Tag Archives: catherine a. mackenzie

Writer Wednesdays – Tom Robson

This week, Writing Wicket is showcasing Tom Robson.

Tom says this about himself:

Eighty-two and still writing. And most of it makes sense. Not bad for an only child raised in World War Two.

Sixty years ago last week I started a teaching career in Jane Austen country in England. I learned nothing from this, even after just two years of training. The two years prior to that had given me more useful, never to be forgotten life experiences at sea.

My formal schooling had me writing as notetaker and regurgitator, in essays and exams, of what had been taught. Creativity was ignored in favour of facts, grammatical accuracy, correct spelling, and good penmanship. Writing was a chore. Reading was the escape. History was the adventure, and mysteries always had a solution.

The year before I got married, I lived and studied in Liverpool. Another unforgettable experience with the “living” outweighing the value of the study.

Not wishing to remain as a teacher where I had grown up, I quit teaching at thirty to work with delinquents removed from their homes for custodial reform. After five years in suburban Surrey, I was recruited to do the same work in Quebec. My wife welcomed the move. Our three children offered no opinion but loved the snow of the 1971-2 winter.

In much of these ten years, I was involved in writing and editing detailed reports, assessments, and recommendations on the needs of the non-conforming clientele. The ladies of the typing pool were editors par excellence. I did a lot of specialist writing where some histories were more incredible than fiction.

As I burnt out at work, my marriage disintegrated and I returned to the classroom and a second forty-plus-year marriage. Somewhere in those years I completed another three years of study. The degrees that the British system, at eleven-plus, said I might get and at sixteen determined I was not competent to achieve, was wrong—again.

I thrived as a student and teacher when we moved to Nova Scotia in 1979. Children were encouraged to express themselves—even in writing. Ideas were welcome, and the errors and omissions could be fixed later. Even the teacher enjoyed writing, and I began to do so for the sheer satisfaction, at age forty-five.

My wife tolerated this foible. My new daughter loved her father’s stories. My grade six’s (well, the girls anyway) enjoyed and learned the story-writing process and performed in plays I’d written. They weren’t as proud as me when I won the WFNS award for writing for children for a novel. Motivation—a class of demanding pre-teen girls expecting the next chapter read to them each Monday. I kept pace for ten Mondays and my ego followed their demand that I submit “Am I Dreaming” for competition and publication.

After my grade six teaching days and into retirement, I continued to write and to run early-writer workshops. My own writing was for my enjoyment until I joined the Evergreen Writers Group. I had a receptive audience that wasn’t my wife. They pooled their ideas and skills on publication. My writing could “go” somewhere. Short stories fitted into two anthologies we published. I collected autobiographical and family tales into a patchwork memoir titled Written While I Still Remember, some thirty stories and poems long.

And then my ego rose above itself. How many writers believe that somewhere inside their creative souls is a novel waiting to be written? I reached my eightieth year, convinced that my novel had to be written now, before time betrayed it. My reading tastes indicated I favoured history or mystery. My character has no tolerance for the amount of research a book in either genre demands.

Then my inflated ego heard someone say that a short story I shared could be the first chapter of a romantic novel. And so it became, but the plot was reaching for infinity and had to be curtailed. The ego believed there was a compensatory sequel. This writer knows he should have reached for a better, more conclusive ending because the sequel is a struggle at eighty-two.

Tom for web

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book?

A: Before I had a chance to submit my prizewinning teen novel, Am I Dreaming, to publishers, it needed a rewrite. The fickleness of my target audience had turned the adored, real-life pop singer into one of the most despised has-beens in a matter of months. Rewrite one had to create a generic boy-band to replace the actual original and provide a new, anonymous romantic target.

Rewrite two had to change the venue of the concert to which the heroine had won tickets (plus a hotel stay) from the Montreal Forum after it closed. I had to do quick research and relocate much of the action to the Bell Centre. Rewrite three never happened. The cellular phone radically altered teenage and other telephone communication, even before texting, etc. Reading the twice-revised novel from 1990 dates it even after the 1995 revisions.

Q: What motivates you (either in writing or otherwise)?

A: I could make up reasons why I write. Somehow it is connected to the extreme shyness and chronic embarrassment, plus the difficulty with stringing two oral sentences together, as a young teen. For me, it’s no oversimplification when I say I write because I enjoy it. Specifically, I love using words and stringing long, convoluted sentences together and making them work.

Q: Are you ever upset when you’ve finished a story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?

A: I’m still upset that I got tired of Wait and See and did not develop the story lines, relationships, and characters more.

Now and then I feel I’d like to write another short story featuring some character I created. Too many of my pieces are about real people or family. I reminisce too much and don’t invent people to populate my stories and create fiction.

Q: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

A: I am too aware of my limitations as a writer to believe I could ever write like someone whose work I’ve read and admired. Having said that, I believe I have a writer’s voice which is distinctive and was acquired through reading osmosis. There are writers of history and mystery I envy. I admire those who had to write in quill or even fountain pen and ink. Knowledge of these tools retires with my generation. Computers simplify the writing process so the focus is on the words and ideas, not the mechanics of ‘scribbling.’

I felt cheated today upon hearing that a famous, past author had the privilege of dictating his words in the days before this was the norm, the days when a writer wrote. Not fair!

