Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Donna Conrad

September 9, 2021
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  • Were your core beliefs the reason you began writing historical fiction?

In a way, yes. I was an English and History major in college and had a hard time finding information about influential women. I was appalled that even noble and royal women were rarely named while historians wrote tomes about the deeds and misdeeds of their brothers, husbands, and fathers. I initially felt compelled to give voice to women who had been marginalized, let alone completely overlooked. When I came across the African proverb, “Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter,” I knew I must write novels about significant women based on strong historical evidence which had been supressed.

  • Did you grow up in an atmosphere of individual empowerment or did life experiences propel you in that direction?

My childhood was anything but empowering. I was terrified of my psychotic, authoritarian father, and ashamed of my mother, who did not stand up for herself, but instead fell headfirst into a bottle of whiskey to cope with her life. And yet, I always knew my mother and sister loved me unconditionally, something that sustained me through the trauma that was both my youth and the Sixties in general.

Despite her own demons, my mother managed to raise my sister and me to be strong, independent women. I learned from her example and vowed early on to never subjugate myself to another’s will, whether that of a person, a government, or a religion. When I met my husband, I realized he valued my independence. He encouraged me to be empowered and a freethinker. We’ve been married for 44 years and are still equal partners striving to become more self-aware. My husband tells people, “No one yells at Donna … twice.”

Book Cover, Cold Creek Press
  •  Where did the link to Celtic Tradition come from?

My mother was Irish and never felt quite at home with Christian dogma. She raised me in the “old ways,” which she learned from her grandmother. We celebrated the Celtic Wheel of the Year. As I child I loved the freedom to run in the fields and lay under a tree as my form of worship. I was taught that all things have a lifeforce, whether that be rock, tree, river, ocean, animal, or human. The earth-based spirituality practiced by the Celts felt natural and liberating. I gave Christianity a try in my early teens but found the basis of original sin constricting and repressive. As I grew older, I embraced my mother’s tradition and researched the “old ways” through books, retreats, and eventually leading my own quarter day celebrations.

  • Do you feel women’s wisdom is supressed in modern culture?

There is a resurgence of respect for women’s wisdom in many parts of the world. If we look back 200 years, or even 100 years, women who expressed wisdom were shunned, if not murdered. Even in fairy tales, the wise old woman, the woman who knows herbs and healing and speaks with the forest animals, is always a haggard, old, evil witch, that preys on children and the unwary; someone to be scorned. With women in the forefront, late 19th and early 20th century occult spirituality led by Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and Annie Horniman’s Order of the Golden Dawn, women began to openly reclaim their personal power.

With the “women’s rights” movement of the early 1970s, and courageous leaders like Gloria Steinem, women began to publicly claim their inner wisdom and outer proficiency.

What we see from a historical perspective, is that anytime women advance in society it is through their own leadership and determination. The #MeToo movement is a great example of women joining together to bring about change. I’m speaking in broad terms of empowerment, but respect for women in all aspects of their lives, including women’s wisdom, cannot be separated from women’s empowerment.

While most of the world still suppresses women’s wisdom, there are pockets of light where women are honored. The Maiden, Mother, Crone aspects of women are certainly making gains, even though the perceived roles of women as Temptress, Whore, Witch, persist.

  • How did growing up in the 1960s affect your personality?

The Sixties were remarkable. Young people felt anything and everything was possible if we wanted it badly enough. The sixties stereotypical “free-love” culture received most of the press, but it was the larger desire to embrace “free-thinking” that motivated my generation. Definitely me. Conforming, following rules, becoming our parents with their warped sense of patriarchal rule, was anathema. My generation believed that if we united, we could affect change—and we united as had rarely been seen. My mother always encouraged me to think for myself. She encouraged me to question authority, even hers, and when given an answer, question that too!

As I grew older, went to college, started teaching high school English, I found that I could carry my values from the Sixties with me into the “adult” world, use them to help others find their own uniqueness, their own authenticity. The Sixties concepts of freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom to live as one wanted, were tempered by another guiding star from my mother: Do no harm.

