Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Author Interview J.E. McKnight

September 22, 2022
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You have written many novels, and most are time travel or sci-fi – what drew you to this specific type of genre?

The easiest answer to this is to say that I was inspired by my love for Back to the Future that I saw at the drive-in theater with my parents in 1985. It is my all-time favourite movie and gave me my love of time travel, which also extended to science fiction in general.

Do your story ideas come easily, or do they develop over time?

Some of them come easy while others take quite a bit of time. Initial ideas come pretty easy. I’ll hear somebody say something or I’ll be listening to a song and that sparks an idea. My ideas come from many different places. It seems I always have ideas coming. I have a list for NaNoWriMo up until 2028.

What is your writing process?

I usually just sit down and write. I’ll come up with an idea and I may take a few notes, but I don’t do a lot of plotting. I prefer to just write and figure things out in editing.

Do you have future projects pending?

I have two projects in editing right now and another one ready for editing, but I’m honestly not sure what I’m doing with that one. I also have the previous year’s NaNoWriMo project that needs to be completed. I unfortunately did not meet my goal.

You are attending a book fair event on 24th September, can you tell us about it?

Yes. Words in the Park is held in Sherwood Park in the Strathcona Community Center’s Agora Room from 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first live event for Words in the Park that we’ve had for 2 years. There are going to be around 30 artisans, and authors in attendance. There is going to be lots to do for all ages.

Tell us a little about your most recent published books?

Virtual Age

What inspired your novel Virtual Age?

I’ve always liked the idea of virtual reality. I can’t think of any one thing that inspired the idea. As for the title, I came up with that at work. I work as a commercial pipe insulator and I remember being on a job and I had to wait for material as it hadn’t been delivered yet. As I was waiting, I took notes on the different ages from history – dark ages, iron age, computer age, etc. – and I ended up using that list in the book.

Do you think this format could become real?

I wouldn’t be surprised. I hope it doesn’t come to the point where it becomes a necessity for survival as the world dies but, as far as the technology is concerned, we are becoming more and more advanced as the years go on. Today VR is impressively advanced; maybe one day we’ll get to step into these computer worlds rather than just have images coming at you.

Would there be dangers to being immersed in such a ‘world’?

I could only imagine the dangers that would be involved with immersing your mind into a computer. I included some of the dangers, in my novel, I figured would be relevant in this scenario.

Does your narrative have a message for your readers?

 In most of my books I include the message of acceptance and trust – accepting people for who they are and trusting people until they give you a real reason not to. Don’t judge someone before you get to know them.

Last Stop

When did this story idea come to you?

I’ve had this idea for years. I don’t know exactly when I came up with it. All I know is I heard the Journey song Don’t Stop Believing. There’s a line in the song about a couple meeting on a midnight train. I loved that idea and it spawned from there.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I am intrigued by the idea of ghosts. I have not had any experiences with ghosts and am kind of skeptical. I think if something has happened or were to happen, I would try to explain it away logically. Though, I hope there is something out there.

Why did you base the novel in Edmonton’s LRT system?

I based the novel in Edmonton because I love where I live and, because I live here, it’s easier to write what you know. I chose the LRT system because it perfectly met with my initial inspiration of the couple meeting on a midnight train.

Hello Baby, Nice to Meet You!

Why did you write this story?

I have always wanted to write a children’s book. I have had other ideas in my head in the past but then, when my sister announced she was pregnant, I had an idea to write a book for her child. The title of the story was going to be for a very different story. In that one it was going to be about a father trying to get to the hospital in time to see his wife have his baby. I chose to change the idea as I thought a book about animals would appeal more to kids.

Did you base the characters and location on personal experience?

It’s not about anyone or any place in particular. I did grow up on a farm but, by the time I came around, my parents had gotten rid of most of the animals. We did have cats, a rabbit at one point, and a bunch of laying chickens. I wanted to expand a little bit on what I knew, and chose the animals for the book that would be different enough from each other to be interesting. I could have done more, but I needed to draw a line somewhere.

What advantages does this story have for parents as well as children?

For parents it’s easy to read and there really aren’t a lot of pages, so if their child has a short attention span it’s great for that. For kids I included bits of trivia for them to learn from. Also, the kids will enjoy the brightly coloured illustrations of the fun animals and their young.

