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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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Cover Contest!

WOLVES DON’T KNOCK has successfully entered the third round of the Cover of the Month contest (AllAuthor.com). It has amassed 62 votes so far and is among the top 50 book covers of the month. (The final round will narrow it down to the top 24 covers). I truly don’t expect to advance much further, but it’s not in my  nature to give up.

The online voting for the third round is now open. You can vote again in this round. (I believe you can vote every day). Please take a few seconds to vote for me! Thank you!

WOLVES DON’T KNOCK is a psychological drama/thriller, with suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships. 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?

WOLVES DON’T KNOCK is available direct from me or on Amazon.

 

To Purchase!

 

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

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The Spot Writers –

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

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

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

***

Downtown Meetings by Cathy MacKenzie

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

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

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

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

“It sure looked like you.”

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

“And why is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Meat loaf.” Simon’s favourite.

After dinner, he disappeared downstairs to his man cave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

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Wolves Don’t Knock – an excerpt

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

An excerpt:

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

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

Except for thick, raspy breathing, he remained silent.

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

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

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

“I need to go now. To the bathroom.”

He pointed to the doorway.

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

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

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

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

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

He ignored her.

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

He mutely stared.

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

“Paul Wolf.”

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

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

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

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Unpopular Prompt” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The September prompt is to use these five words in a writing: carrot, lily, moustache, esophagus, pigeon.

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/

***

The Unpopular Prompt by Phil Yeats

After their monthly writing group meeting, two women stopped on the library steps.

“What’s up with Colonel Mustard?” Susan asked.

Beth laughed. “Is that what you’re calling Maurice Moutarde? And I presume your question refers to his angelic smile when Claire announced this month’s prompt.”

“Yeah, really. Have you ever seen him smile?”

“Not part of his persona. And everyone knows he hates prompts based on five disconnected words.”

Susan shook her head. “We’ll find out what he’s up to next month.”

 

One month later, the dozen writing group members reassembled in the library’s meeting room.

“Time to start,” Claire announced before everyone had taken their seats. “No newcomers, so we should commence our readings. Who wants to start? And remember, no more than five hundred words.”

Susan rolled her eyes. Everyone knew the five hundred word maximum. She snapped to attention when Maurice cleared his throat.

He stood, theatrically displaying an opened three-by-eleven-inch Power Corporation envelope before spreading it face down on the table. Maurice paused, staring at Claire. When she looked up from her agenda, he began reading.

“A pigeon with moustache-like marking above its beak scarfed a carrot-coloured encrustation from the pavement, staggered to Claire’s prized lily and dislodged the disgusting mess from its esophagus.”

Beth whispered to Susan. “Would you conclude he hasn’t changed his opinion of those prompts?”

“Or abandoned his ongoing feud with Claire over the preferred direction for our group,” Susan added.

Their mirthful eyes and suppressed chuckles contrasted with the evil eye Claire cast toward Maurice. He ignored her malevolent glare as he bowed to his audience before sitting. Mark one up for Maurice in their little battle to become top dog in an insignificant writing group.

***

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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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 – Tom Robson

This week, Writing Wicket is showcasing Tom Robson.

Tom says this about himself:

Eighty-two and still writing. And most of it makes sense. Not bad for an only child raised in World War Two.

Sixty years ago last week I started a teaching career in Jane Austen country in England. I learned nothing from this, even after just two years of training. The two years prior to that had given me more useful, never to be forgotten life experiences at sea.

My formal schooling had me writing as notetaker and regurgitator, in essays and exams, of what had been taught. Creativity was ignored in favour of facts, grammatical accuracy, correct spelling, and good penmanship. Writing was a chore. Reading was the escape. History was the adventure, and mysteries always had a solution.

The year before I got married, I lived and studied in Liverpool. Another unforgettable experience with the “living” outweighing the value of the study.

Not wishing to remain as a teacher where I had grown up, I quit teaching at thirty to work with delinquents removed from their homes for custodial reform. After five years in suburban Surrey, I was recruited to do the same work in Quebec. My wife welcomed the move. Our three children offered no opinion but loved the snow of the 1971-2 winter.

In much of these ten years, I was involved in writing and editing detailed reports, assessments, and recommendations on the needs of the non-conforming clientele. The ladies of the typing pool were editors par excellence. I did a lot of specialist writing where some histories were more incredible than fiction.

