The Spot Writers – We Mourn

     Robert (Bob) Bonitz, the founding member of The Spot Writers, passed away on September 19.
Bob Bonitz
     He dropped out of the group last year, but we’ve managed to slog along without him.
     Bob and I had corresponded often re writing issues. We connected years ago via Rebel Ink Press and Dancing With Bear Publishing, and we were also Facebook friends. Bob had novels published with both publishing companies, while I had a novella and short stories.
     The Spot Writers is an online group of four. We each write to a specific prompt once a month and post our individual stories every Thursday. Val Muller and I are still with the group and have been since its inception in 2011. She and I have managed to keep the group going despite having to frequently recruit new members to keep the group at four. We have missed Bob during his absence.
     Such lame, mundane words, but rest in peace, Bob. We won’t forget you.
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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 – “The Unpopular Prompt” by Phil Yeats

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

This week’s story comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Sacristy-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07CK94SKV/

***

The Unpopular Prompt by Phil Yeats

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

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

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

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

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

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

This week, Writing Wicket is showcasing Tom Robson.

Tom says this about himself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom for web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Have you set goals?

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

Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

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

Q: Do you Google yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What books have you self-published?

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

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

Also, check out these books:

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

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

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

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

Visit Tom’s blog, Robson’s Writings.

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

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The Spot Writers – “Pigeon Phobia” by Cathy MacKenzie

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

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

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

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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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Writer Wednesdays – David Du

This week, Writing Wicket is showcasing David Du.

David Du pic

David was born in Qing Dao, China, a city close to the Yellow Sea, and lived in China for 45 years before moving to Canada, where he has lived for over 10 years. To date, he has written more than 100 poems.  Before coming to Canada, he wrote Chinese and Japanese poetry, like haiku.

“Poetry, to me, is like a teaspoon of sugar placed into a cup of black coffee. Poetry is a quilt warming my cool life; poetry is fireworks burning my lonely sky; poetry is playing cards with others. Life is a game where everyone plays their part. The game of my life is poetry.”

I asked David:

Q: How often do you write?

A: I often write poems every week.

Q: What genre(s) do you write? What is your favourite genre?

A: My favourite genre is poetry.

Q: What motivates you, in writing or otherwise?

A: Life itself is very hard. I needed to find something that could remove my hardships. That was the motivation that caused me to write poetry.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?

A: I enjoy writing about the natural things, like the snow, the setting sun, the moon, the rain.

Q: If you could start your life over again, what would you do differently?

A: I would have brought my mother with me when I immigrated to Canada.

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

A: I have written poems about my mother, and I always  feel so guilty, leaving my mother alone when she got lung cancer. It’s almost two years! Although, finally, I returned to China to care for her until she passed away.

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

A: Right now the biggest accomplishment for me is the understanding of Buddha. I’m Buddhist, so I always look at the world with a Buddhist’s eyes.

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

A: I always try to keep my heart peaceful. Like tranquilized running water.

Q: Who are your favorite author(s)?

A: Wang Wei and Robert Frost. Those two poets’ poetry focuses on the natural sight. That affects me writing my own poetry.

Q:  Do you have a favourite book? If so, what is it?

A: Right now my favourite book is not a poetry book. It’s Heart Sutra.

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

A: Of course, Wang Wei because my later life is very similar to his. He believes in Buddha and I also believe Buddha. He tired of the world affairs. He wants to keep your heart peaceful. That’s the reason I translate his poetry even though I know many people have translated his poetry.

Q: Have you goals? If so, what are they?

A: Yes, I have a goal to re-introduce Wang Wei, an ancient famous poet, to the western countries. It’s not only to introduce the ancient Chinese culture but also let many western people understand the relations between Buddhism and Chinese culture.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

A: I hope my poetry gives readers a hint to reconsider their lives.

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

A: Keep writing what you like and open your mind to draw a picture in words. Never give up your dream if you think you are a good dreamer.

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

A: When I was a child I wanted to become a doctor because I was weak and often got sick.

Q: Is writing your full-time job?

A: No. Writing poetry is a part-time job or even a casual job. I like writing poetry. Writing poetry, even writing, for me is a game. I believe everybody needs to play something in  his/her life. Like a kid’s inherited ability to play with toys.

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

A: In my opinion, we should respect the truth of historical figures.

Q: What book(s) have you self-published?

