What I’m Reading

I’ve moved on to #5 in the Christmas Tree Ranch series. I love this series so much! Everything about these books is like a warm winter hug.

I’m also reading #3 in the Digital Dating series. These books are so adorable and cute. I have been devouring them in a day.

My non-fiction book is still Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. I have been so wrapped up in the fiction books this week I didn’t make much progress on my non-fiction choice. Hopefully, this week I can make a dent in the book!

What are you reading right now?

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

“Lanie’s Goodbye” – Short Story

Good morning readers! Today we are going to revisit “Magic Isn’t Real,” a short story I posted a few days ago. I played around with the night grandma went missing and created an extended scene for you to enjoy. I think I’m going to be playing around with this storyline and these characters a bit more and hopefully work them into a full-length novel in the near future.

What do you think? Do you want to know more about Lanie and her magical world?

Magic Isn’t Real – Lanie’s Goodbye

            “You can’t arrest grandma!” I shrieked at my mother.

            “Lanie, shut up. I don’t want to, but I don’t have a choice.” My mother put her hands on the countertop and stared at me. “Do you understand what is going on right now?”

            I bit the urge to scream again and answered as calmly as possible. “Not really.”

            “The president has outlawed magic. My department got the order an hour ago. Any persons known to practice magic are subject to arrest and removal immediately. Your grandmother isn’t exactly quiet about her practice. If I don’t do this, someone else will, and they won’t be nice about it. Lanie, it’s going to be a war zone outside very soon. You are old enough to understand a little of this.”

            “But…”

            “No buts Lanie. Dad will be home in an hour, and we have to report for emergency duty. You understand that we are cops, right? We have to uphold the law, even when we disagree with it. Listen very carefully. I’m taking you to grandma’s for an overnight visit. Tomorrow, I have to arrest her. I’ve made excuses for now, but they won’t last long.”

            I could sense the urgency in what my mother was saying. I gathered my things, and we left. Once we got to grandma’s house, I was sent outside to play while mom talked to grandma. When they were done talking, they called me inside.

            “Lanie, be good for grandma.” My mother said as she looked around the kitchen. My grandma was loading items slowly into a large ancient-looking steamer trunk. I only knew what that was from the Harry Potter books. Grandma had shown them to me when I asked while reading.

            On the table, my mother moved things around, clearing space. She pushed a large wooden chest to one end of the counter, spread out a velvet cloth, and then covered it in tiny glass bottles.

            I watched from the doorway, tears in my eyes, as I tried to understand what was happening. My grandmother was obviously packing, and it looked like my mother was helping, but she had told me she was going to arrest grandma. Was my mother going to help her escape? Where would she go? My brain couldn’t quite understand everything around me, but I wanted to.

            “Mom, are you helping grandma?” I finally asked as my mother was getting ready to leave.

            “What do you mean?”

            “Grandma is packing, right?”

            “Of course not.” My mother said, sounding worried. “I was just helping with a little cleaning.” I knew my mother was lying, but I didn’t want to say anything else. I was afraid. Something was wrong, and I couldn’t figure it out. So, I watched. My mother and grandmother hugged a few minutes later, and mom left. As my mother pulled away, grandma called me over to her.

            “Listen, sweetheart, a lot of bad things are about to happen. Do you understand?” Grandma said to me, her voice low but wise.

            “I think so. The president said you are bad and have to go away, right?”

            “Yes. But he’s wrong. Magic isn’t bad. Magic is nothing more than a tool. Do you understand?”

            “Yeah, like pencils and hammers.”

            “Exactly. But now, we can’t use this tool anymore. Okay?”

            “Okay,” I said, watching her closely. She had taken a small bag out of her pocket. Inside was a bright red cloth, a vial of bright red liquid that seemed almost to glow, and a small, vibrant yellowish-orange stone. She placed the stone in my hand.

            “This is yellow calcite. It will help you remember when it’s time.” She said, closing my fist around the smooth stone. All you need to do to remember everything is to hold the stone and try to think about what you want to remember, okay?”

            “Um…okay,” I said, playing with the stone. Grandma laid her hand on mine to stop my movements.

            “Drink this.” She held the vial in her other hand and passed it to me. As I drank the odorless, tasteless liquid, she whispered something under her breath in a singsong voice. It was rhythmic and pleasant, so I tried to hold on to the words, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around them. Grandma removed the vial from my hand and gently pushed my empty hand onto my lap.

            I sat at the table for a while, swaying my head and holding tightly to the stone. Nobody spoke for what felt like forever. Finally, my grandmother snapped her fingers, and I lurched forward, almost hitting the table. Feeling dazed, I fixed myself in the chair and watched her as she spoke.

“Now Lanie,” my grandma said, “I need you to remember that magic isn’t real. Promise me you’ll remember, no matter what happens.” I watched as she winked at me from behind her glasses.

            “I promise,” I said, then she tucked me into bed and left the room. A little while later, I snuck out of the bedroom and downstairs, where my grandmother was reading loudly from a large, brown-tattered book. On the kitchen counter, I watched bottles of liquids float just above the countertop, dumping themselves into a large pot on the stove.

            Magic.

            I knew it. I had always known it. But something nagged at the back of my mind, telling me to forget what I saw—something like a warning, an alarm, screaming at me to go back to bed.

            I hadn’t understood that night why my grandmother didn’t want me to know it was real. I had kept my promise since then, of course. I hadn’t talked about magic or tried to do anything magical since that night in her kitchen when I was thirteen. That was the night my grandmother disappeared. I had watched her make a bubbling concoction on the stove, and then she had poured the liquid into the small vials left out by my mother.

She loaded them into the large wooden chest, which I could only describe as an old treasure chest like pirates would use. She kept out one vial and sat it next to the chest. Then, she picked up the orange calcite stone, wrapped it in the bright red cloth, and tucked it into the small bag nearby. She then placed it inside the chest, closed the lid, locked the chest, and swallowed the key.

Afterward, she drank the vial, waved directly at where I was standing, hidden in the shadows, and disappeared.

            I never told anyone what I had seen that night. I ran back to my bed and cried for hours. When I woke up, nobody was home. Mom and dad came to get me. The police searched for grandma, but she was gone, and they asked me a bunch of questions. As they searched the house, not one person touched the chest. Even my mother ignored it. My grandmother’s house was locked up, and nobody ever went back.

            But I knew, deep in the back of my mind, that she wasn’t really gone. She was safe. She was waiting for me; I could feel it. But I knew it wasn’t time. Deep in my mind, I felt I would know when it was time for me to find her.

I can’t wait to share more with you in the future! I have a big creative writing challenge for myself coming up in February! I hope you will join me every day for a new story!

