Today, I am delighted to welcome talented children’s author, Darlene Foster, to Robbie’s Inspiration to answer a few questions about her new book Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping lady. I’ve also shared my review of this terrific book for middle school kids.
Amanda and Leah seem to be very good friends. How did they meet?
Amanda first met Leah when she visited the United Arab Emirates in Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. Leah lived in the same apartment block as Amanda’s aunt and uncle. The girls got along right from the start even though they are quite different. Leah is English and well-travelled as her father’s job takes them to many countries. After the adventure in the UAE, Leah and her parents invite Amanda to spend a week with them in Spain at their timeshare. She also visits Leah in England and Leah visits Amanda in Alberta. Whenever they get together, they tend to have an adventure or a mystery to solve. Like all friends, they don’t always agree with each other, but they always have each other’s back.
Is Leah in all of the books?
Leah has been in all the books except Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind. In that book, Amanda goes on a field trip with her classmates while Leah is at boarding school in England. They meet up again in Holland and now in Malta.
Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
What Amazon says
“Be prepared to learn a lot about the culture while you follow Amanda on her adventure.”―Laura Best, author, Bitter, Sweet
“What a great way for a young person to learn about a culture and to be inspired to experience other countries themselves.”―Irene Butler, author, Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps
Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.
Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?
Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.
Be sure to read all the books in this exciting Amanda Travels series! 1. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask 2. Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting 3. Amanda in England: The Missing Novel 4. Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone 5. Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music 6. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind 7. Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action 8. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
The Amanda series of books is aimed at middle school children but can be enjoyed by adults too. Amanda in Malta is a fast paced book with lots of action and challenges for Amanda and her friend, Caleb. In this book, Amanda travels to Malta as a guest of Caleb’s family. She has received a message from her friend, Leah, saying that she is in Malta and is concerned about her safety. Amanda is anxious to find Leah and discover more about her worrying note.
Amanda and Caleb travel around Malta visiting a number of fascinating historical and natural sites and keeping and eye open for Leah who eventually pops up unexpectedly. Leah is in Malta with her aunt and believes that she is involved with some shady characters who could do both of them harm. Not long after meeting up with Leah, Caleb and Amanda are at a museum when one of its most famous figurines, the Sleeping Lady, goes missing. There is something very odd about the disappearance and Amanda is determined to find out what it is.
As with all the other Amanda books, this one is packed with historical and natural titbits about Malta, presented in a natural and interesting way. Readers will learn a lot about the food, culture, natural environment, and artwork of this island.
Amanda is a strong female character and is an excellent role model for young girls. She is well rounded with lots of friends and an easy manner. I also like the fact that Amanda is always polite and respectful towards adults and authority figures and does not do unduly foolish or risky things. This is the perfect adventure story for middle school readers.
Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, traveling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not traveling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot. www.darlenefoster.ca
When I was in high school, history was an unpopular subject. It was so unpopular, in fact, that when the time came for the Grade 9’s to chose their subjects for Grade’s 10 to 12, the school paired history with typing, home economics and business economics so that the girls who chose this less academic combination were compelled to take history. This was how I ended up in a history class with mainly girls who hated the subject. I loved history and I took it through choice. My other subjects were maths, accountancy, and science. In South Africa, English and Afrikaans were compulsory subjects at the time.
I never really understood why my peers didn’t like history as it was a subject always loved. I’ve said it here before, however, that I was a very wide reader from a very young age and I read a lot of books set…
(1) $10 Amazon gift card (3) ebook copies of “REMEMBER THE FUTURE”
For your chance at winning one of the giveaways, please leave the authors a comment below.
Keeping Our Writing Fresh – Breakfield and Burkey
In writing our technothriller fictions of the Enigma Series, we use technology as our story’s foundation. Technology changes so rapidly, as does the consumption by businesses and individuals that we get a healthy stream of story baseline material subjects. As a result, we can pick a different focus topic yet maintain familiar characters and introduce new ones in supporting roles. Our stories are tales of cyber good guys versus cyber thugs. For example, we have focused on Identity Theft, Living Forever, Stealing the Future, Gamification, Commodity Market Hacking, Artificial Intelligence, and Cryptocurrency. These are relevant topics often appearing in world headlines and on social media outlets. These help us develop our stories and evolve our writing.
