Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – How the Natural World Influences My Life and My Narratives

June 22, 2021
mandyevebarnett


My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.

My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.

In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.

In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.

I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.

As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.

You can find my books here: https://www.amazon.ca/Mandy-Eve-Barnett/e/B01MDUAS0V/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

What have you discovered in the natural world? How does nature affect you?

Author Interview – John Mavin

June 17, 2021
mandyevebarnett


  1. You have experienced a multitude of jobs – have these experiences given you insights for the characters in your stories, within your book Rage and other writing?

Yes and no.

Yes in that I have based characters on past jobs for some of my writing. For example, two stories which appear in Rage are about archaeologists (“Deposition” and “The Edmore Snyders”) and I did work as a salvage archaeologist for about six years. Consequently, both of these stories carry elements which are very much true to life.

However, most of my stories are not based on past employment. To keep looking at the stories in Rage, I’ve never been a mountain climber, a priest, or a teenage girl (and probably never will be). To look at some of my other past jobs, I’ve never published a story about writers, software developers, or graphic designers–in fact, I find most of my past employment doesn’t excite me enough to craft share-worthy fiction from it. It’s the experiences I’ve had (which may or may not have come tangentially from those jobs) which inspire me, shock me, give me joy, disgust me, scare me, or piss me off so much I find myself mining for my fiction.

I’ll wrap this up by saying I am a strong proponent of thorough research and writers getting their facts as correct as possible. If I can use a past job to get my facts right, I’ll do it. If I need to interview people who’ve experienced the things I’m writing about, I’ll talk to them. I find story elements which don’t ring true to life (or at least my experience of it) can bring me out of a story faster than anything else–and I try very hard to never do that to my readers.

  • Your path into writing was the result of an unusual message, please tell us about it and if now you are convinced or otherwise to the validity of that message?

I’m not sure if the message you’re referring to was actually my path into writing (I’ve been making stuff up for almost as long as I can remember), but that message was most certainly the catalyst which finally got my ass in gear and helped me focus on my dream of becoming an author.

The message was this: you’re on a path for destruction and unless you change your ways, you are going to die. The deliverer of that message was a tarot reader I’d met at a party in New Orleans, and when she told me this, it scared the shit out of me. At the time I was a rather unhappy software developer and I chose to interpret her message to mean I should abandon my career in information technology and give writing a real, honest, both-feet-in effort (I also remember hoping this was not a medical thing).

As a result, I completely refocused my life. I enrolled in some continuing education classes in creative writing and for the first time in a long while felt truly happy (like I was where I was supposed to be). My instructors were encouraging, my classmates were invested, and everyone took the writing thing seriously. I learned a lot. When I got enough decent material together for a portfolio, I applied to Simon Fraser University’s year-long program, The Writer’s Studio. Coincidentally enough, that was the time I got downsized from my software development job, so I was given the luxury of being able to focus on my studies full time. At SFU, I got involved in the local literary community, met many interesting people, and learned even more. Then, I took my biggest leap and applied to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. I’ve got to say when I got my acceptance letter from UBC, I did the biggest happy dance of my life. UBC was a fantastic experience for me, where I met even more interesting people, got involved in teaching creative writing, and learned an awful lot more.

In the end, whether or not I’m convinced of the validity of that message doesn’t really matter–I acted on that message, destroyed my old life, and created a new one I’m very happy with.

  • In teaching creative writing is it an advantage or a disadvantage to your own creativity?

It’s both.

Advantageous in that I get to meet many people with creative ideas so very different from my own. As a writer I don’t get out much, and talking to other writers about stories and other creative things is something I both enjoy and constantly learn from.

The downside for my creativity I experience from teaching is that I let it pull me away from my writing time. When I’m teaching a class, I feel it’s only fair to give my students my full attention, so whether I’m critiquing homework assignments or preparing lesson plans, I find I’m not writing as much of my own material as I’d like (in fact, I find I don’t write at all while I’ve got a course in session).

  • What writing process is the most comfortable for you – pantser or planner?