A: In April 2017 I published my first poetry book Journey: Life is a Journey from A to Z. Next Year, I have a plan to publish my second book, a translated work of Wang Wei’s poetry.

Check out David’s book of 100 poems, Journey: Life is a Journey from A to Z on Amazon.

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

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Oh, Dragonfly

Barbasol Championship - Round Two

(September 11, 2018: Eighteen Months)

Oh, Dragonfly

It soars
Up and down,
Over and across,
Swooping like a crow,
Soaring like an eagle,
Small,
Inconsequential,
Its shadow dark,
Larger on ground than in air.

Zooming over the glistening water,
Teeny wings unfolded,
Fluttering,
Almost scraping the water
And then coming toward me,
Wings spread like an airplane—
Or an angel.

Is it trying to catch my attention?
I watch,
Wait,
Wonder.

Even with grandchildren
Laughing, splashing, yelling,
It remains
Unfrightened,
Bold, soundless,
Flying in, flying out.

My vision blurs.
My throat constricts.

Could it be?

They say dragonflies are
A symbol of resurrection,
The deceased returning:
A fairy sprinkling dust
Or an angel planting kisses.

I watch you zoom by,
Disappearing for seconds,
Returning just as quickly
And landing on my knee—
A sign of good luck!

My son, is that you?

Oh, how you loved the pool,
The lounger you reclined upon
Rests in the same place.

I see you there,
Deep in thought,
Eyes closed,
Soaking up too much sun,
But I don’t admonish.

Not anymore.

No matter where you are:
Floating forever in eternity,
Twinkling with the stars,
Sleeping on the moon,
Dancing with the clouds,
Marvelling at mars,
Or returning to earth
If only for moments
As a fleeting dragonfly,
I’ll take what I can.

I’ll grasp every sign:
Every whisper,
Every breath,
Every touch.

Even if not you
I’ll pretend,
I’ll hold memories dear
To my chest,
At my breast,
Within my heart.

I sigh…
Oh, dragonfly,
Where have you gone?

I watch and wait.

You don’t return.

But that’s okay
For I’ll wake another morning,
I’ll search another day.

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In memory of my beloved, always missed son Matthew. Gone eighteen months today.

As Matt said numerous times the last too-short eight weeks of his life after we were given the diagnosis: “F*** cancer.” I echo his sentiments. (Can you imagine: two months from diagnosis to death!?)

I’ll miss you until my last breath.

Matt alone (2)

 

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

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Writer Wednesdays

I’ve started a new feature on my blog. Every Wednesday, I plan to showcase one indie author. I’ve sent invites to my writer friends, and thus far, I’ve had a great response.

Of course, this is, I suppose, mostly self-gratuitous as I’m trying to promote my book, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK. But in the process, the authors who participate will be promoting their works, as well. And every little bit of advertising helps, right?

I’m doing this on a first-come, first-served basis. Wednesdays are booked for the next several weeks, but I don’t want “empty” Wednesdays while I wait for people to return the questions/answers, so I’m offering this to subscribers of my blog, too.

If you’d like to participate in “Writer Wednesdays,” send me an email (writingwicket at gmail.com) that you are interested. I will then forward you a list of questions to answer. Return them, along with a photo of yourself and a short bio, and voila! you’ll rate a spot on a future Wednesday. The only “catch” is that you must be a subscriber to my blog, which is a small price to “pay,” right?

I won’t have time to personally let everyone know the date of their interview, but since you, as a subscriber, receive an email every time I post to my site, you’ll see your interview when it appears. Thursdays are designated for The Spot Writers (an online, flash fiction group I belong to–free fiction!!!), and I might post one other day a week. With Writer Wednesdays, that makes, maybe, three posts a week. But the “delete” button is handy if you wish to ignore an email.

If you are reading this post and aren’t a subscriber, please subscribe. And if you want to be featured on a future Wednesday, email me at “writingwicket (at) gmail.com”.  I will  reply with the questions to be answered.

Happy Writer Wednesdays!

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

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The Laker! I’m “famous”!!!

