Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Robert P. French

December 9, 2021
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1.       How did you start as a writer?

When I was about 23, I wrote a book of horror stories which I typed on an old Underwood typewriter. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea about publishing, so I put them in a file folder which, by the way, I still have.

Many years later, I was Chief Technology Officer at a company into which I had poured my heart and soul. The company didn’t make it through the high-tech meltdown of 2003, so I did what all techies do in such a situation: I started looking for consulting projects. After a long day of phone calls, I opened a WORD document and started writing a post-apocalyptic novel that had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while. I wrote non-stop until something like three in the morning. For me it was my heroin; I was hooked.

I kept writing most days but at about 40,000 words, I ran out of steam. I put the book to one side and tried writing another novel about a man, so totally bored with his life, that he seeks excitement by becoming an assassin. This too petered out. Finally, I completed a 115,000-word business thriller about a high-tech entrepreneur who gets scammed by a venture capitalist and then gets his revenge by scamming the scammers. I gave it the awful title, Vengeance Dot Com. This was before the days when agents and publishers would accept emailed submissions, so I mailed out over a hundred copies of the book… and watched as the seventy-plus rejection letters trickled in.

At the time, I had heard about the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which is in a suburb of Vancouver and is, I believe, one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America. I went there with the idea that I would just learn all about how to write a winning synopsis of the book and about how to submit it to agents. Then they would see what a wonderful book it was… right?

The first session I attended was on the craft of writing and I was horrified to learn that there were  some things I was doing wrong, disastrously wrong, in fact. Who’d have thought it? I immediately changed my focus from sessions on marketing to sessions on the craft of writing. In one of these sessions, I met Lisa Rector-Maass, an editor from New York. I engaged her to do a review of the book. I got back a superb thirty-seven-page critique and realized that it was a non-starter. No amount of editing was ever going to save that book.

At the time, I had a project where I was managing software development for a company whose offices were in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is a poorer part of the city where lots of drug deals happen. Every day, on my way to my client’s office, I would carefully avoid stepping on discarded needles. I used to pass the entrance to an alley that was filled with addicts who were sleeping, shouting out, shooting up, drinking coffee, eating fast food, and buying and selling drugs. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I remember thinking how awful it be to wake up and find yourself in that alley. I started to obsess over the idea and mentioned it to Lisa. She asked me some questions that just got everything flowing in my mind and the first Cal Rogan book was born. Lisa mentored me through Junkie and the second book Oboe and she was my editor for both books. I credit her for most of what I have learned about the craft of writing.

2.       Did you have a clear idea of the genre you wanted to write or did the story dictate that?

No. I love science fiction and thought that maybe I could write a sci-fi novel. But once Cal Rogan came into my life, I had found my genre.

3.       Why did you choose thriller crime fiction?

It was where Cal took me.

4.       Where did the character of Cal Rogan come from?

I was answering Lisa’s question of who it might be waking up in that terrifying alley. I thought about a lawyer, a doctor or a cop. I liked the irony of a cop, who had probably arrested his fair share of addicts, waking up there. Her follow-up question of ‘why was he there?’ was immediately answered, ‘Because he’s now an addict himself.’ Thus was Cal born.

5.       Do you feel your character has grown in each book?

Oh yes. He still fights with his demons but he works so hard to stay drug-free. Book by book, he rebuilds his life, often in the face of people or events that could send him back into the downward spiral of addiction.

6.       Is writing a series easier or harder than a standalone?

Much easier, I think. I have a cast of characters who have grown over the writing of the books and I love them all. Their words and actions just leap onto the page. I work on the plot and the characters write the rest. 🙂

7.       You cover tough social issues within your narratives. Was this a conscious decision?

I didn’t set out to make social commentary. As I was researching drug addiction, I was faced with the question of whether legalizing drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) would be a good or bad idea. I don’t want to write preachy books so I allow my characters a few moments to argue the issue here and there. They are coming around to my way of thinking. I am a firm believer that legalization with control, just like with alcohol and tobacco, is a far better way to go for everyone in society and I feel that I can defend that position pretty well. I also like my characters to explore moral or philosophical questions like when is it morally correct to kill someone? Do we have free will? Is incest ever OK?

