All posts by katemcginn09

I am a writer who lives in Wisconsin near the Mississippi River. I write stories filled with mystery, suspense, and romance with a sprinkling of humor added to the mix. My stories are about strong women who deal with danger, heartache, and life with dignity and grit.

Echo-A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel

Going to get this book!! I hate dodgeball!!!

Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha

Dodgeball bullies grown into the dystopian rulers of earth.  They ride around on red-eyed robot horses, laughing fiendishly and pummeling the populace with a storm of dodgeballs.  I’m fleeing with the rest of the crowd when I see them separate a middle-aged man from the pack and corner him in an alley, arms cocked to throw.  He locks desperate eyes with me, silently pleading for help.  Open my eReader to Echo.  Magic flash.  An enchanted whiffle bat appears in his hands; he and his pursuers stop and gape at its lightning-wreathed length in awestruck wonder.  His pursuers recover and launch their dodgeballs, and he’s knocking ’em right back in their faces, de-horsing one, hitting another in the stomach and triggering a long gush of puke…he lays them all low and the last one turns and gallops away.  Whiffle-bat guy smacks a dodgeball at him, and it streaks through the air…

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24 Stories for Charity

As writers, we can bend the worlds we create in any direction we wish.  But in the harsh reality of the world we live, poverty, homelessness and disease are a part of the day-to-day struggle  of many people’s worlds.

The OMP (One Million Project) is an effort by writers and artists to help those who are caught in those struggles.  Please take a moment to check out  24 Stories for Charity .

Books and Life

I remember the summer I read Gone With the Wind for the first time.  It was the summer of 1974.  I’d just finished seventh grade, and my sisters and I were spending our summer with our uncle, Gerry, and his family at his home in Newtown, CT.

The Newtown of my youth was full of sun, swimming, and meeting new friends.  It seemed to exemplify my book-inspired vision of a small New England town with its white church steeples and old homes with shuttered windows and picket fences.  The town’s flagpole was a landmark which helped me to navigate in the right direction towards Uncle Gerry’s home.  Narrow roads lined with old stone fences were shaded by the woods as they crowded towards the lane ready to return the pavement to a more natural state.  I would close my eyes as I tried to picture this community as it might have appeared when our country was newly formed.  It wasn’t difficult.  Newtown was steeped in history.

It was the summer Nixon resigned as president.  I watched his resignation speech on the TV in the den.  I was old enough to realize history was happening in front of me.  I had been reading GWTW, but my attention became riveted on the President. Not too many things could pull me from the story of the Old South.  It is strange how your mind connects certain smells and songs to life events.

I link books with different events in my life.  The next summer, I found myself lonely and spending most of my days going to the library in our new town.  Dreading the thought of going to high school in a new togirl bookswn without a single friend to bolster my insecure teenaged self.  I went through a whole series of historical romance fiction which became the basis for my view on love.  The heroine of the series was my only friend.

A few years ago, I wanted to read the series again.  The books weren’t in print any longer, but searching the internet auction sites allowed me to acquire the entire set of books.  My finds consisted of some hardcovers, some paperbacks and all well used by other readers.  I read them again 40 years later.  I still enjoyed the stories teeming with adventure, danger, and romance.  The author created a world which helped to ease the loneliness of an awkward teen.

Did the book Star Spangled Summer with its Army post setting influence my choice to become an Army officer?   A Wrinkle in Time opened my eyes to a world of fantasy and time travel.  Yes, I have copies of both books tha
t I hope my future grandchildren might enjoy.

I have accumulated a significant number of books on my Kindles (Yes, plural.  One is not enough).  So many books I question if I will manage to read them all before I leave this earth.  But I do know some books will make such an impact on my life, and I will forever mark that time with their presence in it.

 

Olympic Sized Memories

Everyone — let me qualify this — a lot of folks around the world have their eyes glued to the Olympics.  I’m one of them.  When I was a young kid (don’t laugh!) forty years ago, we only received 3 to 4 TV stations at our home.  We had a TV antenna on the roof of our house and when the summer thunderstorms rolled through, our reception was gone.