Being aware of the toils and tribulations of pre-typewriter novelists compared with the expensive team approach of researchers and editors and advisers and gofers and problem solvers and sub-editors employed by generic best sellers, I want to redefine writing but wouldn’t know where to start.

Q: What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

A: Historical figures that feature in fact or fiction need a full accounting of their actions, attitudes, and behaviours. Such is seldom available, the truth being distorted by gossip, inadequate recording, political or class bias, envy, and blatant lies designed to discredit. Having said this, the task is nigh impossible.

All a writer can do is tell both sides of a historical figure’s story and not use inflammatory terminology. What is essential is that actions, especially those being condemned, are told in the light of conditions and beliefs of the age.

Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

A: Don’t know what an avatar is or a spirit animal. My knowledge base is not expanding. Mascots bring you luck and/or good fortune. At my age? I’ll go with the Liver bird. May I live long enough and write well enough to see it flap its wings.

Q: Do you ever have trouble coming up with a title for your books?

A: I change titles often during or after writing or editing but finding one that suits me and the story is seldom a problem. I have fun with chapter headings (see Wait and See).

Q: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

A: I write for me and I give good, if biased, reviews. Most reviewers haven’t a clue what went on between the book and the writer’s life.

Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

A: Occasionally, I give a name to an obnoxious character of someone who “did me wrong.” Exaggeration of happenings and my role in them will remain a secret.

Q: What was the hardest scene you’ve ever written?

A: I imagined my mother’s day of moving from the house my father had set up for her before he died. I had long avoided this emotional story that begged to be told because her only “child”—me—had abandoned her while she was still mourning. At 59, without a husband, and her son and grandchildren moving to Canada, she moved to be near her sisters. I imagined that final farewell to the house, its memories, and ghosts in “Kitchen Window Memories.” I can’t re-read it without crying.

Q: Have you set goals?

A: Hoping for more time and more inspiration for stories, essays, or poems.

Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

A: I think that everything I write is worth someone, other than me, reading it. This egotistical belief covers an insecurity that has struggled to find consistent success in life. I feel I am a successful writer because I have written and shared and been applauded. I am also more successful elsewhere than my insecure personage allows. I believe my exploration by writing has boosted my ego and made me more content.

Q: Do you Google yourself?

A: I haven’t done that for about ten years. I may do it when I’ve finished this.

Q: When you were growing up, did you ever expect to be a writer?

A: How my generation ever produced writers, given the prevailing education system of chalk, talk, learn, and regurgitate, is a mystery. I loved reading stories. There was no connection in my mind between these creations and me trying to do the same. First class Monday morning, age eleven: “In one hour, write a story on one of the six topics on the blackboard.” Not always said, but generally implied, were the words: “Remember good grammar, correct spelling, and neatness are important.” Further intimidation came later in the week when red-illuminated essays, blessed with an arbitrary grade, would be returned to you. There was seldom praise for ideas or content. I never had any because I was so obsessed with making my Godawful penmanship legible and fearful of misspellings.

Q: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

A: I am the writer that I am at an age where change is resisted and bad habits ingrained. What would I give up for miracles to occur? Can’t play that game if you don’t believe in miracles.

Q: Have you ever cried with one of your characters?

A: I’ve been angry and frustrated at the actions of a character I’ve created. Only what’s happened to real people that I’ve told tales about has brought tears to my eyes on occasions.

 Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A: “Have you ever thought of how much enjoyment this person had in writing the story or book you’ve just devoured? Why don’t you use that imagination and try it?” Nobody ever connected the process to the product for me.

Q: Is there a genre you wish you could write that you can’t?

A: I am an impatient writer who is too lazy to undertake research. Thus, although I enjoy historical fiction, which takes me happily off at all sorts of factual tangents, I could never write it. I envy Ken Follett, Edward Rutherfurd, Margaret MacMillan, and Simon Winchester but would need to borrow one of their production teams to write in this genre.

Same applies to mysteries. Detailed and accurate research is essential, but beyond me. Pity!

Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

A: The thirty pieces in my patchwork memoir, Written While I Still Remember, were written over more than thirty years. Assembling, rewriting, editing, and revisions occupied another year. My teen novel, before the revisions and rewrites, took about seven months. Starting an adult novel in your eightieth year encourages speedwriting, which produces a hurried text that needed time to marinate, develop, and conclude. This too-short novel took only a year. I had time to nurture it longer, but I quit on it.

Q: What books have you self-published?

A: This is a literary secret that needs revealing. In the spring of 1956, the first lieutenant of H.M.S. Concord of the Queens Far East Fleet ordered me to assemble and produce a book detailing the activities, exploits, and journeys of the destroyer Concord and its crew, for the current, eighteen-month commission.

With a lot of help, especially from the Hong Kong Chinese publishers, some four hundred copies appeared before we went our separate ways in June. If you think my sentence structure, spelling, and editing skills are weak now, you should have seen me as a nineteen-year-old editor and compiler. Somehow the 53,000 mile voyage ranging between Fremantle and Yokohama, with myriad stops and situations along the way, was recorded. I have a closely guarded copy, now in its sixty-second year.

Also, check out these books:

Out of the Mist, a publication of the Evergreen Writers Group, has three of my pieces in it. (Published by Stone Cellar Publications, 2014)

Off Highway, the second collection of works by the Evergreen Writers Group, has two stories and a poem of mine on its pages. (Stone Cellar Publications, 2017)

Written While I Still Remember: A Patchwork Memoir. (MacKenzie Publishing, 2014)

Wait and See. A story of a romance and its effects on those related. (MacKenzie Publishing, 2017)

Visit Tom’s blog, Robson’s Writings.

