Halloween Memories

Halloween in the 1984

This was done my first year at college, when I came home on break…

Reminiscing Halloweens past, and the decorating we used to do at the Homestead with all homemade materials.¬† All the pictures in this post are from the 80’s (as the clothing and hairstyles will attest, LOL)!

Ma with pumpkinCutting jack-o-lanterns with Pa and Ma. Ma is having a bit of fun with her pumpkin. ūüôā

Pa and Mary with pumpkin

Admiring the finished products with Pa

pumpkin and mary

And finally, sitting atop the little shelter Pa built for us to stand in while we waited for the school bus at the end of our long driveway…sharing the space with a giant pumpkin Pa grew, and a little orange cat he and Ma took in.

Happy Halloween!

I’ve Started Writing A New Medieval…

Well, it’s a novella and not ¬†full-length book.

But it’s in response to numerous reader requests over the years,¬†related to the main characters of¬†one of my medieval romances, originally published with HarperCollins/Avon and then released under my own imprint Teabury Books¬†with a new cover and revised contents, once rights reverted.

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

Here’s the book that the novella will be based around.

Anyone want to guess what the story will be about? (Hint: because of the context of this story, and in order to be honest to the characters and circumstances, this novella will probably end up being a bit more “intense” than my usual romances – and it’s certainly not a romance in and of itself). ūüėČ

It feels good to be writing again!

How Do You Act When…?

two things define youThis really resonates with me. I’ve run into people who exemplify this in a good way and other who do not.

Sadly, in the writing business, it seems to lean toward the negative. I saw it occasionally when I was traditionally published, but I realize now that my Big Five publisher served as a kind of buffer; once I took a step out on my own into self-publishing (partly by necessity, partly by choice), that little cushion of professional courtesy vanished.

Lately I have run into some who are in the camp of “having everything” figuratively¬†(whether fellow authors, publishers, reviewers, book sellers, and larger review sites etc) who often do not handle themselves well in this regard.¬†I’ve noticed it¬†in the past few months when I’ve reached out with a request or a submission of my newest book for possible review.

I’m not talking about the need for¬†time-intensive interaction, but rather just simple gestures such as a 30 second email acknowledging a query or receipt of the $14 autographed book with professional cover letter I mailed to those with open submission policies (I did my research!) – even if the answer is a “no thank you”.¬† A polite¬†reply¬†declining what I’ve queried about is far preferable than¬†resounding silence that drags on, leaving me wondering what, if anything, will happen.

I continue to remain very patient in my relative obscurity…however, I hope I will handle myself better when (not if…when)¬†I attain a level of greater notoriety.

Fortunately, I have encountered several authors, bloggers, and reviewers who have been courteous and gracious, whether or not they felt willing or able to meet any request I made. Those few will serve as my own role models in the future.

Professional courtesy seems to be going out of style. Life is indeed busy and packed full for most of us, but to me, good manners, even in a professional sense, are the lubrication that makes the grinding gears of life grind us down far less.

What do you think about this? Does anyone here have similar experiences (or a different take on the matter)?

“Writerly” Perks

signing twoedited

First Moose Tracks book signing, 2/21/15, with a few of my older titles off to the side

One of the perks of being a published author – for me at least – has always been book signings.

I know it’s kind of a dying form; large, multi-author signings are still popular at annual writing/readers¬†conferences and the like, but there are less and less bookstores to host individual signings.¬†Also, I know many authors who dislike them (and I must admit¬†I’ve had a few “interesting” experiences as well –¬† I remember one notable occasion at a Barnes & Noble many years ago,¬†where the only person to stop at the table and chat was someone who wanted directions to the rest room!) ¬†ūüôā

But I generally enjoy them because it gives me a chance to meet people and talk about books – and not always my books, either, but books in general. Sometimes people who stop by want to know about writing itself, or how to do it, or they want tips for how to get published. I try my best to address all questions and inquiries to the best of my ability – and I’ve met some really interesting people along the way.