8.       Is there a subject you will not cover?

No. The only thing I don’t do is write explicit sex scenes. My readers’ imaginations are much better at filling in the blanks than I could ever be. In the same vein, I don’t give long descriptions of a character’s physical appearance. For example, I don’t think I have ever mentioned the colour of Cal’s eyes. I think it’s way more fun for readers to see the characters the way they want.

9.       How do you structure your writing schedule?

Prior to covid, every day I would drop my son at school and go to the Vancouver Public Library to write. For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling him and writing on the weekends and, for an hour or two, here and there, during the week. Covid has not helped my productivity.

10.   Can you tell us about the latest book in the series?

The seventh, and latest book in the series is called Jailed. After some harrowing experiences in the previous book, Captive, Cal quit the PI business and went to teach Shakespeare at Simon Fraser University. A student approaches him and begs him to help exonerate her brother who has been falsely convicted of murder. After reluctantly visiting the brother in the Kent Institution, one of Canada’s grimmest jails, Cal is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer with unexpected results and some disastrous consequences.

11.   Do you have a current manuscript you are working on?

Always. I haven’t finalized a title and I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but the starting point is that a woman is found wandering in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She is obviously wealthy and she claims to have lost her memory. As Cal investigates, he discovers that she bears a remarkable resemblance to someone who has been accused of orchestrating a multi-billion dollar fraud. As an aside, the fraud is based on a real case.

12.   Would you consider writing another genre? Why or why not?

I have often thought of writing science fiction but I just don’t think I’d be that good at it. However, Cal Rogan has a daughter, Ellie, who is now twelve. I have started working on a series set in 2040, where she is a detective. It definitely won’t be science fiction but will describe a world that I see as a logical extension of where we are today.

13.   Which genre do you enjoy reading?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers, espionage, and science fiction. For non-fiction, I tend towards science and philosophy.

14.   How can readers find you and your books?

The best place is at my website

Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author. He is the writer of the seven (so far)
Cal Rogan Mysteries crime-thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough
on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. The series, set in Vancouver, Canada, reflects the best
and worst of the city. He is passionate about having the right words on the page and with every new
book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one.
His loves are his family, science, language, certain elements of philosophy and craft beer.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – Poetry Anthologies & Commencement of Book Two of The Delphic Murders

October 26, 2021
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The writing group I am secretary of, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, has recently published two poetry anthologies. These collections of poems were created using the responses to prompts created during the last two April Poetry Month challenges. As many of you know I dabble in poetry once in a while, but it is not really my forte. However, I hope that you will take a look (and buy) these wonderful collections. The poetry is as diverse as the poets themselves.

For any inspiring poets out there the foundation holds free online poetry workshops the third Wednesday of every month. No membership required. Just click the link on the main website page to receive the Zoom link. 7:00 pm MST. Next workshop 17th November Link

Other workshops and a sharing meeting are also every month. Check out the website

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

Writing Update

As for my writing schedule, I am looking at beginning preparation for November’s National Novel Writing Month and book two of my crime trilogy. The two detective’s personalities are beginning to talk to me, which is good! There are some plot points to consider, such as where the body is found and how, the feud between one detective and a pushy wannabe detective character, as well as a partner, who flies close to the wrong side of the law on occasion. I already have the title – The Tainted Search. I know once I begin writing the characters will talk to me and the story will flow. It is always exciting to start a new project.

Do you want to connect?

As always if you have any questions about my stories, books, writing life etc. – I am happy to answer them. Just put a comment in the box below or email me through the contact form.

Happy reading.

Photo by rikka ameboshi on Pexels.com

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Schedule Writing Time

November 12, 2020
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A lot of us are in the midst of writing new (or completing old) projects for the challenging NaNoWriMo month. Some find it too challenging, others a great way to write to a deadline, while others utilize the month for beginning or finishing a project. No matter why you participate, the structure gives us all a commitment to write at least 1667 words a day.