I always prayed it was during some Olympic event I didn’t really care about.  I won’t say which ones, so I don’t offend anyone.  But the ones I refused to miss were the gymnastics, running, diving and swimming competitions.

I watched Mark Spitz win all of his gold medals, Nadia Comaneci score a perfect “10”, and Greg Louganis hitting his head on the diving board.  I even watched Caitlyn Jenner (then, Bruce) win the 1976 Decathlon.   And don’t even get me started with the Winter Games.  I wore my hair in a Dorothy Hamill cut — along with a gazillion other teens — for years!

Over the years, we’ve been witness to triumph and sadness.  I remember the horror of the 1972 games in Munich.  Eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and murdered by a terrorist group.  Those athletes were honored for the first time at the Rio Olympics.  And in 1996 at the Atlanta Games,  a bombing in the Centennial Olympic Park as part of a terror attack affected sporting events and their security measures until this day.  Two people lost their lives and 111 people were wounded in this brutal attack.

Even with those terrible tragedies, the Olympic spirit continues.  Athletes around the world train with a goal of being good enough to go to the Olympics and represent their countries.  Some of them will remain in our hearts and minds for years to come because their spirit and commitment are a testament to the human race and our innate human instinct to become more than we are and more than we can imagine.

So I’d like to say “Thank you” to athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and all of the other athletes for giving me not just summer entertainment but inspiration every four years for the past 5 decades of my life.  Now I need to go watch the Olympics.

An Electronic Love Affair, Of Sorts

I received the email from my cell phone provider telling me it was time to move on, upgrade, etc.  Up until this point, my cell phones had been more utilitarian and nothing like the mini computer / phone I currently use.

My phone had been beside me on all of my walks providing music to motivate me.  It helped me navigate strange roads and even learn a “poco” bit of Spanish.  Obviously not enough.  Now I was being told it was time to leave it behind.

True, it really didn’t have enough memory for my growing collection of apps.  I put all of my photos and books in the cloud, but my music and apps like Facebook took a lot of megabytes.  I’d always have to delete one app to load another.  Sigh.

It was time to take the leap.  Of course, once I arrived at the store, I deduced none of the penny phones would do.  I stood before the display of the newer generation of phones.  With all of my apps, it wouldn’t make sense to change brands. One phone was less money (which is code for still a shitload of money), but it was smaller in size than my current one.  I had enough problems with typing on my faithful little blue phone.  No way would this one work.

The other potential replacement was much larger.  It had a lot of GB’s, 64 GB’s to be exact.  What couldn’t I do with so much memory?  It would be easier to type on, easier to read my books when my Kindle wasn’t available to use and it was BIG!  The American way of thinking is ‘the bigger, the better’, right?

I told them to ring me up.  What was a few…several hundred dollars compared to the new relationship I would be developing with my new buddy?   This phone would be in my presence more often than my husband.

I took my new rose-gold lifeline-to-the-world home with me.  After downloading all of my apps again and getting familiar with it, I had a sudden shocking realization.  My new phone wouldn’t fit in my back pocket or any pocket.  It wouldn’t fit in the armband I specifically purchased for my cell phone for easy access and convenience during my long walks.

Just like a real love affair, sometimes the little irritating traits don’t show up until after the commitment has been made.  And as we do in real life, we adapt and accept those quirks, because you can’t live without them anymore.

My Vacation from Writing

‘If you live to write, you write to live’.  I’ve heard that quote somewhere.  No, everywhere.  It and the quote — ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ effectively speak to those of us who were ‘bitten by the writing bug’.  (I know, I know, I’m the Queen of Hackneyed Expressions tonight).

So, I dutifully packed my laptop and lugged it to Puerto Rico with me.  My youngest son was getting married and we would be meeting his fiancee’s family for the first time.  I pictured myself sitting on the deck looking at the ocean or the sunset while typing away.  Carefully dragging my laptop to the beach… You get the picture, right?

