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The Spot Writers – “The Drought” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare. 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.

***

The Drought by Chiara De Giorgi

The alarm went off. Half awake, I tried to sit up as I heard the news on the radio.

The drought had lasted for so long, that Gap Lake had dried up, revealing a body. After the necessary examinations, it appeared that it belonged to a young man who had gone missing fifteen years ago. There was evidence that he had been killed: someone had hit him on the head with a hammer, or something similar. Then the murderer had dumped the body in the lake. The police stopped considering the young man as missing, and started investigating his murder. The reporter never mentioned the dead guy’s name, but he didn’t have to bother, I knew it was Liam Hunter.

Who would have thought that the lake would eventually dry up? How long would it take for the detectives to come knock on my door?

***

We had been dating, Liam and I, that summer of fifteen years ago. It was really just a fling, I was twenty years old, for God’s sake!

I used to work the late shift at the pub overlooking the lake, and he used to jog for an hour every night after work, before stopping by for a beer. He was always alone, as was I, so of course we started talking, then he started waiting for me to end my shift, walking me home… One thing naturally lead to another.

We were both only temporarily staying at Gap Lake City, that’s one reason why I considered our relationship nothing more than a summer interlude. My hometown was miles away, as was his. We would just be there for a couple of months, to work and save money for our ambitious projects. He wanted to go study law in Paris; I wanted to become a singer. A famous one, I mean. Most people can be decent singers, if they try, but to be extraordinary, well: that takes work. And money. Money for singing lessons, money to support yourself while you tour to find the right agent, money to maybe bribe someone into giving you a chance… If you have money, life’s so much easier.

Anyway.

One time the condom broke and I got pregnant. I asked him to split the doctor’s fee, to get rid of the baby, and he flipped. He claimed I couldn’t do that, it was his baby, too. He wanted us to get married, give up our dreams, and settle down at Gap Lake City, which was the perfect place to raise a child and start a family, with the woods, and the lake, and the friendly community. I could keep working at the pub, he would keep doing whatever it was he was doing at the time (I honestly do not remember), and we would be a happy family.

When I told him I’d do nothing of the sort, he threatened to reach my parents and tell them. I said that I didn’t care, so he promised he’d ruin my career as soon as I had one, telling everyone who would listen what an awful person I was, to put an unlikely dream before my own child and love.

I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted him to shut up. Or maybe I did want to kill him. After all, that was the only way to make sure he’d shut up forever.

I hit him on the head with a hammer I found on the pier, he fell into the water and stayed there. I tied a rope to his chest and filled his pockets with rocks, then took a small boat and dragged his body across the lake. When we reached the middle of the lake, I let go of his body. He’s been resting in peace for fifteen years, and I’ve become a famous singer. What would happen now?

***

The alarm went off and I woke up. I listened to the radio, but the reporter never mentioned a drought, or Gap Lake, or the dead body of Liam Hunter.

I called the studio and cancelled all my recording sessions for the week, then took my car and drove all the way there, just to make sure.

The lake’s still there, I am safe.

*****

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/

 

+++
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 – Mary L. Bell

Today, Writing Wicket interviews Mary L. Bell. Mary is a multi-published Christian author. She lives in North Carolina and enjoys fishing, reading, and ministering in song with her hubby at functions. Her books are about small-town romance, suspense, and mystery, influenced by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Mary Ball

I asked Mary:

Q. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Through talking with new writers, I think one problem is they believe they have to pay a boutique or vanity publisher to become a published author. That is not the case; many traditional publishers are small and accept queries. Nine years ago, I started the publishing journey and queried about fifty smaller publishers before I was offered a contract with Prism Book Group (now part of Pelican Book Group.)

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

Yes. Thanks to Google and Bing, writers can find information about any subject. Goggling a phrase like, “What does a sad person feel?” would give lots feedback to help a writer capture the emotion of a scene.

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?

I like each book to stand alone. In my Celestial Investigation series, the sisters have a part in each story but the series reads fine without the other books.