As I burnt out at work, my marriage disintegrated and I returned to the classroom and a second forty-plus-year marriage. Somewhere in those years I completed another three years of study. The degrees that the British system, at eleven-plus, said I might get and at sixteen determined I was not competent to achieve, was wrong—again.

I thrived as a student and teacher when we moved to Nova Scotia in 1979. Children were encouraged to express themselves—even in writing. Ideas were welcome, and the errors and omissions could be fixed later. Even the teacher enjoyed writing, and I began to do so for the sheer satisfaction, at age forty-five.

My wife tolerated this foible. My new daughter loved her father’s stories. My grade six’s (well, the girls anyway) enjoyed and learned the story-writing process and performed in plays I’d written. They weren’t as proud as me when I won the WFNS award for writing for children for a novel. Motivation—a class of demanding pre-teen girls expecting the next chapter read to them each Monday. I kept pace for ten Mondays and my ego followed their demand that I submit “Am I Dreaming” for competition and publication.

After my grade six teaching days and into retirement, I continued to write and to run early-writer workshops. My own writing was for my enjoyment until I joined the Evergreen Writers Group. I had a receptive audience that wasn’t my wife. They pooled their ideas and skills on publication. My writing could “go” somewhere. Short stories fitted into two anthologies we published. I collected autobiographical and family tales into a patchwork memoir titled Written While I Still Remember, some thirty stories and poems long.

And then my ego rose above itself. How many writers believe that somewhere inside their creative souls is a novel waiting to be written? I reached my eightieth year, convinced that my novel had to be written now, before time betrayed it. My reading tastes indicated I favoured history or mystery. My character has no tolerance for the amount of research a book in either genre demands.

Then my inflated ego heard someone say that a short story I shared could be the first chapter of a romantic novel. And so it became, but the plot was reaching for infinity and had to be curtailed. The ego believed there was a compensatory sequel. This writer knows he should have reached for a better, more conclusive ending because the sequel is a struggle at eighty-two.

Tom for web

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book?

A: Before I had a chance to submit my prizewinning teen novel, Am I Dreaming, to publishers, it needed a rewrite. The fickleness of my target audience had turned the adored, real-life pop singer into one of the most despised has-beens in a matter of months. Rewrite one had to create a generic boy-band to replace the actual original and provide a new, anonymous romantic target.

Rewrite two had to change the venue of the concert to which the heroine had won tickets (plus a hotel stay) from the Montreal Forum after it closed. I had to do quick research and relocate much of the action to the Bell Centre. Rewrite three never happened. The cellular phone radically altered teenage and other telephone communication, even before texting, etc. Reading the twice-revised novel from 1990 dates it even after the 1995 revisions.

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

A: I could make up reasons why I write. Somehow it is connected to the extreme shyness and chronic embarrassment, plus the difficulty with stringing two oral sentences together, as a young teen. For me, it’s no oversimplification when I say I write because I enjoy it. Specifically, I love using words and stringing long, convoluted sentences together and making them work.

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

A: I’m still upset that I got tired of Wait and See and did not develop the story lines, relationships, and characters more.

Now and then I feel I’d like to write another short story featuring some character I created. Too many of my pieces are about real people or family. I reminisce too much and don’t invent people to populate my stories and create fiction.

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

A: I am too aware of my limitations as a writer to believe I could ever write like someone whose work I’ve read and admired. Having said that, I believe I have a writer’s voice which is distinctive and was acquired through reading osmosis. There are writers of history and mystery I envy. I admire those who had to write in quill or even fountain pen and ink. Knowledge of these tools retires with my generation. Computers simplify the writing process so the focus is on the words and ideas, not the mechanics of ‘scribbling.’

I felt cheated today upon hearing that a famous, past author had the privilege of dictating his words in the days before this was the norm, the days when a writer wrote. Not fair!

Being aware of the toils and tribulations of pre-typewriter novelists compared with the expensive team approach of researchers and editors and advisers and gofers and problem solvers and sub-editors employed by generic best sellers, I want to redefine writing but wouldn’t know where to start.

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

A: Historical figures that feature in fact or fiction need a full accounting of their actions, attitudes, and behaviours. Such is seldom available, the truth being distorted by gossip, inadequate recording, political or class bias, envy, and blatant lies designed to discredit. Having said this, the task is nigh impossible.

All a writer can do is tell both sides of a historical figure’s story and not use inflammatory terminology. What is essential is that actions, especially those being condemned, are told in the light of conditions and beliefs of the age.

