Pt 1 In Memory of Ashley L. Peterson: Self-Publishing + Podcast Ver.

Ashley L. Peterson blogged and wrote about mental health.
Ashley L. Peterson blogged and wrote about mental health.

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that (blogger/self-publisher/mental health activist/thoroughly great person who was always there for anyone who reached out to her) Ashley L. Peterson has passed away. Fortunately, family is keeping her site up, Mental Health @ Home: A safe place to talk openly about mental health & illness.

At Ashley’s blog, you’ll find her family’s recent post about her. In addition, they created a memorial site where you’ll see photos of Ashley, learn about her life, and of their great love for her.

Caz, another blogger/health activist who lives in England, also published an insightful eulogy to Ashley at her Invisibly Me site.

Ashley contributed twice to Happiness Between Tails. What follows below and in today’s audio/podcast version, is her first contribution (the second one is here), worded exactly as it originally appeared…

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #Guinea Pigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. Here she talks about how her pets help her to relieve stress. What's your best stress reliever? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 4:00 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM.  There you’ll  find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is LinkTree.

Mental health nurse/author Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s adamant that it’s time we remove the stigma around mental health issues.

When it comes to self-publishing, she finds it’s wise to stay flexible with her listings at Amazon. On a daily basis, she experiments with keywords, especially in terms of how they work with setting bids per clicks on ads at the amounts suggested by Amazon.

Some of Ashley L. Peterson's books.

Ashley L. Peterson publishes regularly on mental health issues.

Here’s why she calls herself, “a proud crazy guinea pig lady”…

Ashley’s favorite photo of herself with one of her adorable little ones!

“Thank Goodness For My Thera-Piggies,” by Ashley L. Peterson of MentalHealthAtHome.org

I am a crazy guinea pig lady. Crazy in more ways than one.

The most obvious, perhaps, is that I have 5 guinea pigs (3 girls and 2 boys), and I treat them like my children.

What may be less obvious is that I’m crazy in a mentally ill sense. I have depression that only partially responds to treatment, so I deal with effects of the illness every single day.

I take medication and do various other things to manage my illness, but my guinea pigs are an important part of my overall wellness.

I live alone, and my illness has made it difficult to be around other people, so I’m on my own a lot of the time – at least in terms of human contact. But I’m never actually alone when I’m at home because I have 5 very active, very vocal munchkins to keep me company.

Photo of one of Ashley L. Peterson's guinea pigs, a white furry one.
“Cute” doesn’t begin to describe Ashley’s gorgeous guinea pigs!

Routine helps me manage each day, and the piggies thrive on routine. I have a rather odd sleep schedule, which they’ve adapted to quite happily. They know that when I wake up, they get fed, so as soon as they hear me start rustling around in bed, they start wheeking (an onomatopoeic word for their “feed me” noise). It’s a pretty good motivator to get my butt out of bed.

Ashley’s pets are truly adorable!

I prefer to practice mindfulness focused outwardly rather than inwardly, and my piggies are a perfect target for that. I can just gaze at them in fascination as my mind just shuts off.

More than anything, though, they need me. They’re very good at making their needs known, and they know that I can be counted on to meet them, no matter how lousy I’m feeling. Because of that, I mean the world to them. It’s definitely mutual.

Each of us is precious…

Nude Talk + Book n Vid Inspo + Abortion + Podcast: K. Rooney’s Mojo

Headline over photo of audio booth in my closet.
Recording an audio book at home rocks! And it’s hot…

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Fiction #Women Do walk for fun? In author Kathleen Rooney’s novel, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to stroll alone, in the middle of the night, over 10-miles across New York City! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Follow Kathleen: @KathleenMRooney All of Kathleen’s related links. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author Kathleen Rooney. Margaret Fishback’s actual papers. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Novelist Kathleen Rooney’s post here, “The Margaret Fishback Papers.” (The novel stars an 85-year-old woman walking across NYC in the middle of the night — in book-tastic 1984, no less!)

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Releasing my novel is taking longer than I’d like (understatement). At this stage, I’m recording an audiobook version of the first section, which is truly fun!

The audio booth I fashioned within our petite guest-bedroom walk-in closet is soundproofed with a mishmash of bedding held together with clothespins. Photos of me using it must wait for cooler temps. Without air conditioning, I recorded in my birthday suit, standing on a towel to sop up dripping sweat.

Once voicing and editing of the first chapter are done, the audio will become a promotion tool. The book version (yay! yay! yay! is finished!) needs a cover image and formatting. I’ll try again for a great traditional agent before I self-publish.

All this makes me stress that I’ll never finish — which is why I take great pleasure in discovering people who accomplished great things later in life, whether they’re real life or fiction.

Art goddess Beatrice Wood learned pottery throwing after age 40, then she really hit her stride many years later. A friend of hers was so touched by her that she photographed her for a book of her wisdom as she turned 100 in 1993! By the way, Wood penned her autobiography at 95. My review of the book below for Amazon and Goodreads: “Spectacular & Inspiring — absolutely wonderful in every way!”…

Cover of book: Playing Chess With Heart: Beatrice Wood at 100 Hardcover – February 1, 1994 by Beatrice Wood  (Author), Marlene Wallace (Photographer)

Here’s just one of many wonderful and timely quotes from within its pages, this one about abortion…

“Let us face it, it is not a question of whether the law is right or wrong where abortion is concerned. Any woman desperate enough will go to an abortionist regardless of whether there is a law against it. To speak of saving a fetus is to ignore the dangers facing a woman having an illegal abortion — which could mean the loss of two lives.” from the book, “Beatrice Wood at 100.”

Regarding wisdom gained through experience, I urge you to check out and share blogger Equinoxio21’s (who’s guested here before) post at his site, where he discusses abortion

Continuing on the subject of treating each other decently, I recently much enjoyed Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist.” My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “Complete candor about a subject that’s scary to talk about. Kendi writes with needed honesty about how difficult raising an antiracist child is, but how essential it is.” …

 

Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist."

Back to “never stop reaching” inspo — here’s the trailer to “Poms,” a lighthearted yet profound movie. Starring Diane Keaton alongside an equally fabulous cast, it’s about a group of retired girlfriends who dare to dream, as well as to live…

Men must dream too! Art Carney well earned the Oscars he won starring alongside an orange stripey cat in the uber-inspiring and entertaining “Harry and Tonto.”

Today’s guest blog post is by Aithal, who’s guested here before. He’s published six books, the first book set in India. His latest is a USA-to-India thriller. Here’s his advice for novelists…

So You Think You Can Write by Aithal

So you want to be an author, huh? Join the queue. Millions of dreamers want to be one, and they are very talented writers with a repertoire of fancy and obscure words that are seldom used. Their grammar is perfect, and their statement construction is flawless. So it should be a no-brainer for them to write great books everyone wants to read. Right? Wrong.