I’d like to be able to say I’m a planner, but that’s not entirely the truth. While I outline meticulously (not only do I take comfort in an outline, I’ve also discovered outlining saves me from having to write at least a full draft or two), I almost always deviate from my outline and end up pantsing to some degree as I go along. Now that could mean I’m further refining within the scope of my outline, but it could also mean I’ve got to throw away my current outline when I come up with something better (which happens often). As I’ve discovered my own writing process, I’ve realized my first drafts don’t look very much like my second drafts, and my final drafts are very different from what I first envisioned for my story (that’s not to say I only write three drafts–my current work in progress is on draft 10.7). So, um, yeah, I’m a bit of a hybrid.

  • How do you find inspiration and time to write?

As for time, I’m very lucky in that aside from the occasional teaching gig, all I do professionally is write (I’m also very lucky to have an extremely patient and generously supportive wife). As for inspiration, that’s been a bit trickier for me these past two years (as I suspect it has for a lot of people). I usually find my inspiration (whether it’s from things which shock me, give me joy, disgust me, scare me, or piss me off) from meeting new people, going to new places, and doing new things. As those stimuli have been somewhat curtailed lately, being inspired has become a bit of a challenge. I’m currently relying on memory and my outlines to carry me through my work.

  • What determines which genre/style your write in? (Short story, play, or poetry)

I haven’t been writing for the stage lately, and I’m not doing much short fiction or poetry, either. What I’ve been focusing on is longer fiction (the word count of the latest complete draft of my current WIP is about 120,000 words).

That being said, I did take a break from my novel and publish a short story in Speculative North last year. It’s about a werewolf desperately trying to keep her shit together while contending with increasing provocations from sources which have no regard for her as a person whatsoever (by the way, there should be an adult content warning if anyone decides they want to read that story–which anyone can for free by following the Free Downloads link on my website [http://www.johnmavin.com/downloads.html]). I knew that story would be short (it’s only about 7,900 words, admittedly long for a short story) as what I wanted to say wouldn’t have filled a novel.

So I guess that’s my answer–it’s what I want to say about a given idea that determines which genre or style I’ll use. My current WIP is too big and has too much world building to be effective in short formats so I’ve gone long. For my stage plays, it was usually the effect on a live audience I was going for (for example, my one-act play Daguerreotype–also available on my Free Downloads page–is an intentionally uncomfortable experience which is different for each person in the audience, depending on when they figure out what is really going on). For my poetry, if what I’m looking for is the emotional equivalent of a quick punch, that’s the genre I’ll choose.

  • You offer writing courses – what made you decide to do this?

I like to share and I like to teach. Back when I was taking my MFA, my grad advisor looked at my proposed schedule and called me in for a meeting. She said I’d signed up for too many courses and had to limit my choices–specifically, she asked me to choose between a class on teaching creative writing and a class on journal publication. While I was disappointed I couldn’t take both, making that choice was easy (I chose the teaching class).

  • Do you have a current WIP? Can you tell us about it?

I’m currently working on (and have been for far too long) a dark fantasy trilogy. I’m not yet at the stage where I can publicly say much about it, but I will say it’s set in a secondary world and deals with belief, deceit, and what happens to the soul after death. Oh, and yeah, the cast is very much filled with morally questionable characters (as with most of my writing, no one is truly good and no one is truly evil–they’re all hybrids, which I find true to life, or at least my experience of it).

  • How important do you feel creativity is – no matter the medium?

Very, very important. I believe humans have an innate need to create in almost all situations. Whether that creativity is expressed through writing short stories, composing music, painting pictures, solving problems, completing work, or even getting dressed is immaterial–everyone is creative. I realize I’m not expressing this very well, but I do know someone who can: his name is Jim Jackson and he has a podcast called Radio Creative, in which he looks at ways to expand people’s natural creativity and tap into it when they want to in their life, work and art. Full disclosure–Jim had me on as a guest a while back–but he’s also interviewed chefs, business consultants, and lawyers besides editors and writers). I recommend giving Radio Creative a listen. [https://anchor.fm/radiocreative/]

  1. Where can readers find you?

The best place to find me online is my website, http://www.johnmavin.com, where I’ve got links to both my Facebook page [www.facebook.com/author.john.mavin] as well as my Goodreads profile [www.goodreads.com/author/show/16623050.John_Mavin].

