Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Bibliophile Collective Tuesday – Short Story – The Crone’s Secret

October 4, 2022
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As most of you know, I love writing prompt’s and some of my novels have started as, or incorporated prompts in one way or another. As host of the writing group’s monthly sharing meeting, I assign ‘homework’ for attendees. This month’s prompt was to incorporate a potion of some sort, after all it is Halloween month. This was my response, I hope you like it.

Thin clouds drifted across the twilight sky, obscuring, then revealing the full moon’s light on the small hut and earthen track leading up to it. A lone wolf’s howl echoed in the forest, startling large black crows into flight from their roost, their noisy cawing disturbing the earlier still night air. A rickety cart crunched the dry earth as its inhabitant and the old horse pulling it, neared the hut. Wrapped in threadbare cloth and barefooted, the rider pulled at the reins and let out a sigh. To any observer the rider was an old crone, bent almost double, a large hump on her back, only her face, feet and hands uncovered, which were veined and wrinkled. She picked up a wicker basket covered by a velvet cloth and descended from the cart. Patting the horse as she passed, it changed shape, diminished in size and became a fox before scurrying away.

            With shuffling steps, the crone opened the wooden door and entered the ramshackled hut. Candles flickered into life at the passing of her hand, and a fire blazed into being. After placing the basket on a wooden table worn to a shine and scarred with use, she discarded the old cloth to reveal an ebony velvet cloak. Slippers of the same colour appeared on her feet and her hair tumbled down her back in dark locks. Anyone seeing her now, as a young woman, would never think she was the old crone peddling in the walled city streets. She guarded her secret well.

            One again, she had accumulated the ingredients for her secret potion. The first step was to soak the gathered fungi, and night lily root in lamb’s blood overnight. This was the basis of the elixir; one she had perfected over the last century or more. Her age was a mystery even to her now. So many renewals, so many moves to walled cities across the land, once again she would move to avoid any inquisitive questioning. She pulled a brass covered wooden box from a shelf and unlocked it. The vial inside shone with iridescence, there was just enough for the next potion. Her renewal would give her time to travel to the cavern deep within a cliff beside the ocean on the western most edge of the kingdom of Udizan. There she would refill the vial from the source, her most guarded secret. A pool of shining liquid, it’s origin unknown, but it’s effects powerful, when combined with the other ingredients. She placed the vial back in the box, turned the key and returned the treasured possession back on its shelf. As she turned, she cast a spell to protect the hut from any intruder and went to bed. In the morning, she would begin the ritual, adding all the items of the recipe, then drinking the elixir before leaving this hovel to find another place, another city, another ‘life’ among mortal beings.

            She lay down as images of her multiple past existences came to mind – cities blended into one, faces merged and became indistinct, memories too many to define. She let out a sigh of despair – did she really want to live yet another life? The secret would die with her unless she could find someone worthy. Was that so impossible? How would she begin? Her troubled thoughts plagued her once again. Was it really such a great thing to live forever?

Do you have a favorite Halloween story? Care to share?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Book Festival, Meeting Readers and Buying Books

September 20, 2022
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I attended Words on the Street this Saturday in Lethbridge with my publisher, Dream Write Publishing. This was an annual event I enjoyed until COVID postponed it. So, this first in-person return to the book festival since 2019 was a joy. I reconnected with local authors and met new readers to my novels. To discuss my stories is always a fun conversation, as those who know my work, understand my ability to ‘flip’ ideas on their heads and give surprisingly twists and turns in my narratives.

As a reader I also took advantage of an independent bookstore’s weekend sale. The Purple Platypus in Castor, is jam packed with books and picking one or two is impossible. I left with a bag of books! More for my ever expanding TBR pile. (You know the problem all too well, I’m sure.)

Added to these were novels from three Lethbridge authors – Jenna Greene, Bianca Rowena, and Mandy Michelle.

So after I finish Fairy Tale by Stephen King I will have a difficult decision to make – which book do I choose first. Do any of these speak to you? Which one would you choose?

Bibliophile Collective Tuesday – Real Places in Books

September 6, 2022
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I have just finished a wonderful novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax. It is a super read and I recommend it. (My review is on Goodreads).

After I finished reading, it occurred to me that as I lived near, and often visited Highclere Castle (Downton) when I lived in England, there must be numerous novels sited in actual places, rather than fictional ones. I have used my road trips the length and breath of England, Wales, Scotland and a portion of Canada to create locations in my books.

Knowing a place you are reading about is exciting as you can picture it exactly, and spot any errors, truth be told, as well. Of course, in the TV series of Downton the locations are many and not related to the fictional area at all in many cases. Here is a list of locations, many are far apart from each other! Link: That is the magic of TV & movies.

I used my many visits to castles, historic houses and ancient sites in my medieval novellas, The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy. Experiencing a place makes the narrative even more compelling and real to write about, and I hope that comes across in the stories.

For my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch, I used the enormity of a Canadian prairie as the setting for the male compound. Mountains are seen in the far distance, just like we see when driving west on the Yellowhead, but the concrete jungle is no longer in existence in my story.

What books have you read where you have known the location? Did it ring true? DId you find errors, or notice author’s license to fictionalize it?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Bookstore Romance Day

August 23, 2022
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I was very happy to be asked by my local bookstore, The Sherwood Park Bookworm to be included in this fun event. Copies of all my books can be found in the store, but of course the main five for this specific event were – The Twesome Loop (reincarnation/romance), The Commodore’s Gift (steampunk/romance), Life in Slake Patch (speculative fiction) and the two Rython novellas – The Rython Kingdom & Rython Legacy (medieval set fantasy/romance)

As we all know it is so important to support and buy local. Chain stores use their buying power to cut prices, but it is the personal touch and knowing you are helping an entrepreneur that is so important.

Do you have a favorite local bookstore?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Extreme Weather in Stories

August 16, 2022
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As we see the changes in weather around the world due to climate change, with extremes of heat, cold and rain, it is bound to be included in more novels than ever. My family in the UK is currently suffering an official drought with bans on water usage, my daughter-in-law’s family were victims of a hail storm in Innisfail, causing irrevocable damage to vehicles and glass injuries.

We all know the oldest line in writing – it was a dark and stormy night – which sets the scene perfectly.

Weather is it’s own character and is a force to be reckoned with for many protagonists. We all know the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz, the Mist’s creatures and The Shining’s snowfall by Stephen King, the storm in Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights, the cyclone in Marilynne Robinsons Lila, the heat in Albert Camus’s “The Stranger”, the flood in William Faulkner’s “The Wild Palms, the drought and Dust Bowl of The Grapes of Wrath and the Galveston Storm of 1900 portrayed in Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale. There are many, many more.

The weather not only affects writers creativity, but also readers reading habits. We enjoy a book on the beach, as well as beside a warm fire on a winter’s night. We may choose the location and season of a novel to match our current season, or even the opposite to immerse ourselves in a story to escape the current conditions. A chilly autumn/fall weekend might have us ‘disappearing’ into a seaside town mystery, or a thriller set around Halloween.

In my novella, Rython Legacy my main protagonist is lost in a snow storm. A frightful storm damages the home of the sprites in Ockleberries to the Rescue and a hot summer day has horses and their riders suffering in The Commodore’s Gift. The effects of the weather can make us ‘feel’ the character’s plight even more. What we experience as writers and readers makes the stories come alive.

Do you choose books because of season?

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