Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Compelling First Lines to Capture Your Reader

February 6, 2020



How to capture your readers attention.

It seems like an easy question until you try to write it. There is always the cover, the blurb and, of course the competition of a favoured best seller author’s new book compared to yours to overcome. However, it can also be those first few lines glanced at as a reader browses the shelves of their local book store or library. These are the most worked on, pondered and despaired lines by authors. They must capture a reader’s attention so completely that they are compelled to continue reading. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It is far from easy it though.

There are some key elements that draw a reader in:

  1. Make them wonder.
  2. Begin with a pivotal moment.
  3. Create an interesting scene.
  4. Intrigue them with a character.
  5. Begin with an unusual instance.
  6. Use a compelling narrative voice.
  7. Begin with a conflict.
  8. Use a life changing moment.

Here are a couple of my first lines:

Celeste watched her daughter, Maralynn; grow over the years while seeing her power increase. She could see her own mother, the previous Eldenma’s movements and expressions reflected in her daughter. Since her own mother, Juliana and her lover, Guillem’s transition to the other realm, Celeste and her lover, Michael, were her daughter’s only protectors in the earthly realm. They knew in time their ability to protect her would end as Maralynn learned how to control and manipulate her powers.

“Come back, here, Bubble – you’ll get stuck up there.”

Lenni called to her pet in vain. Bubble climbed up the bark of the tree in her usual wobble side-to-side manner, getting higher and higher. As she watched her pet, Lenni could see the two moons begin to converge in the magenta evening sky. Once they were one moon, she would need to be safely at home behind the dome wall. Lenni realized there was only one thing she could do, climb up the frackist tree and carry Bubble down.

These are the first lines from a book I re-read quite often. It was the first book I found that centred around reincarnation, a fascination of mine.

Ferney by James Long.

As he looked for the bones of his long-dead wife, old Ferney came close to death. Caught in the traffic jam that resulted, Gally Martin’s life changed.

Care to share your favourite first lines & links?




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?

Joint Interview – Juliette Oliver and Anita Bagdi…

September 4, 2013

Nimble – definition: 1. quick and light in movement; moving with ease; agile 2. quick to understand, think, devise

Today’s word is perfect for Juliette Oliver and Anita Bagdi as their book is yoga inspired! Firstly, here is Juliette’s interview.


What do you enjoy most about writing?

The freedom to express my creativity through rhyme; whether it be profundity or nonsense, I find my thoughts find some fluidity in rhyme.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I enjoyed writing as a teenager and I would definitely say my strongest subject was Literacy. However, I didn’t really begin to write poetry until I was about 26. I remember being very inspired whilst out walking with my children, to write about the seasons. Shortly after, I became a teacher which presented me with many opportunities to write poetry as examples for lessons and also longer pieces as assembly scripts.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I feel I write in two styles: predominantly playful and humorous poetry; also, more profound pieces, which are a little more enigmatic.

What genre are you currently reading?


Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

Both. I find time restricts the amount I read for pleasure and I am incessantly inquisitive so I read lots of science!

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

Anita Bagdi – My illustrator and partner in Little Yogi Adventures – we inspire each other and the same level of intense enthusiasm just wouldn’t be there without our synergy.

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

We haven’t so much created characters – we have created stories with the same characters (The Little Yogis) but different themes. Our next theme is The Deep Blue Sea, our current book is The Jungle Story. We wanted to keep the characters generic as The Little Yogis actually represents all the Little people I teach each week – so it could be any of them!

Where is your favorite writing space?

The beach or my sofa with a good cup of coffee!

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

Our stories require planning of yoga sequences and planning of a message we would like to convey. Once we have that, then I can compose a poem/rhyme to match the yoga sequence (each posture has a name – the rhyme is written around them). All sounds straight forward but actually they continuously overlap as I swap/change and tweak both wording and physical movement.

What inspires your ideas/stories?

Watching my Little Yogis do and LOVE yoga. They also create little stories and rhymes to do yoga to, and they are very good at it! I watch what they enjoy and listen to what makes them laugh/feel calm/ feel energized and happy, and then I try to use yoga stories to enhance all of these qualities,

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

Not as yet!

Do you have a book published? If so, what is it called & where can readers purchase it?


Little Yogi Adventures – The Jungle Story.

It can be purchased through our website:



Lulu – The online market place.

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

Well, in an ideal world …..Dr Suess! He is my inspiration as he manages to convey important and profound life messages through humour and rhyme. The ultimate poem being ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’. My second choice would be Alan Ahlberg as he is also incredibly deft with world play and making the most mundane scenarios humorous.

Where can readers find you and your blog?

 Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?

Yes, the next one is written and the yoga has been composed. We just need to get painting! Keep a look out for The Deep Blue.

And here is Anita’s interview:


What do you enjoy most about illustrating?

I  enjoy to let my pencil to spread the ideas onto paper. Sometimes it comes out totally differently as I imagined in my head, as if that pencil had control over my hand! Sometimes it appears much better than I imagined! Sometimes I have it exactly how I pictured. Honestly, that drawing pencil can be a magical tool when it links to a mind!

After drafting ideas, I have a go with colours –  mainly water colour. That again,gives a different feel to the picture. Maybe some ink or pen to outline bits at the end. Just follow feelings, no learnt structure or routine. My husband catches  me smiling while I `m drawing and painting pictures. It’s my kind of meditation.

What age did you start drawing and painting?

I always dreamed to be an children’s book illustrator, since I was 6 years old. But I have never `learnt any school stuff` about drawing/painting and that actually gave me complete freedom to find my own style. I just love drawing since I can hold a pencil.

Little girl

Has your style changed or stayed the same?

As your mind and experiences are changing in your life so are your characters changing. You explore more media, techniques, create new characters, feelings, you learn all the time. Yet, topics can  and will change with time, your style somehow will always stays recognizable.


Do you have any favorite illustrators who can inspire you?

Oliver Jeffers,Emily Gravett, Lynne Chapmann, Corey Godbey, some Hungarian illustrators like Mari Takacs, Katalin Szegedi  just to mention a few great ones and I also follow inspiring blogs.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband – he`s always there for me, if it`s about creating some free time for some art work next to my teaching job or helping to find inspiration or just simply making a good coffee for me…he is a big kid with lots of unusual, fun ideas and real imagination. He is really my `other half`.

Also, my friends, their children, the coffee times with them, and the children in my class at school.

No mentor, I learn as I go.

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

I like `working` with the Cloud Girls. They already have their stories, all waiting for me to create the pictures to them. I love the colours and the gentle flow of lines on these pictures. Somehow they make you feel, that you also want to be there with that very same cloud.

Cloud (1)

Where is your favorite space to do your art work?

At home, at my desk, preferably during daylight with some music. It’s very important for me to tidy everything up first, so I have a clean, organized starting point and I can be ready to create  and rule my very own mess! 🙂

Do you belong to a illustrator/art group? If so which one?

Not really, however I follow some inspiring groups like Illustration Friday, Creative Tuesday and try to participate as much as possible. It`s great to share your art with others and also to give and get some feedback on your work.


Do you have a book published? If so, what is it called & where can readers purchase it?

Our first book just came out this summer. It’s an interactive rhyming yoga story for children, Little Yogi Adventures – The Jungle Story. You can order it from our website or straight from

You also can find some useful guidelines of how to use the book on our Facebook page.


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

Oliver Jeffers – love his stories, the life lessons in his stories,  his gentle humor in his art.  I’m a big fan of his.

Where can readers find you and your blog?

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?

We are already working on the next Little Yogi Adventure: the Deep Blue Sea.

There is another children’s book almost ready and waiting to be published, called Bananas. It`s a charming story of two children who try to find out more about the different kind of  bananas.


And I have my own characters, the Cloud Girls, whose stories I really would like to paint – this will be a fun project later.

Cloud 2

My English Heritage…

May 13, 2013

Cloister – definition: 1) monastery or convent; 2) a covered, usually arched passage along or around a court

Castles, mansions, and grand estates all made up a wonderful hobby for my friend, Deb and I when we lived in England. The historic houses and ancient sites we visited are far too many to name or list here. Suffice to say we travelled around a great deal of England to gazed in awe and learn about our history.

Some places are known globally, such as Stonehenge and Buckingham Palace but there are hundreds of other magnificent places that would inspire anyone. Painted ceilings, tapestries, carved furniture and wooden paneling not to mention thousands of paintings of Lords and Ladies from days gone by.

imagesCANOKFKJ Cambridge and Oxford have cloistered courtyards as do many other buildings of the time period when such buildings were made by skilled stone masons. With close inspection you will see how each section has been crafted to lock with the next. Workmanship  like this is sadly in short supply in today’s modern age but their are some who are trying to keep the craft alive.

It is possible that I can imagine where my travelling troubadour, Guillem Ruet resides so easily due to my years of visiting such glorious places.