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other local retailers.

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Oh, Dragonfly

Barbasol Championship - Round Two

(September 11, 2018: Eighteen Months)

Oh, Dragonfly

It soars
Up and down,
Over and across,
Swooping like a crow,
Soaring like an eagle,
Small,
Inconsequential,
Its shadow dark,
Larger on ground than in air.

Zooming over the glistening water,
Teeny wings unfolded,
Fluttering,
Almost scraping the water
And then coming toward me,
Wings spread like an airplane—
Or an angel.

Is it trying to catch my attention?
I watch,
Wait,
Wonder.

Even with grandchildren
Laughing, splashing, yelling,
It remains
Unfrightened,
Bold, soundless,
Flying in, flying out.

My vision blurs.
My throat constricts.

Could it be?

They say dragonflies are
A symbol of resurrection,
The deceased returning:
A fairy sprinkling dust
Or an angel planting kisses.

I watch you zoom by,
Disappearing for seconds,
Returning just as quickly
And landing on my knee—
A sign of good luck!

My son, is that you?

Oh, how you loved the pool,
The lounger you reclined upon
Rests in the same place.

I see you there,
Deep in thought,
Eyes closed,
Soaking up too much sun,
But I don’t admonish.

Not anymore.

No matter where you are:
Floating forever in eternity,
Twinkling with the stars,
Sleeping on the moon,
Dancing with the clouds,
Marvelling at mars,
Or returning to earth
If only for moments
As a fleeting dragonfly,
I’ll take what I can.

I’ll grasp every sign:
Every whisper,
Every breath,
Every touch.

Even if not you
I’ll pretend,
I’ll hold memories dear
To my chest,
At my breast,
Within my heart.

I sigh…
Oh, dragonfly,
Where have you gone?

I watch and wait.

You don’t return.

But that’s okay
For I’ll wake another morning,
I’ll search another day.

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In memory of my beloved, always missed son Matthew. Gone eighteen months today.

As Matt said numerous times the last too-short eight weeks of his life after we were given the diagnosis: “F*** cancer.” I echo his sentiments. (Can you imagine: two months from diagnosis to death!?)

I’ll miss you until my last breath.

Matt alone (2)

 

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other local retailers.

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Writer Wednesdays

I’ve started a new feature on my blog. Every Wednesday, I plan to showcase one indie author. I’ve sent invites to my writer friends, and thus far, I’ve had a great response.

Of course, this is, I suppose, mostly self-gratuitous as I’m trying to promote my book, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK. But in the process, the authors who participate will be promoting their works, as well. And every little bit of advertising helps, right?

I’m doing this on a first-come, first-served basis. Wednesdays are booked for the next several weeks, but I don’t want “empty” Wednesdays while I wait for people to return the questions/answers, so I’m offering this to subscribers of my blog, too.

If you’d like to participate in “Writer Wednesdays,” send me an email (writingwicket at gmail.com) that you are interested. I will then forward you a list of questions to answer. Return them, along with a photo of yourself and a short bio, and voila! you’ll rate a spot on a future Wednesday. The only “catch” is that you must be a subscriber to my blog, which is a small price to “pay,” right?

I won’t have time to personally let everyone know the date of their interview, but since you, as a subscriber, receive an email every time I post to my site, you’ll see your interview when it appears. Thursdays are designated for The Spot Writers (an online, flash fiction group I belong to–free fiction!!!), and I might post one other day a week. With Writer Wednesdays, that makes, maybe, three posts a week. But the “delete” button is handy if you wish to ignore an email.

If you are reading this post and aren’t a subscriber, please subscribe. And if you want to be featured on a future Wednesday, email me at “writingwicket (at) gmail.com”.  I will  reply with the questions to be answered.

Happy Writer Wednesdays!

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other retailers.

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The Laker! I’m “famous”!!!

Well, duh! I guess I could have been “famous” had I not sent this post to “draft” rather than “publish.” It should have published August 13. Oh well, old news can still be good news, right? So, pretend it’s August 13. Here you go…

 

I was interviewed a while back regarding my first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, and the article appeared in The Laker on August 8. I just got wind of it today. The article is also going to be published in the Lunenburg paper. My novel is set in Lower Sackville and Halifax, with scenes in Lunenburg and Peggys Cove. All in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Here is the link to the paper, The Laker

I was able to copy the article:

WINDSOR JUNCTION: Cathy MacKenzie can check writing a novel off her bucket list.

The author, who lives in Fall River Village near Windsor Junction, has just penned and published her first-ever novel, “Wolves Don’t Knock.”

MacKenzie has written more than 250 short stories and lots of poetry, but never a novel. Until now. It had always been a dream of hers to have one published. The writing began in 2014.

“It evolved from short stories into a novel,” said MacKenzie. “It kept going up and up for the word counts, so it’s a full fledged novel now.

“It was always my dream to write a novel, but I never thought I would do it. Now that it’s done, I’m pretty amazed.”

Wolves Don’t Knock takes place at locations across the province, including Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Halifax and Lower Sackville.

It tells the story of 16-year-old Miranda who escapes from her abductor and the wolves that have tormented her soul for six long years. She returns to her childhood home where her mother, Sharon, caring for Miranda’s son, Kevin, has feared for her daughter’s fate. Uncertainty and distrust taint the first year after Miranda’s return.