Q. What book(s) have you written?

Publisher: Pelican Book Group

Escape to Big Fork Lake

Redemption in Big Fork Lake

Sparks of Love

A Love Valley Christmas

Publisher: Forget Me Not Romance (A Division of Winged Publications)

Thanksgiving Secret

Rose Colored Christmas

Sunny’s Dream

Luna’s Treasure

Starr’s Promise

Publisher: Life Inspiring Books

Christmas at Angel Ranch

Postmarked Ever After

Moments with God’s Word

An Angel’s Burden (Co-written with Blake Leonard)

The most recent release is Asheville Hearts, published by Dancing with Bear Christian Publishing

Q. What are you working on now?

Awaken the Past is a novella, which is part of Forget Me Not heroine in danger suspense set to release before summer. My work-in-progress titled A Special Christmas is part of the Romancing the Christmas Angel boxed set for the holiday.

For more information on Mary, check out her blog and other links:

Face Book-https://www.facebook.com/gracefulbooks

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Mary-L-Ball/e/B007O97Y0E

Website/blog- http://www.marylball.com

Twitter- https://twitter.com/inspires4mary

+++
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 – “And Then, What” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

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.

***

“And Then, What?” by Chiara De Giorgi

Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week, at 6:25 am, there I am. Yorkstraße. That’s where I get with the underground (Line 7), then I climb three flights of stairs and get to the platform to wait for my train.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall: I know how the Berlin sky looks like in every season at 6:25 am.

In Winter it is dark. Sometimes it is clear and I can spot a few stars. Not many, though: the yellow artificial lights pollute the view. My breath is a white puff that lingers, unwilling to leave the warmth of my body.

In Spring I can hear the early birds singing, and it doesn’t take long before I can witness the sunrise from the train platform: a heart-warming orange-red disc rising from behind the buildings on the eastern side of the station.

In Summer the sky is clear and bright, except on stormy days, of course. The mastermind that designed this train station decided that it did not need a platform roof, and only a couple small shelters were added, but all the benches are exposed, so when it rains you can either sit and get wet, or stand and stay dry. As if you weren’t already miserable enough, being out and about at such an ungodly hour on a stormy day.

The sky gets darker and darker as Summer turns into Fall, and colored leaves twirl and land on the platform, leaving the surrounding trees bare and melancholic.

 

I almost always read a book, while I’m waiting for my train.

My mind and my heart are not on the platform. They’re in a faraway land, living dangerously, and passionately, and bravely. Sometimes I have a really hard time letting go of the story and starting my work day. Sometimes my heart rebels at the thought of the day ahead. It doesn’t want to be chained at a desk, typing the day away. It wants to live.

That’s when it suggests we jump on a train, any train, and just go. Never get off, until the train stops. Where? Irrelevant. Anywhere will do. Anywhere but where we’re supposed to go. Don’t tell anyone, just go. Disappear, do something daring, do something new. Start over, be another. Just go, go, go…

While my heart restlessly beats, my face is still, my expression unchanged. No one will ever know about my inner turmoil. And the train approaches. What will I do? Will I dutifully get off when it reaches my station? Or will I be reckless and follow my heart’s desire?

My mind toys with the idea. Where would I go? What would I do? Who would I be? I could, I would, I wish… At some point, my mind asks the most difficult question: And then, what? What will you do, when you get to Anywhere? How will you live? Who will you meet? Won’t you wish to come back? What will people say? Will it be worth it?

My heart kicks and screams, but my mind hushes it. Be quiet, little one, dreamy one. Be quiet.

Alright, my heart says, I’ll be quiet. But then, what?

***

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 – “Transitions” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

This week’s fiction is from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, available on Amazon and other retailers. www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Transitions by Cathy MacKenzie

The whistle shrieks from around the bend. Sally sits on the bench, debating whether to stand or wait until the train pulls into the station and everyone alights. People are in such a rush today that they can’t be polite and let people exit before charging in, whether in an elevator or a train. Her mother taught her better manners than that, but she can be impatient, too, depending upon her mood.

The brakes squeal, metal against metal, and the waiting throng descends upon the train as if vultures at a firing squad. The doors open, and bodies squirm to the platform while others squeeze inside.

She stands and adjusts her heavy wool coat over her arm. The station is warm though the last dregs of winter linger outside.

