Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith Collective Thursday – Can We Avoid the Shiny & New Writing Idea?

August 11, 2022
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With the first draft of the second book in my crime fiction trilogy off to beta readers, I can rest easy for a minute. Of course, the plan is to begin the third and final book during National Novel Writing Month but… as we all know something shiny and new can always draw us away from the ‘should do’s’ and entice us in other directions.

In common with many writers, I have a stack of manuscripts in various stages of completion. A western romance, a suspense novel, and a YA romance. These manuscripts have been dwelling in digital folders for some time, and I keep reminding myself that they should be revised and edited and then set out into the world. Alas, a new shiny project always seems to take precedence and steers me away.

However, the one shining brightly at the moment is none of these. Rather, it is a prequel to my Rython saga. It will tell the story of how the vengeful witch, Malgraf became such a malignant force. I have mental images of locations, the young Malgraf and her childhood experiences manifesting into story and it is so enticing. I am even thinking which colour I should use for the book cover! As you can see I have a gorgeous blue and green for the other editions, but need a darker feel for the story of the witch, for obvious reasons. A cover always tells its own story and sets the mood for the reader.

So, how do we avoid a new idea? Well, there are several predisposing conditions.

  1. A publishing deadline.
  2. Reader expectation.
  3. To continue the flow of a series.
  4. Keeping the characters front and center to ensure continuity.

These can help drag you away from a new and shiny idea – but not always. It all comes down to your self control and if you are under a contract. For me, I will explore my new story, jotting down scenes etc. and possibly use part of NaNoWriMo to write it. It will be a novella, in line with the other two editions, so will leave me ‘space’ in November to start the final book in the trilogy. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

How do you avoid a new story idea? Or do you succumb to the excitement?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Alleviating Health Problems in Writers

August 4, 2022
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Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

They say that sitting is now the new smoking and as writers – we sit! It may be in front of a screen or jotting down scenes in a notebook, but the majority of our writing time is ‘bum on seat’. As with any job, there are health pitfalls, but the most common for writers are:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders. Poor posture, and lack of exercise and movement. Get moving!
  • Eye/Vision Disorders. Too much screen time, a back light engages your brain but also burns your retinas. Look away regularly or switch off.
  • Headaches. Excessive screen time, or reading find print. Ensure you have regular eye tests.
  • Obesity. Lack of movement and too much snacking. Limit sugary and salty snacks and exercise.
  • Repetitive Stiffness Injuries. Attributed to mouse holding cramps and also typing/writing for long periods. Wrist, arm and shoulder exercises can help.
  • Stress and Depression. Working to a deadline, revisions and editing – the list is long. Set realistic goals and create step by step targets.
  • Hearing Damage. This may not be for everyone, but having music or back ground noise at too high a level can harm your hearing. Invest in good headphones for noise cancellation or music and keep the volume at a comfortable level.
  • Lower Body/Foot Swelling. Sitting for too long can result in swelling and numbness, especially if your chair position leaves your legs dangling, or footwear is not supportive. Ensure your chair is positioned for your height so your feet are firmly on the floor and wear supportive footwear.
  • Blood sugar. Remember your brain needs ‘food’ as well as rest. Don’t get to the ‘hangry’ status. Set a timer for meals and drink plenty of water. Hydration is vital.

Be conscious of what your body is telling you.

The healthier you are the better your writing will become – a health body is a healthy mind after all.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Do you have any health tips to share?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Political Correctness in Writing

July 27, 2022
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We have all heard and seen the ramifications of derogatory comments in today’s world. Classic movies and novels have been targets for their portrayal of marginalized and discriminated groups and word usage – many have been ‘edited’ or simply removed from public consumption. There is a fine balance as we create our stories, when including what are seen to be stereotypes, and cultural constraints. We must bring light, empathy and well researched content in order to highlight the struggles of minorities and the marginalized within our narrative.

In essence political correctness is the avoidance of terms that are deemed negative, derogatory, racial slurs, or other verbiage that is exclusive in some way. When writing about the struggles of minorities and the marginalized, an author must be aware of the intent behind the politically incorrect verbiage used in their work and avoid gratuitous content and references. These include using unwarranted, uncalled for, and/or lacking good reason verbiage. And, if it is without merit, purpose or substance, should be revised or even omitted.

By writing about the differences between cultures, people, races, the sexes, we can create a compelling, interesting and wonderful story. We may not please all the people all the time as we are all very different, whether politically correct or not, we all have have prejudices, biases, and faults. Great stories use these differences to create conflict, then resolve that conflict in interesting ways. At all times we need to be sensitive to how someone may view our narrative. It may help to employ a sensitivity reader, who can advise on such diverse subjects as race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, illness and disability.

If you are unsure of using any content then it is best to seek assistance to ensure you are not causing harm to a minority or culture.

As always enjoy your writing and telling your stories.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Character Interview – Owena from The Commodore’s Gift

July 19, 2022
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This is a character interview with Owena from my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift.

1. Tell me a little about yourself (where you live, who you are, what you look like.) Currently, I am living within a rebel stronghold, deep in a cave complex in a forest in England. I am the daughter of a widowed landowner and sister to an older brother, Benjamin. My mother died when I was young, and so being brought up in a male dominated household, I was able to pursue more exciting and physical pursuits. I am boyish in my interests, but as my body developed these pursuits became more difficult and frowned upon. I have a strong yet feminine body, long auburn hair and brown eyes. I am told I have a determined and fierce look. This reflects my true inner personality, I am not happy to play the ‘little woman’.

2. What do you like to do in your spare time?  There is no spare time for any of us fighting the usurper King, but if I did have time to enjoy, I would be horse riding through the hills and valleys of my home. The freedom from conventional clothing, the wind in my loose hair and to control a strong, capable beast is truly magnificent.

