Adulting and Videos + Why Darlene Foster Writes For Children

What was the day you became an adult? “Young Adult” (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.
Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there.

Along the way, we also visited a young cousin from Spain who that very week relocated to attend college in Santa Barbara, a stunning affluent beach town.

These images are from that drive…

Khashayar walking into a super cold Big Sur stream.
Khashayar was steely enough to brave a super cold Big Sur stream.

Seeing these teens on the precipice of adulthood got me thinking of when I was their age and how I set out on my own.

Dear reader, what was that transition like for you?

The way I was raised, girls absolutely must not aspire to anything beyond the role of ultra meek wife, and mother. That was my father’s indoctrination, and my mom supported it, although she was also the family’s breadwinner.

By age seventeen, I resided in at least fourteen different apartments and attended about ten schools. That year, my parents and I lived in Miami, Florida.

Video Note: Piedras Blancas is the beach of choice for many elephant seals. Average males grow to 16 feet and 5,000 pounds, so babies risk getting smothered by them. Learn more about them here.

My sole plan was to make it out with my sanity intact and to never return, even if it meant resorting to prostitution. I set to earning good grades and a high school diploma. To save money, I worked at the local mall’s pet store and earring kiosk. My parents didn’t charge me for rent and food, and I saved my earnings, carefully spending only for needed doctor and dentist visits, and clothing.

My father greatly admired Pablo Picasso, a fellow Spaniard. Everything I’ve read about the famed artist paints him as a complete horror of a family man, so much so that even his grandkids still fume about him. My dad was fond of paraphrasing one of Picasso’s milder sentiments, which was that offspring should be given the boot the moment they reach eighteen, and they should never get financial help or guidance.

Video Note: The entire length of Pacific Coast Highway is phenomenal.

It was generous that my parents waited the extra couple of months between my birthday and graduation to move to Spain.

I want to kid myself and believe that’s when I left home. A little before they departed, my mother asked if I’d like to join them. The relief in her posture when I shook my head no was enough to deduce this was one move where an insubordinate wasn’t welcome. That’s when I realized it was me who was being abandoned.

My father’s farewell was more honest than hers. He shook my hand and said, “Look us up if you’re ever in Spain.”

They saved me feeling guilty and ambivalent. A whole new life was plenty enough to contend with.

Video Note: Morro Bay is famed for Morro Rock. The historical site was formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs of long-extinct volcanoes. While we visited, Otters were doing log-rolls and lounging tummy-up in the water, but they were too far off to snap a good photo.

The necessity for compassion is a running theme in my blog posts. Often I urge people to keep in mind our interdependency extends far beyond our families of origin. 

Lucky for me, a friend took me in. Her parents had completed a mean divorce and she lived with her dad. He spent his days smoking and drinking and lamenting his loss of work because of his drinking. He’d been a long-time executive at a major airline and now he was passing time until he could draw his pension. As un-promising as that may sound, he was kind and patient in a way I hadn’t experienced a man to be. He and his spirited daughter provided a good family to me. They gave me confidence and taught me the basics of adulthood.

K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she loved getting her chest rubbed.
K-D doggie was overjoyed when her people returned home and she was in nirvana when Khashayar gave her an overdue chest rub.

As for young people, author/blogger Darlene Foster has written eight books for them (and everyone else) in ten years! She writes full-time from Spain, and also writes and does some editing for other writers. She says, “I also travel whenever I get the chance and consider it part of my research. It’s a good life.”

When I asked her to let us know how she went about getting published, she emailed back:

“It took me three years to write my first book and five years to find a publisher. I sent out query letters to many publishers around the world, received many polite rejection letters and eventually found a publisher in my own neighbourhood. Go figure! Central Avenue Publishing is an independent traditional publisher and I am very happy with the professionalism and dedication of my publisher. The lesson here is, never give up!”

Learn more about Darlene, her books, where to get them, and all her social media links, at her blog.