Many elements make up a good book. The most critical aspect (at least in my opinion) is that the story should come from the heart. When I started to write my first book in January of 2010, it took me less than a week to pour my initial thoughts down. However, to expand on the idea, to read over and over again for typos, tighten the storyline, etc. — took me about fifteen months. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a journey down memory lane that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you decide to write a book, don’t hurry. I know you must think, “it’s easy for you to say.” But believe me, it’s worth it. I, too, was very impatient in the beginning as I was very eager to have my “masterpiece” out.

My thinking was straightforward. To make people read my book and let them decide if it was worth their time. Unlike seeing a movie (where one spends only 2–3 hours of their time), reading a book is at least a week of their time. So it better be worth it. Spend time upfront, and you’ll reap the rewards. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be in a hurry to reach your destination.

Kirkus Reviews aren’t free, but are highly effective. I recently got my last book reviewed on Kirkus Reviews. They are well-respected in the publishing industry. Your book will get more eyeballs where they matter…like bookstores, publishers, agents, librarians, etc.

What bolsters your confidence when your goals seem beyond reach?… 

Tips 4 Young Women by L. Sealey + Podcast: J.L. Harland + Rebloom

Blog post title over photo of author Lindsay Sealey.
Author Lindsay Sealey.

Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland + 4 Rebloomers Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #CoAuthoring #Books #Publishing Have you ever co-authored a book? And how many times do you hope to bloom? J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who "turned new pages" after retirement. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. J. L. Harland Photos available at the HBT post for this show: J. L. Harland All of today’s other re-bloomers. The delicious bread I baked. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Co-Authoring by J.L. Harland + 4 Rebloomers.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

The author of today’s guest blog post came to me through a publicist’s email inquiry. Normally I click those into my spam folder, sometimes lob them to the government’s official email (phishing-report at us-cert dot gov — moreover, I forward text spam to 772-6 along with their phone numbers copied and pasted). In a weird way, though, these types of solicitation validate me as an author!

This once I decided to see what sort of guest blog post they’d send me. Mind you, no $$ exchanged hands.

“What the heck am I doing” rumbled through my mind as I interacted with the publicist, who kept her client out of the picture. There was a flurry of emails from the publicist, her ticking off a checklist of who among her staff would contact me, send appropriately sized images (see my guest blog posting guidelines), etc. She ignored my inquiries about the PR process, even my invite for her to submit a guest blog post of her own about it.

It felt odd to not interact at least a little with the author. Nonetheless, to the author’s and the publicist’s credit, here’s her article, which the publicist assured me wasn’t ghostwritten.

I can read your mind! Ohmmmm… You want to know why I published it, no?

Whelp, because like me, many of you are writers, lots of us searching how to a) get our books finished, b) get them out there, and c) sell zillions of them.

As a reader and/or blogger and/or book writer, how do you feel about blog posts funneled through publicists?

What follows is advice I need as much as the author’s intended young women. Maybe you, too? As she advises, break down our projects, build on that, etc. Sounds great to me!

Recently, I started writing in a productivity journal. There are many to choose from. Before you poo-poo positive thinking and affirmations, as cynical moi could do in a heartbeat, I’ve blogged before about how the queen of science-fiction writing, Octavia Butler, relied on them heavily.

Fear and Dread come naturally (such are the brain-grooves that result from a gaslit upbringing) and can easily paralyze me unless I’m vigilant. Hard even for me to believe, cancer helped me with them, as I’ve written about before.

In essence, this journal begins with instructions and inspiration. Then it invites participants to spend a few minutes each morning and night to answer a handful of questions.

A British author whose name I can’t remember anymore, once commented on the radio of how charming Americans, we with our childlike insistence that all it takes is confidence to achieve anything. Brits, she said, know better.

What do you think of that? For me, there’s got to be muscle involved, a lot more than mere intention. Granted, mucho luck too. Summer comes late in Los Angeles, so I’ll blame the current brain-stunting muggy heat for getting me off-topic. Among my non-virtual frieds — I mean friends, I’m the .001% who eschews air-conditioning. We all do what we can (I hope), so count not partaking of a/c as my kiss to Mother Earth.

Back to today’s guest. Speaker, educator, and consultant Lindsay Sealey, MA Ed, is based out of Vancouver, Canada. Check out her website for info on her writings on how girls, boys, and parents can become their best selves. Most recently, she’s pursuing mind-body lifestyle research, like in this video at her Youtube channel.

Cover of Made for More, by Lindsay Sealey.

5 Ways to Help Young Women Overcome Super Girl Syndrome by Lindsay Sealey, MA Ed

Do you know what I see when I look at the young women I coach? Talent. Skill. Intelligence. Care. Passion. Hard work. Motivation. Ambition. They want to be good, feel good, do good, and make a difference in the world.

Yet, they often do not see any of these attributes in themselves. What do they see? They see how they aren’t keeping up; they fear they are missing out; they feel they are not doing enough; they believe they are not good enough. So, they either try harder, pushing beyond their own boundaries, striving for a little more “perfect”, and punishing themselves with harsh criticism. Or they do nothing, resigning to the idea that if they can’t be exceptional, why bother trying. They play the comparison game, and they lose every single time. 

I call this super girl syndrome and it’s holding our young women back from inherent true greatness and power. Super girl syndrome is a way of being, often learned from strong and pervasive societal messages for growing girls to be “everything” and to “do it all”. Yes, the intention behind girl power is fantastic. We want our girls to feel they can dream big and design a full and fulfilling life without limits or limitations. It’s true this generation of young women – Gen Z – have more choices and can take more chances than any previous generation. They may have no glass ceilings and they know the sky’s the limit. The problem is that as the world tells them “You can do anything”, they interpret this as “I have to do everything”. “Everything” is a tremendous amount of pressure!

It’s no wonder girls’ mental health concerns are on the rise. They are more stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed than ever. They can feel exhausted, deflated, discouraged, and sometimes even defeated. They can choose to give in and give up. 

As I work with girls, I’ve learned to explain to them that while they can do everything and I encourage them to be both multi-passionate and multi-talented, they don’t need to do it all in a day, but they do need to do something every day. In fact, I teach them how to remove the pressure from their shoulders, take off their super woman cape, and make an action plan to support their growth, taking one step at a time.

