Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – How Do You Choose Your Next Book?

April 27, 2021
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As our options for choosing a book to read have become virtual for the most part, during COVID, we have to decide which one works best for us. The easiest option for many is a book selling site, such as Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble or Kindle, to name a few. There is also the option of utilizing your local library, where you can browse online, order and pick up your selections. And visiting your local bookstore too. Whatever method you use the author will sincerely appreciate your leaving a review. So please do.

It is a matter of personal preference where we purchase our books and in what format. Whether it is print or e-book. As I work on a computer all day for my day job and then work on my laptop most evenings, my preference is a print copy. I enjoy the tactile feeling of weight, smell and texture as well as the physical turning of a page. For me it is better to read without a backlight at night, as it stimulates my brain rather than calming it.

Which do you prefer? Print or e-book?

Why do you make this choice? Is it a practical concern or something else?

I am lucky to have a friend, who gives out books after she and her daughter have read them. I recently visited her and she handed over a huge bags of books! Such a delightful surprise and it was like Christmas lifting each one out to read the blurb. However, it then gave me a problem – how should I choose which one to read first, second, third and so on.

After reading all the blurbs, I categorized them. Ones that did not instantly appeal, others that were soft choices and others that engaged my curiosity. Depending on your specific likes and dislikes, favorite genres and subject matter, choosing can be little easier. So from this stack.

I choose my first three reads as below.

I choose these particular books because two have characters in them that write and the third because I love myths, legends and magic.

This is my review of Saying Goodbye is Easy by Kathie Sutherland

A compelling, complex and enlightening narrative, full of truths, struggles and internal emotions. Every reader will find a connection with the struggles, highs and lows of the narrator. A courageous, heartfelt and revealing story, told in short stories and reflections.
This book will change your outlook on your life and your life’s path.

Please leave a comment on how you choose a book and the last book you reviewed so other readers can find them.

Creative Edge Author Interview – JP McLean

March 11, 2021
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1.     What drew you to write in this genre?

Urban fantasy is my favourite genre to read and so if felt natural to write it as well.  I’m especially drawn to stories where the supernatural walk among us. I think that’s because I would love to possess those supernatural abilities—oh, to be able to fly! And when supernatural beings hide within everyday society, then maybe—just maybe—they really exist. That feeling of possibility is what I want to create in my writing. It’s escapism, and we could all use a little more of that.

2.     Do the characters come to you fully formed or do they emerge the more you write about them?

They definitely emerge as I put them through their paces. Character motivation, in particular, is often something that comes out later when a character’s past comes into play.

3.     Are your characters based on real people?

Not wholly, but pieces of real people are found in my characters. It might be unruly hair, or the way someone walks. It could be a piece of clothing or a conversation I overheard in a coffee shop.

4.     Is there something in your background that plays into your writing?

I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and the paranormal and magic have fascinated me since I was a child. Even as a young girl, I remember running into the wind with my arms widespread, hoping to lift off and fly.

5.     Where does your inspiration come from for a new story?

Books and music are a great source of inspiration. It’s not always the content, but how the material makes me feel. I enjoy recreating emotions like wonder, elation, anger, etc. Frequently, a news story will spark my imagination, like the recent discovery of a giant cave in BC, or the discovery that the Easter Island Heads have hidden bodies. An old horror story I heard around a campfire when I was a Girl Guide inspired my latest short story titled Scaredy Cat.

6.     Did you plan to write your series?

Not at all. I thought I was writing a one-off book. It was a personal challenge. But when I finished it, I missed the characters, and I missed writing. I also knew that the world I’d created had bandwidth to expand and explore. The series is now complete at seven books.

7.     Why did you choose an urban setting for the Gift Legacy?

The characters in the books can fly, and I needed the possibility they might get caught. A big city provided that tension. The city setting also lends itself to more places for the characters to interact.

8.     Where did the name Emelynn come from?

Emelynn is the name of a woman I met briefly when I lived in Vancouver. I always loved her name.

9.     Do you have a current writing project? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes! My new project is a book titled Blood Mark. It’s the story of a young woman who bears a chain of scarlet birthmarks. She is thrilled when, one by one, the disfiguring marks begin to disappear—until she learns that the hated marks protect her from a mysterious and homicidal enemy. Now, she is in a race against time to find this dangerous enemy before her last mark vanishes.

