Tag Archives: catherine a. mackenzie

Writer Wednesdays – Bill Thomas

Today, I interview Bill Thomas.

Bill lives in Washington, Missouri, and is on staff at First Christian Church there. He’s been in ministry for over twenty-five years. He is also an adjunct instructor in history, Bible, and education for St. Louis Christian College and Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, MO.  He’s authored two novellas, From the Ashes and The Sixty-first Minute published by White Feather Press of MI and three Bible studies, Surrounded by Grace,The Critical Questions and More and The Road to Victory published by CSS Publishing of OH. He co-wrote Give God and Me a Chance with Laney Jeans from Hear My Heart Publishing and wrote a YA book, The Adventurers: The Store Robbery published by DWB Children’s Line, to be released in the spring of 2019.

I asked Bill:

Q: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

The first book I wrote that was published was a Christian book. When I first started writing, I felt like it was an extension of my ministry and I’ve tried to view it that way ever since. Like with anyone who writes, I’d like to write a best seller. That’s not been the case, but I do think some of what I’ve written has helped people in their walk with the Lord.

Q: Do you Google yourself?

I am a bit embarrassed to say that I do. There is something cool, I think, about seeing your name in the search engine by the work that you’ve done.

Q: Which means more to you in your writing career: fame or fortune?

I’d like both 😊. Seriously, I don’t know that either is all that important, at least for me. I will try to keep writing to encourage others and improve as much as I can.

Q: How do you know a story/book is finished?

I usually see a story in my head and try to outline it. I try to write what I see. Sometimes, in the process of writing, the story changes. The events turn out differently than what I’d outlined at the beginning. I usually hope to end the story with the reader wanting to have more.

Q: Does your family support your writing?

I’m single, so there isn’t an immediate family, but my family (at large) and church family are encouraging.

Q: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I think it would have been helpful if I’d taken a few classes in creative writing and been a bit bolder in writing when I was younger. I lacked confidence in what I was doing.

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

I write in different genres over the years. I suppose I’ve tried many of them. I like the variety of writing it affords. I’ve done some Christian novellas, a YA book, three Bible studies, a couple of plays (Christmas), and helped with a non-fiction biography. I’ve also written for three political websites and written devotions for both online publications and magazines. I think I’ve tried to write in several different ones, but one that I haven’t done that would be interesting, I think, is Science Fiction. I suspect that will remain a “wish,” however. I don’t think I have a good feel for that and how it might connect with faith.

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

I would say between six months and a year, depending on the length and the type of book.

Q: How does your life unfold in a normal writing day?

I work at the church and college, so rarely do I get to dedicate a day to writing. For me, writing comes in spurts. Sometimes it flows easily and other times it doesn’t. While working on a project, I try to write some everyday.

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

No, I don’t think so. I’ve reread emotional scenes I’ve written and felt that, but as far as tears, no.

Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes. For me, it isn’t so much a lack of story, but more a lack of how to get it down in the best way. That can be challenging and frustrating at times.

Q: What genre do you favour?

I don’t know if I have a favorite. I enjoy the various kinds of writing I get to do.

Q: Is writing your full time job? If not, what is?

No. I am a minister and Bible college instructor.

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

I haven’t done any historical fiction, but I have read it quite a bit. In my mind, the writer must be true to the actual character of whom he/she is writing. Abraham Lincoln, in your story, has to act consistent with the real character of Abraham Lincoln.

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

I do read them. I don’t know that I’ve had a ton of them. Most of them have been good and a few have been not quite as good. I take that the same way I take feedback on sermons or lessons. I think you have to not dwell too long on either the good or the bad. Take it for what it is. Learn from it and move on.

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

In my fiction stories, I like for there to be a bit of a mystery, so there’s that. I don’t know if they are secrets, per se. I do like to have clues that lead up to a reveal later.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write?

I’d say the scenes in the kids’ book I’m working on that involve a character that has special needs has been the most challenging. I want to do it in a way that is realistic and doesn’t “gloss over” or “mock” the character.

Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I suppose one has to have some ego to put himself/herself out there in writing to be read by and discussed by others. I think that kind of ego is important. You have to have the confidence to do that. At the same time, there is always someone (or many someones) better than you, so don’t get too big.