I continue to question authority, laws, regulations, first impressions, and the nature of people who enter and leave my life. I value unique qualities in people and depend on my inner sense to form, and break, my own opinions.

  • You wear many hats – memoirist, fiction author, journalist, activist, and teacher. Do these roles contribute to your writing?

Everything a writer does, or doesn’t do, influences what they write. I’ve found that even the agonizing writer’s-block is there for a reason: To shine a spotlight on what is blocked or hiding in one’s life at that moment. The many hats I’ve worn lend me varied perspectives about people’s actions and motivations.

I started writing the first book in my historical fiction series, The Last Magdalene, before I wrote House of the Moon: Surviving the Sixties. I realized my fascination with women marginalized throughout history was partially because I too had been marginalized and silenced; that my generation arose to claim our voice, to make certain we were not ignored. Writing my memoir was both traumatic and liberating. When I found I was able to write an unvarnished version of my teen years, it became imperative that I do the same for other women. I went back to square one and wrote The Last Magdalene from a deeper level of comprehension.

I find that the common thread in everything I do is to be authentic and to allow myself to change perspectives as I learn more about “life, the universe, and everything”—to quote one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams.

  • From where do you gather your research? (Library, archives, internet etc.)

I use every means available but find physical books and research papers especially gratifying. I also like to travel to locations in order soak up the ambiance, feel the sun or rain, hear the sounds, touch the stones, eat the food, and immerse myself in the history of any given place. I even went back to my childhood home in Covina, California and walked around my high school while writing House of the Moon.

My research for The Last Magdalene includes studying with a Hebraic scholar, Shana Laxx, from Haifa University, to better understand women’s place and participation in ancient Judea. The primary written sources for my series, The Magdalene Chronicles, are from my personal library and include works by several Roman and Egyptian historians, Josephus, Elaine Pagels, and multiple translations of both the Torah and New Testament. I find reading various renditions of history to be illuminating, and helps me to see differences in various editions, and more importantly what one translator left out, or added.

I do refer to the internet but am skeptical about fast and easy searches. I end up going down the rabbit hole for hours on end trying to source information, and often end up back in my personal library, or emailing university professors who are always helpful and eager to aid in my research.

  • What surprising things did you learn from writing your books?

How much I don’t know!

I’m also continually surprised at how interconnected people are, even when there are no physical ties that bind. But above all other surprises, the reach of the written word is what continues. Books have been a major source of inspiration throughout my life. Maya Angelou, Alan Ginsberg, Hunter Thompson, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Sharon Kay Penman, and so many other authors and poets have shaped my perspectives, given me both hope and despair. When someone contacts me to say my writing has impacted their lives, I’m hugely surprised and gratified.

  • Where can readers find you and your books?

My website is www.donnaconrad.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dconrad999

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donnadconrad/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DonnaDConrad999

Or send me an email at donna@donnaconrad.com.

I also teach at various conferences. The next workshop on the agenda is Real vs. Reality, a hands-on workshop to help writers take facts and turn them into dynamic prose. https://www.pnwa.org/page/ConferenceRegistation

I am also represented by Creative Edge: http://www.creative-edge.services

  • What message do you want to give your readers?

Every person can make a difference, but it takes courage and authenticity. Don’t doubt your abilities or your insights. To quote Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”

Bio

Donna Conrad is an award-winning author, journalist, activist, and teacher. Her core values revolve around the concept of individual empowerment, a sustaining ideal running through the books she writes. Her writing interests are varied and include articles for fine-art periodicals, memoir/narrative non-fiction, as well as historical, flash, and paranormal fiction. She teaches all of the above at writers’ conferences.

Her first published book “House of the Moon: Surviving the Sixties,” has received rave reviews.

Donna’s life is as varied as her writing. She embraces change as an exciting adventure. She has studied writing with the likes of Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Whyte. She has also been mentored by Donald Maass, whom she worked with privately on her upcoming four-book historical fiction series, “The Magdalene Chronicles.” Book One, The Last Magdalene, is scheduled for publication April 2022.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their five cats. When she’s not writing, you can find Donna cruising the back roads in her black-on-black Miata MX-5, Maya – named for one of her favorite poets, Maya Angelou.

