Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith Collective Thursday – Can We Avoid the Shiny & New Writing Idea?

August 11, 2022
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With the first draft of the second book in my crime fiction trilogy off to beta readers, I can rest easy for a minute. Of course, the plan is to begin the third and final book during National Novel Writing Month but… as we all know something shiny and new can always draw us away from the ‘should do’s’ and entice us in other directions.

In common with many writers, I have a stack of manuscripts in various stages of completion. A western romance, a suspense novel, and a YA romance. These manuscripts have been dwelling in digital folders for some time, and I keep reminding myself that they should be revised and edited and then set out into the world. Alas, a new shiny project always seems to take precedence and steers me away.

However, the one shining brightly at the moment is none of these. Rather, it is a prequel to my Rython saga. It will tell the story of how the vengeful witch, Malgraf became such a malignant force. I have mental images of locations, the young Malgraf and her childhood experiences manifesting into story and it is so enticing. I am even thinking which colour I should use for the book cover! As you can see I have a gorgeous blue and green for the other editions, but need a darker feel for the story of the witch, for obvious reasons. A cover always tells its own story and sets the mood for the reader.

So, how do we avoid a new idea? Well, there are several predisposing conditions.

  1. A publishing deadline.
  2. Reader expectation.
  3. To continue the flow of a series.
  4. Keeping the characters front and center to ensure continuity.

These can help drag you away from a new and shiny idea – but not always. It all comes down to your self control and if you are under a contract. For me, I will explore my new story, jotting down scenes etc. and possibly use part of NaNoWriMo to write it. It will be a novella, in line with the other two editions, so will leave me ‘space’ in November to start the final book in the trilogy. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

How do you avoid a new story idea? Or do you succumb to the excitement?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Alleviating Health Problems in Writers

August 4, 2022
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Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

They say that sitting is now the new smoking and as writers – we sit! It may be in front of a screen or jotting down scenes in a notebook, but the majority of our writing time is ‘bum on seat’. As with any job, there are health pitfalls, but the most common for writers are:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders. Poor posture, and lack of exercise and movement. Get moving!
  • Eye/Vision Disorders. Too much screen time, a back light engages your brain but also burns your retinas. Look away regularly or switch off.
  • Headaches. Excessive screen time, or reading find print. Ensure you have regular eye tests.
  • Obesity. Lack of movement and too much snacking. Limit sugary and salty snacks and exercise.
  • Repetitive Stiffness Injuries. Attributed to mouse holding cramps and also typing/writing for long periods. Wrist, arm and shoulder exercises can help.
  • Stress and Depression. Working to a deadline, revisions and editing – the list is long. Set realistic goals and create step by step targets.
  • Hearing Damage. This may not be for everyone, but having music or back ground noise at too high a level can harm your hearing. Invest in good headphones for noise cancellation or music and keep the volume at a comfortable level.
  • Lower Body/Foot Swelling. Sitting for too long can result in swelling and numbness, especially if your chair position leaves your legs dangling, or footwear is not supportive. Ensure your chair is positioned for your height so your feet are firmly on the floor and wear supportive footwear.
  • Blood sugar. Remember your brain needs ‘food’ as well as rest. Don’t get to the ‘hangry’ status. Set a timer for meals and drink plenty of water. Hydration is vital.

Be conscious of what your body is telling you.

The healthier you are the better your writing will become – a health body is a healthy mind after all.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Do you have any health tips to share?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Crime fiction and writing prompts

August 2, 2022
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August 1st is a holiday here in Alberta, so it was nice to have an extra long weekend. I’m please to day my ‘stalled’ situation in the completion of book two of The Delphic Murders – The Tainted Search – was overcome and I managed to finish the manuscript. It is now in the hands of a few beta-readers. It was such a relief to finally overcome the hurdle. I will let it ‘rest’ for a month and then go back to it for the next round of editing and revision. In the meantime, I have other dormant manuscripts I can return to, but as with all things it may not go to plan. I had a new idea for a contemporary novel and also have the idea for a prequel to the Rython saga. Never a dull moment in a writer’s mind!

As you know I enjoy sharing my responses to writing prompts, this is my latest:

Characters in a Crunch Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character’s favourite cereal say about their personality?

