Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Investing in Your Writing Chat

June 23, 2022
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I was pleased in chat with Cindy DeJager of Opal Publishing about one of my articles in the Opal Writers Magazine.

https://anchor.fm/opal-magazine/episodes/COFFEE-and-CONVERSATION-with-Mandy-Eve-Barnett-on-INVEST-IN-YOUR-WRITING-e1k3fdl

As I relay in the article, as writers we should invest in our craft, to become better equipped not only to write, but to understand the complexities of this art form. There are as many methods, genres and avenues to choose from as there are individual writers. We can learn a new genre, research a new topic or gain insights into another writing style. It is a lifelong learning journey.

To gain new knowledge we can access workshops, writing coaches, buy (or borrow – a library is a great resource) relevant books and discuss methods and outlets for our writing within a writing group.

What new aspect of writing have you learnt recently?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Inspiration and a Story

June 21, 2022
mandyevebarnett


This past weekend, I enjoyed a special four day weekend away in Pincher Creek and visited for the first time, Waterton. Although, the devastating fire of two years ago has left the forest slopes covered in blacken and bone white perished trees, there is an abundance of lush green undergrowth springing up everywhere. Nature restores herself and brings about beauty only she can achieve. Experiencing such magnificence does inspire not only my soul, but a deeper need to be in nature. Growing up, my parents encouraged us to explore, learn about and cherish the natural world. I grew up with Sir David Attenborough’s dulcet tones enthusing over a multitude of wildlife. My children’s book, Ockleberries to the Rescue is my small homage to the natural world – with a magical twist, of course, you know me! – Of magical sprites caring for the animals within. Maybe, deep down, I hope for magical beings to save the world’s wildlife, although in reality there are many individuals and organizations that try.

We were so lucky to encounter two brown bears and two black bears on this trip!

My creativity is born of a multitude of inspirations, some from the familiar, but others from unexpected sources. One draft manuscript, lying in wait, has the seasons as the ‘four’ chapters of a relationship. Another is the result of several news reports, culminating in a story, where I meshed them together. Unrelated or applicable, each inspiration source has the ability to evolve into a story. Some remain as short stories, poems, or even a paragraph or two, but all have enabled me to create. I have kept all these inklings in an electronic folder for many years and from time to time click on one or two. Sometimes, I remember the initial idea source, but many are a mystery now. I read them as if they are written by someone else, enjoying their ‘newness’. A couple have become ‘inserts’ in a subsequent manuscript, in one way or another – a character description, a scene or something a character experiences.

This short story written a long time prior to The Twesome Loop might have been a precursor to it! Perceptions of future or past events.

https://www.amazon.ca/Twesome-Loop-Mandy-Eve-Barnett-ebook/dp/B075DRWHXN

The Coin by Mandy Eve-Barnett

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. After working hard all week and completing chores and shopping on Saturday this is my time to relax. With the sunshine warming through the patio door, I curl up on my oversized armchair with a glass of wine within easy reach. Now I can start my new novel without interruption, pure bliss.

My absorption in the make believe world is rudely interrupted when a drop of water splashes onto the page. Where could that have come from? I look up to see a glassy sheen on the ceiling and another drop hits my cheek. Oh no, it must be a leaking pipe or something overflowing. I fetch a bowl from the kitchen and place it beneath the circular patch. Another drip makes a pinging sound as it hits the glass. What shall I do first, phone the landlord or go upstairs and check with my neighbor? The latter wins the day and I climb the stairs to apartment eight. With a couple of gentle knocks I stand back and wait for an answer.  I hear shuffling sounds and then an elderly voice asks.

“Who’s there?”

“Hello, my name is Annie and I live downstairs. There is water coming through my ceiling.”

“Water in the ceiling? Oh my, that may be my fault.”

The owner of the voice opens her door and I am faced with an old lady wrapped in several jumpers.

“Do come in. I think I may have caused the leak. Come and see, maybe you can switch it off. My hands are so frail I can’t seem to fix the damn thing.”

I follow her and realize her apartment is a mirror image of mine. She stands to one side as I walk into the bathroom to find an overflowing toilet cistern.

“Let’s see what’s happening. The ball cock has stuck, it’s an easy fix.”

With a few twists and by levering the float’s rod up and down I free up the mechanism.

“That should do the trick for now but you should call the landlord and ask him to replace it.”

“I don’t think he will do that, he’s not very capable with this sort of thing. I can call a plumber.”

“Plumber’s are very expensive and really it is a simple fix. I could do it for you if you like?”

“That’s very kind, Annie, I’d pay for the parts of course. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Thank you that would be nice. Sorry I didn’t catch your name.”

“How rude of me. My name is Annie just like yours.”

“What a coincidence.”

