Archive | May 2017

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools


Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools by By Victoria Twead is amazing!

My review follows Twead’s blurb on Amazon.

**Wall Steet Journal Top 10 bestseller**
**New York Times bestselling author**

“If Joe and Vicky had known what relocating to a tiny mountain village in Andalucía would REALLY be like, they might have hesitated… 
They have no idea of the culture shock in store. No idea they’ll become reluctant chicken farmers and own the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. No idea they’ll help capture a vulture or be rescued by a mule. 
Will they stay, or return to the relative sanity of England?
Includes Spanish recipes donated by the village ladies.”

The Telegraph– “a colourful glimpse of Andalucían life. And a psychopathic chicken or two…charming…funny”

I loved this book and am excited to read the rest of Twead’s books in this series. What did I NOT like about this book? Nothing! Aside from being extremely well-written, Twead finely wove this tale and added the right humorous punch when needed. I love reading about ex-pats in new countries and I wasn’t let down. This travel memoir is purely entertaining, funny, full of pictures, and visions of what happened in the course of five or so years. Five stars!

This entry was posted on May 23, 2017. 2 Comments

Sunny’s Grand Adventure by Val Rainey


Today I’m pleased to present Val Rainey author of “Sunny’s Grand Adventure”, “Fun and Frolic” and her latest project “Down on the Farm”.  I’ve attached my review at the end of this feature.

Hello Val, welcome to my blog. Please tell my readers, how did you come to writing?

My first literary masterpiece was  a critique of Anne Sewell’s Black Beauty in grade four. I was less than impressed with the treatment of the horse. My grandmother accused me of being an animal activist.

How do you come up with your stories?

The characters and ideas come to me. I don’t actively pursue them. It could be our neighbour’s two dogs playing and yapping outside or the crazy woodpecker who likes to run up and down the length of our roof. When he gets to the top of the chimney he plays with the cover grate. Sounds like I’ll have to write a story about him/her.

Is there a message in your stories you would like your readers to grasp?

All my characters get along and help each other. They tell the reader “Hey, if we can get along why can’t humans?”

In Sunny’s Grand Adventure the main message is when you have a dream go for it and never let anyone tell you that it’s impossible to make come true.

People have told me that Sunny’s Grand Adventure is perfect for every situation from pre-K to Psych 101 classes.

You have created great characters. Which one is your favorite?

In Sunny’s Grand Adventure I would have to say it’s Nahala the wolf. She is a no nonsense wolf. She warns Sunny that flying could be dangerous for her because she doesn’t have wings.

How much of your book is realistic? Are the experiences based on someone you know or events in your life?

I guess the real question is “Does this apply to real life?” Now it is clearer and easier to answer.

Is Sunny’s Grand Adventure based on me or someone I know?

I’ve never known any flying daisies but I have some special dreams of my own. I always try to be supportive of them even if the dream seams a bit ‘whacky’. Hey, if you can’t dream big…….don’t’ bother!

Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?

It would have to be animated but I would love to have Patrick Stewart be the voice of Redhawke.

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

I’d have to say I’m a lot like Sunny and Nahala. When I get ahold of an idea I can be very shall we say “determined”.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

Say what? The characters told me what happened and I was simply the recording secretary. They let me know at every opportunity when I went astray. Since Sunny is a story/colouring book there really isn’t a sub plot.

What is your main reason for writing?

It is a very special gift from God and besides I love having something fun to read. I realized many years ago that if I want something fun to read I might just as well write it.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

Best aspects……discovering the beginning of the story and the fun of interacting with the characters even when they get grumpy!

Worst aspects…….when the characters start quarreling and won’t let me write. Some days trying to get up a head of steam can be a challenge.

Please share a little of your current work in progress or ideas for your next novel?

My current project is the second volume of The Sunshine Collection. It is called “Down on the Farm” and is a collection of very short one or two page stories of the animals and people at Howell Farm.

I will put up one of the stories at under Down on the Farm.

It is still in the works but you can always purchase the first volume called “Fun and Frolic” at and of course, Sunny!

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

Sometimes I spend so much time trying to write that the only place I manage to market is on Facebook. I would sooooo love to have help in the marketing area. So for anyone reading this article……!

What do you do when you don’t write?

Oh wowie. Where do I start? I love crocheting, scrapbooking, reading and going for walks with Brian (my sweetie)

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

Sunny’s Grand Adventure is the only book I’ve had professionally edited. I met Judy O’Shea at a local women entrepreneur evening here in Lethbridge. She was wonderful! I had many friends and authors read Sunny before I sent it to Judy and even she found goodies to fix up.

