A whole lot of reading going on


So you have a brilliant idea: “I must write a children’s book. The kids will love it!” Or maybe you do not have any ideas yet, but you have always wanted to be a children’s book author and you feel strongly that the time has come. What do you do? Every journey begins with a first step, and every story begins with an idea.

Ideas can come to you from out of the blue. This happened to me and I incorporated the idea into writing Nosey Charlie Comes To Town. But magical ideas don’t always appear this way. If you want to write your first children’s book and no ideas are percolating in your head, you need help. The writing industry employs all kinds of methods to generate ideas, but first you must decide if your story will be non-fiction or fiction. If you plan to write non-fiction, your story will be based on things or people in real life, therefore, it will be a matter of researching the subject, using your own knowledge, and determining the angle you wish to focus on.

In this article and subsequent ones, my focus will be on fiction stories in which you use your wild imagination to concoct the narrative.


 You have been around for a while; you have lived a full live. You have many experiences. You could use some of these experiences, or tap into your more recent exciting forays, or delve into your childhood days for story ideas. You are sure to find past experiences or events that you can shape into a new children’s story. Remember when you first attended kindergarten and you held onto your mother and wouldn’t let go? You can build upon such an idea.

Another way to generate ideas is to make old stories new. In other words, come up with a new way of looking at an old story. Angela Carter is excellent at doing this, however, her stories are for adults. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. You may be able to write a story like Goldilocks, but instead of three bears, it’s about three raccoons and they are brothers—not Mama and Papa, and baby, and it was not a pretty golden-haired girl who came upon their home in the woods, but a mischievous boy.

Or, how about an intriguing story in the news recently? You could mould it into a tale of pure joy by changing the characters, adding dialogue, and adding character idiosyncrasies—the potential is limitless. If these ideas do not work, you can resort to some proven methods such as brainstorming, mind mapping, visual prompts—photographs, and even musical prompts.

Next article: “You don’t know everything. Research, research.”


The final in a series of blogs on the theme of architecture and religious structures (see Parts 1, Part 2 & Part 3) this week we will spotlight an extraordinary structure in Cappadocia, Turkey. Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia was once known as Hatti, the homeland of the Hittites.

Of all the countries I have visited, I believe that Turkey has one of the most diverse and amazing landscapes. On one particular tour of Turkey, our itinerary included a visit to Göreme. Our group was excited to see this place, now designated a World Heritage site.

One Sunday morning as the bus pulled out from our hotel, our group leader announced that he had a surprise for us. The surprise was a secret; therefore, he gave us no details. Travelling off the beaten track, away from Göreme, the bus climbed the steep rocky mountains of Cappadocia and we eventually arrived at an amazing structure. A Turk, who was privy to the secret, opened an iron gate and led us into a tiny church hewn out of solid rock. It was hundreds of years old and not a part of the usual tourist itinerary.

Church hewn out of volcanic rocks, Cappadocia

Our leader, an Anglican minister, conducted a brief service and served communion inside the quaint little church. Afterward I sat on one of the low narrow benches and gazed at the structure, wondering if it was real! I will always cherish the memory.

We then travelled to Göreme. It is here that the landscape seems surreal. Centuries ago, three volcanoes—Erciyes, Hasan, and Melendiz Dağları—erupted, spewing ash and mud which solidified into a soft rock called tuff, and covered the former plateaus. Realizing that the rock was pliable, the people began carving chambers, tunnel, places of worship, storehouses and dwellings into it.

During the early days of Christianity, the area became a religious refuge. Christians fleeing persecution by the Romans, arrived here in numbers and built monastic communities. The monks excavated dwellings and monasteries and created frescoes on the cave chapel walls as far back as the seventh century. We were able to feast our eyes on some of these fabulous paintings.

Communion inside the stone church, Cappadocia, Turkey

But Mother Nature is more dramatic than humans, and over time, erosion has shaped the incredible landscape of the Göreme valley. Cappadocia is covered with rock formations created by wind and water that has left behind a fairy tale landscape of pillars, cones, mushrooms, and chimneys (the fairy chimneys) which are as tall as 130 feet (40 metres).