Miranda and Sharon hide secrets they dare not reveal while constantly wondering when Miranda’s kidnapper will reappear. Can mother and daughter bury their demons and repair their strained relationship? Can Miranda bond with the baby she never knew and find the love she so desperately wants? Will Kevin’s father play a role? Will Sharon find the answers she needs to recover from her own troubled past?

Although Wolves Don’t Knock, which was released in July, deals with sensitive issues, there are no graphic sexual scenes, said MacKenzie.

“For the year that Miranda is back home, both she and her mom are looking over their shoulders wondering when the kidnapper will appear as he has yet to be caught,” explained MacKenzie.

The novel has had some readers not be able to put it down because of how suspenseful it is.

She said so far everyone she has talked to has liked it.

Cathy in the Laker

“I’ve had really good reviews of it on Amazon,” said MacKenzie.

MacKenzie said the two short stories she wrote made the novel become what it is.

“It sort of just wrote itself,” she said. “I just sat at the computer and the words just seemed to come.”

Wolves Don’t Knock is available through Amazon.ca, through MacKenzie locally by email at writingwicket@gmail.com and MacKenzie hopes it will soon be at stores like Chapters and Indigo. They’re $15 each from her.

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My photo is hideous, as all my photos are. But I didn’t argue with the interviewer. If I’m promoting my book, I have to promote myself, too, right? GAH! And if I’m trying to promote my book, I guess I should hit “publish” instead of “draft.”

Still can’t believe I did that!

If you’re interested in my book, contact me through here. Or check it out on Amazon.

 

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

 

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WRITER WEDNESDAYS – Showcasing Phil Yeats

I’m starting a new blog post every Wednesday called “Writer Wednesdays,” when I will feature one indie author.

This week I’m showcasing Phil Yeats.

Phil

Phil Yeats is a retired scientist experimenting with creative writing. He has a keen interest in environmental science and dabbled in yachting and golf before turning to fiction. Phil is the author of a slowly growing number of published short stories and one poem. Several were written using the pen name Alan Kemister to keep a minimal degree of separation between his real science and the fictional variants in the stories. He’s interested in both science fiction/dystopia and mystery genres. His only published novel, A Body in the Sacristy, is a mystery featuring a detective in a fictional town on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. More information about his writing projects is available at https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

I asked Phil:

Q: If you could be any author, who would it be and why?

A: Never thought about this, so not willing to give a spur of the moment answer.

Q: What is the first book that made you cry?

A: Lots of stories have made me a bit weepy but I have no idea what might have been the first.

Q: What are your favourite literary journals?

A: I have read issues of the Malahat Review and the Antigonish Review and occasionally others, but don’t have a favourite.

Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?

A: One of my major faults, and one I see in other beginners, is wordiness. It is too easy to qualify and amplify everything we write. Better to purge all the unnecessary detail.

Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A: I do very little research before I start writing but am quite happy to interrupt myself in mid-sentence to search the web for answers to any questions that come up.

Q: What is your favourite childhood book?

A: I don’t remember childhood books before reading Hardy Boy books when I was ten or so. After that old British mysteries – Leslie Charteris and Margery Allingham were my favourites, along with Jules Verne and other old standbys in the science fiction world. I don’t think I was a very adventuresome reader.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

A: The hardest part for me is knowing when to stop the revising process. I feel I go back critically rereading my books making changes that are of dubious value.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

A: Working on something new is a boost. Rewriting/revising is frustrating even when I know I’m making improvements.

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

A: Revising with no specific purpose in mind.

Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If you write under one now, why did you do so?

A: My one and only book was written using a pseudonym. I began writing science fiction dystopia stories with an environmental theme while I was still actively working in a related field. I wanted to maintain a separation between the real and fictional science. I am no longer working, but I’ve maintained the pseudonym because I like remaining at a distance. It is presumably bad for sales, but I’d rather my old colleagues didn’t recognize me.

Q: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

A: Probably not, and I suspect that is one of the reasons I’ll never be a writer of stories about people in highly emotional situations. I realize this failing and stick to mysteries and sci-fi stories that are more technical. I struggle when I have to write an emotional scene.

Q: If you could start over again in your writing career, what would you do differently?

A: The flippant answer would be to say I would have chosen to do something else, but it wouldn’t be true. I realize I will never be a literary writer, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I should have started a few years earlier – mid-sixties was a little old for an endeavour with a long learning curve.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: Not going to tackle this one – way too many things that should be changed.

Q: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

A: Don’t think I’ve learned that lesson. I remain stuck in the scientist’s mantra that says knowledge of how things work brings power. I still struggle expressing that knowledge, so it would appear I have not experienced language as power.

Q: Do you want each of your books to stand on its own (if you’re writing more than one, that is), or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

A: I’m working on a series of connected mysteries where I want to build on the continuity of the central characters and the basic stage set. But I’m also working on another project that will be stand alone. So, I’m on both sides of this particular fence.

Q: What are your favourite three books and why?

A: My favourite books are dystopias, ones with no happy ending – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably at the top of my list. But I also like stories that are just good stories. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of those. And recently, I read and liked Rachel Cusk’s Outline, so you see a rather eclectic mix. I don’t read a large number of books, and I don’t try to analyse them.

Q: How often do you write?

A: Several hours most days if I count all that endless revising.