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

A Covid Christmas Story e-book is on sale now! Buy your discounted copy today! https://cathymariebown.com/a-covid-christmas-story/

“Abandoned” – A Photo Prompt Short Story

Good morning readers!! I’m so excited to share another beautiful day with you! Digging into the vaults of my writing folders, I came across this contest entry from last January. It didn’t win but I thought it held some promise. What do you think?

Abandoned

By Cathy Bown

Sixty years ago, my grandparents married in this yard. Now, I’m standing here, the last in my family line, looking at the dilapidated building with the overgrown ivy and perfect snowy cover, untouched by any human foot. Having stripped the trees of their greenery months ago, the dismal weather leaves a dreary haze over everything. Like everything else right now, this building and its yard feel cold and empty.

I have nothing left but this little plot of land far away from home. I didn’t have a plan when I took off to come here. All I knew was that I couldn’t cry anymore. Losing my mamma and papa two weeks ago had been unbearable. My sister followed shortly after, succumbing to extensive injuries from the crash. I was supposed to have been in that car with them, but I was mad, so I refused to go.

Now, I am alive, and they are gone.

I didn’t know about this tiny house until a lawyer showed up three days ago, handed me the paperwork, and told me I needed to sign off on the property so it could be destroyed and reclaimed by the city.

After reading the paperwork, I insisted on looking at the place. I was here now to inspect and sign off on it—the last piece of my family history.

Everything I loved in my life is now gone. At twenty-six, I still live at home. Lived. I’ve rejected every man who has ever approached me, knowing my father would insist they weren’t good enough.

At night, though, I dream of love at first sight, happily ever after, and magic. Or I used to. Life has been so dark. Lately, I can’t dream.

“A pity about this house. My parents knew the last owners. Lovely couple.” A middle-aged woman and a younger man appeared behind me.

“You knew them? They were my grandparents.”

“Of course. You look just like your nonna, then. I can see it in your face.”

“Do you know why they left? They moved to America, but I don’t know why they would leave this. It must have been beautiful back then.”

“It was. It was. But everyone said America is where you raise children if you want them to have opportunities. They had big dreams. They were young and naïve, my parents said.”

“Yes.”

“Are you moving in?” The young man asks quietly, in a deep voice. I look at him and answer without thinking.

“Yes, I think I am.” The ivy on the house looks like a heart. There must be love here. There must be hope.

He smiles.

“You must join us for pranzo, lunch. My son, he is a magnificent cook.” The man blushes and buries his face in his scarf, hiding from my smile.

“Mama, stop.”

The future is unclear to me, but this suddenly feels right. I follow them home, watching the shy young man smile as we walk away.

Thoughts?

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Don’t forget to grab a copy of A COVID CHRISTMAS STORY! Starting tomorrow, the e-book will be on sale for one week!

“Sammie” – A Short Story

Hello dear readers! Today I’m going to share another short story with you.

“Mommy, I’m scared.” The angelic voice startled me. I had thought I was alone in the dark room. I didn’t bother turning on the light. It would only keep sleep farther away from me. Instead, I pulled the comforter closer to my chin and tried to calm my breathing.

The light flickered on, and I looked over at the small blond boy in the doorway, his eyes full of tears, ready to spill over at any moment. He wore faded fleece one-piece pajamas covered in dinosaurs and held a faded, tattered blue blankie in his left hand. His right hand hovered near his face, his thumb waiting patiently for him to be finished talking so it could resume its usual place in his mouth.

“Is everything okay?”  I ask the boy without moving from under the blankets. I was exhausted tonight and wasn’t sure I was actually awake. It was three a.m., and I was supposed to be in a virtual meeting at eight. His crying had already kept me awake half the night, but nothing had worked to calm the upset toddler.

“Can I sleep in your room?” he asked, turning to look at the corner of the room where a pile of blankets was arranged for such a request.

“Of course, you can,” I answered, then watched as he toddled to the pile and curled up underneath the top quilt. Within minutes, he was snoring softly. Eventually, my heart rate slowed enough for sleep to find me as well.

***

“Martha, you’re two weeks past the deadline we gave you for the second half of your contracted manuscript. Is there something wrong?”

I could see the concern on Jackson’s face, and I knew he was genuinely worried about me. I understood why. Arnold didn’t look concerned, but he did look angry. I’d been paid a healthy advance for the book, but I was late on the delivery. They had already given me several extensions to allow for the move to rural Wisconsin. Big city living had been stressing me out, and my doctor had suggested a respite in the country. I’d been settled in my rented farmhouse for several months but hadn’t made any progress on my novel.

“Honestly, I haven’t been sleeping well. It’s so quiet here, and sometimes I think I’m going crazy.”

“Well, the quiet is the reason you’re there, remember. I’m sure it just takes some time to get used to.”

“I suppose so,” I responded, but I knew it was more than that. I wouldn’t complain about the child, though. They wouldn’t understand anyway.

“How’s the depression? Are you still taking the medicines?” Jackson asked.

“Yes, I’m still taking them. The doctor here didn’t give me any trouble about offering refills.”

“Good.”

“Okay, look, we need to see some progress. The accident, the move, you know we are trying to be patient with you because of everything that happened.” Arnold said, looking down at his desk.

“Yes, and I appreciate everything you guys have done.”

Arnold sits on the desk and rests his head in his hands. After a minute, he lifts his head and scratches his beard. “Alright, Martha. One month. You’ve got one month to produce something. It doesn’t have to be the whole manuscript or even half. But something substantial. A solid chapter or two, at least. Give us something to justify holding out for the final product.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding at the camera. I knew I was going to have to find a way to get some serious work done, but I also knew that it was impossible.

“Let’s check back in a couple of weeks and see how you’re doing. I’ll send you an e-mail link.” Jackson wrote something down in front of him and then waved goodbye to me with a sad smile. I disconnected the meeting before Arnold could chastise me further. I understood the dynamic duo. Arnold was the strict editor who enforced deadlines and expected results. Jackson was the more mellow and emotional editor who connected with the writers and kept them sane.

***

I spent the day staring at a blank computer screen, trying to will the story to life. Instead, my mind wandered to the accident. It was an icy day in March, and Victor drove us to the doctor’s office for a check-up. It should have been a normal day, nothing special—a quick visit with the doctor, then lunch at our favorite café.

I don’t even remember seeing the semi-truck before it smashed into the side of our SUV. I remembered pain. When I was released from the hospital a week later, my husband and unborn baby died, and I couldn’t walk.

I tried everything I could to escape the accompanying depression, but being alone only made things worse. New York City was no longer my home. Everywhere I looked, I could see Victor and our shattered dreams, so I took my publisher up on their offer to relocate me to the countryside. Arnold and Jackson located the house, made the arrangements, and even managed to secure a caretaker for me since I was wheelchair-bound.

