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?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Crime fiction and writing prompts

August 2, 2022
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August 1st is a holiday here in Alberta, so it was nice to have an extra long weekend. I’m please to day my ‘stalled’ situation in the completion of book two of The Delphic Murders – The Tainted Search – was overcome and I managed to finish the manuscript. It is now in the hands of a few beta-readers. It was such a relief to finally overcome the hurdle. I will let it ‘rest’ for a month and then go back to it for the next round of editing and revision. In the meantime, I have other dormant manuscripts I can return to, but as with all things it may not go to plan. I had a new idea for a contemporary novel and also have the idea for a prequel to the Rython saga. Never a dull moment in a writer’s mind!

As you know I enjoy sharing my responses to writing prompts, this is my latest:

Characters in a Crunch Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character’s favourite cereal say about their personality?

Regimented Rosemary

Rosemary sat at the small round breakfast table, set for one with a place mat, napkin, silver cutlery and a pot of tea with a china cup and saucer to match. She set it every night before going to bed. Everything in its place and orderly. As she looked through the window at the garden, enjoying the fruits of her many hours of labour over several decades, she spooned mouthfuls of cereal into her mouth. As a child she always loved her grandmother’s English cottage garden. Hollyhocks, honeysuckle, roses, and all the colours of the rainbow all in perfect rows. Now, her garden was a joy to her grandchildren, she had come full circle.

With deliberate care she spooned around the bowl to make sure she had a good mixture of ingredients. She didn’t like overly sweet or one type cereal, she found it boring and the sugary treats stuck to her dentures. Over time she had created the perfect start to her day. Bran, fresh berries, oatmeal and a little honey. Her breakfast kept her regular, gave her a portion of fruit and filled her up.  When she stayed with family, she took her ingredients with her, just to ensure she didn’t have to suffer store bought cereal.

Rosemary enjoyed short stays with family but had to resist tidying and organizing when she did. People lived in such chaos! Her home was picture perfect and that is the way she liked it. Orderly contents in cupboards and closets and a check list for everything. With the last scoop of her cereal she patted her lips with the napkin, then took the crockery to the sink, washed and dried everything and put them away.

Let me know what you think of this little story.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Past Freak Shows & Sympathetic Modern Inclusion

July 26, 2022
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The latter end of last week, I suffered a tooth abscess, which led to half my face swelling to three times it’s size. Not a pretty sight and agonizingly painful. As I lay with a succession of ice packs on my poor face, I reflected on the popular ‘freak’ or ‘creep’ shows of yesteryear.

Freak Show 1924

Beginning as far back as medieval times, these shows were the exhibition of biological rarities, referred to in popular culture as “freaks of nature”. Typical features would be physically unusual humans, such as those uncommonly large or small, those with intersex variations, those with extraordinary diseases and conditions, and others with performances expected to be shocking to viewers. Many of these people were either sold by their families, or even kidnapped, such was the monetary value of their presence on the stage. Unfortunately, many suffered abuse, while forced to ‘perform’. Not until the 1940’s, did attitudes begin to change, and these shows were officially banned in 1950.

In today’s society, many of the physical conditions can be treated with medications and freak shows are limited to performers with extreme body modifications (such as tattoos and piercings) or those that can execute astonishing physical performances like fire-eating and sword-swallowing.

To highlight better understanding of certain conditions, there have been TV shows to inform and educate the general public. One such show is Little People Big World, about a family with members diagnosed with dwarfism, a condition that in the past dictated those affected to participate in Freak Shows.

It was while researching and writing my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch, that I came across the proper protocol’s concerning dwarfism and the correct language to use. In the narrative, my main protagonist experiences a connection with little people and finds a way to help them live a better life. This included a horse riding skill show called the ‘Petite Carnival’ allowing them to travel from one patch to another.

Our current narratives reflect our era and understanding of may facets of our world, nether-to misunderstood or exploited.

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:

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Word Usage to Tighten Your Writing

July 14, 2022
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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

We all want to immerse our readers into our story as much as possible. To this end we need to ‘carry’ them through the experience with as little actual word usage as possible. An overly complicated or wordy sentence or paragraph, can take them out of the situation you have drawn them into. This can be accomplished by using descriptive words.

The definition of descriptive is: evocative, expressive, vivid, graphic, eloquent, colorful, explanatory, illustrative.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is quiet the list, I’m sure you agree, but we can expand on. A single word can encapsulate a mood, a feeling or a condition, which enables us to create without too much exposition or explanation.

In the revision process of any piece of work, tightening up the exposition ensures the story keeps pace, and large sections can be refined into their essential elements. In using words, such as clammy, for instance, our readers are instantly aware of our character’s physical state without losing the impact of the narrative. In other words -using these descriptive words keep our narrative sharp.

Careful word usage is a learned skill for many and delving into our dictionary and thesaurus on a regular basis enables us to use words to their best affect. For example, if we did not use clammy, we would need to describe cold but sweaty skin, light-headedness, damp beads of perspiration – a lot more words for the same condition and an overly descriptive sentence or paragraph can lose our reader’s attention. We certainly don’t want that.

Use of the thesaurus on our word document screen can assist us, but does have it’s limits. A good dictionary & thesaurus are a good investment for any writer. There are specific thesaurus as well. For example, I have an emotional thesaurus, which is a great tool.

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Take your time while revising any written piece to identify descriptive words that would sharpen it. They are a writer’s best friend, so use them often. The more you investigate words the more you will find that can sharpened your work.

What method do you use to tighten your writing?

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