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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.

***

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 – “My Life Beyond the Hills” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The August 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? The Spot Writers’ task: Write a story involving a fence that has been snuck through—as a major or minor plot point.

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.

***

My life beyond the hills

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

“If you want to know what my life will be like, you have to follow me.”

“Where?”

“There.”

The girl pointed to the top of the hill.

By then, I was pretty sure I was dreaming. Where and how had I fallen asleep, though?

 

My friends had wanted to go paddling on the lake, but I had felt such an urge to go explore the woods behind the B&B, that I had quickly packed a waterproof jacket and a bottle of sunscreen  – you never know what the weather’s going to be like in Scotland, after all! – and had started hiking up the hill.

Fluffy, white clouds were scattered across the sky, and a soft, warm wind was blowing, leaves rustling under its fingertips. The air smelled sweet, birds were singing, flowers were blooming all around, and my heart was about to burst with joy. This place was so beautiful, and somehow familiar. Where had I smelled that sweetness before? When had I seen such colorful meadows?

My hike abruptly came to an end when I reached a fence. I glanced right and left and saw no one, but I’d never climb over it: I was too well behaved for that. I squinted in the sunlight, trying to locate the end of the fence: maybe I could just go round it, and find the path again on the other side. I saw nothing promising, though: the fence just climbed all the way up the hill and disappeared beyond the top.

“I can show you a way through.”

Her voice startled me. Where had she come from? She looked about my age, small leaves and grass blades were entangled in her hair, that was long and dark and matted. Her sparkling green eyes made her dirty face look pretty, and she watched me with wariness and amusement.

I didn’t know what to say, I just opened my mouth and asked: “How?”

“Come with me, quick!”

She picked up her long, ragged skirts and started running up the hill, along the fence.

“What? Wait!”

I started after her before I even had the time to think. Who was this girl? Where had she come from? Why was she so shabby? Where was she leading me, and why?

“Okay, stop. Stop!”  I cried.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “We can’t stop now. They’ll catch us! Come on, run, we’re almost there.”

She started up the hill again, and I couldn’t help but follow. I stopped again when she did. I thought I’d be out of breath, but I was not: that’s when I realized this must be a dream.

“Now what?”

“Look”, she said, pointing to the ground. The fence had been wrecked.

“We’re too big, we’ll hurt ourselves. Besides, what’s the point? Why not simply climb, if we have to get to the other side?”

She grinned.

“Let’s do that!”

With one leap she was beyond the fence and had started running again.

“Wait, stop!”

She kept running, so I climbed the fence, much less nimbly than her, I admit, and ran after her.

She finally stopped and crouched behind a big, thorny bush. Sweat was leaving white streaks on her dirty brow and cheeks, her breath was heavy. She looked at me, terror in her eyes.

“What? What is it?” I asked, grabbing her hand.

“Shut up, don’t talk! They might hear us. Oh God, will they catch us? Where are they? Can you see them?”

“Who are you talking about? There’s no one here, it’s just the two of us.” Dream or not, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. “Now calm down and tell me: who are you? What or who are you running from?”

She looked at me with sad eyes.

“Don’t you remember?” she asked.

I gasped. One moment I was myself, the next I was the girl in front of me. Chased by men who wanted to burn me as a witch. By men who had burned down my village, killing or capturing all my friends and family. I was left alone in a dangerous world. Running for my life, but where?

My head was spinning.

“What…”

“Now you remember”, she muttered. “We fled”, she added, nodding to herself, her eyes lost in the distance.

“Did… Did they catch us?”

She shook her head.

“They did not. We ran for days, climbing hill after hill after hill. We were all alone. We shed tears for all the people we had lost. For all the beauty of this place, wasted on evil people. For all the magic that was lost.”

I didn’t dare break the silence that followed, so I stayed still, crouched next to her, waiting for her to speak again. At last, she glanced at me and smiled.

“It wasn’t lost, not all of it, at least. The magic, I mean. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I am you, you are me. That much you know, right?”

I nodded quickly, before my mind had time to process the thought and convince me it was nonsense.