Her memoir, House of the Moon; Surviving the Sixties has received critical acclaim. The first of her four-book historical fiction series, The Last Magdalene, is scheduled for publication April 2022.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – A Little Writing History and Longest Words

July 28, 2020
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My friend and I went on a super day road trip yesterday (avoiding any human contact of course!) It was a day of nature, history and some surprises. Our main destination was Hard Luck Canyon, which has a time line to show the human events that occurred as the canyon gradually continued to form. I loved this sign noting the beginning of writing. Something unique to humans and without which we would not have stories.

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I will share a little writing history with you, if I may. It is generally agreed that the earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Early pictorial signs began to be substituted by a complex system of characters representing the sounds of Sumerian (the language of Sumer in Southern Mesopotamia). It is not clear which civilization invented writing first, but Egyptian writing has some Sumerian influence. The earliest proof of language existed in the Kish Tablet found in Iraq. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is a mythologized account of an historical figure, Gilgamesh, a ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, believed to have ruled sometime between 2700-2500 BC.

This has given us a written, rather than verbal history, along with tales of Gods and Goddess’, fables, fairy tales, history and knowledge of the world around us. Just for fun I am also sharing the longest words, currently in circulation.

The current champ!

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles, specifically from a volcano; medically, it is the same as silicosis
Welsh place name.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch), a Welsh word (place name) that translates roughly as “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave”.

This one is fun and ironic!

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – the fear of long words.

And one we all know and practiced until we could say it as children.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

The longest word in Shakespeare’s works is Honorificabilitudinitatibus

Some of the delightful surprises on our trip were – Minions, a Tinman, a castle and a lighthouse.

Bibilophile’s Collective Tuesday – A Bookshelf Tour

April 14, 2020
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I hope this blog post finds you well and safe. Reading is an important portal into other worlds, where we can all escape for a while.

With the opportunity to read a lot more, I have been looking at my book shelves for inspiration. Re-reading a book after a number of years can surprise and delight us once again. It maybe because we have life experiences to reflect on or the story has new meaning.

As you can see it is an eclectic mix of authors, genres and publishing dates. There are a couple of childhood books that I have kept, such as Hiawatha, The Illustrated Book about Africa and Grey Rabbit and the Wandering Hedgehog as well as a history of Bucklebury.

I also have a lovely collection of fellow authors books, which I have bought, won or been gifted. I love reading emerging author’s work as they have such unique viewpoints and narrative styles.

Why not share your bookshelf?

Why Boxing Day? An Explanation

December 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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The origins of ‘Boxing Day’ are steeped in history and in my naivety, I assumed everyone had or knew of Boxing Day. Growing up in England my understanding was that it was an old tradition to open gifts the day after as Christmas Day was spent in church and then feasting.

The exact etymology of the term ‘boxing’ is unfortunately unclear and although there are several competing theories, none are definitive. Money and other gifts were traditionally given to the needy and to those in service positions, such as servants. The European tradition goes back to the Middle Ages but its exact origin is still unknown. There have also been claims that it dates back to the late Roman/early Christian era. It is known that metal boxes were placed outside churches to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. In England it was the custom in the nineteen-century for Victorian tradesmen to collect their ‘Christmas boxes’ or gifts on the day after Christmas in return for good and reliable service throughout the year.

The name could also derive from another old English tradition, where wealthy landowners would allow their servants to have the 26th off work to visit their families in return for a smoothly run Christmas Day feast. Each servant was given a box containing gifts and bonuses and sometimes leftover food! Also around the 1800’s churches would open their alms boxes and distribute the contents to the poor. These boxes were filled with monetary donations from the wealthier members of the congregation.

No matter which version you would like to believe, Boxing Day is still an enjoyable holiday and one spent with family and friends, enjoying the ‘left overs’ and new gifts.

What will you be doing this Boxing Day?

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Author Interview – Catherine Saykaly-Stevens

August 6, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

This time around, I’m writing a screenplay. I see a new space opening up in Transformation/ Transformation thrillers. The inciting idea was watching a young man open his 23ANDme results and discovering that he was not related to either parent or his siblings.