We walk back to the kitchen and I realize how cold her apartment is, I have goose bumps. I rub my arms and wish I’d brought a jumper it had been lovely and warm in my armchair. As Annie organizes pretty little china cups, sugar bowl and milk jug on a tray I notice she has the same cookie jar as me.

“Another coincidence, Annie, I have a cookie jar just like that one.”

“Do you, dear? Would you like a cookie with your tea?”

“No thank you but I have to say you need to put your heating up a bit, it’s cold in here. You will catch your death.”

“I’m used to it I just put on another jumper. You can borrow one if you would like.”

I begin to decline her offer but it is so cold I acquiesce. She turns and hands me a jumper that had been hanging on the chair. It is wonderfully soft and warm.

“Could you carry the tray into the living room for me?”

“Of course I can, Annie. “

It seems strange using my name for another person. I follow her into the main room and stop short when I see my cozy armchair – well an older version of it anyway. There are several objects on the coffee table that are similar and I place the tray down with shaking hands.

“Sorry Annie, I think I’m having a déjà vu moment. You have so many things just like mine.”

“They are yours, Annie, you are at a crossroads and you have to choose the right path. I chose the wrong one so came back to warn you.”

“I’m sorry? What are you talking about?”

“Take this coin and you will see.”

Annie hands me a brass coloured coin tied with a red velvet ribbon and the apartment spins. When it stops I am watching myself weeping and calling out to someone called Carl.

“Please stay, Carl, I’m so sorry. I was scared and acted on impulse.”

I swing around as a male voice speaks and I’m confronted with Carl from my office.

“Annie, I trusted you. How could you betray me?”

My mind is whirling, what did I do? When did I start going out with Carl? When did this happen? My other self replies,

“It was going too fast for me, I wasn’t sure about us. It’s only been five months.”

“You could have told me to cool it off a bit, Annie, I would have understood.”

I feel a tug on my hand and the illusion disappears. I’m back in old Annie’s apartment. My knees give way so I sit with a thump on the armchair.

“Don’t be afraid to let go of your emotions, Annie, trust them. He won’t come back and you’ll be alone like me- forever regretting that one night stand.”

“How did you do that? How are you here with me? I feel sick.”

“Take a few deep breaths you will be alright. I came from another reality to warn you. Keep this talisman as a reminder.”

A thud wakes me my book has fallen from my lap. I look up to see a perfect ceiling, no dripping water, no glass bowl catching the drips. What a dream it was so vivid. As I sit up I smooth the cashmere jumper and grasp something in the pocket. A coin wrapped in red velvet ribbon.

Wordsmith Collective Thursday – Feast or Famine of Story Ideas

May 26, 2022
mandyevebarnett


As writers we are used to juggling many writing projects at the same time or the complete opposite – nothing! (Although, I have to say my mind is crowded with ideas most of the time in MUSE central!)

These opposing states come with their own problems, each unique and as frustrating as each other. Firstly, ‘feast’ has us worrying which project to do first. Which one is the most strident in it’s demand to be written? Is it the right one to pursue? Will another story ‘vanish’ if we ignore it?

Secondly, ‘famine’ when ideas may be circling in our minds, but none of them ‘stick’ or have the ‘legs’ to form a longer narrative. Or there is a void. This is a frustrating feeling, leaving us grasping for elusive or fragments of ideas, or something to write!

So what can we do to organize the jumble or utilize a fragment?

Let’s look at the multiple ideas first. Write down as much as you can for each idea – lay them out on separate pieces of paper or word documents. Organize each idea into genre or categories and then plot, character or scene and any other components of each particular story you do have. Separating the stories in this way allows us to focus on them, if not objectively, as least with a clearer vision. Once you have them in an orderly list you will see which idea has the most content. Now, comes the difficult decision – which one do you pursue? It might not be the one with the most detail, but another that attracts you to it for whatever reason. Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If one starts to ‘grow’ within your minds eye, or the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then that is typically your direction.

Now comes the void. How do we spark our Muse? There are many reasons for this dearth of ideas, illness, relationship problems, work commitments etc. As a writer we know that the act of writing is not only satisfying, but a real need. Our creativity requires it. This is the time to look at those filed away short stories, or fragments of ideas. We always have inspirational quotes, sentences, even whole paragraphs, that have languished somewhere in journals, notebooks or electronic folders. Take time to read through these, after all we kept them for a reason. Utilize writing prompts – writing anything helps us get back on track. Fifteen minute bursts of writing from a word or picture prompt can refresh our minds, spark our creativity and set us on a new course. Your prompt response might only be short – a poem, a paragraph, even a word association list, or it can develop into something. I recently used an image of a dragon’s egg to spark my Muse. It was going to be a short story but grew and grew into a three thousand word story! You never know where an idea can lead, and that is the beauty of story writing.

