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The Spot Writers – “Promise” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s prompt is “a cat always stares at something behind its owner’s back. What does it see?” Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Girl Who Flew Away (https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Flew-Away/dp/1941295355) and lots of other works for children and young adults.

***

Promise by Val Muller

Meowser always ignored me. Always used to, anyway. He had his own existence, and I had mine. I kept him fed, he kept me company. That was the deal, until my sister was able to take him home again.

Ellie was off for a three-year stint in Italy. Her husband was put on temporary duty there. Rehoming the cat, with all the required paperwork, quarantines, and the like, wasn’t up her alley, so she pushed the cat onto me.

I always pictured myself as a dog person, if I had a pet, that is. I mean, if I had one of my own. But here I was, just out of college. I couldn’t even keep a girlfriend for more than a month.

Ellie handed Meowser over right before she left. “He won’t be any trouble,” she said. “I promise.”

Ellie didn’t say goodbye to Meowser. That always struck me. I guess she didn’t want to cry about it. No need to make goodbyes more sentimental than they need to be. We fell into our ways, Meowser and I. Ellie couldn’t get back at Thanksgiving, so I sent her a picture of the cat sitting on the coffee table eyeing the ample feast. Ellie always got a kick out of things like that. She liked coming up with captions that assigned all kinds of human thoughts to the cat. I probably sent her a picture once a week or so. She posted them on Facebook, too, as if the cat still lived with her.

To me, though, a cat is just a cat. Meowser couldn’t care less about me except when it was feeding time, or if I got lazy cleaning out the litter box.

Ellie made it back during Christmas. Steve flew home to Minnesota, and she flew in to BWI to visit us. She stayed at my place, not Mom and Dad’s, and we all knew it was for Meowser. I don’t really buy the whole animals-have-emotions thing. Didn’t, anyway. But as soon as he saw Ellie, Meowser was a different cat. It wasn’t just that the two were inseparable. They anticipated each other. Meowser would hop off her lap ten seconds before she finished eating. When she’d get up for a glass of water, Meowser was already waiting at the kitchen counter. He was there when she went to the bathroom, to the door, to the couch. At the time, I told myself they were both just really good at reading body language.

Meowser turned psycho the morning Ellie left for Italy again, right after New Year’s. He hissed at shadows in the hallway. He clawed my face—I’ll bear his mark for life, three slashes on my right cheek. And he even bit Ellie. She cried, then, looking at Meowser like he’d betrayed her. Something in Meowser—a look, a feeling—made Elli’s face flush with guilt. “I’ll be back, Meowser. I promise, promise. I’ll come back for you.”

She pressed her forehead to his and paused for several moments. The cat seemed to calm. Then he went about his way, not bothering to watch as she left the apartment. Her promise had calmed him. We lived on, the two of us, for three more months of him ignoring me and me feeding him, waiting until Ellie could take him again.

It wasn’t until last night that Meowser stopped ignoring me. He was sitting on my chest when I woke up. I can’t tell you the adrenaline spike caused by the penetrating green eyes of a cat. Only they weren’t penetrating me. No, they were focused behind me, like on my pillow. Fixated. A focused stare and a blank stare all at once.

I knocked him off me and padded to the kitchen to feed him. But the usual tinkle of food into his dish had no impact. He sat instead on the counter, staring right behind me. We sat there until dawn, him freaking me out and staring and me being freaked out and staring back.

When the sun rose, I left the kitchen to get dressed, and he followed. Freaky cat. I bent down to pet him, and he raised his head toward my hand—but he missed. Only it seemed intentional. He was raising his head to be pet, only he was raising it at something directly behind me. I turned around, half expecting someone, but of course there was no one.

Freaky cat.

I pushed him away with my foot and closed the bedroom door to finish dressing, but his insistent meowing unsettled me. I opened the door to shush him, but his let out a wailing cry at the empty space behind me.

I turned on the TV to drown out the caterwauling. It was a commercial for an HVAC company, a terrible and memorable jingle. I sang along. It silenced the cat, but still Meowser stared behind me.

I thought I saw something walk across the room behind me, a reflection moving across the mirror. But when I turned, I was still alone.

A pizza commercial came on, but my usual appetite sparked by those kinds of commercials had diminished. I didn’t even want breakfast. I picked up the phone to call Mom. Something came over me, and suddenly I had to get Meowser out of my apartment. Surely Mom and Dad could keep him for Ellie.