Photo of author Darlene Foster.
Photo of author Darlene Foster.

Why I Write For Children by Darlene Foster

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is sitting on a large rock in the middle of a prairie field making up stories in my head. I had a wonderful childhood, although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. I found it lonely, as I like being around people, and often wished I lived in a big, busy city. But it gave me plenty of time to daydream and create characters and adventures that later fuelled my desire to write. In grade three, I had a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to write down my stories. She also taught us about other countries in such a fun, interesting way that made me want to travel the world and meet interesting people. I owe her a lot and have since found her and thanked her for making a difference in my life. When I was twelve, one of my stories was published in the local newspaper. I decided then that I wanted to be a published writer one day.

Why did I choose to write children’s adventure books? I love writing for children, they are like sponges and eager to learn. They enjoy adventures and characters who can get themselves out of a tight spot. I can better express the excitement of travelling to new places when I write from the point of view of a child. 

Interestingly, many adults read my books and enjoy them as well. Kids’ books aren’t just for kids!

The stories in the Amanda Travels series are inspired by my real-life travel experiences.

When I visit an interesting place, I get a strong desire to share my experience with the rest of the world. The best way for me to do this is to write about it. I am always thinking of how I can work a setting or situation into a story. I take notes and many pictures during my travels and think about what would interest a young person. 

I have travelled to all the places Amanda has been. However, I do not have all the adventures Amanda has. She has more fun, excitement and scary experiences in her travels than I do. For instance, I took a riverboat cruise down the Danube with my best friend and our husbands a few years ago, on a boat called, The Sounds of Music. It was a trip of a lifetime, with stops in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I knew immediately it would be the perfect setting for an Amanda and Leah adventure. Including music in the story was a no-brainer. This is how Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music was conceived. 

On another occasion, I travelled to Taos, New Mexico with my aunt, who is also one of my best friends. We had such an amazing time. Besides being steeped in history, the place has a very paranormal feel about it. We even visited a haunted hotel in Cimarron. Everywhere we went, I kept saying, “Amanda would love it here.” When I returned home, I immediately started making notes which eventually became, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind.

I love to read and so does Amanda. Books are important to both of us. When a vintage novel goes missing, Amanda feels compelled to find it. I love visiting the many used bookstores in England so I wanted to include one in the novel. I found a quintessential bookstore on the Isle of Wight which was perfect for the story, including a resident Main Coon cat. Rupert, the cat, plays an important role in Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.

My latest book in the series, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady was a result of a trip I took with my hubby a couple of years ago. I loved the history and culture of Malta and felt it would be an ideal setting for an Amanda Travels book. I tossed in some endangered birds, a missing artefact and a friend in danger. Amanda would do anything to help her friend. One reviewer said, “I love the author’s ability to bring the settings alive, from the Blue Grotto to a beautiful cathedral in Valletta, all while keeping the suspense high.”

Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.
Covers of some of the many books Darlene Foster has published.

It took me three years to write the first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. It was a steep learning curve as I had so much to learn. I am still learning, but I can write a book in a year now. Keeping things fresh in a series is a challenge. I keep up with today´s young people, hang out with them and listen to their conversations. I introduce new characters in every book to keep it interesting. The character of Caleb, a classmate and good friend of Amanda’s was introduced in the New Mexico book. He was so well received he appears again in Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady.

Publishing eight books in ten years is a huge accomplishment for me. I have also won prizes for my short stories and have had stories published in several anthologies. A milestone for me was visiting my former school in rural Alberta and reading from my books to the current students. Seeing my books available online, and on shelves at bookstores and libraries is the most incredible feeling. Having readers tell me they enjoy the stories and hope I write more is like a dream come true. 

If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!

Amanda is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. It is so much easier for kids to travel these days, but I didn’t travel on an airplane until I was in my mid-twenties. I would have so loved to see the world as a child. I am doing it now through my writing!  

That’s why I love writing for kids. (And grown-up kids)

What was the day you became an adult?