We feel we have an advantage as co-authors. It is very effective when we review characters because we can keep each other honest on what a man or woman might say. We draw upon our professional experience with various businesses, people, and travel which brings a realistic quality to our stories. When we use analogies to highlight a point, it is typically something that occurred. Sometimes we observe the absurdity of an event or a situation then stretch it enough to make it fascinating or even plausible. We often think about what Tom Clancy said about the difference between fictional stories and reality. Fiction has to make sense. We spend a lot of time trying to make sense of what we get in the technology space.
Our passion for technology and understanding of its continual evolution provides a relevant pool of information to draw upon. For example, the forerunner to devices today like an iPhone goes all the way back to the Enigma Machine. That device encrypted and transmitted German military secrets in World War II. We like storytelling that takes readers and listeners down a path of intrigue and makes them reflect on things like passwords or the use of social media. Today’s technical enablement online and embedded into every mobile device have helpful and harmful qualities.
Using that premise, we take a subject like Identity Theft in The Enigma Factor, put it on steroids, and mix in some clever bad actors from the darknet. Then we round up the R-Group’s cyber heroes to hose off their nefarious plans while exercising some romance coupled with travel and a dash of humor. Our diverse character universe allows us to exercise the persona needed in these different sub-plots to keep each story fresh. It permits the personalities we love and those we love to hate to grow, evolve, and thrive.
It’s terrifying to see how naïve some people behave today, especially our youth when it comes to simple things like putting a password on their phone. Most phones have credit card information they also have addresses of friends, photos of family, and a clear view of the preferences of an individual. What an easy way for someone to take advantage of some poor soul. The social engineering aspects are stunning and growing each day exponentially.
You might wonder how we take actual events and turn the scenario into a fictional story. Here is one example of identity theft. At a convention not that long ago, a young lady and her buddy were looking at all the tables, laughing and cutting up. They stopped at our table and chatted, looked inside several of the books, and grabbed some swag promising to return later. She smiled and walked away. A few minutes later, Burkey noticed a smartphone on the table after all the visitors had moved on. It was a brand-new device that at the time cost nearly a thousand dollars. Burkey swiped the screen, and it opened immediately. All the girl’s private information was there and available. Keep in mind that the phone could have been stolen or sold in minutes, let alone the number of purchases that were possible. We deduced who the likely owner was and put ourselves on babysitting duty to keep the device safe.
Thirty or so minutes later, the phone chirped. Yep, the owner had made a purchase somewhere else in the convention, which her device acknowledged. The anxiety must have set in as we heard a growing panic-stricken voice moving through the aisles and tables, seeking her phone. She finally arrived at our table. Burkey pulled out the phone and swiped it open. After chiding her for not having a password on it, the overall issues her carelessness exposed. Subsequently, she purchased The Enigma Factor, and put a password on her phone right after adding our photo to her device.
Current events are perfect story fodder. Granted, we take a different twist depending upon how we are telling our story. That said, both personally and professionally, we keep on top of global technology events, especially related to security. After all, Tech·nol·o·gy (tekˈnäləjē) – Is today’s weapon of choice….
If you enjoy the series, our newest The Enigma Threat has three new characters, two geeky girls, and one new love interest. One geeky girl in book 12 was a contest winner and provided a perfect role model for the needed persona. You can imagine the spirited conversation exchange when the person learned her geeky character was running an unsanctioned business model. But in the end, she laughed at how her geeky character evolved and was quite pleased. Good thing she didn’t win the Evil Genius role. Whew!
To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit theauthors’ tour pageon the 4WillsPublishing site. If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please clickHERE. Thanks for supporting these authors and their work!
