The Spot Writers – “Rear View Mirror” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s topic is: something nice and unexpected happens on a gloomy day.

This week’s post is by Val Muller, author of the coming of age novel The Girl Who Flew Away. Surrounded by high school students all day, many of her works revolve around the lives of teenagers finding their place in a less-than-ideal world.

***

Rear View Mirror by Val Muller

“Are you serious?” Ms. Martel asked. She leaned back in the creaky chair, arms crossed, staring straight ahead at the principal.

“Quite,” said Principal Hutt.

“You want me to eat with these kids? The thirty minutes of the day I have free, and you want me to spend it with my four discipline problems?”

The principal nodded. “You know we’re all about creative solutions here at Echo Academy, Ms. Martel. ‘Discipline problems’ are really just young people reaching out for help.”

“Texting while in class and blowing off assignments is not reaching out for help. It’s just ignoring their responsi—”

But Principal Hutt had already turned away, working on his next email.

“I’ll expect to see you in the dining hall this afternoon, Ms. Martel. And I’m sure your students will find it something to look forward to as well.”

 

The cafeteria—dining hall, rather—smelled like teenagers and toddler food. It was a miasma of chicken nuggets, wilted vegetables, and teenage angst. And there in the center of it were her four nightmares, the ones who made Ms. Martel dread coming to work each day.

Tommy Sutherfeld, Elayna Cunningham, Marko Jacobs, and Lilliyanna Roth. They sat there like protagonists in The Breakfast Club, unaware of the gravity of their behavior issues. Did they realize they spoiled every Third Block Literature class? Did they realize they were like black holes, sucking out the ambitions and concentration of all other students in the room? Did they get up in the morning wondering how disruptive they could be, or were they simply that uncaring that they didn’t realize how much of an impact they had?

And now, with her paper bag lunch, Ms. Miriam Martel was tasked with the terrible job of—what? Babysitting them? It wasn’t that. Principal Hutt had said something far worse. She had to reach them.

Tommy smiled and raised an eyebrow. “‘Sup, Ms. Martel? The Hutt told us you’d be here today.”

Tommy scooted over to make room for her.

“Hi,” she said.

“We didn’t mean to get you in trouble,” Lilli said.

“Trouble?”

Elayna looked down at her lap. “We didn’t mean to have the Hutt force you to eat with us. That is, like, the worst.”

“Oh.” Ms. Martel opened her lunch bag, pulling out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“Is that really what you eat for lunch?” Tommy asked. “Or did you bring that because you knew you’d be eating with us?”

“I didn’t find out until this morning,” she said. “Principal Hutt called me in before school.”

“I stopped eating PB and J in like fifth grade,” Tommy said. “Why do you eat that?”

Ms. Martel shrugged. “It’s fast. It’s cheap.” She eyed their lunches. Two of them had footlongs from Subway. Two were sharing half a pizza, probably leftover from last night’s dinner. She fought the threat of a flushing face. “I’m saving to replace my car, or at least fix it,” she said.

“What’s wrong with it?” Marko asked.

“Starter, I think. I don’t know. Sometimes it just stalls.”

“Alternator, maybe,” Marko said. He was always talking about cars. And researching cars. On his phone. During class discussions. During classroom observations with Principal Hutt.

“Well…” Ms. Martel forced a smile and unwrapped her sandwich, taking a bite.

“If you’re going to be eating with us all week, like the Hutt says, we can get you Subway,” Lilli offered. “I mean, it must suck to be stuck with us. You probably have teacher things you like to be doing during lunch. My parents say I’m dragging them down all the time. And now I’m dragging you down, too.”

Ms. Martel shook her head. “That’s nice of you, but I’m okay—I mean, peanut butter is relatively healthy…”

“I haven’t even started my Macbeth project,” Tommy blurted. “I just wanted you to know. I haven’t turned it in because I’m just a complete slacker. There’s no excuse. If I turn it in, will you be able to eat with the teachers again?”

Ms. Martel inhaled, stalling for time to think of a response.

But Tommy continued. “It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I’m the worst. My parents pay all this money to send me here, and I just can’t force myself to care. No offense, Ms. Martel, but learning about witches and ghosts or whatever, written in Old English, just isn’t my top priority.” He sighed. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to fail my parents’ expectations. You know, being a failure.”