Who was the illustrator?

I illustrated it. This is the second full-coloured illustrated kids book I illustrated, but this is the first one I had both written and illustrated.

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?

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.

Creative Edge Author Interview – Katherine Lawrence

July 21, 2022
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  1. When did you start writing poetry? What was, and is your inspiration?
    I began in high school, not long after my parents’ divorce. Looking back, I see that I turned to writing to sort out my confusion at the time. My world was upended when my parents sold the family house in 1968. I was 13 years old. My parents moved into separate apartments in different cities. My younger sister and I moved out with our mother, about 20 km away from our father. The change felt like we had moved
    to a foreign country. In many ways, that was true. My inspiration was initially the lyrics of Joni Mitchell. Her music continues to resonate for me, and millions of other fans. I lean on good literature and music to
    take me into poetry.
  2. How did writing Stay and Never Mind differ from your usual writing method?
    I started “Stay” before I began writing “Never Mind” but I got bogged down. I needed more time to study other verse novels. I also needed to collect feedback on an early draft. I turned to middle-grade students at a local school for their opinions and then I set the manuscript aside.
    It was during this period that my mother died. I felt numb for a long time and was unable to write. One day, I recalled a letter from the Canadian settler Susanna Moodie (1803-1885). She wrote that once she touched the shores of the New World, she never saw, touched, or heard her mother back home in England ever again. It seemed to be something that she had not anticipated when she and her husband set sail for Canada. Or perhaps she hadn’t let herself dwell on the reality of
    separation from her mother and sisters. She was describing her grief and I understood what Moodie was saying. I also heard the voice that led me to invent the character I named Wife. I placed her in a setting similar to Moodie’s. I funnelled all my private grief and longing into Wife and built a story that was far removed from my mother’s life yet was emotionally similar. My mother was lonely in her marriage and eventually left my father for her own “new world.” I wrote into the emotional truth of loss. “Never Mind” taught me how to write in the tradition of the long poem. The book also showed me that I could hold a story in my head while developing poems in keeping with a narrative arc. I spoke to my mother by phone the night before she died. I didn’t know it would be our final conversation. Her last question was about “Stay”. She wanted to know how the book was going. I had put the manuscript away. About three years later, our final conversation returned to me as I was sitting in my office one day. I opened the
    file and finished writing “Stay” in about one month.

3. Can you tell us a little about the character Millie in Stay? Is she real, imagined or both?
Millie is smart, observant, and passionate about two things: her family and dogs. She wants her family to stay together AND she wants to adopt a puppy. But Millie’s parents have decided to split-up. Her world has turned upside down but since she’s 11 years old, she’s also selfish in the way that every adolescent is self-focused. Millie wants what she wants: Mom and Dad to stay together in the same house so that she can bring home a puppy and not have to live between two homes. But Dad moves into an apartment where a sign on the front door reads NO DOGS ALLOWED. Millie is an imagined character who is informed by my knowledge and experience of family breakdown.

  1. What message do you want to convey with the story?
    Nothing stays the same, not even our family— our foundational structure. We all must learn to adapt.
  2. What did you learn when you were writer in residence?
    I loved my residency at the library. I learned that hundreds of people have stories and poems inside them. I learned that most people are looking for a little guidance and a lot of encouragement because writing is a solitary and somewhat mysterious activity. I have always turned to other writers for support and was happy to do the same for others.
  3. When compiling a poetry collection, what is your main objective?
    I’m driven by narrative. I like my work to tell a story. I’ve just published my fifth book, a poetic memoir titled “Black Umbrella”. Again, it’s about family dysfunction and again it tells a story. I assembled the book by looking for the narrative arc once I’d written about 70 percent of the poems. I later went back and filled in any gaps in the story. I strive to write poetry that is inventive, accessible, and alive.
  4. Which poet(s) inspire you?
    I read a lot of poetry. I’m currently reading the work of Calgary poet Micheline Maylor, but I often return to Emily Dickinson. I see something new in Dickinson every time I turn to her work.
  1. What are you currently working on?
    I’m in research mode. I’m curious about the concept of ambivalent motherhood.
  2. How can readers find you?
    Go to my website and contact me. I promise to respond and I love hearing from readers. Link:
  3. Where and how often do you write?
    I have a small office on the second floor of my home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I live with my husband. I disappear into my office for several hours most days.

