Some Bone Deep Memories that led to Writing “Moose Tracks”

Now that Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven is published, I’ve been thinking about some of the “behind the scenes” and inspirational  kinds of things I enjoy reading about/seeing when it comes to novels I’ve read by other authors – and so I decided to do a post of this sort today, for anyone who might be interested.

Mary on threadbare chairWe were pretty materially poor when I was little. So much so that when my father married my mother (it was a second marriage for them both, and she already had my five older sisters) there was a carpet pad instead of a carpet for quite a few years, and some furniture that was extremely threadbare (like in this picture, taken from inside our living room, in our little house near the lake).

Pa took this picture, I’m certain, as he was the camera-expert in the house, and I only found it recently, on a slide he’d given me years ago. I love it, actually, because of the ragged carpet pad and chair. I felt so much love and nurturing in my young life that I have no memory or distress at having so little in a material sense. My parents ensured that we had plentiful, wholesome, homemade food (with one of Ma’s delicious desserts every night!) and plenty of sturdy, warm clothing and shoes; we were living on my father’s salary alone with many mouths to feed, and we didn’t have a lot of frills, but we always had more than enough in that regard. I felt then and still feel I wanted for nothing.

Mary cyI’m sitting in the pic above with my hands uncharacteristically folded and a solemn expression on my face. Here’s another one on the left of my more usual, energetic demeanor, and on the right, from a professional photographer about six months earlier. Mary at 22 monthsI was two years old in the picture on the right and about three in both of the pictures taken at home – a happy, exuberant kid. However, my parents often told me that I was also a child who would sometimes retreat into a profound stillness and deep thoughts. When I had the kind of expression I’m wearing in the pic above – the one with my hands folded – my mother said she always wondered what I was thinking, and people often said I spoke and seemed far older than my years. I wasn’t so still and quiet very often, but I had the makings of a bookworm/thinker even then.

I’ll finish this post with some final, visual examples of the kind of happiness and love I experienced as a young child – the foundation of the life and family atmosphere that would inspire my writings so many years later. These pics are from my first birthday and were taken in the Homestead’s kitchen, next to my father’s chair (empty in these shots, as he was taking the photos), back in the winter of 1967. I am the sixth of seven daughters, but my parents ensured that each daughter was recognized in her own right, with attention, conversations, and of course recognition of us as individuals on our birthdays. Pa was at the ready with his camera, and we always had a cake baked for us lovingly by my mother (who is a wonderful cook, even today, though she is in her 80’s now).

Birthday 17 Birthday 16 Birthday 14 Birthday 13 Birthday 10

Life was good in the purest and best sense…filled with ups and downs, conflict and struggle, but also filled with the kind of warmth and nurturing that helped a little girl understand what’s really important, far above and beyond material goods.

 

Release Day!

Actual Final copy with endorsementIt’s finally here…and after five + years in the writing, another six months in editing and production, and two months in pre-sale mode, it feel very good to say that Moose Tracks on the Road To Heaven is now available for purchase in eBook or print TODAY! 🙂

You can purchase the eBook in these places:

Amazon B&N iBooks Kobo AllRomance GooglePlay

PLEASE NOTE: If you’d prefer a PRINT copy of the book, at this point it can be purchased here, from: Amazon

It will be available in print from Barnes and Noble and other sellers within a few days (there is a lag in terms of publisher availability).

It will also be available from some independent book stores, either in stock or upon request, including Mysteries on Main Street, in Johnstown, NY.

Moose Tracks Sneak Peek #2 – Meet Jesse

Actual Final copy with endorsement

From Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, available for preorder now for Kindle and Kobo, and for sale in print and all other venues on February 3, 2015.

Diary entry #1: June 30, 1981

This is Elena Elizabeth, and it’s my first time writing even though I got this diary five months ago when I turned twelve. I’ve been feeling a little guilty cuz Ma says I should be using it, so here goes. I met a new kid near Caveman Rock today. He seems like a jerk. . . .