Q: Have you set goals?

I have goals for when doing a writing project but not necessarily for what projects are next.

Thank you, Bill, for this interview!

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers – “Home” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story that involves a snow globe. The snow globe can contain anything and doesn’t necessarily have to do with or take place around Christmas.

Today’s prompt comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Check it out at www.CorgiCapers.com.

***

“Home” by Val Muller

He’d finally done it. Finally cleared out the whole house. Four dumpsters worth. Seriously. Decades of accumulation from Mom and Dad. Toys they saved, some his and some Maggie’s. Years of school artwork, paintings, grade school worksheets.

Scrabble. Operation. Toy water guns. Flashlights with leaking batteries. Mildewed stuffed animals. The glue that had bound him to Maggie growing up. Things Mom and Dad refused to give up. The toys were too degraded to be worth much, and honestly, the memories were things he’d rather keep buried.

So he’d done a quick Google search and chosen the first company that popped up, a company that brought empty dumpsters and collected them once full. They’d come four times already, and he watched out the window as they left for the last time.

He’d tossed things in remorselessly.Anything that couldn’t be donated had been tossed. He wouldn’t have any metaphorical ghosts on his back, nothing to haunt his home with memories of his sister or parents. Those days were in the past, and they lived on in his memory only. He didn’t need a daily physical reminder of the pain of loss.

Funny, he’d always thought Maggie would be the one stuck with the task. He imagined her old and gray, with children of her own, or possibly even grandchildren, cleaning out the hoarder’s paradise that Mom and Dad built. He’d always thought he’d have gone first, not his sister. But there’d been the car wreck. Maggie never married, never had children, and now the task was his alone.

He returned inside, noticing the creaking groan of the front door. Funny, he hadn’t noticed it the hundreds of times he’d been in and out clearing years of possessions. It had seemed like someone else’s door then. A relic from a past that no longer belonged to him. He’d grown since he’d lived in the house, and he was a new person, all around.

Didn’t they say a body’s cells regenerated every eight years or so? It had been more than thrice that since he’d lived at home. He was a different person, twice removed. No need to dwell in memory.

But there was something about the creaking door.

The living room was empty now, only the faded carpet remaining. But he glanced at the fireplace and was transported back to a Christmas years ago. The darkened room illuminated with the warm glow of Christmas lights against a crackling fire. He and Maggie had been sitting under the tree, guessing at their gifts based on the shape of the packages.They knew, absolutely knew, that Dad had gotten them a train set, and they were secretly plotting where they would set it up. When Mom and Dad finally woke that morning, he and Maggie tried to act surprised when they opened the huge box of train tracks and locomotives. Their feigned surprise was so ridiculous that they simply ended up laughing instead. Simply laughing and smiling, and before they knew it, the room was full of contagious laughter and Christmas morning hugs. That was his quintessential memory, the pure essence of childhood.

He reached to brush something off his face and pulled his hand back when he found a tear. Here was what he held back years ago when his father died, and a year later when Maggie got in the car wreck.She’d never really gotten over Dad’s death, and she’d had a few close calls prior to the crash. He hadn’t cried at her funeral, either, nor when she was conferred a posthumous honorary degree from the university. Relatives commented on how stoic he was, how strong he was being for his mother. But the truth was,he’d simply buried it.

When he learned about Mom, it was more of the same. He’d cleared the house quickly and efficiently, allowing only superficial thoughts to enter his mind. Was it valuable enough to sell? New enough to donate? Old enough to trash? It was only triage and vacuuming and getting the house ready for market by December 26, as the realtor had requested.

But now, standing in the empty room and hearing the creaky door, he mourned. He longed for the possessions he’d thrown out. Not all of them, but some. Just one. If he only had one, he could make it.

He stared into the fireplace, and the memories of crackling fire faded to the darkness of the fading evening. But something glittered there in the fireplace. Hadn’t he cleared out everything?In her later years, Mom had used the fireplace to store Tupperware boxes full of sewing supplies. Maybe he’d missed something.