Regimented Rosemary

Rosemary sat at the small round breakfast table, set for one with a place mat, napkin, silver cutlery and a pot of tea with a china cup and saucer to match. She set it every night before going to bed. Everything in its place and orderly. As she looked through the window at the garden, enjoying the fruits of her many hours of labour over several decades, she spooned mouthfuls of cereal into her mouth. As a child she always loved her grandmother’s English cottage garden. Hollyhocks, honeysuckle, roses, and all the colours of the rainbow all in perfect rows. Now, her garden was a joy to her grandchildren, she had come full circle.

With deliberate care she spooned around the bowl to make sure she had a good mixture of ingredients. She didn’t like overly sweet or one type cereal, she found it boring and the sugary treats stuck to her dentures. Over time she had created the perfect start to her day. Bran, fresh berries, oatmeal and a little honey. Her breakfast kept her regular, gave her a portion of fruit and filled her up.  When she stayed with family, she took her ingredients with her, just to ensure she didn’t have to suffer store bought cereal.

Rosemary enjoyed short stays with family but had to resist tidying and organizing when she did. People lived in such chaos! Her home was picture perfect and that is the way she liked it. Orderly contents in cupboards and closets and a check list for everything. With the last scoop of her cereal she patted her lips with the napkin, then took the crockery to the sink, washed and dried everything and put them away.

Let me know what you think of this little story.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Political Correctness in Writing

July 27, 2022
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We have all heard and seen the ramifications of derogatory comments in today’s world. Classic movies and novels have been targets for their portrayal of marginalized and discriminated groups and word usage – many have been ‘edited’ or simply removed from public consumption. There is a fine balance as we create our stories, when including what are seen to be stereotypes, and cultural constraints. We must bring light, empathy and well researched content in order to highlight the struggles of minorities and the marginalized within our narrative.

In essence political correctness is the avoidance of terms that are deemed negative, derogatory, racial slurs, or other verbiage that is exclusive in some way. When writing about the struggles of minorities and the marginalized, an author must be aware of the intent behind the politically incorrect verbiage used in their work and avoid gratuitous content and references. These include using unwarranted, uncalled for, and/or lacking good reason verbiage. And, if it is without merit, purpose or substance, should be revised or even omitted.

By writing about the differences between cultures, people, races, the sexes, we can create a compelling, interesting and wonderful story. We may not please all the people all the time as we are all very different, whether politically correct or not, we all have have prejudices, biases, and faults. Great stories use these differences to create conflict, then resolve that conflict in interesting ways. At all times we need to be sensitive to how someone may view our narrative. It may help to employ a sensitivity reader, who can advise on such diverse subjects as race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, illness and disability.

If you are unsure of using any content then it is best to seek assistance to ensure you are not causing harm to a minority or culture.

As always enjoy your writing and telling your stories.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Past Freak Shows & Sympathetic Modern Inclusion

July 26, 2022
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The latter end of last week, I suffered a tooth abscess, which led to half my face swelling to three times it’s size. Not a pretty sight and agonizingly painful. As I lay with a succession of ice packs on my poor face, I reflected on the popular ‘freak’ or ‘creep’ shows of yesteryear.

Freak Show 1924

Beginning as far back as medieval times, these shows were the exhibition of biological rarities, referred to in popular culture as “freaks of nature”. Typical features would be physically unusual humans, such as those uncommonly large or small, those with intersex variations, those with extraordinary diseases and conditions, and others with performances expected to be shocking to viewers. Many of these people were either sold by their families, or even kidnapped, such was the monetary value of their presence on the stage. Unfortunately, many suffered abuse, while forced to ‘perform’. Not until the 1940’s, did attitudes begin to change, and these shows were officially banned in 1950.

In today’s society, many of the physical conditions can be treated with medications and freak shows are limited to performers with extreme body modifications (such as tattoos and piercings) or those that can execute astonishing physical performances like fire-eating and sword-swallowing.

To highlight better understanding of certain conditions, there have been TV shows to inform and educate the general public. One such show is Little People Big World, about a family with members diagnosed with dwarfism, a condition that in the past dictated those affected to participate in Freak Shows.

It was while researching and writing my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch, that I came across the proper protocol’s concerning dwarfism and the correct language to use. In the narrative, my main protagonist experiences a connection with little people and finds a way to help them live a better life. This included a horse riding skill show called the ‘Petite Carnival’ allowing them to travel from one patch to another.

Our current narratives reflect our era and understanding of may facets of our world, nether-to misunderstood or exploited.

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