Happy New Year Everyone from da-AL

Wishing each of you and your loved ones the very best ahead — peace, health, and happiness!!

Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad (l) & Agnetha Fältskog (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

A heartfelt thanks for your visits to Happiness Between Tails — for ‘Taking a Chance’ on this little blog. Never, when I started it a few years ago, did I anticipate that I’d meet so many wonderful people from so many interesting distant places.

Björn Ulvaeus (l) & Benny Andersson (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

Let’s each of us ‘Take a Chance’ on making this world a better place for ourselves and each other, hairy, scaly, feathered, muddy, and all the rest. Hope this makes you smile — keep an eye out for Cher!…

Plea + Solution for Food Sellers

My dear blog reader, if you or anyone you know agrees with the letter below, won’t you please share it, hashtag it, copy/paste it, add your name to it, and do whatever you like to get the basic sentiment out there? (And read on for an additional message to you that follows it.)

Dear Trader Joe’s, as well as other grocery stores and processed food manufacturers,

Food, glorious food! I love your stuff, and I adore it all the better when you sell it in containers that are healthy and easy to re-use.

Rather than cans and near-impossible-to-recycle (let alone repurpose) plastic vacuum-sealed boxes, sell us stuff in containers like these!…

Something delish…

Tastes better when it’s in something useful…

Like how this keeps a snack fresh!

Here’s the kind of jars I love best — think healthy, easy-to-clean, and uniform in which to store my beans, grains, flour, pasta, and such:

  • Straight-sided and where I can easily reach in wash clear down to the bottom.
  • Labels that require just a quick soak to remove.
  • Better yet, no labels at all, as in the case of the adorable drinking glasses illustrated after this letter — how sublime that the Welch’s name appears only in fine print!
  • Interchangeable sizes and lids would be extra classy!

The mustard sauce in the photo is great — and is all the better for the jar!

Yours truly,

da-AL — a customer who I doubt is alone

P.S. Don’t think you can get away with overpricing products with super-cute holiday gift-type containers and expect us to think you’ve done anyone a favor.

Back to you my dear cyberland friend,

As you can guess from above, I’m asking businesses to go beyond using less plastic. It’s lovely when grocers sell us food in glass jars. Let’s encourage them to take it up a gazillion notches by doing something that’ll benefit us while making us more loyal to them!

I hope you’ll share this with anyone who’s as upset as I am with how impossible it is to get away from plastic. Share this with individuals as well as with businesses. Even small gestures can go a long way when they’re multiplied. As consumers, our wallets wield immense power.

Every time I turn around, I read more scary stuff about how corrosive plastics are to our bodies, and downright catastrophic to the environment. There may have been a time when we deluded ourselves that plastic was better than glass, but these days, we know better.

When I was small, my family ate Welch’s jam. Why? Sure, it was tasty, and we needed something not too expensive for our toast — but with all the jams out there, Welch’s outsmarted the others! Theirs was in glass jars meant to be repurposed into drinking glasses! Customers wanted to collect the cute freebies while getting decent jams at the same time.

In the stone-age, harhar, jam came in these. They were great to drink out of and made shoppers want to go buy more to collect them!

Win-win joy here, there, everywhere!! Pardon me while I do a little jig at the keyboard! Why the heck don’t all stores and all brands continue to do something like what I described?

For crafty readers and those of us who enjoy looking at stuff we’ll never do — here and here and here and here and here and here and here are some links. Key search words: repurpose and up-cycle.

Do you know an easy way to help stem the tide of plastic?

For fun’s sake by da-AL

Spanish wax napkin origami of Flamenco (Sevillana) dancers.
By Eekiv – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19924480

Surfing about the net while I’ve been editing my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” I found this and thought you might enjoy it too — for all the time I spend writing via my computer, I still love paper! And dance! And travel! And cafes in Spain! And creativity!…

And more cuteness! Here’s my dear doggie before our walk…

My dear doggie before our walk. Photo by Khashayar Parsi.