  1.  Do you have a message for your readers?

Um, you mean beyond “hello, thanks for reading my stuff, please read more of my stuff, and I’d really appreciate it if you gave my stuff an honest review on Goodreads and/or Amazon”?

Okay, for something much less self-serving, how about this…I came across a meme on Facebook the other day which struck me as apropos. It went something like this:

List of Books to Read Before You Die

1. Any book you want.

2. Don’t read books you don’t want to read.

3. That’s it. The meme goes on, but at its core, I really liked its message

A chilling collection of stories unraveling the consequences of longing, broken trust, and deceit.

BIO:

John Mavin is the author of the dark literary collection Rage who’s taught creative writing at Capilano University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, with New Shoots (through the Vancouver School Board), and at the Learning Exchange in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He’s a graduate of SFU’s The Writer’s Studio and also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. A past nominee for both the Aurora Award and the Journey Prize, his work has been translated, studied, and published internationally. He invites you to visit him online at http://www.johnmavin.com or follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/author.john.mavin.

You can find John at Wine Country Writer’s Festival September 24 – 25, 2021

Wine Country Writer's Festival

This years festival will take place VIRTUALLY and be chock full of advice, fun, learning, meetings and of course a little bit of wine. https://winecountrywritersfestival.ca/the-presenters/

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Summer Approaching

June 15, 2021
mandyevebarnett


A lot of us look forward to summer – it’s heat, long days and lazy days in the garden/yard. Of BBQ’s, beaches and the open road. This , of course, depends on the continent you live on and the weather cycles. I am not a heat person and like to stay at 22°C degrees with a breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay. They absolutely love my English blood, here in Canada.

I wrote this poem a while ago about impending summer.

summer loading

Summer, you are long awaited

Through snow, sleet and rain, your heat and blasting glory

Pull us through.

Memories of sea and sand, camp fires and BBQ gatherings

Pull us through.

Green lushness, long days and outside chores planned

Pull us through

Then you are here – Summer – our darling

Flowers are planted, friends and family gather and lawns cut

Joy abounds

Garden furniture released from storage and nature’s sounds surround

Joy abounds

Vacations, road trips and splashing in the pool

Joy abounds

Long awaited, now enjoyed.

We love you Summer.

***

This summer there will be road trips to look forward to based on a new contest for Go East. Linda and I have already collected stickers from two routes and will explore new places over the summer months. Our first trip was ambitious driving two routes in one long day (15 hours to be precise!), so now we have planned stop overs for the remaining routes. Making it much more leisurely and giving us the ability to explore more.

The other trip we are taking includes one of the areas included in the adventure game, but for another reason. We are hosting and presenting for When Words Collide. This is an annual event and is virtual this year. We have booked an isolated cabin on private land beside a lake. The perfect writing and relaxation retreat, as well as a great dog walking venue.

I have received the last editing workshop comments and will be diving into the next round of revisions of book one in the Delphic Murders, An Elusive Trail, in the coming weeks. I am excited for this project and hope that you will enjoy the stories once they are published.

My last review is for Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
A beautifully told story centering around a particular house during two different time periods. Barbara has expertly woven the two story lines and the inhabitants lives together. The core of the novel centers on the real life of a intriguing woman, Mary Treat. Someone history should take notice of and celebrate.

In the meantime you are welcome to browse (and buy) any of my other books here: https://www.amazon.ca/Mandy-Eve-Barnett/e/B01MDUAS0V/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1 or any of these e-book sites.

As always if you have any questions about my stories, writing life or events please feel free to contact me.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Parallels between Queen Boudicca and Owena Wintermute of The Commodore’s Gift

June 1, 2021
mandyevebarnett


Queen Boudicca of Britain

In British history, we learn about Queen Boudicca, who ruled the Celtic clan, the Iceni tribe and united a number of other British tribes to revolt against the Roman occupying forces in 60 – 61 AD. She famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles but alas the war was won by the Romans. However, this does not deter from the fact that Queen Boudicca was a courageous queen, who fought for freedom from her oppressors.

