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The Spot Writers – “Counting the Days” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. In honour of these mid-winter postings, this prompt is a story that incorporates the words “will winter ever end.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie, who dedicates this tale to Val Muller, a fellow spot writer who enjoys winter more than any other season!

Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, with elements of suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

***

Counting the Days by Cathy MacKenzie

Evelyn stuck out her tongue, catching flakes that immediately melted. Seconds later, she quickly shut her mouth and scanned the busy street, hoping no one had seen her act like a child. She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, watching her breath spiral like smoke from a chimney. She adjusted her wool scarf against the chill and trudged down the snow-covered sidewalk toward Fernwood Tower, where she worked as an administrative assistant.

The Christmas season was over, bringing an end to the hustle and bustle. Except for the cold weather, Christmas was Evelyn’s favourite holiday, but when the festivities ended, she was exhausted.

It had taken her longer to recover this holiday season. The winter was the worst it had been in many years. It was only January 31, and she’d already lost two workdays due to storms—two days docked from her already meagre vacation time. It wasn’t fair that inclement weather forced employees to use vacation days.

“It’s not our fault you live out of town,” Blair Holt, the curmudgeonly CEO of Higgins & McCarthy, spouted to the employees at the last staff meeting. Mostly, though, his barb had been directed at her. Ironically, the firm granted snow days if town employees couldn’t make it into the office.

She caught another flake on her tongue. Will winter ever end?

That morning, she examined the calendar to calculate the number of days until March 20, the first day of spring. Not many left, but who was she kidding? Nova Scotia’s winters could persist into April, and it wasn’t unusual for a snowfall in May; June, even.

“Just get me through February,” she muttered, “and I’ll only have twenty days left.” February, despite being the shortest month, was always the worst weather-wise.

Evelyn had also counted the days until she retired and eagerly anticipated that date when she’d move to a warm climate. Down south somewhere warm—anywhere. Mexico. Florida. Maybe the Caribbean, where balmy evening breezes would waft over her tanned body. Where she would bask in sunshine on a beach and sip Pina Coladas without waiting until the four o’clock cocktail hour. Where every day would be another stress-free day of relaxation and doing whatever she wanted.

She clenched her hands, her fingers numb within the thick mittens, and groaned. Only nine thousand one hundred and twenty-seven days left until retirement.

***

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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Writer Wednesdays – Jenni Gudgeon

Today, Writing Wicket interviews Jenni Gudgeon.

Jenni is a photographic artist from Fife, Scotland, who etches into photographs to create one off pictures. In May 2013, she exhibited a couple of fairy creatures that she’d etched into photos taken in her local woods. As her pitch, she told people silly stories she’d made up about the creatures while etching them. She was told repeatedly that these stories would be great as a book. She explained she couldn’t write and that the project would never happen. Three days later, she woke up with the first line in her head and thought, “Oh my god, I’m writing a book!” She independently published Folkland Fables in March 2018.

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

I’d be Terry Pratchett. When I was about fifteen, I told my friends how I thought the world worked. It was a slightly crazy idea, and they told me I was being an idiot, so I kept those thoughts to myself from then on. About five years later, someone gave me The Colour of Magic to read, and everything I’d told those friends aged fifteen was written down in his books. I want to be the person who lets other people know they’re not alone in thinking the way they do. And I want the world to be brighter because it includes me in it.

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

One story my Mum told me was getting a phone call from the neighbours letting her know that I was crying in my pram in the back garden. She apparently replied that she knew I was crying because she’d put me out there so she wouldn’t have to hear the rest of my tantrum after she refused to read me The Billy Goats Gruff a fourth time.

Q: What are your favourite literary journals?

I’m afraid I don’t know any. I’m not even sure exactly what a literary journal is. Yeouch! #notaproperwritersyndrome

Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Ooh, there I so many that I’ve fallen into at one point or another. I think the one thing which made the biggest difference to my writing was creating a character profile for my main character. I didn’t do one at first because I was so new to writing that I’d never heard of them. I was encouraged to create one, and was shocked at how much more it made me know my MC, and how it made me understand how they’d react in different situations.

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

My research time is now my official procrastination time. I always panic when I’m about to start designing a new picture so I allow myself one day to research the creature I’m creating. During this time, I copy and paste everything I can find online that interests me about the creature. As a by-product, I also start to think about how the creature’s mythology would have shaped their character, and what they’d be like if you knew them.
E.g., for centuries unicorns have been told that they’re perfect in every way, and they’ve gradually believed the hype and become big-headed bores. Therefore, my unicorns are vain, stupid, and obsessed by the length of their horn.

Q: What is your favourite childhood book?

There were a few books I loved as a child, but the stand out one has to be Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The illustrations are beautiful, and I loved the idea of leaving my boring, annoying life behind and travel to far off lands to meet monsters.

