Darlene Foster's Blog

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Today I am a guest on Sue Vincent’s blog where I talk about the value of critique groups.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

book-1014197__480Never underestimate the importance of a good critique group.  Without one, a writer may simply flounder in a sea of words and ideas. A critique group can make the difference between a mediocre story and an excellent piece of writing worthy of publication. Without the support of groups I’ve belonged to over the years, I would not have six books and several short stories published.

If you are wondering if you should join a critique group, here are ten things about critique groups you should know.

  1. Not all critique groups are created equal. You may have to try out a few to find one that works for you. The members need not write in the same genre as you, in fact it helps if there is a variety of writing being critiqued.
  2. Park your ego at the door. Although it is nice to hear what the members like about your…

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Today, July 1, is Canada Day, celebrating 149 years since Canada became a country. It is fitting that I welcome Suzanne de Montigny , a Canadian writer, as a guest on my blog.

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Suzanne de Montigny wrote her first unicorn story at the age of twelve.  Several years later, she discovered it in an old box in the basement, thus reigniting her love affair with unicorns. Suzanne taught music in Vancouver for many years where she learned she could spin a good tale that kept kids and teachers begging for more. She took up writing in earnest nine years ago and has never looked back.  She lives in Burnaby, B.C. with the loves of her life – her husband, two boys, and Buddy the dog.

Tell us about yourself and your books.

Well, I’ve just had a new book released entitled A Town Bewitched. Here’s the blurb:

It’s tough for Kira, growing up in the small town of Hope as a child prodigy in classical violin, especially when her dad just died. And to make matters worse, Kate McDonough, the red-haired fiddler appears out of nowhere and bewitches the town with her mysterious Celtic music. Even Uncle Jack succumbs to her charms, forgetting his promise to look after Kira’s family. But when someone begins vandalizing the town leaving dead and gutted birds as a calling card, Kira knows without a doubt who’s behind it.

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I also have a series called Shadow of the Unicorn. In the first one, The Legacy, a herd of unicorns barely survive the coming of an asteroid only to be exploited when the humans arrive. It takes place 12,000 years ago. In the second one, The Deception; sixty years later, the unicorns live hidden in the woods, controlled by a corrupt Great Stallion who invents a false god to control them and how they find the truth of their legacy. And I’m just finishing off the third of the series. It’s called The Revenge and it’s about a gifted unicorn who is born with something really wrong with him. Because he’s bullied, he turns his gift on the herd and no one can stop him.

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When did you decide to become a writer? why?

I never had the intention of becoming a writer. It’s just something that happened to me along the way. I loved writing as a child and wrote my first novella at 12. Then, after my father died, when I was in my forties, I developed a need to write and never looked back.

What inspires your stories?

A Town Bewitched came from our experience attending a fiddling camp when my oldest son was nine. When we came back, we were absolutely on fire for fiddling. And I thought, “Suppose what happened to us happened to an entire town, except there was something really wrong with the fiddler.” I laughed it off at first thinking it was a really dumb idea, but it wouldn’t let me go. Finally, I had to write it. Glad I did because it won first prize in the Dante Rossetti competition for Best Coming of Age Novel.

Shadow of the Unicorn came from the novella I wrote when I was twelve. I intended it as an exercise just to learn how to write. Never did I dream it would actually be published and do as well as it has.

Why did you decide to write for children?

I was an elementary music teacher for twenty years. My favourite grades were grades 5 – 7, so it was only natural I’d write for that age group.

What did you read as a child?

I really loved anything by Lucy Maude Montgomery. And I loved books about dogs and horses.

Another Lucy Maude Montgomery fan!

What have you read lately that impressed you? Why?

Harry Potter. It was just so good I couldn’t stop reading it. I’d be reading it while cooking, while talking to my son’s doctor during an appointment, in bed, everywhere.

If you could have dinner with any author, who would you choose and what would you ask him or her?

JK Rowling, of course. I’m not sure what I’d ask her. I think I would just enjoying chatting with her.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

Definitely a pantser. It causes me no end of trouble because my characters take over and start doing all sorts of things I never wanted them to and I can’t stop them.

Great to meet another panster!

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and how do you deal with it?

Never. I have a bazillion ideas. I just wish I could write faster.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished the third of the unicorn series, Shadow of the Unicorn: The Revenge and am about to start a historical romance about a young woman who immigrates to Canada to marry a French-Canadian after WWI.

Sounds great. I love stories about WWI. You are a very diverse writer.

Any advice to other authors?

Write what you feel.

