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?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Author Interview J.E. McKnight

September 22, 2022
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You have written many novels, and most are time travel or sci-fi – what drew you to this specific type of genre?

The easiest answer to this is to say that I was inspired by my love for Back to the Future that I saw at the drive-in theater with my parents in 1985. It is my all-time favourite movie and gave me my love of time travel, which also extended to science fiction in general.

Do your story ideas come easily, or do they develop over time?

Some of them come easy while others take quite a bit of time. Initial ideas come pretty easy. I’ll hear somebody say something or I’ll be listening to a song and that sparks an idea. My ideas come from many different places. It seems I always have ideas coming. I have a list for NaNoWriMo up until 2028.

What is your writing process?

I usually just sit down and write. I’ll come up with an idea and I may take a few notes, but I don’t do a lot of plotting. I prefer to just write and figure things out in editing.

Do you have future projects pending?

I have two projects in editing right now and another one ready for editing, but I’m honestly not sure what I’m doing with that one. I also have the previous year’s NaNoWriMo project that needs to be completed. I unfortunately did not meet my goal.

You are attending a book fair event on 24th September, can you tell us about it?

Yes. Words in the Park is held in Sherwood Park in the Strathcona Community Center’s Agora Room from 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first live event for Words in the Park that we’ve had for 2 years. There are going to be around 30 artisans, and authors in attendance. There is going to be lots to do for all ages.

Tell us a little about your most recent published books?

Virtual Age

What inspired your novel Virtual Age?

I’ve always liked the idea of virtual reality. I can’t think of any one thing that inspired the idea. As for the title, I came up with that at work. I work as a commercial pipe insulator and I remember being on a job and I had to wait for material as it hadn’t been delivered yet. As I was waiting, I took notes on the different ages from history – dark ages, iron age, computer age, etc. – and I ended up using that list in the book.

Do you think this format could become real?

I wouldn’t be surprised. I hope it doesn’t come to the point where it becomes a necessity for survival as the world dies but, as far as the technology is concerned, we are becoming more and more advanced as the years go on. Today VR is impressively advanced; maybe one day we’ll get to step into these computer worlds rather than just have images coming at you.

Would there be dangers to being immersed in such a ‘world’?

I could only imagine the dangers that would be involved with immersing your mind into a computer. I included some of the dangers, in my novel, I figured would be relevant in this scenario.

Does your narrative have a message for your readers?

 In most of my books I include the message of acceptance and trust – accepting people for who they are and trusting people until they give you a real reason not to. Don’t judge someone before you get to know them.

Last Stop

When did this story idea come to you?

I’ve had this idea for years. I don’t know exactly when I came up with it. All I know is I heard the Journey song Don’t Stop Believing. There’s a line in the song about a couple meeting on a midnight train. I loved that idea and it spawned from there.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I am intrigued by the idea of ghosts. I have not had any experiences with ghosts and am kind of skeptical. I think if something has happened or were to happen, I would try to explain it away logically. Though, I hope there is something out there.

Why did you base the novel in Edmonton’s LRT system?

I based the novel in Edmonton because I love where I live and, because I live here, it’s easier to write what you know. I chose the LRT system because it perfectly met with my initial inspiration of the couple meeting on a midnight train.

Hello Baby, Nice to Meet You!

Why did you write this story?

I have always wanted to write a children’s book. I have had other ideas in my head in the past but then, when my sister announced she was pregnant, I had an idea to write a book for her child. The title of the story was going to be for a very different story. In that one it was going to be about a father trying to get to the hospital in time to see his wife have his baby. I chose to change the idea as I thought a book about animals would appeal more to kids.

Did you base the characters and location on personal experience?

It’s not about anyone or any place in particular. I did grow up on a farm but, by the time I came around, my parents had gotten rid of most of the animals. We did have cats, a rabbit at one point, and a bunch of laying chickens. I wanted to expand a little bit on what I knew, and chose the animals for the book that would be different enough from each other to be interesting. I could have done more, but I needed to draw a line somewhere.

What advantages does this story have for parents as well as children?

For parents it’s easy to read and there really aren’t a lot of pages, so if their child has a short attention span it’s great for that. For kids I included bits of trivia for them to learn from. Also, the kids will enjoy the brightly coloured illustrations of the fun animals and their young.

Who was the illustrator?

I illustrated it. This is the second full-coloured illustrated kids book I illustrated, but this is the first one I had both written and illustrated.

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?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – In-Person Author Events September

September 8, 2022
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September is a busy month for book events and I am looking forward to them after such a long a break. The first is Words on the Street in Lethbridge on 17th September.

It will be great to see the local authors I know there and meet new ones. There is always so much to do and enjoy centered around literature and writing.

The second event is more local, Words in the Park, in Sherwood Park. The event will be celebrating 15 years, which is a fantastic milestone! With local authors, artisans and musicians showcasing their creativity, the event is part of Alberta Culture Days and there is something for all the family.

If you are a writer, author, or reader this is the event you must attend. The pdf form to apply for a table is on this page – just scroll down. Link:

Invite your friends, family and colleagues and discover local talent.

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?

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