Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Magical Wonderment…

December 23, 2013

Omnivorous – definition: 1. eating food of both animal and plant origin; 2. eating all kinds of food indiscriminately

While deciding on what to write about today, I realized that several of the animals in my children’s chapter book, Ockleberries to the Rescue, are actually omnivores. The story centers around two magical, healer sprites, who help the animals within the forest they live. Among these are Bruin the bear, Swift the fox, Spike the hedgehog, Cyril the pine marten, Morry the mole and the twin squirrels,  Rayce andChase. All of these characters are omnivorous, in other words eat meat as well as plant matter of one type or another. As you can see I chose my animal names carefully and love how they reflect the animals characters.

It was fun to create this magical world and incorporate my love of the animal kingdom at the same time. The book is in final editing and I am waiting for the illustrations to be completed. Hopefully it will be available as an e-book and print on demand by early spring. Keep an eye on my author page at for updates.

I delight in the existence of fairies, sprites, pixies and the like as well, it is a childlike wonder. I own a book on gnomes and another on fairies. Both are beautifully illustrated and written.

Here are the front covers:


Do you have a childlike love of something?

How to Choose a Perfect Novel Excerpt…

December 19, 2013

Excerpt – definition: a passage or quotation taken or selected from a book, document, film etc. : extract


Excerpts are a great way to entice readers to purchase our narratives. The trick is finding the ‘perfect’ excerpt that encompasses the story enough without giving too much away.  It should also introduce your main character, show exciting action and display intriguing dialogue. The other consideration is to ensure the excerpt is a ‘stand alone’ , in other words it has a beginning, middle and end. The length of an excerpt is commonly between 1,000 and 5,000 words.

How did you choose your excerpt? Care to share any tips?

The following link is a good list of these points you can print out.

You will have to forgive me but this is too much of an opportunity not to take, so here is an excerpt for you to enjoy.

Ockleberries to the Rescue a children’s chapter book. Woodland sprites care for the animals within the forest they live in. The twins are squirrels who get lost while playing. This book will be available in early spring 2014.

The twins bounded as one down the tree’s trunk fearing the older squirrel would attack them. His shrill calls echoed behind them. Not having a choice but to run Rayce and Chase followed their noses. A few quick furtive glances behind them after some time showed them they were not being followed. They slowed down their pace. Just as Rayce was about to say something, Chase held his head up.

“What’s that smell?”

Rayce sniffed the air, it was certainly not something he had smelt before but  the strength of it hurt his nose. Before he could reply the ground shook and a deep rumbling sounded behind them. Turning slowly, their hearts furiously beating the twins came face to face with the largest animal they have ever seen. Its mouth was opened so wide the brothers could see not only massive sharp teeth but down its throat. The beast’s breath burst over them as it roared. Fleeing as fast as they could Rayce and Chase bolted into a hollowed log hoping the beast would be too big to fit through the opening. Their race to safely was short lived as they came up against a dead end. The log wasn’t hollow all the way through and now they were trapped. Loud snorting was followed by the strong odor as the huge animal stuck its snout into the log. Clutching each other in fear, the twin’s bodies trembled in unison.    Rayce whispered directly into Chase’s ear.

“It’ll go soon, we just need to stay quiet and still.”

All Chase could do was make a slight nod and grasp his brother more tightly. The snorting continued for what felt like hours but then the snout moved out of the hollow and the twins glimpsed daylight again.

“We’ll wait a while longer then make a run for it. Be ready to go, Chase.”

Just as Rayce was carefully treading toward the opening the log shook and a thud echoed along its bark. Rayce let out a cry of alarm and raced back to his brother. They were engulfed in darkness again.

“What happened, Rayce? ”

“I’m not sure but we need to creep to the opening to find out.”

“Not me…!”

“Come on, Chase we have to get out of here somehow.”

Bruin lay across the log entrance he had lost interest in the little squirrels, it was time for a nice long nap.

Mable reached Murtle’s drey and called out flicking her tail in agitation. Within a few moments she heard an answering call and saw Murtle leaping across a branch above her.

“Whatever is the matter, Mable?”

“It’s the twins, they raced off and now I can’t find them. I called and called but now….oh Murtle I’m so worried.”

“Now settle yourself, Mable we will find them.”

As Murtle chirped and chattered her calls were answered from every direction. Soon a dozen squirrels all-chattering surrounded them at once.

“Quiet please everyone, Mable here needs our help. Her two darlings are lost and need to be found. We will start from the point Mable last saw her twins and move out from there. Quickly now we don’t have a lot time before dark. Their names are Chase and Rayce so call out as you go.”

Bushy tails held high and excited chattering accompanied Mable as she retraced her steps to the spot she had last seen her boys. Once at the spot with no answering calls on the way there, Mable felt extremely anxious. What if something had hurt them?

“Goodness what a kafuffle. What is going on?”

All the squirrels looked down from their respective branches at the sprite below.

“Crispin, you may be able to help us, two young squirrels have got lost in the forest and we need to find them.”

Mable looked at Murtle with a puzzled look.

“It’s alright, Mable, Crispin helps all forest animals.”

“I have heard of the sprite’s of course but have never met one. Hello Crispin, if you can help I would be in your debt.”

“No need for a debt to be paid, it will be my pleasure to help. I will summon my helpers and have them spread the word. What are the youngsters names?”

“Rayce and Chase, they will be so scared, I’m at my wit’s end.”

“Calm yourself there, we shall have them safely in your arms in no time.”

Crispin gave three loud whistles. Within moment’s crows, deer and a fox were gathered around him. Quickly giving details of what he needed the animals darted or leapt in every direction.

“Now we have a lot more eyes and ears to help with the search. We will find your young in no time.”