      The first time Elena saw Jesse James Wilder she was up to her elbows in

dirt and a rotting layer of last autumn’s leaves. She was a definite outdoors

girl, tall for her age and in the habit of running free all day each summer—

sometimes playing with Jen (less often Zippy or Patricia) or maybe the

across-the-field-neighbors Lisa and Debbie. But lots of times she just

rummaged around in the woods by herself.

      She could spend hours looking at plants, collecting feathers,

pretending to be a pioneer or an Indian, and finding dead birds and other

animals to bury in the little animal graveyard Pa had helped them lay out

behind the camp’s outhouse. She’d be the first to admit that with only one

bathroom at the homestead, the outhouse could be useful in a pinch, even if

it was stinky and dark.

      She felt safe playing outside by herself all day. Ma had never had

to worry about weirdos trolling the streets and byways for kids to pick up.

Not in rural areas like Moose Junction, and certainly not out in the acres of

woods behind their house.

      On the rare occasions when Elena went with her sisters on the ten minute

bike ride down the highway to the lake (from which the nearby

town of Lake Pines derived its name), they’d all stuck together. The older

girls watched out for the younger ones, and bad drivers were more of a

concern than kidnappers.

      All in all, Elena relished those summer days of freedom, coming

home at dusk and covered in dirt, and, more often than not, with twigs and

even burdocks tangled in her hair.

      As it was already nearing suppertime on that particular day, she

looked quite a sight as she crouched in the dappled light, trying to scoop a

half mummified chipmunk carcass into an improvised Maple bark coffin.

She’d been concentrating so hard that she hadn’t been paying

attention to her surroundings. So when Jesse Wilder surprised her by

stepping into her little clearing with his size thirteen feet, snapping twigs

like a black bear, she’d lurched to a partial stand and nearly clocked him

with the stick she’d been using to dig at the dirt around the dead chipmunk.

In fact, she swung her improvised weapon within a few inches of his head

at the same time that she pretty much growled at him.

      Both of his big hands shot up in front of him in a fist-clenched,

defensive pose as he yelled, “Holy shit!” But the terrified look on his face

immediately made her feel a little better, considering her temporary lapse

of attention to her surroundings.

      “What the hell!” he added as his fists slowly came down, but his

shock was still apparent by the way his voice cracked on the last word.

Elena’s mouth turned down at the double profanities. She gave him

a quick onceover, none too impressed. First of all, he was obviously a city

slicker, and second of all, he was a boy (a.k.a. an alien species). A tall,

wiry boy, sporting a shock of honey-colored hair streaked with blond, and

staring at her through narrowed blue eyes.

      She finally let out her breath, standing up out of her stooped

position. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to use that kind

of language?”

      “My mother died when I was six.”

      That kind of set Elena back on her heels. “Oh . . . sorry.”

She didn’t really know what else to say. The truth was that she

didn’t know anyone on a personal basis who didn’t have a mother. The

thought of what it would be like not to have Ma, with her soft hands, sweet

smile, and gentle voice (except when Trish, Zippy, and Elena had been

squabbling so much that they’d driven her up one wall and down another)

took away some of the sting of indignation she’d been feeling.

      But the temporary peace lasted only as long as it took for the tall,

scrawny blond kid to open his mouth again, right after he returned the

favor Elena had given him with a disdainful onceover, his expression

having shifted by now from his initial shock to a look of cool mocking.

“What are you, some kind of crazy mountain girl?” His sarcasm

was only fair considering the way she looked, she supposed, but she didn’t

much care for logic at that moment. She snorted, taking in his Jordache

jeans, Nike sneakers, and perfectly pressed Ralph Lauren shirt.

      “Yeah. Just like you’re a walking billboard for name brands.”

      He did something Elena didn’t expect then. He laughed.

Writing’s Dirty Little Secret

gossip-aug16_jpg_1097337557That sounds luscious and gossip-y, doesn’t it? 🙂

Of course there are far more than one…but today I’m going to spill about one in particular that’s been giving me fits over the past several months. It’s this: The most beautifully written words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages the world has ever seen won’t matter a bit, if you can’t get a handle on the business side of being a writer.