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

None of this is hard. Many people work in dull, life-sapping jobs, and being able to create art as part of my living is a privilege I don’t underestimate.
As an artist of many years, I was used to people critiquing my art, so I haven’t had as much of a problem with people critiquing my stories as most newbie writers do. I know I need to get criticism in order to learn, but I don’t like it much. I deal with it by allowing myself to be angry at the impact it has made on my self-esteem and having a couple of glasses of wine to wallow. Then I leave the criticism to stew for a couple of days before thinking it through properly. By this time, the subconscious part of my brain has decided whether the person is right or not and I can get on with solving the problems without the white heat of hurt affecting my judgement.

The part I most struggled with when writing my book was coping with the conflicting advice from my five beta readers. It overwhelmed me because I didn’t know whose opinion to take over the others. I met with my mentor, who gave me excellent advice and gently reminded me that I was in charge and could take or leave any opinion as I wanted. It helped a lot having someone to share the problem with.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It energizes me.

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

No, I never considered it. I’d been creating art under my own name, so for consistency it made sense to use it for my book too. I might consider writing under a pseudonym if I changed genres.

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

The only thing I’d like to change is to have enjoyed my launch more. My formatter took ten times longer than he should have done, so I had to reschedule my launch party in order to have books to sell. Then, and extremely unfortunately, a close relative got extremely ill just before the rescheduled party, so bringing out a book was the last thing on my mind. I found the whole thing quite a trial and can barely remember it at all, or the wonderful things people said to me.

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

There are so many things I’d change about myself! Can I have two? Listening more when people talk to me would be a huge one, and I’d like to be less paranoid as well.

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

I lived in a pretty sheltered community as a child, so my first awareness of using language expressly to hurt, and my introduction to racism was at the same moment and quite late on. My best friend at primary school was half Pakistani, and throughout the 1970s I never heard one racist remark to her in our community. She experienced it, but I was never aware of anything at all. In the first term at secondary school aged eleven, we were walking down a corridor and an older boy shouted out to her, “Do you want a banana?” It made no sense to me why she should want a banana on the way to class so I said something like, “That was weird. Why would he ask you that?”, and she told me it was because her darker skin made him think she looked like a monkey.

It blew my mind. She was my beautiful, talented, outgoing, exotic (it was the 70s and she had cushions with mirrors sewn into them – wow!) best friend who I would have loved to be, and other people could only see her as a colour? Also, she knew that’s how some people saw her.

Q: Do you want each of your books book 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?

The next two books I have in mind are linked, but after that I’m not sure. I’d like to do something with Greek Gods, or possibly Shetland’s mythical creatures (which are different from the Scottish ones). I’d like to start writing continuous stories rather than the guides to fairy tale creatures my first two books will be.

Q: Are there any books you didn’t like and couldn’t finish reading? Why?

I struggle to remember the names of books/authors I like let alone the ones I give up on. I’m much better at remembering the stories within, though. I don’t like pretentious writing, or writing which uses thirty words when five will do. Long words for the sake of using long words always turns me off too.

Q: How often do you write?

The honest answer is that I write when I need to. I’d love to write every day, but my pictures take between 14 to 36 hours each to etch (To see how I etch into photos, you can view a video on my website via the link below.) so take much longer than my writing. I could write something else, but I get very involved in the picture I’m etching, and resent anything which takes me away from it.

For Folkland Fables, I quickly made a first draft of each creature’s story (about 300 words per creature) and then concentrated on the pictures until they were complete. Only then did I work solidly on the writing part until it was as perfect as I could make it.

Q: What challenges have you faced in publishing?

I couldn’t get an agent or publisher so I had to go the indie publishing route and learn it all on the job. My mentor told me on our first session that I would probably want to self-publish rather than go the traditional route. This is because I’m an artist and am therefore a control freak. I’m used to being in total control of my own work, and traditional publishers would probably want a say in the finished work too. My biggest challenge has been marketing. In my ideal world I’d concentrate on creating and someone else would sell my work. I hate having to promote myself all the time and find the right blurb to entice people to want to buy.

Q: What’s the best way to market indie books?

As I say, I’m not great at this, but I do a range of things. I’m not sure it’s a one-size-fits-all thing. I advertise on Amazon, do craft fairs, and post regularly on social media, and I am building up a mailing list (according to Mark Dawson of Self Publishing Formula, this is the most important thing). There’s lots of free information on the internet about marketing your book, and I’d say spend a few weeks learning from those who know.

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

My biggest accomplishment by far as been completing the many, many edits I needed to do in order to make my book ready for publication. Watching my tangled ideas gradually transform into beautiful sentences was incredibly exciting and a life changing experience. I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Q: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Paying for mentoring sessions has given me invaluable advice from someone who’s been there before at every stage of my publishing journey. I was very lucky to slightly know a local author who also did mentoring, and she’s become a good friend over the years.

Q: What book(s) have you written?

Folkland Fables: an illustrated guide to the fairy creatures who live in the woods near my home in Fife, Scotland.