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

A: Don’t know what an avatar is or a spirit animal. My knowledge base is not expanding. Mascots bring you luck and/or good fortune. At my age? I’ll go with the Liver bird. May I live long enough and write well enough to see it flap its wings.

Q: Do you ever have trouble coming up with a title for your books?

A: I change titles often during or after writing or editing but finding one that suits me and the story is seldom a problem. I have fun with chapter headings (see Wait and See).

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

A: I write for me and I give good, if biased, reviews. Most reviewers haven’t a clue what went on between the book and the writer’s life.

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

A: Occasionally, I give a name to an obnoxious character of someone who “did me wrong.” Exaggeration of happenings and my role in them will remain a secret.

Q: What was the hardest scene you’ve ever written?

A: I imagined my mother’s day of moving from the house my father had set up for her before he died. I had long avoided this emotional story that begged to be told because her only “child”—me—had abandoned her while she was still mourning. At 59, without a husband, and her son and grandchildren moving to Canada, she moved to be near her sisters. I imagined that final farewell to the house, its memories, and ghosts in “Kitchen Window Memories.” I can’t re-read it without crying.

Q: Have you set goals?

A: Hoping for more time and more inspiration for stories, essays, or poems.

Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

A: I think that everything I write is worth someone, other than me, reading it. This egotistical belief covers an insecurity that has struggled to find consistent success in life. I feel I am a successful writer because I have written and shared and been applauded. I am also more successful elsewhere than my insecure personage allows. I believe my exploration by writing has boosted my ego and made me more content.

Q: Do you Google yourself?

A: I haven’t done that for about ten years. I may do it when I’ve finished this.

Q: When you were growing up, did you ever expect to be a writer?

A: How my generation ever produced writers, given the prevailing education system of chalk, talk, learn, and regurgitate, is a mystery. I loved reading stories. There was no connection in my mind between these creations and me trying to do the same. First class Monday morning, age eleven: “In one hour, write a story on one of the six topics on the blackboard.” Not always said, but generally implied, were the words: “Remember good grammar, correct spelling, and neatness are important.” Further intimidation came later in the week when red-illuminated essays, blessed with an arbitrary grade, would be returned to you. There was seldom praise for ideas or content. I never had any because I was so obsessed with making my Godawful penmanship legible and fearful of misspellings.

Q: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

A: I am the writer that I am at an age where change is resisted and bad habits ingrained. What would I give up for miracles to occur? Can’t play that game if you don’t believe in miracles.

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

A: I’ve been angry and frustrated at the actions of a character I’ve created. Only what’s happened to real people that I’ve told tales about has brought tears to my eyes on occasions.

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

A: “Have you ever thought of how much enjoyment this person had in writing the story or book you’ve just devoured? Why don’t you use that imagination and try it?” Nobody ever connected the process to the product for me.

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

A: I am an impatient writer who is too lazy to undertake research. Thus, although I enjoy historical fiction, which takes me happily off at all sorts of factual tangents, I could never write it. I envy Ken Follett, Edward Rutherfurd, Margaret MacMillan, and Simon Winchester but would need to borrow one of their production teams to write in this genre.

Same applies to mysteries. Detailed and accurate research is essential, but beyond me. Pity!

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

A: The thirty pieces in my patchwork memoir, Written While I Still Remember, were written over more than thirty years. Assembling, rewriting, editing, and revisions occupied another year. My teen novel, before the revisions and rewrites, took about seven months. Starting an adult novel in your eightieth year encourages speedwriting, which produces a hurried text that needed time to marinate, develop, and conclude. This too-short novel took only a year. I had time to nurture it longer, but I quit on it.

Q: What books have you self-published?

A: This is a literary secret that needs revealing. In the spring of 1956, the first lieutenant of H.M.S. Concord of the Queens Far East Fleet ordered me to assemble and produce a book detailing the activities, exploits, and journeys of the destroyer Concord and its crew, for the current, eighteen-month commission.

With a lot of help, especially from the Hong Kong Chinese publishers, some four hundred copies appeared before we went our separate ways in June. If you think my sentence structure, spelling, and editing skills are weak now, you should have seen me as a nineteen-year-old editor and compiler. Somehow the 53,000 mile voyage ranging between Fremantle and Yokohama, with myriad stops and situations along the way, was recorded. I have a closely guarded copy, now in its sixty-second year.