Interview… R. Ann Rousseau

February 1, 2013

Today’s author, R. Ann Rousseau weaves her love and knowledge of her home town into her love story, hence the link to today’s word and it’s second definition. Dextrous – definition 1) skillful or adroit in the use of the hands or body 2) having mental adroitness or skill; clever.


a) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
My favorite character in my novel Portsmouth A Love Story is Severine Champagne. She is a woman who never gives up hope and perseveres through times of difficulty. She has a sense of humor, steadiness, and a faith in her own talents, abilities and values. She believes in herself even when no one else does. She stays true to herself and her dreams.

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

I dabble in more than one genre in the novel. Portsmouth A Love Story is a traditional love story with a historical and metaphysical twist. I have incorporated all the things about love, including the place I love and hope the reader comes along for the ride. The ghost stories in the novel are real. I interviewed various people including the owners of the Three Chimneys Inn in Durham, NH and the staff at the Wentworth Hotel in New Castle. All the metaphysical elements are real.

c) What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the power to create the ending I want to give myself as a reader. With entertainment and with life, we sometimes have to accept the ending we’re fed by others. As a writer, I have the freedom to write anything I want. I can make the characters as ugly or as good as I want. I can let my heroine experience hot sex, the depth of love and both. I can let them play out their lives in the places I love to go to myself. With fiction, you can design the life you want and actually see it fulfilled. You get the happy ending you deserve.

d) Have you got a favorite place to write?

I go in phases, depending on the season and amount of disruptions. I like to write at home in my home office then go to my favorite pizza shop for lunch and review what I wrote in the morning or afternoon. I will book a room at my local library when I feel distractions are overwhelming and I need to focus on getting a chapter completed. If I’m traveling a lot for business, I’ll write on a bus or in my hotel room. I don’t usually write for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. I have a short attention span.

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

I plan my story in advance in outline form. I set up all my chapters, then, like a bird, I write a little here…a little there. I move chapters around. I cut them out. It’s a messy process at first. I move front to back then start at chapter one again then tweak and tweak and tweak. When my chapters are coherent, I send them one by one to an editor in Kansas who makes suggestions. Working with Ali has been invaluable…and great for some accountability. She’ll tell me if what I write isn’t believable for a particular character. A great writing partner is like Gold.

f) What inspires your stories?

The man I’m in love with. If he’s not giving me what I want, I write it so he does. : ) If he does give me what I want, I use it for the book. So, I guess you could say, love inspires a great love story.

g) What are you currently reading?

I read something new practically every week, mostly non-fiction. I review books for Hay House Publishing and some others I feel like reviewing. The books I keep by my nightstand are A Course in Miracles, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, The Divine Law of Compensation by Marianne Williams and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

h) Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?

I don’t have any odd habits. My childhood stories are in my novel.

i) Do you have any pets?

Yes. My cat Maxfield is named after the New Hampshire Cornish Art Colony artist Maxfield Parrish. He also makes an appearance in my novel Portsmouth A Love Story. Here’s a quote from the novel where I include Max:

The morning sun slipped through a cascade of cream colored curtains. Maxfield curled up in a giant feline furball, snuggled against the contours of Severine’s soft silhouette. Not realizing he was there, she rolled over, opening one eye to see his warm brown body nestled comfortably against her belly. Before she had time to open the second eye, she heard the gentle whisper of an invisible male voice announce, “It’s time to move.”

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

I did belong to a writing group. They were very helpful in reviewing early drafts. I stepped out of the group when one member announced that she was writing a love story set in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It didn’t sit well with me after I had spent 3 years writing MY love story set in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

k) What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I started at age seven. I remember trying to write lyrics to songs. I would spend hours listening to Motown songs on WRKO – Boston on the transistor radio. I moved on to poetry and then journaling through high school.

l) Do you have a book published?

If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it? I do have a book published. It’s called Portsmouth A Love Story. It is available in ebook and print edition. It’s available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

eBook_for B&N

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

Louisa May Alcott. She not only wrote children’s novels, she also wrote love stories that were pretty sexy. She did it under a different names. She was ambitious, never married and had an amazing imagination. I would love to have lunch with her and chat about life.

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

I’m living exactly where I want to live right now. Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve been to Venice, Paris, South Africa and Geneva and there’s no place like home. I walk on the beach at sunset, as my character does in my novel and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

o) What’s your favorite movie of all time?

I love the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding and You’ve Got Mail. Most of all, I never miss an Ann of Green Gables marathon when it’s on my local PBS station.

p) Where can readers find you and your blog?

They can find me and my fellow bloggers from around the world blogging at

q) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?

Yes, I’m working on the sequel to Portsmouth A Love Story called Portsmouth The Pearl. Like a pearl, the irritations and challenges we deal with in life make us and our relationships more colorful and valuable as time goes on.

r) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

I’ve never had one. My own spirit guides me.

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