Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Sharing a Story & 2021 Reading Challenge

January 5, 2021
mandyevebarnett


I am engaged in a six week writing course and thought, I could share my submissions with you. The first week is the sense of SIGHT. This was my story using the image.

The Jungle Wall

Lush greenery clings to a rocky reddish brown mock cliff face. A sheen of a waterfall cascades onto a flat hard surface, in a splashing burst. Sunlight shimmers in the veil of water, creating a band of rainbow colours. To the side are smooth, burnt sienna stones and pebbles, piled atop each other. Lighter green foliage creeps among them mimicking rivets of a stream. Large fern like leaves in glossy dark greens surround  the liquid of the waterfall and quench their thirst.  The throng of office workers pass by without a care or indeed interest. The mock jungle wall has become commonplace, a background feature. Too familiar to see anymore.

That is until, Sandy enters the building for an appointment. She initially enjoys the cool air so pleasant after the hot humid summer day outside. As she’d entered the building, she noticed the glass façade created stripes of light on the grey sidewalk, in stark contrast to her comfortable red soft leather shoes. She pulled at her indigo jeans, wishing she had taken time to hem them properly instead of folding the fabric at her ankles, where it now bunched and folded.

Sandy heard the water falling before seeing the green and brown jungle wall. A smile grew on her face at the joy and thrill that came over her as she looked at it. She was drawn to the lush greenery, the sparkling water and how the sunlight, funneled from an overhead skylight, danced on the surfaces. She walked to the edge of the installation and the noise of traffic, voices and footsteps fell away. It was as though she had traveled to an exotic location – a tropical forest. The falling water drew her eyes from  top to bottom and around again – pulling her forward ever closer. Unconsciously, she leaned over the glass panels, reaching out to touch the delightfulness of the scene. She was within the installation in her mind’s eye – the russet browns and verdant greens grew in richness and intensity. She looked at every leaf, every rock and plant – committing to memory the sights.

Suddenly, her dream was broken, a hand gripping and pulling her backwards. Her purse tumbled from her shoulder to the ground, its contents spilling across the tiled floor. A woman’s voice muffled in Sandy’s ears, a stranger’s face full of concern.

“You nearly fell over, my dear. You need to take care. Here let me help you with your belongings.”

Sandy struggled from her daze and thanked the woman, as they gathered her possessions. With all the items gathered Sandy thank you woman and watched her walk away, unsure how she could have been so absorbed in the jungle of her imagination. Glancing at her watch she gasped to see she was almost late for her appointment. Without another look, she hurried away.

In the depths of the rock wall, eyes shone out. The treasure was just inside the glass panels. As the building emptied later on that evening, a small creature crept to retrieve the pink and black vial. It put it with all the other treasures and grinned. Another susceptible human drawn in. 

Let me know what you think of this story.

I have once again entered the Goodreads Reading Challenge – I am committing to read a minimum of 15 books in 2021. I hope I can make this goal, as I missed my goal by two books last year, mainly because I was busy completing my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift and promoting it once it was published and participating in NaNoWriMo. This year I will edit and revise my manuscript for the first book in my crime/detective trilogy, so decreased my reading goal slightly. Have you signed up?

My current read is If It Bleeds by Stephen King. It will not take much longer!

What are you reading? What was your favorite book of 2020?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – An Unusual Christmas Tree Topper Story

December 15, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Adeline walked along the crowded high street, full of Christmas shoppers. The store fronts reflect the hustle and bustle in the glass. Bags and packages weighing down arms, demanding and tired children in equal measure and frustrated gentlemen panicking about what to buy. Window displays of red, green, white; gold and silver entice the bargain hunters to venture in. Their Christmas scenes full of trees, reindeer, Santa’s in sleighs or shouldering a large red sack and surrounded by pretend boxes of gifts. Make believe snow lies on the floor, while wires dangle snowflakes and stars. Each Christmas tree is topped with an angel or a star, one after the other, shop after shop. As she walks, avoiding bags and elbows and small children, Adeline feels a compulsion to do something different for her tree. Why be the same as everyone else?

In her small but neat and tidy apartment, everything is in its place. She relishes an orderly space. She looks around the living area. Where would I even put a tree? Adeline looks at the possibilities as she prepares her supper. There is the breakfast bar, which could hold a small tree, but would it encumber her meal preparations? She dismisses the small round dining table, as any size of tree would obscure the diners from each other. Without a fireplace or mantle, the apartment is without a focal point. She refuses to make the TV a focus and has it placed on one side wall. The coffee table is too useful to clutter with any sort of ornament. Where is the best spot to place a tree?

