Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Utilizing Your Writer in Residence

January 27, 2022
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I have once again taken advantage of our local Writer in Residence program hosted by my library. Last week, I attended a virtual presentation entitled Writing Three Dimensional Characters That Sing. It was a highly informational session. As writers we are always learning and taking the time to learn is essential in improving our writing craft.

There was an extra bonus to this year’s writer in residence as she is an acquaintance and a great writer and writing community advocate. Rayanne Haines is the author of seven books, including three poetry collections. Her artistic practice focuses on projects that look to redeem and empower women’s narratives. In addition to her writing, teaching, and festival work, she also produces/curates intersectional feminist poetry films and panels with authors across Canada. Her current work focuses on mental health and intergenerational female trauma.

Having the opportunity to access a writing mentor and their free services through this program enables local writers to gain insight into their work. The program services include individual manuscript consultations, public readings and talks, information on the publishing process and networking with the writing community.

Do you have a similar program where you live?

What devices, programs and events do you use to learn your craft?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Creative Edge Author Interview – Caroline Giammanco

January 20, 2022
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  1. What inspired you to write this collection of paranormal and science fiction stories? (Into the Night)

    My mother was a strong influence on me growing up, and she encouraged us to consider the “what ifs” of the universe. We watched Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and enjoyed talking about the possibilities of aliens, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. It’s a genre I’ve been drawn to my entire life. 

    After writing three hard-hitting nonfiction books, I needed a break. I still wanted to be creative, but I didn’t want to go through the emotional meat grinder of another true crime/criminal justice book. I was drained, so I decided to write science fiction and paranormal stories for fun. It has been a nice change of pace to create the monsters instead of writing about the real ones.

   Henry was another strong influence on me as a child. I enjoy stories with a twist, and I incorporate a twist into nearly every fiction piece I write whether it is science fiction, paranormal, or general fiction. I like taking readers by surprise, and I like to make them look at items we take for granted in new ways.

  1. Did you have these stories filed away for a while, or did you write them specifically for the collection?

    Since I hadn’t decided to start writing short stories until I was needing a break from my nonfiction books, these stories are new material I wrote for the collection. I hadn’t written short stories prior to writing my books, so there were none to pull out of storage. 

  1. Do you have a favorite story in the collection, and if so, why?

    Different stories appeal to me for different reasons. I incorporate a piece of myself and my life experiences into each one. Charcoal Drawings haunted me to some degree because, as a teacher, I pictured myself as the main character, Mylah Kennedy. I didn’t finish this story until 1:30 in the morning, and when I ended it and looked out at my pitch-black bedroom, it gave me the “heeby-geebies.”

4. What is your writing schedule like?

    Unlike some writers, I don’t have a set schedule, nor do I believe I have to write every day in order to be a “real” writer. I’m busy with my teaching job, a long commute, my farm, and family obligations. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. If a story idea needs more time to develop in my mind, I let it rest until it’s ready to come out. At other times, when I have the writing bug, so to speak, I’ll write two stories in a weekend. I need to be in the right frame of mind. I know some writers feel as though they must write “x” amount of words per day, but that sounds too much like drudgery to me. I write because I enjoy the creative process, and my creative process doesn’t work well under artificial constraints like a required word count. To answer the question: I have no writing schedule

5. How do you research for your books?

    My three nonfiction books deal with the criminal justice system. Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower are the real-life experiences of my husband and myself, so research wasn’t necessary. For Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance, I interviewed other women who have incarcerated loved ones and their family members.

6. Where is your favorite place to write?

    I like to be comfortable when I write, so I prefer to write in bed, especially at night. There are few distractions and my ideas flow more easily at night when I’m relaxed. If an idea hits me, and I’m able to jot it down, however, I’ll write anywhere.

