First, this is Izzy, my inspiration for Mack the Magical Cat. Izzy, er, Mack is one of the main characters in my first novel, Ma Tutt's Donut Hut, a curious cozy mystery. It's on sale through the weekend at Amazon for $1.75. Check it out here.
Then, there's my first interview! Well, maybe not my very very first, but one that feels like a "real" interview since the topic is my first novel. Visit Jeff Chapman's writing blog to read it.
Of course, I'm having a blast finding my way in this promotion game. Now that I've started writing with the serious intention of making this my full time career, I'm actually doing some tentative marketing. Discount price. Blog tour. Get my friends to pimp my book (thanks everyone!). Yeah, I know, not very sophisticated and all very old school (like my CRT monitor for my non-internet writing computer pictured above, hello, '90s calling). But it's what I can do for now.
What else can I do? Write more stories while thanking each of you for your support. I've already heard from a number of you about wanting more "Ma Tutt" - so your wish is my command. Here's an opening teaser for the first chapter/story in my next novel. If, after you read it, you want to receive the whole "tail" and become a beta reader (guidelines to be a second reader here), I'd be happy to send it to you. Probably 8,000 words (20 pages) total when completed. My email is somewhere on the right. Let me know. Meanwhile, enjoy!
Ma Tutt’s Secret Spice
A Mack the Magical Cat Mystery
A Mack the Magical Cat Mystery
by Lyn Perry
First Love ‘Tail’ – “Yesterday”
The mountain air had a slight chill to it when Dolly and Martía met at the back door of the bakery at just after four in the morning. It was the 4th of July. Ma Tutt’s Donut Hut opened at five o’clock sharp, and she had her prep time down to forty-five minutes.
“Good morning, Ma,” Martía said, yawning. She gave her matronly friend a hug. “I’m glad we decided to do most of our kitchen work before leaving for the day. Those three-thirty baking sessions were starting to wear mighty thin.”
Dolores Tutt chuckled. “Don’t you know, the older we get, the less sleep we need! At your age, you should be able to function on just a two or three hour nap.” Ma winked at her ‘younger’ friend, sharing an inside joke.
Martía Cooper was one hundred years old but didn’t look a day past twenty-four. That’s the age she and her husband Rohan stopped growing old, for some mysterious reason. The Coopers were Gypsies and Dolly, though privy to their secret, still mostly chalked the strange and wondrous happenings that surrounded them to their intriguing Romany background.
Including the presence of Mack, a very intriguing feline in his own right.
The gray Mackerel had come with the Hut when Dolly purchased the building six months before. Due to the pronounced M on the tabby’s forehead, Dolly christened him Mack. He was called Tozier, however, in a previous life when he belonged to the Coopers—as much as a cat can belong to anyone. And he, too, was quite advanced in years, having just celebrated his sixtieth birthday. But these tales have already been told.
Dolly, for the most part, simply accepted the mystery of it all.
Mack greeted the two women with a surly mrrow as they entered the kitchen and hit the lights.
“Evidently, he doesn’t like the later start time,” Martía said. She found his plastic bin of food, the cat griping all the while. “It’s too early for breakfast, Mack!” But she acquiesced to his demands and filled his bowl with kibble. The throaty complaints turned to a satisfied purr as he dug in.
“No such thing as too early for breakfast,” Dolly said, shaking her head. “After all the time you’ve spent with him, you should know that by now.”
“Ah, but we didn’t spoil him as you have done. Cat food purchased from a store? Oosh, this is why he has claws. There is a mountainside to explore behind the Hut and plenty of mice for him to find.”
Ma shivered at the thought. “As long as he never shows me his prize, I’ll just pretend he doesn’t hunt.” She looked at the cute little kitty door next to the back entrance and considered herself fortunate that Mack hadn’t brought back any of his kills into the kitchen. Oh, the local food and health inspector would have a fit if he were to visit on the day Mack left such an offering!
She peeled her eyes off her feline friend and grabbed a favorite apron, one with a colorful splay of California poppies. She donned a hairnet and tucked away a few graying strands of hair. Ready at last, she began her opening routine with a spry step that belied her sixty-year old legs.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a busy morning, Martía. If you’ll woman the oven and deep fat fryer, I’ll make sure the display case out front is fully stocked.” The Gypsy woman nodded and, with another yawn, got to work.
This being a Friday and the start to a busy holiday weekend in the middle of tourist season, Dolly expected quite a crowd. But then, so far this summer, most weekends boasted a whirlwind of activity. After just two months of business, the Hut was already the community’s hotspot and a favorite stop for vacationers on their way to a mountain lake getaway. It was not unusual to see a line forming at the front door by the time Dolly hit the lights and turned the Closed sign to Open.
After witnessing a stifled yawn, Dolly patted the younger woman’s shoulder on her way to the front of the store. “I’ll bring you some coffee when it’s ready.”
“That would be wonderful. Thanks, Ma.”
“Thank you for helping!” she called back over her shoulder. “I’m so glad you and Rohan decided to stay the summer.” Dolly had only known Martía for a short time but it seemed as if they’d always been friends. They’d shared enough experiences in recent weeks to last some people a lifetime, that was for certain.