Here are 5 ways to help any young woman overcome super girl tendencies to design her days and become her boldest brightest self: 

  1. Let go of the ideal of perfection. We all know “there is no such thing as perfect”. Instead of pushing for an unrealistic ideal that doesn’t even exist, encourage her to embrace progress instead. If perfect is striving for more and more with the accompanying self-cruelty, without any self-compassion or recognition of effort, progress offers her the upside of goals and achievements with the built-in beauty of acceptance and appreciation of where she’s at and where’s she going! Help her focus on the daily wins that come with progress.
  2. Embrace “perfectly imperfect”. Imperfect could be the new perfect. Why? Imperfect is real. Accepting flaws, flops, and failures not only removes pressure to prove or be perfect but adds the authenticity she may be longing for. Imperfect means she makes mistakes, and she is confident enough to learn and grow. She makes errors because she’s human, not broken. She makes mistakes because she’s learning, not incompetent. She falls because she’s trying. If we can help girls see that imperfect benefits them more than any self-imposed high standard, I’m convinced, they’ll be able to flourish and fly. 
  3. Turn from procrastination toward action. Procrastination often comes from the fear of not being enough. So, flip the script. Enough can be rewritten as one step is enough. And little by little, small steps become great changes. She doesn’t have to do it all in a day. She can do one thing a day. Whatever big task or idea is on her mind or on her plate, help her do just one thing towards her goal. This could be one question, one action, one organized area, one page to read, one favour to ask, one YouTube video to watch or one podcast to listen to or book to peruse. If she likes the idea of just one, challenge her with just one hour of effort. She chooses when in her day and what she wants to focus her energy on. And for one focused and intentional hour she rolls up her sleeves and she works. The power of just one – step or hour – is a game changer as she creates her own momentum and often gains the energy she needs to keep going. 
  4. Stop comparing. Social media encourages us to compare our progress with others. Girls often feel they aren’t doing enough, they aren’t keeping up, and they are falling behind. Why? Because they are constantly seeing perfected and polished pictures of what other people are doing without the benefit of seeing the struggles and striving. They conclude everyone is doing more than them, better than them, and must feel happier than they do. Comparisons can help girls gauge where they stand in terms of their growth. Comparisons can also be sources of inspiration. Yet, girls need to trade in constant comparisons to others or even to themselves by choosing to measure their growth to their goals – only. Encourage these questions for self-reflection to steer her away from comparing herself to peers. How am I doing? What’s next for me? What am I most proud of? What changes do I want to keep working on and what changes do I want to add? What am I most looking forward to doing or becoming?
  5. Celebrate progress. Do you know what most young women are terrible at? Taking compliments, giving themselves credit, and celebrating. They often feel taking time to give themselves recognition for their perseverance, determination, and success is conceited, undeserved, and unnecessary. Of course, this is not true. Without time to embrace all they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished, how do they truly know their self-worth and how can feel good about the connection between hard work and outcome? Simple. They can’t. Celebrating doesn’t have to be big – she can high five herself or take 5 minutes to bullet her wins for the week in her journal. Celebrating doesn’t have to be public – like throwing herself a big party. She may opt for lunch with a friend or a date with herself. Celebrating does have to happen. When girls can take time to notice and validate who they are and what they’ve done, they no longer need the stamp of approval from others. 

I see so much goodness and so much potential in young and growing women. I know we need to help then see this in themselves. And one of the ways to get started is by helping them remove the pressure of being super girls to become their most true and powerful selves!

Does over-doing ever bog you down?

Poetry? + J.M. Wristen’s + Podcast: Audiobook DIY by Chris Hall

Photo of Jose Mayo Wristen standing with a hat on and taking a selfie. Title of blog post is superimposed.
Even poets like Joseph May Wristen take selfies.

Dance Fun + How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Dance #Audiobooks #Writing #Writing #Books Do you listen to audiobooks? A past guest, author/blogger Chris is from England and now resides in South Africa. For this show, she describes what went into producing her new audiobook. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Link to author Chris Hall. Links to this video and this one of my husband and me dancing. A sample of Hall's audiobook. When Chris was a past guest. Audioshelf, the South African company that published Chris’ audiobook. Authors Republic, that offers audiobook publishing and distribution worldwide. Chris’ book at Audible and Chirp and Amazon. Info about my novels-in-progress. Headliner, which I used to produce a full-length video version of a another show. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Chris Hall and her audiobook. My husband and me dancing. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of “Dance Fun + How to Publish an Audiobook Novel by Chris Hall.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

What’s poetry mean to you? You can find definitions, but to be honest, I’m the “I know it when I see it, and only then I think maybe I know it,” sort. Could that be part of why my novels are taking so long (tell me about it)?

For some, the poetry has to rhyme. Others want the words perform some sort of rhyming math, along the lines of 5-7-5 triplets that haikus do. There are plenty of poetry lovers who elect to break all the rules. It’s been said that one needs to know rules first, but lots of writers consider the learning part too much of a bother. If you want, here’s writer/scholar Brian Geiger’s advice on publishing poetry at WordPress, and author Josephine Corcoran’s on formatting it for WordPress.

Ahhh… to each their own…

In today’s case, the “own” belongs to Joseph Mayo Wristen. Born in Toppenish, Washington, he’s mostly lived in the U.S. North West. From ages 17 to 26, he traveled all over Europe and North America, working odd jobs and meeting interesting people. He’s attended college and film school, sold encyclopedias and children’s books, and currently works in the solar energy.

It took a while for him to share his poetry, but since his youngest daughter told him he should, he’s published a bunch!

His Facebook page includes videos of him reading aloud. Here’s one of his that Nopoet JaArtist uploaded to their Youtube site.

Remember, Emily Dickinson showed us, “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers”…

a bird’s song heard in a dream by joseph mayo wristen

12 crows sitting across the street

scattered wings of origin

perched from the tree tops

to the hanging branches below

someone is here visiting us

misunderstandings found in

history’s unknown truths

feelings that come over you when

you know you’re not alone

drop of rain touching trenched

soil secret in magic’s reconciliation

an eye summoning autumn’s flower

our souls last tear — love

calling out for collectivism

in this world of fame there are

many forces that stand against

man’s idol tides of destruction

voices heard in the silence of the

wind, modernization scattered

across time’s voided scheme

players in twilight’s hour

calling out to you, asking you

to take a moment to listen to

nature’s wish, rhythms found

in her breath violent yet caring

in a succession of union

lights appearing one at a time

here and there throughout

bear wolf earth’s seeded wilderness

all along the way life’s song

giving us a chance

for solitude in love’s redemption

there can be no blame in

our yesterday or in our search

for the way of tomorrow

here lies the

warble answer to

the diseased

rumors and innuendoes of our heritage

you know there is nothing to finding

peace if we will only allow ourselves to believe

in the vision found in god’s dream

a bird heard in the night

singing

to us his song of forgiveness

What does poetry mean to you?