Her rousing speech united the tribes and even today stirs the blood.

“We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters…. Consider how many of you are fighting — and why! Then you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do!— let the men live in slavery if they will.”

Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers, and girls would be trained to fight with swords and other weapons, just like their male counterparts. As an adolescent, Boudicca would have been sent away to another aristocratic family to be trained in the history and customs of the tribe, as well as learning how to fight in battle. Celtic women were distinct in the ancient world for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and the position they held in society. Compared to their counterparts in Greek, Roman, and other ancient societies, they were allowed much more freedom of activity and protection under the law.

Owena Wintermute of The Commodore’s Gift

Owena has a unconventional upbringing within Victorian society. Motherless, she is brought up by her father and only sibling, an older brother, Benjamin. Feminine conventions are a mystery to both men and they welcome Owena’s tom-boy personality and actions. This leads to instruction in horseback riding astride the saddle instead of side-saddle and freedom to read whatever literature she wanted. Her attire is adapted to accommodate her other activities, such as instruction in swordplay, with the removal of corsets. Owena becomes proficient in this discipline. She also joined her brother as he played with toy soldiers and not only learnt battle formations and strategic planning but won against him.

Owena is certainly not a meek and mild woman but a warrior and worthy ally to the men of the rebel force. She joins them in their fight against the Buldrick Empire and ultimately gains their respect.

Read Owena’s story here: https://www.amazon.ca/Commodores-Gift-Mandy-Eve-Barnett/dp/1988723760

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Character Interview – Evan from Life in Slake Patch

May 25, 2021
mandyevebarnett


This is a character interview with Evan from my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch.

1. Tell me a little about yourself (where you live, who you are, what you look like.) My name is Evan and I live in the male compound, Slake Patch, on the prairie plain. I am a Second, as my eldest brother is the First. As such I am bound to compound duties only, rather than tending to the livestock on the plain. I am twenty-two years old, muscular, blonde with blue eyes and my fellow Slake inhabitants look up to me as a champion wrestler within the patch.

2. What do you like to do in your spare time? I love wrestling and spending time with my best friend, Greg. He and I came to the compound together at the age of six, as is the custom to live with our fathers and other men. We attended lessons together and were paired for chores for some time. Is there something more you would like to do? I would love to escape the compound to ride across the plain, but currently it is not allowed. Our only trip outside the patch is to the central food store in a horse drawn cart.

3. Do you have a favorite color and why? We do not have much color in our lives apart from the designated one for our bunkhouses to identify each working group. I am not particular about colours to be honest, although I love Kate’s long auburn hair.

4. What is your favorite food? Why is it your favorite? A thick piece of steak between two large slices of fresh cornbread is perfect. The softness of the bread soaks up the steak juices. The meat helps build my muscles and strength.

5. What would you say is your biggest quirk? I’m unsure what to say about this, if you ask around you might find the other men find it odd I spend a lot of time with an elder named Jacob. He is my mentor, friend, discoverer of information and more of a father figure than my own.

6. What is it about the antagonist in the novel that irks you the most, and why? Aiden and his Tribe use violence as a way of trying to change our way of life, the order and laws of our society. There is always a more diplomatic means to resolve conflicts. He and his follows also berate young women, which I find abhorrent. Women are to be obeyed and cherished.

7. What or who means the most to you in your life? What, if anything, would you do to keep him/her/it in your life? I am deeply in love with my tryst, Kate, and would lay down my life for her. If it was in my power I would change the once a week visiting rule to spend more time with her.

8. What one thing would you like readers to know about you that may not be spelled out in the book in which you inhabit? That I am open to new ideas as long as they do not harm others. I believe the matriarchy is right to rule the way they do.

9. If you could tell your writer (creator) anything about yourself that might turn the direction of the plot, what would it be? In truth, I altered the plot several times during the creating of my narrative. Some twists to the original were by my suggestions.

10. Do you feel you accomplished what you wanted? Yes, I do. I managed to find solutions to changes that improved our way of life.

Do you have a question you would like to ask Evan? Put it in the comments.

You can read Evan’s story here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07JG1GPP4/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5

Blog at WordPress.com.