It’s the dark horse truth that’s always been a factor in any author’s career, but it’s particularly apropos in this newer age of professional self-publishing (i.e. self-publishing that will approximate in quality and form what traditional publishers produce).

creative-brainVery few will mention this dirty little secret. Most “writerly” discussion is about the work, the words, the characters, plot, themes, message…of writing from the heart and bleeding onto the page (represented by the colorful half of this brain). And all of that is good and necessary for the first leg of the writing journey that ultimately results in pulling a completed novel from an author’s head and placing it into a reader’s hands.

But it’s only the first half. The whole second half (represented by the not-so-colorful half of the brain in the illustration…since I don’t like the second half and I want it to come across as plain, boring, and uninteresting 🙂 ) is glossed over, like it doesn’t exist.

And maybe that’s because it really didn’t used to exist – at least not very tangibly – for authors during the era when the only path to publication was through the great gatekeepers and traditional publishing. Back then authors relied on their agents to do the work of negotiating and managing financial issues (for 15% of all gross earnings, beginning with advance and continuing through royalties), and the publisher, with its vast employee list, took care of all of all the nitty-gritty elements of bringing a book to market (for the measly fee of 100% of the profits, shifting down to 92% of profits, once the author’s advance was earned back for the publishing house). Even so, there is something to be said for the trade-off.

This business side of writing is not something that makes me comfortable and all cozy, like I prefer to be (reference my warm and fuzzy posts like the one here and here. Or venture over to the search box just above my picture up on the left toolbar and enter in words like “cozy”, “love”, “nostalgia” or “warm”. You’ll see posts about the things that make me happy). But it’s a necessity.

Actual Final copy with endorsement

This cover art is the result of months of work gathering and trying various images and text placement and styles – probably nearly 50 – before settling on this one

Having to set up accounts at Amazon, CreateSpace, B&N, Kobo, Google, AllRomance, and iTunes, complete with tax ids and all sorts of technical information – having to think about a business plan, building and maintaining an online presence and platform, and keeping track of all the miniscule aspects that go into a book being available for purchase, like hiring out and working with a cover artist, editor, formatter, and conversion expert, and then reviewing e-files and formatted files, while also keeping track of how much money it costs to complete all those processes without getting into a financial hole one can never dig out of unless one’s book becomes a bestseller (which would be great, Universe, if you’re listening!)  – all give me figurative hives. And it all takes a large amount of time, which as a person who really inhabits all of the roles listed under my picture up a bit and on the left, is in short supply.

But unless I’m going to be the only person who is ever going to read my book, it has to be done.

So there you have it. One of the dirty little secrets of being a (self-)published writer. I’m not very good at keeping secrets (I’m a “wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve” kind of gal), so I feel better already, having shared it, LOL.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – or even one of your secrets (it’ll be like a self-help program!) Anyone have any (rated PG-13 or lower, please) to spill – whether as a writer, reader, artist, employee…heck a breathing human being? Join the fun in the comments. 🙂

Un-decorating…And Fresh Starts

happy-new-year-wallpapers-hd-2Yesterday was one of my least favorite days of the year for one reason: On January 1st, I un-decorate from the holidays.

It’s good to clear out after the holidays, but in my house, it’s a huge job that, like all things having to do with household décor, I get to do 99% by myself.

It’s my own fault. I love to create a homey, warm atmosphere, especially at the holidays, and I have a plethora of items with which to do that (remember my post about the bathroom tree? LOL. Yeah, as one of my friends mentioned, I might need a decorating intervention). 🙂

imageBut the result is that on un-decorating day, my dining room (where I gather all the stuff to put it away into specified containers, boxes, bags etc and haul them back down to the basement) looks for a while like a holiday yard sale. imageAs you can see from these two pics.

It’s an all-day process to remove everything from the rooms where I’ve decorated (which is basically the downstairs…I don’t do the upstairs), not to mention un-decorating the big tree (which is real and therefore I need to vacuum once I’ve gotten it out of the house).