“I am here right now, but you are not. Not really, at least. You are my future. I needed a scrap of hope, and I called out to you. Now I know it’ll be worth it.”

I slowly stood and lifted my eyes to the top of the hill. She did the same.

“If you want to know what my life will be like, you have to follow me.”

“Where?”

“There.”

One heartbeat. Two, three. I shook my head.

“Go on and live your life”, I said then. “I’ll go on and live mine. Come see me some other time, if you wish. Let me know how you’re doing.”

She sighed, but kept on smiling.

“I will. Take care, and be wise.”

She turned and started running again. I stood there, watching her becoming smaller and smaller until she disappeared beyond the top of the hill.

I rubbed my eyes, trying to wake up, but realized I was already awake.

The sun was about to set and I must run if I wanted to be back at the B&B before dark.

 

***

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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The Spot Writers – “Coming of Age” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The August 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? The Spot Writers’ task: Write a story involving a fence that has been snuck through—as a major or minor plot point.

This week’s story comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Sacristy-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07CK94SKV/

***

Coming of Age by Phil Yeats

The school bus dropped them off on Friday afternoon after their third week in grade ten at their new high school. They lived in two isolated houses on the far side of a large industrial estate, the last two kids off the bus before the driver turned back to town. Everyone in school thought they were going steady because they spent their free time together, but it wasn’t so. They knew no one at school and had been friends forever, so they hung together. But they weren’t romantically involved, at least not then.

Mitch dropped his school bag at his place and continued to Jen’s where Mortimer eagerly waited for his afternoon romp. She threw her bag on the porch and chased after her mutt. Mitch followed more slowly knowing they’d make so much noise he’d have no trouble finding them. And anyway, Jen needed a run as much as her dog did. She was the high-strung adventuresome one, always getting them into scrapes.

When Mitch tracked them down, he saw Mortimer running along the chain-link fence that bounded unused forested land behind the industrial estate. The dog vanished through a gap in the fence. Jen yelled “Morty, come back here!”, then squeezed through the gap and promptly disappeared.

Mitch rushed up to the fence and stared into the forest. With no undergrowth or large trees to hide behind, he should have spotted them. Where were they? And why couldn’t he hear them?

After pulling at the fencing to widen the hole, he squeezed through, tumbling and banging his head on fine white sand. Mitch gazed at palm trees swaying in a warm breeze and listened to waves breaking on a beach. He stumbled past girls in bikinis and surfer dudes in their baggy shorts wondering how the Nova Scotia forest had transformed into a tropical beach.

When he found Jen and Mortimer, they were back in the Nova Scotia forest. She rested in a hollow in the long grass while Morty bounded around like the crazed rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. No more tropical beach, just a meadow in the forest, a place where they’d often stopped.

Mitch flopped down beside her, and she reached over and pulled him close, kissing his lips. Had she also been assaulted by the strange tropical beach images? Were they omens, images destined to lead them forward from children to adults? Had they suddenly joined the high school culture where everyone was more interested in relationships than the physical world around them?

Weird and wild, but hey, Mitch could handle it.

***

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/

 

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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 – “Ms. Spindle’s Retirement Gift” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story in which one character plays a prank on another. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, the young adult reboot of Hawthorne’s masterpiece, and Corgi Capers, the kidlit, canine-packed mystery series.

For this month’s rotation, we’re featuring guest writer Eric Egger, publisher at Freedom Forge Press, who will write this prompt with the added challenge of connecting it to the theme of freedom, as with everything having to do with FFP.

***

Ms. Spindle’s Retirement Gift

By Val Muller

Robbie Stewart was the kid she had every year. He came in different names, different bodies, he took different courses. But he was always there. Every iteration was a natural leader or especially talented, or at least had the potential to be, but he always squandered his natural charisma for ill and chaos. Sometimes he riled up the rest of the class. Sometimes he set off another conflicting personality and made a 90-minute class last all afternoon. Sometimes he popped into Ms. Spindle’s head as she tried to fall asleep. Or when she was cooking, one of his irritating antics would replay in her mind, causing her to burn dinner. Sometimes he appeared as a character in a movie or television show, ruining her immersion.