Well, duh! I guess I could have been “famous” had I not sent this post to “draft” rather than “publish.” It should have published August 13. Oh well, old news can still be good news, right? So, pretend it’s August 13. Here you go…

 

I was interviewed a while back regarding my first novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, and the article appeared in The Laker on August 8. I just got wind of it today. The article is also going to be published in the Lunenburg paper. My novel is set in Lower Sackville and Halifax, with scenes in Lunenburg and Peggys Cove. All in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Here is the link to the paper, The Laker

I was able to copy the article:

WINDSOR JUNCTION: Cathy MacKenzie can check writing a novel off her bucket list.

The author, who lives in Fall River Village near Windsor Junction, has just penned and published her first-ever novel, “Wolves Don’t Knock.”

MacKenzie has written more than 250 short stories and lots of poetry, but never a novel. Until now. It had always been a dream of hers to have one published. The writing began in 2014.

“It evolved from short stories into a novel,” said MacKenzie. “It kept going up and up for the word counts, so it’s a full fledged novel now.

“It was always my dream to write a novel, but I never thought I would do it. Now that it’s done, I’m pretty amazed.”

Wolves Don’t Knock takes place at locations across the province, including Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Halifax and Lower Sackville.

It tells the story of 16-year-old Miranda who escapes from her abductor and the wolves that have tormented her soul for six long years. She returns to her childhood home where her mother, Sharon, caring for Miranda’s son, Kevin, has feared for her daughter’s fate. Uncertainty and distrust taint the first year after Miranda’s return.

Miranda and Sharon hide secrets they dare not reveal while constantly wondering when Miranda’s kidnapper will reappear. Can mother and daughter bury their demons and repair their strained relationship? Can Miranda bond with the baby she never knew and find the love she so desperately wants? Will Kevin’s father play a role? Will Sharon find the answers she needs to recover from her own troubled past?

Although Wolves Don’t Knock, which was released in July, deals with sensitive issues, there are no graphic sexual scenes, said MacKenzie.

“For the year that Miranda is back home, both she and her mom are looking over their shoulders wondering when the kidnapper will appear as he has yet to be caught,” explained MacKenzie.

The novel has had some readers not be able to put it down because of how suspenseful it is.

She said so far everyone she has talked to has liked it.

Cathy in the Laker

“I’ve had really good reviews of it on Amazon,” said MacKenzie.

MacKenzie said the two short stories she wrote made the novel become what it is.

“It sort of just wrote itself,” she said. “I just sat at the computer and the words just seemed to come.”

Wolves Don’t Knock is available through Amazon.ca, through MacKenzie locally by email at writingwicket@gmail.com and MacKenzie hopes it will soon be at stores like Chapters and Indigo. They’re $15 each from her.

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My photo is hideous, as all my photos are. But I didn’t argue with the interviewer. If I’m promoting my book, I have to promote myself, too, right? GAH! And if I’m trying to promote my book, I guess I should hit “publish” instead of “draft.”

Still can’t believe I did that!

If you’re interested in my book, contact me through here. Or check it out on Amazon.

 

Wolves Don't Knock FINAL PRINT COVER

 

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The Spot Writers – “Follower” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to use these five words in a story/poem – esophagus, carrot, pigeon, lily, moustache. Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series (among other works). You can find out more at www.CorgiCapers.com.

Follower by Val Muller

Author’s note: I read recently that the YMCA I frequented as a kid was purchased to become an extension of the nearby hospital (the hospital where I happened to be born, in fact), but that the building stands abandoned years later. The news story mentioned that a group of youths was recently caught trespassing there after dark with a camera, prompting my imagination.

Lily swallowed over the boulder lodged in her esophagus. The evening sounds—chirping crickets, distant train whistle, slowing whir of traffic—provided none of their usual comforts. Instead of settling in for one of her last few cozy evenings at home, she stood out here in the parking lot like a criminal. The chill of the Connecticut August made her shiver with its hint of Halloween. Even so, the camera and tripod felt clammy in her hand as she waited for Harold to get the lighting right.

“Ready?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“It’s hard to test the lighting when we have to keep it dark until go time,” he said.

A siren blared in the distance, and Lily froze, as did the others, trying to determine whether it was headed toward them. The sound faded, then disappeared altogether.

“We’ll have to enter from here,” Harold said, briefly illuminating the bright lamp. It was blinding—a genuine lamp from the state university film department—on loan to sneaky Harold for the evening.

The light shocked everyone, and a flutter from a window of the abandoned building made him snap it off. The blinding light was replaced by his phone’s built-in flashlight, revealing the intruder to be only a pigeon startled from its perch.

