It has always been an interest of mine to consider the nuances involved in my encounters with others, those that are nourishing and even those that are more distasteful for some reason. In recent years, my interest has broadened to include encounters with animals, nature, books, movies and now, online conversations with people who I treasure yet may never meet.

Monday, March 25, 2013


 This is an exciting day for me because a most treasured author, London-born Julia Hughes, has graced Treasured Encounters with an interview. Julia is the author of four thrilling adventure tales and one beautifully written romantic novel. In her bio, Julia writes, "I'm an eldest child and walking my younger brother and sister to school and back, I'd tell them stories - a captive audience!" It's uncanny perhaps, but during my read of her novels, it felt as if I was tagging along, listening to Julia relate each captivating story.

Julia is an avid supporter of other indie authors. Via her website, A Ripple In Time, she offers blog posts that are informative and delightful, plus she keeps us up to date on her book promotions and works in progress. The site offers fascinating author interviews , reviews of books in many genres and the site features incredible short stories by horror writer, Randall R. Peterson. Click here to pop over and visit.

 Julia's Amazon Author Page in U.S., for all books, kindle & paperback.
Julia's Amazon Author Page in U.K., for all books, kindle & paperback.

Julia enjoys connecting with others. On Twitter, she tweets as @tinksaid.
On Facebook, Julia's page is Julia Hughes. Currently on Facebook, Julia is hosting a special event: The Griffin Cryer Book Launch & FREE ebook Giveaway. Access the event from the photo of Julia, on the right.
Julia’s current story, ‘The Griffin Cryer,’ is an all-time favorite of mine; an extraordinary adventure/fantasy that has just been released in paperback. I'm not the only who who finds this tale to be one that is extraordinary. On Amazon in both the U.S. and the U.K., there are over 60 reviews, averaging 4.7 out of 5 stars!

Julia is offering FREE kindle downloads of 'The Griffin Cryer' from Tuesday, March 26 - Saturday, March 30. In the U.S. download here. In the U.K. download here.

As a special offering to visitors, Treasured Encounters is sponsoring a giveaway of an autographed copy of 'The Griffin Cryer.' Simply leave a comment and, on March 30, a winner will be selected via a drawing.

And now, my interview of Julia, almost as delightful as her novels!

*The Griffin Cryer is your 5th published novel, one that involves other-worldly characters. Three previous novels are marvelous adventures that feature two quirky guys, the Celtic Cousins. Many who have read all of these tales, including me, are avid fans because you create such realistic, down-to-earth characters who find themselves in extraordinary situations, some of which are mystical in nature and others that are drawn from historical events. How do the ideas, the twists and turns, for your stories come to you?
I’m wholly flattered by the term fan, but I’d rather have fellow travelers – and that’s how I think of you, and everyone who has the imagination to lose themselves in a story. I need to identify with my own characters before asking readers to believe in them. Story lines are easy – pick up any newspaper and you can read at least half a dozen stories that are worthy of a book – or two! The best part of being an author is that you can rewrite the end outcome. I’m not an artist, more someone who loves to read and wanted to tell her own stories; it’s a craft I’m still learning. I’m terrified of losing my reader so tend to throw in every twist I can think of to keep those pages turning.
I so enjoy and resonate with your perspective, Julia. I actually do feel like a ‘fellow traveler’ when I read your tales!

*There are many YA novels that take readers into fantasy worlds. A reviewer who gave ‘The Griffin Cryer’ 5* wrote, “…a unique supernatural spin on a genre that has been a little too overdone. Reading this book was like a breath of fresh air.” Is the story purposely written on several levels of appeal to readers, i.e. those who merely enjoy a fast-paced thrilling adventure and those who desire the adventure plus a rich vein of psychological depth to the characters?  

There’ve been some smashing reviews, and I feel very blessed to have so many readers taking time out to comment on how they enjoyed the read. This is where imagination takes over, and books are always going to trump films – readers have a lot more freedom to interpret the story and the characters’ psychological make-up, how they wish. I enjoy a good seat of the trouser adventure story as much as anyone – characters have to have a motive to act as they do – I merely give them that motive. 