For thirty-seven years she had put up with the Robbie Stewarts of the world. For thirty-seven years she grinned and bore it. She’d always planned on going for just three more. Three short years to round her career to an even forty. Just three more years of Robbie Stewarts. But last month’s faculty meeting had put an end to that. The new initiative, following the latest educational trends, dictated that next year neither she nor any other member of the faculty at Piney Field High School would be allowed to hold students accountable to deadlines. Adhering to deadlines was not part of the academic standards, and it was harmful to student learning.

Theoretically, the Robbie Stewarts of the world could turn in every single assignment from September onward at the end of June. She knew this because Robbie Stewart, sitting in third block study hall, had gotten wind of the new initiative and was questioning her about it.

“So if it was next year, then if I held on to all my assignments and turned them in on June 1, you’d still have to grade them?” he asked, his mouth cracking into a smile. His face was oily with acne, and his teeth needed flossing.

She did not answer, but she suspected her involuntary cringe was all the encouragement he needed.

“And what if every student did the same? You would have to grade every single assignment from every single student on June 1.” He stifled mock concern. “That would take you hours. You’d have no time to yourself. Not on weekends, not on evenings. It would almost mirror the way teachers make students feel. Having assignments intruding into all our waking hours…” He was mumbling now, taking the joke beyond its natural stopping point, making a few other students chuckle. “…would barely even have time to shower, let alone eat.”

Luckily, this particular Robbie Stewart would graduate in a few weeks, but another would replace him, and next year’s R.S. would surely take full advantage of the new late work policy, exposing all the loopholes before the administration team even had a chance to address them.

“It’s not worth it,” her husband agreed over dinner that night. “You put in your time. Not everything has to be neat and even. Thirty-seven is just as good as forty.” Indeed, the difference in pension was a mere seventeen dollars and fifty-three cents a month if she stayed the extra three years.

“I won’t get my forty-year service pin,” she said. “Or my watch.” The district gave a fancy, engraved watch to all teachers who made it to the forty-year mark.

Her husband smiled. “I’ll buy you a watch, Mrs. Spindle. Any color you want. Even gold.”

She thought about Robbie Stewart. This year, he was big on taking pictures of assignments and distributing them to classmates. He didn’t charge for this service; he did it for the fame. She’d caught him in October with a copy of the vocabulary quiz, one he’d gotten from a recycling bin at the end of the previous school year. She’d caught him using his watch to send texts with answers to the fifteen-page history packet right before the due date. She’d tried to turn him in twice, but each time, Robbie Stewart cleared his phone so that when Admin searched it, they found nothing incriminating.

Except Mrs. Spindle’s repressed frown.

Robbie Stewart was on her mind that night as she agreed to the retirement with her husband. After that, her teaching took a noticeable dive. She relied on decades’ worth of material for the final weeks of the year. She took sick days to accommodate several three- and four-day weekends. She allowed students to view more movies in one month than she’d allowed in the last five years. And while they watched, she just stared and stared. The time was growing short. She had only days to make her move.

She had been watching carefully, these new smart devices students had. There were watches and jewelry and little fobs you stuck to your sneaker. They tracked movement, sent alerts and notifications, and even browsed the web.

Robbie Stewart had the most impressive watch of them all. It was a blue one, a unisex band not too thick. It was a serene blue, too, the color she imagined retirement would be. Whenever he got a text, the watch glowed, a pulsing blue light. And she knew he could send texts from it, too, and access the Internet. She wasn’t sure the details of how it worked; she knew only that she desired that watch more than she desired her service pin or the platinum-colored watch the district would have bestowed upon her three years hence. It was a symbol of the menacing power of Robbie Stewart.

She popped in another movie and opened her laptop. Years of creativity, repressed by student apathy and teenage angst, came flooding out. Her years of teaching journalism and research papers mingled together in the cauldron of her brain, coalescing into the perfect concoction. It was fed by the renewed energies allowed by her recent long weekends and lack of lesson planning. It was the inspiration of a career’s worth of self-indulgence, all packed into a single moment.