“Get a grip,” Lily told herself. Then, she raised her voice. “I hope you appreciate this, Margie. We’re all going to have criminal records by the time we’re done.”

Margie peeked from behind her phone, permanently set to “selfie” mode to serve as a mirror. “We won’t have criminal records,” she said. “No one cares about an abandoned YMCA. And I do mean no one.” She flashed a smile and raised an eyebrow. If she were a male, she would have stroked her moustache contemplatively. Everything about her was calculated, from the inflection of each word to the choice of sentences and facial expressions. Calculated the way soap operas are calculated.

Which was exactly the point.

Margie had orchestrated the whole thing to serve as her audition video for a prestigious and competitive film program in New York City. The video they were filming was designed to be one of those hunting-for-ghosts shows, and Margie was the host. The abandoned building, she argued, showed her resourcefulness, while the premise allowed her full range of emotions to be put on display.

And here Lily was, as usual, being dragged along just because Margie was cooler than she was. She longed for college—a mere nine days away. It would be a fresh start, a chance for Lily to be Lily, not just Margie’s friend.

Harold’s expertise, and his use of state university film equipment, further allowed Margie to remind everyone that not only did Margie have a boyfriend, but she had a college boyfriend at that. She was eons cooler than Lily would ever be.

The door to the building opened, and a frazzled Emily poked her head out.

“The props are ready,” she said. Then she looked around at the shadows surrounding them. “I heard sirens.”

Margie shot her a look.

“I know, I know,” Emily said. “But my prints are all over the place now. What if they, you know, revoke my scholarship? Or deny my admission?”

Harold laughed. “It’s not like they have everyone’s fingerprints on file. And besides, that whole ‘colleges will revoke your scholarship or admission’ is more like an old wives’ tale. It’s something teachers use to scare seniors into behaving during the last months of high school.”

Lily sighed. “But we’re not in high school anymore. This is the real world. We’re trespassing. Technically, a college could—”

“Technically, you all need to man up,” Margie said, pausing dramatically. She smiled. “Besides, in exchange for helping me, I’m giving you all a nice chunk when I make my first million.” She paused, dangling the imaginary money in front of them like a carrot. “Except you, Harold. We’ll be married by then, so we’ll have to work it all out in the pre-nup.”

In the darkening evening, the look on Harold’s face glowed. The look on his face said there were so many things he wanted to say, but his twisted lips said he was going to keep quiet. As if controlling him, Margie put her hands on her hips and threw out her chest, accentuating all her curves.

Yes, in her imagined glamour of living the Hollywood life, she had Harold captivated. The same way she had captivated Lily and Emily into jeopardizing their records to give her dream of acting in the big-leagues a shot in the dark.

Speaking of dark, red and blue lights lit up the distance, overpowering the streetlights as they approached. Their sirens remained silent, but their destination was more than clear. Two sets of police cars sped toward the abandoned building.

Emily ran off first, disappearing into shadows. Harold was next, leaving only enough time to secure the expensive equipment he’d borrowed. Lily was frozen to the spot, staring at Margie. If Margie was going to stay and confront the cops, so was Lily, the same way Lily always followed the ringleader. She had flashes of following Margie through terrifying dodge ball games in elementary school, to play auditions in middle school, to awkward dances and boring football games, to nothing Lily had ever wanted to do.

Margie turned dramatically, the colored lighting illuminating her face. “Oh well,” she sighed, pausing to let her eyebrows shift into resignation. “You win some, you lose some.” Lily could just picture the scene fading out on that resigned brow—until Margie took off in an unscripted run, Lily trailing at her heels.

***

The Spot Writers:

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

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

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

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

 

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WRITER WEDNESDAYS – Showcasing Phil Yeats

I’m starting a new blog post every Wednesday called “Writer Wednesdays,” when I will feature one indie author.

This week I’m showcasing Phil Yeats.

Phil

Phil Yeats is a retired scientist experimenting with creative writing. He has a keen interest in environmental science and dabbled in yachting and golf before turning to fiction. Phil is the author of a slowly growing number of published short stories and one poem. Several were written using the pen name Alan Kemister to keep a minimal degree of separation between his real science and the fictional variants in the stories. He’s interested in both science fiction/dystopia and mystery genres. His only published novel, A Body in the Sacristy, is a mystery featuring a detective in a fictional town on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. More information about his writing projects is available at https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

I asked Phil:

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

A: Never thought about this, so not willing to give a spur of the moment answer.

