porch and look around the building. I’m curious as to why you actually want to see the battle?”
“This is history. I would love to see the most famous gunfight in the world. Who wouldn’t?”
Sam puts her hand on James’s shoulder. “People get killed.”
He touches her hand. “So, we shouldn’t see it?”
Sam draws her hand away. “I’m just saying that real life and legend are two different things. When people get killed, they bleed, and it isn’t pretty.”
James stands with his palms open. “But the historical part?”
Sam shrugs, “I just want to warn you.”
Sam and James walk down the street and eventually come to the place where the shootout will take place. Sam points to the porch of the photography building. “We can see everything from there.”
James points at the porch. “Of course, we’d have to look around the corner, which means we won’t stay out of sight. What if a stray bullet hits us?”
Sam chuckles. “You’re dead already. So what if a stray bullet hits you?”

The trailer

John’s bio

John is an award-winning author who, after an extensive business career, began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written five other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. The paperback versions are also available in the Indie Lector store

John lives in Lakeway, Texas, with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Contact John

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter –https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page –https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

John’s other books

My GRL,

His Revenge

Our Justice

Circumstances of Childhood

The Contract: between heaven and earth

It was great having you here, John. I wish you all the best with your latest book. Dot says hi to Twiggy and Lucy!

I am pleased to be taking part in the virtual book launch of Against All Odds, the final book in Jacqui Murray´s fascinating trilogy.

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

Book 3 in the Crossroads series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

Some questions the author has kindly answered

How do you know Xhosa’s People are as smart as they seem in this book?

A study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior places the appearance of human-like ways of thinking with the emergence of Homo erectus. The complex thought required to create their stone tools (called Acheulean) and their functional variety (which includes cutters, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, flakes, and scrapers) have long inspired many paleoanthropologists to believe Homo erectus was smart. A 2017 study that mapped student brains while they recreated these tools revealed that this work required the ability to “hold in mind” information—much as you and I do to plan complete complex tasks. “The fact that these more advanced forms of cognition were required to create Acheulean hand axes … means the date for this more humanlike type of cognition can be pushed back to at least 1.8 million years ago …” [Indiana University. “‘Humanlike’ ways of thinking evolved 1.8 million years ago.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2017. ]

Not definitive but interesting!

Convince me they communicate effectively with gestures, body movements, and facial expressions.

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate? It’s probably via hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. Much can be said without voices.

Second, think of sign language. Sophisticated ideas are communicated with hands and facial expressions around the world daily. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it.

I’m surprised by the sophistication and cleverness of some of their actions.


Homo erectus could pass as a modern man dressed properly and if the viewer carried no precognitions about what he expected. But he lacked many of the social constructs we take for granted. Because these traits don’t fossilize, we extrapolate what life was like from artifacts like their sophisticated tools.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JacquiMurray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

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

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website: https://jacquimurray.net

Enjoy the excerpt

Chapter 1

The foothills of the Pyrenees

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each groupmember. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”



By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.



The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

A book worth checking out!

Ann Eriksson, credit Carol Sowerby photographer

I am pleased to present my guest today, fellow BC author, Ann Eriksson who has just released her latest book, Bird’s-Eye View: Keeping Wild Birds in Flight. A perfect book for anyone who loves birds and a great gift for a young person.

Ann Eriksson lives on Thetis Island, BC, in a waterfront house surrounded by ocean and trees and lots of amazing and beautiful wildlife. Ann is the author of five novels and two non-fiction ecological literacy books for children. When she’s not writing, working in biology, or helping protect the environment, she’s out exploring nature, on foot, or by boat. You can read about Ann’s work at www.anneriksson.ca. Ann’s novels and children’s books are available in print and eBook formats through your favourite bookseller.

Bird’s-Eye View: Keeping Wild Birds in Flight

From the dry deserts to the icy poles, wild birds are everywhere. We see them soaring overhead, paddling across water, flitting through trees, pecking at our backyard bird feeders and singing from fence posts. Birds contribute to the health of the planet and are enjoyed by many people around the world. But wild birds are in trouble. Today almost 200 bird species are critically endangered. They are threatened by habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, pesticides, human-made structures and other animals. Why are wild birds important? Why do they need help? And what are young people all over the world doing to take wild birds under their wing?

“Anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about the birds that live in their neighborhood or on the other side of the planet will love this book.” – Trevor Herriot, naturalist and author of Grass, Sky, Song

“ A passionate and beautifully illustrated appeal to bird lovers of all ages.” – Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds and The Bird Detective.

What was the inspiration for Birds-Eye View?
I live on Thetis Island, surrounded daily by a wonderful and lively diversity of songbirds, woodpeckers, birds of prey and marine birds. And as a biologist and director of the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy, I know how impacted these beautiful and fascinating animals have been by human activities. I had already written Dive In! Exploring Our Connection with the Ocean as part of the Orca Footprints ecological literacy series and had enjoyed the experience immensely, so I pitched a book on birds and bird conservation to my editors at Orca Book Publishers. It ended up as an Orca Wild title.