She experimented with fonts and columns, with stock art and bylines, until it looked the part. She left the class alone to watch the film and trotted to the copier. She photocopied the article once, then photocopied the copy and its copy until it had that worn-out look that made it seem genuine, like something the main office would distribute.

And then she left the bait. When Robbie Stewart’s class came in, she left it tucked between the chair in front of him and his desk. It stuck out just enough to intrigue the lad. Before she started the film, she channeled all her years of teaching Shakespeare. With a performance worthy of an Emmy, she feigned concern.

“Students, I seem to have left an important article somewhere. If you happen to see it, please turn it in to me at once. No need to read it. In fact—” she hesitated and tried to make her face turn red and then pale— “It’s actually a bit controversial. It has nothing to do with you, mind you. Just with some policies going to be implemented next year.”

She stifled a smile as Robbie raised an eyebrow. As soon as her back was turned, she heard him snatch the article. She made a show of searching under several student desks as the movie commenced, not minding the young lad reading quietly at his desk.

As the students shuffled out, Robbie tossed something in the trash, leaving the room especially quietly. She waited until they all left. The room was silent and full of the emptying scent of teenagers. As the air cooled and freshened, she bent down to unroll a wad of paper. There was her article, well read. High school senior expelled as smart watch reveals cheating; college admission rescinded. She smiled again at her use of quotations from the principal of the nearby county who was apparently receiving some kind of award for his groundbreaking sleuthing into student technology. Even the superintendent had been quoted, confirming the district’s ability to search student devices without warning.

She chuckled. If the article were true, Robbie’s watch probably contained enough evidence to get him expelled three times over. Too bad it was just really good fiction.

She wadded up the article to return to the trash when something twinkled in the trash can. There it was, in all its glory: Robbie Stewart’s blue watch. Abandoned for fear of it being a snitch. Her article had been more convincing than she thought.

The watch felt cool around her wrist, but it warmed almost immediately, and she swore she felt youth making its way from her skin into her blood and up her arm. She went to the main office right away to arrange leave for the rest of the year. Who needed to work three more years to make an even forty? She left school smiling, her trophy sparkling serenely around her wrist in the early June sun.

* * *

The Spot Writers is seeking another member. Have what it takes to write one flash fiction piece per month? Want it published on four different blogs? Need other flash pieces for your blog content? It’s a great way to stay motivated to write—and write for an audience. If interested, contact Val for details!

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Eric Egger: www.freedomforgepress.com/blog (guest this month)

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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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The Spot Writers – “Transcendental Beauty” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write about why or how a young person decides what career or path to follow. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the poignant coming of age tale The Girl Who Flew Away (https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away-ebook/dp/B06XKDFXTZ).

***

Transcendental Beauty by Val Muller

“An egg candler? You mean, as in candles?”

I nodded and smiled, but Mom’s brow was doing that thing again, that squinty thing it does when she’s mad.

“An egg what, now?” Dad asked. He peered over the folded edge of his newspaper. “A handler, like as in, a packer? You want to work at a factory, son?”

I shook my head. How could I make them understand? “Not a handler. A candler. Remember that old cartoon we watched at Uncle Mike’s house? The one where the farmer holds up all the eggs to a candle until he finds the egg that has the chick in it?”

My mom’s brow was now a map of the Grand Canyon.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Well, that’s what I want to do.”

Dad’s newspaper fell to the table. “So you want to spend your life holding up eggs to candles? Am I hearing this right? You’re taking five AP classes so you can hold an egg to the candle?”

The air grew dense.

“Are you taking drugs?” Mom asked.

“No!” I felt my face flush. “It’s just—” I tried to picture the German classroom, to picture the beauty of it in a way that my parents would understand. The way Frau made everything soft and welcoming. Even the German language sounded like soft poetry the way she spoke it. “For Easter, Frau Beckham let us make eggs.”

“Make eggs?” Mom asked.