Critter Vids + B. Christopher’s Vet Trip + Podcast: A. Renaud’s Inspo

Photo of Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a chinchilla.
Blogger/Educator Brendan Christoper and a friend.

Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Publishing #Creativity #Covid-19 #Animals Staying home, as well as animals, inspire fantasy romance author Alice Renaud, a Londoner. Here she also details how she published her award-winning books! How's your creativity going? Share your thoughts, and questions. Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Alice Renaud discusses what inspires her writing My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Fantasy romance author Alice Renaud's website that tells about her and her books. Original blog post for this episode. About “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat," my novel. Posts regarding my bout with COVID are here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Photos at the HBT blog post for this show: Portrait of Alice Renaud. Alice’s photo of an amazing red butterfly. Tabitha, Alice’s aunt’s tabby, staring at the neighbour’s feline. Cover of Alice’s “Mermaids Marry in Green; a Sea of Love Novel.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

To listen to an audio version of this blog post, click here.

Check out my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Novelist Alice Renaud’s COVID-19 Inspo: Animals + Publishing” that you can read the text version of by clicking here.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

It started with witnessing utter joy between an orangutan and a hound dog. Youtube videos are pleasant distractions when one is slogging through writing a novel, no? (Here’s a post about the ones I’m working on) As you can guess, my fave videos involve dogs, preferably ones that look like mine. Dogs are absolute experts at befriending anything and everything…

When I mentioned the video to a friend, she replied, “Me too! I love looking at interspecies romances.”

Is that what they’re called? Now short breaks turned into hour-long procrastinations… add in baby goats and owls and… and so it goes with YouTube… That’s why I’m sharing just one more with you — so as not to impose on your busy day, it’s got five not-so-romantic romances rolled into ten minutes…

Cute, weird, adorable, scary… what a diverse world of creatures we inhabit! Here to show us in real-life terms about the benefits of human-animal relations is Brendan Christoper, a blogger out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Besides writing, he’s a hands-on educator who introduces his wild menagerie to people of all ages at events, parties, and classes. Read on for how even his pets aren’t thrilled with veterinarian visits…

Photo of Forest, a black and white cat resting on a cat scratching tree, by Bren from Wild4animals.
Forest by Bren from Wild4animals.

I’m Taking My Pet to See the Vet (Wish me luck!) by Brendan Christopher

Forest, my cat, is suspicious, so he slinks behind the sofa. Then, spying from a safe distance, he spots me fumbling with a pet carrier. There’s no turning back now.

As I creep towards Forest, I pretend to act casually. But, in one swift move, I scoop him up, place him into the box and attempt to shut the lid.

Somehow, he always manages to leave at least one paw on the outside. When I push that one in, another pops out like a jack-in-the-box. Eventually, we’re ready, and that’s when the drama begins.

To be fair, Forest is usually compliant when going to the vets — well, except for a couple of issues. One involves the journey.

He hates the motion of travel and lets out the most pathetic meow he can muster. This noise sounds like a baby in distress and is designed to wreck my emotions.

Now I’m racked with guilt as I drive. But mercifully, the journey’s short, so I’m spared any lasting trauma.

On arrival, he’s usually calmed down. However, as we cross the car park, the howling starts again because he doesn’t like the instability.

Logo for Brendan Christoper's animal education work, Wild 4 Animals, an acronym for Welfare, Intrigue, Learning, and Dignity.
Brendan Christoper’s animal education logo.

There’s just another man with a cat in the waiting area and me. I sit opposite, but the two cat boxes happen to face each other. So, naturally, we humans start complimenting each other’s pets.     

Meanwhile, our cats hold a growling contest for no apparent reason. They clearly hate each other even though they’ve just met. I think to myself, ‘it’s a good job they’re on neutral ground and not meeting in a back alley’. (Or perhaps they have – who knows with cats?)

Anyway, as Forest prowls around like a big caged cat, we’re summoned. I place the box on the vet’s table and carefully unleash my feline.

Instantly, Forest makes himself look massive by fluffing up his fur and thickening his tail. However, he fails to intimidate the vet — on the contrary, she finds him cute.

All goes well until its temperature time. At this point, the vet dares to hold his bushy tail whilst inserting a thermometer. Thankfully, Forest is a gentle soul, so he tends not to bite.

Once the ordeal’s over, the vet declares him a ‘good boy’, and I beam like a proud parent.

On the way out, he looks at me as if to say, ‘And I thought I could trust you. Typical human.’

Finally arriving home, I open the carrier, and Forest shoots out. He sniffs the box, glares at me and flicks his tail in disgust — that means I’ve been snubbed. However, as soon as I stroke him (and open a packet of food), he’s back to his loving, purring self.

Well, almost… he gives me that look as if to say, ‘you’re forgiven this time, but NEVER trap me in that cat snare again!’

The only problem is I’m taking Forest for another check-up in six months. Even though I know it’s for his own good, I doubt he appreciates my efforts.

Do you have a favorite animal?

Easy Homemade Panettone + Podcast

Photo of panettone.
Homemade tasty panettone is quick and easy! Here’s some I just baked, cooling on its side, on parchment paper, in front of the window.

Did you know Happiness Between Tails is also a podcast? Check it out at AnchorFM! There you’ll find links to subscribe, hear, and share episodes via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Panettone, or pan dulce as my Argentine mother calls it, is no longer just for holidays! Moreover, in my home, its one of my family’s favorite desserts that I make. For anyone who has yet to become acquainted with panettone, the cake-fluffy queen of usually dense fruit breads. Tradition calls for them to balloon at the top akin to chef’s hats. Mine are freeform, same the novels I’m working to make into podcasts. Fragrant and puffy with yeast, they’re a decadence of eggs, butter, fruits, and honey that can be enjoyed for breakfast, afternoon tea, and an anytime dessert.

Whatever panettone success I’ve enjoyed is thanks to the melding of these two great no-knead bread baking books…

First mix your ingredients…

Use the panettone easy recipe here from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking,” by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François. By the way, I’ve also blogged a detailed review about the book.

Bread in 5 Minutes book cover

Then bake your Panettone this way…

Bake it covered, inside a heat-resistant pot and lid, such as a dutch oven or the insert and lid to a crock pot. Here the gist in someone else’s video for a baking different type of bread. I was inspired to do it that way after reading “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method,” by Jim Lahey. Some time ago, I blogged about using his book.

"My Bread" by Jim Lahey book cover

Hey, when a cousin visited from Italy, she said it was the best she ever tasted!

My loaves aren’t cookbook photo-perfect, I use recipes only loosely, and I never repeat the same recipe exactly the same way. However, these two books will guarantee that you’ll end up with something delicious!