The train rumbles in preparation for departure. Stragglers jump aboard, latching to the stanchions and grab rails.

She has seconds to cover the remaining distance and slip inside before the doors close.

She moves slowly, deliberately. Wedged like a rubber mannequin in a metal packing crate doesn’t appeal to her, nor does the stench of people heading home after work.

The vibration beneath her feet calms her nerves. She dislikes this period—these undefinable days; not winter but not spring despite what the calendar states. That elusive space in between. The storm before the calm.

But winter transitions into spring, and spring shifts quickly into summer, her favourite season.

Abruptly, she turns the opposite way, takes a few steps, and dons her coat.  She’ll walk the forty-two minutes to her apartment on Mason Avenue.

***

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/

 

+++

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 Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story about something nice and unexpected happening on a gloomy day.

This week’s story is from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, available on Amazon and other retailers. www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

 

***

“The Unexpected” by Cathy MacKenzie

 

“What time is it, Mommy?” Sadie asked, rubbing her eyes.

“It’s just after midnight, sweetie. Go back to sleep.” Her mother pulled the covers up to her chin. “See you in the morning.”

Sadie watched her mother cross the room and flick the switch, making it dark again. She hated the dark and wished it were always daylight. Her parents laughed at her when she shared that at dinner. “Silly girl,” her father had said, but his words were spoken with love.

She closed her eyes, not that it made any difference. At night, with the light off, it was dark whether her eyes were open or closed. She pictured sheep jumping over the white fence as her grandmother once advised her. Sometimes that helped her sleep. “One…two…three…” she mumbled.

When she opened her eyes, it was morning; not a sun-bright morning camouflaged behind pulled-tight drapes, but enough light that signified night had ended. She crept from bed and parted the drapery. A dull, dreary day. She longed to crawl back into bed but heard her parents talking in the kitchen.

She slipped into her housecoat and slippers and tip-toed downstairs. The lights were on, giving the appearance of a happy day. The comforting, familiar sight of her parents and the greasy smell of frying bacon perked her up.

Her father sat at the table, reading the morning newspaper as he always did before work. Her mother faced the stove, tending the bacon.

Her father looked up. “Hey, sweetie. Sleep well?”

“It was too dark, Daddy.”

“Nights are always dark. I’ve explained that to you. The sun needs to rest. That’s why we have the moon.”

“But the moon wasn’t out last night.” At six, Sadie wasn’t too astute about light and dark or things that went bump in the night, but she was aware something hadn’t been quite right the past few days.

“The moon might have been hidden behind a cloud,” her mother said.

Sadie peered out the window. “It’s supposed to be morning, but it’s still dark.”

Her father set down the paper and stood. “I have an early meeting. I’ll see you both later. Try to have a happy day, Sadie.” He patted her on the head and kissed her mother on the cheek.

Sadie waited until the front door groaned behind him before speaking. “Is it going to rain, Mommy?”

Her mother glanced out the kitchen window. “Looks like it might.”

“Can we go to the park before it rains?”

“Oh, sweetie, I have so much to do today.”

“But we could go now, and then when we get home, you can do those things.” Sadie forced her mouth into the downtrodden expression that always changed her parents’ minds, especially her mother’s.

“Oh, okay, but only for a little while. It’s a miserable day out there.”

After breakfast, they left for the park, a ten-minute walk from their house. Usually, the park bustled, but it was quiet, no doubt due to the inclement weather.

Sadie skidded down the slide and cavorted on the monkey bars. Though she enjoyed herself, it was lonely without other kids. Her mother pushed her on the swing as if sensing her isolation.

“It’s still dark, eh, Mommy?”

“It’s definitely going to rain.”

“It’s spooky when it’s dark like this,” Sadie said. “Kinda like Halloween.”

“Halloween is months off.” Her mother leaned over and hugged her. “We should go.” She glanced at her watch. “Almost eleven. One more push before we go.”

Sadie knew better than to argue with her mother, especially on such a mood-less day. She gripped her mother’s hand, and they rushed down Sycamore Street, crossed to Oak Avenue, and scurried up Beaumont until they reached number 85, their townhouse.