They checked on me often, but I still spent too much time alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone. Sammie was always here. And my caretaker, nurse Debra, lived with me and helped me learn to live again. My legs would never work, but I’d been learning ways to complete tasks, like strengthening my arms so I could lift myself into the bathtub.

Before I arrived, the house was renovated to be handicap friendly. A shower was installed that I could pull my chair into, but I hated it. Bubble baths had always been a vital piece of my relaxation routine, and I refused to give them up. The bathtub was on the second floor, between my bedroom and Sammie’s. I had to use the elevator that had been installed just for me to get there.

My office was directly underneath Sammie’s room. I often heard him giggling through the heat vents when I sat at my computer. He liked to play while the sun was out. I just wished he could sleep more since the long nights of crying were causing a level of sleep deprivation I had never experienced before.

***

“Debra, I’d like to go outside to the garden today. Can you take me there?” I had been staring out the front window for a while, watching the birds and wishing I could take Sammie out to chase them. He wouldn’t go outside, and I didn’t want to fight with him, but nothing was stopping me from going out without him.

“Of course.” My caretaker leaned the broom she had been using to sweep the entryway against the wall, put on her shoes, and then pushed me outside. In the garden, she pointed out the different birds and their names.

“I wish Sammie would come out and play. The sunlight would be good for him.” I said, watching Debra as she pulled a few nearby weeds. She stopped and looked at me with confusion.

“How have you been sleeping, Martha?” She asked me with her head cocked to the side and her eyes squinting against the sun.

“Sammie often cries at night, so I don’t get much sleep. You know that.” Martha squinted her eyes against the sun, then sighed.

“The doctor could give you something to help you sleep. I’m going to call him when we go back inside.”

“No, that’s not necessary. I never wake up to noises when I take sleeping pills.”

“That’s the point, dear.”

“But then I won’t hear Sammie when he needs me,” I said.

“I see. Martha, have you talked to the doctor about these nightmares?”

“What’s there to say? Sammie has them every night. I just wish there was something I could do to help him.”

“Martha, listen…”

“No, I don’t want to hear it. We’ve been over this already a hundred times.”

“But…” Debra protested, but I cut her off quickly.

“I’m ready to go back inside. Sammie might need me.” Debra exhaled loudly, made an unpleasant face at me, then dropped the weeds and pushed me back inside. I don’t bother going to the office. There won’t be any writing today. Instead, Debra helps me shower and settle into bed for the night. I managed to nap for a few hours before she brought dinner. Debra retreats to her room on the first floor, reminding me to ring my bell if I need anything. As if I’d forgotten what a bell was, she wrapped her hand around the thick black handle, thrusting the golden bell upwards and then back several times, producing loud, clear, tinkling noises.

***

The crying from the bedroom had been going on since sundown. As I watched the sunrise from my bedroom window, I heard the door creak open and knew the fit was finally over.

“Mommy, I’m scared,” the young boy whimpered.

“Is everything okay?” I whispered.

“Can I sleep in your room?” He turned and looked at the blanket pile, waiting for my answer.

“Yes, of course.” Again, as he did every night, the child curled up under the top blanket and fell fast asleep.

***

“Martha, Debra tells me you haven’t been sleeping well.” Dr. Anderson sat on the couch in the living room, a clipboard perched on his lap and a pen in his hand.

“Sammie has nightmares, and it keeps me up.” I fidgeted with the blanket on my lap, twisting the corner material between my fingers.

The doctor made some notes on his paper and then looked at me. “I see. Could I see Sammie?”

“Of course. He’s upstairs in his room.” Together, we took the elevator upstairs, the doctor pushing my wheelchair. Outside Sammie’s room, I pointed the doctor in. “He only leaves the room at night when he can’t sleep.” I didn’t follow.

Dr. Anderson entered the room, examining everything in the small boy’s play area. Toys were strewn about, but the bed was made. Sammie sat on the bed with a picture book but watched the doctor examine the space instead of reading.

“Sammie, how are you feeling today?” the doctor asked, not looking at the child. Sammie giggled but didn’t answer. Dr. Anderson wandered around the room, waiting for an answer that never came, examining everything but not looking at anything for too long.

“Sammie must not feel like talking today?” he asked, watching my reactions carefully.

“He doesn’t talk very much,” I replied matter-of-factly.

“I see. Maybe we should go back downstairs then and leave Sammie to himself?”

“Yes, that sounds fine.”

The doctor pushed my chair back to the elevator and backed me in. From inside the stainless steel box, I watched Sammie poke his head out of his bedroom door and laugh as the elevator doors closed in front of me. The laughter echoed off the elevator walls and reverberated inside my brain.

Downstairs, the doctor parked my chair across from the couch and locked the wheels. He sat across from me and picked up his clipboard.

“We need to talk about Sammie.”

“What about him?”

“How old is Sammie?” the doctor asked.

“Three years old,” I answered.

“And who are Sammie’s parents?”

“I am, of course.”

“Who is his father?”

“My late husband, Victor, obviously.” More writing, more confused looks.

“I see.” The doctor shuffled through the paperwork on his clipboard and then looked at me. “My notes indicate you and Victor were married two years ago.”

I swallowed hard and looked away, ignoring the implications. I knew where the doctor was going and refused to be towed along.

“Martha, how is Victor Sammie’s father?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I said aggressively.

“Okay.” He made more notes on his paper and then stood up. “I’m going to prescribe Ambien to help you sleep.”

“I’m not going to take them.”

“That’s your choice. But they’ll be here for you when you’re ready for them.” He gathered his paperwork and bag, stopped at the front door, and turned back to me. “I will be back in a few days. I’m going to bring a psychiatrist out with me next time. Is that okay? I’d like you to be evaluated.”

“That’s fine,” I said and watched him leave. He must want to shift me to stronger antidepressants. I expected as much.

***

Two sleepless days later, Dr. Anderson returned with Dr. Maxwell. They spent hours asking me questions and writing down all of my answers. The doctors inspected Sammie’s room and mine. Then, they came back and asked more questions. When they finished talking to me, they went outside to talk privately. I fell asleep in my chair, waiting for them to return.

At some point, Debra came into the living room and moved me to the couch, covering me with a quilt and propping my head on a pillow. When I awoke, Sammie was standing next to me, watching me sleep with a worried look on his tiny face.

“What’s wrong, Sammie?” I asked sleepily.

“Please don’t leave me,” he whispered anxiously.

“Why would I leave you, baby?”

“They want you to go away,” he said, pointing toward the kitchen, where I could hear deep male voices. The voices came closer, and Sammie ran away.

“Martha? Are you awake?” Dr. Maxwell’s voice boomed from the other room.

Dr. Maxwell, Dr. Anderson, and Debra came into the room then, and the doctors sat down in nearby armchairs. Debra came over to the couch and helped me sit up.