I see that you have written a diverse collection of novels. What made you decide on the type of books you write?
I started out writing novels because that is what I love to read. I love being transported into different lives and worlds, and exposed to ideas, people and places I wouldn’t normally encounter. I took a break from fiction to write children’s non-fiction on invitation from Ruth Linka, my former publisher at Brindle & Glass, now at Orca Book Publishers. Both the novels and the non-fiction have combined my passion for writing with my interest in ecology.

How long have you been seriously writing?
I started writing novels in 2000, when I was a single parent with 2 school-age children, a dog to walk, a big old house and garden to look after and a contract job in biology. I began to wake up in the morning with a story complete with characters, paragraphs and sentences running through my head. I told it to go away, I didn’t have time. But it continued to tug at me until a friend invited me to join a fledgling writing group. I wrote my first novel, Decomposing Maggie, through that group of supportive women. I can’t believe it has been 20 years!

Where do you get your ideas?
I write about topics that interest me personally, which generally fall into the categories of ecological and social issues. In my fiction, I’ve written about grief, about disabilities, mental illness, homelessness, ocean pollution, marine ecology, killer whales, classical music, trees, forest ecology and habitat loss, climate change and even a little romance.


What is your writing process?
I call my process the ‘whenever’ school of writing. When I was first writing and still with young children at home, I wrote whenever I got some free time. I never procrastinated. I would sit down and start typing (although not always the most brilliant words). Now that it’s just me and my husband, also a writer, I tend to procrastinate more. But when I do get into a project, I stay focused, set my own deadlines if I don’t have external ones, and am quite productive.


Where do you do your best writing?
I have a beautiful bright loft above the kitchen, with a small deck and a view of the ‘Cut’, an ocean pass on which our home is located. I joke that I write with one eye focussed on the computer and the other on the nature going by outdoors. When I really want to concentrate, I head out to a small 100 square foot former children’s playhouse that we call the Dylan Thomas cabin. But the location isn’t so important (sometimes it’s the dining room table) as taking the time to write for periods long enough to get ‘in the zone,’ where hours can go by that feel like minutes. A wonderful place to be.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I’ve written 8 books in 20 years, so I guess an average of 2-4 years from research to publication. But it varies greatly. I wrote the first draft of my first novel in 6 months. I have a novel that’s been in progress now for 3 or 4 years. And a couple more partially finished manuscripts crying for my attention.

What kind of research do you do for a children’s book, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
The kinds of children’s books I write, which are based on scientific information, take a lot of research. It’s important to me that the information in them is accurate and current. I read books and articles by scientists, I search the internet for interesting information, watch videos, interview experts and others, sometimes children, with knowledge and experience about the topic, and attend talks and conferences, for up to a year before I start writing. Then the process of turning it all into an engaging and interesting narrative begins. Once the text is written I have others, including scientists, read it and give me feedback. When the draft is ready and edited, my publisher then turns it into a beautiful work of art.

Tell us about what you are working on next.
I’m in the final stages of a non-fiction book for youth about the climate crisis, to be published in the fall of 2021 as part of Orca’s Issues series. After that, I’m planning another novel. Fiction is calling me.

You can connect with Ann here:

Website: www.anneriksson.ca
Facebook: Ann Eriksson Books
Twitter: @Ann_Eriksson
Instagram: annleriksson


Her Novels
Decomposing Maggie (2003, Turnstone Press) Note: Out of print
In the Hand of Anubis (2009, Brindle and Glass)
Falling From Grace (2010, Brindle and Glass)
High Clear Bell of Morning (2014, Douglas & McIntyre)
The Performance (2016, Douglas & McIntyre)

Her Children’s Non-Fiction
Dive In! Exploring Our Connection With The Ocean (2018, Orca Book Publishers)
Bird’s-Eye View (2020, Orca Book Publishers)

Please do check out these wonderful books and share this post with your readers.

Thanks, Ann for being a guest on my blog and sharing your love of the environment and its inhabitants.




I am so pleased to be a guest on Book Club Mom’s blog where I am asked some great questions. If you haven’t already, pop on over and see what I have to say about writing in a cafe and other things.

Book Club Mom

Author name: Darlene Foster

Genre: Middle-Grade Travel/Adventure/Mystery

Books: 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; Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action; Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady to be released Spring 2021

What’s your story and how did you become a writer? I am a Canadian author who has written the Amanda Travels series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves travelling to unique places where she encounters mystery and adventure. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. I’ve won prizes for my short stories and have been published in various anthologies. I have also written a bi-lingual book for English/Spanish readers.

I grew up…

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I am pleased to have as a guest on my blog, Debra Purdy Kong, who has just launched her 6th mystery novel. Debra has been a guest on my blog, here where she talked about how she gets her ideas and gives some great advice to anyone thinking of writing. Today she talks about her inspiration for the latest Casey Holland mystery, The Blade Man.


So, This Bus Driver Approached Me…
By Debra Purdy Kong

After my third Casey Holland mystery, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, was published, a local bus driver contacted me through Twitter to ask about my books. My series is set in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, which is where the driver and I live.

