Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Why Boxing Day? An Explanation

December 26, 2019
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The origins of ‘Boxing Day’ are steeped in history and in my naivety, I assumed everyone had or knew of Boxing Day. Growing up in England my understanding was that it was an old tradition to open gifts the day after as Christmas Day was spent in church and then feasting.

The exact etymology of the term ‘boxing’ is unfortunately unclear and although there are several competing theories, none are definitive. Money and other gifts were traditionally given to the needy and to those in service positions, such as servants. The European tradition goes back to the Middle Ages but its exact origin is still unknown. There have also been claims that it dates back to the late Roman/early Christian era. It is known that metal boxes were placed outside churches to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. In England it was the custom in the nineteen-century for Victorian tradesmen to collect their ‘Christmas boxes’ or gifts on the day after Christmas in return for good and reliable service throughout the year.

The name could also derive from another old English tradition, where wealthy landowners would allow their servants to have the 26th off work to visit their families in return for a smoothly run Christmas Day feast. Each servant was given a box containing gifts and bonuses and sometimes leftover food! Also around the 1800’s churches would open their alms boxes and distribute the contents to the poor. These boxes were filled with monetary donations from the wealthier members of the congregation.

No matter which version you would like to believe, Boxing Day is still an enjoyable holiday and one spent with family and friends, enjoying the ‘left overs’ and new gifts.

What will you be doing this Boxing Day?

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The Books I Read in 2019

December 19, 2019
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I am an advocate for always reviewing every book I read, not only does it give other readers an insight into the narrative but also acknowledges the author’s hard work. A review is the life blood of any author – so please write a review, even a single sentence is enough. It can be on any platform: Smashwords, Goodreads or Amazon or copy & paste to put it on all three!

My Goodreads page is here if you want to find out what my reviews were for each of the books listed below.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5477628-mandy-eve-barnett?shelf=read

2019 Books: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Elevation, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Lucky One, Spook-Science Tackles the Afterlife, The Icarus Girl, Things Withered, Magnetic North, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, Becoming, Sixpence House, Hollow City, Lomita for Ever, The Little Paris Bookshop, To Air the Laundry, Mrs Everything, Hearts in the Spotlight, Stranger in the Woods, 10 Days in December, Dirt Road, Steampunk FAQ, River of Destiny & Past Presence.

This number equates to about a book and a half a month, which considering I was also writing is not too bad.

As you will see, it is apparent I do not have a particular genre I favour, I much rather chose a book due to the topic or story line than stick to one type of narrative. The Spook book was loaned to me by a friend, who knew of my life long interest in reincarnation and I ordered Stranger in the Woods, as it was one of the news stories I utilized in a work in progress. The others were picked by chance as the blurb caught my eye.

How do you pick a book to read?

Do you have a particular genre you read?

 

Celebrating A Decade of Writing

December 12, 2019
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This year I celebrate a decade of writing. It was not something my creative brain discovered until I came to Canada. Throughout my younger life art was my main creative outlet, whether it was painting, collage, pottery, sculpture, textiles, knitting, sewing, and many more. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room at school rather than in the playground, it was my happy place. From creating abstract art in a multiple of mediums to utilizing fabric remnants found at Liberty’s of London for summer tops, I indulged my creativity. 

This changed as I began adult life and my creative outlets ceased as I entered the workforce and socialized with my peers and then had children. I dappled in rug design without success and although I was gifted an easel one Christmas and attended an art class for a short time, I just didn’t have the time or motivation. It was only when I came to Canada and there was an opportunity to find a creative outlet that I made the decision to find one. I stumbled across the writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ ) by pure chance on a trip to the local library and decided to attend a meeting. From that point on I found my ‘place’ and began to learn a new skill, one which has given me not just a group of firm and supportive friends but also allowed me to discover my new country, as well as attend numerous events and a connection to many other writers from home and further afield.