And here she is when we went out and encountered this uplifting chalk art!…

“Stand here & think about someone you love.”

“You are loved.”

Do you love writing, paper, dancing, foreign cafes, creativity, and cuteness too?…

Beauty of Brisbane, Australia by da-AL

Up, down, inside and out, Brisbane is an arty city!

Note: Here in the U.S., ‘museums’ can have art, science, and sometimes both. In the States, ‘galleries’ are just for buying art. However, in Australia, science goes into a museum and art goes into a gallery that maybe sells, maybe doesn’t.

Brisbane, Australia, dazzles the senses indoors and out. Though we only had a day there, several sights were a short walk apart. After meeting some beasts, we strolled to the Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA), where there’s sooo much wonderful art!…

“Albert and Vincent” 2014, by Vincent Namatjira is from the north of S. Australia, here with his artist grandfather.

“Dingo Dreaming” 1978, by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Pintupi people of Australia.

“Triptych: Requiem, Of Grandeur, Empire” 1989, by Gordon Bennett of Queensland, Australia.

“Untitled (HNDFWMIAFN) 2017, by Daniel Boyd, Dudjla/Gangalu people, Australia.

“Stucco Home” 1991, by Howard Arkley of Victoria, Australia.

“Love a Teacher” 2018, by Simon Gende, Kuman people, born in Papua New Guinea.

“Death Adder” (right), “An Aboriginal family” (top), “The Southern Cross and the Coal Sack (the Wanamoumitja brothers spearing Alakitja)” bottom, 1948, by Groote Eylandt Community, Anindilyakwa people, Australia.

“Majority Rule” 2014, by Michael Cook, Bidjara people, Australia.

“Utopia Panels” 1996, by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Anmatyerre people, Australia.

Brisbane was a wonderful day in our vacation that began New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. The second half of our vacation was in Australia, starting with Gold Coast, where we met terrific family, observed these exciting birds — and these too, hiked breathtaking views, enjoyed delicious eats at the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, saw soem of the beasts of Brisbane, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

What art museum means the most to you?…

Beasts of Brisbane, Australia by da-AL

It’s impossible to snap a photo of beautiful Brisbane, Australia without it looking like a postcard!

Brisbane, Australia, is even more gorgeous than it looks in this photo.

There’s some incredible wildlife at the Queensland Museum (Brisbane is in the state of Queensland).

Just us monkeying around.

Australia’s names for animals can be as unique as the critters…

These little ‘Red-Legged’ cuties are Pademelons.

This Bandicoot is Northern and Long-Nosed.

The Papuan Frogmouth is aptly named, ay, mate?

A Playpus always defies imagination.

Barramundi, a.k.a. fine Australian dining.

Moreton Bay Bugs are also delicious to Australians.

Brisbane was just one day in our fun vacation that began with a whirlwind tour of New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. For the second portion of our vacation, we flew to Australia, where we began our visit with Gold Coast. There we met terrific family, observed these exciting birds — and these too, hiked breathtaking views, enjoyed delicious eats at the beach, and saw this and this unique wildlife at Currumbin, had fun with Rita Rigby, and saw the beauty of Brisbane,, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

By the way, there’s lots of good food to be savored in Brisbane besides ‘bugs’…

I’ve yet to eat an actual bug (that I know of). Have you?

Part 2 of 2: Wild Things at Currumbin by da-AL

My gorgeous cousin took us to see koalas!

For our vacation to Australia, I knew I’d have a great time — but I kept my expectations low when it came to meeting the thoroughly cute animals I associate with the country.  Fortunately, as evidenced in these photos we shot at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, those ultra-charming creatures fully deserve their endearing reputations!

Turns out that Koalas…

… are truly as endearing as their koala reputations!
And koalas love trees.
And koalas love to nap.

When it comes to kangaroos…

Kangaroos don’t mind much heat as long as they have fresh water.
Also, kangaroos know how to lounge in style.