10.    Are you a planner or a pantser?

I started off as a pantser but learned the value of outlining when I got further into my series and found it too difficult to keep track of all the story and character threads. I now outline regularly, but I’m not dogged about it—if the story doesn’t fit the outline, I’ll rewrite the outline, not the story.

11.    When did you start writing?

In my day-job work life, I wrote a lot of non-fiction in the form of procedure manuals and job descriptions. That writing wasn’t nearly as fun as the fiction writing that I started in 2010.

12.    Do you have a study or writing space?

I have two spaces. One is a corner of the dining room that has a view of the ocean. It’s there that I am at my most creative. I also have a chair in the living room where I tend to the business side of writing. Oddly enough, I rarely use the office in the back of the house. It has a “work” vibe and no view.

13.    Where can readers find you on social media/blog?

My hub is my website at jpmcleanauthor.com. I’m also on Twitter @jpmcleanauthor and on Facebook at JPMcLeanBooks.

14.    What would you like your readers to know?

How much I appreciate their support, how important their reviews are, and how much I enjoy their messages and comments.

Bio:

J.P. McleanJo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing. JP lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.

You can reach her through her website at jpmcleanauthor.com.

Fallbrandt – Author Interview – JMD Reid

February 25, 2021
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  1. What drew you to write in the fantasy genre?

It’s what I fell in love with. Ever since I read Lord of the Rings, almost all I have read is fantasy. It’s so imaginative. You can have almost anything happen in them. You can create outlandish worlds that could never exist. It’s creative.

  • Who are your fantasy author heroes?

Robert Jordan, R. Scott Bakker, and Brandon Sanderson.

  • How do you plan a series like the Jewels of Illumination or The Storm Below?

They are very different origins. The Storm Below was my first. I intended it to be a light-hearted adventure with flying ships and sky pirates and then, in my world building, I discovered a secret of the world that changed it into epic fantasy. I only have a book ahead planned writing that series. I knew what I was writing and the next book was shaping up in my head. I felt 5 books was what I needed even if I wasn’t sure how I would get there.

Jewels of Illumination, I had a much more concrete ending and what would happen. I knew the major events of the books. And even though it deviated a lot from my outline, the general gist didn’t change.

  • What do you feel are the key points in fantasy stories?

Great characters. That’s the key point of any book. But great characters who are exploring and unveiling and discovering a world that is fantastical.

  • Can you tell us a little about the new series Masks of Illumination?

It’s a companion series to Jewels of Illumination. They are separate series that can each stand-alone, but they compliment each other. It follows Foonauri, a noblewoman exiled from her home and tired of being just a pretty bauble on a man’s arm. When she is invited to join a thief group and steal an artifact, she might just find what she’s searching for.

  • How does constructing a standalone novel differ in the writing process?

It doesn’t. Its just a shorter story. You don’t have to worry about setting up future events, I suppose, but it’s merely the scale that’s different.

  • Is poetry a new venture for you?

I dabble from time to time.

  • What characteristics have changed in your main protagonists from the first to last book?

It depends on the characters, but it’s usually about going from weakness to strength. Not necessarily physically, but in understanding who they are, in overcoming flaws, in accepting their place.

  • Do you have plans for other books in the two series?

Not for the Storm Below, but Assassins of Illumination is a sequel to Jewels of Illumination.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Seriously since 2013 but I started back in 1993 or so in Junior High.

  1. How do you juggle your own writing with client’s projects?

I have a schedule. I spend X time on their stuff and X time on mine. I use timers and have my work day scheduled.

  1. Do you have a dedicated writing space? Can you describe it?

Since I moved back in August, I do. No more writing in the living room! I have an office. It has my desk, some book shelves, and my recliner that I write on with a laptop. I have some posters for decoration.

  1. Where can readers find you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JMDReid

Facebook Fan Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/158087188138155

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/61bSz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JMDReid

  1. Do you have a blog?

I do: http://JMD-Reid.com

  1. What message would you like to send to your readers?

I hope you’ll trust me in take you on a journey to another world. The characters might go into the dark, but the light is always on the other side.

Find all JMD Reid’s books here: https://www.amazon.com/J.M.D.-Reid/e/B00P44PBQK%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Bio:

JMD Reid has been a long-time fan of Fantasy ever since he read The Hobbit way back in the fourth grade. His head has always been filled with fantastical tales, and he is eager to share the worlds dwelling in his dreams with you.
Reid is long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest in and around the City of Tacoma. The rainy, gloomy atmosphere of Western Washington, combined with the natural beauty of the evergreen forests and the looming Mount Rainier, provides the perfect climate to brew creative worlds and exciting stories! When he’s not writing, Reid enjoys playing video games, playing D&D and listening to amazing music.

