Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – Marie Powell

April 1, 2021
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1.       What inspired you to write books for children to aid with reading and writing?

For about 15 years, I worked as a library programmer, so every week I had two or three programs for preschoolers. My favourite group was the 5-6-year-olds, who were just learning to read. They have such active imaginations and often like to see themselves as players in the story. I loved working with them, finding great children’s books, and then reading the stories aloud to them. After a few years, it felt very natural to start writing for this age group. Also, a writer-friend Alison Lohans had an opportunity to give a workshop in writing for children. I took that, and it put me on the path. Eventually, I got my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with a major in writing for children and young adults.

2.       Do you think reading is the gateway to learning and life skills?

Yes, absolutely. It’s also a lot of fun!

3.       How does the construction of the content aid understanding in children? 

I’ve been lucky to work with several top-notch traditional publishers on the books I’ve written for children and middle-grade readers. I don’t self-publish so I am not usually involved in the construction of the book, but a writer can always help by inspiring the editors with punchy writing and ideas. As a journalist, I had always suggested backgrounders and sidebars, or short related articles, so I was on the watch for that. And I’ve noticed that surrounding a non-fiction narrative with fact-boxes and short in-set articles can really grab the attention of readers. When I was writing Dragonflies are Amazing, for instance, the editor asked me for some “fun facts” to create a fact-box. I put together about 20 facts, and worked on them so they had an engaging style to activate a kids’ imagination. The editor ended up putting the facts in a graphic format that looks like dragonflies flying around the page. You actually have to turn the book around to read them. Very cool! She also put the images in puzzle pieces. The overall effect of that book is as amazing as the dragonflies, and it really works to attract reluctant readers.

4.       Where can schools access your books?

Schools order the children’s books directly from the publishers, but I also distribute some of them locally to schools and libraries in my home town and area during readings and workshops. My young adult series Last of the Gifted is available everywhere, from Amazon to local independent bookstores, through publisher Wood Dragon Books.

5.       Did your Welsh heritage influence your stories?

My Welsh heritage influences my young adult series, Last of the Gifted. My grandfather was had been born in Wales and I knew he was a Welsh speaker. All of my grandparents had died before I was born. When I was a kid, my friends had grandparents but not me, so I guess I became a little obsessed by them. But my dad died young, and it was hard finding out much about my dad’s parents. Since I was a journalist, I wanted to get into travel writing, so I planned a trip to Wales to do double duty and find out more about my own heritage at the same time. I had rented a cottage on a sheep farm in north Wales, so one day I went to see Dolwyddelan, a castle built by the last true Welsh princes. Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language and their way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that, and that led to writing about it. It’s been my “heart” project ever since.

6.       How did your magical characters evolve from idea to story?

I actually started out by free writing the scenes in Spirit Sight. I had covered an article on a falconer and I was very intrigued by his falcon demonstrations. One day, while I was doing research on North Wales, I started wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of a bird. I started free writing and the opening scene came together. I’ve revised and refined it since, but that’s still the opening of the book. From there, I started reading about Welsh legends and myths, and my magical world evolved from that.

7.       Is imagination important for children?

It’s important for everyone. There are a lot of ways to use and grow our imaginations, but reading is definitely one of the best ways. And writing helps, too!

8.       Are there other subjects/topics you want to write about?

Yes, lots. I have a couple of contemporary fantasy novels on the go as well, as well as short stories. My writing is speculative fiction with some connection to ghosts or the past influencing the present. I still write articles for magazines as well, and that inspires me in different ways.

9.       Where is your favorite place to write and why?

I write at my kitchen table, actually. I have a perfectly good office and I fully intend to use it, but the kitchen has better light and a lovely window looking out at the park across the street. I always wrote in the kitchen when my kids were young, and that tends to be where I end up.

10.   Do you have upcoming projects? Can you talk about them?

I have a lot of projects on the go. I’m working on one more book now in the Last of the Gifted series, and I have started another related series. Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel from the same time but unrelated to the series, more medieval romance, just for fun. I’d like to do something more with that, too. And there are the contemporary novels as well.