He reached toward the sparkle and retrieved something cold and heavy. A snow globe. He’d forgotten about it. It had been a staple of Christmastime growing up. They’d placed the globe on the end table near the couch so that it caught the lamplight. The snow was made of white specks and blue glitter, enclosing the globe’s residents in winter magic.

Dad had bought it on a business trip. He remembered because it was a Christmas when money was tight, and Mom questioned the purchase. But Dad couldn’t resist, he’d insisted. The globe not only contained a snowman, Maggie’s favorite, but a boy and a girl who looked almost identical to him and Maggie. The little girl in the globe was pointing at the snowman in awe, and her brother was holding her hand, looking at her. It captured their personalities almost perfectly.

He dropped the globe in his coat pocket and hurried out the front door, locking it behind him, ready for house hunters. His eyes watered in the cold winter evening, but he didn’t mind. The weight in his pocket felt like the tug of nostalgia, the tug of a home that would always be his.

***

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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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

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Writer Wednesdays – Drew Lankford

Today, I interview Drew Lankford.

Drew at Pa Bunks 2 (2)

Drew lives in Murfreesboro, TN, with his three beautiful children and sometimes beautiful cat. He has published four books of poetry: For You, Limitless, Lollipops, and Fluffy Socks. He has also published widely in journals such as Skive, 34th Parallel, and Living with Loss.  Unclear of its tone or direction, he is currently hard at work on his fifth collection of poetry.  Most of his encouragement as a writer comes from his friends at the writing workshop that meets weekly at the local library. Besides writing, Drew loves listening to music, going on long walks, and playing with his children in the backyard.

Q.  How long do you write daily?

I write between 2-3 hours daily depending on how well things are going. If the writing gets tense and seems to be going nowhere, I go for a long walk.

Q.  What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is graduating from Austin Peay State University with an MA in English Creative Writing. That was tough study, and I’m proud to have made it through.

Q.  What is your major emphasis now?

Right now, I’m working on writing. Besides caring for my children, it’s all about writing. Nothing will get written on its own.

Q.  What are you currently reading?

I am reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Her writing looks so simple it’s amazing. She’s one of the best, ever. Besides Austin, I’ve started re-reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Q.  What is your favorite book?

I’ve got to go with two here: The Call of the Wild and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Q.  Which contemporary authors are you reading now?

Billy Collins is one of the coolest authors we have with us today. His imagination is incredible. Also, I enjoy reading the playful and lighthearted M.C. Beaton mystery books.

Q.  What are your goals?

One goal is to have ten collections of poetry finished by the time I’m fifty. That sounds like a good number to me. Also, I’d like to try writing something off the grid: a collection of essays, humorous tales from the classroom, things like that.

Q.  What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working hard on the fifth collection of poetry. If it makes sense, the collection is lifting off a bit–its shiny head in the wind–and I want to keep it down, but I know I can’t restrain it. I’ve got to let go and see where it leads. That’s what I’m working on.

Q. What do you hope to get from writing?

I always want to learn more about myself and others. I love to see how far we’ve come and the possibilities of the future.

Q.  If you could tell your younger self something about writing what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that writing is like life. There are unpleasant times and there are pleasurable times, and the trick to the whole thing is to stay at it, no matter what.

Q.  What did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. I made it to high school, not bad, considering.

Q.  What do you do for a full time job?

At this time, I’m between jobs and that gives me time to write. Trust me, I’m taking advantage of the time.

Q.  What are your feelings about ethics used in writing about historical figures?

Accurate history must be based in truth or it becomes fiction. If the author is honest and tells us if his or her work is based in fact or fantasy, that would ease much tension.

Q.  Where can we find your work?

www.dwb.publishing.com

or through any normal online locations.

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Booklet” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: a book keeps appearing out of the blue in the most unexpected and unusual places.

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

The Booklet by Chiara De Giorgi

I am a small booklet: just a few pages bound together, home-made style, with a blue, battered cover.

I was written by an elderly woman, who gave me to her grand-daughter. She had written her verses and thoughts on my pages, she even put in a couple of beautiful drawings.