Extra tips…

  • The recipe is very flexible. For instance, if you don’t like nuts or dried fruit, double up on one or the other, or leave them out entirely — or substitute them with something else like chocolate chips.
  • For the first half of the baking, leave the lid on. For the remainder, take the lid off to shave off baking time and achieve a browner crust.
  • Lining the pot with parchment paper makes removal and cleanup much easier.
  • Halving the recipe is what I often do. This is a rich cake/bread.
  • Leftover  panettone freezes nicely.
  • Whole wheat flour is a good, hearty alternative for the white flour.
What holiday food do you eat year ’round?

Writing Collab by P. Springer + Podcast: COVID + P. Wight Flash Memoir

Photo of da-AL with a fluffy dog who isn't K-D-doggie.
Shhh… don’t tell my K-D-doggie that I spent a quality afternoon with this friend, Charlie.

Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka Happiness Between Tails

  1. Book Reviews + Aparna Sharma’s Tanka
  2. Carrot Delight Cake: a Healthier Recipe by Khashayar

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is h-e-r-e), “COVID Hair and Writing Life by da-AL + Pamela S. Wight’s Flash Memoir.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Connection… collaboration… We affect each other, for good and bad. Please know that your visits, likes, and comments go far in helping me keep writing my novels (about them h-e-r-e) and the rest of my creative endeavors.

Connection includes your postcards! Rebekah, whose mom, Pat, wrote of her challenge of getting into the Marines h-e-r-e, recently completed the very difficult “The Crucible” culmination of boot camp! Moreover, she didn’t incur further injuries!! Yay!!! Pat says Rebekah, who still isn’t allowed to communicate with the greater outside world, is extremely grateful for your support. Rebekah will soon be in town, so I can’t wait to see her 🙂

This week I’ve slogged more through learning to start a podcast, hence I only got a little novel writing done. With luck, the Happiness Between Tails podcast will appear on least 50 directories (already included are Apple and Spotify). Each directory asked for my RSS feed, bios of varying character counts, different sizes of graphics, email verifications, etc. Halfway through submitting stuff, I discovered I was copying and pasting typos and repeated sentences. Oof! There was even junk to scour from this site’s “Welcome” page.

Next week, my ToDo List includes sorting through the rubble. Meantime, I also found stuff to fix in last week’s podcast version of “Khashayar’s Healthier Carrot Cake Recipe.”

Sheesh, how do people do all this and also promote?! I’m gonna say it now: Twitter, I hate you. I’m forever feeling like I’m hash-tagging you and sharing you and retweeting you all wrong, wrong, wrong. Most people who request to friend me aren’t “friend material” anyway. And Instagram, why, oh why, don’t you make yourself easier to use?! Life would be so much easier if you’d let me share to you from WordPress and from my desktop computer. (Oh, wait, I take back the second half of my rant about Insta thanks to Ashley of Mental Health at Home. She generously commented below that there’s a new way to upload to Instagram from desktops, so here’s a how-to I found on that.)

Today I got my first follower whose link is  a Snapchat. Ms. Sexy Snapchat, I’m not falling into your minefield of clicking on your sleezy-from-a-mile-away link, although I don’t mind that you increase my “followers count.”

Add in “life stuff,” and I wasn’t getting this week’s blog post written until the goddesses came through via Pete Springer. He’s contributed the immensely heartening post you’ll read further down!

Here’s a brief intro to author/blogger Pete Springer. After retiring from decades of teaching second to sixth graders, he published a book for future teachers called They Call Me Mom. He explains, “Every elementary teacher gets the title reference because kids are forever calling the teacher mom. Even though it was said unintentionally, I always took it as a beautiful compliment being compared to a mother.”

Now he’s finished his first middle-grade story, Second Chance Summer, which he’s trying to find a publisher and agent for. Thanks, Pete, for your wise and inspiriting words that follow…

Author Pete Springer.
Author Pete Springer.

The Importance of Collaboration in Writing: 6 Steps by Pete Springer

I’ve reached the age (62) where another birthday isn’t much cause for celebration. On the other hand, I’m still here, or as my mother-in-law used to say, “It’s better than the alternative.” One perk of being older is I’ve had a lifetime of experiences. I want to think I’ve learned a few things over that time. One of those beliefs is that it’s much better to try and fail than not to play the game.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been this fearless guy—the type who wasn’t afraid to try something new and equally comfortable in public speaking situations. The reality is I used to play it safe and took the easy way out. Look where that got me! Instead, now I put on my big boy pants every morning and go after what I want. I like this version of myself better than the old one. I love it when people say things like, “How do you do that?” or “I wish I had your nerve.” 

I have a couple of advantages over most others. I was an elementary school teacher for 31 years, so I got used to speaking to other people and doing things in front of my students that most people would never consider. I’m the one who wore his tidy whities over his dress pants on Backwards Day, the knucklehead who dressed up as one of the Blues Brothers while singing and doing cartwheels on stage, and the crazy guy who took his entire class and their families on biking fields trip across town.

It’s not like I’ve got one foot in the grave, but the hourglass has turned. I don’t have time to dilly around working up my nerve. That’s why I encourage anyone reading my piece to find your inner courage and go after your writing goals. Don’t wait until retirement to start that book you want to write. Get out there and sign up for that writing class you’ve always wanted to take. Above all, don’t be afraid to share your writing with other people because you worry that it doesn’t measure up. We all have to start somewhere, and that time is now.

I’ve done a lot of things to further my writing in the last few years. I’ve taken classes, read many books about writing, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators), started a blog, and networked with other writers. I didn’t consider myself a writer before, but now I do. Seldom does a day go by when I’m not writing something. I take my craft seriously because there is no substitute for practice if we want to improve. While these things have helped me develop better writing skills, the most crucial step was finding a critique group.

Being a retired teacher, I’ve always believed in the collaborative process. Getting regular feedback from others is a critical step in any endeavor. Anyone who has been part of a team understands that we get extra juice from our teammates and don’t want to let them down.

The most critical ingredient in a critique group is trust. I understand that when my partners make recommendations and suggestions, they’re offering their opinions because they’re trying to help. As writers, we need to be open to constructive criticism. Sometimes things that I don’t see right away become apparent when someone else points them out. I’d estimate that 90% of the time, I agree with my critique partners’ recommendations. 

Of course, sometimes there are differences of opinion. We don’t get into prolonged debates trying to prove that we’re right. Getting feedback from others doesn’t mean we always have to agree with it, but we should try to listen and understand their point of view.

Ultimately, writers must be happy with the words they choose. If someone makes a point that I differ on, I either respectfully disagree or don’t say anything and write what my heart tells me is the better choice. When my editor made recommendations and changes, I listened to these thoughtfully. She was usually right, and I trusted her judgment in most situations. On the rare occasion when I didn’t, I explained my reasoning and went with what I believed was better. Working with an editor should be a give-and-take process.