Because Moose Tracks isn’t put out by a traditional publisher, the opportunities for book signings this time around will likely be limited.¬†Chain bookstores won’t carry print copies of it, and only independent book stores who have a reason to¬†carry it would likely go through the process to order (if they have an account with Baker¬†and Taylor, I understand they can get copies through the print publisher, Create Space).

mysteries on main streetI was happy to have a signing last weekend, therefore, in nearby bookstore: a great little shop called Mysteries on Main Street.  It was a lot of fun and I met some new readers, in addition to getting to chat and visit with some I already knew. A photographer from the local paper even stopped by and snapped a few pics.

booksigning oneedited

Signing a book for a friend who stopped by while the news photographer sets up shot

I think if I hadn’t been an English teacher and writer, I would have/should have been a bookstore owner, employee, or a librarian. I love books! I love being around them. And the two hours I spent at this signing flew by, not only because of the activity of people coming in to buy and have me sign a book, but also because the atmosphere of the bookstore just soothes and delights me.

If you’re an author, how do you feel about book signings?¬† If you’re a reader, have you ever been to one – or would you ever attend one?¬† Why or why not?

Moose Tracks Makes a List!

Although my re-published historical romance¬†novels¬†Secret Vows and The Templar’s Seduction have made sales lists recently at amazon.com US¬†(in the “Medieval” or “Scottish” categories), my newest release, the Women’s Fiction novel¬†Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, has not done so¬†in the US as of yet. But as of this morning, the same can’t be said of amazon.com Australia, LOL!

Moose Tracks listing in Australia

Moose Tracks listing in Australia!

 

 

 

Take a look at this screen shot from this morning.

 

Pretty cool.

imageWho would have thought?¬† I’ve been international with many of my historical romances for quite a few years (they’ve been published – with really neat and very different covers –¬†in Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, German, French, Slovakian, Dutch, etc.), as you can see here.

But¬†making an international sales list is a first for Moose Tracks. ¬†Many thanks to readers in Australia for this happy little perk to my day! ūüôā

The Pang – and Danger – of Nostalgia

nostalgia-wallpapers_37124_2560x1920Although I have rarely been dissatisfied by the world at any age, I get this kind of pang a lot and perhaps more intensely because of it. In fact I¬†tend to glorify the world of times gone by. Different things can trigger it: sometimes it’s an item I haven’t seen in a long time, or an old photo. It can be from my own childhood, or even from when my kids were little.

It can be triggered by¬†something as simple and silly as seeing Christmas decorations or pictures well after the holiday is done and all the accoutrements are packed away (confession: this just happened to me again today – for like the 10th time since Christmas – when I saw a friend’s old posting on FB from Christmas-time).

For me, who has a tendency to relish the past, I have to exercise balance when and how I can.

For many years, I could indulge my love of the past in a purely historical sense, writing my heavily-researched but still highly-fictionalized medieval romances.

Then, when I started writing Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, I got to spend some significant time in MY past – a practice that was actually both painful but ultimately cathartic after my father died (I’d only written about 70 pages of the 420 page manuscript when he died).

Here’s a snippet from an actual letter Pa wrote to me years ago, that I ended up using in the later part of¬†Moose Tracks. I like his philosophy and try to remember it as often as I can:

“What was it that Scarlett O‚ÄôHara said? Tomorrow is another day!? Here are some thoughts about that: You can re-live the past but you cannot re-live the future. We dumb humans (there is no other kind) get ourselves all screwed up with more than one time base. We are forced to live in the present with minutes and hours and days and years. Everything is pretty linear, and if we stayed in the present our lives would pass linearly.

When you are young, you have a little past, the present, and a lot of future. When you are middle-aged, you have a lot of past, the present, and a lot of future. When you get old, you have a real lot of past, the present, and a little future. Notice that the only thing that doesn’t change is the present.

When you are young, you waste time looking forward to the future. When you are middle-aged, you waste time looking both to the past and to the future. When you get old, you waste time looking to the past. The problem is you can look back more than once. There are some moments in my life from many years ago that I probably have spent hours re-living. But those hours were lost to my present, never to be given back to me. It’s up to me that any re-living of my past is worth the price of time in the present..

I’ve come to realize that you can only live now. Don’t get hung up on the past or wait for the future.

Living is only for now!

The more that can be true, then the longer you live. Think about it awhile.”

So when that pang of nostalgia hits, I try to follow this idea: to¬†allow the pang its moment, and then remember that¬†this moment, too, will someday be part of the past. I try to live it now and to its fullest and¬† not be too sad in missing¬†what’s gone before.

How about you – do you struggle with nostalgia, or are you someone who loves to throw out the old to make way for the new?

About Fishing With Pa…and Surprises

I’ve come to understand a few things in the almost half century I’ve lived, and one of those is the realization that sometimes, people can surprise you.