The past week had been dreary and distressing. Her mother took her outdoors everyday for fresh air no matter the weather, but lately there seemed no point. As soon as they were on the steps or the sidewalk, it rained. Or the menacing clouds darkened with such intensity that the only sensible thing was to return indoors.

Her mother was right again, for they barely reached the top step before the rain pelted. As soon as they were inside, her mother turned on every lamp in the living room and flicked every light switch in the kitchen, giving the appearance of a sunny day. Sadie liked how bright the rooms became, certain her mother’s mood changed along with the room’s glow.

Sadie spent the rest of the morning in her bedroom. After lunch, she sat in the living room, ignoring shadows along the wall and trying not to fret about unknown atrocities hiding behind the heavy brocade drapes. Her mother relented and allowed her to watch a half-hour children’s cartoon show. She then reclined on the floor, leafing through magazines.

The afternoon passed quickly. Around four o’clock, Sadie heard sirens and scampered to the window, parting the drapes in time to see a police cruiser zoom by, a usual occurrence in their neighbourhood.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

Her mother raced into the room. “What is it, Sadie?”

“Mommy, look.” She pointed outside. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Her mother stepped toward the window. “What, Sadie?”

“The sun, Mommy! See the sun?”

***

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/

 


+++
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 – “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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The Spot Writers – “Snowball” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story including the words, “Will winter never end.” This week’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Girl Who Flew Away. Given her own experiences with several snow nightmares, her challenge was an attempt to keep the tale positive.

***

Snowball by Val Muller

Taylor was always precocious, one of those kids who could teach the teachers, and they usually resented him for it. The idea came to him during a lecture on The Great Awakening and its subsequent movements during a particularly dry session of US History.

Taylor had recently sold out of the mega-pack of chocolate candy he’d picked up at the local discount warehouse store. The bag cost him $19.99. He sold the candy for 50 cents a piece, or 2 for 75 cents, making an easy $50 during his bus rides to school that week. In fact, he’d made hundreds this year already, selling everything from gum to soda to granola bars, all at a tax-free, cash-only profit, to hungry middle schoolers.

Problem was, it was starting to become a bore. He needed something else, something more than money. Something exciting.

“…power,” his teacher said, summarizing the lecture. “The church enjoyed power and influence during the Great Awakening. Remember this. The test is on Thursday.”

In the hallway, all the kids buzzed about the weather.

“It’s supposed to snow like four feet,” someone shouted.

“And it’ll start Wednesday night. That means no school Thursday.”

“Or Friday!”

“Four day weekend!”

“At least!”

“No history test,” someone cheered.

“It’s not certain. Could be a bust.”

“We all have to wear our PJs inside out.”

“And flush ice cubes down the toilet.”

“Yes, spread the word!”

Taylor shook his head at the childish superstitions that held even in the eighth grade. But then he had an idea.

He wore a light blue button-down shirt and his father’s snowflake tie. His navy blue suit was accentuated by shimmery blue boots. The outfit spoke of Jack Frost and snowy mornings. The mutterings began as soon as he reached the bus stop. Taylor gently placed a huge hiking pack on the ground, and the crowd of middle schoolers gathered round. A few had already taken out their money.

“You’ve heard of inside-out PJs,” Taylor said. “And flushing ice cubes down the toilet.” He did his best to capture the power and passion of a revivalist. “But the most effective way to encourage snow is none other than through the stomach. That’s right, there’s nothing Old Man Winter loves more than a snowball!”

Here, he flung open his pack to reveal a stash of those god-awful pink coconut snowball cakes. He’d gotten three cases of 30 at the warehouse. The two-packs wholesaled at 80 cents a piece. Retailing here at $2 a pack would earn him a cool $100.

“Bring on the snow,” he shouted as he took their money. “Cancel quizzes, cancel tests, cancel school. Will winter never end!”

The kids were still talking about it when the bus filled in, their hands sticky with the pink mess. The bus driver must have radioed ahead about the disturbance: Principal Stanley was waiting for Taylor, hands on hips and toe tapping at the front entrance.

For an instant, Taylor saw his entire endeavor fail in the flames of detention and a phone call home, a young entrepreneur put out by The Man. But then he saw it. The flash of nostalgia in the principal’s eye at the sight of the pink fluffy treats. Taylor knew he was safe. A little graft never hurt anyone.