Her grand-daughter had just moved to a country far away and was feeling bewildered and a bit dazed by the different language and habits, by all those unfamiliar faces and places. She cherished her grand-mother present, reading and re-reading the short poems and being comforted by the woman’s words.

Every time she flipped through my pages, she smiled softly to herself; she even shed a tear of two, thinking of her grand-mother. From my pages she drew the strength to face her daily challenges with a brave heart.

One day I realized she didn’t need me anymore. I was lying on her bedside table, as usual, and I watched her cuddle her newborn baby, while her husband lovingly hugged them both.

That afternoon, while we were at the park, I discretely slid from the stroller’s blanket, landing on the grass and waiting for someone to find me.

A young boy saw me and tenderly picked me up, a big smile growing on his face. He put me in his coat’s pocket and off we ran.

He wiped my cover and straightened my pages, then put me on his sister’s bed, half hidden under a giant stuffed panda bear’s foot. He watched unseen, as the little girl found me and started flipping through my pages, stopping to admire the beautiful drawings.

The little girl had just moved to a new school and was distressed because she couldn’t make new friends, nor forget her old ones. From that day on, she always brought me with her. I reminded her of her big brother, and every time she felt lonely or afraid, she just opened me, finding a poem, or a few lines in a short story, that helped her feel comfortable again.

One day I was watching her from the bench in the schoolyard: it was summer and she was playing with her school-mates, running around and laughing happily. I understood my time with her had come to an end, and let myself fall under the bench.

The old janitor found me. He picked me up and brought me home. He put me on the table while he ate a quick supper, then we went to his sister’s, all the way across the city.

His sister had recently been widowed and was feeling very sad and lonely. She was unable to sit on her husband’s favorite armchair, or to sleep on his side of the double bed. Every single object reminded her of the man she had shared so many years with, and she could only sit next to the window in the small kitchen, looking out and remembering the time gone.

She didn’t care much for me, at first, but then she decided to open me and read a few words here and there, until she started doing so every morning. One poem, one memory, one aphorism a day, I kept her company and showed her there were still thoughts to be thought and words to be spoken.

One morning she entered the kitchen humming a happy tune. She kept humming and cleaned all the house. She moved the furniture and put her husband’s armchair next to the wood stove, then she chose an old record from a pile and played it, quietly dancing by herself around the room. Her eyes were clear, her face serene, a hint of a smile stretched her lips.

The window next to me was open, and a gust of wind gently lifted me. I was flying towards my destiny again.

***

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.com/

+++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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Writer Wednesdays – Marie McGaha

This week, Writing Wicket interviews Marie McGaha.

Marie is an ordained minister, addictions counselor,  author, and editor. In real life, she’s a wife, mother, and Nana who loves being in the mountains. She and her husband, Nathan, are members of The Patriot Guard Riders and supporters of Neptune Warriors.

NatenRieAnniversary (2)

I asked Marie:

Q: Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?

I’m not what you would call trendy. Most of what I write is Christian-oriented, and I write what I feel God puts on my heart to help others.

Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

(I seriously don’t know how to answer that.)

Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Most of what I have written over the past several years has been about my own life experiences related to the 30+ years I have in ministry. As far as writing fiction, my characters aren’t necessarily based on real people, but are a conglomeration of people I’ve known.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Seventeen.

Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Making authors pay to be published.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

Other people’s books! The life of an editor means I spend more time getting other people’s work ready to be published than I do my own. But I do have books coming out next year. First, the sequel to Shine His Light Lessons In Life, titled Shine His Light 2 Directions In Life, and Christy Diachenko is currently working on the voice over for Shine His Light Lessons In Life, which will be out on Audible next spring.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be?

A teacher. I actually went to college with the idea of being an English major, so I could teach high school English.

Q: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

For me it is. Much of what I write is based on my ministerial practice and experience, and biblically based.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

Trying to give them a personality that is likable, yet flawed and real without them seeming too arrogant. I have the greatest husband and I use a lot of him in my male characters, and I also use my sons’ attributes and flaws to round out the characters. None of the male characters are just one man in my life, but a mix of the good men I love.

Q: What do you like least about writing?

The rewrites. I want to do it perfectly the first time so I don’t have to go through a long editing process, but so far, I haven’t hit perfection!