At the end I have a strangely empty-looking house. imageMy dining room looks kind of sterile and imagemy mantel looks bare.

Overall, I’m glad when it’s done. It IS a fresh start, and it’s nice to have everything de-cluttered. Now if only I can keep it that way!

This will be a new year for me in that, as of February 3, 2015, I will have published a book for the very first time entirely through my own choices and arrangements of hiring independent contractors, rather than working with my traditional publisher (HarperCollins) or my former independent publisher (Cool Gus Publishing). Copyright M. Reed McCall, Mary Reed McCall, novel, writing, writer, author, book, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, preorderMoose Tracks on the Road to Heaven marks a new phase in my life. After a long time away from the book scene, I hope to provide some enjoyment, provoke thought, and entertain anyone who decides to give the novel a try. Anyone here who wants to know more about the book in general can click the highlighted title above. To read an excerpt you can click on cover to the left, here.

So, Happy New Year to all of you. May this year hold many good things, times spent with people you enjoy, health, and success. Onward and upward, 2015! 🙂

new-years-eve-quotes-05

 

Winter Morning Memories

shed in snowThis is a picture of a sight I saw most late winter mornings at the Homestead when I was growing up: the sun rising through the woods out back behind the red shed, casting a pink glow over everything.

We lived on what was called a “rural route” and so the school bus had to come and get us an hour before school actually started, in order to get all the kids necessary and get us all to school in time. So I was usually sitting at the kitchen table at around 6:30am, looking out the windows – which overlooked this back yard – and eating the breakfast Ma insisted I have to “get a good start on the day” before the bus came just before 7:00am.

My mother used to even sing the song of the old-time commercial posted below, to get us to eat our Cream of Wheat with a side of buttered toast and some milk or orange juice. It was from an old radio commercial she heard as a girl in the 1930’s, and it stuck with her; she could always make us smile and eat up when she danced around the kitchen singing it. When the mood strikes, she’ll still sing it for me now, with a twinkle in her eyes, and usually with both of us dissolving into giggles before she’s done. My kids think it’s hysterical. 🙂

It was a peaceful and happy time. I learned some of my love of colors, textures, and the gorgeous trappings of nature as well by watching the changes in the vista I saw each morning in the back yard. Everything was snug, safe, and warm inside the house, the beautiful world outside was just waking up, and it was time to start a new day.

I still enjoy sunrises, though the view around me is sadly far more suburban than country anymore. The sky looks the same, though, wherever I am. ❤

How about you – are you a sunrise kind of person?

The Reason I Write

inspire

This is what I repeat to myself with all of my fiction.

I don’t have any kind of agenda to “enlighten” anyone about anything (heaven forbid…no, I’m trying to entertain, provoke some thought, and perhaps provide some sense of connection or, on occasion, comfort).

My fiction is not for everyone (and I don’t expect it to be). But I do hope it will find those who need it, who want it, who might enjoy it, or who will gain something from it.

With Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, I’m hoping to cross a bridge that couldn’t be crossed when I was writing medieval romances, because of the tight niche of that historical genre; let’s just say medieval readers are not a thronging horde (though I continue to appreciate every one of mine). 🙂

I hope to reach a broader audience with this more mainstream tale about real, poignant, humorous, and sometimes bittersweet life – my story about confronting loss and living through it, and about coming out stronger and with more understanding and peace on the other side of it.

Since it’s dressed up with some pretty funny material from real life, from having grown up as one of seven sisters living in a little house in the foothills of the Adirondacks in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, I hope it will provide some chuckles and entertain as well.

But it will only reach those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’, and I know that, like I’ve known with all my other books.

If that happens to be many people, that will be wonderful, but it’s not the reason I write.

Bestseller lists are great, and I’d love to be on some with this book, once it’s published on February 3rd – but only because that will mean the tale encased in those covers “spoke” to enough people and was meaningful, entertaining, and memorable enough to get me there.

For me, it’s about the meaning in a story…the sharing, reaching out to connect with other people, their challenges, tragedies, hopes, and dreams in a way that resonates and has meaning to them.

That’s the reason I write.