Check out my new children’s book- Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and new web site: www.yvonneblackwood.com



By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Third in a series of blogs on the theme of architecture and religious structures (see Parts 1, & 2) this week we will feature an intriguing structure in Bethlehem. The Holy Land is chock-full of grand religious buildings, but it is the quaint and unusual structures that impress me the most. Shepherd’s Field Chapel is one of these.

Antonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect and a Franciscan monk to boot, built the Shepherd’s Field Chapel in 1954. He built several other religious buildings in the Holy Land including the Mount Beatitudes church, and earned the nickname the “Architect of the Holy Land.” The chapel is built to resemble a shepherd’s tent, and is attached to the remains of a 4th-century church.

Church, Shepherd
Shepherd’s Field Chapel, Bethlehem


According to the biblical text an angel came upon shepherds tending their flock in the field and told them, “. . .You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a mange” (Luke 2-12). The Shepherd’s Field Chapel is located about 2 kilometres east of Bethlehem in the village of Beit Sahour, Palestine, and is said to be on the spot where the angel appeared to the shepherds.

Besides the impressive structure from the outside, the ceiling and the walls are covered with striking frescos as good as those seen in the Sistine Chapel, and include scenes depicting the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds worshiping Jesus, and the shepherds celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

Baby, Jesus, shepherds
Shepherds worshiping the babe







My new children’s picture book, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, available in Kindle at:







By Yvonne Blackwood ~

In keeping with the previous blog theme of architecture and religious sites, this week we will spotlight an amazing structure in Capernaum. On a recent tour of the Holy Land, I spent some time in Capernaum. It was a fishing village established during the ruling dynasty of Judea—between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE. Located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the town officials are by no means subtle in ensuring that you know the significance of the place—as you enter two conspicuous signs state, “Capharnaum The Town of Jesus.”


Holy land, St. Peter
The sign as you enter Capernaum

According to the biblical text Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum which became the centre of his activities in Galilee. He taught in the synagogue there. The ruins of the ancient Great Synagogue, said to be built in 4th century over two previous synagogues (one of these Jesus taught in) are still there today.

Capernaum was also the home of some of the apostles—namely—Peter, James, John and Matthew. The intriguing story of Jesus healing the man with palsy who was lowered through the roof (Mark 2 & Luke 5) took place in Capernaum.

The most interesting architecture that I saw in Capernaum is the Church of St. Peter. An octagonal building constructed in 1990, the project took into consideration the need to protect the holiness of the location and to preserve the memory of the Peter’s home and the places where Jesus preached. The structure is built right over the ruins of Peter’s house and a 5th century church. Pilgrims are able to observe the archaeological ruins of Peter’s house and the successive constructions, from a street-level path that passes beneath the structure. The upper level has a quadrangular oculus through which the site can be viewed from above.

Peter, church, Holy Land
St. Peter’s Church, Capernaum

Check out my new children’s book at  Amazon.com

Nosey Charlie Comes to Town


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

With Easter only a few weeks away, it is a good time to write about some religious things I have come across during my globetrotting.

Turkey has been an amazing country to explore not only because of its incredible landscape and its fabulous culture, but also because several places mentioned in the New Testament are located there, including the seven churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodikeia, etc). In addition, there are a multiplicity of artifacts and archeological sites to see.

Twice while touring Turkey, I have had the pleasure of visiting a most unusual structure with a fascinating history. It is believed to be the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last days on earth. Tucked away on Mt. Koressos or “Mount Nightingale”, 4.3 miles from Selcuk in Turkey, the little stone house has attracted millions of pilgrims and visitors.

Virgin Mary, Shrine
The Virgin Mary’s House, restored, Turkey

If you are familiar with the Bible, you may recall that on the day of his crucifixion, Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother.” This was apparently a secret mission given to John to take care of Mary until she died. History shows that John took Mary to Ephesus, however, at the time it was dangerous for Christians, therefore it was necessary to lay low. The little house was built in the hills for her.

Olive trees, Turkey
Making our way to the Virgin Mary’s House

No one knew about the house for centuries, then it was discovered in a most peculiar way. A paralysed German nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich, who had never been to Ephesus, gave a detailed description and direction from reported visions she had on how to find the house. These instructions were followed by Abbé Julien Gouyet of France in 1881, and by two Lazarist missionaries from Izmir in that same year. The two search parties ended at the same spot, and the foundation of the house was rediscovered.