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?

A: Two reasons. First, I wasn’t confident any publisher would pick up a book I wrote because I don’t want to write the sort of topical book that attracts a sufficiently large audience. Second, if a publisher did take on my book, I would feel obliged to put the effort into marketing that the publisher expected. I’d rather not have that obligation.

Q: What challenges have you faced in publishing?

A: Relatively few. I’ve submitted a number of stories to anthologies and journals. More have been rejected than accepted, but I’ve had enough acceptances to keep me interested. I learned the basics of self-publishing my novel by helping in the production of two anthologies and listening to authors with experience. The challenges appear to be more with promotion than with publishing. Getting my book known by the few people who might want to read it has been a challenge I have not surmounted.

Q: What book(s) have you written?

A: I have only published one book – A Body in the Sacristy, by Alan Kemister (my alter ego). It is the first of what I hope will be a series of Barrettsport Mysteries set in a fiction South Shore Nova Scotia town. Book Two, Tilting at Windmills is virtually complete; three others are partly done. I’m also working on a science fiction story with a climate change focus. It is tentatively titled The Souring Seas. I have several other partially completed manuscripts that I’ve abandoned. Some might be worth resurrecting.

Phil’s first published book, A BODY IN THE SACRISITY, is available on Amazon.ca.

A Body in the Sacristy

It’s also available on Amazon.com; locally at Carrefour Atlantique, downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia; and from the author.

 

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The Spot Writers – “Pomeranian” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is based on a photo taken at a local zoo. There was a fence leading to a “no admittance” area, but about 12 inches at the bottom had been bent upward, allowing admission of… people? animals? And where does it lead? Write a story involving a fence that has been snuck through—as a major or minor plot point.

This month’s story comes to us from Val Muller. She is the author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series (www.CorgiCapers.com) and the YA coming-of-age tales The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away.

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Pomeranian by Val Muller

“You shouldn’t have a dog if you’re just gonna leave it outside all the time.” The afternoon sun baked down on the earth. Victor could only imagine how hot the metal water dish had gotten. That water had to be soup by now.

“At least he’s got water,” Jenn said. “And food.” She wrinkled her nose at the swarm of flies gathering around the untouched food dish.

The two leaned against the white picket fence, watching the dog. The owners, if home, had never made an appearance, not in three years. The dog sat up, barked several times, and twirled in a circle. Then, panting with the effort in the July heat, he scratched at the earth a bit and plopped down in the filtered shade of the small tree growing nearby.

“But it’s such a floofy dog,” Victor said. “Those types are not meant for the outdoors. They’re the kind you pay a lot of money for so you can keep them indoors and bring them to restaurants in little carrier bags and put bows on them every time they are groomed. This one is just ignored.”

Jenn raised an eyebrow. “Since when have you become a dog person?”

Victor shrugged. “I’m not. I hate dogs.”

Jenn nodded. “Usually. But every time we walk past here, you start with the comments. You want a dog?”

“No. I mean, not in theory.”

Jenn hid a smile. “Because our new place has a back yard…”

Victor kept his poker face. “Dogs are a pain. I mean, they’re always there.”

“A fenced yard.”

Victor frowned.

“So no dog for us, then?”

He shrugged. “You know what they say. Dogs are the gateway drug to kids.” He offered a mock shudder. “It’s just something about this dog…”

“It’s a Pomeranian. I looked them up last Christmas. You know, when I was trying to convince you to get me one.” She smirked. “Which you didn’t. They’re purebred, which means they are not affordable. Not for us, anyway.”

“All the more reason for these people to take better care of it. One day, someone’s just gonna come grab it.”

“It’s fenced in.”

“Yeah, behind a picket fence with no lock. The gate can easily be opened. Hell, I could jump the fence if I wanted to.” He took a peek at Jenn’s face, then leaned over the fence and clapped his hands. The Pomeranian ran over to him, nipping at his hands in a friendly way. Victor reached down and scratched behind its ears.

Jenn had turned her attention to the house, but there was no movement. No indication that anyone was home. There was never any indication that anyone was home, except that once in a while the beast got a haircut. Last time, during the spring, the dog was cut to look like a lion: short hair on its back and legs, hair left long on its head and chest like a lion’s mane. Victor had been especially drawn to the idea of having a miniature lion sitting there in a suburban yard.

“Are you saying you want to?”

Victor stepped back from the fence and continued his walk as if to answer Jenn’s question. What was it about this stupid little dog? Something about it pulled at him. He seriously hated dogs ever since his mom’s Rottweiler nipped him as a kid. But this little one…

“What do you think his name is?” Jenn asked.

She wouldn’t drop it. “Lion,” Victor said. He regretted his lack of hesitation. Would she know he’d already chosen a name? “Or maybe “Leon,” he said, trying to sound casual. “Or Leo.”

Jenn raised an eyebrow. Luckily, her phone beeped, and a minor fashion crisis on the part of her sister distracted her from the rest of the conversation. By the time she put her phone away, they were already at the drainage pond—it had been dry the entire month so far—and the conversation turned to the drought and their excitement about moving up north—where it was much cooler—at the end of August.

August kept its reputation, burning like an inferno that intensified on Moving Day. Two of the paid movers called out “sick,” though Victor and Jenn agreed the weather was to blame. The two of them picked up the extra work with the one brave hired hand, sweat drenching them in the first five minutes of the morning. It wasn’t until nearly 9 p.m. that the entire house was packed up, the very hot and tired hired man was paid, and the two of them were in the rented truck, air conditioner blasting.