You do this so well, Julia.

*THE GRIFFIN CRYER addresses a myriad of current themes that many teens of today face. One 5* reviewer wrote, “…a good book to read with your kids and have discussions about hard topics…”  What prompted you to tackle the scripting of such themes; did your characters ‘speak’ to you about these issues? 

Most teenagers and adults have experience of bullying – what isn’t always obvious is that bullying can take different forms. There’s hard core hateful bullying which is usually violent, and there’s a more casual spiteful bullying – sometimes by so called friends. Both can wear away confidence. And of course, even bullies have their own bullies. I also wanted to explore the theme of freedom, and having belief and confidence in your own abilities. There’s a lot more to be said on these subjects, by people with a lot more expertise and experience than me, but if this story does open the door to discussion, that’s a start. 

*Who is Frankie? From where in your mind did she spring? Is she the young Julia? 

Frankie (Francesca) Shaunessy is a little bit of a tomboy. She’s a conundrum, like most teenagers. She’s uncertain about where she fits in and, deep down, she loves her mum, her step-dad and her brother. She wants to be better than she is – she’s worried she isn’t measuring up. She’s also aware there’s a lot of sympathy for her and her brother, Michael, who has been comatose for almost three years. She doesn’t want sympathy; she just wants her brother back. This makes her prickly, and adds to her feelings of alienation. I wanted to make Frankie an ‘outsider’; the Rider of course is also an ‘outsider’ so when they meet, they have this in common. I wish the young Julia possessed half the adventurous spirit of Frankie. 

Can't help but chuckle here, Julia, for I do see a bit of Frankie in you!

*“Hughes really has a way of making you care about her characters,” said another reader who gave a 5* review. I wholeheartedly agree and find that your less prominent characters add an immensely delightful bit of flair to your tales. I wonder, are you an avid observer of people, their personalities and quirks? Do aspects of your characters come from real people? 

I do make up little backstories for most people I meet. We all do this don’t we? Please don’t say it’s just me being sad! A question I ask over and over is ‘Why did he/she do that?’ The answer is usually because they a) can and b) want to. So the next question is why would anyone want to do that? The car I bought from a little old man who was obviously a retired bank robber had three sets of spare number plates in the boot. Why? Is this why the old man’s retired from robbing banks – his memory is now so bad, he can’t even remember that false number plates have to be different from the real number plates. A neighbour trundles a wheelbarrow filled with rubbish to the local dump. Why? We have garbage collection every week. Is he scared of the garbage men? Or does he pick over the rubbish dump when he’s there – or is it just an excuse to get out the house? If the latter, what’s in the house that he needs to get out on such a flimsy pretext? I think too much don’t I? I like to know what makes people tick.  

And that, Julia, is one of the reasons why your stories engage me on so many levels! 

*There are many twists and turns in plot that the earthly and other-worldly characters must face. During the course of writing GC, how did you stay so attuned to the story’s complex flow?

That’s funny! I struggled to keep the storyline less complex than usual. The truth is I love complications – a little like Wren from the Celtic Cousins in this respect. I’m the driver, so I know how to get from A to B. But I’ll take the scenic route every time. Take the main road, and you’re going to miss out on so much.  

*My enjoyment of THE GRIFFIN CRYER was enhanced because, throughout my read, it often felt as if I was ‘there,’ in the story itself. Other reviewers have intimated the same. Is it important to you that the script be written with vivid sensory details, ones that draw readers ‘…naturally into the story…’?

It is terribly important for readers to enter the story, and it isn’t easy – can you believe that I want you there – I need for readers to believe – and I’ll stoop to any level to achieve belief!  If this happens, I’ve got you and your wonderful imagination to thank. I can write about the dry cleaning fluid odors still hanging around a character’s best suit, but I need you to smell them – I need you to savour the flavours, and smell the coffee.

*Two of the most creatively fascinating segments occur when The Rider and his griffin ‘cross through the membrane from Ella-Earth to Earth’ and back. How were you able to script these intricate segments so realistically?