As she sits eating her supper of chicken, jasmine rice and spinach and carrots, Adeline wonders if she even needs to go to the bother of purchasing a tree. After all, she would spend Christmas Day with her parents and sister. Last year, though, she was still living with her parents, so Christmas followed the usual routine, with her mother spearheading everything. Sipping her wine, Adeline, thought about her new space, her new life and realized she wanted to share it. The dining table was just big enough for her parents, younger sister and herself. Even if she spent Christmas Day at her parents, she wanted to host a celebration in her new home.

After clearing away the dishes, Adeline closed her eyes, imagined the living area empty and placed her few possessions in different settings. With the sectional turned along the TV wall, instead of with its back to the bay window, she would have an open space. That would be a perfect place for the tree. Excited now, she had a plan, Adeline pushed the sofa sections around and moved the coffee table in front of it. She also moved her extra-large sofa chair and footstool so it was angled in such a way it would directly face the tree. Where she imagined herself curled up under a blanket, illuminated by the twinkling lights and reading a good book.

The next day, Adeline set off early in search of an artificial tree, lots of decorations for it and the all-important tree topper. Store after store promised the most unique tree, some with integral lights, others not. There were decorations in every colour possible, large and small, fancy or plain. Adeline was finding it difficult to choose, so decided to take a break in a local café. There was a queue to the door, so she waited her turn, then choose hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cinnamon sprinkle. She scrolled the photos on her cell phone, of the trees and decorations she liked. One by one, she dismissed them until she had one tree and a couple of sets of ornaments, that would complement each other. Now she could go directly to the specific stores and purchase them. The only item remaining to choose was the topper, every one she had photographed just wasn’t special enough. Where will I find something unique?

As she put her mug into the dirty collection tray, an older woman bumped her arm.

“Oh, my goodness, I am so sorry. I lost my balance for a moment there.”

It’s quite alright. Do you need a hand to your table? Are you dizzy?’

“No, I’m fine, thank you. Just forgot to eat breakfast in my rush to get out of the house this morning. I think my blood sugar is a little low. Once I eat this muffin and drink the orange juice, I will be fine. Thank you for your kindness.”

Adeline followed the lady to her seat, wished her season’s greetings and turned to leave. The woman placed a hand on her arm and Adeline felt a tingle.

“You should visit the antique store around the corner, you will find what you seek there.”

Adeline frowned and asked, what the woman meant.

“I sometimes pick up on wishes when I touch people. I hope I didn’t spook you out. Happy Christmas.” The woman winked at her and sipped her drink.

Adeline smiled and walked out of the café. What an odd lady. However, despite herself she did walk around the corner to find an antique store, just as the woman had said. Curiosity made her enter the store, its interior crammed full of curio cabinets, long tables piled full of items and numerous clocks, pictures and signs on every wall. How on earth would anyone find anything in here?

A gentleman’s voice startled her. “Good morning, may I help you?”

At first Adeline could not see him through the plethora of items but then he moved to one side and she saw him standing behind a dark oak counter at the back of the store, almost completely obscured by display stands.

“Good morning, I am looking for something unusual as a Christmas tree topper, but have no idea what that would look like or if you would have anything like that.”

“Well, come this way, we have an assortment of decorations over here.”

Adeline walked towards him, turning sideways to avoid objects, shelving and cabinets along the aisle. On the far side of the store, she was delighted the see a large cabinet full of Christmas decorations. There was a light shining on it making everything inside sparkle and shine.

“Oh, goodness it looks magical.”

“Well, thank you. Take your time to choose, just be careful, some of the decorations are very old. If you need help just ask.”

“Thank you, I will.”

Adeline looked at the large cabinet and began picking up objects, one by one. Some had lost their shine, there were chips out of others and some had no means of hanging them as they were broken. She found the usual stars and angels in metal, plastic and wood, but also a Santa hat, a reindeer antler, a gnome, a gingerbread man, a dinosaur and a spacecraft. All interesting but not what she felt was right. Then she saw it, a black felt top hat decorated with fake snow and glitter, candy canes, tinsel and holly. It was perfect.

She carried it to the counter and the gentleman nodded his approval.

“Well, that is special isn’t it? Echoes of times past. I will wrap if for you.”

“Thank you so much. I have been to every store in the high street and couldn’t find anything quite right. My Christmas tree will be perfect now.”

With her purchase made, Adeline went back to the high street and purchased the tree and decorations and made her way home. After a quick lunch, she assembled the tree, spent a long time placing each ornament in just the right place and then once it was complete, she added the final flourish – the top hat. It’s perfect.

