Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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

June 22, 2021

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:

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

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Nature at Thanksgiving & DIY

October 13, 2020

I trust those who celebrate it enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here in Alberta we enjoyed a chilly and windy long weekend but every day without the ‘white stuff’ is a good day. So no complaining here.

We decided to enjoy nature this weekend and travelled on Saturday to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. We walked the trail to the beach and kept to ourselves as there were families hosting outside Thanksgiving get togethers! Then , as always, took various back roads to explore.

The first trail off the beaten track was a game bird sanctuary and we found evidence of a busy beaver!

We also visited Kingman the Lutefisk capital of Alberta. Not knowing what lutefisk was we looked it up. A lutefisk is a Swedish delicacy. It is a dried stockfish (normally cod or ling) that has been brined in lye, soaked to remove the resulting caustic solution, and then steamed until it flakes. The end result looks and feels gelatinous. Traditionally, it is served with warm cream or butter sauce and enjoyed with copious amounts of beer. Not sure I will be sampling it though.

I completed a project on Sunday, I have been meaning to do. Updating the bathroom cabinet. I am pleased with the soft green and new handles – gone are the drab wood doors.

Having enjoyed Miquelon Lake so much on Saturday, we returned to walk around the lake. A brisk 45 minute walk but so worth it. We encountered a squirrel who calmly sat watching us and the dogs and never ran off.

Then it was homeward bound and an unusual sight. A beaver lodger with its own satellite dish! I kid you not. I need to write a little story about this. Which channels do you think they watch?

Magical Wonderment…

December 23, 2013

Omnivorous – definition: 1. eating food of both animal and plant origin; 2. eating all kinds of food indiscriminately

While deciding on what to write about today, I realized that several of the animals in my children’s chapter book, Ockleberries to the Rescue, are actually omnivores. The story centers around two magical, healer sprites, who help the animals within the forest they live. Among these are Bruin the bear, Swift the fox, Spike the hedgehog, Cyril the pine marten, Morry the mole and the twin squirrels,  Rayce andChase. All of these characters are omnivorous, in other words eat meat as well as plant matter of one type or another. As you can see I chose my animal names carefully and love how they reflect the animals characters.

It was fun to create this magical world and incorporate my love of the animal kingdom at the same time. The book is in final editing and I am waiting for the illustrations to be completed. Hopefully it will be available as an e-book and print on demand by early spring. Keep an eye on my author page at for updates.

I delight in the existence of fairies, sprites, pixies and the like as well, it is a childlike wonder. I own a book on gnomes and another on fairies. Both are beautifully illustrated and written.

Here are the front covers:


Do you have a childlike love of something?

How to Choose a Perfect Novel Excerpt…

December 19, 2013

Excerpt – definition: a passage or quotation taken or selected from a book, document, film etc. : extract


Excerpts are a great way to entice readers to purchase our narratives. The trick is finding the ‘perfect’ excerpt that encompasses the story enough without giving too much away.  It should also introduce your main character, show exciting action and display intriguing dialogue. The other consideration is to ensure the excerpt is a ‘stand alone’ , in other words it has a beginning, middle and end. The length of an excerpt is commonly between 1,000 and 5,000 words.

How did you choose your excerpt? Care to share any tips?

The following link is a good list of these points you can print out.

You will have to forgive me but this is too much of an opportunity not to take, so here is an excerpt for you to enjoy.

Ockleberries to the Rescue a children’s chapter book. Woodland sprites care for the animals within the forest they live in. The twins are squirrels who get lost while playing. This book will be available in early spring 2014.

The twins bounded as one down the tree’s trunk fearing the older squirrel would attack them. His shrill calls echoed behind them. Not having a choice but to run Rayce and Chase followed their noses. A few quick furtive glances behind them after some time showed them they were not being followed. They slowed down their pace. Just as Rayce was about to say something, Chase held his head up.

“What’s that smell?”

Rayce sniffed the air, it was certainly not something he had smelt before but  the strength of it hurt his nose. Before he could reply the ground shook and a deep rumbling sounded behind them. Turning slowly, their hearts furiously beating the twins came face to face with the largest animal they have ever seen. Its mouth was opened so wide the brothers could see not only massive sharp teeth but down its throat. The beast’s breath burst over them as it roared. Fleeing as fast as they could Rayce and Chase bolted into a hollowed log hoping the beast would be too big to fit through the opening. Their race to safely was short lived as they came up against a dead end. The log wasn’t hollow all the way through and now they were trapped. Loud snorting was followed by the strong odor as the huge animal stuck its snout into the log. Clutching each other in fear, the twin’s bodies trembled in unison.    Rayce whispered directly into Chase’s ear.