When the Rider first follows Balkind, his griffin, into this dimension, he does so without thought. Frankie doesn’t realize what’s happened. It occurred naturally, without any conscious effort. When the Rider crosses back to Ella-Earth, both the Rider and Frankie are attempting to control the natural forces of both worlds. The entire experience is different, and since they are tampering with Nature, it becomes quite scary. They are forcing a way through, which shouldn’t be attempted lightly. They’re both reliant upon the griffin, but in turn Balkind needs encouragement from the Rider, and Frankie has to find the strength to push away a soul destroying void. It was easy to imagine the fear and desperation! 

*If a stray griffin should come my way and offer me a flight, what would The Rider instruct me to do in order to fly aerodynamically?

If I had one wish to make, I’d wish for a griffin to offer you a ride. The large veins which emerge from a griffin’s shoulders in order to inflate their wings and circulate blood are especially sensitive. Place your hands there, firmly but gently. Now use your body weight to indicate direction and pace, much as you would if riding a horse. Bending forwards or leaning back indicates diving or soaring upwards to your griffin. Griffins are intelligent creatures, and have the equivalent vocabulary of, say, a working sheep dog, so you can also give verbal commands which will be understood. “Good griffin” and “dinner” are what most griffins want to hear.
Ah, thanks, Julia, for this wish. day.

*Chapters 20 – 21 are ones that are profoundly moving and special to me though some readers may find this theme to be unusual for a YA story. Can you clarify your purpose? 

Thanks Dody, both for the kind words, and the question! A couple of strange, extraordinary chapters. I sincerely hope readers will be willing to allow their imaginations to take flight and go on this journey with Frankie. I wanted to explore the idea that we have the ability to enter another’s world, either physically or mentally, and to help them escape to a better world.

*How difficult was it for you to script the choice that Frankie made at the end? Will there be a sequel? If so, can you offer fans any hints for the direction that the story will take? Please!

Incredibly difficult. Frankie’s very loyal, and she was torn. I think she listened to her heart for her final decision and stuck with the person who needed her most. Stephen King compares writing to an archeological dig. You discover bones, and then have the task of working out what goes where and how the creature looked and moved. In other words, the writer breathes life into dust. He goes on to observe that sometimes you strike lucky and find a complete fossil, which needs little or no assembly. I struck lucky with THE GRIFFIN CRYER. Frankie and The Rider’s story formed complete and almost wrote itself. The biggest difficulty was in knowing when to stop and I’m longing to explore more of The Rider’s world. I hope readers will feel the same way and, if so, there will definitely be a sequel. I’m just hoping for the same excellent beta readers to help mould the next episode of Frankie and The Riders’ adventures. Without the input of one beta reader in particular, this story probably would still be just an idea, and I’m eternally grateful for your generosity.

I’ve been told by a couple of other beta readers who shall be nameless, that there should be more griffins and more fighting. I agree with the first part, and I’m definitely well on the way to introducing more griffins and as you know, have even been asking readers for griffin names!  

And I, for one, can't wait for the sequel!

*THE GRIFFIN CRYER is being launched as a YA fantasy novel and yet I, as an adult, find the story to be delightful, deeply moving and intelligently insightful. What makes this novel one that can also appeal to adults?

It’s hard being a teenager; it’s also pretty wonderful too as whole new worlds open up to you. I know a lot of awesome young people, and I feel for them; there is so much to learn about relationships and being responsible for your own decisions in those few short years. I can’t hope to get inside their minds, but I hope that the story manages to convey empathy for the problems they face. Hopefully too, those who are young at heart – like you Dody – and those who are able to empathize with young adults will also enjoy THE GRIFFIN CRYER.

Thanks so much, Julia, for allowing a 'fellow traveler' to spend some time with you; a treasured moment for me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


" extraordinary not-just-for-YA fantasy!"