Brian is also a great help because he doesn’t read the story before it is finished so that he has fresh eyes. I know you’re thinking…..bad move…….no way Brian is never shy about pointing out hiccups!

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?

Self-publishing Sunny was a total blast. I suppose some day I might have to deal with editors but for now… thanks.

The real low was all the corrections I had to make before handing in the final dummy. Oh! One day I discovered that Sunny had a great beginning and ending…………but oops……no middle. Solution… create Jamie and Thunder.

What is your advice to new independent writers?

Read, read, and read some more especially in your favourite genre. Reading helps you pick out the really great writers from the wannabees. If you are reading a passage and the author just prattles along about who is wearing what other than at a high fashion show…….run!

When you are ready to publish……read this very carefully……NEVER deal with a vanity press! If a publisher wants money from you to publish your story…….run!! I don’t mean places like Create Space but most of the others. If a publishing house wants to carry your work they pay for it…..always!!!

Some authors use really poor grammar. They even begin sentences with conjunctions. To me that is lazy, unprofessional and an insult to the reader. They do this to create and instant focus. Read my dots. It.doesn’! Whatever interrupts the flow is wrong, just plain wrong. You’re saying, “Well if the Chicago style of writing says it’s ok why not?”

Just because they say so does that automatically make it right?

Who are your favorite independent writers?

Wow! I’ve read some lovely books by Samantha Mozart aka Carol Child. Her first book about her experiences with caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s is very close to my heart as my own mom had it. Carol’s book is called “Begins the Night Music”. It is available at Amazon.

Wendy McClelland’s “27 Steps to Freedom” is also very poignant.It is her journey from  being very seriously ill to learning to walk again. It is available at her website

Who are your favourite authors and what is your favourite book?

I have two favourite authors.  On is Edith Partiger aka Ellis Peters who wrote the Brother Cadfael historical/mystery series about a Benedictine monk at the turn of the 12th century in England and Wales. My other is Lillian Jackson Braun of “The Cat Who” fame. Both of these wonderful ladies books are suitable for all ages.

Do you work with an outline or do you just write?

Mostly I write the bones and then build the story around them. For example in my current massive project Marigold and The Unity, I write the basics of who does what when and where and the reactions. By the time I finish the ‘outline’ of a section I’m ready for all the filler as in why did this happen and what is/was the result.

What makes you laugh?

About reading? Cozy mysteries, dogs at play, old time movies. They are sooooooo corny. I love noticing silly errors in movies or TV series especially with props and wardrobe. 

In general…… watching dogs play and trying to catch birds. Forget it boys it ain’t gonna happen.

What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?

An endless supply of my favourite yellow newsprint paper writing pads and lots of pens and pencils…….Oh, I guess I’d need a desk and really comfy chair. The entire Brother Cadfael collection and The Cat Who series.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

How about Patrick Stewart? I have always been a huge fan of his…..especially his beautiful grammar…….sigh.

What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?

Let’s see. My best quality I would have to say is honesty and being able to give my opinion or advice ‘straight from the hip’.

My oddest? I guess I’d have to say jabbering away to myself when I’m writing. Hey, we need someone to talk to as we work!

Tell us about your other books?

Okie dokie…..The Sunshine Collection is a series of books which will eventually have at least 5 separate books.

I am also working on a series about a dragon named…..are you ready for it? Marigold. She was originally to be just one book but part way through I realized that wasn’t going to work.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Well, no one has been vaporized yet. I am always open to ideas and suggestions. When you are the writer it isn’t always so easy to write from the reader’s perspective. So often I will be writing and can see what’s going on……you know the ‘but’ is coming…..uh, oh it isn’t on the page.

I used to belong to an online critique group. One piece of Marigold that I offered up for critique had a member telling me that one simple sentence needed to be its own chapter……Yikes.

I really believe that belonging to a critique group is the greatest gift that an author can give to themselves and other authors.

My Review

I found the story of Sunny to be a delightful read. The drawings are nicely done, (only black and white), and I think they would look better with respective colors; especially since other plants and creatures have coloring implied in the narrative. I strongly suggest adding color to emphasize this children’s book. Can you imagine being a daisy, and flying with a sparrow? Fun is it not?

Author Bio

Hi! Iive in beautiful southern Alberta, Canada in a city of almost 100,000 people with my wonderlful husband Brian. Just us, no cats or dogs except for two funny little furries next door.Hey, don’t laugh we’re the fourth largest in the province.