“Who the hell is Frau Beckham?” Dad asked.

“His German teacher,” Mom said. She lowered her voice. “I think he has a crush on her.”

The blush rose to my ears.

“Aren’t you supposed to be learning German in that class?” Dad asked. “Is it a cooking class? Home Ec is for girls.”

“We’re learning German,” I insisted. “She was giving us the directions in German.”

“The directions?” Dad asked. “On how to be an egg candler?”

“No, the egg candler wasn’t Frau’s idea. She had us decorate Easter eggs. We blew the yolks out and then decorated the eggs. Now they’re hanging on a tree on her desk. Mine is the one right in front.” I swallowed a smile. “It’s pink with a purple heart in the center.”

“You blew the yolks out? In the classroom? On desks where kids sit?” Mom asked. “She could give someone salmonella that way.”

“You just make a little hole on each side,” I explained. And then you break the yolk and then blow it all out into a bowl. If we were in Germany, we would have used the eggs in the bowl to cook something.”

“Good thing you were in a public school classroom, then,” Mom said. “That all seems rather unsanitary.”

“She had the desks all covered. She brought these little table clothes, and she set them each with lots of napkins and even some chocolate eggs. And her dress matched, too. All very spring-like.”

Dad rolled his eyes and picked up his paper again. “Looks like our son has spring fever for this Frau.”

“Maybe I should call the school,” Mom said, her voice so much less dismissive than Dad’s. “This all seems rather unhealthy. And an egg candler…” She scrolled through her phone screen. “The median salary is laughable, James. This is not the job for a son of ours. Not one who is bound for college.” She put her phone down and squinted at me. “I think I will call the school about this Frau, planting ideas in your head of making you a bum.”

“Yeah, son. A factory job is no place for you.”

“Mom, an egg candler is not a bum.” I turned to Dad. “And you don’t know what my place is, anyway. Besides, it wasn’t Frau who got me thinking about that kind of a job.”

My parents looked at me, my dad’s eyes glaring over the paper.

“In English class, we’re discussing Existentialism. The idea is that nothing really has meaning until we impose it. So this whole idea that we have to go to college…”

“James!” Mom scolded.

“…and work fifty weeks a year just to spend tons of money on a two-week vacation…”

“You’re on thin ice, boy,” Dad said over the paper.

“…and work to exhaustion at college just to find a competitive career that will make us sleepless at night and stressed during the day…”

My parents exchanged glances. I, in the middle of them, felt their impact as if I were caught in a firing squad. But I couldn’t stop myself.

“So instead of sitting behind a desk all day, or stressing about clients, or worrying about competition, why not find something amazing, like the simple beauty of an egg? Why not look inside the beauty of nature every day? It’s very Transcendental, actually. Emerson and Thoreau would—”

But that was it. Their looks had killed me. I swallowed hard, like swallowing over an egg stuck in my throat, before getting up to do the dishes. I had to hurry: I had lots of work to do for my five AP classes if I had any hope of getting into a good college.”

***

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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The Spot Writers – “Too Much Silliness” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use these five words: riot, tear, leaf, bread, nurse.

Today’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. “Like” her WOLVES Facebook page to keep up to date on her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK (coming soon!!): https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/  (No! This book is not about werewolves or vampires!)

***

Too Much Silliness by Cathy MacKenzie

The outside commotion dragged Natalie from her dinner. She peeked out the bedroom window to darkness, but when flares soared high into the sky, she saw police brandishing their guns. A full-blown riot!

She yanked the drapes together as if blocking the scene made it less threatening. The action reminded her how she closed her eyes when she didn’t want someone to see her—as if doing so made her invisible. Such silliness!

Returning to the kitchen table, she demolished the last of the bread and soup. The soup had cooled in the few minutes she’d been in the bedroom. She closed her eyes, imaging the horror outside—outside on her very street, right outside her window! How could that be?

The world had changed; violence was the new normal. Unknowingly, she had picked the right profession. Nurses and doctors were in demand. At first, she hadn’t been certain she could follow through with her chosen career, but gradually, during her forty-plus year as a nurse, the sight of blood became her new normal.