On Boxing Day, her parents and sister arrived for lunch and all exclaimed how wonderful her tree looked. It resembled a Christmas Carol type scene, with mock candles, holly, pine cones, fabric ornaments and oranges wrapped in ribbon and pricked with cloves. The top hat sat pride of place right at the top of the tree. Adeline even found an ornate tablecloth and napkins for the dining table to continue the theme with handmade top hat place settings.

She was so happy, her first Christmas in her new home was extra special. The old woman had been right to send her to the antique store. She would always be thankful.

I hope you liked my Christmas story, it was fun to write.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – The Start of a Short Story

October 20, 2020
mandyevebarnett


One of the exercises I find helpful as well as fun is using picture or word prompts to create a story (sometimes a poem). I recently chose a made up place name as the genus of an idea. The name was Fiddletown. The exercise is to write something in a limited time frame, around 10 minutes.
Some of these prompts have become full blown novels. This particular one is certainly one I made use at a later date. It sparked such a clear image for me.

I hope you like the beginnings of a story.

Hidden in the depths of the mountains, a small town flourishes. It is populated by beings of short stature with six fingers on each hand. Their ancestors escaped persecution from other people decades before. Safe now, they exist as hunters and gatherers existing in a solitary environment. Until, that is a couple of exploring mountaineers happen across the town.

This causes fear and consternation as well as an ethical question. Should they hide, locking everything up and hope the men think the town deserted, or run into the higher forest and wait them out or murder the two men? Whatever they do will alert the outside world…

Would you like to read the story? What do you think they decide?

I enjoyed a writing retreat from Friday to Monday in Crowsnest Pass. We watched the mountains slowly disappear as the snow arrived. Cozy in our cabin, with dogs, books and wine.

With a long weekend I managed to finish one book and read another. Here are my reviews.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Fabulously written. Gripping to the end, with you guessing (incorrectly most of time!) who the guilty party was. A web of lies hold four friends captive for decades until a three word text brings them together.
A seriously good read.

City of Dream by Suzanne Burkett

A great story of secrets, hidden memories and love. A very enjoyable read. Suzanne has created a wonderful world in this novel.

Wordsmiths Collective Thursday – Nature & Writing Inspiration

October 15, 2020
mandyevebarnett


We all need to refresh our writing Muse, so this past Thanksgiving long weekend, I enjoyed two day road trips to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. The first was on Saturday and then again on Monday. Both trips were a discovery of back roads and nature. It was chilly and breezy but glorious colours of the season were enjoyed.

There was plenty of wildfowl, a friendly squirrel, a couple of muskrats and evidence of a busy beaver too.

Although, I did some research for my detective book series and compiled a file folder of research, I did not write. We all need downtime.

However, I may write a short story on the unusual sight of a beaver lodge with a satellite dish! It’s too good not to.

Inspiration does come from anywhere and everywhere.

What do you do to refresh your writing Muse?

Wordsmiths Collective Thursday – 10 Tips To Get Your Writing Mojo Back.

June 11, 2020
mandyevebarnett


block 2

Typically, I write my entire first draft without getting feedback, with the “door closed,” a la Stephen King. For me this draft is a flow of words as the story plays like a movie in my head. Yep, madness rules when a story grips me.

However, for the past few months, I did not look at my current manuscript. It was although, I had lost interest. Although, I read, edited and commented on other author’s works, mine was left desolate. As the COVID19 months passed, I became worried that the writing bug had left me. I felt bereft. I didn’t mean to stop writing.

Has that ever happened for you?

There are lots of reasons that our creativity, in whatever form, can be cast aside or forgotten. Illness, a new baby, a new relationship, a new home or job, divorce, financial stress and many more. To find that creative spark again, we can use one or more of the following:

1. Firstly, do not feel guilty – it is counterproductive and harassing your muse is a form of procrastination.

2. Start writing – use a prompt, do a character study, write out a story idea.

3. Keep Writing – give yourself a time limit 20 minutes or an hour, or write a page, or 250 words. Choose one and stick to it.

4. Finish a small project.

6. Change the location of where you write – it can even be in a different room or somewhere local like your library.
7. Take a writing class.

8. Do another creative activity.

9. Make up book titles – based on well known novels or use a title generator on the internet.

10. Create a character description – including all their back story.

himalayan salt lamp near laptop on wooden table

Photo by Andrea Davis on Pexels.com

For me the spark came back after a discussion on strong female characters and how to make their role believable. It ignited that interest again and I spent the past weekend editing and polishing my steampunk heroine’s character. This writer is back!

 

 

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