JMD Reid is also a ghostwriter, which gives him a great deal of freedom to work on his own fantasy. It is his passion, that shines through his stories. JMD Reid has a lot of stories in his head and is looking forward to sharing them with his readers.

Creative Edge Author Interview – Natasha Deen

February 11, 2021
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1.     What drives you to write?

That’s a great question and I don’t know if I have a single answer. I love the challenge, the process, I love the chance to connect with readers and other authors. As a reader, I love the feeling of falling into a good book, the kind that makes me forget time and space, forget where I am, and as a writer, the chance to create that type of experience for someone is just too cool an opportunity to pass up.

2.     How long how you been writing?

Oh, gosh, on and off through school. I also wrote in university as self-care & a break with the course load. In 2006, I got serious—taking classes, attending workshops, reading books on craft—so I would count that year as THE year I began to write.

3.     Why do you write, primarily, with female protagonists?

In every story, an author has to ask themselves, “Who is the best person to tell this story?” Sometimes, the voice that has the most authority is a female voice (as in the case with In the Key of Nira Ghani), sometimes, the voice will be male ( as in the case with Thicker than Water).

Stories should also reflect different experiences, which is why my characters can be BIPOC (Sleight of Hand), sporty (Nothing But Net), and/or come from cultures & families that aren’t based in North America (Maria and the Plague).

4.     What messages do you want to convey in your stories?

Hmm, there’s a two-pronged answer to this question. I hope, when it comes to my writing voice, readers know my stories will have themes/messages of positive resolutions (though not necessarily happy ever after endings), optimism, resiliency, and strength in self. However, a story is subjective. We might all read the same book, but we won’t read the same story—our backgrounds, values, and pet peeves will come into play. To that end, my goal is to create a space that allows readers to feel and interpret as they see fit and enjoy the journey as they go along.

5.      What is your writing style – planner or panster?

A bit of both! I like to have an outline, but I like to have freedom. To me, it’s like having a map. I’ve marked my route, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop at Points of Interest or change the route as I go along.

6.     Do you have a favorite place to write?

I have an office where I spend my days writing and editing. Final read throughs might happen in the family room.

7.     Tell us about your latest book?

Maria & the Plague is part of the Girls Survive series from Capstone Books. Each story focuses on a girl living through an important (and often, a dangerous) time in history and her battle to survive against all odds.

In my book, “years of bad weather and natural disasters have choked Italy’s food supply, and the people of Florence are dying of starvation. Breadlines are battlegrounds, and young Maria has to fight for her family’s every loaf. Adding to the misery, the Black Plague is rapidly spreading through the country, killing everyone in its path. Maria has already lost her mother and sister. Will she be strong enough to save the rest of her family before it’s too late?”

It’s an eerily timely book, given our current pandemic. The similarities and hardships between Maria and today’s readers continue to astonish me. And like today’s circumstances, hope, kindness, and personal strength twine together to help Maria survive.

8.     What made you write this particular story?

At the time, it was a chance to go back into history and learn about the Black Plague. And I loved the idea of having a strong, female character who was resourceful and clever, finding her way through one of the scariest times in history.  

Looking back, I had no idea I was doing a rehearsal for COVID-19! But from wearing masks, travel restrictions, people choosing selfishness over kindness (and vice-versa) what the people of 1300s Florence went through is very much like what we’re going through, now.

9.     Your new book is part of a series, can you tell us more about the series and what to expect?

The book is part of the Girls Survive series, which features a host of amazing writers. If historical fiction is a favourite genre, I encourage readers to look at the other books in the series, https://shop.capstonepub.com/library/search//?series-property=Girls%20Survive

10.  Has your background influenced the subjects you write about?

The short answer is, “yes.” For all of us, how we view the world and how we write about it has deep roots in how (and where) we grew up.

11.  How many pets do you have? Are they a help or a hinderance?

Our home has two cats and one dog, and they are of vital help with the writing. They keep me company during the late nights and early mornings, and hang out with me in the office during the day. Without them to remind me to eat (and—cough—share my food), take a walk, take time to cuddle and have fun, where would I be?