Except she wasn’t working any longer and missed those days at the hospital.

She missed her husband, too.

She let her face drop to her hands, ignoring the tear that plopped to the table. Her sweet Bill. Whatever in the world had she been thinking?

She dipped her index finger into the blob, which had increased with the addition of several more tears, and traced the outline of a leaf. The shape resembled a teardrop, reminding her of dear Bill. A teardrop leaf. She snickered. How silly!

She smacked the blotch, surprising herself.

She sighed and returned to the window, peeking between the drapes. The din had lessened though a throng of people still lingered.

She went to the closet and withdrew an almost weightless box from the top shelf, placing it on the floor and removing the lid. Ah, her nurse’s cap, which she hadn’t worn for the last ten years, not after she’d been forced from the hospital due to her age. At least that’s what she told herself.

In reality, she had been fired for drinking blood, caught in the act by a sickly patient who had screamed at the discovery. Natalie had tried to wheedle her way out of the predicament, but blood dripping down her chin was the only evidence needed.

A policeman had the audacity to ask if she were a vampire. A vampire? Hadn’t they gone out with the dark ages? Had they ever been real?

“You’re too silly. I’m not a vampire.” Her words had been spewed to deaf ears—except for the dratted patient who had given Natalie away. Natalie had wanted to throttle her white, turkey-gobbler neck.

She sighed and twirled her waist-length hair into a bun, ensuring it lay neatly on top of her head. Had she really been fired because of the blood? She had convinced herself she had been fired due to her age, which gave her a legitimate reason to hate her employer and the staff, who had been itching for her to resign for years. Luckily, she had managed to keep her pension. She had worked the requisite thirty plus years; no one had the right to snatch that from her,

What a load of crap! It wasn’t against the law to drink blood. And silliness to boot! So much silliness that no charges had ever been laid. The hospital, not interested in adverse publicity, wanted to forget the incident. Old Mrs. McNaughton, the woman who had caught her in the act, was senile and adamantly refused to testify. They had no case even if the hospital had wanted to press charges.

Natalie’s supervisor at the hospital had declared her a nut case. Natalie grimaced. After over thirty years at the same hospital, she should have held the supervisor positon, not some upstart twenty-year-old who didn’t know the difference between a needle and a thermometer.

“What kind of imbecile drinks blood?” Natalie’s supervisor had added after declaring her a nutcase.

“Me,” Natalie had said. “I was thirsty.” She kept a straight face but inside her guts constricted with glee. She had known it was the wrong reply, but she couldn’t help herself. She had whispered it, though, so only the supervisor heard it, which made the younger woman even more irate. But the telltale blood was the nail that kept the lid on the coffin, so to speak.

“Never mind,” Natalie had said, “I quit,” even though she was aware she was a tad late; she had already been fired.

She had paid no never mind to the awe-struck onlookers, snatched her handbag and her pristine white cap that had fallen from her head during the “excitement,” and raced from the ward. She hadn’t set foot in that hospital since. Wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing she might be sick.

Without more pondering, she set the cap on top of her head. It sat perfectly, wedged on her bun, but just in case, she secured it with two bobby pins.

After a final look in the mirror and a minor adjustment—must look presentable, dearie—she closed the door behind her and descended the three flights of stairs to the ground level.

The evening was darker than usual with the streetlights destroyed by rioters, but riots meant injuries. Injuries meant blood. No one would see. A dark corner would exist, somewhere, away from the cops and the flares.

She licked her lips in anticipation. Her dear, sweet Bill flashed in front of her. She prayed she could snare a wounded, unconscious man. Alive was best, one who resembled Bill. Poor Bill, gone much too soon, but she had enjoyed his last moments of breath even if he hadn’t.

She snickered. Much too much silliness! She’d never find another Bill.

***

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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The Spot Writers! “Valentine’s Day” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this week is to use these five words in a story or poem: riot, tear, leaf, bread, nurse.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the poignant YA tale The Girl Who Flew Away, a story of friendship, family, addiction, adoption, and forgiveness.