      She was only calling for her dog. It was dusk and strange imaginings always occur within centuries-old cemeteries, right? Yet, upon seeing ‘green eyes’ within a huge dark shadow then feeling a blast of ‘hot fetid air’ and the near graze of a ‘sail-sized leathery wing,’ 15-year old Frankie wasn’t so sure this was imagined. When a young stranger ‘wearing fancy dress’ appears out of the dark mist within the old cemetery and speaks, “Did you summons my griffin?” she runs for her life!

These words, spoken in Chapter 1, plunged me excitedly into a cannot-put-down, do-not-want-it-to-end extraordinary story. Julia Hughes has masterfully woven an intricate and thrilling YA fantasy tale of a girl with ordinary teenage issues suddenly being catapulted into an intriguing, perilous adventure involving beings from a twin world called, Ella-Earth. Frankie’s uncanny ability to call forth a griffin and The Rider from this parallel universe will ultimately serve her family’s tragic circumstances in a unique mysterious way. Ms. Hughes must have a very magical muse in her mind whose wisdom to weave such an intelligent and heart-warming story is beyond brilliant.

Frankie is not one of the cool kids at school. Julia Hughes has created a most engaging and fascinating character that appears to be rather ordinary, a girl who is struggling to maneuver through the throes of middle adolescence towards the early side of adulthood.  I was delightfully engaged during the segments involving Frankie’s encounters and foibles at her school as she oftentimes reacted to others in either a sassy or a respectful way; with either a fearless or a demure stance. She makes discoveries about friendship and enemies, and the humanness of teachers; and wrestles with a realization that the boy of her dreams might not be one who is human.

    So what makes The Griffin Cryer extraordinary? 15-year old Frankie’s coming-of-age maturity is evidenced by her reactions to ordinary yet often, intense, life events yet they are in counterpoint to the daring challenges that she takes on with The Rider and his marvelous griffin. There is a harmonious flow to the script as it moved me to and fro from Frankie’s rich, zesty day-to-day life situations into the perils undertaken with The Rider and his griffin; ones that involve the recovery on earth of the Ella Stone, a crystal powerful enough to protect a membrane that separates Earth from Ella-Earth, keeping both worlds from colliding.

 Throughout my read, it often felt as I was in the story itself, walking in Frankie’s shoes. Some of the most vivid, exceptional segments are those between Frankie and her mum; those in which Frankie takes flight with The Rider on the griffin; and those in which her mind descends into her comatose brother’s nightmares, seeking to bring him home from the dream world in which he is lost.

    An outstanding story for all who are young at heart, The Griffin Cryer takes center stage on the top shelf of my favorites’ bookcase, alongside Julia Hughes’ other delightful, masterfully written novels. Each excites the kid in me yet also engages my mind in the most interesting, thought-provoking ways.   

To order your copy: For kindle U.S.   For kindle U.K.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mom, Me and Yellow Bird: An Adventure