I was born in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada on December 16th 1953 which makes me one of the clown princes of the Zodiac, Sagittarius!

I have been asked many times why I write and I find that the answer is always the same.

I have to. It’s that simple. My maternal grandmother wrote journals and my mom wrote some poetry and verses as a teenager.

Several years ago I discovered that my maternal Great Grandfather and Great Great Grandfather were fabulous writers.

So it appears that I must carry the torch and continue the family tradition.

For more fun and adventures visit my web sites at


Facebook Author Page  

Facebook Personal Page


Find me on Twitter   @valrainey26

Goodreads Author Page  

Website: and

I’m Having a Love Affair With ‘Had’!

Writing your first novel-Things you should know

aid174983-v4-728px-Stop-Saying-the-Word-_Like_-Step-4-Version-2On more than one occasion I have declared my love affair with the word ‘had’. When you use a word so many times it jumps off the page, you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if the word is used correctly or not. You need to find another way to write the sentence without using ‘the word’. In my case that word is ‘had’.

What’s wrong with using the word ‘had’ over and over, besides making it an awkward read?

  • If you are using ‘had’ a lot, odds are you have a lot of backstory/info dump, because it specifically details things that happened before the current action. In some circumstances, that can seem dull, or like the focus is in the wrong place. Why spend so much time on something that’s not happening right now?
  • Using ‘had’ too much can also indicate you are telling vs. showing.
  • ‘Had’ is also rather formal…

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Living Authentically

Awaken and Breathe

Fake it til you make it.

Is that not just the worst advice anyone could give? It has paved the way for us to forget who we are and morph into beings we are not. It gives us an excuse to make excuses, to forgo accountability and worst of all it agitates the soul. We should all be living with authenticity, which means aligning your personality with your soul. As children we are sponges and absorb the belief systems, behaviors and habits of those we are surrounded by and at some point we realise it doesn’t feel quite right, which could be for a number of reasons:

  • we don’t like who we are, so we mould our personalities and looks to mirror someone more ‘likeable’
  • we have been taught to be someone we are not, by hiding aspects of ourselves especially if we are not considered ‘normal’
  • we are afraid of being judged, or of…

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The little girl who loved dolls – Plaster of paris figures and the apricot tree

Robbie's inspiration

IMG_1989When we were living in the house on the plot, we used to often visit our Aunt and our two boy cousins. You have already met Ian and Gary in the story about the mud house that collapsed. Our Aunt lived in a lovely house in a suburb in Johannesburg. She had a very nice garden with a proper swimming pool, a swing and a huge apricot tree. During the summer when the apricots were ripe, they used to fall to the ground. A lot of them burst and were spoilt during the fall but there would be a few nice ones if you were prepared to look through the fruit on the grass under the tree. The fallen and smashed fruit attracted a lot of insects, including bees and fruit beetles. I was scared of both of these as I had an allergy to bees and the fruit beetles…

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This entry was posted on May 23, 2017. 2 Comments

What Is Your Social Media Profile Saying About You?


More and more jobs and professional agencies are social screening and using people’s social media profiles to determine the type of team members and partners they want to join their companies, networks and communities. 

Your social media presence (including blogs & vlogs) should tell others what you do professionally. Think of your social media profile as snapshots of your life. 

Not only should your social media profile (SMP) read like a resume, it should also capture something unique and compelling about you.

Does your SMP show how you are converting your experiences and skills in a manner that add value to others? Does your SMP give evidence of your ability to create original and high-quality content?

Is your SMP emphasizing the importance of community, interconnectedness, interdependence and plurality? Does your SMP demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills? Does your SMP exude positivity and inspire others?

If you desire to enter into strategic partnerships or open…

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Medieval Monday: Smelting Iron Ore / Bloomeries

Allison D. Reid

I am re-posting this from over a year ago with the intent of making my next post about blacksmiths and their work. It is a subject I haven’t tackled yet even though blacksmiths played an important role in medieval society.

My second book, Ancient Voices, is set in a small mountain village called Minhaven—a place full of miners and blacksmiths.  Naturally I had to do some research, to figure out what mining techniques were used back then, and how iron ore dug from the ground was transformed into something that could be used to make things like tools, knives, and swords.

hotslagOne process I had particular trouble envisioning was the smelting process. The simplest and most common furnaces used in the Middle Ages were called bloomeries, and they were typically built out of stone or clay.  Iron ore was placed in through the top, along with a lot of…

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