Every critique group must find a process that works for them. Because most of the people in our group are retired, we’re able to meet nearly every week for four hours. Regular feedback is critical as a story develops. I’m sharing our process, knowing that others may have formats that work better for them:

Step 1: We do a brief check-in where each member shares what has been going on in their life.

Step 2: We hold a one-minute meditation to free ourselves from outside distractions and get our minds focused on the task at hand.

Step 3: We have a regular order, so we always know who the first person to share will be. Whoever comes first after the last person who read the previous week begins. They give a brief thirty-second reminder of what was happening in their story and then pass out the new chapter to each of us. We have a limit of up to ten pages per week for each member.

Step 4: Everyone reads the paper silently and makes written notes on the draft. After everyone finishes, we share our thoughts. One of the most crucial parts of the process is that the writer may not immediately respond to any feedback. This part is vital because it forces the writer to listen to each comment critically rather than act defensively. 

Step 5:  After everyone has commented on the paper, we move into the period called “Open Discussion.” At this point, the writer may react to any feedback. Sometimes thoughts are briefly debated, but everyone understands that the writer may accept or reject the suggestions.

Step 6: We continue this format throughout the meeting. If we don’t get to someone by the end of the session, that person has the choice of whether they would like their chapter to be homework or not. Those writers who haven’t had their chapter read will go first at next week’s meeting.

I sat in one week with another group, and the group dynamics felt much different. The one person I knew from that group couldn’t attend that day, so I worked with strangers. Their format was completely different; that threw me off. Each writer read their paper aloud, and the others were making notes on their papers simultaneously. They were in the middle of stories, characters, and plots I was unfamiliar with, and I was pretty much lost. I also found it challenging to write notes while listening to the story at the same time. By the end of the meeting, I knew it wasn’t a good fit, but I didn’t have any regrets about trying.

One final area that I want to address is that of having friends read your work. I did that with my first and second books, but I’ve learned this creates difficult situations. I had friends who told me they were dying to read my story. After I gave them a copy, I didn’t hear back from some for months. I don’t want to make it sound like this was the norm because many friends responded quickly with helpful comments. When I heard nothing, it created some confusion. Did they read it? Maybe they thought it wasn’t good and didn’t want to say anything. Perhaps they were too busy and forgot all about it. I tried to keep the process moving forward, but I also didn’t want to be a pest.

Having experienced this a few times, I was left wondering what to do. If I hadn’t heard anything for several weeks, I reached out again (once) and asked if they had a chance to get to it. A few times, I got the “I forgot all about it” response or “I’ve been super busy, but I’ll get to it soon” answer. I understand that those things can happen, but I’m the type of person who follows through when I make a promise. Knowing how uncomfortable and awkward this scenario felt, I’m no longer putting my friends in that position. Perhaps they didn’t know what they were signing up for when they volunteered. From now on, I will rely on my critique group, fellow writers, and other professionals in the industry. 

While writing is primarily a solitary pursuit, all writers should periodically get feedback. I am the least experienced writer in my group, but I didn’t let that intimidate me. The others made me feel like a valued member right away. I love the camaraderie of working with others, but what I like best is seeing my improvement as a writer. 

I’ve heard of critique groups that function online with Zoom. I can see how that could work. Others don’t meet face-to-face, and instead, people respond by email. I prefer meeting in person, but this method might work better for people who are still working. If we’re serious about improving as writers, then working with a group of equally committed people is an essential step in the process.

Do you find collaborating with other writers helpful?…

SnailMail + D. Zeorlin’s Kindness + Podcast: J. Barrow’s Publishing

X me + Publishing: Judith Barrow’s Traditional Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #WritingLife #Books #Novels #Labels #LatinX What method do you use to write? And do you have labels you like to go by? Judith Barrow published many books and blogs from West Wales, England. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (these are approximations due to whether ads play during show): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Judith Barrow on How She Publishes and Writes 6:05 My question for you 18:15 HBT outro 18:40 Links at HappinessBetweenTails.com blog post of this episode: The blog post this podcast episode reads from. Judith Barrow’s website and Honno Publishing Company that puts out her books. About my novels. Here’s where I wrote more about podcasting. And here's more about my podcasting experience. Photos at the blog post this podcast episode reads from: Judith Barrow Some of her book covers — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is H-E-R-E), “Xme + Publish: Barrow’s Trad + Podcast 3 Cotticollan’s India Self-Pub.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

This has been another jam-packed week, juggling the new podcast and all the learning it involves, along with keeping this blog up to speed while squeezing in time to write my novels.

Here are some notes from my week…

Twinkl badge.

Thank you, Sumaiya at her educational site, Twinkl Educational Publishing, for adding my thoughts about “what more can be done to increase mental health awareness?” at her website reachable by clicking her site badge above or h-e-r-e..

As I experiment with AI (Artificial Intelligence) for podcasting, I’m especially intrigued to learn that now there are ones that’ll convert one’s voice into a whole other language! This example of it totally blows my mind!

Amazing as the increasing sophistication of such technology is, I can’t help loving snail-mail too. Juergen from Loy, Germany, and his charming dog named Baxxter make a persuasive case with  examples h-e-r-e for why and how all of us need to dive into postcard nirvana.

Since we’ve touched on dogs, it was while I was walking my dear K-D-doggie that I met a neighbor who’s worked hard to ensure that no one on her block gets forgotten during the pandemic. Besides Zooming and keeping people posted on who needs what, she even handed out copies of a book she loves. “An Invisible Thread,” by Laura Schroff, is the moving story of a woman who reached out to a needy kid and experienced “who rescued who?”

This is how I reviewed it for Amazon and Goodreads: “Unflinchingly honest — and inspiring! Warts and all, Laura demonstrates how even imperfect care of each other can impact us in wonderful ways we’d never predict.”

When I Facebook-ed her the review — whoot! whoot! — she mailed me this autographed bookmark and bookplate!

Autographed bookmark and bookplate that "An Invisible Thread" author Laura Schoff snail-mailed me!

Today’s guest, Dan Zeorlin, might already be familiar to you from his prior posts h-e-r-e and h-e-r-e. His blog is t-h-i-s site, where he invites everyone to read his “Care Giver’s Manual for Men.” (By the way, like how I cut out the background from his photo? I just discovered this site that does it drag-and-drop instantly for free!)

Dan Zerling blog card

“Kind Words: the appearance of Kindness looks like Selfishness to those people who are not Generous” by Dan Zeorlin

Linda charged me to become her caregiver after receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Basically I redefined my Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to that of finding hope. I became a kinder person. ”In one word, Hope describes the value of Kindness.”