Check out Jenni’s website and social media:

Website: https://jennigudgeon.co.uk/

How I etch link: https://jennigudgeon.co.uk/about-jenni/how-i-etch-photographs/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennigudgeonartist/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennigudgeonartist/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennigudgeonart

Amazon link to book: https://amzn.to/2ARnAZ6


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

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Writer Wednesdays – Lisa Kohn

Writing Wicket interviews Lisa Kohn today.

Lisa is the author of to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence, as well as The Power of Thoughtful Leadership. She is a writer, teacher, and public speaker who owns a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm (www.chatsworthconsulting.com) and who works to bring to others the tools, mind-shifts, and practices she’s found that have helped her heal, as well as the hope and forgiveness she’s been blessed to let into her life. She will always tell you that she is a native New Yorker, but she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children, whenever they’re around.

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

to the moon and back is the only full-form book I’ve written. (The Power of Thoughtful Leadership is a compilation of my work blog.) I had been working on a hybrid book – part memoir, part self-help – and when I finally decided to make it into a full memoir, it took me about a year to write the book.

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

Because my writing is not my “day job” (my leadership consulting and executive coaching firm is what I do on a daily basis), I work my writing into my life. I set aside specific blocks of time to write, and I take myself away from my home-office desk, to a designated “writing” spot, so that I can think with that different brain and ignore my work responsibilities for a little while.

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

I would start writing earlier. I had no idea how much I loved to write, to edit, to craft, to delete, to recraft, etc. I would give myself the gift of that much sooner, and I would create even more space and time in my life to write.

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

Because my book is a memoir, I am the main character. So, while I don’t think I can say that I’ve cried with myself, I certainly re-experienced many of the situations and emotions as I wrote the book, and now, during my author readings, I certainly re-experience them again.

Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?

I know that it sometimes can take me a while to get started when I’m trying to write – to find the best way into the story or idea – but I don’t believe in writer’s blog, per se, because as soon as I just start writing something, ideas and words seem to flow.

Q: What genre do you favour?

I really enjoy narrative nonfiction and memoir.

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

When I wrote my memoir, I tried to be as true as I could be to my memory, while also being aware of other people’s perspectives. While this is not the same as writing about historical figures, I think you would need to be as aware as you can be of the bias and perspective you bring, which flavors what you notice and what you write.

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

Because my genre is memoir, there isn’t specific research that I do. That said, I do speak with others about their memories and perspectives, and I do go through old journals, calendars, notes, etc., to see what was or seemed true at that time.

Q: What is your favourite childhood book?

I loved all of Louisa May Alcott’s books, especially the Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys series.

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

The most difficult part of my artistic process is actually one of the most rewarding parts as well. It is the editing, and specifically going through my writing carefully and deleting words, sentences, paragraphs, and full concepts/ideas that don’t move the story along. I have learned to thoroughly enjoy it, but it can be quite challenging to delete anything that I’ve “created” and written.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

In some ways, writing both energizes and exhausts me, but I would have to say it is more energizing. I am lucky in that I found that I love to write, and while I pour my heart, soul, and energy into it – especially because I’m writing memoir and narrative nonfiction – it fuels me to write more and more.

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

The two Kryptonite that can bring me down are: 1) getting started – it can be tough to figure out how to start a story or map out what I’m going to write. I can sit with my fingers on the keyboard for what seems like forever, waiting for the inspiration to hit me (and to hit me well). I have learned to “just start” – and then to work with whatever starts flowing. and 2) because I write memoir, I can get stuck trying to remember what “actually” happened. I’ve learned a great deal about memory through this process – largely that memory is subjective and hazy at best – and when I task myself with capturing as “true” a version of the truth/situation as I can, getting words out can be quite baffling.

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

I have never considered writing under a pseudonym because I am trying to spread a message of hope and love with my memoir, and I believe I will be best able to do this when I am cleary writing as myself.

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

I don’t necessarily think one must feel emotions strongly in order to write. Just as there are many ways to go through life, I believe there are many ways to be a successful writer. While my writing is clearly influenced by my emotions – and my emotional nature – I think one can just as easily create/capture a story from a different life-viewpoint.

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

If I could be any author, I would be Mary Karr. She is, in many ways, the “queen of memoir.” Her memoirs have touched many people and also inspired many memoirists go public with their story. I also think she writes beautifully.

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

I am pretty certain that it was Little Women that first made me cry. I yearned for a family like the March’s.

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?

While my leadership book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership, was self-published, my memoir, to the moon and back: a childhood under the influence, is not. I decided to self-publish The Power of Thoughtful Leadership because my business partner and I wanted to quickly get our book out to clients and prospects, and self-publishing was the quickest way to do this (with the most control).

Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think the most common trap is thinking it will be easy and not being willing to put in the time and/or work. I have found the writing, publishing, and now promoting all to be challenging in their own way, and there are times I’ve wanted (and want) to quit. However, I keep at it because I remember that I’ve written (and am promoting) to the moon and back for a reason – to spread a message of hope and love. When I focus on that, I can keep at this and give it time to have results.

Q: What books have you self-published?

The Power of Thoughtful Leadership

Check out Lisa’s website: www.lisakohnwrites.com

+++

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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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/

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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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