Today, the house called The Virgin Mary Shrine is venerated by both Christians and Muslims. It  was not authenticated until after Pope Paul VI visited it in 1967. Since then both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have visited the site.

Children's book, squirrels
My new children’s book at Amazon.com



By Yvonne Blackwood ~

“Perseverance is a great element of success. It you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” These words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is the creed that I have lived by all of my adult life.

So why am I sharing this with you today? I recently achieved a milestone, one I embarked upon twelve years ago. Yes, twelve years ago I was determined and excited to publish a children’s book. You are probably saying, “What took you so long?”

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this:

I worked as a career banker all my working life in Canada. In 2005 I was promoted to Commercial Credit Advisor at my bank and informed that my new office would be downtown. I had been fortunate up to that time to work in the suburbs where I drove leisurely to and from work everyday. Now I would have to take the sardine-packed subway during the rush hours. But what was there to complain about? I had gotten a promotion; it was all good.

One crisp autumn morning after exiting the train, I walked briskly up University Avenue to my office. I noticed there was a tiny park next door to a large courthouse, and a gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves. It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them.

Suddenly, an idea came to me; write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city. At that time, I had already published one adult book and had been working on a second, but I knew nothing about writing children’s books.

The next day I took my camera with me and stopped at the iron fence which separated the park from the sidewalk. I took pictures of the crab apple trees and the squirrels—they were still there feasting! The pictures were supposed to give me inspiration to concoct some delightful squirrel stories.

In life, I like to do everything properly, therefore research was required. I joined a children’s authors group, I bought some children’s books, and I borrowed both children’s books and books about writing for children from the library. Once satisfied that I could manage the task, I completed manuscripts for two children’s picture books and sent out several query letters. Although the editor from a major publishing house in New York wrote to say she loved the stories, the firm was unable to offer me a contract and so it was with all the other publishers I queried. Eventually, I put the manuscripts aside and focused on my adult book.

Perseverance kicked in when a few months ago I retrieved the children’s manuscripts, dusted them off, polished them up and hired an editor—to make sure they were error-free, then contacted Amazon.

My first children’s picture book, NOSEY CHARLIE COMES TO TOWN, is now published, and I am as proud as a peacock to announce its arrival. While there are no guarantees of success with sales, the fact that I pursued an idea and that it gave me so much pleasure during the ride is more than enough satisfaction. Great sales will be an added bonus.

Children's book, squirrels
Nosey Charlie & Cousin Pete

So do purchase paperback copies for your small children (ages 3-8) all your nieces and nephews, and all the grandchildren at:

Amazon.com : http://tinyurl.com/z83785u

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/j842wpl

Amazon.ca Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/z3td925

You can also download a free Kindle version for a limited time period.


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” rings true today as it did when it was popularized in the early 1900s. Travelling across the globe I have come across various locations that I regard as stunning. These spots may not necessarily be as appealing to others as they are to me, but that is why we are individuals.

On a tour of New Zealand a few years ago, we toured both the North and South Islands. As we travelled over hill and dale, through verdant countryside, I was impressed with the country’s beauty, so picturesque in some areas, it seemed like the canvas of an artist.

New Zealand

A piper pipes us in to Larnach Castle,  Dunedin

In Dunedin, the second-largest city of the South Island, we toured the charming Larnach Castle (I will cover this later in a series on castles). The castle stands on a hill—as most castles tend to do—and overlooks Otago Harbour. The harbour is a natural one and includes a long indented stretch of navigable water which separates the Otago Peninsula from the mainland.


Otago, New Zealand
Otago Harbour—picturesque view from Larnach Castle

While I found the castle, and the story behind it interesting, and the gardens fabulous, it was the view beyond the grounds that took my breath away. I had to take a second and third look. Was it real? Was it a canvas? After convincing myself that the view was real, I realized that William Larnach who built the castle must have reacted similarly, hence this chosen spot for his home. I thought, “Imagine waking up to this view every morning.”



My new children’s picture book will be published early spring; be on the watch!


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Herbal Tea, Tisane, medicinal

Herbal teas, or tisanes, have existed for centuries dating back to ancient Egypt and China. They have become extremely popular in North America in recent years.

