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Author Interview – Christie Stratos

November 12, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Christie Stratos headshot_outdoors_crop

  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.

A Creative Workshop Story

November 7, 2019
mandyevebarnett


 

I attended a creative workshop a couple of Saturday’s ago held by my writer’s group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. The topics were POV and plot lines. We had several warm up exercises and an explanation of the various POV types and the variety of plot structure methods. Then with a timed exercise of twenty minutes, we had to write a short story using those techniques but with a title and a genre picked from a bowl. My title was Clue of the Painted Hand in a children’s book style. Although the last couple of paragraphs were added later, I think I did pretty well to have characters, plot, and a beginning, middle and finally an end!

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Clue of the Painted Hand

Daisy pulled at her mother’s hand as they entered the library. It was her favorite place. Books let her escape to other worlds and made her feel less lonely. An only child, Daisy looked like a mini replica of her mother – blonde, brown eyes and slim -the only difference was the flower shaped birthmark on her right cheek. The reason she was called Daisy.

As usual there were lots of people in the library browsing book shelves and she saw a small huddle of younger children were listening to story time. Daisy felt too old for the short picture book stories and felt proud her reading age was ten years old, more than her real age of seven. She surpassed most of her school class mates in reading.

She looked over to see her mother talking to a friend so made her way to the book shelves in her favorite section – mystery adventure. Daisy loved jigsaw puzzle when she was younger, solving the patterns to create a whole picture. Now it was the same with stories. She would figure out the answer to the clues in the narrative before the end, most of the time.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Daisy ran her fingers across the book spines reading the titles. If one interested her, she took it out and read the explanation on the back. One by one she piled up books beside her. She could take out ten books and always finished them before the next Saturday. One book pulled another off the shelf and Daisy dropped them on the floor. As she lay down to grab one from under the shelf her fingers encountered another book shoved under the wooden base. After several tries she prised a dusty old book from under the shelf. It was an old book, its cover tattered and dusty. Daisy used her sleeve to wipe the dust off the cover. The title was immediately interesting – Clue of the Painted Hand. Oh this looks good, she thought. Turning the book over and opening it, she realized there was no library stamp of barcode. How long has it been there? Looking side to side, Daisy felt a real thrill – a book I can keep! A shiver of excitement and guilt went through her young body. No-one would know, she could put it in her coat pocket without anyone seeing. Her curiosity could wait no longer; opening the first page a map covered the first two pages. As she traced her finger over the markings and named streets, she recognized one – Hampton Avenue, where she lived. How could a book hidden under a shelf have a map of her town?

“Daisy, are you ready to go?”

Her mother’s voice startled Daisy and she quickly put the book in her pocket before picking up her selected library books. With the books scanned, they returned to the car. Daisy kept her excitement to herself but raced upstairs as soon as they arrived home. Now I can read the clues and find whatever treasure there is. It only took an hour to read the book. It told the story of an old Jack in the Box made by a master toymaker, who lived in the town many years before. His shop sign was a painted hand. This particular Jack in the Box had a musical mechanism and a doll instead of a jack, which popped up. Daisy read the clue, traced the map’s tracks and realized the location of the box was in the play ground behind her house.

She walked through the back garden, through the gate and counted steps just like the map said – one, two, three – until she reached twenty-five steps. Standing beside an overgrown old fountain, she pulled ivy and weeds away. The instructions said there was a secret detail to push in sequence. Daisy brushed away dirt and old leaves to find the stone carved like a bunch of daisies. She pressed the first petal it did not move, then another. Gradually, she discovered the petals that did move and marked them with a thumbprint. Now how do I press them in the right order? She sat down cross-legged and looked at the stone decoration. It was a posy of daisies, the stems long and disappearing into the weeds. Maybe I should pull these weeds out as well. Her thought propelled her into action. The flower stems were encased in a stone vase decoration with faint lettering on it. After rubbing the grime off with her sleeve, the words were clearer. A riddle! How exciting.

I’m at the peak

Then to the right

Follow me to the base

And reach to the left

A final center will release

Daisy read the riddle three times then pressed the loose petals, top, right, left, bottom and center. A grating sound alerted her to something moving. The vase shape pushed forward to reveal a void. Sitting in it was a dusty square box. With nervous excitement, Daisy pulled it out of its hiding place and wiped it clean. She knew her mother would be upset with all the dirt on her clothes but the treasure was worth it. Gently, she wound the handle on the side of the box until the lid burst open to reveal a beautiful blonde doll, head to one side holding a book and smiling. Music started to play and the doll’s head moved side to side just like if she was reading. This is so beautiful, she looks a little like me. Blowing gently she rid the doll and its book of a layer of dust. That’s when she saw the title of the book – Daisy the Adventurer. It is me! How can that be? Another mystery for me to solve but maybe I will need mother’s help. With great care, Daisy pushed the stone vase back into place, pulled the ivy and weeds back over the fountain and walked home cradling her treasure.