How do you handle the sparse and dense periods of your writing life?

What obscure stimulus has sparked an idea for you? 

How do you approach new ideas? Frantic notes? Plot arc? Character descriptions?

Have you experienced a story unwilling to stay quiet?

new idea

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.  Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.”     Dee Hock     

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Road Trips, Exploring and Modern Unicorns

May 24, 2022
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This past long weekend Linda, I and our furry companions took off east to Grande Cache. As always water is the draw for me – large lakes are the closest I can get to ocean waves in landlocked Alberta! I have grown to appreciate the magnificence of the mountains and the wildlife that inhabits them. Not only are the Rockies stunning, but it is always good to realize how insignificant you really are.

On many of our journeys we have been gifted with many sightings of animals, large and small, but one particular animal stayed elusive. It is the modern day unicorn – the caribou. Although, we have driven through the migratory areas of these beautiful deer, we have never seen one until this trip. An adult female grazing by the highway, who dashed into the trees before I could get a photo. However, the joy of seeing one of these endangered animals was the thrill of the weekend. (not my photo)

As a lifelong lover of the natural world, it is always devastating to learn about the impact of human existence on the wonders of the world around us. To help the caribou there is a conservation project and also a Caribou Patrol. Signs are posted for drivers to take care on the migratory routes and any sightings must be reported. It is so great to know these magnificent animals are protected.

We did drive to other locations during the weekend of writing and reading. Victor Lake, Sulphur Gates and the Labyrinth Park.

Wild open spaces are always an inspiration and a respite from every day life. It is fuel for my writing and this weekend was no exception. I managed 4000 words and a good edit of the second book of The Delphic Murders.

Of course Sammie loved exploring too!

But was also happy to sleep while I wrote or was reading.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Author Interview – Cheryl Rush Cowperthwait

May 19, 2022
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1.     What drew you to write your first fantasy story?

Believe it or not, it was a picture I made from a picture application of me with a dragon next to me. I wrote a short catchy phrase that I only later learned was a ‘blurb’ I still use on what became my first fantasy novel. It all started with a picture I posted on my Facebook page and people kept saying they wanted more of the story…there was no story! So, day by day I wrote more and posted to my Facebook page for the first 30 days, at which time I discovered I was writing a book!

2.     Did you plan a series or were the characters/worlds too fascinating to leave behind?

This tickles me pink! Since I had no concept I was writing a novel in the beginning, I just keep writing and the characters took control. When your characters are dragons and they talk to you all night long, you awaken and start writing! There was/is so much about these characters that a series developed.

3.     Why did you create a dragon’s world in particular?

This is a great question. The answer stems from that picture we spoke about, but what I didn’t say was that at one time I found out a few people liked to speak behind my back, calling me a dragon. Well, when people cast stones… you build a castle and that’s what I did with my dragons. They are highly intelligent beings and are the protectors of those who cannot protect themselves. 

4.     What is your writing process? Planner or panster.

I’m a pantster all the way. I’m a visual writer. I see the story in my head. Sometimes it is only flashes or glimpses of a moment, but when my hand hit the keyboard, it pours out.

5.     Do you only write prose?

My first outlet in writing was through poetry. I used it as a way to describe my feelings in a more powerful way. Gradually, it morphed into a way of telling stories.

6.     Are you a lifelong writer?

Thankfully, yes. I recently turned 64 and the first I remember writing was a poem to my grandmother when I was eleven or twelve, so with more than fifty years behind me, writing is one of those things that has always been with me.

7.     What are you working on now?

As writers, we always stretch. My first stretch outside of fantasy came last year when I decided to write a contemporary romance novel. Which, wouldn’t you know it, developed into a series. I’m writing the fourth book in this series currently. I actually have three books I’m writing. One is the fifth book in my current dragon series, The Spires of Dasny, one is the one I mentioned, the fourth in the Hope Falls series under my pen name, C.H. Eryl and the third book is one for a romance anthology I was fortunate to be asked to contribute. It will be a starter book for a companion series to the Hope Falls romance series.

8.     Where do you see your series going and for how long?

I have to laugh at this question! I really don’t plan on a series, but they just grow and expand and sometimes make me mad when a character acts up near the end of what ‘should have been’ the last in the series… like now. The Spires of Dasny should have been a four book series, and here I am writing book 5. But wait, not only that but now the same character has stretched beyond his boundaries and now new books will come as a result. At the present I’m unsure if it will carry the same series name or if it will have a new series title.

9.     Where can readers find you?

The best place to find me will be on Amazon. I have two author pages there. https://www.amazon.com/Cheryl-Rush-Cowperthwait/e/B078HTLP5X

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