I blogged about my first writing experience here: https://mandyevebarnett.com/2010/08/17/discovering-a-passion/

Now I have eight published books and three work in progress manuscripts (and numerous ideas filed) and there is no slow down in sight for my writing passion. It has gripped me and I am so happy I ‘found’ my creative life again.

Not only have I written novels but also participated in National Novel Writing Month a total of ten times, attended numerous writing retreats and workshops, presented at workshops, started a freelance writing business (https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/ ) and became Secretary to my writers group. I am truly immersed in the writing life and am so glad I braved that first writing group meeting.

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Why not share your writing life experience?

Photographer & Writer Interview – Janice Meyer Foreman

December 3, 2019
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  1. What inspired your latest book? 

Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, twice, once in the autumn, again a few years later in the spring, and I wanted to share the beauty.        

2. How did you come up with the title? 

A Photographer Walks the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, I wanted people to understand that this was a visual journey along the Camino route.

3. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?  

For those who have walked the Camino the book would serve as a reminder, for those planning their journey it would serve as an inspiration, and for many who cannot make the journey the book will be their virtual journey.

4. How much of the book is realistic? 

The Camino I walked is the same one walked by hundreds of thousands every year, each of us have our own walk, we have our own journey, affected by our senses and sensibilities. Each walk during different seasons, different weather and even different times of days, each see and experiences, and stay in different places, travel with different people. But we all travel the same road, and the images and stories are realistic. 

5. Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? www.jmeyersforeman.com  https://www.instagram.com/jmeyersforeman/  https://twitter.com/meyersforeman

6. Do you have plans or ideas for another book?

I have no other plans for another book at this time, we do want to walk another Camino to Santiago de Compostela, so another book is possible.

Camino Book draft Nov 19, 2019 Cover

Please note this book is still in the process of being published. Links will be added at a later date.

7. What is your best marketing tip? 

I’m new to marketing, so far, marketing has been about the photographs, as individual images, just recently I have started to work towards putting the images together as a series.

8. Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? 

For me social media has been tool to share and sell my photography, and sharing stories with family and friends, only recently have I started to make an effort to expand my social media reach, to make connections with others who.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

9. What do you enjoy most about writing?

 Writing has been a wonderful challenge, and it has been helpful in developing stories related to my travels.

10. What age did you start photography/writing? 

I learned about photography, early in life, while in school, while I was traveling I started to write a blog, much before the days of Instagram, to share my photography and tell my travel stories, much later in life.

11. What genre are you currently reading? 

I read fiction, at this time I have been reading World War ll fiction with women at the center of the story.

12. Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I read for both pleasure and for research. Prior to my first Camino I read a lot about the history and architecture of the pilgrimage, and several autobiographical stories. I enjoy reading fiction with strong female characters.

13. Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband is my biggest supporter, my sister-in-law has been helping with proof-reading, and several good friends have been very encouraging.

14. Where is your favorite creative space?

I work at my desk, processing images with the computer. I also have a laptop and can work from anywhere, I write wherever I can find a quiet space, but my favourite space is early in the morning, in bed, with a cup of coffee, before the day has begun.

15. If you could meet one favorite photographer, who would it be and why?

David Duchemin, a strong photographer, who uses his writing to explore and expand his photography, he is a motivational writer, and his work has inspired me to better work, and better storytelling with my photography.

16. If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

I love Calgary, this is my home, while I love to travel, and have a long list of places I want to spend a month or two, Calgary will always be my home.

17. How do you use writing?

Writing supplements my photography.

18. Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

I don’t often nibble while I write, but I do love my tea, Cream of Earl Grey or Chai are favourites. 

19. What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? 

Completion followed by a long walk is my great reward.

Bio:

Experience Photographer @ Jmeyersforeman Photography

I first learned the magic of photography while taking pictures for the high school yearbook, and developing images in the darkroom. Since then I have been commissioned for both personal and corporate projects include portraits, architecture, travel, and products.