I hope you liked it. 

Which plot method do you think I used? Story map, Story Flow Chart or Story Mountain?

 

The Most Common Question a Writer is Asked…

October 24, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Where do you get your ideas from?

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It may seem like an easy to answer question but for most writer’s it is a multi faceted one. I have answered with:

  1. Word or picture prompts
  2. Dreams
  3. Overheard snippets of conversation
  4. People watching
  5. An idea popped into my head randomly
  6. A personal interest 
  7. A topic of conversation

A couple of examples:

My children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare was a Halloween prompt, which I turned upside down. It is the monster’s point of view of Halloween and his first scare adventure with his Mum.

The Rython Kingdom began as a series of prompts that gelled together to form a story by pure chance.

It is not so clear cut as these to be honest but it helps a non-writer understand the creativity side of our brains a little easier.

I presented a workshop on how to formulate an idea into a novel at the WFSC writer’s conference in the spring. From that initial spark to compiling a story line/arc, creating a plot arc, introducing characters, and finding the correct conclusion for the genre. It was a fun experience.

Do you have Questions:

I would love to explain the nucleus of my stories if you have a question about any of my books. Here is the list: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01MDUAS0V

Just leave your question in the comments below. Let’s start a conversation and writers please comment on how your current WIP evolved.

 

 

 

 

Author Tool Box Blog Hop – Tips on Promoting Your Book

October 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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 #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop 

As writers and authors, we are formidable in our ability to create narratives but we also have to learn how to market the ‘end product’ of those many months or even years of creativity. We become a book business.

  1. The first avenue many authors take is social media, which can be seen as a ‘soft’ option. After all we are not up close and personal with the public but at arm’s length. However, due to the countless sites available just choosing the ‘right’ one or two can be overwhelming. Then there is the matter of maintaining our ‘presence’ on each platform. We need to research which avenues of promotion will work best not just for our genres but also our ability to sustain them. Do your research on similar authors in your genre and see what they use (and of course ‘follow’ them).

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     2. Following selected authors, genre based bloggers, book reviewers, and writing        groups allows you to gain followers but also to learn about your particular genre   and gain a reader base. When someone is interested in your genre they ‘search’ for more posts, articles, links and books within that specific field. While you are doing that follow 10 ‘friends’ of friends on Facebook and 100 people on Twitter – this can gain a wider audience. However, in light of these two platforms losing participants also follow people on Instagram. (We have to keep up with the ‘in’ thing!)

3. Improve your author bio on all platforms to entice and inform as many followers as possible on all sales sites, your blog and social media platforms. Ask yourself – does it reflect you as a writer as well as a person.

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4. Use hashtags specific to writing, authors, books, genre and associated links – look at what other authors use.

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5. Then there is the personal touch, which means organizing or being involved in author readings, attending book events and participating in Q&A panels. Search your local area for book related events, get to know your local bookstores, inquire at your library, join a local writing group, the wider your reach the easier it will be to find avenues of sale for your book.

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6. Merchandise is another way of promoting your book. It can be as simple as custom bookmarks to T-shirts with the book cover/main character on the front. Make up a prize basket for a contest to be collected at an event (good photo opportunity to use on social media) or create an online contest for a free autographed copy of your book.

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7. An easy promotion is to leave five of your author business cards in local businesses, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or anywhere you visit on a regular basis. Many places have community boards too so pin some cards or a poster of an event you are attending there too.

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Do you have any promotion tips you would like to share?

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

 

Author Interview – Danielle Metcalfe-Chenai

August 20, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

https://www.facebook.com/MaritzaAndersonPhotography/?fref=ts

What inspired your latest book?

Alis the Aviator was initially inspired by my son. Andre was two years old and a very wiggly, spirited kid who loved airplanes – but couldn’t sit through long books. I’d just published my second popular aviation history for adults, and had so many fun facts swirling around in my head. I sat on the back porch of my house one day when he was napping and most of the first draft poured out onto the page in the bouncy, rhyming style I love from growing up with Dr. Seuss.

