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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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The Spot Writers – “The Vampire” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. March’s prompt: How (or why) a young person decides what career (or path) to follow.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s one-woman publishing company, MacKenzie Publishing, has published two anthologies: OUT OF THE CAVE and TWO EYES OPEN, two collections of short stories by authors around the world, to read during the day…or at night, as long as two eyes are open. Not “horrific horror”…more like intrigue, mystery, thriller. Simply good reads.

TWO EYES OPEN: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1927529301/

OUT OF THE CAVE (milder stories for 13+):  https://www.amazon.com/Out-Cave-stories-Cassandra-Williams/dp/1927529298/

***

The Vampire by Cathy MacKenzie

Nancy jumped. What was that?

The book she’d been reading, A Nightmare of Vampires, lay beside her. Had she fallen asleep? “Darn, now I’ve lost my place,” she mumbled.

She tiptoed to her bedroom door. Carefully she opened it and peeked into the hall.

Dark. Quiet. No—what was that?

A shadow. At the end of the hall.

Was that Nathan, her seventeen-year-old brother?

Once Nancy’s eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the shadow morphed into a vampire—a real life vampire. A female vampire! Heading to Nathan’s room!

She wanted to keep watching, but she was a fearful. Vampires were bad creatures. They sucked the blood out of you and where would you be then? But that’s why she wanted to be a vampire. She wanted control: control of her destiny, control of others.

She liked the look of blood, the thick red, coppery scent. She’d tasted blood previously, when she cut herself, sometimes on purpose, so she could lick her skin until she had lapped up all the red. The taste wasn’t bad, actually, but not as sweet as she had expected. She worried—if her dream to be a vampire came true—whether she’d be able to stomach strange blood. That was perverse and unnatural, wasn’t it?

But it would be fun to haunt the night, to soar through the sky—vampires did fly, didn’t they? She considered herself a people person, at least that’s what her teacher had recently said. At the time, Nancy thought “people person” was a label for yapping fools who didn’t shut up, but she later learned the connotation was desirable. People were supposed to be sociable, talkative, and interested in others. Nancy was all of those: all the requisites for a female vampire.

She hesitated. She’d love to confront the vampire in the hall and converse with it, but she snuck back to her bed.

Katherine Krimmins was an excellent writer, and Nancy immersed herself in the story again, picturing herself as Vanessa the Vampire. She was aware most vampires were male, but this was the twenty-first century. Couldn’t she be whatever she wanted?

The next morning, she met her grandmother, who was visiting for a couple of weeks, on the stairs, and told her that she wanted to be a vampire when she grew up.

Granny’s eyes grew wide. “What! A vampire? How do you know what a vampire is?”

“I know what they are. I’ve seen them.”

“You’ve seen vampires?”

“Well…just one. Last night.”

“Oh, you must have had a bad dream. A nightmare.”

“No, Granny, I saw one for sure.”

“Where?”

“It was going into Nathan’s room.” She pointed behind her. “I saw it.”

“Oh, Nancy, you silly girl.”

“No, Granny, I saw it.”

“It’s not nice to tell fibs.”

Nancy pouted. “I’m not. And that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”

Her grandmother hugged her. “Oh, sweetie, if you want to be a vampire, you can be a vampire. You can be anything you set your mind to, but you’re only twelve, so I’m sure you’ll change your mind dozens of times before then.”

Nancy relaxed. Even if her grandmother didn’t believe her tale, she had, at least, agreed she could be a vampire. Her mother, though, would have a different opinion.

“Let’s go eat breakfast,” Granny said.

They entered the kitchen. Her mother, busy at the counter, greeted them. Nathan appeared seconds later.

Nancy couldn’t help but notice his flipped-up collar. “Nathan, your collar is skewered.”

His face flushed. Up to no good, she thought.

He glared at her. “Shut up, Nancy.”

Their mother wagged her wet fingers. “Kids, behave.”

When Nathan sat at the table, his collar flipped down.

Nancy gasped and whispered to her grandmother. “Granny, see? Vampires do exist. They suck the blood outta you, just like one did to Nathan last night.”

“Sweetie, what are you talking about?” Granny asked.

She motioned toward Nathan. “Look at Nathan’s neck. See the red blotch? That’s dried blood. That’s where the vampire got him. Sometimes they don’t kill you, you know. It all depends how sharp their teeth are.” Nancy figured she’d be a good vampire. Suck up enough blood to satisfy her urge but not enough to kill.

Nathan, his face even redder, yanked up his collar. “What you guys looking at?”

Their mother growled again. “Kids, hush. Sit down, Nancy and Granny. I have eggs and bacon.”

Nancy ignored her mother and whispered to her grandmother again. “See, I told you I saw a vampire.”

Granny leaned in to her. “I believe you, sweetie. I saw the red mark. But let’s keep that our secret.” Her eyes glistened.

Was she crying?  She looked sad.

“You missing Grampie?” Nancy asked.

“I am, sweetie.”

“Sorry, Granny.”

“Life goes on. Companionship is a good thing. I think being a vampire would be a good occupation when you grow up,” she said.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Millicent Hughes: https://www.danburyonfire.com/

 

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