The phone rang before I could dial, making me jump half out of my skin and drop it on the carpet. Meowser didn’t even flinch. Just kept staring.

It was Mom.

“Baby, turn on the news,” she said.

The news was already on—the pizza commercial had dissolved into a breaking story of a terrorist attack in Paris. A coordinated attack of vans and trucks driving into crowds. The confirmed death count was twenty-two and counting.

“I called Ellie as soon as I saw,” Mom said. She was sobbing. “She didn’t answer. Steve, either.”

“Mom,” I said. “Ellie’s in Italy. Paris is in France.” My mind briefly relaxed, worried only about Mom possibly having a senior moment.

“No, honey. Ellie’s there. Steve is on leave, and the two of them went to France. They were touring the city today and tomorrow.”

“They could still be out touring,” I said. “I mean, do their phones even work in France? I think calls are super expensive. They probably have their phones off. You know, so they can concentrate on their tour.”

But even as the words left my mouth, I knew the worst was true. I knew it because Meowser knew it. The cat’s eyes softened as the realization hit me. Ellie was no longer in Italy. She was no longer in France. Meowser meowed again and ducked his head toward the shadow behind me. His beloved Ellie. She always kept her promise.

***

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

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Achievemephobia” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second 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/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

*****

Achievemephobia by Phil Yeats

 

Alan awoke with his heart pounding. Had lightening or thunder disturbed him, or was it a noise in his apartment? He lay in bed listening as his heartbeat slowed. The electric heat ticked, the fridge hummed, and somewhere, water dripped. Outside his windows, the night appeared benign.

Did a dream wake him? He only remembered the vaguest details of dreams, and those details invariably surfaced slowly.

Alan thought back to the previous evening. He’d sat in bed finishing the first draft of a chapter for his new book, then checked his email, his social media sites, and did some web surfing.

He lifted the lid of his laptop and tapped the space bar. It didn’t come to life. He hadn’t fallen asleep while surfing. He’d shut it down, not abandoned it to go into sleep mode.

An image of the cover of his first novel flooded his consciousness, emerging like an old Polaroid print on the very popular ReaderGuy blog. An annoying flashing banner pronounced it mystery novel of the month. Was that the problem? Had the ReaderGuy discovered his totally obscure self-published novel?

If he did, the notoriety and attention it brought would be a disaster. It would bring sales, the ReaderGuy trumpeted the fact his book of the month designations increased sales by hundreds, even thousands. They brought many struggling writers a lifeline they really appreciated.

But Alan didn’t covet sales. He desired nothing more than publishing the book and giving or selling a few copies to writing colleagues and the odd stranger. And he detested thoughts of media attention. The last thing he wanted was a reporter from the local newspaper interviewing him. And the possibility of a book review in the Globe and Mail—God forbid.

As his sleep-befuddled brain activity improved, he realized the flaw in his logic. If he’d seen such a posting on the ReaderGuy’s site, he would have remained awake all night worrying.

Alan grabbed his laptop, fired it up, and Googled Amazon.com books. When the Amazon site came up, he entered Tilting at Windmills in the search bar and hit enter. He scrolled down the thumbnail pictures of books with the same title until he found his familiar cover picture.

On the electronic version’s page, he scrolled down to the sales rankings and checked its position. One million, six hundred and eighty-five thousand, four hundred and twenty-three—what he expected for a book that hadn’t sold a copy for several months. When he checked, the paperback ranking was equally dismal.

He sighed as he returned the computer to the nightstand. No sales meant it was a dream, a real nightmare, but nothing that actually happened. He could sleep without worrying about reporters calling at all hours.

*****

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 – “Departure” by Val Muller

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

This month comes to us from Val Muller, author of the young adult novels The Scarred Letter, The Girl Who Flew Away, and The Man with the Crystal Ankh. Learn more at www.ValMuller.com.

***

Departure by Val Muller

The list of arrivals and departures flashed on the screen. Abby shook her head, remembering the last time she’d been in a train station. It was way back in college, even before her parents gave her the clunker, that old Chevy that somehow got her the six hours to and from school.

Back in those days, the arrival and departure listings were still analog. The click-clack-shuffle as they updated the board was calming and exciting all at once. How many times had her heart raced as she saw how close she was to missing her transfer? And how many times her heart had sunk as she saw her train delayed.