Sound advice! Thanks so much Suzanne for being a guest on my blog. We look forward to more exciting books from you.

You can find Suzanne’s books here

Amazon

Kobo

Chapters Indigo

Barnes & Noble

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Happy Canada Day! Celebrate by buying a book written by a Canadian author.canadaday3

I am pleased to introduce you to my special guest today, award winning children’s author, Gina McMurchy-Barber. Gina is the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Canadian History and the author of the Peggy Henderson’s adventure series, bringing history to life. Enjoy reading about her author’s journey and how she combined her love of archaeology and story telling to create an amazing series of books enjoyed by all ages.

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Ontario and moved to BC when I was 9 years old. I am the
youngest child of four and led an active life on our little farm with
horses, ducks, geese, chickens and lots of barn cats. I married in my
early 20s and have two sons. My first degree I majored in archaeology
–which eventually gave rise to my four part archaeology adventure series.
I became a teacher when my boys were small and have now been teaching in
the Montessori Schools for over 20 years.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
While I was studying archaeology I also started my writing career by doing
short stories for my community paper. I enjoyed doing that so much I later
studied journalism and became a newspaper reporter. I wasn’t too
interested in covering late night city council meetings or the garbage
workers strike so I turned my attention to creative non-fiction. I worked
as a freelance writer for local magazines until my first child was born.
That’s when I entered the amazing world of children’s books. I was very
tentative when I started—not at all sure I had what it takes to write
fiction. Now I’m working on my seventh book.

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3. What motivates you to write?
Love of stories came from my Dad, who told us bedtime stories even after
we were grown. Then I started telling my own children stories. That’s what
led me to want to start writing them down.

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4. How do you make time to write?
It’s hard these days as I work 80% —but I manage to get writing done
during the holidays. It’s a difficult thing to dedicate yourself to
staying put each day for a certain amount of time—especially when it’s a
beautiful day and the family is urging you to join them.

5. What is your writing style, a plotter or a pantster?
I always start out with a plan, but it rarely works out the way I thought
it would. But it feels comforting to begin with a some kind of a road
map—and I always feel free to take detours.

6. Where do you get ideas for your books?
So far they’re all from some seed of experience in my own life—but on the
other hand I’ve also had to branch out and learn lots of new things. For
instance, I have an archaeology background, but knew nothing about
underwater archaeology or scuba diving. So when I wrote Bone Deep —an
underwater excavation of a two hundred year old fur trading ship—I had a
steep learning curve.

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7. What books did you read as a child?
Lots of books about animals. I loved Wind in the Willows. But we also got
the National Geographic and that was probably my greatest inspiration—it
led me to study orang-utans in Borneo and to study archaeology.

8. If you could have lunch with any writer, past or present, who would you
pick?
Since I’ve already had a nice lunch with Darlene Foster, I guess I’d pick
Lois Lowry. I’m a big fan of her books—The Giver being one of my
favourites.

9. For fun, if you could be any kitchen utensil, what would it be and why?
I’d be a ladle so I can take big scoops of life at once.

10. Tell us about your most recent book. Do you have a work in progress
and can you give us a hint as to what it will be about?
My fourth archaeology adventure book came out in November, 2015 and is
called A Bone to Pick. It’s about the arrival of the Viking to the shores
of North America at L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland a thousand years
ago. I’m also working on a new book called “What Other People Think” and
explores why we try so hard to look good in the eyes of others—especially
strangers.

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11. Any advice to other authors or aspiring authors.
It’s so valuable to have a writing community. If you can form an small
group of friends to critique each others work in a supportive way it can
be the best thing to motivate you and keep you on track.

Great advice. Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog Gina. Your books are fascinating!

I can’t believe you have included me in the same sentence as Lois Lowry!

You can find out more about Gina and her books on her website www.ginabooks.com

and on Amazon 

If you would like to know what sparked my dreams as a child, read my guest post at March of Time Books, the new blog site of my dear English blogging friend Barbara Fisher.

What sparks a child’s dreams?

Guest post by Darlene Foster dreamer of dreams, teller of tales.

When I was little, my dear grandmother gave me a colouring book filled with pictures of children from around the world dressed in traditional garments. I loved that book and while colouring each page, dreamt of visiting those fascinating places. Growing up on a farm in the Canadian prairies, we didn’t venture far.

Read the rest of the article here  Pop over to Barbara´s blog and you might see me in a sombrero!

What sparked your dreams as a child? I would love to know.

 

I love to learn about other authors and where they get their ideas. I recently interviewed Brenda Iovino,  author of  The Shadow of You.