How did you come up with the title?            

Serf, in early Christian times ignorant and powerless French peasants worked the land, handing most of their hard earned labours to the local Lord. 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

When change happens slowly people don’t necessarily notice it until it’s happened. Politicians are corrupt, and groups of young adults attempt to publically prove the consequence of a bad political decision can be overturned. They captures the unwanted government attention, just as they are about to graduate.

  • Anyone can capture anyone’s attention.
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • It only takes one action to start a movement.

How much of the book is realistic?

It’s based on our normal North American history, but where one political decision made 4 years earlier launched a new direction, and how one privileged young man searches for answer to a personal dilemma in this new political environment.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

They are completely fictitious and living in my head.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

I have a digital marketing Blog on my Website: TheNetworkingWeb.com
Connect with me: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook1 | Facebook2 | Instagram | YouTube (launching April)

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

This one is written specifically for the Netflix 5-year Series.  No other sequel, but the books will spawn 2 more from the same Story World.
So far, I have over 200 story outlines. My biggest problem isn’t coming up with ideas; it’s finding the time to write and to STICK TO and FINISH 1 story.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

Honestly, I don’t have favorites. Each has their uniqueness, secrets, and quirks. I just jump from brain to brain when the moment calls.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

Mystery, missing persons, and thrillers have always been my favourites.  Today I see the transformational writing space opening up and am interested in producing transformational thrillers.
Curious? The Matrix is one.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I used to be a seat of the pants style writer. Now I outline EVERYTHING to develop intriguing layers first, to ensure that it works. (Fiction) In business writing, you plan everything.

What is your best marketing tip?

It takes MONTH’s to launch a book properly.
Use your book as a tool to get interviews, lots of them!

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

Good question, as a digital marketing expert, social media could very well be the most disruptive tool ever seen, or when used effective, they greatest tool to grow your audience and sell more books, attend more conferences, and to maybe get a movie deal.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It’s cathartic. It’s my outlet. It lets me release the ideas in my head.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

Maybe 6. I may have rewritten my cartoon to run stories the way I wanted them to turn out. Fan Fiction circa @1983

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I’ve always writing the mysteries/missing person thrillers in fiction.
For work, because social media and digital marking is ALWAYS changing, I’ve had to rewrite old books and keep putting out new ones. That’s why they are never in print.

What genre are you currently reading?

Thrillers, mystery, crime, Psychological drama’s in fiction – business and marketing books and biographies in non-fiction and biz.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I use to read far more for pleasure, not I read mostly for work.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My brother from another mother. We are each other’s biggest content creation supporters.

Where is your favorite writing space?

Comfortable bustling coffee shops where I don’t know anyone.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I used to belong to Inklings until a few years back, most crime writing, but not for a few years.
I belong to one of the many #12WeekYear now, for HIGH productivity

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it, be and why?

Two come to mind: For science and for decades I’ve always wanted to meet James Burke. These days, I’d love to interview Malcolm Gladwell.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

I am partially connected to many cities. I’d like to live a winter to WRITE in Prague, Florence, or Seville, or most other locations where old cobble stone roads are the norm, little watering holes has people speaking English as a second language and the locals LOVE to share their stories, history, and folklore.

Do you see writing as a career?

Absolutely. For work, I regularly produce technical writing, copy writing, blogs, articles, even copy for explainer videos. For myself, I write Novels, Outlines and Screenplays.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

I drink as I write all day; coffee mostly, then water, a specialty soda is a treat.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Start the next project. No rest for the wicked

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TITLE:  Online Research Paths: Fake or Real?

Once the internet became available to the masses, new opportunities to collect and post data fueled new research.

However, not all information online is true. Still, there are many rich information resources to collect information, post queries to request information, and apply listening tools to seek information not yet posted. There is truly no limit.

How can you use this great online resource to your advantage yet not waste value time?

This interactive class explores online search methods, queries, and untapped resources.
Catherine invites you to bring your search queries, mobile devices, and questions.

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