They didn’t expect it to be so late, and they hesitated. “What do we do?” Jenn asked. “Spend a final night in our house?” They were required to be out by midnight, but there was little chance the landlord would come by until the next morning.

Victor shook his head. “Pillar of salt,” he muttered. “Best start toward our new lives.”

The air hung with silence. They had two new jobs, a closing on a home—their home—in 36 hours—and the rest of their lives, all waiting for their arrival.

Jenn switched the truck into “drive.”

“Nice bench seat up here,” Victor said. “Plenty of room…”

“You’re planning on sleeping in the car?” Jenn asked. “I assumed we’d drive straight through.” She pulled toward the exit of the housing development.

“No, not sleeping in the car. Something else,” Victor said.

“Do you see how sweaty I am?” Jenn asked. “I am not in the mood.”

Victor rolled his eyes. “Not that. Pull over up here, will you?”

Jenn humored him.

“Keep it in drive, and be ready to go.”

“What?”

But Victor was already out the door, running toward the white picket fence. The Pomeranian—Leon, or Lion, or Leo, or whatever its name was—was barking its head off as usual. Victor didn’t hesitate at all. He simply opened the gate, reached toward the dog, and with a deft swipe, had the orange fluff of a dog in his arms. He ran out the gate, not bothering to shut it.

The gate swung open in the summer dusk as Jenn pulled away, her new pet happily sitting in the middle of the front bench seat. Not wanting to turn into a pillar of salt, Victor did not glimpse back in the rear view mirror, but he guessed Leon’s owners did not bother to come out. He’d stake his future on it.

 

***

The Spot Writers:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

 

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My Debut Novel! Wolves Don’t Knock

I’m elated to receive another excellent review. This one is posted on Amazon (along with two others) and was written by a verified purchaser.

I don’t think anyone could receive a better review than this.

I’m sharing it here:

“C. A. Mackenzie’s extraordinary ability to harness psychological drama compelled me to swiftly turn the pages of “Wolves Don’t Knock.” MacKenzie’s grip is so strong that Miranda’s torment became my own. I was unable to rest until the end; exhausted when I did. Without any reservations, I can declare Wolves Don’t Knock a five-star novel. It is, and literary agents should be fighting each other to represent Catherine A. MacKenzie’s future works.

“It would be tragic if Wolves Don’t Knock is undiscovered in Amazon’s Slush Pile Mountain. This novel belongs on Amazon’s Bestseller List….”

Tragic for MY book to be undiscovered? Wow!

This guy does not mince words. He says it like it is, with full honesty. Yes, I know him from online groups, but I know he means what he says. He’s read short stories of mine and rated them according to stars: one to five. He has said a couple of my stories didn’t even rate a one and that they should be trashed. Literally put out at the curb!

The other two reviews on Amazon:

Wolves Don’t Knock is a spell-binding novel that delves into the mysteries of a traumatized young woman’s psyche while she fights to regain a sense of worth. As the story progresses, the variety of well-developed characters will keep the reader turning the pages. Thumbs up and five stars to this talented author.”

“I loved this book so much that I passed it on to a friend. It is a riveting story with the cast of characters and many unexpected plot twists. You never know what’s going on in a small town neighbourhood. A sequel looks like a natural progression. Way to Go!!!”

The first individual was a beta reader. The second individual is a verified purchaser (she purchased the print book), but for some reason she posted a Kindle review so she doesn’t show up as one.

Several other individuals have promised reviews on Amazon (though I did receive some via email and Facebook), but I’m still waiting. Oh, well… Non-writers don’t realize how valuable reviews (good or bad) are to authors. And of course, I want HONEST reviews. No fluff and stuff if the book is horrible.

This is my debut novel. I have Paul’s story in my head (you’ll have to read Wolves Don’t Knock to know who Paul is) and hope to start writing that very soon. Paul’s story will be titled Mr. Wolfe. This second book will be a stand-alone book (as is Wolves Don’t Knock). The reader will not have to read both books in order to enjoy each or get a full understanding of the stories, but there will be some surprises in Mr. Wolfe that the reader will be able to trace back to Wolves. The reader will not spot any dangling threads in Wolves Don’t Knock other than one unanswered question, but whether that question will be answered in Paul’s story is up in the air (and will remain that way). But if Mr. Wolfe unfolds as I want it to and the reader has read Wolves, he/she will be surprised by some revelations.

Have I intrigued you enough to purchase Wolves Don’t Knock? I consider it a blend of suspense, mystery, thriller, and family relationships. A couple of readers have categorized it as a “psychological drama.” If the book were totally about Miranda, I would agree, but the book is told through the points of view of Miranda and her mother, Sharon. I suppose Sharon is traumatized a tad, too, but mostly she just has secrets and guilt.

The book would be suitable for mature teens and up. It’s about a kidnapping so, of course, there is rape, but the images are only implied; there are no graphic scenes or foul language.

The book is set in Nova Scotia, Canada, with references to Halifax, Lower Sackville, Lunenburg, and Peggys Cove.

Anyhow, if you’re local, I have books at my home available for purchase. $15 Canadian.

Otherwise, check it out on Amazon.

Available in print and Kindle, but the print book is much nicer (some fancy formatting). If you purchase, please drop me a quick note to let me know how you liked it. I would appreciate it!