My protagonist, Casey, is a 33-year-old transit security officer who’s employed by a private bus company. She rides the buses, usually after a customer complaint, to deal with smaller types of issues that either evolve into or merge with larger crimes. By book two she becomes legal guardian to a teenager and has begun a romance with a bus driver named Lou, which makes her personal and professional life complicated and tumultuous at times.

My real-life driver offered to answer any questions I might have about the job. I jumped at the invitation and over several months, we met at Starbucks, where I learned that this driver had been assaulted by passengers on three separate occasions.

At that time, drivers had no protective shields. Their only line of defense was to press an alarm button which would notify the police and allow the dispatchers audio access to what was happening. Some of the buses had cameras but others didn’t. Depending on the situation, a supervisor might also be dispatched in a vehicle. The thing is, a lot can happen before help arrives.

Each time, the driver’s recovery took longer. After the third assault, PTSD eventually forced a change in careers. With two kids to support, it wasn’t an easy decision, but this person felt that drivers just weren’t sufficiently equipped or physically prepared to deal with attacks. On some levels, I could relate to this. Having worked in retail for five years and later as a security guard, I’d also faced hostile encounters, but none where I was actually struck.

Despite the attacks my driver experienced, this person had a surprising amount of sympathy for some of those angry, desperate folks. They weren’t drunk jerks, but people with serious mental health issues who’d been abandoned by the system. That revelation led to the inspiration for my latest Casey mystery, The Blade Man.

We live in a stressful world. Even before the pandemic arrived, medical experts expressed concern about the rise in mental health issues and the lack of resources to adequately cope with people who needed help. This is why I felt compelled to address the issue in The Blade Man.

While the villains are caught at the end, the larger mental health issue is not resolved. Even in fiction, the topic is too complex to neatly wrap up. Crime novels often shine a light on societal problems which, as a reader, I’ve always found compelling. I hope that my real-life driver feels safer now and that a happy ending evolved from all the pain and trauma.

Debra’s Bio:

Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired her to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Her employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for 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. She is a facilitator for the Creative Writing Program through Port Moody Recreation and a long-time member of Crime Writers of Canada. More information about Debra and her books can be found at www.debrapurdykong.com or contact her at debra_kong@telus.net

Book Blurb for The Blade Man:

Who is the Blade Man and why has this mysterious loner been attacking Mainland Public Transport bus drivers? And who is trying to burn MPT down? The company’s president suspects an inside job and orders security officer Casey Holland to launch an internal investigation or face termination.

Convinced that she’s being set up to fail, Casey feels the pressure. With her and Lou’s wedding only weeks away, Casey desperately needs answers, but anger at work and on the streets thwart her efforts. Nor do the police welcome her help.

More employees are attacked, and the president forces Casey to take deeper risks. But how much is too much? How far must she go before facing off with him and MPT’s enemies? Find out in this explosive sixth installment of Casey Holland transit mysteries.

Links For the Blade Man:

Amazon: mybook.to/TheBladeMan
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-blade-man
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401

Find Debra at:

Website www.debrapurdykong.com
WordPress blog: https://debrapurdykong.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebraPurdyKong
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Casey-Holland-Transit-Security-Mysteries/139005706175139

Here is my review of the first book in the series, The Opposite of Dark.

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/customer-reviews/RYL0T07XW90SM/

These books are great and don’t need to be read in order. Check them out!

I am included in this group of writers who discuss what we have been doing during this time of isolation. Thanks, Susan Toy, for putting this together.

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

This is the second part of a series in which Authors who I’ve promoted in the Authors-Readers International series tell Readers what they’ve been doing during these past few months of self-isolating … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI promotion.)

Fred Stenson

Pincher Creek, Alberta, is my home since last summer, as I believe you know. The advantage is that Pincher in Iso is quite a bit like Pincher not in Iso. Have to watch my step only at the post office and Co-op. And strictly avoid Walmart. Two hour walks are frequent—to offset my beer consumption.

Working on a film with Tom Radford. Great fun.

Marcello Di Cintio

I’ve been reasonably busy during the pandemic. My book about the secret lives of taxi drivers has been delayed due to all of this chaos…

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I am a guest on Richard Dees Indie Showcase today, where I talk about writing a series. Hop over and check it out. https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/the-indie-showcase-presents-darlene-foster/

Grateful to Sally Cronin for featuring an excerpt from Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music as well as a fabulous review. I wrote this book in the middle of a move to another country. Writing the story kept me grounded and sane as we settled in and learned to live within a new culture. You can see why this book has a special place in my heart. Enjoy.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the new Cafe and Bookstore  New Series 2020 – Share an Extract with an opportunity to show one of your earlier books some love and attention by sharing an extract.. Check out the above link for all the details.

Author Darlene Foster  shares an extract from the adventure for Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music. Amanda finds herself on the Danube helping a homeless young musician.

371883440About Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music

Twelve-year-old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Nuremburg, another boy immediately tries to take it from her. Amanda tries to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy, and along…

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