After eighteen months undercover in a Mexican cartel, Maggie is broken. The kickass agent she once was, is gone, leaving her riddled with guilt and nightmares. Forced to take paid leave, Maggie accepts the offer of a vacation on the ranch of the man who’d rescued her from an almost certain death.
Frank Stein knows the signs of PTSD, he’d suffered the symptoms himself as Chief Petty Officer of SEAL Team Five. Honorably retired from duty, Frank has found peace at the family ranch and hopes it will do the same for Magdalena. Ever since he’d first met her when she was interrogating his buddy, Jared, Frank has been fascinated by the raven-haired beauty and wants the chance to see where their relationship could go.
Adam O’Connor is Maggie’s partner. He knows her. He loved her once and could again, if she’d let him in. But he’s also angry she took the chances she did by going undercover against orders. And now, things are different. She’s different.
When a right-wing militia group infiltrates the area, will DEA Agent Maggie Holt, her partner, Adam O’Connor, and ex-SEAL Chief Frank Stein be able to set aside their differences to stop them before someone dies? And who will Maggie choose, the handsome cowboy, or her charismatic DEA partner?
I reviewed this book in my capacity as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you would like your book reviewed, you can contact Rosie Amber here: http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/.
Today, I am trying something new with my book reviews. I am sharing it as a YouTube video with a short reading from the beginning of the book. You can listen to it here:
If you prefer to read my review, here it is:
I have read and enjoyed other books by Jacquie Biggar but this is the first book I’ve read in this series. I did not find it difficult to become engaged in this story despite not having read the previous books. Sufficient detail was skilfully woven into this story to provide the background I needed to enjoy this book.
DEA agent, Maggie Holt, is trying to recover from the trauma of being held captive and suffering on-going abuse in the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. Maggie had gone underground in an attempt to crack the case without the blessing of her boss when she was captured. She is now struggling to recover from anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder combined with guilt at her own perceived failure and the danger she’d unintentionally placed her colleagues in when they had to rescue her. She is on paid leave and is recuperating with the rest of her team at the ranch of Frank Stein, one of her rescuers. Frank is retired but had joined the mission to help rescue Maggie.
It is not peaceful in the area where the ranch is located. Shot up signs and dead livestock point to the existence of a gang of troublemakers.
This book is more of a thriller, in my view, than a romance although it has a few strong romantic threads which make the characters more real and interesting. There is lots of action intertwined with Maggie and Frank’s growing attraction and interest in each other and Adam’s, Maggie’s partner’s, interest in their good looking boss, Amanda.
I liked Frank Stein very much, he was a determined and strong personality with a heart of gold. Maggie is also a strong woman and is able to control her PTSD symptoms and help her team when the need arises.
This book will appeal to readers who like an interesting plot, engaging characters, and emotion which is real and convincing.
Sally Cronin is a wonderful blogger and a huge supporter of the blogging and writing community. Her blog Smorgasbord is styled along the lines of a magazine and she has published numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Welcome, Sally, it is an honour to host you on Robbie’s Inspiration.
Over to Sally
Thanks very much Robbie for your invitation to join you today and for the great questions.
You have a successful blog, Smorgasbord, with a large following.
What gave you the idea of a blogging magazine?
When I began blogging it was to promote a recently released men’s health book, but after a few weeks, I discovered I loved the immediacy of blogging and the response to the posts, and was hooked. It evolved from there as I began to share my other passions.
It was called Consequences for about a year, and then I looked around for a name to identify the varied range of topics I was writing about. I happen to be very fond of buffets that offer so many different food options, and having enjoyed ‘smorgasbords’ when travelling I changed the name to Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and hoped readers would be intrigued enough to pop in to check it out.
I personally think your idea of a blogging magazine is wonderful and very innovative. I enjoy the variety of articles you share on Smorgasbord.
Which of your posts do the best generally?
I checked my statistics which lists the posts and their views since I began the blog, and interestingly my ‘about page’ did the best which just shows how important it is to have an introduction to you as a person and writer in place. The other most popular posts are a mix of health, humour and book promotions. Currently The Breakfast Show with the 1960s music and book promotions, including the serialisations of my own books, top the list followed by health and humour. Since this is primarily a book and author marketing site it is good news.
How interesting that your about page does so well, that is great to know. The posts and serials you have mentioned here are certainly among my favourite posts, and I enjoy reading episodes of your books again, even though I have read them all more than once.
What are your future plans for your blog?
I am setting up a mini studio at the moment to move some of the posts to audio. I am not sure what the WordPress blog format issues are going to be in 2021, and after nearly 10 years, I would like to offer a different platform for promotions, reviews, health and marketing.
I have archives of material to share in audio format, either on YouTube or Sound cloud. I also want to record more of my own short stories and novels over time. I recorded one collection on CD in the past and those stories will go up first and give me a chance to record more to join them.
This sounds very exciting, Sally. Podcasts and YouTube videos are definitely growing in popularity and I look forward to seeing what you come up with in this space.
A lot of your short stories and novels, and even your mythical books, Tales from the Garden and Tales from the Irish Garden, focus on characterisations, relationships, and experiences.
Tells us a little about your fiction books and what they mean to you
These stories offer pure escapism. I am so grateful to have had an amazing life living around the globe, but even as a child I had an overactive imagination and would create different worlds and in particular imaginary friends.
I know you too moved quite frequently and a downside is the sadness of leaving friends behind and spending what seems ages, getting to know new ones. All the time understanding, in a couple of years you will be leaving them behind too.
Creating worlds of your own and imaginary companions allows you take them with you. Some of my stories began life sixty years ago and have developed from there. As I get towards my 70s it is also a way to insert the people I have met in the real world and to keep the memory of them fresh. I am hoping that at some point when I am getting a bit doddery, they will remind me of the good times.
I did also move around frequently as a child, Sally, and I turned to reading and books to help me through the anxiety of moving schools often and having to make new friends all the time. Our life experiences certainly do come through in our writing, but your particularly sensitive to people and their emotions and aspirations.
Do you draw your ideas mainly from your own life experiences or are you a people watcher?
I am both I would say. Life experiences good or bad are very useful to draw on when writing both fiction and non-fiction and I certainly have plenty up my sleeve for the future. I used to love travelling a great deal more than I have in recent years, with security protocols and now the pandemic, but sitting watching people coming and going in airports or a train station is fascinating. Some of these poor unsuspecting strangers have no idea the shenanigans and emotional turmoil I will put them through later in a story.
I think that is wonderful, Sally. You have an uncanny ability to create characters that are real and to whom readers can relate.
Do you have a favourite book or short story and why?
I would say Sam; A Shaggy Dog Story is my favourite. We waited 18 years to get a puppy because of our travels and working full time. I had two collies previously and love the breed. Sam was born five miles from our new home in Ireland and at just at the right time, as I was able to work my own hours for the first time in my business. From the moment he entered our hearts at eight weeks old, he changed our approach to life completely, and it was the most amazing ten years that followed. I wanted to immortalise him in a book and share his character with others in the hopes they would fall in love with him too. I was delighted readers responded to his story and in print over the years, it has been my bestseller.
I must admit that I loved this book too, but my personal favourite is Just an Odd Job Girl because the occupations you featured are so very different to my own job and I found them very interesting and your interactions with people highly entertaining. My son, Michael, loved Sam. He talked about it for months after we read this book together.
Do you design your own covers or does someone else help you?
Thank you Robbie, so happy you feel that about the covers. The title usually presents itself as a book or collection of short stories evolves. I used to train copywriters for an advertising publication I worked for, and apply the same principles to get the title and tag lines right. Once I have a title I am happy with, I look for an image to reinforce the selling message. David my husband who formats and designs my books mocks up several covers to consider, using titles and selected images, and we play around with them until we are both satisfied.
David is certainly very good at designing covers, Sally. I was fortunate enough to have a cover designed by him too. I love your coversand they are certainly very appropriate for each of your books.