11.   How can readers find you?

My website is the best place, and I’m on social media too. Here are some links:

Website: www.mariepowell.ca  https://www.mariepowell.ca/

 Last of the Giftedhttps://mariepowell.ca/young-adult/last-of-the-gifted/

Follow @mepowell   https://twitter.com/mepowell

Facebook: Marie Powell  https://www.facebook.com/mariepowellauthor

Instagram: MariePowellAuthor https://www.instagram.com/mariepowellauthor/

YouTube: Last of the Gifted https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiJ3JY8YIleqD6W-cJHgSwWKlz3JV_sL3

Spirit Sighthttps://books2read.com/u/3n8A95 

Water Sighthttps://books2read.com/u/4A701d

Bio:

Marie Powell Bio:Marie Powell’s castle-hopping adventures across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series Last of the Gifted. The series includes two books to date, Spirit Sight and Water Sight (participation made possible through Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Production Grant Program). Marie is the author of more than 40 children’s books with such publishers as Scholastic Education and Amicus, along with award-winning short stories and poetry appearing in such literary magazines as RoomsubTerrain, and Sunlight Press. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from UBC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find her at mariepowell.ca

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Writing Conference and Book Cover Creation

March 18, 2021
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It is that time of year again, I have been working with the Board members of my writing group to finalize details for our annual writing conference. As I am hosting an online session about blogging, I revised my presentation notes in readiness. The countdown is on!

I would ask any writer that is interested in gaining new skills, honing their craft or wants to expand their network to attend this remarkable conference. The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County’s Conference on 27th March – The Art of Writing is covering a wide range of writing skills. https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/annual-writers-conference

We will also be live on our Facebook page if you want to drop by anytime between 8:30 am – 5:00 pm MST https://www.facebook.com/wfscsherwoodpark There is the opportunity to promote your book(s) as well throughout the day so click the link to submit.

Apart from continuing to write my current WIP; book one of the The Delphic Murders trilogy, I have been thinking about the book covers. Each book needs to reflect the story within it but also tie-in to the other two books. After a conversation, an idea has been bouncing around in my head but on Tuesday a much better idea for the imagery came out of nowhere. I am now discussing the possibilities with my cover artist. This is such an exciting stage of any the book creation.

As always, working with any artist, it is paramount to have good communication and be able to describe our ‘vision’ for the illustrations. We are lucky to have the power of technology to find samples and suggested imagery. I have been lucky to have worked with several artists to create artwork that reflects my stories.

With any cover we need to ask ourselves three main questions:

Does the cover reflect the story?

Is it eye catching?

Does it reflect the genre?  

How did you decide on your book (s) cover?

Did you use your own photographs, commission or draw you own drawings or manipulate images some other way?

Interestingly, I searched best book covers for 2020 and there are several lists to look through. All of them have different covers, so it is really a matter of person preference. A cover might attract one reader but not another. It is a balancing act, for sure.

Do you have a favorite book cover? Why not share one?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Sharing a Story of Taste

February 23, 2021
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Although the six week writing course has ended, I still have a couple of stories to share. Using one sense, primarily, we had to write a short story using three images. This story is taste! I hope you enjoy it.

Vomit and Chewing Tobacco   – TASTE

It’s a normal Sunday afternoon for me, sitting in the far corner of the launderette, people watching. Harried women with pesky children, older men or couples, and the singles file in and out, filling and emptying the machines in a robotic manner. Eyes are avoided, conversations whispered, distance kept. They are in close proximity within this humid box but worlds apart. Everyone is watchful of a cycle ending and a chance to grab a dryer. Children given candy to keep quiet but the treats, explode their sugary high, amplifying the agitation and boredom. Bundles of multi-coloured fabric stained, torn and discoloured enter the cylinders accompanied by the granular soap powder or brightly coloured tabs. The dispersed powder hovers in the air, you inhale its bitterness. A child takes a tab and pops it in his mouth, mistaking it for a candy. A mother distracted, until he presents a foaming mouth and the pallor of sickness. A spew of vomit gushes forth, its soapy, sugary and bile contents assaulting the child’s taste buds and the nostrils of everyone in the enclosed space.