“We need to talk about Sammie, Martha.” Dr. Maxwell said, folding his hands onto his lap.

“What about him?” I asked defensively.

“Listen, we’ve been over your records. We know all about your accident and how traumatic that was for you.” Dr. Maxwell replied, choosing each word carefully.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

“I understand that, but Martha, according to your records, you’ve never given birth to a child. The only pregnancy in your records ended the day of your accident.” Dr. Anderson said with a look of sympathy etched on his face.

Tears stung my eyes as they fell without permission. Nobody had talked to me about the baby since I left New York. Losing Victor and baby Angela had broken my heart. I wanted to die with them and was angry that I survived. The only thing that kept me alive now was Sammie.

The tears were flowing, and I couldn’t see anymore. I didn’t want to go further with the conversation, but I couldn’t leave.

“Martha,” Debra said softly, putting her hand on my shoulder, “sweetie, there is no Sammie.”

No.

Just no.

My breathing picked up, and I couldn’t catch a deep enough breath to focus.

This. Wasn’t. Happening.

I closed my eyes and felt the world spin around me. I hated these doctors and their lies. I hated the medicine and the way it made me feel so disconnected. I hated Debra for causing all this trouble. And I hated my legs because I couldn’t just stand up and leave.

The tears fell in torrents until I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t feel. At some point in the deluge, I checked out of my own mind and watched from above myself, where I could see my couch, my doctors, my nurse, and Sammie sitting in the corner, watching me hover above myself. He laughed and came to me, but nobody else saw him.

He climbed onto my physical lap and reached his toddler arms towards me, floating above. Nobody noticed him there. No one reacted to his presence.

I watched as my body cried uncontrollably, sobbing with the child on my lap that didn’t exist. How could I see him, but they couldn’t?

Was I losing my mind then, or had I already lost it? I pondered these things as I watched the scene below me. Everyone sat stone-still in their places, watching and waiting to see what I would do next. I’m sure they were each predicting their own futures.

I thought Dr. Maxwell was mentally considering which institution to place me in where I would receive the kind of care involving heavy sedatives and solitary confinement. Debra was probably considering what her next job would be when I was sent away. And I considered Dr. Anderson would defer to Dr. Maxwell and sign off on whatever faraway institution was necessary. I had a small fortune in the bank from the accident settlement. They could keep me as a drug-induced vegetable for the rest of my life without using all the money.

When the tears stopped falling from my eyes, I refused to return to myself. I watched as my body went limp, and my eyes glazed over. I didn’t move or speak. The doctors tried to get me to respond, but I refused. Eventually, they took turns observing me while the others went about the house, trying to determine what should be done next. It seemed they couldn’t come to a consensus. Should I be sent away? Should I be left alone to return to myself on my own terms? Should they pretend they were never here and go about their lives, leaving me with my invisible child in a country house alone?

***

As I floated, I connected the dots in my mind. The doctor in New York City had called this behavior “dissociation” when I’d refused to acknowledge reality after the accident. He’d told me I could make it stop if I wanted to, but I had to focus very hard. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted everyone to leave me alone here with Sammie. He needed me.

He was alone when I arrived. I could see that now. He had always been here, waiting for me to come to take care of him. On my first night in this house, I was so afraid of the quiet and the dark, but Sammie comforted me.

When you move to the country from a big city, nobody prepares you for how utterly dark and noiseless the night can be. Since relocating, I’d heard insects I didn’t know existed, and I’d seen a sky full of stars I’d never before laid my eyes on. It was all so overwhelming. But that first night, there were so many clouds but no rain, so the night was pitch black. The air tasted unrecognizable and felt heavier than I was used to.

My furniture hadn’t arrived with me, so my first night was spent on a dirty couch that came with the house. Debra slept on an air mattress on the far side of the room, so I could get her attention if I needed her. That first week, she was with me all day and night while I adjusted. The power went out just after Debra had settled me onto the couch, so she left me to seek out the breaker box.

It had felt like an eternity of quiet darkness, and in that space, I found myself in uncontrollable fits of tears and terror. I had stopped abruptly when I felt a small hand take mine, and when I looked over, Sammie was there.

“Nighttime is scary for me, too.” He had whispered.

Sammie had been mine ever since. I had taken care of him, listened to him scream, comforted him, and loved him. He wouldn’t sleep in my bed when he came to my room at night, so I carefully created the blanket stack for him after a few weeks of watching him sleep on the floor.

I never asked Sammie about his past. I simply adopted him as mine and never thought about it again. At some point, I’d accepted it into my memory as true and forgotten where he had started with me. I’d never wanted to know more. I could see that here, in this empty space outside of myself. I had known deep in my soul that he was meant to be with me in this place at this time.

Yet, I had so many questions about him I couldn’t answer. I knew I couldn’t ask anyone else anymore. In fact, if I didn’t make a move soon, I wouldn’t be here anymore either.

The moment I decided to reconnect with my body, it was done. I slowly looked around, trying to decide how to approach the two doctors and nurse who now held my fate in their hands. I didn’t want to leave that house. I didn’t want to go to an institution. But I knew they wouldn’t let me stay if they thought I was hallucinating.

Debra noticed me as I started moving around on the couch and rushed over to tend to me. Since I appeared lucid enough, she shooed the doctors away while she ushered me around the house, upstairs for a warm bath, downstairs for dinner, then finally, to my bedroom, where she tucked me into bed for the night. It wasn’t yet dark outside, but that didn’t bother her. She had decided I was ill and needed my rest. When Dr. Maxwell tried to approach me, she sent him downstairs to wait in the living room.

After I was tucked into my bed, she told me she wanted the doctors to spend the night in the house and asked for my permission. She wanted them to observe me overnight when things were at their worst before they decided to send me away.

Cautiously, I agreed.

***

“Mommy, I’m scared,” Sammie whimpered from my doorway, his tattered blankie dragging on the floor next to him. I hesitated before answering, pulling the quilt tighter to my face to ward off the cold. It was dark in the room, but the light from the hallway spilled in behind the boy.

“Is everything okay?” I whispered. “What can Mommy do to make it better?”

“Can I sleep in your room?” He turned and looked at the blanket pile, waiting for my answer.

“Yes, of course.”

I heard a rustling from the room’s opposite corner, and a light turned on. Dr. Maxwell was staring at the doorway, open-mouthed and bug-eyed when I looked. I thought maybe he could finally see Sammie, but I was wrong.

“How did you open the door?” he demanded, standing up and walking to the doorway. He walked out and in several times, examining the handle and behind the door. When he found nothing out of order, he turned to me. “You can’t walk! How did you open the door?”

“I didn’t,” I answered, watching Sammie from the corner of my eye as he settled into the blanket pile and ignored the doctor. The doctor continued examining the space, inching closer to Sammie’s pile but keeping just away from the edge of it.