12.  Where can readers find you on social media?

I’m on Twitter and Instagram, both handles are @natasha_deen, and I use pinterest as a way to storyboard my books, https://www.pinterest.ca/806bd1ed29039ff5c5a5f89ffbe4b0/?autologin=true

13.  Do you have a blog?

I do and I’m hoping to be more consistent with posting in 2021! https://natashadeen.com/blog/

14.  What is your next project?

Argh, I don’t know yet—I’m flirting with a variety of ideas and “what if” scenarios, and hoping something will stick, soon!

Bio:

Guyanese-Canadian author NATASHA DEEN writes for kids, teens, and adults, and enjoys visiting libraries and schools to help people to find and tell the stories that live inside of them. Her novel, In the Key of Nira Ghani, was a Most Anticipated Novel for both Barnes & Noble and Chapters-Indigo, nominated for the MYRCA Award, the R. Ross Annett Award, and is a Red Maple Honor Book and a 2020 YALSA Pick for Reluctant Readers. She is also the author of the Lark Ba series and the Guardian trilogy (Moonbeam Award winner, Sunburst Award Nominee, and an Alberta Readers’ Choice Nominee). When she’s not writing, Natasha spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Visit Natasha on Twitter at @natasha_deen and at http://www.natashadeen.com.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Sharing a Story

January 19, 2021
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As I continue my six week writing course, I am sharing my second submission with you. This week is the sense of SOUND.

Lion

 Sally woke to the rumbling, chuffing and clatter of numerous vehicles on the street. She heard the clash of chains, gears grinding and raised voices. It was an odd assortment of noises in this usually quiet part of town. Loathing the idea of leaving her cozy soft blankets this early on a Sunday, Sally turned over hoping the intrusive clamour would soon disappear. ROAR! If she wasn’t mistaken that sounded a lot like a lion’s roar. She’d watched numerous nature programs to know that sound. I must have drifted off. I was dreaming. ROAR. There it was again, and she certainly was not sleeping. Flinging her bedclothes off her body, inhaling at the sudden chill her body experienced, Sally drew aside the curtains. The metal hoops rasped on the metal curtain rod as she did so. The street was full of vehicles, some in gaudy colours, others rusty and billowing and coughing dirty black diesel fumes. The annual fair convoy – how could she have forgotten the date? There were numerous bulky men, all in what Sally’s father used to call belt and braces attire, gesticulating and shouting at each other. Their voices ranged in tone from tenor to baritone to bass and the occasional soprano. Sally watched their movements in awe and intrigue. Their heavy boots thudded on the road, as they raced back and forth collecting a variety of objects. Some gathered sticks, some shovels and one lugged a huge net over his shoulder.

                As Sally continued to view the scene below her bedroom window, she looked at each vehicle in more detail. She wondered why the men had chosen those particular objects. She surmised that if one of the trucks had broken down, they would need proper tools, not what could only be described as weapons. Then she saw it, the center of the commotion and the possible reason for said weapons, a partially covered cage – an immense cage at that – near the beginning of the convoy. The rear door was ajar. Realization crept into Sally’s mind. Whatever had been in the cage wasn’t anymore. What could be prowling the gardens – my garden?

                A whimpering sound uttered from Sally’s throat. Her thoughts tumbled over each other. Were the front and back doors locked? Were any windows open? Could a large animal break through the glass patio doors? These thoughts startled her into action. Pulling clothes from the back of the bedroom chair, she rushed to the bathroom. She fumbled with the bar of pink soap as she washed her hands; it slipped from her fingers first thudding on the ceramic basin and then thumping onto the tiled floor. In her haste, sally left it on the floor leaving a trail of residue. After hurriedly dressing, she stomped down the stairs in a vain attempt to scare any creature that might have entered her home. Midway down, she stopped and listened. She strained so much to hear any movement, her ears began to ring and buzz. Whatever the animal is it isn’t in here, thank God.

                Sally walked to the kitchen, peering left and right into the lounge and dining room, as she made her way along the hallway. Her missed matched socks made a swooshing sound on the carpet. Exhaled breaths uttered from her mouth, as she entered an empty kitchen. A low squelch issued from her sweating hands, as she gripped the sink and stood on tiptoe to survey the back garden. Her scream filled the room, stunned her ears and mind. There large as life stood a lion in her fishpond. Lapping up water and shaking its massive mane. Another sound filled the kitchen as Sally fainted – wallop as she hit the linoleum.

I hope you like the story.

What are you currently reading? Have you left a review?

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