An urgent plea for water to wash his mouth out, a dirty t-shirt used to mop up the child’s spilled stomach contents. Taste receptors react to the inhaled odour forcing some to exit the launderette before retching themselves. I place a handkerchief across my mouth, scented with lavender. A trick my grandmother taught me as we walked the old canal path many years ago. The putrid rotting debris small permeated the air and stuck in the back of your throat. I turn slightly to one side to check the VCR is still recording. The little red lights flashes on and off. This event will make a great scene in my next book.

I look up to see a Stetson wearing middle aged man enter, he looks around the crowded room with dismay. He is carrying a large black bin liner in one hand and a cell phone in the other. His black and white shoes are stylish and slick. His mouth is in constant motion, chewing on something. Is it gum? He doesn’t seem the type. He walks to the garbage bin and spits a brown substance. Is that chewing tobacco? I didn’t think people did that anymore. This is too good a chance for research; I have to talk to him. Turning the VCR slightly, I amble towards him, fashioning a half smile.

                “May I help you, Sir?”

                He looks at my grey tinged coat, which used to be white and the name tag.

                “I haven’t done this before, how does this work?”

                “I’m happy to help, follow me.”

                I take him to the farthest end of the launderette and open a machine, instructing him to put his clothes in the cylinder. Then continue to show him the process. I can smell the tobacco on his breath, his clothes, and his hair. It invades my senses, hanging at the back of my throat. It is a combination of nicotine and surprisingly mint. He smacks his lips and a brown glob rests on his lip. I stare, he smiles.

“Care for some?”

“No, thank you but can you tell me how chewing tobacco tastes?”

“Well, firstly, I’m using dipping tobacco, most people don’t know that. As for this one I’m chewing, it has mint in it but others have fruit flavours and the like. It has a taste of its own, sort of a mixture of what a cigarette smells like, and some have a chemical after taste and others a natural one but with a burning sensation where you place it. It makes a tobacco juice inside your mouth.”

“Well, that is interesting. Thank you for explaining it to me.”

“Thank you for helping me with this. Not something I ever do but my assistant went down with the flu so here I am.”

“You have an assistant?”

He leans down to lower his voice.

“Sure, I’m on tour and living on the road means usual stuff like laundry has to be done at places like this. Sally, bless her, normally takes care of everything for me.”

“May I ask what you do on tour?”

“Sure, I’m a country singer, not a real famous one but I make do. We’re just passing through to the city for a show. I can give you a ticket if you want in exchange for your help.”

“That’s very kind, I would like that.”

I hold out my hand to shake his and he places two tickets in my palm.

“Oh, I won’t need two, one is enough.”

“No sweetheart to bring with you, eh?”

“No, it will only be me.”

“Okay then. See you tomorrow night. Use this slip for a VIP pass.”

At home that evening, I review the tape. It captured the child vomiting and the country singer’s entrance and spitting. Both events will make for great additions in my current novel.

In other news I have gained a freelance client and will be ghost writing a business book for them. It is always exciting to start a new project.

Let me know what you think of the story and also what book(s) you are reading. Remember to always leave a review.

Author Interview – A. G. Flitcher

September 5, 2020
mandyevebarnett


ag flitcher

1.At what age did you start writing?

 I started to write when I was 21 years old. I had completed my Associates Degree in Creative Writing then decided to put myself out there as a screenwriter.

2. Is poetry a self expression for you?

 It is more than self expression. Its me finding the seedling that sprouted the roots of my emotions that run at high velocity. Once the ecstasy, dark or light, of my anxiety passes, I write a poem. Almost as if I took off the anvil that kept me in the depths of the salty water of an ocean, rose up for air, then anchored my darkness in the ocean while I make it to shore.

See poetry here: https://agflitcher.wordpress.com/

3. What made you want to write a fictional book rather than publish a poetry collection?

 I plan on putting a poetry collection together sometime in the near future. But for now it is self therapy and a writing exercise for flow in my novels.