Oh, it happened.  Once.  I wrote a 500-word short story for a writing prompt.  The topic was “Lakebed” and despite my usually light treatment of subjects for my short stories, this one was dark.  Perhaps my change of mood was the result of being in Puerto Rico and pre-wedding anxiety.  That would be a resounding negative.

For me, Puerto Rico was all about warm breezes, floating in a pool, and watching the moon sink into the ocean each night as the stars overhead rotated across the dark sky. pool It was the sound of the waves slamming up on the rocks at the foot of the forty-foot cliff our villa was built upon. The island will remind me of drinking wine as I reminisced with my best friend about our youth and the escapades which will remain a secret between the two of us.  Puerto Rico is the laughter floating in the air while we sat at a beachside restaurant inserted the name of our main entree into our conversations because it sounded funny.  “Holy Mofungo, Batman!” will never sound funnier than it did that night.  Okay, I lied.  I think it still sounds funny, but I’m kind of a nerd.

I guess what I’m trying to say is — Puerto Rico was helping me write my next sentences, paragraphs, chapters and books.  It is the source of my memories of the single teardrop on my son’s face while he watched his bride walk down the aisle under strings of lights  illuminating their faces as the shadows of the coming night deepened.

Although I didn’t put many words on paper during those twelve days, I did create lasting impressions I will carry for the remainder of my days.  The creative spark for our ideas can be found in many places and in many activities including floating in a pool watching white clouds in a beautiful blue Puerto Rican sky.

 

Stumped

Wayne took his farmer’s cap off and used his handkerchief to mop the perspiration from his forehead and balding pate.  He stuffed the kerchief into his back pocket and shook his head.

“I don’t know Miss Lydia.  This sure is a puzzle,” he said as he set his cap back in its place.

“There has to be something we can do!  That thing is ruining my plans.”  Miss Lydia lamented.  She was definitely in a sour mood.  In all of her 86 years, she hadn’t let a little problem defeat her.  This one would be overcome as well.  As they stood in Miss Lydia’s yard, a crowd was starting to gather.  In a small town such as Sinippi Cove, anything could serve as an opportunity to congregate.  Each new addition looked the situation over thoroughly before passing judgement.

Harvey, who was a member of Sinippi Cove’s volunteer fire department, offered, “Fire might do the trick.”

“I was thinking we needed some chains,” Tug from the hardware store suggested.  Clyde Parks had seen the group and felt he should be present at any gathering being he was the mayor of Sinippi Cove.

“What is going on here?” Clyde’s booming voice questioned.  Miss Lydia gave him a look that would have turned the average man to stone, but you see, Clyde had survived much worse during the Great War having lost his right leg.  A prosthetic was secured to his stump, and he was proud that he could keep up with all the young whippersnappers who had collected in Miss Lydia’s yard.  Miss Lydia just pointed her finger at the offensive object.

“Dynamite would take care of it,” Clyde asserted.  As mayor, he felt he could offer solutions that others might not have the authority to suggest.

“What?  Blow my house to kingdom come and back?   Humphf!”  Miss Lydia started to mutter which was definitely not a promising sign.  There followed a display of throat clearing, head scratching and shuffling of feet as they waited for another morsel of wisdom concerning the current predicament.

Clarice Travers carried a tray of moisture covered glasses containing cold lemonade handing them out to the conclave of citizens.  Murmured thanks were given for the kind contribution.  The sun was getting higher in the sky, and the temperature was going to reach the triple digits soon.

Suggestions included horses,  chemicals, and Pinterest.  “What in blue blazes is this Pintfester?  Don’t waste my time,” Miss Lydia threatened.  “Humphf, Pinterranets.  Bull puckey.”

“No, Miss Lydia, it’s P…”  The speaker was elbowed and shushed.  No one wanted to get on the wrong side of the octogenarian.  A group of Red Hat Ladies, heading for a luncheon, stopped.  It looked like a party, and anyone familiar with Red Hat Ladies knows they love parties.  It is the whole reason they exist.  The noise escalated to ear drum rupturing levels as the females bestowed their combined knowledge on the assemblage.

The tree stump would have to wait.  Miss Lydia wanted a nap.