With hours to kill during those college years, she learned her way around the train station. Knew the delicious sin of a McDonald’s meal followed by a coffee from the bakery stand. Or a pretzel and a lemonade. Then some window shopping at the high-end boutiques. All this without leaving the station, without being more than a glance away from her boarding instructions.

Then, of course, there was Joseph. Joseph Arden, professor. Lover. Deity. How many times had she merely sat in the station and fantasized about him? Their fling had been too brief. The spark was there, but he was worried about the ethics of it. Less than a decade separated them, but the caste of university culture made her untouchable. Their encounters, if they continued, would have to remain secretive, limited to late-night coffee and stargazing at midnight while reading poetry. They’d read “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in the moonlight and speculated on how their love was so much stronger for its secrecy, for its inability to turn mundane with the Everyday.

That was only days before he’d ended it.

He could never invite her to faculty functions. Their trysts would always end with shameful walks home at five in the morning, with loaded glances during lectures. It could never work, he’d said.

She’d moved on, of course, dating several guys since Joseph. None of them stuck, though. Not like him. He was the one—the one whose face visited her randomly during some cheesy romance flick, whose warm touch visited her in dreams without warning or provocation. He was the one she couldn’t forget, not after all the years.

She didn’t dare email him. She’d seen his face pop up a few times on social media in the “people you might know” section, but she didn’t dare click “invite.” She could never just casually be his friend. She would analyze every word, every post, for hidden meaning.

It had taken years to forget him just enough, and now the train station brought his memory racing back. She sighed as the electronic sign blinked. OAKTON—ON TIME—TRACK 4.

Oakton. The stop closest to the university. How many times she’d seen it. She glanced at the people seated in the waiting area for track 4. Many were college-aged, likely the newest generation of students at her alma mater. She watched their youth, the energy in their eyes.

And then her throat caught. There he was, Joseph Arden in the flesh. He was unmistakable. The same, save maybe some graying at the temples. The same kind eyes, the same warm shoulders bent over a book. He was alone. His left hand, the hand that held the book, was naked.

No social chasm separated them now, only a few years. She was a professional, on her way to a conference. No shame anymore. Could she do it? Could she just walk up to him? Would he just nod and smile and welcome her into his arms and his life?

She didn’t hear the click, but the shuffle of passengers at track 4 told her the Oakton status had changed to BOARDING.

She watched him, paralyzed. He finished the page and carefully placed a bookmark. Then he grabbed a satchel, threw it over his shoulder, and sauntered down the platform steps.

When the train boarded, she hurried to the waiting area and sat on the bench he’d been on. It was still warm. She watched the train pull away down the staircase in front of her, watched Joseph Arden once again depart from her life. His presence, she suspected, would be even stronger now in her dreams. He was her Grecian Urn, after all, their eternal potential never met. A relationship etched so far into her soul that it transcended the real world. The train disappeared from sight, saving them from the threat of an ordinary life together.

So she shouldered her bag and traversed the station to await her train.

***

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 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 – Suzanne Seddon

Today, Writing Wicket interviews Suzanne Seddon, author of A Fool’s Circle.

book pic 3

I asked Suzanne:

Q. Have you ever cried with one of your main characters?

Yes. I cried for Kate and Sophie. Mainly because I could understand and relate to both characters. The book is a hard read. But it was really hard for me to write.

Q.  Do you believe in writers block?

I knew where this book was going. In fact, the characters more or less led me through the whole book. So, I never experienced any writers block although there were moments I had to shut down my laptop and take a break for a few days.

Q. What genre do you favour?

I definitely favour crime fiction and thrillers. although I’m quite partial to the odd autobiography.

Q. What is your favourite childhood book?

My favourite childhood book was definitely The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I had them all. My favourite character was Timmy the dog.

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

Having so many ideas swimming around in my brain and trying to get them down on paper as fast as I can. Not being able to switch off is also hard. Sometimes I have woken up in the night with an idea and had to get up and grab a pen and paper.

Q. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I think it’s a bit of both, to be honest. The thought process seems to exhaust me. But once I have a chapter finished, I feel totally energized and ready to start over again.

Q. What is your writing Kryptonite?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist and worry that my scenes are making perfect sense to the reader. So, I tend to go over them more times than I should. I’m also not a lover of writing sex scenes and let my friends read them first to get their opinions, which have been very good. They all agree I have a very vivid imagination.

Q. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I wanted this book to raise awareness about Domestic Violence and Mental Abuse, so I didn’t even contemplate writing under a pseudonym.

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

That all depends what the subject matter is they are writing about.

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

Charles Dickens, for sure. I would love to get inside his head. I love the way he developed his characters. I get transported to a different time and really enjoy the journey.

Q. What was the first book that made you cry?

That was definitely the Lassie books, about a border collie, by Eric Knight. They made me smile and cry at the same time. But recently, I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and found myself in floods of tears when Dobby died. I had to pull myself together before my daughter returned from school.

Q. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think a common trap for aspiring authors is that they worry if their work is going to be good enough or interesting enough. They also worry that it has all been said before. It probably has. But just not been told by you.

 

Check out Suzanne’s links:

https://wallacepublishing.co.uk

https://bit.ly/2VJt5C1 (Goodreads)

https://amzn.to/2TJa54E ( Amazon)

https://bit.ly/2FwUO3M  ( Barnes&Noble)

 

Kindle.jpg

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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 – Drew Lankford

Today, I interview Drew Lankford.

Drew at Pa Bunks 2 (2)

Drew lives in Murfreesboro, TN, with his three beautiful children and sometimes beautiful cat. He has published four books of poetry: For You, Limitless, Lollipops, and Fluffy Socks. He has also published widely in journals such as Skive, 34th Parallel, and Living with Loss.  Unclear of its tone or direction, he is currently hard at work on his fifth collection of poetry.  Most of his encouragement as a writer comes from his friends at the writing workshop that meets weekly at the local library. Besides writing, Drew loves listening to music, going on long walks, and playing with his children in the backyard.

Q.  How long do you write daily?

I write between 2-3 hours daily depending on how well things are going. If the writing gets tense and seems to be going nowhere, I go for a long walk.

Q.  What is your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment is graduating from Austin Peay State University with an MA in English Creative Writing. That was tough study, and I’m proud to have made it through.

Q.  What is your major emphasis now?

Right now, I’m working on writing. Besides caring for my children, it’s all about writing. Nothing will get written on its own.

Q.  What are you currently reading?

I am reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Her writing looks so simple it’s amazing. She’s one of the best, ever. Besides Austin, I’ve started re-reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Q.  What is your favorite book?

I’ve got to go with two here: The Call of the Wild and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Q.  Which contemporary authors are you reading now?

Billy Collins is one of the coolest authors we have with us today. His imagination is incredible. Also, I enjoy reading the playful and lighthearted M.C. Beaton mystery books.

Q.  What are your goals?

One goal is to have ten collections of poetry finished by the time I’m fifty. That sounds like a good number to me. Also, I’d like to try writing something off the grid: a collection of essays, humorous tales from the classroom, things like that.

Q.  What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working hard on the fifth collection of poetry. If it makes sense, the collection is lifting off a bit–its shiny head in the wind–and I want to keep it down, but I know I can’t restrain it. I’ve got to let go and see where it leads. That’s what I’m working on.

Q. What do you hope to get from writing?

I always want to learn more about myself and others. I love to see how far we’ve come and the possibilities of the future.

Q.  If you could tell your younger self something about writing what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that writing is like life. There are unpleasant times and there are pleasurable times, and the trick to the whole thing is to stay at it, no matter what.

Q.  What did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was a child I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. I made it to high school, not bad, considering.

Q.  What do you do for a full time job?

At this time, I’m between jobs and that gives me time to write. Trust me, I’m taking advantage of the time.

Q.  What are your feelings about ethics used in writing about historical figures?

Accurate history must be based in truth or it becomes fiction. If the author is honest and tells us if his or her work is based in fact or fantasy, that would ease much tension.

Q.  Where can we find your work?

www.dwb.publishing.com

or through any normal online locations.

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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 – “If You Can’t Kill It, Make It Your Friend” by Chiara De Giorgi

The current prompt: News these days contain a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refuge problems and other political and social crises, to whatever you like as your favourite example. Write a story focused on one or more of these depressing occurrences and give it a happy ending.

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.

***

If You Can’t Kill It, Make It Your Friend by Chiara De Giorgi.

Up to 60% of the human body is water. If left without water, a human being dies in three or four days. That’s seventy-two to ninety-six hours. Plants die: a desert is what you have when there’s no water. No water means nothing alive. Water is life.

But water is death, too.

Have you ever noticed how many times water is involved in a natural disaster? Floods, heavy rains, hurricanes, tsunamis… Water can save you from burning in a fire, but then water can freeze and kill you with hypothermia.