“You must have! There isn’t anyone else up here. Debra and Dr. Anderson are downstairs. I was watching, and you were asleep. Then the door was open, and you were talking to yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Maxwell, but I can’t get out of bed. You know that.” I watched him stomp around the space, in and out of the room, over and over again, then walk back to his spot, sit down, and do it all over again. He couldn’t seem to accept what he had seen.

Dr. Anderson and Debra came up shortly after to find out what was causing all the noise. As they argued with each other, I looked at Sammie. He was fast asleep, so I stopped listening to the voices in the room and fell into a deep sleep.

***

            When I awoke, my room was filled with light. The curtains were open, the windows letting in a soft breeze of fresh air.

I was alone.

I looked around, seeking someone to remove me from the bed. When I couldn’t hear anyone, I rang the bell. Debra appeared shortly, took me to the bathroom, then downstairs to eat. I noticed both doctors were still in the house as I was wheeled from one room to the next, but neither spoke to me.

            After I had eaten, Debra moved me to the living room, where she parked me in front of my favorite large window, and I watched the birds in the garden. Throughout the morning, I listened to the doctors talk in hushed tones from the next room. It sounded like they would send me away no matter what happened next. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in an asylum.

            I asked Sammie what I should do, but he didn’t have any answers for me. He just watched the birds with me through the window.

            At lunch, Dr. Anderson announced that I would be moved to a fully staffed hospital where I would get the best care available for someone in my condition. I asked him what condition that was, but he refused to answer. They thought I was hallucinating due to the trauma. I knew that. I’d heard them say it several times. Later in the day, they told me I would be moved the following morning. Debra packed my essential belongings but refused to pack anything from Sammie’s room. I sat in my wheelchair and cried in the hallway.

            I’d spent the evening thinking about how to avoid institutionalization, and I’d only come up with one solution, which was a long shot anyway. After dinner, I’d asked Debra to leave me alone in the bathtub for a while. I wanted to “enjoy my last bath,” I’d told her, then asked her to light a few candles and play jazz music to remind me of when I lived in New York. Victor used to surprise me with candle-lit bubble baths and rose petals every month.

            While alone in the bathroom, I pulled myself onto the ledge of the tub, then stretched my arm across the nearby sink, barely reaching the medicine cabinet. With a bit of help from my nearby toothbrush, I was able to drag a pill bottle from the bottom shelf across to the edge closest to me. It slid within my grasp, and I tucked it into my pajama bottoms. As I slowly lowered myself back into the hot water, I was grateful that Debra had insisted I work my arm muscles and practice moving. I didn’t know then if I’d have the courage to go through with my plan, but at least I had an option.

At bedtime, I was tucked in like normal, but Dr. Maxwell and Debra were both stationed in my room, and Dr. Anderson was in a chair in the hallway. They hoped to catch me opening the door myself. I’d overheard them talking about it while I was in the tub. Dr. Maxwell believed my legs worked fine, but my mind convinced me they didn’t. Dr. Anderson disagreed but was willing to go along with the experiment to see the depth of my mental damage.

***

“Mommy, I’m scared,” Sammie whimpered from my doorway, light spilling in around him.

“Is everything okay?” I whispered. “

“No, mommy. I can’t let you leave me.”

“I don’t want to leave,” I whispered, barely audible.

“Can I sleep in your room?” He turned and looked at the blanket pile, waiting for my answer.

“Yes, of course.”

Sammie climbed under the blanket and watched the doctors, who were furiously searching the room for something that had opened the door. I was still in my bed, and they knew it hadn’t been me. While they searched and talked amongst themselves, I slipped the bottle out of my pocket and pried the cap off as quietly as possible. I didn’t know how many pills I needed to take to achieve my purpose, but I’d read somewhere that Ambien was capable of doing the job. So, while everyone shuffled around the room, searching for something they would never find, I swallowed the sleeping pills, two at a time, until the bottle was empty. I left the bottle lying on my leg, reached for my glass of water on the nightstand, and drained it.

Ignoring everyone around me, I laid back down to go to sleep. Sammie climbed into bed next to me and curled up in my arms. As I drifted off to sleep, the coldness from his body faded.

Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato on Pexels.com

There you go. I hope you liked it! Feel free to let me know what you thought of this story!

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

What I’m Reading

If you have spent any time on my website, you might notice a page is missing. I recently made the decision to delete the “What I’m Reading” page. I kept forgetting to update it, so it wasn’t really serving a purpose. Instead, I’m going to focus on posting a “What I’m Reading” blog entry once a week. I read so many books each week that this should be interesting and a way to increase my posts. As some of you know, I struggle to remember to make posts, and often my depression prevents me from even starting.

My plan moving forward is to make this post on Sundays.

So let’s talk about what I am currently reading.

I try to always have a writing manual in my current reading pile. As an author, I know there is always more for me to learn. As an MFA student, the list of books I should read to improve my craft is a mile long. This particular book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel comes up a lot in MFA conversations, so I decided it was probably past time that I read this.

I’m currently making my way through The Christmas Tree Ranch series by Janet Dailey. I’m currently reading #4 – Santa’s Sweetheart. I will be picking up #5 – Somebody Like Santa, from my local library later this week. The series follows a new couple in each book as they overcome obstacles and find happily ever after just in time for Christmas. I love holiday books like this, so it’s no surprise this is a new favorite that I will probably revisit every December!

Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander has been on my TBR pile for a bit now, and I figured it’s probably time to sit down and finish it. I love everything to do with cooking and professional kitchens, including TV cooking competitions. So, this book holds a lot of appeal for me. I’m excited to devour it.

“The Visitor” – Short Story

Happy Saturday, dear readers! I’m excited to share another day with you. Today, I want to share another short story from my microburst assignments. This one is Young Adult and a bit dystopian. Let me know what you think!

The Visitor

By Cathy Marie Bown

Being dead felt amazing, Lorelei thought as she looked out on the lush field surrounding their temporary home, and she smiled to herself. Nobody else was around since Jackson was fishing in the nearby river. They hadn’t seen another person in months since they ran away from home and discovered this oasis.

At sixteen years old, Lorelei was assigned by the society to her forever placement as a private chef hours before they ran away. Jackson had been in his forever placement as a maintenance technician for two months when Lorelei told him she was running. Of course, he ran with her. It was never a choice for him.

When they left the sphere, they both knew there was a good chance they would die immediately. That is what they had been raised to believe. Death was imminent when you left the spheres. Everyone who had ever tried to leave had died. They knew inside the sphere, everyone assumed they were dead.