The day was glorious, with a vibrant sun hanging out in clear blue skies. Even the cold weather couldn’t dispel my mood; after all, it was winter, Christmas Day 1985 to be exact. I lived in Orlando, working long hours as a recruiter for a large busy hospital so a few extra days off was a great reason to celebrate.  After loading up the presents in my old yet still reliable 1977 Toyota Celica, I headed to my mom’s home about 40 miles northwest, in Tavares.
   I’m not one to take the most direct route unless running a bit late. Most times I’d start out without a route in mind and find my way to a destination. On this day, my plan was to go straight on to my mom’s and jump into the festivities. Yet, at one of my early turns, I made a left instead of a right. Decided to cruise by a local wild bird sanctuary and see if a bald eagle, owl or turkey buzzard, recovering from injury, was taking a practice flight in the sanctuary’s large caged area.
   After making the turn off a major highway, my car rumbled over railroad tracks and I began my usual habit of glancing around for birds resting on the high wires. A glint off something yellow on the side of the road drew my attention and my tires screeched as I turned off the road. I had often passed by this small used car lot yet never had given it any notice, until now.
   There she sat; I fell head over heels in love with a little yellow Fiat convertible. Was she perfect? Far from it but gazing at her flawed yet sweet countenance set my soul a’ humming. At least, that’s how I remember it. Of course, the lot wasn’t open yet I got out of the car, checked the Fiat here and there and jotted down the lot’s phone number before heading on to my mom’s.
   It was a great Christmas Day, with grandkids running around and our usual feast plus my mom’s delicious, hard-to-make Christmas candy to top off the fare. Not a word did I speak regarding my sweet little find of the day, very unusual for me. In between the bantering and laughter, I was plotting the way for me to buy my little ‘yellow bird.’                              
   A guy who lived in my apartment complex had been pestering me to sell him my Toyo. Coincidentally or not, this seemed to me to be a good sign. After the Christmas break, I left work early and hustled over to the used car lot. As soon as I sat in Yellow Bird’s seat, I knew she was for me. A bit of reason prevailed, however. My request to have my personal mechanic take a look was not met without a bit of back and forth disagreement. The salesman’s hunger to make the sale was, to me, part of the divine plan.
   Jeff was a one-of-a-kind mechanic in that he offered valet service, without hiking up the bill. I’d pick him up at his home/shop and drive to the hospital where I worked. Jeff would take my car, do his thing then pick me up after work. So with the salesman’s grumbled blessing, I drove to Jeff’s garage. My ‘bit of reason prevailing’ paid off for Yellow Bird needed a water pump.
   The deal was finally made. My Toyo got a new owner, though not without some goodbye-thank you tears from me. The tears were short-lived, however, for Yellow Bird was finally mine. I called my mom then and asked her to visit for the weekend. This was never an arm-twisting kind of request; she loved to run around the outskirts of Orlando with me. Saturday morning finally came. I was glued to the window overlooking the parking area, waiting for my mom to show. I must have traveled back in time about 20 years for, when she showed up, like a little kid, I ran out to my mom, grabbed her in a big hug and shouted, ‘Look at Yellow Bird! She’s mine!’ Okay. Truth is, she was stunned a bit at first but my mom could never ignore a sensation of glee. We jumped up and down together then I invited her to be the first person to take a ride.
    A cold front still held Florida in its grasp; no matter though for the air was crisp and the sun smiled down upon us. We bundled up in sweaters topped off with coats and pairs of gloves that a northern friend had lent me. Grabbing two of the caps that I often wore when playing tennis, I put down Yellow Bird’s ragtop and, giggling like we were getting away with something naughty, my mom and I buckled up and, with heater set to blast, set off on an adventure.
   First stop was in downtown Winter Park. People bundled in coats were walking in and out of up-scale shops yet stopped and stared; a few waved so my mom waved back. She was gloriously giddy, as was I! The Hagen Daz ice cream shop was usually the first stop when my mom came to visit. She loved her ice cream. This cold, cold day was no exception. We ate our ice cream while sitting in Yellow Bird with the heater on. Throughout subsequent years, when anyone asked if I wanted ice cream, this scene always begged to be re-told.
   A very favorite haunt of mine was about an hour’s drive away, towards the eastern coast of Florida. We had stopped for a hot cup of coffee in Titusville and were near our destination. Adjacent to Cape Canaveral is Black Point Wildlife Drive, a beautiful wildlife preserve with a 9-mile drive made of packed, crushed shells. Especially during the winter, flocks of migrating birds make their stops there. For more adventuresome folks like me, there are some off-the-beaten-path bumpy car trails that can also be hiked. Today, though, was for cruising.
   As we were leaving the preserve, my mom noticed a road sign with directions to Cape Canaveral Shore and Playalinda Beach. “Let’s go there!” she said enthusiastically. “Another time,” I answered. “I need some hot coffee!” and turned towards Titusville. Although I doubted that there would be any sunbathers out on this cold day, I wasn’t taking any chances. Playalinda is, unofficially, a nude beach.

   After that marvelous day with my mom, my zippy little Yellow Bird took me on many adventures. At the time that I bought her, there was no thought in my mind that I was about to do something ‘crazy.’ At least, that’s the word that family and friends later used to describe a decision that I made within the next six months.