A report on the herbal tea industry asserts that the widely publicized health benefits of these teas have boosted their demand significantly over the past five years. Consumers have been purchasing more herbal teas because they are perceived as healthier and good for many ailments than traditional black tea, although black tea still remains the most consumed type of tea in the United States. In 2015 revenue from herbal teas grew to $1.0 billion.

In one of our previous articles about teas, we explained that tisane is any beverage brewed from material other than the Camellia Sinensis bush—teas brewed from barks, stems, berries, seeds, and even leaves of other plants. It is obvious then, that tisane material is limitless.

So what are the qualities you should look for when you select a tisane?

According to an article in Reader’s Digest, Best Health, it is important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you drink herbal tea for medicinal purposes, you should steer clear of products that have things like essential oils or flavours added. In addition, you should steep the loose tea leaves or tea bags longer, say at least ten minutes, to extract the healthful properties. The article further explains that, “Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones. . . If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.”

Below we have listed some of the most popular herbal teas/tisanes and some of their benefits.

Peppermint tea: Naturopath, Colin Huska recommends drinking peppermint tea to relieve symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat.

Ginger tea: Aids digestion. It can curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness.

Chamomile tea:  Chamomile is a gentle calming and sedative tea that can help with insomnia. Huska recommends it for a cough and bronchitis and when you have a cold or fever. It should be steeped well to get all the medicinal benefits.

Lemon balm tea: Helps to lift the spirits. It is recommended for the winter blahs, and to help improve concentration.

Milk thistle and dandelion tea: According to Huska, when these teas are consumed they act as gentle liver cleansers. “They help the liver to regenerate and function at a higher capacity.”

Rose hip tea: This tea is made from the fruits of the rose plant and is a good source of vitamin C, and important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function.

There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Tell us about your favourite tisane.



Disclaimer: This blog is intended only to provide information, education, and entertainment. We do our very best to ensure the information we provide is accurate. Be reminded that nothing you find on our site or in our blogs is in any way intended to be a substitute for the medical care and advice your professional healthcare provider gives you, so be sure to visit him/her with any health issues.


By Yvonne Blackwood~

The tanned, smooth clear skin of the Polynesian men contributes to their exoticism, but the skin is not left unadorned. Every man I came across had numerous tattoos.  I delved into the matter to find out what tattooing is all about in this region.

Tattooing is not a fad in the South Pacific Islands, it is a part of the culture. The origin of the English word ‘tattoo’ is derived from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’. In Tahiti in ancient times, tattoos symbolized a person’s position in society; it indicated a sign of strength and wealth. It goes without saying that chiefs and warriors usually had the most elaborate ones.

Exotic, Polynesian
Native man in Moorea wearing loincloth

Men are not the only ones with tattoos, women have them also. In Samoa I had the opportunity to speak to the teenage daughter of a chief, and she sheepishly lifted her long skirt to show me her right leg. A series of tiny uniformed emblems were tattooed there covering an eight-inch square area just above her knees. “My father had these tattoos done on me. I didn’t have any say,” she told me. Tattoos on women indicate the maturity of girls’ sexuality or puberty.

In my previous articles in this series   part 1Part 2Part 3 , & part 4, I mentioned the pareu—a wraparound rectangular cloth worn by both Polynesian men and women. There is another type of garment—the loincloth—worn by some of the men, and it had us ladies gawking. When the loincloth is worn, it allows you the full view of how extensive tattoos can be, and a better appreciation of a tattooed body.

Moorea, exotic

A playful native of Moorea in tattooed splendour!






By Yvonne Blackwood~

Touring some of the French Polynesian Islands provided insight into the geography of the place and its culture, but as always, I am more interested in the people from foreign lands. In our previous three articles in this series,  part 1; Part 2; Part 3,  I focused on the exotic Polynesian women.

But what about the men?  With tanned, smooth clear skin, they are every much as exotic as the women. You can’t help noticing their skin because similar to the women, some wear the pareu—a wraparound rectangular cloth—worn mainly around the waist, thus exposing their upper bodies and parts of their legs. More flesh is exposed when some step out in loin cloths only (I will cover this in another article).

Native of Moorea wearing pareu