Who I am:
I’m Cassandra Barnes, a novelist; and
I’m Sandra Smith, a freelance writer.
I’m published under both names.
What I write:
As Cassandra, I write novels, usually with a romantic component, three of which have been published. I like happy endings! A Perfect Body was published on May 29, 2009, and is currently available as an e-book and as a Kindle download. My other published novels include Jenny’s Legacy, which is available in hardcover, as an e-book, and as Kindle download; and Acts of Love, which is available as an e-book and as a Kindle download. I have dozens of ideas for other books, some romances, some not.
As Sandra, I’ve had several short stories published. Years and years ago, I did human interest articles for a very small weekly newspaper. After that, I wrote articles for magazines and the Internet. I recently compiled a handbook titled Bewitched, Bedazzled, and Bejeweled: A Collection of Facts and Folklore About Gems and Jewelry. It’s available exclusively as a Kindle download.
None of my writing contains graphic material or language. Everything I write is appropriate for all ages.
Where I write:
I write from home, using a PC. In the past couple of years, the computer has been set up in a “catch-all” room. The room is cluttered, especially with notes and to-do lists, but it’s “my” space. I need solitude and quiet for writing - I’m not able to write in coffee shops or in groups. It’s not unusual to have a cat on my lap while I’m writing.
I also have an Alpha Smart, and when I’m fighting writer’s block, I sit in the living room with it. Because it’s so difficult to edit using the Alpha, it frees up my creativity.
When I write:
I usually get up an hour early. I do have to feed my cats first thing, but otherwise the household is quiet and no one is making demands or interrupting me. I also keep yellow legal pads on the end table by my recliner, and I’m always making notes. Sometimes it’s just a word I’ve been looking for, sometimes bits and pieces of plots or characterization, and sometimes it’s a complete story idea.
Why I write:
Writing provides a creative outlet, and it also allows me to work from home. But mostly, uhm, well, there’s all these voices in my head . . .
How I write:
Yellow legal pads are essential to my thinking process! When I first started I wrote everything in long hand, using a mechanical pencil. I still experiment and try out ideas in long hand, but now I used roller ball pens with colored ink. Most of the actual composing is done on the computer.
Many of my ideas come from reading, in particular magazines and newspapers. In my household, I have to be the last one to read any printed media, because I read with scissors in hand, clipping out articles and information. I also save pictures of people who look interesting to me.
I’m also observant of people I see on a daily basis. I don’t blatantly eavesdrop, but certain ways of speaking or unusual phrasing always catch my attention.
Not everything I collect ends up in a story or article. For one thing, I’ve collected way too much! But often, something that seems like a good idea at first proves not to be, or I decide I no longer want to develop it, or I’ve come across another bit of information that’s more intriguing.
Although I usually have a good idea of the story I want to tell before I even start, I still have to do lots of rewrites to get everything to my satisfaction. My published novels had more then ten rewrites each before I showed them to anyone, and more rewrites after critique partners read them.
As I write, the characters and the story line change, and I often to have to redo the beginning to make it consistent with the ending. I don’t prepare a formal outline, but I do make notes on what I want to happen. So far, my final versions bear little resemblance to the first drafts, and I find the process fascinating.
How I came to write my books so far:
I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my first book, Desert Dreams. Although I made it the best that I could, it received a full share of rejections and now resides in a file box. It’s unlikely I’ll resurrect it. Like most writers, it was my “learner” book. It told the story of a woman who put her life back together after her husband was killed by a drunk driver running a red light.
Jenny’s Legacy, a contemporary sweet romance, was the second novel I wrote, and the first to be published. One of the seed ideas for Jenny’s Legacy was a flyer denouncing metaphysics. I played around with a variety of story lines, but couldn’t get anything put together in a satisfactory way. Then one morning, while I was setting the table for breakfast, the title Jenny’s Legacy popped into my head. It was exactly what I needed, and the whole book fell into place.
Acts of Love, my third novel, is a contemporary cozy mystery/romance/women’s fiction, and I knew from the beginning who the “bad guy” was and the motivation. I lived in southwest Arizona at the time, a location with a rich cultural heritage and it was easy to base my characters on what I saw around me. The story required lots of rewriting to get them interacting in a realistic way. The title was a struggle, and I have pages of trial titles.
The latest book, A Perfect Body, another contemporary sweet romance, started with a newspaper article about eating disorders and the “Ana” cult. I also have a friend who suffers from numerous food intolerances. A Perfect Body has flowed well for me - I had the title before I wrote a single word and I knew, for the most part, what motivated my characters. I’d earlier clipped a picture of a catalog model who absolutely radiated attitude, knowing that I had to write a story about her. She became the main character.
I've completed a new book titled The Birthday Gift. It was inspired by an O'Henry story I read years ago in which a young couple living in dire poverty each sold their dearest possession in order to buy a Christmas gift for the other. I'm quite pleased with what my characters, Rose and Hoyt, were willing to sacrifice for the other.
Some personal information:
I'm a voracious reader, intrigued by the way people, and the world they live in, function.
I follow the philosophy that there is no such thing as too many books. My dream home includes a room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on all the walls, a comfortable chair in the middle of the room, with a lamp and table beside it. The only variables are whether it's a dog or cat napping at my feet and whether I'm sipping from a mug of hot chocolate or a snifter of brandy. Always I have a book in hand. I don't know what the rest of the house looks like, because my reading room is the only important area to me.
Other than books, a few of my favorite things are animals, flowers, food, music, metaphysics, and science. I love being outdoors, enjoying Nature's bounty.
I hold a Master of Science in Natural Health and am a firm believer in alternative methods of healing. I've received my second level Reiki attunement. (Reiki is a form of hands-on energy healing.)
Due to family obligations, I no longer actively volunteer. In the past, I've been a literacy tutor, mentored other writers, and raised money for animal welfare. I've been a member of various writing groups over the years, but currently only pay dues to Romance Writers of America.
I'm owned by a Maltese mix dog we rescued from the pound several years ago and twin felines, one of which graces the cover of Acts of Love.