Also, check out these books:

Out of the Mist, a publication of the Evergreen Writers Group, has three of my pieces in it. (Published by Stone Cellar Publications, 2014)

Off Highway, the second collection of works by the Evergreen Writers Group, has two stories and a poem of mine on its pages. (Stone Cellar Publications, 2017)

Written While I Still Remember: A Patchwork Memoir. (MacKenzie Publishing, 2014)

Wait and See. A story of a romance and its effects on those related. (MacKenzie Publishing, 2017)

Visit Tom’s blog, Robson’s Writings.

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other local retailers.

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The Spot Writers – “Pigeon Phobia” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The September prompt is to use these five words in a writing: carrot, lily, moustache, esophagus, pigeon.

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/

***

Pigeon Phobia by Cathy MacKenzie

The final time I visited Granny in her fourth-floor condo, I was ten. I didn’t know exactly how old she was then, but the brown spots on her hands, her stooped shoulders, and her grey, frizzy hair showed her years. For as long as I could remember, she sported a bit of a moustache, and the stubby hairs rubbed against my face whenever she kissed me.

She used to stand by the sliding door that opened onto the balcony and talk to Stella. “I see you, Stell” and “What are you doing, Stell?” were her usual questions. No one answered, of course.

I had never seen Stella standing on Granny’s balcony, never even met her as I far as I knew, nor did I know why Granny talked to this mysterious, invisible woman several times a day.

The pigeons were in full force, though, swooping down to the balcony. They pooped on the wicker furniture, on the side tables, and on the railing. I swear those beady eyes looked right into the living room. I eyed their scruffy feathers and scrawny beaks. So close, I could touch them.

One day, Granny stomped from the living room into the kitchen, yanked open the fridge, and pulled out a bag of carrots. I sensed what was coming and moved out of her way.

Yep, she hurled those carrots, one by one, with a strength a frail, elderly woman didn’t normally possess. “Get away, you dratted creatures,” she shrieked.

As hard as she threw, though, she didn’t hit any.

She gasped after yelling at the birds and covered her mouth. “Stell, I’m so sorry if I disturbed you. Go back to sleep.”

She turned from the door, and a sad face overtook her surprise at seeing me. “Sorry, Carmen. It’s those damned pigeons. How I hate them.”

“Can we go out to sit, Granny?”

“No, we cannot. Not with those dratted pigeons ruining everything. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow we’ll go out.”

I was at Granny’s condo for six days that last time, but “tomorrow” never came. The pigeons continued their tirade, almost taunting her. She wouldn’t go outside with them perching on the railing as if they owned her balcony. “I dare you,” they seemed to say. “I dare you.”

I would have yelled “double dare” back, but that would have given the pigeons the attention they craved, and Granny wouldn’t have liked that.

Visits with Granny are as fresh in my mind as if they happened yesterday, but many years have passed. The pigeons aren’t as bad as they once were. Maybe they were never that bad. When one lights on the balcony, I shoo it away.

I hate the sunlight as much as Granny hated the pigeons. The afternoon glare hits the sliding door most days and highlights my age spots, similar to those that lined Granny’s hands and arms.

I have no grandchildren. No husband. No siblings.

But I have my memories.

I cough, remembering how Granny wheezed and hacked every few minutes. I had always thought her coughing a nervous habit, but she suffered bouts of heartburn and inflammation of the esophagus, so perhaps not.

I peer down from the fourth floor balcony. I can just barely see Granny’s headstone. “Hush now, Granny, the pigeons won’t hurt you anymore.” I cover my mouth and giggle. “Oh, Stell, I hope I didn’t wake you.”

If I lean over far enough, I can see Stella’s headstone, too.

Yesterday I visited Granny and left an orange lily, her favourite flower. I stopped by to say hello to Stell, too.

Strands of shoulder-length grey hair whip across my face. The wind whispers. Or is it Granny?

“Hush, Granny. Sleep tight.”

***

 The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

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

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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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My Debut Novel! Wolves Don’t Knock

I’m elated to receive another excellent review. This one is posted on Amazon (along with two others) and was written by a verified purchaser.

I don’t think anyone could receive a better review than this.

I’m sharing it here:

“C. A. Mackenzie’s extraordinary ability to harness psychological drama compelled me to swiftly turn the pages of “Wolves Don’t Knock.” MacKenzie’s grip is so strong that Miranda’s torment became my own. I was unable to rest until the end; exhausted when I did. Without any reservations, I can declare Wolves Don’t Knock a five-star novel. It is, and literary agents should be fighting each other to represent Catherine A. MacKenzie’s future works.