Obviously, there are other commitments – work, home & family – but making time to write is a bonus. We have the ‘excuse’ that we must write in order to achieve the goal of 50,000 words. Once our family understands your need for this writing time, why not carry it on after November?

With a full month of specified ‘writing time’ becoming the ‘norm’ for those around you, why drop it after November. If the family can accommodate you for one month, why not twelve?

Writing is our passion. We need to write. So make the time to do it. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, write while waiting for children’s activities to finish or write a scene in a small notebook in your purse waiting at appointments. There are always opportunities to allow your Muse to create. You may have to be creative in how we work it out, but it is worth investing in your writing time. It is a writing commitment.

What strange places have you written in?

Do you schedule writing time?

Schedule for a 7 day Writing Retreat

June 11, 2019
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Road trips have become a regular occurrence since I came to live in Canada. I have been given the gift of an awesome friend, Linda, who enjoys the open road and finding new places and experiences. We leave the main highways and travel the back roads discovering hamlets, small towns and wildlife. Most of our trips are long weekends but this week we incorporated a book fair event into our plans and are making a week long trip to explore new places.

Having new experiences, meeting new people and discovering places and scenery we would not otherwise know about, fuels the writing muse. Due to the length of our trip this time I made a list of writing projects I would like to complete. Possibly wishful thinking but with a plan in place it gives me a goal. So this is the schedule, although in which order they are accomplished is open to how I am feeling at the time.

  1. Edit a fellow author’s manuscript.
  2. Revise WIP – Rython Legacy with fellow author’s editing suggestions.
  3. Complete an animal rescue story for submission to an anthology.
  4. Continue writing my steampunk story, The Commodore’s gift.
  5. Revise social media format/posts/branding.

Our trip so far (we left early on Sunday morning) has seen new places and the sighting of five bears! We also met a wonderful author by chance when we decided on an impromptu lunch in a small hamlet. We will visit local libraries and book stores on our travels as well because life is so much better with books.

When you open up yourself to new experiences you find abundance and food for the Muse.

Do you create a writing retreat/vacation writing schedule?

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The event we will be attending is below, if you happen to be traveling that way. Find me & Linda on the Dream Write Publishing table.


Summer Oldstice  Saturday 15th June
Host: Uptowne Olds
Description: Summer Oldstice Street Festival. Artists, Musicians, Performers, Bakers, Growers, Food Service vendors, handicrafters and more! 
Location: Uptowne Olds – 10 am – 4 pm

Are You A Dutiful Writer..?

December 6, 2013
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Dutiful – definition: filled with or motivated by a sense of duty

Image found at Utopia Moment by Jack Ruttan…unfortunately link has crashed.

Dutiful writer

Writing about 2,000 words in three hours every morning, ‘Casino Royale’ dutifully produced itself. I wrote nothing and made no corrections until the book was finished. If I had looked back at what I had written the day before I might have despaired. Ian Fleming

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

http://ollinmorales.com/2012/12/26/schedule/

Please visit these links – great tips.

I must admit I do not have a set schedule although having to submit a blog post every day and creating a prompt every Saturday does take some organizing. I do try to write at least five days a week, even if it is only a short response to a prompt or a revision to a current project.  My target for 2014 will be a more ‘structured’ writing week to include more freelance opportunities. I am still pondering the frequency of my blog posts and the theme. Writing just when the muse whispers would probably not be as productive as having a schedule but we have to balance when we are inspired as well. My initial thought is – Monday and Friday evenings split between editing my current and previous manuscript and commenting on fellow writers projects. Wednesday evenings focus on freelance work, promotion and submissions. Saturday prompt onto writing website – http://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com and Sunday creating blog posts for the following week. Will I keep to this or refine it? Who knows…it is after all a work in progress.

What is your writing schedule? Do you have one?

Any tips for keeping dutiful?

Just as a side note I’m keeping myself warm today – weather warnings in affect – we have a -40 wind chill – flesh freezes in 10 minutes! Keep warm and safe everyone.

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