***

Valentine’s Day by Val Muller

Why on Earth would she agree to babysit her niece and nephew on Valentine’s Day? Allison took a deep breath and closed her eyes, making the living room full of children disappear for a few seconds. Her own seven- and five-year olds were rambunctious enough, but to take on a toddler and a crawler at the same time?

Allison tried to remember what it had been like. It was hard being new parents, and Melanie and James had only been at it for a couple of years. Their little Brucie, the crawler, still wasn’t sleeping through the night, and Marianne was going through her terrible twos. No wonder Melanie and James needed a break.

Still. Did they have to go out on Valentine’s Day?

In the middle of the week?

After hopping their kids up on chocolate and lollypops?

Allison opened her eyes again. The television blared Peppa Pig, but before she could come to terms with the fact that she knew the episode by heart, she noticed little Brucie’s mouth. It was outlined in bright blue, and the color was dripping down his chubby cheeks in long, sticky lines.

“Marianne, don’t let your brother eat your lollypop,” she sighed. “He’s too little for candy.”

Marianne’s eyes flashed, and she took a handful of Lego Duplo blocks and chucked them across the room. She sputtered a string of gobbledygook that sounded like witchcraft and then crossed her arms in anger. Then she hurried to the bookshelf and flung several bedtime storybooks with the fervor of one ready to start a riot.

“Mom, Marianne didn’t do it,” Amy said. Amy, the seven-year-old. The only one adult enough to offer any assistance.

Allison chuckled at that thought. A seven-year-old as an adult. This was her life now.

“Well then who did?” Allison asked.

Amy pointed at her brother. Adam smiled guiltily, revealing a row of blue teeth. In his hand was the offending item. “Adam, Brucie’s too young for candy, okay?”

The kindergartener shrugged. “It’s Valentine’s Day. Everybody deserves candy.”

Something about this annoyed Marianne, who was already on the verge of tears. She charged Adam in an attempt to steal his lollypop.

“Pop!” she screamed.

Adam resisted, his hand knocking to the ground the plate of bread and butter he’d insisted on for dinner and then promptly ignored. The plate flew like a frisbee and hit Brucie on the forehead. The baby wailed immediately.

Allison hurried to pick him up. This better not have left a bruise. Melanie and James were still in that honeymoon phase of parenting where they cared about every little injury. They’d probably take off work to bring the baby to the pediatrician to check for a concussion or some other injury they researched on the internet. Allison kissed the wound to no avail.

Meanwhile, Adam and Marianne were coming to blows.

“Amy, please help!” Allison asked.

The seven-year-old shot a “why me?” look.

Marianne ran to the carnage of books and ripped out several pages, shredding them and throwing them in the air like leaves.

Allison shot a look at her daughter. “Please, Amy” Allison begged. “Help mom out this evening, and I’ll take you to Target to pick out any toy you want.”

At that, Adam froze. “Me too?” he asked.

Allison sighed. There went the money she saved by not hiring her own babysitter and taking a date night of her own. Instead, she agreed to babysit for her sister’s kids and allowed her husband to work late.

“I guess,” she sighed. “If you help take care of Brucie and Marianne.”

Adam sprung into action. A roll of tape materialized from nowhere, and he dove into action, putting together the torn pages like a nurse sewing together a patient. Marianne stared, captivated at the process.

Amy picked up little Brucie and took him to the bathroom, where a minor fuss indicated that his face was being washed. A moment later, the four of them were sitting on the couch just as a new episode of PJ Masks was coming on. Allison couldn’t help but smile. It was an episode she hadn’t seen before. A rare treat. She snuck into the corner of the room and plucked three of the chocolates her husband had given her before work this morning. She popped one in her mouth and hid the other two behind her back. These were quality chocolates, not to be shared with children. Not even mature seven-year-olds.

She eyed the bottle of wine on the living room table but decided she could wait until Melanie and James came to pick up the kids—and until the hubby returned. For now, in the warm glow of the television and the soothing sweet of candy, the chocolate was enough.

***

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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