Lorelei tensed as she saw Jackson running toward her. As he got closer, she saw him waving his arms wildly, so she ducked inside the cave they had turned into their home. Inside, she didn’t wait for him before following the small path inside the cave to the farthest they had explored. As she weaved through the tunnel, the walls closed in on her until she could barely squeeze through a narrow opening. On the other side, she grabbed the weapons they had created and stored, just in case they were attacked. When Jackson squeezed through moments later, she handed him a spear, which he took gratefully.

“What’s going on?” Lorelei asked, her singsong voice tense with fear.

“Someone saw me fishing. I ran.” Jackson was out of breath and speaking in a low whisper.

“Jackson?” A voice echoed through the tunnels, reaching the two teenagers and startling them.

“I know that voice,” Lorelei whispered. “It sounds like Brandon.”

“Lorelei?” The voice called, getting closer.

“Brandon?” Lorelei whisper-shouted through the opening.

“Oh my gosh! I found you!” Brandon’s voice sounded relieved.

“Stay there.” Jackson boomed, motioning for Lorelei to follow him out of the hiding spot, but he didn’t leave the spear. Lorelei carried her weapon, a rough ax-like tool, which she held in front of her as she slowly followed Jackson.

They inched toward the large central area. Standing in the center was Brandon, his clothing torn and his face dirty.

“What are you doing here?” Jackson asked roughly, pointing the spear at Brandon.

Taking the motion as aggression, Brandon raised his hands above his head and turned his face to the ground, a society-enforced motion designed to show submission. Seeing this, Jackson lowered the weapon, and Lorelei followed his lead.

“I’ve been searching for weeks,” Brandon whispered.

“Stand up,” Jackson said.

Brandon stood up. “Do you have any food?”

“Of course,” Lorelei said, busying herself with making them breakfast of foraged food. Brandon talked to them about the sphere.

“They told us you both died in an explosion.”

“A what?” Lorelei asked, confused.

“They showed us a video because we didn’t believe them. They said you were talking to Jackson about your new assignment and a heating duct exploded. The video showed your dead bodies.”

Jackson looked at Brandon with confusion. “If you saw our dead bodies, why didn’t you seem surprised to see us?”

“In the video, before the explosion, it was you guys. Afterward, it wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out why they would lie unless you were still alive, and they didn’t want us to know. I just knew you were alive. I’ve been searching for a while. I was about to give up; it’s been so long since I saw another person. But it’s not like I can go back now. I’m sure I’m dead now too.”

“For sure,” Jackson said.

“So, what’s next?” Brandon asked.

“What do you mean?” Lorelei replied.

“What are you guys doing out here? Why did you leave?”

“Well, that’s complicated. We are just surviving. We left because we had to.” Lorelei answered him.

“But, why did you have to?” Brandon asked.

“I keep having dreams. Something is coming. So, we hid, and we built weapons.”

“Lorelei had a dream the night before we ran. In her dream, she died. So we ran.” Jackson said.

“But, why did you follow her?” Brandon asked. Jackson raised his eyebrow at Brandon, then reached over and slipped his hand into Loreleis. She started to recoil her hand but then clasped harder. Lorelei was afraid to reveal the truth.

Hidden deep in Lorelei’s memories, there was more to the dream than she had revealed. For as long as she could remember, Lorelei had dreamed of the truth, the future, the past, and things that could be. The dreams had always shown her good things, but when she had seen Jackson starting a fire in the sphere after she died, burning their homes to cinders and destroying everyone, it was more than she could take. She hadn’t known the depth of Jackson’s love for her until that moment. 

So, she had run away with him, telling him exactly what she knew it would take to get him to go. She had approached him, whispered that she loved him, wanted to have babies with him, and was ready to go. He had logged off his portal, taken her hand, and never looked back.

The society would never have allowed the two of them to be together or to have children. Her plan worked perfectly, and she had never regretted it, not as she held him in the cold, not as they had nearly starved trying to find food, and not as they watched the sunset from the mouth of their cave. Brandon showing up was perfect.

Now, she had the people she cared about, and they had their freedom. Whatever happened next, they could handle it together.

Well, what did you think? Love it or hate it? Think I should go further with it?

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

“Survivor” – A Short Story

Today, I want to share another short story I wrote a few months ago. Readers beware, this story has some violent content. This is an adult story meant for an adult audience. Please proceed with the appropriate caution.

Click.

                I felt the metal move against my temple before I heard the click of the bullet entering the chamber. Instinctively, I wanted to scream, to beg, to plead with the madman whose hand was clutching the trigger. But it wouldn’t do any good, and I knew it would only propel him to move sooner. Instead, I forced myself to breathe evenly, keeping my outside cool and relaxed. I felt my chest rise and fall with each elaborated breath. As I focused on my breathing, I felt his slow as well. His heart, which I could feel through my back where his chest was pushed against me, slowed from its rapid thumping to a more normal rhythm. His other hand, cupped under my chin and gripping my throat enough I couldn’t risk moving, twitched minutely as he calmed down.

                This wasn’t the first time he had tried to strangle me, but this was the first time he put a gun to my head. Trevor had a tendency to be violent, but I had never, before this moment, feared for my own life. I wasn’t even sure what had caused this explosion. Truth be told, I probably never would know. When it was over, we would pretend it didn’t happen until the next time. As Trevor’s heart slowed and I focused on my breathing, I thought back over the last six months and tried to figure out why I was in the position I found myself in.

                The night I met Trevor, he was an unknown, a stranger in my small town, passing through on his way to deliver a load in his semi. I was waitressing at the only truck stop in town, third shift, so I could attend community college in the mornings. When he stopped in for breakfast at three a.m., I thought nothing of it. We flirted, and he left me a phenomenally large tip. When he left, I assumed I’d never see him again.

                A week later, he reappeared and asked me out on a date. He was handsome, six feet tall, with short and spiky caramel brown hair and the build of a football player. I suspected he weighed in at about two-fifty, and when he smiled at me, he reminded me of a teddy bear, big and fluffy. Later I would compare him to a bear as well, only big, menacing, and volatile like a grizzly.

                He swept me off my feet, bought me expensive meals, and took me on elaborate dates. He even rented a place in town and stayed to be with me. I didn’t see the red flags waving at the time because I didn’t know enough to look for them. I wasn’t even twenty-one yet when I met him, and I didn’t know much about the world outside my sleepy hometown.

                The first couple of months with Trevor were amazing. When he was off at work, I worked and went to school. When he was home, we spent all of our time together at his place. I moved in with him on our three-month anniversary, a decision I have regretted every single day since.

                Once I moved in and let my apartment go, Trevor convinced me to quit my job, too, since I didn’t need money from him. He paid for everything I wanted, so I agreed. At his insistence, I stopped spending time with my friends and family, too. Everything revolved around him.