Martía tsk tsk’d and said in her vaguely foreign accent, “It is nothing.”
To Dolores Tutt, though, this new friendship was a wonderful gift.
She’d recently moved—not knowing a soul—to Sugar Pine Station, a small mountain community nestled in the upper foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, in order to fulfill a life-long dream of owning her own baked goods and coffee shop. It was an early retirement gift to herself, but one that kept her busy from before sunrise to just past noon each day, plus a few more hours of prep only to start it all over again the next morning. Without Martía’s help, she doubted she could keep up the pace come autumn.
“What are your plans for this fall, Martía?” Dolly asked as she returned to the kitchen after turning on the two forty-cup coffee machines, one decaf, one regular. Those would take an hour to percolate, so she also put on a quick four-cup pot to help jumpstart the day. “Will you and Rohan continue to travel on your own, or will you join up with another band of Gypsies?”
Martía sighed. “Given our…youthful condition, I suppose we’ll travel on alone. Probably north to Canada. We heard about a troupe of Romany in Vancouver who are not kin, or at least distant enough to not know of us. There are still those of our immediate clan who might remember us from twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. That’s one reason we must leave Sugar Pine Station soon. We lived here for almost twenty years and I’m afraid there will be people in town who will notice that we haven’t aged.”
This was probably true, though the only other person besides Dolly who knew of their secret was Father Emilio Aguilera, the elderly priest of St. Anne’s Catholic Church. He’s the one who convinced the Coopers to stay when they returned to visit Mack in the mid-90s. They agreed and opened the Log Cabin Café, which Dolly now owned and operated as the Hut. Rohan and Martía suddenly had to abandon their business and pack up and leave when a certain nosey city inspector came snooping around a few years back, threatening to expose whatever they were hiding.
“We don’t want to raise any more suspicions.” Martía looked at Dolly knowingly.
The incident with Donovan Huckly, the community’s nosey ‘Inspector General,’ and Tommy Fairbanks, the editor of the Sugar Pine Station Bulletin, flashed through Ma’s mind. She cringed at the memory.
Fortunately, that episode was behind them, thanks to Martía’s ‘Forgettable Pie.’ The recipe certainly lived up to its name; eating just one piece had erased whatever suspicions the two men had about the Coopers and their connection with the Hut. It was definitely a recipe worth keeping!
Ma had discovered a number of unique and wonderful recipes that her friend had recorded in her willowy handwritten script. They all contained some strange and mysterious spice or ingredient that seemed to unleash a kind of magical result. Dolly thought back to her own experience with the index cards she’d found. The effects of the Memory Cake and those Irresistible Doughnuts certainly bordered on the miraculous. Her reflections brought a smile to her face and led her to consider Mack, who had a hand—or paw!—in the discovery of those recipes.
“Speaking of suspicious,” Dolly said, her smile weakening, “Mack’s long-tenured presence is enough to raise some eyebrows, I imagine.”
“Yes, this is true. Especially if you happen to take him to see Doc Moore again.”
Dr. Gerald Moore, was the town’s veterinarian. A few weeks back, he’d attended to a particular gray tabby, who’d been quite ill. In fact, he had the unfortunate job of pronouncing Mack dead later that very same day. Oi! Would he be surprised to see the cat now!
“I guess we could tell Gerry that we found a replacement kitty?” Ma suggested. Mack, sitting on the counter of an antique-like hutch that loomed over the back room, objected to the possibility with dismissive meow.
Martía shrugged. “Very few people want to believe the obvious, so yes, that will likely be enough to sidetrack him. It’s when a man becomes solely obsessed with an idea, no matter how irrational it may sound to others, that he will do everything within his power to follow that idea down the path to its final destination.”
Dolly blinked and reflected on this as she stuffed a stray strand of hair back into her hairnet. “You know, that is mighty profound for 4:30 in the morning!” Both women laughed and settled into the final thirty minutes of prep time before opening the café.
Their routine was soon interrupted when they heard a tentative knock at the back door.
“Now who could that be?” Ma wondered out loud. Mack answered her musing with a yowl as if he were a king’s attendant announcing the next guest at a royal ball. She gave him a sidelong glance as she opened the door.
“Why, Gerry…Doc Moore, we were just…” She waved somewhat airily at Martía. “I mean, come in, come in.”
Gerry, his face flushed and with a nervous manner, not at all like his normal calm and steady professional demeanor, entered and shut the door behind him. He looked around and seemed relieved, though when his eyes settled on Mack, they grew wide in surprise.
“Is that…?” He pointed.
Martía quickly volunteered, “He looks like Mack. And, um, we call him Mack. And…oh yes, he arrived the day after the first Mack died.” Which was all true enough, as far as the story went.
To be continued...
Thanks for reading! And like I said, let me know if you want to beta read the whole story. Maybe you found something in this opening scene that didn't work for you. Maybe you found a typo. Maybe you're just nosy and need to find out before everyone else what catastrophe Mack got Ma into now. Email me for more info and thanks for your interest and support.