I want to do more for others as we face losses of support. I begin by sharing a vocabulary of kind words. Then I give examples of their use as I tell our story.

List of Dan Zeorlin's words to consider.

Engineering careers are immensely satisfying. My engineering jobs often ended tumultuously but over time I learned to accept the fact that nothing lasts forever. That is, nothing except love for Linda my wife. She was diagnosed with cancer and I vowed to do everything in my power to make this a happier part of our life-journey together.

I received paychecks for reliably solving the technical issues which barred ways to higher profitability’s for multiple companies in myriad industries. They didn’t want my slant on morality. I was worth more than that and found methods through my own attentiveness to establish accountability. Linda got sick and needed hope; I promised to build more of it. Thus we embarked on a passage from pre-diagnosis to confirmation to finding a cure and to recovery with willingness to improve.

The medical professionals who treated Linda were phenomenal! I have high-regard for them and nothing but appreciation for all the caring individuals who amplified our capacity to love. Whether they were engaged with compassion, concern, or acted out of curiosity each played a vital role in lifting us up. Honestly I didn’t know how things might end but I would do everything possible to honor her requests. This meant to forgive misgivings. She immersed herself in the presence of peace and found relief.

Now I appreciate your patience. This portion of the back story is tolerable only if something better is yet to come – like helpful advice or reading “Ten Easy Steps to Surviving Cancer.” Listen to this: think of all life’s difficulties as a series of doors, some of which are cancers. Each doorway leads to rooms full of potentials. The words filling your vocabulary are essential to understanding. An appropriate key opens a locked room but it doesn’t change what is behind the door. Add more keys to kindness. Eliminate keys which unleash the furies of cancer.

Have you ever met someone who didn’t know a stranger? Now you have! Meet me. One value in diversity is that you never know where the next miracle is going to happen. In all sincerity I tell you that nobody is undeserving of dignity and respect. This doesn’t mean you will want to become friendly with Hitler or generous with Attila the Hun but you might learn a greater depth of responsiveness through empathy. So if I can become a better person by gaining insights on that person whom I don’t wish to be then that’s a pretty fine reason not to shun self-sacrifice. And as I mentioned earlier – almost nothing lasts forever but when it appears doomed then make the best of it and try to move on.

Do not take a dwelling place amongst the bad or dangerous spots in the world. Plan to make room for fellowship. We are all pilgrims. It is important to guide the vulnerable and lead the lost back to safety. This is what caregivers do. Shine a beacon of goodness.

These ideals may be admirable but you might still ask, “How can we make this happen? We have so many negatives!” Well for one, begin earlier; start working on it yesterday already. Time travel not an option? Not my problem…or rather, not a problem which can be mitigated through reverse engineering. But say it is possible to look through a special lens and see into the future (“tomorrow”). Have you exhibited thoughtfulness to make life better for future generations? Say it again: The appearance of Kindness looks like Selfishness to those people who are not Generous. Or to put it another way, the character of Beauty is to find Joy in life and to be Charitable each moment.

Imagine you are the richest person in the world. You travel and must relocate to maintain your wealth, converting it to heavy objects. Partway through your travels you encounter a vicious storm, you are injured and your vehicle begins to fail. The weight of your baggage drags you down. Suddenly you realize that unless you restructure your priorities, your life will soon be over. What are you to do? Are you strong enough to change? Now it’s possible that the quagmire which trapped and holds you fast also contains some mysterious elixir which can stave off the inevitable and “cure” your affliction. Just in case events don’t play out in predictable patterns, better stay as far away as possible from danger and keep on paths which lead to recovery. Devotion to making good choices will change the world one word at a time.

Jumping ahead now – I took a retirement job. I brought with me all the dependability and fidelity of an engineer but also humor, justice, and zero stress. It is not a majestic position but it has stability. In all truthfulness I have fun and get paid for it! My professional career has ended but my desire to share lessons learned is still active. I published my Caregiver’s Manual for Men as evidence that we all exist for the greater purpose of serving each other.

How often do you snail-mail those you care about?

Xme + Publish: Barrow’s Trad + Podcast: Cotticollan’s India Self-Pub

Writing & Self-Publishing in South India: Nadira Cotticollan Happiness Between Tails

#NovelWriting #SelfPublishing #Authors #India What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels? Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me and buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Extended version of this episode, including photos and links, at: HappinessBetweenTails.com Time Stamps (these are approximations due to whether ads play during show): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s topic and tells a bit about today’s guest 1:07 Nadira Cotticollan shares her experience 2:06 This episode’s question with info on how to comment, and learn more about Nadira and da-AL 7:07 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is H-E-R-E), “Self-Publishing in S. India: A Guest Blog Post by Nadira Cotticollan.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Photo of author Judith Barrow.
Photo of author Judith Barrow.

This third week of “real podcasting,” I’m still too overwhelmed with learning audio stuff to hardly work on writing my novels. Nonetheless, it’s heartening to learn new pod things. (See more about Podcast #1 h-e-r-e and Podcast #2 h-e-r-e.) This whole endeavor brings me closer to accomplishing my writing goal of eventually making audio show episodes out of my books. Plus, a few days ago I was invited to be a guest on someone else’s podcast!

Now that I’m officially a “podcaster,” I recently entered a Spotify competition that promised training, financial support, travel, publicity, and meetings with movers and shakers. Contests generally aren’t my thing, but this one didn’t charge a fee, and since they didn’t advertise it for long, I though I might have a chance at winning.

How do you feel about labels? Do you have one? Or more?

The competition was for “LatinX” podcasters, a term that’s expansive. If I understand it correctly, “LatinX” goes beyond gender, sexuality, and which country one’s parents are from. I’m ambivalent about labels, worried that they separate and compartmentalize us. On the other hand, there’s strength to be found in labeling when it comes to banding together for social justice.

Here’s how I filled in Spotify’s contest form:

Contest Question #1 was: “What does being LatinX living in the US mean to you?”

I grew up as a Latin/Spanish-speaking X/outsider in all of fifteen homes and schools— the “Latin” and the “X” tamped into one fair-skinned LatinX girl who was bullied for the sin of chubbiness, and who couldn’t fathom why she and her mom were treated so very differently from the family males.

My father was a charismatic Spaniard who doomed me to find a husband from Spain, bear children, stay home, look sexy, and turn a blind eye when my inevitable husband would inevitably stray. Sissy work was off-limits for the boys. Dad groomed them for machismo, to become bullfighters or flamenco guitarists or tennis pros.

At four-years-old, already I pondered nature vs. nurture vs. culture. Males had enough respect to create an ache in child-me, one I was sure I wouldn’t have if I were a boy. If I could have regressed clear to before my father’s spermatozoon collided with the ovum inside my Argentine mom’s womb, I would have switched genders.