Q: What’s your favourite part of writing?

When I finally hold that book in my hand and know I’ve actually completed something I started.

Q: How many hours a day do you write?

That would be another thing I dislike about writing—there’s never enough hours to write as much as I want. Life keeps interfering and I have to tend to things like cleaning house, cooking, letting dogs in and out and in and out… plus, I have to edit other people’s manuscripts, plus all of the promotions I do, as well as the time required for my ministry, and then there’s grandkids…. I need more hours in the day!

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

When I first decided to be a published author it was because I wanted to be remembered for something, but as I’ve gotten older, that’s been tempered with the desire to make a difference in the lives of others. There are so many hurting people out there, and if any of my life experiences can help, then I feel as if I’ve really accomplished something.

Q: What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)

I was sexually abused by two uncles from the age of 3 until I was about 11, and that of course, has had a lifelong affect on who I am and how I’ve lived. Coming to terms with that type of abuse isn’t easy, and learning to forgive an abuser is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. So, that period of life and the after effects play a huge role in what I write.

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?

Out of someone else’s book or my own? I’ve edited chapters out of other people’s books, but I’ve tossed entire manuscripts of my own. I’ve read them and thought, wow, that’s crap and started over from scratch. I always put my work away for at least a month before re-reading it. It gives me distance and the ability to read it without my mind seeing what should be there and really isn’t. That way I am more objective and can see my errors.

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

Other people. Through the years of counseling, working with probation and parole, and being a minister, I’ve met countless people in every walk of life and I’ve found that there is much more that binds us together than what separates us. One of the things I’ve remained involved with is prison ministry, although it’s gotten much easier with the internet. The federal prison system has an email service for inmates, and I correspond with prisoners all over the country. I send them daily devotionals, and we have a weekly group called Free To Live that covers subjects like addiction and anger management.

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

Yes. My favorite story by me is Cross The Line. It’s set just after the Civil War and involves a former Southern belle with a former slave. I love the story, the dynamics between the characters, and their relationship. I was so sad when their story ended.

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

Not really. Fiction is like our dreams, anything can happen and it makes perfect sense.

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

I would have to say a bear… I own Dancing With Bear Publishing that is named in honor of my late husband, J. Bear Marler. So, if there is such a thing, my spirit animal is the bear.

Q: What books have you published?

Fiction:

Cross The Line

One Good Man

Closure

Non-fiction:

Comfort & Joy book one: forgiveness

When God Talks, It’s Time To Listen

The Root, The Shoot, The Fruit

Shine His Light Lessons In Life

Fictionalized Non-fiction:

Freedom Worth Dying For

 

For more information on Marie:

www.mariemcgaha.com

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMarieMcGaha/

https://twitter.com/Marie_McGaha

https://thelightofjesus.blogspot.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/mariemcgaha/

www.dwbpublishing.com

https://www.instagram.com/dwb_publishing/

https://www.facebook.com/DWBPublishing/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DWBFanPage/

https://beforeitsnews.com/contributor/pages/254/684/bio.html

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dancing-with-bear-christian-publishing-2a076b37/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariemcgaha/

Media Kit

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers –

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: Newspapers and news sites show a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refugee problems and other political and social crises. Write a story focused on a depressing occurrence and give it a happy ending.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, is available from her locally or on Amazon, to great reviews.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Downtown Meetings by Cathy MacKenzie

“Did you go downtown this morning?” Simon asked, entering the kitchen.

I jerked around from the counter, dropping the dishtowel as I did so. “Why?”

“I saw you driving down Main Street with the top down.”

The top down? I breathed a sigh of relief. “Nope, not me.”

“It sure looked like you.”

“You know I never have the top down when I’m alone.”

“And why is that?”

“Because it’s presumptuous. Like I’m flaunting. You know I hate attention.”

He laughed. “Well, it looked like you.”

“When did you think you saw me?” I bent over to pick up the towel, glad to have something in my hands.

“Oh, I guess it was around eleven or so. I had to go to a meeting on Churchill.”

“Wasn’t me. There’s lots of red mustangs.”