3. Is there something more you would like to do? To find a way to pursue my ideal way of life, which is the opposite of what society expects. I do not want to be shackled to a man, his home, his rules and restricted by societal conventions. I want a man, who is my equal, to stand side by side, and right wrongs and protect those unable to protect themselves. I dream of traveling a life of adventure and experiences.

4. When did you first ride a horse? I was much younger than probably was acceptable. I was brought up by my father and brother and lacking a female role model, I initially rode with my father at five years of age and then quickly gained enough confidence to ride a pony at six years old. I did not ride sidesaddle, but astride, which was frowned upon, of course.

5. How did it feel to discard your female clothes in favor of more manly attire? Today’s fashion, in itself, constricts and limits a woman to the detriment of her health. Without the restriction of a corset and layers of petticoats, I felt free to move. No more stifled and moderated movements. With such agility I could certainly weld a sword more easily, as well as move more freely, it is liberating.

7. What would you say is your biggest quirk? I do not accept I have a quirk at all! However, my strength of character and ability to fight with a sword are viewed as unladylike to say the least, within our Victorian society. I do not bow down to such demeaning rules and conventions. I forge against the ill conceived view of women in society – this makes me ‘odd’ to many people.

8. Who are your enemies? I, and my fellow resistance fighters, have two common enemies. King Buldrick – the self-proclaimed king, whose revolt against the rightful king had the royal family flee for their lives, and Commodore Gripe-Rudhall. A man of such sadist cruelty, even to hear of his exploits can make a grown man vomit. He is without an ounce of compassion in his body. He welds such control, as the false king’s right hand man, that many have given up all hope. He is the one I aim to defeat.

9. What or who means the most to you in your life? What, if anything, would you do to keep them in your life? I would say my dear father and brother, and my friend and longtime companion Josephine are those souls I would protect with my life. However, there is another more recent acquaintance, who has become very important to me. But, I cannot reveal that relationship quite yet. (Read the book to find out!)

10. Are you fearless? No, far from it, but I found out that most people are not either. A man, however, can appear fearless, as he learns to control that fear, use it to his advantage and I am learning that lesson too. Fear can incapacitate or bring rage – it is up to the individual to use it best.

Do you have a question you would like to ask Owena? Put it in the comments.

Book link:

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Story Using a Character’s Name Prompt

July 12, 2022
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We were set a prompt at our writer’s meeting, and I thought you may enjoy the story I created from it.

This was the prompt: What’s in a Name? Build a character’s traits based on the meaning of their first or last name. Look up name meanings. Write a scene or story starring your new character.

First name, female: Keara – dark one

The first time the baby opened her eyes, her mother, Krystal, knew she was different. Not just special as all babies are, but unusual and rare. Her daughter’s eyes appeared black, but when she looked up in fear, worrying there was something wrong, the doctor assured her they were actually very, very dark brown, caused by an abundance of melanin. The baby’s eyes were mesmerizing, and many visitors were both troubled and fascinated in equal measure. For days Krystal pondered what she should call her daughter. The names she thought of before the birth now seemed common and usual, not fitting for this remarkable babe.

It wasn’t until four days after the birth that Krystal’s grandmother came to visit. A woman of Irish descent and somewhat of a believer in ancient wisdom. She picked up the baby and stared into her eyes for a long time. The baby held still and silent, even though Krystal knew she was due a feed. It seemed grandmother and granddaughter accessed each other, became known to the other and an understanding reached. When her grandmother lowered the baby into Krystal’s arms, she spoke in a whisper.

            “You will call her, Keare, the dark one. She is of another time in her soul.”

            Krystal instinctively embraced her baby a little tighter. “Gran, what do you mean, what are you saying?”

            “Her previous incarnation was a powerful warrior, leader of men and fearless in battle. She will remember nothing in a few months’ time, but for now she is struggling with her new body, time and place. Be respectful and do not talk down to her. You are so fortunate to have brought her into this world.”

            “How is that possible, Gran?”

            “Such powerful and forceful soul’s do return, some because of unfinished business, others to continue a task. I cannot determine which one is Keare’s path. Time will tell. As I said she will lose her past life memories soon, however her mission will come forth and be revealed as she grows.”

            “What am I to do, Gran? How do I ensure Kaere finds this path?”

            “Her nature will come through, her likes and dislikes, her passions. Guide her and make note of what appeals and interests her. You are her guardian in more ways than one my dear.”

            “I don’t know if I am up to the task, Gran. Can you help me?”

            “Of course, I will help you and the child. Her future may be unknown as yet, but it will become evident as she ages. Do not stress, for now, she is a baby and only requires your love and care.”

Two decades later, Kaere, has grown into a dark haired, dark eyed beauty with a forceful personality, who never suffers fools gladly. Free from the conventions and expectations of her childhood, she finds her true core value. She showed little interest in the usual girly pursuits of childhood, such as dolls and pretty dresses, favoring walks in the forest, comfortable and practical attire and the company of boys. Now, she has a company of young men, who blindly follow her lead, unsure of what propels them to do so, but unable to resist. Not a lovesick infatuation but a certainty she is a leader, someone who takes charge. Her male university colleagues, professors and lecturers are all under her spell, making the female population both jealous and wary of her.

Kaere finds her purpose in her twenty first year. A chance encounter and forceful discussion with a political science lecturer propels her into a meteoric advancement into politics. She is seen as not only strong but fearless in her ambitions with the backing of numerous powerful and rich men following her without question. She is focused, determined and above all completely believes in her path – a path foreseen by her grandmother. She will make a difference in this world as she did in the last.

:et me know what you thought of this story. I always love hearing back from my followers.

Photo by Alvin Ng on Pexels.com

Let me know what you think of this story.

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