“It’ll go soon, we just need to stay quiet and still.”

All Chase could do was make a slight nod and grasp his brother more tightly. The snorting continued for what felt like hours but then the snout moved out of the hollow and the twins glimpsed daylight again.

“We’ll wait a while longer then make a run for it. Be ready to go, Chase.”

Just as Rayce was carefully treading toward the opening the log shook and a thud echoed along its bark. Rayce let out a cry of alarm and raced back to his brother. They were engulfed in darkness again.

“What happened, Rayce? ”

“I’m not sure but we need to creep to the opening to find out.”

“Not me…!”

“Come on, Chase we have to get out of here somehow.”

Bruin lay across the log entrance he had lost interest in the little squirrels, it was time for a nice long nap.

Mable reached Murtle’s drey and called out flicking her tail in agitation. Within a few moments she heard an answering call and saw Murtle leaping across a branch above her.

“Whatever is the matter, Mable?”

“It’s the twins, they raced off and now I can’t find them. I called and called but now….oh Murtle I’m so worried.”

“Now settle yourself, Mable we will find them.”

As Murtle chirped and chattered her calls were answered from every direction. Soon a dozen squirrels all-chattering surrounded them at once.

“Quiet please everyone, Mable here needs our help. Her two darlings are lost and need to be found. We will start from the point Mable last saw her twins and move out from there. Quickly now we don’t have a lot time before dark. Their names are Chase and Rayce so call out as you go.”

Bushy tails held high and excited chattering accompanied Mable as she retraced her steps to the spot she had last seen her boys. Once at the spot with no answering calls on the way there, Mable felt extremely anxious. What if something had hurt them?

“Goodness what a kafuffle. What is going on?”

All the squirrels looked down from their respective branches at the sprite below.

“Crispin, you may be able to help us, two young squirrels have got lost in the forest and we need to find them.”

Mable looked at Murtle with a puzzled look.

“It’s alright, Mable, Crispin helps all forest animals.”

“I have heard of the sprite’s of course but have never met one. Hello Crispin, if you can help I would be in your debt.”

“No need for a debt to be paid, it will be my pleasure to help. I will summon my helpers and have them spread the word. What are the youngsters names?”

“Rayce and Chase, they will be so scared, I’m at my wit’s end.”

“Calm yourself there, we shall have them safely in your arms in no time.”

Crispin gave three loud whistles. Within moment’s crows, deer and a fox were gathered around him. Quickly giving details of what he needed the animals darted or leapt in every direction.

“Now we have a lot more eyes and ears to help with the search. We will find your young in no time.”

Mable nodded her thanks to the sprite then turned to Murtle.

“Let’s head this way, Murtle, knowing we have all this extra help has made me feel better.”

Bruin blinked several times puzzling why he woke up so soon after dozing off. He dreamt he had heard Crispin’s whistle. Now was it real or not? He lay still straining his ears to hear another whistle. None came. Satisfied he must have been dreaming he nodded back off to sleep.

Chase shivered the inside of the log was damp and cold.

“We have to find a way out, Chase, let’s see if we can burrow our way out this way.”

The two squirrels clawed at the leaf litter and rotten bark for a while but eventually could go no further. Exhausted from their excursions they curled up together for warmth and to curb the fear they both felt. Chase decided that he would never leave his mother’s side again even if Rayce pleaded with him.

A patting on his nose woke Bruin. As he opened one eye a rabbit hopped back in alarm.

“Please Mr. Bear don’t hurt me. I’m helping Crispin to find a couple of young squirrels. You haven’t seen any have you?”

Bruin’s eyes popped opened. The squirrels were still in the log, what had he done?

“Actually I do know where they are…safely tucked up together in this here log.”

“Really? Oh that is good news I need to let Crispin know you found them. Thank you Mr. Bear.”

English: A Sciuridae Deutsch: Ein Hörnchen

English: A Sciuridae Deutsch: Ein Hörnchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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