We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into October with a smile.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is full of great news for travelers who stay at any of the hotels owned by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG–the parent company of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and many others). Over the next two years, in all its 5,600 properties around the world, IHG will be phasing out the miniature bottles of bathroom amenities in favor of providing guests these amenities from bulk-sized containers.

This isn’t the first time IHG has provided an example of sustainability for the hotel industry–back in 2018, it committed to removing single-use plastic straws from all its properties worldwide.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Sylvia Stein, Eric Lahti, Shilpa Garg, and Lizbeth Hartz. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Author Spotlight: Darlene Foster

Today on Reade and Write I’m thrilled to welcome Darlene Foster, who’s here to talk about her newest novel, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Book 7 in the Amanda Travels series (it’s available for pre-order now–it will be released on September 3rd). You will love the covers of these delightful books, and I love the idea behind the series because I enjoy reading stories set in places all over the world. Darlene’s books are a bit different from ones I normally spotlight on this blog because they’re written with a younger audience in mind, but so many adults love the books, too. And I think you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Congratulations on your next release! Tell us all about it. 

In Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah, travelling the canals of Amsterdam, visiting Anne Frank House, checking out windmills and a wooden shoe factory, and taking pictures of the flowers of Keukenhof Gardens. While there, she is keen to find out what happened to her great uncle who didn’t return from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy. While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange woman on a bicycle, and an overprotective goose named Gerald.

Amanda travels around the charming country of Holland, filled with colourful tulips, windmills, and more bicycles than she could have imagined. Once again, this intrepid traveller encounters danger and intrigue as she attempts to solve more than one mystery in a foreign country.

Who is the audience for the book?

The book is written for middle grade or juvenile readers, about 8 to 12 years old. But many adults will enjoy it as well as they read it to younger children or for themselves.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

The setting is modern-day Holland. I chose it as it is a place I have been intrigued by ever since I read Mary Mapes Dodge’s book, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates when I was about ten years old. I finally visited the Netherlands with my husband three years ago and it was everything I imagined and more. I decided then that Amanda needed to visit this delightful country. I consider my trip part of my research since I took many pictures and kept a journal. I did more research on the internet while I wrote the story as well as asked my Dutch friends and family members many questions to ensure my facts were correct.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Since this is the seventh book in the series, I wanted to make sure that the story was unique and didn’t sound exactly like the others, while still maintaining the same traits of the main characters.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

I find this question difficult as child actors grow up so fast making it a moving target. I actually see these books more as animations should they be made into movies.

Tell us about your other books.

I have written six other books in the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music and Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind. I have also written a bi-lingual (English/Spanish) book called Pig on Trial/Cerdito a juicio.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I am a huge believer in critique groups and currently belong to three of them, one in Canada and two in Spain. Without my critique groups, I would have never completed and published eight books in ten years.

Do you write every day?

Yes, I do. It may not be much some days and it is not always on my current WIP (Work In Progress), but I write. It is what I do.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

My favourite authors are Jane Austen, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Atwood, Alice Monroe, Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory, and Amy Tan, to name a few. My favourite books feature strong female characters, contemporary and historical.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

I would so love to visit Australia and New Zealand.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I know it has been said before by many other authors but DON’T GIVE UP. There will be many down days even after you have been published, when you question your sanity. But just keep writing. That first draft is never going to be a published book. There will be many rewrites and tons of editing but just keep going. Talk to other authors, listen to their advice, and learn from their mistakes. Join a critique group or two or three and read other writer’s blogs.

What is your favorite movie and why?

This is difficult but I guess I have to say, “Gone with the Wind.” Scarlett O’Hara is a flawed character but oh my, she is strong. The movie deviates from the book but it depicts the times so well and Vivian Leigh is the perfect Scarlett.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry, be happy, it will all work out.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative, hardworking and compassionate

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

I was hoping you would ask me what my weakness is. My answer would have been chocolate. But you didn’t ask me so now no one will know. Haha! 

Where can readers connect with you?

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/darlene-foster

Where can readers find your books?

My books are available on all Amazon sites, Kobo and other quality bookstores such as Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones, as well as many independent booksellers. If not on the shelves, they can be ordered.

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Action-Travels-ebook/dp/B07L9LVK4J/

Amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Darlene-Foster/dp/1771681713/

Amazon.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Action-Travels/dp/1771681713/

Thank you so much Amy, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog.

Thank you, Darlene. Congratulations on your new book! I wish you all the best.

Until next time,



Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival: The Recap

On August 10, 2019, Suffolk (Virginia) Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts hosted the sixth annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. As many of you know, this is my favorite bookish event of the year.