“Principal Stanley, can I interest you in a snowball?”

The principal was a minute late for morning announcements that day, and he left a sticky pink smear on the intercom system.

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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The Spot Writers – “New Year’s Resolution” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. 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.

***

New Year’s Resolution by Cathy MacKenzie

The whoosh of the wind almost knocked Callie to the ground. She was aware the winter wind was in a rage but hadn’t expected it to be this bad. She managed to stand and struggled back to the motel room. Thankfully, the porch extended the length of the motel units, with the two ends enclosed, so she could easily open the door and get in out of the cold.

She looked out the window. The mailbox across the road had blown off its pole and lay on the pavement, waiting for disaster from an oncoming vehicle. She pictured hers and Dan’s house and hoped the flimsy plexiglass around the swimming pool remained intact. Nearby trees would wreak disaster, too, should one of them topple. Would Dan bother checking, or would he be luxuriating in the man cave, cut off from the world’s realities?

She should have stayed home rather than running off like a spoiled brat, especially on New Year’s Day. But would it be too much for her husband to pay attention to her once in a while? Seemed all Dan wanted to do was watch television. He was a movie freak but would watch movies over and over, not realizing he’d already seen them. Two minutes into a movie and Callie recognized a repeat.

Did he even know she wasn’t at home? Several times over the past six months, she’d left the house in the afternoon and gone to the mall. He’d still be sitting in front of the boob tube when she returned, none the wiser. She snickered. Boob tube? How apropos.

This time, though, she’d been gone three days. She had every intention of returning home. In fact, she’d already decided to return the following day. Four nights would be enough to jolt her husband back to reality. He’d have missed her so terribly that he would never again ignore her—but if he wanted her home, why hadn’t he telephoned or texted? She had checked her phone every hour. Nothing. Playing hard to get, no doubt. They’d played silly games in the past.

She yanked the dingy drapes across the window, plopped to the queen-sized bed, and flicked on the television.

The next day, she checked out, cringing at the bill for a second until realizing the money would be well spent if some sense had been knocked into her husband.

She sped home, anticipation coursing through her loins. She had missed him terribly. The feeling would be mutual; she was certain of it.

She pulled into the snow-covered driveway and parked behind his truck. She unlocked the side door, jumping at the shrill beeping. Though they’d cancelled the alarm system, the deafening noise would be enough to scare away even a fearless robber.

She dropped her purse on the counter and flung her coat at the kitchen stool.

She glanced around the kitchen, noting the clean table and empty sink. If he’d cooked, which he must have if he’d wanted to eat, he had cleaned his mess. Score one!

She ambled down the hall. Quiet. Too quiet. Where was he?

Despite the sun shining through the living room windows, the ceiling light glowed at the top of the stairs going to the basement.

She stopped. That noise. Was someone down there with him? 

She shuddered. What if he was angry? What if he never talked to her again? What if he wanted a divorce?

Had she gone too far?

The voices ceased and music blasted, the tell-tale sound of the television. She relaxed. Dan liked the volume loud. But at ten in the morning? She smiled. Definitely bored. A good sign.

Soundlessly, careful to hold onto the railing, she descended the carpeted staircase.

He was sitting on the couch when she reached the bottom. Thank God he was alone. If he’d had another woman, she didn’t know what she would do. Serve her right, though, for trying to teach him a lesson. She regretted her actions, but she’d make it up to him. A New Year’s resolution formed in her head.

“Hi, honey. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

As usual when he was pissed off, he ignored her and continued to stare at the screen.

She crept toward him. “I’m sorry. I just felt like I needed to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted to feel needed.”

She sat beside him and grasped his arm. “I was wrong, though. I shouldn’t have gone this far.”

She leaned over to kiss him. Her lips grazed his cheek.

“Honey? Dan?”

His blood pressure machine perched precariously on the armrest. After suffering a heart attack a few years previously, he religiously—and fanatically—checked his pressure.

She touched his face, and his head plopped toward his shoulder. The blood pressure machine fell to the floor.

***

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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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

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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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