“Yeah, I know.” He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and kissed me. When he broke away, he asked, “What’s for dinner?”

“Meat loaf.” Simon’s favourite.

After dinner, he disappeared downstairs to his man cave.

I plonked to the kitchen chair. Scary stuff, that was. Had he seen me in my red Mustang with the top up, trying to catch me in a lie? No, he had no inkling.

My life was simple and carefree, with very few problems as compared to those who endure such catastrophes as forest fires, tornados, and hurricanes. Why did I want to create a disastrous situation when there was no need for one? Simon was a perfect husband and provider. Sure, we had the odd spat—what married couple didn’t? I should be more grateful for him and my life.

I finished the dishes and headed to the bedroom, intending to read in bed. Instead, I pondered, unable to concentrate on the book. Sweat poured over me, and I threw off the blanket. What had I been thinking? Could I have gone through with it?

If Simon had actually seen a woman resembling me in a car similar to mine, what a cruel coincidence. I very rarely drive downtown. What a fluke he’d been there the same morning I was.

I hadn’t been attracted to Rob, not with his receding hairline, paunchy belly, and seventies-style clothing. Not up to my standards, for sure, and I should have exited the mall immediately when I saw him—the guy who waited by the fountain. Despite my initial reaction, we enjoyed conversation over lunch. I was taken aback when he mentioned his wife and how it would kill her if she discovered he’d been hooking up with other women.

Gee, what should he expect? He had joined Dates & Mates, a local dating site, specifically for sexual partners. It would kill Simon, too, if he ever found out I was a member. But this was my first time. Rob was the first anonymous guy I’d connected with online, the first guy I’d met in person.

“She never wants it anymore,” Rob had said. “She has a condition.” He rattled off the medical term, which was foreign to me.

I had almost blurted, “So, because she can’t—or won’t—engage in sex that gives you permission to seek sex elsewhere?” But I kept my mouth shut. Who was I to talk? I was as bad as he was.

I wondered what sort of marriage Rob had, and that’s what had knocked the sense into me, thinking of his innocent, unsuspecting wife at home, waiting for her husband, not knowing of his double life.

This was all foreign to me. Cheating and lies. And what about my love for Simon, my husband of ten years? Didn’t he deserve better? I had thought I needed excitement in my life, but I already had the best husband. I didn’t want another. It was pure luck Simon hadn’t caught me.

Suddenly, I was cold and yanked the covers over me. Minutes later I heard Simon coming up the stairs. He would keep me warm, as he always did.

***

 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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Writer Wednesdays – Karen Black

Today, Writing Wicket is showcasing Karen Black.

Karen lives in the eastern United States with her husband and three little aliens who are disguised as cats. She is fascinated by the supernatural and draws on that fascination along with her background in criminal justice to create stories of drama and suspense, with a touch of paranormal. Karen has published a collection of short stories, some of which were also published individually. She is one of the Seven Fates writers and released her first novel, Race into Murder, this spring.

karen black

I asked Karen:

Q: How often do you write?

A: An average of three or four days a week. Sometimes I go into overdrive and spend days hovering over my laptop, but then there are times I don’t even look at a story for a week or more.

Q: What genre(s) do you write?

A: Drama, suspense, mystery.

Q: What is your favourite genre?

A: Suspense.

Q: What motivates you, in writing or otherwise?

A: My primary motivation in writing is my long-time friend and editor, Robert Arend. He is probably the only one who can get me moving when I go into a writing slump. I tend to work on six or eight projects at a time and have found that going back to a story gives me new incentive, as opposed to sticking with one from start to finish. I tend to allow life to interfere with my writing and don’t put it at the top of my priorities.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?

A: I like the way the characters take on a life of their own. I’m never sure how they will develop.

Q: What do you like least about writing?

A: The stiff shoulders from staying in one position too long!

Q: If you could start your life over again, what would you do differently?

A: Strange as this will sound, I wouldn’t change much, if anything. Although there have been some bad times, and some things I’m not necessarily proud of, there have been wonderful times and things I’m delighted to have accomplished. That being said, I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am if my past was different, and right now, I’m happy with both.

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

A: No.