                And then, two weeks later, I burned dinner. I wasn’t an experienced cook, having mostly eaten at the truck stop or at my parent’s house. Trevor wasn’t amused. Until that moment, I’d never seen him angry. I’d never even heard him raise his voice. But, when the smoke alarm went off, and I panicked, he came barreling into the small galley kitchen, screaming at me and thrashing around. He scooped up the pan from the stove and threw it into the sink, food still inside of it. Once it was in the sink, he turned to me and backhanded me. I fell backward into the wall. When I tried to get up, he kicked me, and I screamed. He growled at me when I tried to get back up, so I stayed on the floor. He stomped out of the room and left me home alone, but I was too afraid to even move. He returned home a half hour later with takeout for him then he went to bed. I fell asleep on the kitchen floor.

                Sometime in the middle of the night, he came out and woke me up, carrying me to the bedroom. He put me into bed, then snuggled up to me, apologizing for his temper and telling me how much he loved me.

                It’s been like that ever since. Every few days, I do something that is wrong, and he loses his temper. Sometimes I black out, and sometimes I don’t. The day after a tantrum, he always did something amazing for me. Hotel stays, waterparks, shopping sprees, and anything he could spend money on to make me forget about how much pain he caused. After an especially violent night, I couldn’t attend school due to bruises, and he pushed me to drop out. He told me it was better this way since he needed me to be home to take care of things. I had been completely alienated from everything that had once been important to me.

                Tonight, things had gone up a notch. I’d been home watching television and waiting for Trevor to return from an over-the-road trip. The house was clean, dinner was prepped and waiting in the fridge, and I was pacing the house like an animal in a cage. When I heard his truck pull into the driveway two hours earlier than expected, a stone settled into my stomach, and I braced for the worst.

                He’d been gone for a week this time around, and before he left, he’d attacked me, accusing me of cheating on him. I’d spent most of the week in bed, recovering. Earlier today, though, I’d gone out to pick up groceries and made an extra stop to see a very old friend. My special purchase was hidden in the bathroom inside a box of tampons, the only place I knew he wouldn’t look. I didn’t plan to use it unless I had to, but the fighting had gotten more aggressive, and I’d had a bad feeling the whole week he was gone.

                When he came inside with his overnight bag, he’d been sweet to me, offering to take me out to dinner instead of cooking. While I’d gotten changed, he’d taken his bag to the laundry room and gotten cleaned up.

                When I was ready, I went to the living room to wait, wandering around and straightening the already clean room. My nerves were on end, tingling like lightning, and my stomach was orchestrating an elaborate flipping routine I couldn’t stop. I was looking at a bookshelf when I heard Trevor enter the room and walk up to my back. I didn’t turn, expecting him to wrap me in a hug. Instead, he wrapped his left arm around my neck and squeezed my throat with his hand. It was then that I felt the cold metal push into my temple, and I froze.

                “Jillian, I’m only going to ask you one time. Do you understand?” His voice was deep and menacing, not his normal voice. This voice was the one I was most familiar with, the one that meant that if I didn’t tread lightly, I wouldn’t remember most of my night. Nothing good ever happened when his voice sounded like that.

                “Yes, I understand,” I whimpered, trying to keep my voice from breaking.

                “Where did you go today?”

                “To the grocery store. I had to buy stuff for dinner. It’s in the fridge.”

                “And where else?” He growled at me, putting pressure on my temple.

                “I stopped at the library. I needed a new book to read. It’s on the desk if you want to look at it.”

                “Nowhere else?”

                “No, of course not.” He was quiet, and I could feel him breathing heavily on my neck. Slowly, he lowered his hands and stepped away from me. I turned toward him and watched as he inspected the book and receipts on the desk. I was careful today to save receipts with their time stamps. He’d never know that my friend had met me at the library. I had been so careful to avoid anyone he might know.

                “Why didn’t you just buy the book at the store?” He looked up at me and set the gun on the desk.

                “I don’t know. I’ve never read it, and I didn’t know if I’d like it.”

                “Do you think I can’t afford to buy you a book?” He asked. His voice was back to its normal softness.

                “Of course not,” I said. I could see the tension leaving him, and I knew, for the moment, the danger had passed.

                “I told you to buy what you needed from the store. If you want a book, you buy the book. If you want clothes, you buy them. It’s an insult to me when you act like I can’t provide for you.”

                I stepped toward him, knowing the violence had been avoided for now. I knew it would happen eventually, later tonight or tomorrow, when he couldn’t bring himself back down. I hoped to be gone by then. All of the pieces were falling into place, but I had started too late in his trip, and now I was forced to wait for his next trip. But I hadn’t been prepared for him to have a gun. I wrapped my arms around his stomach and gave him a hug, showing him that all was forgiven. I whispered an apology and promised it wouldn’t happen again.

                Instead of leaving for dinner, Trevor called an order into my favorite Italian restaurant, and we ate together in the living room, watching a crime television show. At bedtime, we made love, and he passed out quickly. I went to the bathroom once he was soundly asleep and took out my special box. Inside was a disposable cell phone and a handgun.

                I turned on the phone and sent a message to Sabrina, telling her what happened before dinner and asking her to keep my secret. Then, I told her I couldn’t take anymore, and I loved her. I pushed send and turned off the phone, tucking it back into the box.

                The next few days were tense as I walked on eggshells around Trevor, trying to keep from setting him off. His next trip was a short one, just scheduled for an overnight. I was afraid it wouldn’t be enough time, but I tried hard to keep my anxiety from showing.

                Trevor left on Saturday evening, and I started packing. I had a terrible feeling in my stomach, so I didn’t wait long once he’d left the house. I had just finished tossing my clothing into a box when I heard the front door open, and I panicked. Seconds later, I heard footsteps behind me.

                “What do you think you’re doing?” Trevor asked from the doorway.

                “Um…” I didn’t get any farther in my explanation when his fist connected with my jaw, and I felt myself falling. He hit me again, and I tried to move away, crawling to the side. He grabbed my hair and dragged me to the living room, where he threw me into the coffee table. My head exploded in pain, and everything went dark.

                When my eyes opened again, it was because something ice cold had just hit my face. As I sputtered and fought to regain consciousness, I realized he had thrown ice-cold water on me. I screamed and begged him to stop. It took several minutes of begging to reach him and get him to stop hitting me. Finally, he stopped, and I curled into myself on the floor, drenched and crying.

                An eternity later, he fell asleep on the couch where he had been sitting, staring at me in the corner of the room, hiding from him in plain sight. When I was sure I could stand, I got up and started walking toward the bathroom.

                “Where do you think you are going?”

                “I need to pee,” I say as innocently as I can manage.

                “Hurry up.”