Mable nodded her thanks to the sprite then turned to Murtle.

“Let’s head this way, Murtle, knowing we have all this extra help has made me feel better.”

Bruin blinked several times puzzling why he woke up so soon after dozing off. He dreamt he had heard Crispin’s whistle. Now was it real or not? He lay still straining his ears to hear another whistle. None came. Satisfied he must have been dreaming he nodded back off to sleep.

Chase shivered the inside of the log was damp and cold.

“We have to find a way out, Chase, let’s see if we can burrow our way out this way.”

The two squirrels clawed at the leaf litter and rotten bark for a while but eventually could go no further. Exhausted from their excursions they curled up together for warmth and to curb the fear they both felt. Chase decided that he would never leave his mother’s side again even if Rayce pleaded with him.

A patting on his nose woke Bruin. As he opened one eye a rabbit hopped back in alarm.

“Please Mr. Bear don’t hurt me. I’m helping Crispin to find a couple of young squirrels. You haven’t seen any have you?”

Bruin’s eyes popped opened. The squirrels were still in the log, what had he done?

“Actually I do know where they are…safely tucked up together in this here log.”

“Really? Oh that is good news I need to let Crispin know you found them. Thank you Mr. Bear.”

English: A Sciuridae Deutsch: Ein Hörnchen

English: A Sciuridae Deutsch: Ein Hörnchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would you like to share an excerpt? Either here or put up a link…

Predicaments A Plenty…

September 25, 2013

Predicament – definition: an unpleasantly difficult, perplexing, or dangerous situation


As a fan of pet rescue programs, I have seen my fair share of heroes risking life and limb to save an animal and we have all seen selfless acts when someone has found themselves in trouble. Many of these heroes are complete strangers to the rescued person or animal. It gives us faith in human nature for a change. It is the stories of animals rescuing other animals that are so amazing. It shows empathy, something not realized for a long time but proved by recent experiments by scientists.

Here is the link:

When I found this quote by Jim Lynch it raised the question – what arLynch quotee our stories driven by?

What factor drives you?

It may be one or a combination of these that has us writing frantically, trying to capture the essence of a character, a scene or the overall conflict. At the heart of the narrative is the predicament faced by our characters. How they overcome them or adjust to them makes the reader turn the page.

Unique predicaments may not be common but the path taken to conquer them is as numerous as there are writers. Each story leads us on a journey of discovery. Everyone problem solves differently and a large part is how we grew up and witnessed adults around us solving their trails and tribulations. Some may bury their head in the sand and wait for ‘it’ to go away, while others will battle head on.

Our characters should be true to their personality traits in this regard as well – a meek and mild youngster would not boldly confront a situation as opposed to a muscular grown man stepping into a conflict.

Have you used a particularly unusual predicament in a story? Care to share?


Lastly, a useful saying to help with those speaking events so many of us attend or for those wondering how to prepare for their first. It all comes down to preparation – the more methodical you are the better. Practice your speech, excerpt or presentation as many times as possible before the event. As you relax into the rhythm of it and the words become easily remembered, you will find you can ad-lib or break off to answer questions without panicking. I have a presentation to learn for the upcoming months, in regard to how to begin your memoirs. The workbook to accompany this presentation will be available shortly at My co-writers and I will take turns performing it for seniors in our locality but hope that the book will assist many aspiring memoir writers near and far.

I’ll be printing this off and sticking it onto my writing desk as a reminder.

Preposterous My Dear…

September 24, 2013

Preposterous – definition: absurd, senseless, foolish, ridiculous

Today’s word seems to have lost it’s common usage – although it is a fun word to incorporate into every day conversation. The words origin is thought to be medieval when belief in monstrous and fabulous creatures was commonplace. The word itself has both ‘pre’ (front) and ‘post’ (rear) within it. In relation to the fantastic animals it describes their having parts in the wrong order, such as animals that had heads and tails reversed or even heads are both ends, for example – the Amphisbaena.


Preposterous was used to refer to things which were wrong or inverted from as early as 1533, one such example was in a translation of Erasmus’ Enchiridion Militis Christiani. It’s use in relation specifically to ‘wrong’ animals has been found from least 1661, when it appeared in Joseph Glanvill’s The Vanity of Dogmatizing:

“Thus our Eyes, like the preposterous Animal’s, are behind us.”

In modern day the one animal that comes to mind is the Push me, Pull Me of Doctor. Dolittle fame. Of course, there are natural occurrences when twins of animals do not disconnect within the womb, leading to cojoined twins.



Have you used preposterous in a novel or essay?

Guardianship themes…

June 14, 2013

Tutelage – definition: instruction : protection : guardianship

Winner of NaNo

My current work in progress is the result of my successful participation in NaNoWriMo 2012. It is a children’s book about woodland sprites helping the animals that live within their forest. The sprites knowledge of healing was passed down generation to generation. Elders instructing their offspring.

With all new project’s; after the initial idea is laid down, the real work begins. I had to create a history for the sprites and their kind as well as decide, which animals I would have them interact with. Each animal also required their own history and an ailment the sprites could fix. I researched herbal medicines and fabricated instruments the sprites could use. Coming up with names for all these characters was also really enjoyable. I tried to match the name with the animal’s personality. For example the wise old owl is called Xavier, while the mole is Morry.

Woodland sprites front door

Woodland sprites front door

When I thought about today’s word, it occurred to me that these sprites are guardians of the forest dwellers. They ensured the well being and safety of their charges. In a different way, my protagonist, Evan in Life in Slake Patch also had a guardianship role. Although his difficulties were much more complicated. He fought to maintain the matriarchy rules, whilst discovering opposing views to the system and becoming instrumental in historic changes.

What is your current project’s theme?

Do you have guardianship in one way or another?

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