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment (in writing or non-writing)?

A: I have always loved to read. When retired, I wondered how hard it could be to write a novel. I found out.  After publishing a variety of short stories, I recently completed a crime novel, which was published this year. I think my biggest writing accomplishment is getting the next one underway, even though I realize how much time and effort the first one took.

Q: How does your life unfold in a normal day?

A: Two cats harass me until I agree to get up and feed them. My husband and I have coffee on the deck if the weather is accommodating, in the house if it isn’t. From that point, all bets are off. It becomes a decision about what needs to be done, as opposed to what we’d prefer to do, and we try to balance the two.

Q: Who are your favourite author(s)?

A: James Patterson, Dan Brown, Lee Childs, Dick Francis

Q: Do you have a favourite book? What is it?

A: I love books, particularly reference books, but I don’t have a favorite.

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

A: Karen Black, because overall I’m happy with my life.

Q: Have you set goals? If so, what are they?

A: My current goals are to have a first draft of my next novel completed by the end of this year and to have at least two short stories finished and ready to publish, within the same time frame.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

A: I have begun two novels and half a dozen short stories, all in various stages of completion. I jump between them.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

A: Right now, I simply hope to entertain readers.

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

A: Don’t believe everything you hear or are told. Do the research and trust your instincts.

Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?

A: A Veterinarian.

Q: Is writing your full-time job? If not, what is?

A: I’m retired, so writing is as a full-time a job as I have, though I spend less than forty hours a week doing it and I take as many vacation days as I want to.

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

A: I believe in research, research and more research. If an actual historical figure is used in writing, I think the truth about that figure should be incorporated in the publication.

Q: What book(s) have you self-published?

A: Long Stories Short and Race into Murder.

Check out Karen’s book, Race into Murder, on Amazon.

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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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Wolves Don’t Knock – an excerpt

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

An excerpt:

Light flooded the closet. He hauled her into the room, where the glaring overhead bulb blinded her and weakness threatened to buckle her legs. When he let go of her arm, she collapsed, and he wound a chain around her right ankle.

“What are you doing? Why are you doing this?”

Except for thick, raspy breathing, he remained silent.

“Please let me go. Please. I won’t tell. Just let me go. I’ll disappear, and no one will ever know.” Tears shed in the closet had dried stiffly on her T-shirt and jacket. She was soggy between her legs. She cringed, realizing her bladder had let loose. Was she leaking blood, too? Had he seen?

He read her mind. “You’ll be able to get to the bathroom but nowhere else. And no tricks or I’ll stick you back in the closet and throw away the key.”

She glanced around the room. A closet and a tiny window. A bed.

“I need to go now. To the bathroom.”

He pointed to the doorway.

Shackled like a criminal, she managed to stand. She held out her arms, silently begging him to untie her.

“No funny business,” he mumbled, removing the rope.

She stumbled into the hall and slipped into the nearest room, which happened to be the bathroom. She shoved the warped door against its frame, unable to close it completely because of the chain, and completed her business.

Three rolls of toilet paper sat on the shelf over the toilet, and she stuck a roll under her T-shirt, in her armpit.

Infused with newfound strength, she returned to the bedroom. “What are you doing?” She could handle this. She could talk her way out of this stranger’s clutches, having wheedled her way out of awkward situations with her parents.

He ignored her.

“Please let me go. I promise not to tell.” She held her left arm stiffly at her side to keep the toilet paper in place.

He mutely stared.

“Please.” She clenched her hands, her unkempt nails digging into her palms. “Who are you?”

“Paul Wolf.”

“Wolf?” Was that a joke? “What do you mean?” She had never heard of anyone with that last name. Or was it Wolf with an “e”? His name must be spelled with an “e” to distinguish it from the animal, wouldn’t it? Then again, wasn’t he an animal?

“I’m Paul Wolfe. That’s all you need to know. And don’t even think of escaping.” A yellow-nailed finger jabbed into her face. “I’ll kill your parents if you even think about running. I’ll get even. Even…” His eyes glazed until he shook himself out of an apparent stupor and glared at her.

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WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available on Amazon, print or e-book. Also available from the author.

 

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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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