Love and Loss

Each story, while unique, has a central theme that the reader can identify themselves with personally.  One of the most poignant themes concerns “Love and Loss”.  Stories, poetry, and songs have paid homage to these tender emotions for as long as humankind has walked the Earth.

I’ve laughed and cried while my favorite characters have struggled as they dealt with love found and love lost.  I rooted for Rhett Butler to win Scarlett’s love and found myself devastated when fortune didn’t cooperate.  Right or wrong, as a teen, I searched for my own hero so that I could live happily forever in a white house with a picket fence.  I ignored the “nice guy” in favor of the “bad boy” FB_IMG_1445913233417_kindlephoto-1998123 (2)experiencing my cycle of stories of love and loss.

The flirty banter between our characters is balanced by the angry and tearful rhetoric in another chapter.  So goes real life.

Over the past few months, I’ve said good-bye to good friends and family as they left this world.  I watched the anguish of love found and love lost knowing I couldn’t change the outcome like I can on the written page.  But comfort can be found in knowing as long as our own stories continue — love will be found, will be lost and will be discovered anew.

 

Looking for Inspiration

2015-06-19_194509000_AADCD_iOSIf you talk about writing with anyone, at some point you will hear the quote — “Write what you know.” — Mark Twain’s famous words.  So does this mean if you are a truck driver you should only write about driving trucks.

No, I don’t believe Twain meant it literally.  I will be sitting at home with my laptop waiting for an idea to pop into my consciousness.  A scene from a day, a week or months ago will come to mind.  A funny story about a friend can suddenly have an influence on how my character will act in a certain situation.

Our pasts and our futures can be the impetus for a story.  I mentioned my canine muse in the blog, The Best of Intentions.  My furry companion and his antics will more than likely show up in several of my future writings.  In Exodus, the protagonist’s yellow lab is an amalgamation of my buddy and some of the dogs I’ve met over the years.

During my walks, I will suddenly have the solution for a plot line which wasn’t working.  I can hear dialog between characters.  When I get home I will grab my notebook and scribble the thoughts on the page hoping I didn’t forget anything.  I have even been known to get up out of bed during the night to jot down a scene.

Obsessive?  Probably, but it’s so much fun when the stories unfold.  The real work happens after the ideas are written.  Then it is up to the writer to mold those snippets of life’s inspirations into an entertaining story.

The Best of Intentions

I admit it.  I’m not good at always following through.  I’ve had diaries, journals and another blog before I started this one.  It had been over a year between posts.

Yikes!  A lot happened…I’ve had my reasons.  Seriously, I have.  Four things occurred in my life which interfered with my blog time.

Oh?  Just four.  Yes, I can hear voices in my head.  I feel I need to disclose to my readers — I do talk back (thought you should know).   Also, I have the privilege of having only sarcastic voices.  I blame my early years in NYC and an Irish Catholic dad from the South Bronx for this issue.  Back to the matter at hand (as you can see I might have ADD too).

The first event was on Thanksgiving eve 2014, my eldest son decided he would like to be the proud owner of a yellow lab puppy.  I felt the spirit of the holiday and agreed it would be great to have a dog around the house again.  We drove over 5 hours round trip that same night to get him.  I know…

Number Two — I developed a severe case of puppy caretaker syndrome.  Every photo I took had a puppy in it.   Every conversation revolved around the puppy.  My daily schedule was now dictated by a small dog.  He didn’t stay small for long.  But that is another story for another time.

Number three is not humorous.  My mom got sick.  Very sick.  At 80 years of age, she needed more help than my other non-medical siblings could provide.  I spent 6 months with her.  Occasionally returning home to assure my husband I still lived there.  My mom is better, is able to live in her own home, and I’m able to live in mine.

I returned home to a half-grown lab and time on my hands.  Here comes number four — I read a lot.  My Kindle has now become two Kindles so I can always have one charged. Can anyone say “Addiction!”?   I joined a writing forum, and  I started to write.  I love it, and spend my time reading other writer’s work, writing on my own projects and occasionally posting on my site.

A yellow lab can be found in some of my books.  I guess you know where I get my inspiration.