4. Do you belong to a writers group? If so which one?

 I bounce around from group to group on Facebook but mainly I follow YVR Authors. 

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/boone-jacque-saddletons-secret/9781999410810-item.html?ikwid=boone%20and%20jacque&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0&fbclid=IwAR15C6QlFKgHZVELbZRsS4zA6JhGgHZtblMIW6V0pfP5bdW0r6wUHi2Az78#algoliaQueryId=1d393c05f551e5e28eca724b47a63972

5. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the book?

Boone is a sarcastic, goofy, playful kid, who has a longer path to growing than his best friend Jacque. A foster child taken in by a rich snobby British family. He is articulate, polite, honest, an avid reader, can monkey his way from tree to tree, and loves to solve mysteries. Shammy, Boone’s love interest, is wonderfully weird, blunt, sweet, un-apologetically herself, loving and caring. Flint is a high functioning autistic boy who depends on Shammy and loves his mom.

6. How did you come up with the idea of the story?

 When I was a screenwriter, I always wanted to write a series. I didn’t know what medium or what it would be about, but I knew certain things would remain the same. It’s like Stephen King once said: Good ideas stick around.

I wanted to write something that doesn’t involve much technology. I feel that if it is too modern, it creates too much convenience. A gripping story requires characters to rely on their wit and what is at their disposal. When your back is against the wall, you better know how to fight like hell. This series is about that. Testing the human spirit.

7. What is the theme of the book – the message you want to convey to your readers?

 That we don’t need peers and parents to teach us everything. Sometimes the good and bad that happens in life, is what helps us grow. Test us on what we are able or not able, willing or not willing, too afraid or not at all to try. But I don’t want my readers thinking they don’t need guidance. We all need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. But who we get help from isn’t always who we expect or hope it will be.

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8. Is this a standalone book or will there be a sequel(s)?

As mentioned earlier, this is a series. I’m not sure how many volumes. I go by how the characters grow. If they have gone where they need to go, and completed their life’s arc, then I’ve done my job. This is my third book of four. First two were unpublished by me because amazon has strict rules about using only one name for the author by line. It is Urban fantasy.

Volume 2 of Boone and Jacque will be available in October 2020. Subtitle is The Brothers’ Odyssey.  Follow A.G. on his social media pages and message him for teasers.

Social media links:

@greatcoffeeequalsfocus

https://www.facebook.com/A.G.Flitcher/

unforgiven

Bio:

I  am a self published author who always had difficulty speaking his mind without fumbling his thoughts. What he believed to be right and wrong. Storytelling is my passion.

 

Wordsmith Collective Thursday – Is Your Writing Life Lethargic Now?

April 23, 2020
mandyevebarnett


tiredHow is the isolation affecting your writing?

When I virtual chat with writing friends most of them say they feel generally lethargic. It is not just their writing life and routine that has changed but also life in general has restricted their creativity. With limited interactions, we do not have access to our normal writing routines. We may have people in the house not normally there, or meetings and events that sparked our imaginations are cancelled. Whatever our normal was, we are being proactive in protecting our loved ones from this horrid disease by staying home.

When I looked up lethargy, I was surprised at how many definitions it has. All of which describe beautifully our current state.

Sluggishness, inertia, inactivity, inaction, slowness, torpor, dullness, listlessness, languor, stagnation, laziness, idleness, indolence, shiftlessness, sloth, phlegm,
apathy, passivity, ennui, weariness, tiredness, lassitude, fatigue, sleepiness, drowsiness, enervation, somnolence, narcosis, hebetude.

So let’s take one of these and use it in a writing exercise. Write a poem or short story about a character affected by it.

Use the comment section to leave your response.

creative-writing-prompts

As writers we can use what prompts us to create. Use this experience in the same way. Make it a positive. Finish that novel, short story, poem. Create a new one using this experience as inspiration. Reorganize your physical or virtual writing files. Research new story ideas. List writing projects you want to achieve. Revisit old story ideas or manuscripts – can they be resurrected?

Think positive – be positive and write!

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