Here is the blurb from the author’s website:

Monica is a 40’ish divorcee raising her teenage daughter in New York City. She writes for a magazine and her life is ordinary in every way, but one. She has vivid memories and dreams of another life, another time, and another place. Her name is Flying Snow Goose and she is a member of the Dine tribe in northern New Mexico, in the 18th century.

After questioning her sanity, Monica decides it was something she read, or the vestige of some childhood fantasy. But, then, he arrived. His name is Hawk, a regal Indian brave, and the husband of Flying Snow Goose. Monica could see and feel him in ways she could not understand, much less explain to anyone else. Yes, he became her lover.

Trying to balance her present life with the invasion and intensity of her former life as Snow, Monica struggles to live as a contemporary woman in a reality that is not as simple as most of us are used to living. The veil has been pierced, and this modern day woman must discover whether she is the victim, or is blessed, by this strange revelation, this Native who happens to be in her Manhattan apartment now.

What inspired you to write your book, The Shadow of You?

 I came to write this novel by sheer necessity.  I know that sounds ominous, but the truth is, it is somewhat.  I write plays mostly, with a few short stories thrown in.  But, I had reached a point where I was too emotional and not able to go forward with any fresh stories.  I’m trying to put this in a perspective that your readers will understand.  I was having an emotional block due to ‘Hawk’s’ mounting presence.  Yes, the character in my book is real and has been with me for years but started coming into my emotional life more and more.  A dear friend of mine who is ‘gifted’ said I needed to write about him and he basically said the same thing too.  What I mean to say is that my friend channeled him, unbeknownst to me and I had not asked her to, even though I was aware of her gifts.  She gave me a letter he dictated to her, for me. It was then that I realize I needed to articulate our story.

 The novel is based on true events.  Hawk gave me our memories in that previous time when we were married and the novel tells our story.

 What’s your life in New Mexico like and what brought you there?

 This was a calling of a time past and previous life.  When the realtor showed me my property, it was the first on her list; I got out, looked at those mountains and told her I was home.  I didn’t need to see any other places, and I didn’t.

 Truth is, this is where Hawk and I lived, so it was him calling me back.  I love it here in Northern New Mexico,Taos, (I live 23 miles West of Taos) is a wonderful place to explore the arts, all kinds.

 I have my horses, dogs and cats and all the open range and mountains I could ever want.  The beauty is endless.

 Did you self publish?

Yes I did.  I couldn’t see myself going to a publishing house with my novel.  Not sure of all the whys in that statement but I chose not to.  I went with Create Space, after research.  I know that there are many, but I had to decide on one and they have been very good to me.  Easy to work with and available at all times.  It’s a good fit for me at this time.

 Who are your favorite authors/books?

 I’m much into nostalgia, by that I mean I love Hemmingway and Fitzgerald.  Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet is a favorite of mine but my favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

 I’m in-between books at the moment, but have been thinking of rereading the Alexandria Quartet, which are four books.

 My problem is if I’m trying to write, I try not to start a book because I tend to become consumed with what I’m reading and I have no time to write.  Does that make sense?

 I am mounting a play of mine at this time, ‘That Irish Thing’, and I will be directing for the first time.  So my head is all about this.

 What did you read as a child?

 My mother was a great reader and I inherited her library since my sisters weren’t into reading and neither was my father.  So, I just picked from her books and read.  No favorites just enjoyed the many vast stories.  I used it as an escape since I was the only introvert in my family.  I still love the feel of a book and at one time owned a used bookstore.  I just bought a Kindle Fire but mostly so I wouldn’t have to lug my laptop with me, every time I travel, which I do frequently.  Nice that with the Kindle Fire you can go onto the web, and it’s mostly correspondence I need to keep up with, when traveling.

 I love the name of your daughter, how did you come up with it and does it have a special meaning.

 Kryssandra’s name would have been Clea, a character in one of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet books entitled ‘Clea’.  Her father did not care for it.  We had decided if she were a boy, she would be named after him and if a girl I could sort of pick it.  I was reading an article in Life Magazine at the time, may have been an old one and the name Cassandra popped out to me.  We decided to make it a little different and replace the ‘C’ with a ‘K’.

 I want to thank you Darlene for the opportunity to be a guest on your blog and tell your readers that The Shadow of You is available on Amazon, Kindle and on my web site, http://dreamartsproductions.com/what-have-we-done.html and also at local stores in Taos, New Mexico.

 Namaste

Brenda Iovino

Author of  The Shadow of You

 Thank you, Brenda for being a guest on my blog.  You book sounds fascinating and just as fascinating, is your life.  I wish you much luck with this book and with all your writing.  Should I find myself near  Taos, New  Mexico, I will be sure to have you sign a copy of your book.