When it came to speaking Spanish, as a green-eyed auburn-haired kid, I found it hard to be taken seriously because I didn’t fit what adults thought Latinos ought to look like. At the same time, I wondered lines on maps mattered so much. The politicians the grownups would discuss argued a lot about lines on sand and dirt and blood and gender, but none actually fought in the wars they made.

Contest Question #2 requested an “elevator pitch,” which should be a 50-word proposal for the kind of show I wanted to produce.

Right before I clicked “send,” I read Spotify’s “Terms and Conditions.” If I proposed to do a show based on my novels, would I sign over control to my books? After a night of having decided to not participate, the next morning I offered them a different proposed show. Here’s my revamped “elevator pitch”:

My podcast would fill the crevices where nitty gritty day-to-day exists. Stories un-beribboned with pat answers. Characters who go beyond the archetypical, and are more akin to annoying diverse friends who are there when we need them — or maybe they aren’t, but are later.

For Contest Question #3, I needed to go into more depth regarding that proposed show. I answered by saying:

My serialized fiction podcast intends to bring forth characters as unique and complex as life, who’ll help us exist more harmoniously. So much of what we hear, read, and watch is populated by the symmetrical and the able-bodied, the fertile and the virile. All of them are one-dimensional people who are invariably destined for parenthood and partnering.Where are the “X’s,” LatinX included?

My shows will glory in our convoluted humanity. It’s fine to not be a heroine or a hero, neither a goddess nor a god. It’s ok when we misunderstand ourselves. Even mirrors lie, and even selfies are no more than seized flashes of light, color, and shadow.

Listeners will be enticed to take a second eyeful, at each other. Whereas the self-help industry encourages us to change ourselves, this show would spotlight what’s uniquely wonderful about us.

Fiction nourishes our souls. Fiction is the treasure map “X marks the spot” of celebrating our nuances.

Our veins of gold aren’t found by pretending we’re smarter than we are. Platinum manifests when we voice our vulnerabilities. Revealing “This is me, from the inside out,” gets everyone closer to, “This is us.”

Photo of author Judith Barrow.
Photo of author Judith Barrow.

It’s time, readers, to meet Judith Barrow…

Judith has published eight novels, and writes much more than books. She blogs from her home in West Wales, England. H-e-r-e you can find out about her. Read on for her experience and thoughts on writing (you can also listen to a podcast of it h-e-r-e, and watch a video of it h-e-r-e

Cover of "Heart Stone," a novel by Judith Barrow.

Judith Barrow on How She Publishes and Writes

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

I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines  I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out cny of the fourc full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with brcast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be cood enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.

I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (Yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.

There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writing group I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion  I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.

‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course, she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.

‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’

‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.

So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents

Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.

There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first-time author.

But I was on my way. Or so I thought.

A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime, would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?

So  back to square one.

For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief ,how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.

There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest  months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime, I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.

Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agency to tell me she’d set up her own, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.

 We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

“Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes.

“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”

The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.

Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

 I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?

 When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’ The plot, the characters had been completely changed.

‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’

‘But …’

‘Take it or leave it.’

I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.

‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications…’

I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.

I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies. Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but…

I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women “, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up. I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.

Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice.

Judith’s Writing Process

da-AL asked me to talk about my process of writing and, to be honest, it’s not something I’ve actually thought about before. But I’ve realised, with each of my books, it’s been slightly different. Not the time I write, I’m an early morning writer, always have been. I think waking around five in the morning is something I’ve done since childhood. Then I used to read, now I use the time to write. Usually until around eight or nine o’clock.

The pandemic and lockdowns have altered the pattern somewhat. The last few months have seen me at my desk more or less all day; I’ve managed to write two books. But I still start at five in the morning.

But back to the actual process; the usual question asked of authors is are they a plotter or a pantser. In other words, do they plot the whole book from start to finish, or do they just begin to write, and hope something happens to make an idea into a story  to have a plot in the end. I think I’ve been both in my novels.

Judith Barrow's series of novels.

My Haworth trilogy begins with a place I discovered  Glen Mill. It was the inspiration for the first of my trilogy: Pattern of Shadows. Glen Mill was one of the first two POW camps to be opened in Britain. A disused cotton mill in the North of England, built in 1903 it ceased production in 1938. At a time when all-purpose built camps were being used by the armed forces and there was no money available for POW build, Glen Mill was chosen for various reasons: it wasn’t near any military installations or seaports and it was far from the south and east of Britain, it was large and it was enclosed by a road and two mill reservoirs and, soon after it opened, by a railway line.

My parents worked in the local cotton mill. My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels  bobbins — in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, the colours of the cotton and cloth — so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease — and in the storage area — the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them in the warehouse, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.

When I was reading about Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there during WW2. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. I wanted to write a story.

In Pattern of Shadows, and the subsequent two books, Glen mill (or Granville mill, as I renamed it) became the focus, the hub, and the memory of the place, around which the characters lived. The prequel, A Hundred Tint Threads, which I actually wrote after the series, was in answer to the many questions asked to me by readers; what were the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, in the trilogy, like in their youth. With all four of these historical family sagas, I had a fair idea of the endings.

Cover of "The Memory," a novel by Judith Barrow.

Unlike my previous books, The Memory, is more contemporary, and evolved as I wrote. The background stems from a journal I kept at a time when I was carer for my aunt, who lived with us. She developed dementia. Her illness haunted me long after she died, and the idea of the book was a slow burner that took me a long time to write, and I had no idea which way it would take me. It’s been described as a poignant story threaded with humour. I was thrilled when it was shortlisted for The Wales Book of the Year 2021 (The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award).

My latest book, The Heart Stone, was also a story that, in a way, wandered towards a denouement. Written during lockdown I allowed it to meander whichever way the characters took me. I was quite surprised by the ending.

All this being said, I realised that I do actually have a process of working. It comes automatically for me, so I haven’t actually thought it was a method. With every book I write, I research the era: what was happening in the world, what was on the newspapers, what work was there? What were the living/working conditions in the UK: the houses, the contents, the fashions, the music, films, radio or television, the toys, and books?

I always graph a family tree, with birthdays and dates of special occasions for each character. And, for each character I write a list: appearance, relationship to other characters, clothes, work, hobbies, habits, personality.  Then I pin them to the noticeboard in front of my desk, so I am able to see everything at a glance.

So, I say to myself now, I do have a process… of sorts. I just don’t know if I’m going to plot an ending, or let things evolve until I begin writing. But I thank da-AL for giving me the chance to reflect on how I work. And I’d love to know what methods other writers use.

What method do you use to write? And do you have labels you like to go by?

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?