“I—” How was she supposed to reach these kids?

“See, grades just don’t matter,” Tommy continued. “Not everyone gets As in high school, and some people who get As turn out to be real—” He stopped himself. “I know, think of a smarter word,” he said. “See, I do listen to you in class sometimes, Ms. Martel. My point is, didn’t, like, Steve Jobs fail out? Or Bill Gates? The system just can’t hold some of us. It’s like a prison. You have to break out of the system. I promise I’ll do big things one day.”

“We’re gonna open up a garage,” Marko said. “Refurbish old cars. You know, like old punch-buggies and Mustangs and all that.”

“A boutique garage,” Lilli said. “I’ll be their marketer. We’ll appeal to nostalgia.”

“That’s another vocab word you taught us,” Tommy said. “Nostalgia.” He patted her on the shoulder and rubbed against her jacket, tugging it a bit. Ms. Martel scooted over. Principal Hutt wanted her to get close, but this was too much. She didn’t want to actually touch them.

She left lunch with two bites taken out of her sandwich, a stomach ache, and an impending headache. At the end of the day, Principal Hutt called for her to stop by on her way out.

“Looks like you’ll have to eat with them again tomorrow,” he said.

“Why?” Ms. Martel asked.

The principal pulled up an attendance report. “The four of them skipped the rest of the afternoon classes.” He shook his head. “I wanted you to reach them, not make them worse.”

“Look, I—” But Ms. Martel stopped herself. There was no point trying to explain things to Principal Hutt, who wasn’t even in a classroom more than a few minutes each day. “Okay,” she said. “Tomorrow, then.”

She walked to the parking lot and reached into her pocket for the key.

Empty.

She never took her key out of her pocket. When would she have possibly—

“Son of a—” She spoke aloud.

“Think of a smarter word, Ms. Martel,” said Tommy, behind her.

She spun around to see him smugly twirling her keyring around his finger.

“You little—”

He held his hand to stop her, and he pointed to the visitor parking spots. There was Marko, leaning against her car. Lilli and Elayna were there, slurping smoothies from the place down the street.

“You stole my—”

“Fixed, not stole,” Tommy said. He handed her the keys. “Though we did take it for a test drive to make sure it worked.”

“We left you a berry smoothie in the cup holder,” Elayna said.

Marko smiled. “We cut class and took your car to the autoshop. Our mechanics teacher always lets us bring in our cars to work on them. You have a Honda. Super easy to find parts for. We found you a new alternator. It works good as new now.”

Tommy tossed her keys in the air, and she caught them. “Maybe at lunch tomorrow you’ll bring something better than PB and J, huh, Ms. Marko?”

She smiled as she got in her car and listened to it start up right the first time.

“Maybe I will,” she said and watched them smile at her in the rearview mirror as she drove away.

***

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/].

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

+++

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/.

1 Comment

Filed under books, free, Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream,” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to The Spot Writers.

This month’s prompt is to write a story including the words, “Will winter never end.”

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.

 ***

A Midwinter Night’s Dream by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Through the forest I did go

Tallest trees covered in snow

All was silent, all was white

Soft and crunchy, left and right.

Up above the sky was blue

And the sparkly stars in view

 

Promised love, and magic, too.

 

Love and magic? Don’t believe

All your heart wants to perceive!

Winter stars are left alone,

All the fairies are long gone

And the woods will just pretend

That white ice is good a friend.

 

Oh, will winter never end?

 

Don’t despair, this frosted season

Has a secret, cheerful reason:

Life beneath this blanket pearly

Hides and shies from all that’s earthly

Until spring returns anew.

This can I reveal to you:

 

Fairies dance on snowflakes, too.

 

My dear friend, you give me hope!

I’ll see flowers on this slope

Thousand colors, buzzing bees

The green magic of the trees

Sweetest nights, warm air, and moon

Dancing fairies, charming tune

 

Spring will be back very soon!

 

***

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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under books, free, stories, Uncategorized

Twenty-Three Months

Without you in our world,

Twenty-three seconds feels as long as twenty-three months,

Twenty-three months feels as short as twenty-three seconds.

 

How is time measured?

By the warmth of the breeze?

Whispers around a corner?

Creeping of ghosts at night?

 

Time has little meaning:

Not by breaths

Or tears,

But days counted until another milestone.