What do you think is important about the cover of a book?
A book cover is a key element in book marketing. With 20,000 EBooks alone being uploaded to Amazon each week, it is tough enough to stand out as it is. The cover is the first thing any potential reader is going to see when they go into the author page or the book page. This is why it has to look good in thumbnail as well as full size. The image should be relevant to the genre and the story, and the title and tag lines need to add to the overall congruity.
Unless you are Wilbur Smith, Lee Childs or Stephen King etc., who could put their names on the front of a book in large print and readers would buy regardless of the image; generally the author’s name should be clearly visible but not the focus on the cover. If you look at a bestselling author’s covers however, you will find even they make every effort to get the whole concept right. Their budgets are of course often in the thousands, but with thought and use of free images, there is no reason why you cannot create a ‘come buy me’ cover for very little cost.
When I visit an author’s page to check on reviews or new releases for a promotion I always check to see which of the covers jumps out from the line-up and nearly always those particular books have higher rankings and more importantly a high number of reviews.
Not everyone has an eye for creating their own covers, but these days there are some excellent cover designers who are genre specific, and charge reasonable rates. I do recommend spending time and money on getting this aspect right.
I agree with you completely, Sally, and have all of my covers designed by someone how I admire as a designer and creative[except for the Sir Chocolate Books where I create the illustrations myself]. I think your covers are all very eye catching.
You have written a number of non-fiction books.
Do you find the facts and information in these books need to be updated regularly as new ideas become available?
Thankfully most of the data on nutrients remains current although I do spend a considerable time on recommended research sites to make sure I don’t fall behind. I have serialised most of my non-fiction books and use that opportunity to make sure they are current, and when I moved them from print to digital a few years ago, I updated them all.
Nutritional guidelines issued by the government are a moveable feast, if you will pardon the pun. One minute they tell us don’t eat fat, only carbohydrates, and then when a generation have become obese because of this misguided determination; suddenly carbohydrates are out of favour.
I have always believed in a balanced diet without excluding any major food group (apart from refined sugar which has been adopted into the western diet on the mistaken understanding it is a food group!). Therefore my approach to a healthy diet has not changed since I began studying to become a nutritional therapist 25 years ago.
You are right, Sally, about the advice changing. It is better to form your own opinions as a consumer, based on good advice and input from people like you.
Do you enjoy writing non-fiction as much as fiction?
I do enjoy both equally. With non-fiction I love sharing my passions and experiences. I might not be practicing nutritional therapy anymore, but I still enjoy passing along the information in the hopes it will make a difference to someone with weight or health issues. With fiction the options are endless and letting your imagination go wild is exhilarating.
I could have guessed your answer to this question, Sally. Your enthusiasm for both is clearly evident in your writing.
Do you find it easy or difficult to switch between the factual style of writing required for non-fiction and the more dialogue and show don’t tell style writing of fiction?
I often have two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, on the go at the same time, switching between them for a change of pace and to recharge my batteries. You can only write about nutrients and health issues for so long before you need to lighten the mood, and creating a fairy story or getting a character in and out of trouble, refreshes creativity and enthusiasm for both.
I do enjoy a good conversation face to face in person, and I have missed the opportunity to do so more than anything this last 15 months of lockdown. I do talk to my sisters in the UK via Skype, which at least is face to face and much more emotionally satisfying than talking to someone on a telephone. Creating dialogue between characters is a great antidote for lack of face to face contact, as is the opportunity to escape these four walls to inhabit the virtual worlds of my imagination.
You are amazing, Sally, with all you do. You are a prolific blogger and writer and everything you publish on both platforms is of an excellent quality. I take my hat off to you, Sally.
Thanks again Robbie for inviting me over and look forward to answering comments and questions from your readers.
Thank you, Sally, for being a wonderful guest and for these incredible answers to my questions.
About Sally Cronin
I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another thirteen books since then on health and also fiction, including five collections of short stories. My latest book is a collection of verse and speculative short stories titled Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.
As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books.. as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.