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

A: Lots of stories have made me a bit weepy but I have no idea what might have been the first.

Q: What are your favourite literary journals?

A: I have read issues of the Malahat Review and the Antigonish Review and occasionally others, but don’t have a favourite.

Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?

A: One of my major faults, and one I see in other beginners, is wordiness. It is too easy to qualify and amplify everything we write. Better to purge all the unnecessary detail.

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

A: I do very little research before I start writing but am quite happy to interrupt myself in mid-sentence to search the web for answers to any questions that come up.

Q: What is your favourite childhood book?

A: I don’t remember childhood books before reading Hardy Boy books when I was ten or so. After that old British mysteries – Leslie Charteris and Margery Allingham were my favourites, along with Jules Verne and other old standbys in the science fiction world. I don’t think I was a very adventuresome reader.

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

A: The hardest part for me is knowing when to stop the revising process. I feel I go back critically rereading my books making changes that are of dubious value.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

A: Working on something new is a boost. Rewriting/revising is frustrating even when I know I’m making improvements.

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

A: Revising with no specific purpose in mind.

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

A: My one and only book was written using a pseudonym. I began writing science fiction dystopia stories with an environmental theme while I was still actively working in a related field. I wanted to maintain a separation between the real and fictional science. I am no longer working, but I’ve maintained the pseudonym because I like remaining at a distance. It is presumably bad for sales, but I’d rather my old colleagues didn’t recognize me.

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

A: Probably not, and I suspect that is one of the reasons I’ll never be a writer of stories about people in highly emotional situations. I realize this failing and stick to mysteries and sci-fi stories that are more technical. I struggle when I have to write an emotional scene.

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

A: The flippant answer would be to say I would have chosen to do something else, but it wouldn’t be true. I realize I will never be a literary writer, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I should have started a few years earlier – mid-sixties was a little old for an endeavour with a long learning curve.

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

A: Not going to tackle this one – way too many things that should be changed.

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

A: Don’t think I’ve learned that lesson. I remain stuck in the scientist’s mantra that says knowledge of how things work brings power. I still struggle expressing that knowledge, so it would appear I have not experienced language as power.

Q: Do you want each of your books to stand on its own (if you’re writing more than one, that is), or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

A: I’m working on a series of connected mysteries where I want to build on the continuity of the central characters and the basic stage set. But I’m also working on another project that will be stand alone. So, I’m on both sides of this particular fence.

Q: What are your favourite three books and why?

A: My favourite books are dystopias, ones with no happy ending – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably at the top of my list. But I also like stories that are just good stories. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of those. And recently, I read and liked Rachel Cusk’s Outline, so you see a rather eclectic mix. I don’t read a large number of books, and I don’t try to analyse them.

Q: How often do you write?

A: Several hours most days if I count all that endless revising.

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?

A: Two reasons. First, I wasn’t confident any publisher would pick up a book I wrote because I don’t want to write the sort of topical book that attracts a sufficiently large audience. Second, if a publisher did take on my book, I would feel obliged to put the effort into marketing that the publisher expected. I’d rather not have that obligation.

Q: What challenges have you faced in publishing?

A: Relatively few. I’ve submitted a number of stories to anthologies and journals. More have been rejected than accepted, but I’ve had enough acceptances to keep me interested. I learned the basics of self-publishing my novel by helping in the production of two anthologies and listening to authors with experience. The challenges appear to be more with promotion than with publishing. Getting my book known by the few people who might want to read it has been a challenge I have not surmounted.

Q: What book(s) have you written?

A: I have only published one book – A Body in the Sacristy, by Alan Kemister (my alter ego). It is the first of what I hope will be a series of Barrettsport Mysteries set in a fiction South Shore Nova Scotia town. Book Two, Tilting at Windmills is virtually complete; three others are partly done. I’m also working on a science fiction story with a climate change focus. It is tentatively titled The Souring Seas. I have several other partially completed manuscripts that I’ve abandoned. Some might be worth resurrecting.

Phil’s first published book, A BODY IN THE SACRISITY, is available on Amazon.ca.

A Body in the Sacristy

It’s also available on Amazon.com; locally at Carrefour Atlantique, downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia; and from the author.

 

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