After losing friends, family, and belongings to water, in one form or another, more than enough times, I realized I hated it. And yet, the supremely annoying fact was, I couldn’t live without it. I felt helpless when, during a torrid summer, all I could dream of was a lake of crystal clear water to dive into; a frothing waterfall; an iced glass of pure water.

Water had become an obsession. I feared it, I craved it.

I spent years researching ways to survive without this hateful dependency on water, trying to figure out a way to substitute it with something, anything else. I even went so far as designing living beings that were not carbon-based, thinking that maybe it would be possible to operate just a small genetic modification on humans, to make them not water-dependant.

It didn’t work, nothing worked. I was left sad, frustrated, empty-handed, and alone.

Then one day I woke up with a totally different strategy on my mind: if you can’t kill it, make it your friend.

If I could not come up with a way to survive with no water, I’d come up with a way to survive too much water.

My studies changed direction: no more chemistry, biology, and genetics. I turned to myths and folklore.

When I felt ready, I moved to Maldives. There are often hurricanes and tsunamis there, lots of unexpected water, and it’s a lovely place when the weather’s good.

When the rain started falling, and the wind started blowing, and the earth started shaking, and the waves started climbing towards the sky, I was there. While everybody was fleeing to the backland, I ran to the beach. While everybody was wearing a raincoat, I stripped down to my bikini. While everybody screamed for help, I let out a triumphant cry and dove.

See, I am a mermaid, now. Too much water will never kill me, and I’ll never suffer from the lack of it, as oceans are limitless and everlasting. I won’t ever lose my friends and family to water, and it will never steal my belongings again. I won. If you can’t kill it, make it your friend.

***

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 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 – “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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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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The Spot Writers – “On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The June prompt is to update a legend or legendary character/beast: bring it into the modern world, or add a twist that isn’t consistent with the original legend.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, will be available for purchase by the end of June. “Follow” her website www.writingwicket.wordpress.com for updates and/or “like” her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WolvesDontKnock/.

***

“On the Edge, the Story of Peggy and Sam” by Cathy MacKenzie

Peggys Cove, a small rural community on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay, is one of Nova Scotia’s most visited landmarks, picturesque with its lighthouse and deadly waves crashing against the huge boulders. According to local legend, a young girl named Margaret was the only survivor of a shipwreck off Halibut Rock, near the cove. (Peggy, of course, is the nickname for Margaret, hence the name of the cove.) Margaret/Peggy was found by a fisherman who took her to his home, and she was adopted by this man and his wife. No doubt, they all lived “happily ever after.”

In this fictionalized story, I’ve brought Peggy of the Cove into the modern world, where we find her floundering in the Atlantic Ocean…

When Peggy spat out salty water, it was as if she were in the throes of a nightmare, for why was she in the water? But her predicament was real—too real.

She gasped for breath and tread water. She scanned the vast waters. What—a lighthouse?

She was a fan of lighthouses and immediately recognized this one as the lighthouse at Peggys Cove. Peggys Cove, the place where legends began and ended. An abundance of lobster chowder and buttery biscuits. All varieties of fresh seafood. Tourists who disregarded the dangers of the rocks.

She’d been there several years previously and had even admonished several carefree teens who bounded over the boulders as if they were invincible. “Watch for the black,” she had shouted. “Don’t go near the edge. If you tumble, you’ll disappear forever.” They ignored her, of course, so she let them be, and they were fine in the end, thank God. She wasn’t certain what she would have done had one of them toppled into the sea. Would she have jumped in? Nope, not her. Be reckless in your life; suffer the consequences.

Consequences. Was she suffering consequences? What had she done to deserve this?

Her head ached, and the shark-infested waters didn’t calm her nerves. It was a wonder a shark hadn’t shown its face yet. If it did, she wouldn’t fare well.

She made an effort to swim toward shore, where relentless waves slapped against a wall of boulders. Would the waves crash her to the rocks? Wet rocks were slippery and dangerous, and she wouldn’t manage to get on shore even if she reached land. Barefoot, she would slip and slide on the rocks, and if she slid back into the water, she wouldn’t make it a second time. She had amazed herself she’d made it thus far, not that she knew where her journey had begun.

How the hell had she ended up in the water? Why the hell couldn’t she remember? What the Sam Hill—her father’s favourite expression.

Sam!

Samuel Reid, her fiancé.

She shivered and swallowed more water. She found it ironic the more she drank, the thirstier she became.

She was slowly losing strength. She must get to shore.

What had happened to her? Journey—a boat! A cruise boat. They had been on a cruise. A seven-day cruise out of Manhattan. Her memory was returning, albeit slowly. They had boarded the ship at Manhattan, with ports of call at Portland, Bar Harbour, Saint John, and Halifax, ending with two days of cruising from Halifax back to New York.

What “leg” of the cruise was she mired in? Did she “disembark” on the way to Halifax or on the return journey to Manhattan?

More nerve-wracking, how had she ended up in the ocean? No one could accidentally fall over the forty-eight-inch railings. No amount of booze would cause her to be drunk enough to jump into the sea. Someone had to have pushed her.

Horror stories assaulted her. Husbands and boyfriends who wanted to be rid of their partners. Someone had pushed her, and who else but Sam? But why? They loved each other, didn’t they? She did, at any rate, and had always thought herself to be a good judge of character.

They were to marry in December, two weeks before Christmas. The wedding had been planned—by her, of course—and invites mailed. Two months from now. A big wedding, too. Gifts had already poured in. They were both popular, having graduated Dalhousie in June. No jobs yet, but such was life. The jobs would come, though, and they’d end up happily married, forever after, with the proverbial white picket fence and two-point-five kids—if that stat was still correct. She hadn’t checked recently. And who’d have half a kid, anyhow?

They’d taken out life insurance policies four months previously. Sam’s idea, wasn’t it? She hadn’t thought much about it—until this moment. “Might as well get coverage now,” she remembered him saying. “One less thing to do after we’re married.”

She spat out more water. Was she getting the bends? No, from the little she knew about the condition, the bends were when you were deep underwater, your brain exploding within your skull. She was above the sea, but still dangerous and brutal. The sea claimed whatever and whomever at will.

She must reach the rocks. She was confident she could grasp hold and haul herself up no matter the eel-like surface. And someone would be there to rescue her.

Please, God, let someone be there.

Figures and distances weren’t her forte. How much farther? How much longer could she last? Not that it mattered. She must keep swimming. Move her arms, kick her legs. Nothing to it, right?

Her life depended upon it.

Sam. Had he really done this? Why? Why, oh why?

They’d been drinking; they always drank. Who didn’t? “One more glass of wine?” he had asked. “Sure, just one,” she had replied. Booze was free onboard. They’d purchased the beverage package.

Wait! Who had purchased it? Him or her?

No matter. Didn’t matter. Gotta reach shore. “Please, God,” she mumbled. “I’ll never drink again if you save me.”

Didn’t everyone bargain when death neared?

No, death wouldn’t come for her. And when she found Sam, well, she didn’t want to think what she would do.

She forced her arms to dig deep into the water, inch by inch. Where was the splash of her feet? Shouldn’t she hear the splash? Wasn’t she kicking?

Forget it. Keep going. She was moving. The rocks were closer. Black rocks, but she’d manage. Just get me there. I’ll handle the rest.

She pretended she was a mermaid. Mermaids existed in the water. She’d live if she were a mermaid. Who knows, maybe she was one.

Kick! Kick, kick.

Her feet were numb, so maybe she had developed a mermaid tail. Flap! Flap, flap.

Nearer. Almost there. A few more kicks. A few more flails of her arms.

The water was warmer. She was warmer. Another sign of death?

She was close. So close. So close…

“Please, God, don’t let this be a mirage.”

She touched the sharp edge of a rock. A big rock. A boulder.

“I’m safe,” she muttered.

She looked up. A cliff. Too high. She’d never scale that.

She latched hold, her hand slipped, she swallowed water.

She reached again.

She managed to hoist herself onto a low-lying surface, where she lay, panting. The October sun shone across her. Warm. No breeze, no dastardly wind. No crash of the waves against the rocks.

Anyone there? she wanted to shout, but she possessed no strength.

Let me rest. Just let me rest.

 

Note:

My story “Margaret of the Sea” (perhaps a bit too dark, but that’s what the guidelines wanted!), another fictionalized account of Peggy/Margaret, will be published in an upcoming anthology titled Creatures in Canada – A Darkling Around the World Anthology, by Lycan Valley Press. This anthology consists of one “legend” story per province in Canada, a story that could have only happened in that particular province. My story was selected for Nova Scotia. Book will be available on Amazon.

***

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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