“It would be tragic if Wolves Don’t Knock is undiscovered in Amazon’s Slush Pile Mountain. This novel belongs on Amazon’s Bestseller List….”

Tragic for MY book to be undiscovered? Wow!

This guy does not mince words. He says it like it is, with full honesty. Yes, I know him from online groups, but I know he means what he says. He’s read short stories of mine and rated them according to stars: one to five. He has said a couple of my stories didn’t even rate a one and that they should be trashed. Literally put out at the curb!

The other two reviews on Amazon:

Wolves Don’t Knock is a spell-binding novel that delves into the mysteries of a traumatized young woman’s psyche while 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.”

“I loved this book so much that I passed it on to a friend. It is a riveting story with the cast of characters and many unexpected plot twists. You never know what’s going on in a small town neighbourhood. A sequel looks like a natural progression. Way to Go!!!”

The first individual was a beta reader. The second individual is a verified purchaser (she purchased the print book), but for some reason she posted a Kindle review so she doesn’t show up as one.

Several other individuals have promised reviews on Amazon (though I did receive some via email and Facebook), but I’m still waiting. Oh, well… Non-writers don’t realize how valuable reviews (good or bad) are to authors. And of course, I want HONEST reviews. No fluff and stuff if the book is horrible.

This is my debut novel. I have Paul’s story in my head (you’ll have to read Wolves Don’t Knock to know who Paul is) and hope to start writing that very soon. Paul’s story will be titled Mr. Wolfe. This second book will be a stand-alone book (as is Wolves Don’t Knock). The reader will not have to read both books in order to enjoy each or get a full understanding of the stories, but there will be some surprises in Mr. Wolfe that the reader will be able to trace back to Wolves. The reader will not spot any dangling threads in Wolves Don’t Knock other than one unanswered question, but whether that question will be answered in Paul’s story is up in the air (and will remain that way). But if Mr. Wolfe unfolds as I want it to and the reader has read Wolves, he/she will be surprised by some revelations.

Have I intrigued you enough to purchase Wolves Don’t Knock? I consider it a blend of suspense, mystery, thriller, and family relationships. A couple of readers have categorized it as a “psychological drama.” If the book were totally about Miranda, I would agree, but the book is told through the points of view of Miranda and her mother, Sharon. I suppose Sharon is traumatized a tad, too, but mostly she just has secrets and guilt.

The book would be suitable for mature teens and up. It’s about a kidnapping so, of course, there is rape, but the images are only implied; there are no graphic scenes or foul language.

The book is set in Nova Scotia, Canada, with references to Halifax, Lower Sackville, Lunenburg, and Peggys Cove.

Anyhow, if you’re local, I have books at my home available for purchase. $15 Canadian.

Otherwise, check it out on Amazon.

Available in print and Kindle, but the print book is much nicer (some fancy formatting). If you purchase, please drop me a quick note to let me know how you liked it. I would appreciate it!

Cathy

 

 

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WOLVES DON’T KNOCK – a novel

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

My debut novel is finally finished and ready for the dreaded promotion.

Promotion? What is that? I’m a writer, not a seller. But that’s what we authors have to do in order to sell our books. We have to promote. And spam. And bug our friends and family and strangers. (But not too much; we don’t want to alienate anyone over a few bucks!)

This book is a blend of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics/relationships. It’s suitable for mature teens and up. Though it deals with sensitive issues (the aftermath of a six-year kidnapping), there are no graphic scenes.

The e-book is now available on Kindle and Draft2Digital (D2D). The print book, of course, is more expensive (available on Amazon and soon on IngramSpark), but I feel it gives a better reading experience. At 104,000 words, the book is a bit longer than most, thus the higher price tag.

The book is set in Halifax and vicinity, Nova Scotia, with a scene set in Peggys Cove.

It’s always available from me, the author, locally at $15 Canadian (no tax, no shipping).

I’ve had excellent pre-publication reviews, but it’s still a nerve-wracking experience to put yourself “out there” with your work. I don’t want unwarranted praise, of course, but I hope readers enjoy it. The book was over five years in the making (off and on, with one year totally untouched). I’ve read and re-read it numerous times (too many times to count and so many times all I wanted to do was trash the darn thing!). I’ve had several beta readers and two editors. If there are any glaring errors, I will scream!

So, here it is. Available for purchase. Or contact me locally. I’d be glad to hand-deliver.

Purchase here.

Wolves Don't Knock 1 FINAL back cover

 

 

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