In the case of ring-tailed lemurs…

Lemurs are born photographic models!
These two lemur brothers love to play!
Lemurs are social animals.
This lemur and I pose in — sort of — the same way.

The first part of our amazing trip began with a whirlwind tour of New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. For the second portion of our vacation, we flew to Australia, where we began our visit with Gold Coast. There we met terrific family, observed these exciting birds — and these too, hiked breathtaking views, enjoyed the beach, and saw this wildlife in this post with this unique wildlife at Currumbin, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Is there an animal you’re eager to see in person?

Part 1 of 2: Wild Things at Currumbin by da-AL

This Green Iguana loves salad as much as I do!

What comes to mind when you think of Australia? Koalas, right? And kangaroos? Obviously, I knew they don’t just hang around street corners in Australia, for sure not in the Gold Coast, but where were they?

This Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary employee was kind to get in close with my phone.

Green Iguanas are such cuddlers.

It seemed petty of me to want to see them — after all, we’d seen astounding things at New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. In the Gold Coast, I met terrific family, observed these exciting birds — and these too, hiked to these amazing views, went to the beach, saw some the wild things in this post and these cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Sure, crocs are nice…

A hungry crocodile.

Cousin Hengi took us to Queensland’s Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and we saw a Tasmanian devil!…

Tasmanian Devils have red ears!

Only some of the people who stood there very patiently were honored by lorikeets…

Anyone can try to feed lorikeet.

But Lorikeets only come to some people.

Have you ever pet a koala and a kangaroo?

Beach Eats at Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL

My new Gold Coast pal!

The city of Gold Coast is part of the Australian state of Queensland. Visitors flock there as much for its sunny subtropical temps as for its surfing beaches, architecture, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland.

We stopped there to visit wonderful relatives, a cousin my husband hadn’t seen since he was a child, along with her marvelous family who we met for the first time. Little did we know, after seeing New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — that Australia also had so much to offer! Starting with Tai Chi in Gold Coast, birds of Australia Part 1 and Part 2great Gold Coast views, some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, fun with Rita Rigby, the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoying Sydney this much and that much.

From any angle, the city skyline to Gold Coast is wonderful…

Such stunning scenery (including my honey!).

Khashayar rests after a shoreline bike ride with Cousin Mark.

All the food we ate in Australia was tasty! For instance, we enjoyed an exceptional meal on the beach, at Rick Shores’ Restaurant. In addition, we were given great service everywhere. Here’s the menu just to give you an idea of prices (here’s a link for exchange rates) — keep in mind that prices pretty much always include sales tax and that tipping is not customary there…

This fine dining was worth the splurge.

Page 2 of Rick Shores Restaurant menu.

Gold Coast beach behind our dear family.

The food looked (and tasted!) too good to wait to snap photos until after we’d dug in.

Does your city have a mascot?

Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL

Best of all Lookouts, Springbrook National Park.

“Best of All Lookouts,” located on the rim of a 20 million-year-old volcano, is aptly named. Australia has more beauty than one can visit in a lifetime. Fortunately for my husband and me, our family there was generous about sharing many sights near their home in the Gold Coast.

From New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — to Australia’s Tai Chi in Gold Coast / Birds Part 1 / Birds Part 2 / ate a delicious meal on the beach / saw wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there / enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there! — our vacation was filled with spectacular beauty.

Near Best of All Lookouts is Purling Brook Falls

Purling Brook Falls, Springbrook National Park.

and this memorable tree…

Khashayar takes a break in a tree while Rita and I look on.

with remarkable bark…

Tree bark: nature is the ultimate artist.

And this great dictionary…

Terminology sign, Springbrook National Park.

Along the drive there, we stopped to admire Hinze Dam

To stand in the middle of its road.

And to stop and admire the view.

Further along, we took in views in and around Point Danger, where New South Wales meets Queensland…

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What’s the most unique sight near your city?