Sometimes those surprises can be unpleasant, but since I try to focus on the positive, I’d like to share a moment from nearly 20 years ago that surprised me in the best of ways. I remember it so clearly, and it has stuck with me so well, that I even wrote one of the “past” scenes in Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven around it.

trout

Adirondacks Rainbow Trout Fisherman Wall Art by Paul A Lanquist

It involves a fishing trip I took with my father on a beautiful, sunny summer day when I was in my early 30’s, and Pa was nearing 70.

Now you have to understand that my father was a dedicated, lifelong trout fisherman. Some of my fondest memories involve Pa helping me learn how to bait my line with an earthworm, cast, “feel” the fish mouthing the bait, and setting the hook to reel in a beauty. We often released the fish we caught back into the river, lake, or stream, but never before admiring their beautiful markings and color.

On this particular day, we hadn’t gone fishing together in more than¬†a year. Real life had intervened for me…I was married, living more than an hour from the Homestead,¬†teaching full time,¬†and had a young child, so opportunities to get away and spend an afternoon together fishing or even just visiting by ourselves didn’t happen too often. My husband had offered to watch our young daughter on this Saturday, and my father and I agreed to meet up at a fishing spot about halfway between each of us. It was a kind of dam with a running stream below it – perfect for active and hungry fish.

Pa and fishing favorite memory 2The bank of the stream was formed by¬†a combination of¬†large rocks and tall flowering weeds. The sun beat down hot and bright on us¬†as we fished, and the sky was a perfect blue with puffy white clouds. Here’s a picture I took of Pa during some of the quiet time…we stood farther apart as we fished, so as not to tangle our lines in the gently moving water.

The surprise came at lunch time. We’d reeled in our lines and were sitting up on the bank; I thought we were going to decide where to head for a quick lunch, but Pa walked up to his vehicle, pulled out a small cooler, and proceeded to take out cups, napkins, two cold orange sodas (one of his favorite flavors of soda back then), some chips…and two submarine sandwiches of mixed cold cuts –¬†salami, turkey, ham –¬†dressed with¬†mayonnaise, cheese, lettuce, tomato – the works.

When I realized that Pa had made the entire lunch himself,¬†I was shocked to the core. My father had always been very self-sufficient (he was a US Marine after all), but my mother was such a good cook that, except for the occasional turn at the grill or undertaking a project like making homemade sauerkraut, my father had never “cooked” or prepared anything to my knowledge.¬†¬†And this was the best sandwich I’d ever eaten, without a doubt in my mind.

Pa and fishing favorite memory

Another picture I took of Pa, smiling on the banks of the stream, just after our wonderful lunch

Pa got a good chuckle out of my astonishment, and we enjoyed the nicest lunch I’d ever had, not because of fancy food or ambience (though the setting WAS right up my alley and the food, as I mentioned, was delicious), but because of the moment. Because of the beauty of sharing that peaceful time and place¬†together, sprinkled with the magic of learning something new about a man I’d thought (in my youthful arrogance and ignorance) I knew pretty much everything there was to know.

I learned much more about my father in the years to come, all interesting and some amazing,¬†including talents I didn’t discover he’d had until finding some papers after his death.

However that day of fishing on the sunny banks of that little stream provided me with one of the first of those kinds of happy surprises. I guess I needed to be an adult to experience it – to start becoming aware that people often posses depth and complexity far beyond the surface we tend to assume.¬†It’s an experience I’ve never forgotten…another important lesson learned, thanks to Pa, and one that has never left my heart. ‚̧

(Un)Happy Endings?

hulsebus-unhappy-ending-thumb-250x386-33965I’m a bit stumped. I admit it…and so I’m reaching out to any of you in the blogosphere who might want to comment,¬†to get your opinion on this.

Here’s the short version of what caused the controversy that has erupted in my mind:

I had a conversation with a colleague today. She is someone who loves books and is well-read.¬†We were discussing my upcoming Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, and I was telling her about how it was a different genre from what I’d written before – Women’s/General Fiction rather than Historical Romance – and that is would therefore be appropriate for most age groups, as it has no explicit content, unlike my historical romances.

Here’s where the turn of the¬†conversation kind of made my mind bend.

She says (and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close): “Oh, I read your first two books. I like historical fiction, so I liked the history in them.”

I think I see where she’s going here, and so I interject, admitting, “I know the¬†love scenes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.”