How did you come up with the title?

Alis is based on the real-life Dr. Alis Kennedy, likely the first Indigenous woman in Canada to get her private and commercial pilot’s licenses. I found out about Dr. Alis after I’d completed the ABCs of the book, and then was able to layer in her inspirational story in the bio. Dr. Alis has flown planes, but also is a veteran with a doctorate in psychology, who now dedicates her life to amazing volunteer causes around the world.           

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

I hope that little kids – especially girls – read the book and feel like aviation is a dream they can pursue. The illustrator, Kalpna Patel, did such an amazing job getting the people in her cut-paper art to reflect the incredible diversity we have in Canada and the US. The number of girls and people of colour in aviation is tiny, unfortunately – and I recently learned that only about 1% of all picture books feature Indigenous characters. I hope kids of all backgrounds see themselves reflected in this book!

How much of the book is realistic?

This book is 100% fact-based. It’s a nonfiction picture book that incorporates my years of aviation history research, but presents it in a colourful and quirky way to hopefully capture the imaginations of tykes and their grownups.

Do you have plans for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I have a few manuscripts in the works. The one I see following on from Alis the Aviator is a picture book biography of the pioneering Gwich’in pilot, Freddie Carmichael. We’ve known each other for ten years and it was incredible spending a week with him in Inuvik this past March working on the book. I can’t wait to share his story with the world!

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Do you favor one type of genre?

I write across genres and audiences, which can be tricky from a branding perspective! So far I’ve published nonfiction for adults and kids, but I’ve got two novels in the works (a WW2 book and an upmarket contemporary novel). I’ve also been researching and writing a book about the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital that is part memoir and part history.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I’m a plantser – half and half. It really depends on the project. With my picture books, it’s like writing poetry or songs. I do a ton of research and thinking and then the first draft pours out of me in one or two sittings (with multiple rewrites and tweaks). With my adult popular histories it was easier to plan out ahead of time because I had most of the research done and they were chronological. But even then there were surprises! My novels and creative nonfiction are somewhere in the middle because they are largely based on research and real-life events.

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What is your best marketing tip?

It’s also my best writing and life tip! Make friends. Join communities. Be a good literary citizen. Remember that high tides raise all ships. 

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

A little of column A and a little of column B. Or a lot of each, actually. Social media has been a great way to connect with people around the world – especially as I move around so much. I learn so much through those channels as well. At the same time, it can have a toxic quality to it full of judgment, comparison and shaming. I find if I think about it too much it can have a silencing effect, because I worry too much about what other people will think of me. And, like the news, it can be devastating and overwhelming, so I have to be careful how much I take in.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It’s hard to pick just one! While it’s true that sometimes it can make me cry with how challenging it can be, with how exposed I feel, there are those times when I’m in the flow and it’s like all is well. I’m in alignment. My words come out and I feel that maybe I will be understood and seen.

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What age did you start writing stories/poems?

My parents saved the clippings from when I was a kid – so there’s (often embarrassing) proof that I was scribbling little stories and poems from a young age. I created a little zine in my neighbourhood with friends when I was in elementary school and then was co-editor of a school newspaper in middle school. I think I published my first letter to the editor in the Ottawa Citizen in Grade 8 – then I was totally hooked on bylines!

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I have jumped all over the place – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, kidlit and freelance writing for magazines and newspapers. They all feed into each other in interesting ways, I’ve noticed, and taught me different lessons. Freelancing was excellent discipline for hitting deadlines and pitching ideas, and not taking edits personally.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to several writing organizations: the Writers Union of Canada, Creative Nonfiction Collective, and the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators. I was a member of the Writers Guild of Alberta for five years and it was excellent – I still miss it! I’ve created two critique groups since moving to Houston. One is online-only and focuses mostly on creative nonfiction. Members span from Canada to California to Texas. The other one is in-person here in Houston. I realized it’s not natural for me to write in a cave all the time!

Do you see writing as a career?

Actually, I see it as more of a compulsion. A job you can quit. This is forever. My son (who is now 7 years old) asked me the other day, “Mama, will you ever stop writing?” And I told him, “As long as the stories and ideas keep coming, I’ll keep writing.”

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

If readers would like to connect with me, they can find me at my website (www.daniellemc.com), and on social media: @Danielle_Author on Twitter, @dmchenail on Instagram, and Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail on Facebook. I also have a blog dedicated to my Camsell Hospital research, www.ghostsofcamsell.ca.

 

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