Cathy

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Myself” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about a character who finds an object that had been lost.

This month’s story comes to us from Val Muller. She is the author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series (www.CorgiCapers.com) and the YA coming-of-age tales The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away. She is taking the prompt a bit more metaphorically. It is inspired by David Bowie’s video “Thursday’s Child” (https://vimeo.com/240799507), a video which has always intrigued her.

***

Myself

By Val Muller

The kid was finally down for a nap. There was finally silence. Peace. She sighed and looked around the room. The vacuum cleaner sat in the corner, its cord unraveled and covered in stickers. Its canister was full of beans, dirt, sand, and dog hair and needed to be emptied. The carpet was sprinkled with dried bits of Play-Doh. The dog’s head was stuck under the couch as it tried to reach a half-eaten bag of Veggie Straws that had spilled earlier. Its front legs struggled to reach under the couch, scattering more beans onto the carpet.

Note to self, she thought. Put beans on top shelf of pantry from now on.

In the kitchen, a trail of water led from the dog’s water dish to the toddler’s doll house in the living room, where it filled the toy bathtub and toilet, already starting to warp the wood of the toy furniture. The trail seeped into the carpet in a serpentine line. A half-eaten bowl of Cheerios sat on the Mickey Mouse child’s table in front of the television, absorbing milk.

To her right, the kitchen sink overflowed with dishes. The dishwasher had become a repository for beads and sand dumped there during an unexpected phone call yesterday, and she couldn’t find the energy to clean it or hand-wash the backlog of dishes that had accrued.

It was all too much. She went to the bathroom. Closed the door. At least she could have thirty seconds to pee unencumbered, without a toddler asking “whatcha doin’ in there?” or sticking her little fingers under the door. She washed her hands and dried them on her pants: the hand towel was missing. Likely, it had been used to drag water from the dog bowl to the doll house.

She looked in the mirror and sighed. When had she last brushed her hair? Like, really brushed it, while looking in a mirror and using styling products? Last week? Last month? It might have been years ago, before the toddler.

A stranger stared at her from the mirror. Her eyes looked tired. No, not tired.

Dead.

That was it. She was dead inside. She was a function. She got chocolate milk out of the refrigerator when asked. She kissed boo-boos and tied sneakers. She quelled tantrums. Couldn’t a robot do as much? A twinge of guilt pricked her stomach. She was ungrateful. She had a healthy toddler. That should be enough.

She stepped out of the bathroom and plopped on the floor to pluck stickers from the vacuum’s cord. On the hearth above the fireplace sat two books she’d put there at Christmas—Christmas a year and a half ago—that she planned to read. But what was the point now? Each time she sat down to read, something interrupted her. An accident, a request for a snack, a cup of milk being dumped on the dog. No, better not try to get into something like a book. Best to use nap time to clean the house.

She was almost finished removing the stickers by the time she realized she was singing: music was still playing from the living room speaker. It was The Wiggles, and she had been singing to “Five Little Monkeys.” She hurried in to stop the music, and it still echoed in her head. She didn’t even mind it anymore. It was even familiar. Comforting.

What?

What had become of her that she didn’t even realize she was singing along to kids’ music? When was the last time she listened to something of her own choosing?

She needed to get out. A trip to the mailbox. A box awaited, sent by her parents. They were cleaning out her late grandmother’s home, and they mentioned they’d be sending some old photos Grandma had kept over the year. She returned inside, using a broom handle to push the rest of the Veggie Straws out from under the couch. The dog gratefully consumed them.

The first few photos in the box were recent: baby’s first and second Christmases, first and second birthday parties, first time swimming. She flipped through the stack. The pictures aged. Here, her graduation from college, arm around Grandma. Then, a photo she’d sent of herself in her college apartment. She’d forgotten about that space tapestry. It had graced her wall for all four years of college. She always maintained that crazy idea—that she was a stellar traveler, and her life on Earth was just one of her lives, just one experience of many. She insisted that her very vivid dreams were her soul’s way of remembering all of her other lives. Her nickname had been Supernova.

How could she have forgotten about that? She still had that tapestry somewhere, didn’t she? And when had she last had a vivid dream? Maybe you died inside when you stopped dreaming.

She kept flipping. Back through the college and high school years. There were the pictures of her art show. Her high school exhibit, Nebula, had gotten her a free ride for two years in college. Good grief, she’d forgotten the scope of that final project for college, the one that got her national acclaim. The canvas took up the entire wall of her dorm room. She’d had to transport it to the show in sections. And now each section was boxed up in the basement, stacked under a disassembled crib.

There was that whole wall in the office. It had been empty since they moved in. Maybe she could hang it up again…

She flipped through the photos, going back in time to her days as a swimmer, her time on the debate team, her summers at the beach, the time she colored her hair blue and purple. Her first ear piercing, and her seventh. Her days in elementary school gymnastics, her role in the kindergarten school play, her dozen-and-a-half lifetimes that had passed since her birth.

An aged picture of her in ripped jeans and a Starman t-shirt reminded her that she had loved David Bowie. She remembered that now. Why was she content with The Wiggles? Where were her Bowie CDs? She hurried to the garage and dug through her car, under the crusted layer of cereal that seemed to cover everything. Under the copies of The Wiggles and Disney soundtracks and pouches of applesauce and travel packs of disinfectant wipes. There they were, at the very bottom of the center console, interred more than three years earlier. Her Bowie CDs.