But she shakes her head, adding, “No, I didn’t mind the romance – I can skip over some of those parts if I want.” She looks vaguely uncomfortable. “It’s just…the happy endings! You know, at the end, everyone goes off happy…” She makes a wry face. “I read historical fiction.” (which I’m surmising she added to try to make it clear that historical fiction books DON’T have happy endings and therefore are her preference).

I was floored, I admit it.

I’ve had people tell me they don’t like¬†historical romances because they’re not “historical enough”.

I’ve had people tell me they don’t like historical romances because of the focus on the romantic relationship, which¬†often includes some explicit love scenes between the hero and heroine (who BTW are monogamous, according to the traditions of the¬†genre).

I’ve had people tell me they don’t read “those” kinds of books (which basically means they won’t read romances because of the stigma attached to romance, as books that are somehow less worthy/well-written/complex/”real”…you can supply your own negative adjective).

But this is the first time anyone has ever said to me that they basically objected to/disliked historical romances because they ended happily.

So…what’s your take on happy endings? Please enlighten me, as I really, really want to hear from everyone, regardless of your perspective. Of course I’m a reader before I’m a writer, and I have my own opinions, but I’m interested in hearing about this issue from other readers’ point of view.¬† So please, chime in! ūüôā

“Food For The Muse”

books-and-musicThis blog post was inspired through a post written by fellow writer and blog-o-sphere comrade L. N. Holmes at her excellent blog A Vase of Wildflowers. You can check out her blog through the link of its title, or read the specific and wonderful blog post that inspired me here.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how important music is to my creativity, particularly in the crafting of characterization and the scenes I need to write to showcase some of the character issues and development I need to show.

Like many writers, listening to music is an integral part of my writing process. I almost always need music to brainstorm. I have to tease the Muse out, especially with the way my life is so cram-packed and highly disjointed with all the different hats I have to wear. I need a trigger to get me into the work as quickly as possible to maximize what little time I have to brainstorm and/or write.

You may have heard of authors who develop “playlists” for each book they write. I’m not so organized that I actually create a playlist, but I do have a group of songs that seems to serve as the background music for each book. It always sounds a little cheesy to me, though,¬†when authors post their “playlists”, because what it means and how it triggers that author is not necessarily how those songs strike a particular reader.

basementIt makes me vaguely uncomfortable¬†because writing in and of itself¬†is such an intimate process, and using music as inspiration adds a layer to that,¬†IMHO. To me, it’s akin to opening the basement door and inviting readers to mosey around in the stuff you’ve got hoarded down there…all your quirky, sometimes a little tarnished,¬†or even embarrassing things you’ve collected that don’t mean much to anyone¬†else but that¬†give you that necessary jolt of emotion you need to write a particular mood, scene, or character. ūüôā

So I’m only going to open mine a crack…but¬†only because this song was unusual in the way it informed my Muse, as it¬†didn’t just inspire a mood or character element for me. It actually caused an entire scene to bloom, full-formed,¬†into my mind.

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

Such things don’t happen too often to me as a writer. The last time I can¬†remember an entire anything springing into my¬†mind from an outside source was when I was trying to come up with the basic plot/character in what ended up being my third published romance The Crimson Lady. Her character came to me like that,¬†fully-formed. So much so that I could see her in my mind and hear her speaking. It happened after¬†I watched a television program about third world prostitution (and no, that’s not what the book is about)…but that will¬†have to be the topic of another post. ūüôā

Copyright M. Reed McCall, Mary Reed McCall, novel, writing, writer, author, book, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, preorderThis current one happened when I was nearing the end of writing¬†Moose Tracks on the Road To Heaven. I hadn’t realized I needed it until it came to me. The scene begins on page 198 of the book, for those who might want to look it up, once it’s published in EIGHT DAYS!!¬†( it’s not a chapter, but a “past” scene dated April 15 1987). The song is “When a Heart Breaks” by Ben Rector. You can have a listen below, if you’re so inclined. It might give you an idea about the tone and mood of the scene, but I can’t give you too many details without giving a major spoiler for the book. ūüôā

Anyway, it was a perfect scene for what I needed to convey, but had no idea how until that moment. I went home and wrote the entire scene in about an hour. Except for a few edits, what you see is how it came out of my subconscious mind…all thanks to the music that gave my¬†Muse¬†a shot of adrenaline.