 

Too many milestones.

Too many elevenths of every month. 

But what is the alternative?

 

Passing time brings memories:

Your smirky smile,

Your asinine jokes and pranks,

Your innocence.

 

How I miss your sudden appearances:

Presenting me with armloads of irreparable mending

or taking over the garage to service your vehicle

or wearing a perplexed look, seeking advice.

 

I miss our talks.

I miss you in the driveway with your truck.

I even miss empty Bud cans scattered about the house!

 

Time brought the bad:

The scourge of cancer,

Your fight to live,

Your last breaths.

 

Twenty-three months.

Where has time gone?

Tears are as fresh twenty-three months ago

as they are today.

 

Matt.jpg

 

+++
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/].

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “Winterlude” by Phil Yeats

 

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.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. Last week, 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/

*****

Winterlude by Phil Yeats

 

He stood in his living room window watching water drip from the eaves. She stole up behind and wrapped her arms around his waist.

She sighed. “Back home, people will ask ‘will winter ever end?’ Me, I’m saying ‘why can’t it last forever?’.”

He twisted around until he faced her. “I’m a farmer. If winter doesn’t turn into spring, I can’t plant my crops. You can return to your urban home once the snow melts and roads become passable, but I’ll be here a year from now. If this year’s crop fails, I’ll have nothing to eat.”

“If I stayed, and helped you plant, nourish and harvest your crop, I could stand here gazing out this window as the snow melts a year from now. I’d be so happy.”

“And mind the horse you’ve fallen in love with. Don’t forget her.”

“I’ll never forget Buttercup. If anyone suggested I would spend a winter living in an isolated farmhouse with no electricity, riding a horse and milking cows, I wouldn’t believe them. Now, I’d like to live here forever.”

“But my fair-haired young friend, it isn’t to be, is it?”

“No. I must return.”

He strode to the kitchen and pumped water into the kettle. “Should you explain?”

“Five years ago, I was an art school student. With three friends, I created a dot.com company that generated and marketed computer art. It’s done well and now makes me more money than my real art because I’ve devoted myself to keeping the company going.”

“The others have shirked their responsibilities?”

“Mostly my fault. I was good at it, especially the marketing stuff. I took charge, and it became harder for them to contribute.”

“What happened?”

“We decided I would take a two-month painting break and they would manage.”

“I see. Your-two-month long hiatus extended to four, and probably another one before the track’s passable. Why aren’t they searching for you?”

“I contacted my colleagues after we rode to town in December when the weather improved. I also checked in with the lady at the little police detachment.” She paused, taking the cup of tea he offered. “You remember, my one trip to civilization.”

“How can I forget! You could barely walk when we arrived, and I wondered if you’d survive the ride back.”

“Yeah, it was hard. I’d ridden a lot as a teen, and took Buttercup out several times before our big trip, but it was much harder than I expected.”

He strolled to her easel and gazed at the portrait she was painting. It caught him standing in the window staring across the snow-covered landscape while holding a steaming coffee cup. “What did you imagine I was considering? The upcoming planting season or the mysterious siren who landed on my doorstep.”

“Nothing mysterious about me. An early winter storm hijacked my painting trip. And I can’t sing worth a damn. I’d make a terrible siren.”

He laughed. “Singing may not be your forte, but you’ve been adept at the luring part of the siren myth. But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I hope you were thinking about me, considering my coming departure and when I’ll be back.”

“Perhaps I was.”

“And will you welcome me?”

He pointed at the unfinished portrait. “Does he look like he’s planning to rebuff you?”

*****

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 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/.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, books, free

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/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Test!

This is a test post, to check if my previous issues with WordPress have been resolved.

I apologize to my followers for the somewhat garbled posts over the past couple of months. The issues seemed to have started when WordPress changed to its new editor, Gutenberg. My posts look fine on my WordPress site (even in preview mode), but when they are emailed to my followers, many returns show up in the text that weren’t originally there, making some lines short and others long. Very unprofessional looking and embarrassing.

I’ve tried every fix, to no avail. I don’t believe there is WordPress support available to those with the free .com sites, but I replied to a Facebook advertising post from WordPress, and an individual replied, telling me how to revert back to the Classic Editor.