Master Photographer International

In 2018 I applied for and was awarded a Master Photographer designation for my Travel images.

Alamy Stock Photography: Contributor since 2012

Exhibits

I was excited to have my image of “Getting Ready” exhibited in the world famous Calgary Exhibition Stampede Photo Gallery July 2017

Presentations:

Calgary Public Library – Camino slideshow and talk

Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrim – Camino Slideshow and talk

Leadership

Camino 101, Leadership team, Calgary Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

Volunteer

Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Western Living, Art Auction

Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Western Photo Gallery Committees

Wellspring Calgary

Calgary Women’s Center

 

Author Interview – Christie Stratos

November 12, 2019
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  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It energizes me big time! I feel so excited when I get a good writing session in, it’s hard to stop. I could go for hours, but my time is usually limited. When I write short stories in particular, I usually can’t stop until it’s done and I’m happy with it, all in one session. I love it!

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Stress. There are certain things I can write while stressed, but the most common issue for me is settling my mind into writing. I have to work to get myself relaxed and creatively focused, which can take music, ambiance, changing the colors on the screen, and other things. Not fun.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I have! I like writing a lot of different genres, from dark psychological suspense to positivity poetry and haikus, cozy short stories to horror. I’ve polled my readers on this, and they tend to agree that I should keep my real name and at most use my first initial instead of my full first name.

  1. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’m friends with loads of authors, both in person and online, and they all offer different perspectives on writing as well as balancing writing with other work. They’re really good at getting me inspired and motivated! It’s really good to have friends who understand your creative successes and dilemmas—not everyone does.

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart ebook cover

  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Both! My Dark Victoriana Collection is written so that readers can enjoy each book as a standalone, but they’ll enjoy my books on another level if they’ve read the whole collection. Characters and scenes cross over in each novel or short story, so some scenes mean more with the full understand of the collection.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Scrivener, for sure. Using Word was actually stopping me from writing anything longer than a short story. I don’t write in order, I write my scenes in random order, so trying to control that in one Word document or multiple Word documents was not productive for me. Using Scrivener, I just put each scene in one project but in separate text pages, and voila! It’s organized!

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I think Shakespeare’s Hamlet impacted me heavily with this. It was in that play that I realized how important it was to infuse meaning that could be interpreted different ways, and that’s a huge part of my books, which are purposely multi-layered so that readers can either read for entertainment or for depth—whatever they like best.

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  1. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides. He’s an incredible author, and I recommend his novel to anyone who will listen. The psychology, the depth of emotion, the varied characters, and a lot more all come together into something that should really be much better known. Highly impactful contemporary fiction at its best.

I also have to mention Josh de Lioncourt’s The Dragon’s Brood Cycle series, which is bestseller-level fantasy. He’s an outstanding author who blows me away with his incredible worldbuilding and careful attention to detail. He’s on par with some of the biggest fantasy authors out there.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I think alpacas are my spirit animals because they’re very curious and intelligent, and I think they’d really appreciate all the Victorian research I do. They’re herd animals, too, and I have to say my writing community means a lot to me. Plus they’re just so CUTE!

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

An uncountable amount. Seriously. I have a whole bunch of notebooks dedicated to different ideas yet to be written, and I have a whole ton of notes on yet more fiction to be written. The ideas are unending!

The Subtlety of Terror

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Ideally being able to publish at least once per year. That’s difficult for me, although I always have something published, whether it’s a novel, short story, or poetry in an anthology or literary journal. But I’d like to publish at least one novel per year along with other short stories and creative projects.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I spend a ton of time researching in general, some before the book, a lot during, and a lot after the creative writing is finished. My books take place in Victorian America, which can be harder to research than Victorian England, and I want every detail to draw the reader into the time period. It’s important to me that my books are saturated with the Victorian era and are extremely accurate, so I research everything from how many times per day the mail was delivered to what type of wood would be used on a dresser in a middle-class home.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