7. When did you start writing?

    I’m a high school English teacher, but I never wrote anything other than work-related items until I began my first book, Bank Notes. Over the years, people told me I should write, but I never had a purpose for writing until the story of my husband’s experiences needed to be told.

8. Do you have a blog, website, or social media links you can share?

 My WordPress blog site is carolinegiammanco writes. My Twitter account is @GiammancoBook. I’m on Facebook at Caroline Giammanco Author and at Caroline Giammanco Author Fans

9. Your other books cover some controversial and powerful subjects. Can you let us know how they came about and why you chose to write them

a) Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit

In July 2011, I began teaching the GED program at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri. That is a maximum-security men’s prison, and working in a prison was never on my bucket list. The Great Recession caused my school district, and many others, to cut positions, and I found myself needing a job, so I applied.

In late March 2012, I hired Donald Keith Giammanco to work as a tutor in my classroom.  Each of the ten classrooms had two tutors who assisted the teachers. I didn’t realize that Keith was The Boonie Hat Bandit for a few weeks after I’d hired him, but he had been upfront at the interview and told me he had robbed banks in the St. Louis area using notes. Keith and my other tutor were enrolled in a college business class at the time, and I would proofread their papers. Keith is intelligent, but spelling isn’t his strong suit, so I told him one day that if he ever wrote a book or screenplay, he might want to have me edit it first. We laughed, but it was an idea we stuck with. Over time, it went from me editing his story to helping him write it. Together we collaborated to let the world know what the criminal justice system looks like as experienced by a middle-class adult who went down the wrong path. It’s a world most citizens don’t see, and the corruption we witnessed each day needed to be brought to light.   

b) Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance

    After I wrote Bank Notes, I took part in dozens of Barnes and Noble book signings around the country. Each time, I was met with people who were incredulous that I was involved with an inmate. “You don’t look like someone who would marry an inmate” was a common thread. After talking with me for a while, or after they read my book, they would change their mind and say something along the lines of, “Well, you and Keith are okay, but those other women…”

    By this time, I knew several families with incarcerated loved ones, and they weren’t the stereotype at all. They were hard-working, middle-class, upstanding people who happened to love someone who made mistakes. I felt it was important to share their stories in hopes some of the stigma could be taken away. I chose Guilty Hearts for the name of the book because too often anyone who is related to or loves an inmate is painted with the same guilt as the incarcerated person. We are not second-class citizens

c) Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower:

    Now that I had told my husband’s story, and the stories of a dozen other families, I decided the time was right to tell my own experiences working inside the Missouri prison system, including what I saw, the death threats, and my activism to change a terribly flawed system that leaves none of us any safer.

10. As a teacher, do you encourage your students to write their stories?

    I believe it is important to help students find their voices. Every class I teach has a writing component, and I teach a course called Creative Writing.

11. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction when you read and why?

    Ever since I was a young child, I prefer nonfiction. Real people and real places have always fascinated me. I enjoy good fiction works, but nonfiction is a mainstay for me.

12. Does your location inspire you to write and how?

    I grew up on an eighty-acre farm in the Missouri Ozark Mountains, and the love of the country has never left me. After I graduated high school, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to attend the University of Arizona. I ended up living in Arizona and New Mexico for over twenty years before returning to rural southern Missouri in 2006. 

    Each place I have lived has left an imprint on me, and I draw from those places whenever I write. In addition to science fiction, paranormal, and general fiction, I also write westerns that are heavily influenced by my time out West.

Bio:

Caroline Giammanco is an author and high school English teacher. She grew up in Douglas County, Missouri and moved to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an English minor. She lives on her sixty-acre farm in southern Missouri. Caroline is married to the love of her life, Keith Giammanco. 

Caroline’s previous published works are nonfiction and deal with the criminal justice system: Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit; Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romances; and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower. 

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – The Dreaded Editing Process

December 2, 2021
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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.

Where should you start?

Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.

When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.

Limit each read through to a specific task.

When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.

Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:

  1. Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
  2. Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.

When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene.  Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!  

Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.

What is your editing process like?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Surviving and Thriving in NaNoWriMo

November 25, 2021
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As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.

National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.

The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.

Here are a few tips I found worked for me:

  1. Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
  2. Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
  3. Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
  4. Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
  5. Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
  6. Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
  7. Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
  8. Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
  9. Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
  10. Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
  11. Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
  12. Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
  13. Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
  14. Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
  15. Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.

Creative Edge Author Interview -Nicole Fanning

November 12, 2021
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1.       Where did the idea for Catalyst come from?

While I have admittedly never READ a mafia romance, I am obsessed with the history and lore behind several of the world’s successful crime organizations. Chicago alone has a long history with the mafia but all over the world different variations of organized crime have, while somewhat controversial, still been a vital part of society. They are always protrayed as a villian, a heartless and honorless beast that must be fed…but I never saw them that way. I always thought for these families to exist and maintain power as long as they have, they MUST have had their internal codes of honor, trust, and sense of community that knit everyone together, and so I decided to write that.

Additionally, what mafia romances I have watched on the silver screen seem to stick to the same three motifs: Either the female MC was kidnapped, or she witnessed something she wasn’t supposed to, or she was forced into an arranged marriage.

I wanted to do something different, so I had my story originate from the unintentional collision of two worlds: Jaxon’s world of the underground, and Natalie’s of what we view as “normal society.”

2.       Did you know it would be part of a series when you started writing it? 

Yes! I have plans for 16 books in this series!

3.       Which character really propelled the narrative for you?

 Jaxon. He is flawed but protective, dangerous but compassionate. I love Natalie, but she’s more who I aspire to be, less of who I identify with now. Haha!

4.       What draws you to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing?

The complexity and his drive to make his readers think-while still delivering a satisfying yet surprising ending!

5.       Have you formulated your narratives as homage to his style?

Absolutely. I agree with him that great and relatable stories are often pulled from human experience. As he once said:

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”

6.       Where do you typically write?

While I love my office at home, the world is my office and I am constantly writing all day long on my phone. I have thumb muscles of steel!

7.       Are you a member of a writing group? 

Not officially, but I do have a little community of writers that have come together as fans of “Heart of the Inferno” and we have created a Discord. They are the most incredible ladies, who support and inspire me DAILY. 

8.       What do you enjoy most about writing?

It is truly relaxing for me. It allows me to be creative without the messiness and chaos that typical creative processes take, something my type-A personality appreciates.

9.       Where can readers find you and your books? 

Amazon and Kindle

10.   Do you have more writing projects in the works? 

Oh yes! Book three, the conclusion of THIS part of the story with Jaxon and Natalie, drops at the end of May 2022. However, as I mentioned there are 13 more books planned, featuring side characters in HOTI as the main characters (and don’t worry, Jaxon and Natalie will continue as side characters too!)

Big plans indeed!

Nicole’s debut novel, Catalyst, is the first incendiary installment of the Heart of the Inferno Series, which follows the story of a dangerous mafia don and the girl who became his only exception

Catalyst (Heart of the Inferno) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B092C8TMWR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_8S8EC1WGPSRDF5CRXQS0

Ignite: Heart of the Inferno https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DFK5TLW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_T32C3P8QAFZASPA8P6DM

Bio

Nicole is an author, copywriter, wife and super proud dog mom to three rambunctious rescue dogs. And is also an old school romantic, with a proclivity for a little mischief, and an obsession with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With a background in marketing, and Human Resources, she has often found that the human element is by far the most colorful, complex and most interesting in the world. As a child, Nicole devoured every book she could get my hands on, and spent her free time writing fictional short-stories to share with her friends, probably the reason she decided to write (and publish) her first book series: Heart of the Inferno. It’s an action-romance about a dangerous mafia lord named Jaxon Pace, and Natalie Tyler, the girl who became his only exception.

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