Here is the reply: If you’re on WordPress.com, you can switch to the old editor by clicking the three dots at the top right corner of the editor and selecting the “Switch to Classic Editor” option.

Yay! I tried it, and it works—well, at least I’m back to the previous version of WordPress; whether my posts will be back to normal is another story. This new version of WordPress was more than frustrating, so if nothing else, at least I’m rid of that!

So, this test post will determine whether my issues are resolved. If not, I apologize once again to my followers.

And if not, I’ll be back to the drawing board, as “they” say!

Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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


+++
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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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/  


+++
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/].

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Spot Writers – “The Mailboxes Thief” by Chiara De Giorgi

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 Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

The Mailboxes Thief by Chiara De Giorgi

 

I first heard of the mailboxes thief at my friend Joan’s place.

 

It was a lazy sunny afternoon, and we were both dozing on her brand new deck chairs by the swimming pool. Her neighbors were on holidays, and we were enjoying the sun and the silence.

From time to time I opened my eyes behind my sunglasses and took a look at the clouds, apparently the only things that attempted to move and change. They were few, tiny and scattered. They hardly moved, to tell the truth, but they slowly changed shape, stretched or just dispersed. There was no wind, so the trees surrounding Joan’s garden were still and silent. It was so warm, even the birds seemed to have gone to sleep.

I dipped one hand in the water and scratched my nose with the other. I was thinking maybe we should chat and gossip a little bit, just to give a purpose to the afternoon, when I heard a noise coming from behind the high fence. Something was scraping against the pavement just outside Joan’s property.

I lifted my head and noticed that Joan was doing the same. Of course, that was going to be the highlight of our afternoon.

“What’s this noise?” I asked.

Joan put a finger on her lips and got up from her chair. She quickly tied her sarong around her hips and gestured to me to do the same.

I followed her to where she kept a couple small tables and a few piled chairs, which we climbed in order to see behind the fence: a man was dragging a brilliant red mailbox, still attached to its pole. He was tall and sturdy, he wore a worn-out baseball cap and overalls but no shirt – it was hot, after all. He walked slowly, with an intent look on his face.

I turned to Joan and mouthed: “What’s he doing?”

She smiled and motioned me to jump down the table.

We went back to the pool and stood under the beach umbrella while Joan poured some lemonade into two tall glasses.

“He’s the mailboxes thief”, she explained after a long sip.

“The mailboxes thief?” I repeated, perplexed.

She nodded. “He’s well known, especially in this part of the town. Have you never heard of him?”

“Not at all!” I cried, sitting down. “Tell me everything!”

She sighed and sat next to me.

“There’s not much to say, really. He steals mailboxes from unattended properties.”

“So why aren’t we calling the police?”

She smiled. “Because no one wants him arrested.”

I laughed. “And why not? Is he paying all the bills he finds?”

“Much better. He swaps mailboxes.”

I still did not understand why people were protecting this guy.

“Okay, that’s enough. Spill! Now!”

“He swaps mailboxes and people get in touch with one another in order to retrieve their mail. It’s as easy as that. The interesting thing is, the thief picks and chooses which mailbox to swap with which one. And most often than not, the encounter with your, let’s say, swap-partner, is life changing.”

“How so?”

She shrugged.

“Some meet their future husband or wife, others find a business partner. There was a woman who wished she could learn how to play the violin but couldn’t afford to take lessons. She met a sad and retired violin teacher who was glad to teach her for free. Someone was about to be evicted and found a couple who were looking for a house sitter. A single dad who had recently moved in the area met an unemployed teacher who agreed to take care of his two little kids. And so on, I could go on forever. In the neighborhood everyone keeps track, and everyone secretly hopes the mailboxes thief will hit them.”

“Yes, it sounds amazing. I’ll make no secret of it: I wish the mailboxes thief stole my mailbox!”

Joan laughed. “And so do I, believe me. I don’t even know who I’d wish I met, I just wish for a life changing experience.”

We both sighed a dreamy sigh, and soon it was time for me to go home.

 

I’ve been hoping that the mailboxes thief would come and get my mailbox since that afternoon, but so far this has not happened. I’m seriously considering moving to Joan’s neighborhood, to make things easier for him.

Would you like to know who I wish he swapped my mailbox with? I thought hard about this question, and at last I know.

I wish he swapped my mailbox with his own.

***

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/].

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized