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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/

+++

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 Notepad” by Cathy MacKenzie

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 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/

***

The Notepad by Cathy MacKenzie

“Bob, did you see my book?”

“What book?”

“The one I was reading. I had it a few minutes ago.”

“Which one was that?”

Candace and Bernie,” I shouted back, exasperated. “Did you see my book or didn’t you?”

“Nope.”

“I had it a few minutes ago.”

“Don’t know. Haven’t seen it.”

Was I losing it? Books I had been reading had mysteriously disappeared over the last little while. Is this what the Golden Years bring us seniors? Sure, I was forgetful but no more than the average person; at least, I didn’t think so.

I’ve lost other things in the past, like my reading glasses, only to find them perched on top of my head or dangling from the beaded chain around my neck. One time I found them on the bathroom counter, where I’d forgotten them after plucking that unsightly and hard-to-grasp silvery, spidery hair from my chin.

And then there were the car keys. Easy to misplace those. Voila, they turned up on the foyer table even though that wasn’t a place I’d ever leave them. I’m always extra careful to put my keys back into my purse because I’ve returned into the house too many times after forgetting them on the kitchen counter. Once, after looking for hours, I found them in my coat pocket.

But this missing book was another matter, one far removed from the usual, everyday age-forgetfulness. Math has never been my strong point, but this particular book has been lost at least six times—all during the past week. Was dementia setting in faster than expected? And was it dementia—or something worse?

I was into the third chapter earlier in the week when it first went missing, but I later found it in the guest bedroom. The next time, I discovered it in the closet in the side porch. I’d never leave a book in those places, let alone read there, so I was mystified. The third time, it turned up in the refrigerator. I wasn’t aware the book was missing then and had breathed a silent prayer that Bob hadn’t found it first. What would he have thought?

The other places were just as silly. Stupid, silly places.

And now, missing again, and I was positive, as I’d always been, that I had left it by my chaise lounger in the living room.

I sauntered to the bedroom and plopped to the bed. Tears cascaded down my face. Too many instances of misplaced objects lately, and I was sick of Bob nattering at me about being so forgetful. He had put his mother in a home when she developed Alzheimer’s. “I can’t handle her anymore,” he had said. He was an only child; there was no one else. I offered to take care of her since I was home all day, but Bob wouldn’t hear of it. “She has plenty of money. She can afford to go to a home.”

Stashing a human away, never again to see the light of day, was cruel. And everyone’s heard horror stories about those places. Bob’s promised daily visits turned into weekly visits that soon morphed into monthly. The month before she passed on, visits had become almost non-existent. Bob seemed grateful at the end as if he’d been absolved of guilt. And duty.

Would Bob do that to me? I’ve always dreaded going into a senior’s home. We’d made a pact when we married thirty years ago that we’d never do that to the other. Instead, we’d care for each other in sickness and in health—‘til death do us part.

But if I were losing my mind? What then? I’d eventually be unaware of my surroundings, and Bob could easily deposit me in one of those institutions. Without a functioning mind, how would I know?

I dried my tears and picked up the phone. I must see my doctor. Luck was on my side. She had an opening on Monday. I didn’t tell Bob. No sense worrying him. He wouldn’t know anyhow; he’d be at work.

Four months until he retired. We’d enjoy the good life then, travelling, dining out, enjoying each other’s company. Bob was excited and eager for that day.

“Did you find your book?” he asked when I returned to the kitchen.

“Yes.” For the first time in my marriage, I lied to my husband.

Minutes later, I found it in the laundry room on top of the dryer.

Hours later, while trying to concentrate on Candace and Bernie—a not-so-happy life for either of those fictional characters—I devised a plan. I’d keep a small notebook in my pocket and when I finished reading, I’d jot down where I left my book. That way, I’d easily find it. Bob would be none the wiser.

The plan seemed ideal to me (as long as I remembered I had a notepad), yet I shivered despite the hot summer day. Is this what my life had reverted to? Losing one’s mind wasn’t pleasant.

Bob seemed distant in bed that night. When I questioned him, he claimed work issues. I returned to my side of the king-sized bed.

On Monday, my doctor assured me I was fine. “Advancing years,” she said. “I’ve experienced the same issues.” She was ready for retirement, too, but I bet she hadn’t experienced missing books that turned up in odd places.

When I returned home, I decided to start the week fresh. A new week. A new notepad.

The notepad didn’t help. Most of my days were wasted while I continually searched for my book. I felt like a child hunting for Easter eggs. I didn’t get much reading done. But I knew one thing for certain: I wasn’t going crazy; I hadn’t lost my mind. But what was going on?

And then, mid-week at noon (Bob always came home for lunch), I caught him scurrying off with my book.

Aha! The mystery was solved. But why?

The next evening, I followed Bob when he was purportedly going to the Silver Seniors’ Centre down the road. Supposedly, guys played crib there once a week.

But he didn’t go to the Seniors’ Centre.

And then it all made sense. He wanted to get rid of me, probably wanted to commit me to an insane asylum (did such institutions still exist?) or, at the very least, toss me into a home as he had his mother. If it weren’t for my trusty notepad, I’m positive I would have turned into a crazy.

Yep, you guessed it! (Didn’t you?) Bob, my dear sweet (ahem!) husband, was experiencing itchiness.

Bob had found a young thing to cavort with.

I immediately transferred half of our investments into my name, cleaned out our joint bank account, and left him to his sweet honey. He never contacted me. He knew I had the goods on him, so to speak.

I don’t know what he’s doing now, but I’m enjoying my books in my solitude. And they don’t go missing any longer!

Mwahahaha!

***

 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/

+++

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

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Please vote!!

My book, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, has been nominated for Cover of The Month (October)! I need votes. As of a few minutes ago, it was up to #46 with 43 votes. The number 1 cover has 230 votes. Yikes…I may not have a chance.

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

Please take a few seconds to vote for me and help me win this thing! You can vote once every day until the end of October. Thank you muchly!

Here’s the link to vote: AllAuthor

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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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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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