Not nearly enough. Writing isn’t my priority at the moment, my editing business is, but hopefully that will change in the future…

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

They’re all meaningful, and for those that don’t have Biblical meaning, there’s a reason for it. I choose Biblically significant names because of the time period and to discuss the concept of religion without discussing it outwardly. It doesn’t smack you in the face, it’s just there if you’re interested.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

In my first book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, I have a scene that finally breaks one of my characters, and that scene was extremely hard to write. I felt terrible about what I was doing to her, as bad as if she were a real person. I actually took a month off writing to mourn what I was about to do to her, then came back and wrote the scene in one go. I was glad it was over with once it was done!

  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

My favorite genre to write in is psychological suspense, and that’s what my Dark Victoriana Collection is. It includes everything I love: psychology, suspense, historical fiction, and horror. I’ve had readers call my books psychological thriller and psychological horror as well. I also write horror short stories, and they also rely heavily on what would terrify a person psychologically more than anything. I write positivity haikus and poetry because I’m actually a very positive person despite all my very dark writings! I like to dabble in all genres—I feel it expands my writing horizons and improves my craft.  

  1. How long have you been writing?

Literally since I was capable of writing. I started out with poetry, then moved straight into novels, then short stories. I also love writing haikus and micro-fiction, which I find to be the most challenging and the most rewarding.

  1. What inspires you?  

Victorian jewelry, fantasy art landscapes, hidden object games with strong ambiance, all kinds of music, art… There’s really no end to what inspires me! If I had my way, I’d write all day and night.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

This is the toughest part for me. I’m trying hard to make more time to write, and the only way I find that works is to set aside a reasonable amount of time per day (usually a 15 minute writing sprint) and force myself to write despite all the other things I have on my plate. The thing is that once I start writing, I usually pour out creativity for about an hour, so stopping myself is hard, and a lot of times I just end up not writing at all because of the time suck (for me, an hour is a lot of time to lose on other projects). I’m trying to develop a routine for myself to avoid that catch-22.

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

I have two projects ongoing: the third book in the Dark Victoriana Collection and a positivity book based on the positivity writings I do on Patreon. I do work on other things in the background, but those are my two main focuses. I can’t wait to finish writing my third novel and publish it!

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

A lot more books for the Dark Victoriana Collection. Originally I was going to write one standalone book, then I decided I’d write five books, now the plan is six books and additional short stories. I’m slowly developing a fantasy novel as well, but that’s way on the back burner. I have some horror short stories I’d like to pull into an anthology too. Really the amount of projects I have ideas for is never-ending.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

You can find me at http://christiestratos.com, and from there, you can buy paperbacks directly from me that are signed, gift-wrapped, and include a personalized note. They’re great gifts for the holidays, especially since you can ask me to write the personalized note to anyone. Brotherhood of Secrets also comes with a key charm when you buy the paperback directly from my website. Best of all, the cost is exactly the same as buying a plain paperback with nothing special on Amazon.

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Anatomy of a Darkened Heart links:

Amazon: amzn.com/B015KYJXZ8 

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anatomy-of-a-darkened-heart-christie-stratos/1122766074

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580327

Brotherhood of Secrets links:

Amazon: https://bookgoodies.com/a/B073YPBHST

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/locke-and-keye-christie-stratos/1126977290

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/742458

“The Subtlety of Terror” links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G4PGRG5/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-subtlety-of-terror-christie-stratos/1129229846

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/886308

Social media links:

Patreon: http://patreon.com/christiestratos

Website: http://christiestratos.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2thw6Pn

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Christie-Stratos/e/B015L5FMTM/

Author YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/christiestratos

The Writer’s Edge YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thewritersedgeshow

Creative Edge Writer’s Showcase: https://soundcloud.com/authorsontheair/sets/creative-edge-writers-showcase

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/christiestratos

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/christiestratos

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cstratoswrites

Bio:

Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.

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