                I went to the bathroom and washed my face, gathering my strength. I looked at myself in the mirror, getting an inventory of the injuries already turning purple on my face and arms. I took a deep breath and reached under the sink into my special box. I slid the phone into my back pocket and clicked the safety off on my handgun, sliding it into the back waistband of my pants. I flushed and washed my hands, then opened the bathroom door. I could hear snoring from the front room, and I relaxed. I knew I could do this.

                I took measured steps into the living room, listening to rhythmic snoring from Trevor. Tears started sliding down my cheek as I resolved to do what needed to be done. Nothing was ever going to change, and now I knew, without a doubt, that I could never leave. One of us would have to die to get out of the relationship, and I was finally strong enough to take the leap. I stepped into the doorway, looked straight at Trevor’s peaceful sleeping face, and raised the gun.

                I cocked the gun. The noise caused Trevor to startle, and his eyes opened. He stared at me, trying to understand.

                “It’s over, Trevor. Goodbye.” As he tried to stand up, I pulled the trigger. As the bullet entered his chest, my arm pulled back sharply. Without giving him a second to recover, I cocked the gun again and aimed at his head, pulling the trigger and hitting the dead center of my target.

                As I watched the blood drain from his body and soak the couch, I contemplated my future. It only took a few minutes to realize I couldn’t go to the police. Trevor was best friends with several guys on the force, and I didn’t think they would listen to my side, despite the bruises covering my body.

                Hastily, I packed several bags of my stuff and threw them in my trunk. I turned on the cell phone and sent Sabrina a message.

                I shot him. Oh god. I shot him. I gotta get out of here. I love you. I’m sorry.

                Inside, I took all of the money out of Trevor’s safe and counted it. Nearly ten thousand dollars in cash and several baggies of a white powdery substance that I assumed was a drug, which I left in the safe. A drug habit would explain his erratic behavior. It was too late for excuses, though.

                I stuffed the money into my purse with the gun and the small number of bullets I had left, then grabbed my keys and took off. I didn’t know how long it would take for someone to find his body and start looking for me, and I didn’t care. I gassed up at the truck stop and hit the highway, heading toward the east coast.

                I stopped at a grocery store about four hours later, where I purchased a pair of scissors and a black hair dye. I checked into a motel at sundown, where I chopped my long red hair down to a messy pixie cut and dyed it black. Late in the night, I drove a few miles away and parked the car in a river, then walked back to the motel. The next morning, I walked to a nearby car dealership and bought a three-thousand-dollar car that I drove off the lot. At the motel, I transferred my stuff from the room to the new car. When everything was loaded, I left my room key on the dresser and took off, disappearing into the morning.

                I didn’t know where I was going or what I would do when I got there. All I knew was that I finally felt free. Eventually, I would turn the phone back on and pray that Sabrina would forgive me for what I’d done. I didn’t know when that would be, either. I didn’t know a lot of things at that moment, but I knew one thing for sure.

                Nobody would ever put their hands on me again.  

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Well, what did you think of this one? Love it? Hate it? Let me know!

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Publication Round-Up

Over the last few years, I have had a handful of publications. I thought now would be a good time to do a publication round-up and gather all of the links into one post for readers to dive into.

“Down the Country Road” Short Story- https://penmenreview.com/down-the-country-road/ This is my first published piece. Here we have a short story written from a young adult perspective.

“6 Do’s and Don’ts for Starting a Writing Career” Collaboration (non-fiction) – https://penmenreview.com/writing-resources/6-dos-and-donts-for-starting-a-new-writing-career/ This piece is a non-fiction collaboration that was part of the W.R.I.T.E. competition at SNHU in 2021.

“Blind Date” Short Story – https://bardsy.com/stories/story-reader/?story_id=3399 This short romance story was featured in the Bardsy Anthology “Love Is Blind,” which can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09XZ2JZMB?ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_Q35GDDPXRDFME50VA3NA&tag=kpembed-20&linkCode=kpe

Creative Gems 2 – Anthology (Children’s Poetry) –  https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Gems-2-Andrea-Benko/dp/B0BQ9J8FPY

A Covid Christmas Story – Holiday Contemporary Fiction Novel – https://cathymariebown.com/a-covid-christmas-story/

I hope to do this publication round-up once a year, and my goal is to double the list each year! Here’s hoping for a bright publication future!

Until Next Time,

Cathy Marie Bown

“Ricky Raccoon Loves to Read”

Recently, I participated in a Children’s anthology project called Creative Gems 2. You can learn more about the project here, and you can purchase a copy of the book here. I had an absolute blast working with Andrea, the illustrator, and I can’t wait to participate in the next project. I’ve already begun putting together ideas to go with her amazing pictures!

While I am not sharing the wonderful, inspiring picture here, I am sharing my poem. The original artwork I used for inspiration can be viewed here. However, the illustrator created a unique artwork for the actual book to accompany the poem.

This was my first published children’s work, and it was so exciting that I plan to do many more in the coming years.

Ricky Raccoon Loves to Read

By Cathy Marie Bown

On a dark, dark night

By the light of the moon,

A big book is read

By Ricky the Raccoon.

As a soft wind blows

Through the nearby trees

Ricky imagines a beach

And an ocean breeze.

Pirate ships and scallywags

A prince and princess,

High seas adventures

And Damsels in distress,

Anything can happen

When he gets lost inside

His favorite stories

Where he loves to hide.

I hope you enjoy my work. I can’t wait to share more with you in the near future! Until next time!

Cathy Marie Bown

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

In my house, we spent the holiday weeks suffering from the flu. It was terrible and made for a super unpleasant holiday. The Christmas holiday was also a very depressing time for me this year, given the broken nature of my home currently.

This was the first Christmas outside of my home and without my husband by my side. Granted, we spent a lot of the holiday together with the children. But it was different. I can’t say I liked it.

As we enter a new year, I want to focus on some resolutions I set for myself.

  1. Write every day. This has been a challenge for me these last few months as I struggled with depression and the emotional toll of ending a long marriage. I want to enter more contests this year, put my work out there in more publication channels, and make my voice heard in the writing community.
  2. Read every day. I am an avid reader, but some days I don’t touch a book, and that saddens me. I love reading, and my TO BE READ pile is more of a mountain. Audiobooks, e-books, paperbacks, hardcovers, I love them all. I want to read every day, not only to enjoy the written word but also to make myself a better writer.
  3. Get in better shape. This is going to take some work for me since I’m way out of shape, but I want to be a healthier person. My goal is to make it to the gym a few days a week and be active on the other days. I know this resolution is pretty cliche, but for me, it’s important.
  4. Leave the past in the past. This one is pretty self-explanatory. I want to move forward with life rather than dwell on the horrible things that I have lived through. This is the year for me to forgive, forget, or move on.

What are your resolutions in this new year?

Until next time,

Cathy Marie Bown

Hey guys! Don’t forget to grab your copy of A Covid Christmas Story, out now. Find it here!

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