If anyone would like to be a guest on my blog, please let me know.

My guest blogger today is Yvonne Pont. She shares a wonderful little story about writing. How writers get started is always fascinating.

 

I—– Writer
by Yvonne Pont
Two and a half years ago, I wrote an assignment titled “I —– Writer” for my creative writing course. Jane Austen was a writer. Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were also writers. I am a writer. The difference is, they are all famous and unfortunately quite dead. Being famous and dead doesn’t cut it for me, at least not for the next forty years. Albeit, I could live with the famous part of the equation.

Time is marching on. If I’m going to fulfill my dream, I best stop daydreaming and put my thoughts to paper. It’s not that the hand guiding the pen hasn’t had lots of practice over the years. There have been innumerable reports for the car club’s newsletter (very creative ones, if I do say so), unorthodox minutes leaving the members in stitches, and handwritten Christmas letters created especially for the reader. Of course, I must not forget school days when many a story, poem or play produced substance for the hungry eyes of the teacher. In fact, one such story saw print in the high school newspaper.

“Nickelodeon” was my most ambitious project. Over a period of eighteen months, I composed and wrote, in chronological order, the life and times of my husband and I through pictures, music, advertisements, events and stories. To make this project even more intriguing, it had to be done in secret. It was my present to my husband for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Talk about deception, I never thought I had it in me. Every little family detail was procured behind his back. Not a scrap of paper remained behind as evidence of my deceptive ways. The amazing thing occurred, in spite of his very observant and curious nature, he never caught on to his wife’s secret love affair. Creative juices flowed with such intensity, I could not have been more alive. I loved every moment of it. You might say, I dabbled in children stories, trials of teenage years, young love, romance, travel, intrigue, mystery, sports, music, history, politics, etc., etc. One of the definitions of nickelodeon is an early movie theatre, which costs a nickel. —- Is life not a movie theatre? So, I put in my five cents worth.

Thanks to my husband for suggesting I take this creative writing course, thus giving me a well needed push in the right direction. Thanks to my teacher, Ed for opening the flood gates to allow the creative juices to flow once more. As my mentor said to me not long ago, ‘A writer writes just fifteen minutes a day; within a year — a novel.’

To you my readers I say, “Hold on to your reading glasses; the best is definitely coming.”

Today, I continue this topic for my advanced writing course with Ed. With the knowledge cemented deep within my writing veins, I have a solid foundation on which to build a writer’s career. I must, because I have not faltered in my dedication to complete my first novel.

On February 17, 2009, I penned the words “The Bess Time” on a scrap of paper. From that day on, I graduated to full page after page of handwritten words. With dedication beyond my wildest thoughts, I transcribed my worn and tattered scribble into an electrical device (foreign to me) called a computer.

“Did I stop there? — No!”

My veins, coursing with an uncontrollable flow of writers’ mania, I found myself perched in front of a laptop. My hand fused to its keyboard, we became inseparable. We took ferry rides; unaware of rough or calm waters as our course focused only on writing. We flew to Hawaii; exposing our bodies to X-ray and security scrutiny. We recovered from the dramatic invasion by composing ourselves on the lanai, overlooking the tropical surf. But, mostly we sat on or around the kitchen table like old friends, and we created our masterpiece.

On February 17, 2011, I completed my first novel. Now, I can honestly say I am a writer.

Now, to get it published!

I thought perhaps I was spending too much time on social networking and not enough time on my writing lately. But then I thought about all the wonderful new friends I have made on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and various blog sites. I have learned so much from other writers, readers and interesting people. I have acquired many new ideas that help me with my writing. That’s when I realized that whenever we are creating, we need others for inspiration and motivation.

I was at a friend’s birthday party recently where I only knew the birthday girl. I walked away with a number of ideas for the book I am working on currently, just by talking to her and her wonderful friends.

My publisher asked me to write an acknowledgment page for my next, soon to be print-published book, Amanda in Spain – the Girl in the Painting. As I went through the people I planned to thank, I also realized this was not a project completed on my own. Some say writing is a lonely profession but I disagree, without any collaboration we would have no books worth reading.

So, I want to thank everyone who reads my blog, as you are part of my team, so to speak. I love your comments and observations as they add fuel to the fire and keep me going.

I would love to know, do you believe that we need other people in order to create?

“An artist is a nourisher and a creator who knows that during the act of creation there is collaboration. We do not create alone.” Madeleine LˊEngle

Madeleine L'Engle


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