She flipped through them. There is was: David Bowie. The 1969 album. She hurried inside and replaced the kid CD in the living room player. “Space Oddity” started playing. It played softly, and she kicked up the volume.

She closed her eyes, rocking back and forth in the living room, listening to the tale of Major Tom, risking everything to follow his dream of space travel, even to his ultimate detriment. But he went. He risked things. He didn’t leave the book on the mantle for fear of interruption.

The song drew to a close, and she hit “repeat.” The intro started up again, and she kicked up the volume, wondering how loud she could make it before waking the kid.

The guitar tickled her mind. The drums pounded with her heart. She ran her fingers through her hair, remembering how she used to toss it around in college. Wild and teased with hairspray, like it had been kissed with stardust.

She kicked up the volume some more so that her hearing took over. The sight of the messy room faded. She listened again to the tale of Major Tom. What had he discovered in those moments in space? What insights did he gain? How much had he grown? What would his next life bring him?

He wouldn’t have been bothered by stickers on an electric cord, or sand in the dishwasher. Those things were irrelevant.

He would have bought paints by now, reclaimed the office, reclaimed a dream.

He was a space traveler. He glowed brightly. He was remembered by all. He was a Supernova.

Emily kicked up the volume again, planning the décor for a home office renovation, her mind igniting with the names of all the paint colors she’d need to paint a nebula. Major Tom’s name echoed on the track.

Major Tom was dead in the end, sure, but not dead inside.

And neither was she.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

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WOLVES DON’T KNOCK – a novel

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

My debut novel is finally finished and ready for the dreaded promotion.

Promotion? What is that? I’m a writer, not a seller. But that’s what we authors have to do in order to sell our books. We have to promote. And spam. And bug our friends and family and strangers. (But not too much; we don’t want to alienate anyone over a few bucks!)

This book is a blend of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics/relationships. It’s suitable for mature teens and up. Though it deals with sensitive issues (the aftermath of a six-year kidnapping), there are no graphic scenes.

The e-book is now available on Kindle and Draft2Digital (D2D). The print book, of course, is more expensive (available on Amazon and soon on IngramSpark), but I feel it gives a better reading experience. At 104,000 words, the book is a bit longer than most, thus the higher price tag.

The book is set in Halifax and vicinity, Nova Scotia, with a scene set in Peggys Cove.

It’s always available from me, the author, locally at $15 Canadian (no tax, no shipping).

I’ve had excellent pre-publication reviews, but it’s still a nerve-wracking experience to put yourself “out there” with your work. I don’t want unwarranted praise, of course, but I hope readers enjoy it. The book was over five years in the making (off and on, with one year totally untouched). I’ve read and re-read it numerous times (too many times to count and so many times all I wanted to do was trash the darn thing!). I’ve had several beta readers and two editors. If there are any glaring errors, I will scream!

So, here it is. Available for purchase. Or contact me locally. I’d be glad to hand-deliver.

Purchase here.

Wolves Don't Knock 1 FINAL back cover

 

 

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WOLVES DON’T KNOCK

In honour of Canada Day (July 1) and the U.S. July 4: WOLVES DON’T KNOCK is on sale for $10.99 U.S. until July 6. Amazon.com
Also available in Canada for approx. $14.50 on Amazon.ca
Available locally from the author for $15.00.
Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

Twenty-two-year-old Miranda escapes from her abductor and the wolves that have tormented her soul for six long years. She returns to her childhood home where her mother, Sharon, caring for Miranda’s son, Kevin, has feared for her daughter’s fate. Uncertainty and distrust taint the first year after Miranda’s return. Miranda and Sharon hide secrets they dare not reveal while constantly wondering when Miranda’s kidnapper will reappear. Can mother and daughter bury their demons and repair their strained relationship? Can Miranda bond with the baby she never knew and find the love she so desperately wants? Will Kevin’s father play a role? Will Sharon find the answers she needs to recover from her own troubled past?

Set in Halifax and vicinity, Nova Scotia.

Although this book deals with sensitive issues, there are no graphic sexual scenes.

 

PRE-PUBLICATION REVIEWS:

What a story! What a read! It reminded me a bit of The Room and, of course, a couple other stories like this one. It is engaging though it has difficult themes and elements. —ML

I love the parallel mother/daughter relationship and once the grandmother gets involved, it truly turns into a generational problem. The knock-knock jokes are a stroke of genius. You have wonderful symbolism and use it well throughout. And all the “wolf” connections and descriptions are soooo perfect this should be in a lit course to teach symbolism! —PL

A 5-star novel. Buy it. So many elements of suspense weaved through Wolves Don’t Knock that you feel you can’t read and turn the pages fast enough to get to the end…a real page-turner, holding this reader’s attention from opening to the end. The many threads woven throughout this novel left me exhausted by the end. That is a very good thing…. A lot of the introspections were the best passages in the novel. Often beautifully written… Joyce Carol Oates uses intensive character introspections in a lot of her work. She can get away with it because she has the skills to make those introspections fascinating. So does this author…  —RA

Wolves Don’t Knock is a spell-binding novel that delves into the mysteries of a traumatized young woman’s psyche, as she fights to regain a sense of worth. As the story progresses, the variety of well-developed characters will keep the reader turning the pages. Thumbs up and five stars to this talented author. —KA

 

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