Visiting Suffolk

The Nansemond River, from my hotel room

Suffolk is the largest city in Virginia in terms of land area (430 square miles), but visiting the city is more like visiting a small town where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and eager to show visitors everything their corner of Virginia has to offer.

The history of Suffolk is fascinating and full, and much of it has been preserved for future generations. From its settlement in 1608 to its involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to its international recognition as the home of Planters Nuts, Suffolk has played an important role in the cultural history of the United States.

Visitors can tour Riddick’s Folly (which served as a headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War), Cedar Hill Cemetery (home to one of Virginia’s Civil War trail sites), Planters Peanut Center, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, among many other attractions.

The authors who have participated in the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in past years have had the opportunity to visit Riddick’s Folly and the Cedar Hill Cemetery, as well as participate in Ghost Walks and storytelling walks.

The Festival

Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts

The festival itself is always held on a Saturday afternoon at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, a beautifully-restored building that operated as a high school until 1990. Since its reopening in 2006, it has become widely known as a popular venue for musical and theater productions, lectures, art exhibits, and visual and performing arts classes. It is a breathtaking backdrop for the authors to participate in panel discussions, hold workshops, and most importantly, meet and mingle with readers.

This year, the festival highlighted forty mystery authors of all subgenres, from traditional to paranormal to horror and romantic suspense. The featured author was Julie Hyzy, the New York Times bestselling author of 22 mystery novels and lots of short stories. Her interview, conducted by the talented and hilarious mystery writer E.A. Aymar, was a delightful way to learn about her journey as a writer from her beginnings to her crowning achievements.

Panels and Workshops

I was on a panel called “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and the authors on the panel talked about the importance of setting and story ideas. The writers had interesting views on setting and it was great to hear about all the different ways they use setting and atmosphere in their books to heighten suspense.

Other panels included “Strong Women in Fiction and Why We Love Them” and “License to Thrill: Shivery Suspense to Keep You Turning the Pages.” Workshops included “From Novice to Novelist: How to Write a Novel,” “You Wrote Your Novel, Now What?: Publishing World Options,” and “Short Stories vs. Novels: Pathways to Publication.”

The Best Part

Me with my table-mate, the incomparable Nancy Herriman


With two awesome readers, Tammy and Greg Porter


With a perennial favorite, author Julie Moffett


With Festival coordinator and all-around fabulous person, Katie Kelley


With good friend and fantastic author Maggie King


My table

The art gallery spaces of the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are used to showcase the authors and their books, which are available for purchase and signing all afternoon. It’s a great place for readers to meet authors, talk with them, and take photos. These rooms are where the most enjoyable parts of the day take place.

Every year hundreds of readers come to see the writers, to reconnect with them, to chat, and to talk books. For the writers, it’s a wonderful time to see readers that we can only see once a year and to meet new readers.

For a full list of attending authors, visit https://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

As always, Suffolk Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are due a huge debt of thanks and gratitude for hosting what many readers and writers consider to be the friendliest and most welcoming book festival of the year.

The Paparazzi

If you’re interested in reading what the Suffolk News Herald wrote about the festival, you can check out the article here.

I hope to see you there next year!

Until next time,


We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into August with a smile.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is one that celebrates a Canadian conservation achievement: the Nature Conservancy of Canada has managed to raise CAD $20M to purchase a rare “snow forest” in British Columbia, thereby protecting the habitats of about 40 at-risk species.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

These are the cohosts for this month: Shilpa GargDan Antion, Mary GieseSimon Falk, and Damyanti Biswas


Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Happy Birthday, Dead, White, and Blue!

The day is here: the release of Dead, White, and Blue! Many of you have pre-ordered it and it should already be on your ereaders. If you ordered a paperback, it’s on its way if it isn’t there already! And if you get my newsletter, you’ll be receiving an email remarkably like this post…

Here’s what the book is about:

Summer is getting hotter in Juniper Junction, Colorado.

There’s a firebug on the loose, the townspeople are nervous, and Lilly Carlsen, single mom to two teenagers, has even more to worry about. She’s in charge of the Independence Day celebration, her mother’s mental health is declining, and her son is getting ready to leave for college.

But things are about to get even hotter: when a bistro owner dies at the celebration and Lilly’s best friend is charged with murder, events start hitting close to home. It’s up to Lilly to help clear her friend’s name while at the same time dealing her mom’s worsening forgetfulness as well as a coming-of-age issue under her own roof.

If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, here’s where to go to snag your own:


Nook, iTunes, Kobo

Many thanks if you’ve already bought the book. And please remember, reviews are so important to authors. Please leave a review of every book you read!!

And if you’re on Facebook, head over to Cozy Town Sleuths here and if you haven’t joined, ask to join. I’m going to be taking readers on a virtual tour of Juniper Junction until Friday!

Until next time,