Bio:

Saskatoon writer Katherine Lawrence has published four poetry collections and the award-winning novel-in-verse, Stay. Her work has been published across the country and has been long listed twice for the CBC Literary Awards. Originally from Hamilton, Katherine has lived on the prairies for over 35 years. She is a former writer-in-residence for the Saskatoon Public Library and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Saskatchewan. You can find her online at
http://www.katherinelawrence.net

Author Interview – Lucas Salmon

June 30, 2022
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1. My inspiration for “Sounds Fishy” just came from jostling ideas around in my head. I tend to come up with some odd, humorous ideas with relative ease, so this concept was pretty tame by most standards. However, when I thought about a space crew flying around, it only seemed natural to make them fish!

2. My initial idea for characters was somewhat foggy and ambiguous at first; but when I thought about how they were going to be astronauts, it made sense to me that I should name them after actual astronauts and cosmonauts. Cally Wide for Sally Ride, Fuzzy Baldwin for Buzz Aldrin, and Journey Grey Area for Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to journey into outer space. I enjoyed the play on words that their names have become. 

3. In the book, the three crew mates face off against the galactic shark mafia. Once victorious, they scoot off and make the statement that you never leave a friend behind. I’d like kids to think about that concept of loyalty and dedication, and to consider how they would look after one another if presented with a dangerous situation.

4. Why sci-fi? I love sci-fi. I think this is the genre that allows for the most creativity and the greatest allowance of the imagination. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun when a bit of whimsy is added. 

5. Being that this is my first book, I learned about the whole process of constructing a story and illustrating it. I also learned what it’s like working with a publisher and the methods of advertising. There’s definitely more to it than I thought!

6. This is the first in what I’m planning on making as a three-part series. I am currently working on the sequel, “Smells Fishy Too”. It’s already written, and I am working on the illustrations at this time. I hope to have it out soon. 

7. I need a quiet place to write, but the world is a noisy place, so I typically put on my music and block it all out. Plus, music helps me get my first ideas to the forefront of my mind. 

8. Well, I love Steinbeck and Dean Koontz. I was never much into comic books,  but one of my favorite illustrators is Todd McFarlane. He has a very Hogarth-inspired look to his work.

9. I don’t belong to a writers group, but that is something I may become part of. As a new author, this is still all new to me, so I’m sort of taking it a day at a time. 

10. Readers can find me on my website at lucassalmonfineartwork.godaddysites.com, or on Instagram at lsfineartwork2021. I hope to see you there!

Book trailer for him on YouTube. It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NaVihtVgf8

eBook on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Sounds-Fishy-Lucas-Salmon-ebook/dp/B09SVZXC49/?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_w=cxbUV&content-id=amzn1.sym.bbb6bbd8-d236-47cb-b42f-734cb0cacc1f&pf_rd_p=bbb6bbd8-d236-47cb-b42f-734cb0cacc1f&pf_rd_r=KFRJHJE0EDF9DV8ZQS78&pd_rd_wg=Qxdfr&pd_rd_r=bc459990-d24f-4f9c-973a-12cdb7c60984&ref_=pd_gw_ci_mcx_mi.

Paperback on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Sounds-Fishy-Lucas-Salmon/dp/1948804255/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

BIO:

Lucas Salmon is an independent artist with over 35 years of experience in drawing and painting. These days he’s focused mainly on painting with watercolors. His style can be called “Realistic”, or “Photo-realistic”, depending on the subject matter.

In his early 40s, Lucas lives near the east coast where he continues to hone his skills as an artist, always seeking to improve his craft. Inspired by science and nature, he continues to experiment with different styles and subjects.

Lucas has found writing to also be rewarding. He has written, illustrated, and published his first book, ” Sounds Fishy”. He is now putting the finishing touches on his second book, “Smells Fishy Too”, the sequel. Both books were inspired by his great love for science fiction and remembered ideas from his childhood as he would create imaginative characters and worlds in his mind, just to keep busy!

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