Remembering 1970’s Halloween

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A selection of little treat bags, circa 1970s

I’ve been traveling down Memory Lane lately. My Trick-or-Treating heyday was in the 1970’s…from ages four – 11. By the time I got to junior high, it wasn’t cool to trick-or-treat anymore, and we shifted to house Halloween parties or dances.

Not that we didn’t have house parties in those days, too. As I wrote about in a Halloween post last year, my mother made tons of homemade pizza and offered bowls of chips, candy, and cups of soda for some of our famed parties and haunted house in the camp each year.

AlcProfHalloween1Here are a couple recipes posted in an pamphlet, circa 1975. I might have to try making that cake!

brachs_12Candies like these were common, as were unwrapped sorts, like mallow pumpkins and candy corn, tossed in our trick-or-treat plastic pumpkins by the handful.

Ad from 1975I saw ads like this all the time. It’s amazing how prices have changed in just a few decades!

d0b361383f73f911b1b2002699b548b529795b7b54425e850af721b4394892e5cadb4969df31abfdb959395fc54d48c49080e724f2cf044bf66d75d25448221eThere was an abundance of Witch and other Halloween decorations that had a definite 70’s flair, though it was a favorite activity each autumn to pull out the colored construction paper and fashion jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, black cats in front of yellow moons, witches flying, and spooky trees – all of which were hung on the windows or walls in the house…

IMG_2596I had this exact decoration hanging in my home and probably another one just like it hanging in our classroom, on one of the windows.

witchBecause my mother hand-sewed all of our dance costumes, bedspreads, and curtains, as well as some of our clothes (which is a feat in and of itself, considering the time constraints in a household of nine, with three meals a days and loads of laundry that had to be spaced out because of the well water issues), some years we got to select a box-packaged, store-bought costume come Halloween.

830ee5b332a2f04d42b638374b695067On those special occasions, choosing our costumes at the local 5 and Dime was a trip much anticipated!

We’d get to wear our purchase, once for the school party and once for trick-or-treating. Then they were packed carefully away, since often, we’d have to go back to the old costumes and choose from them in future years; as an adult, I know that it must have been because money was especially tight on those Halloweens, but when I was a kid, it was just something that needed to happen periodically. We never complained.

BWx20x7ex202505_3LI had this “gypsy” one, one year.

ae3d182e66ce5a13357e59e893526f34My sister, who was always more “princess-like” than I was – beautiful, fine-boned, and blond – wore one very much like this.

I can still smell the plastic scent of the mask and feel the slight condensation from breathing through the always-too-narrow nose holes as we participated in the classroom party or  ran door to door Trick-or-Treating on a crisp Halloween night.

It was an innocent time, especially in my earlier years. The whole scare about razor blades in apples and medication or drugs tainting candy didn’t get started until nearer to the time I was getting too old to participate in candy-gathering…and of course home-baked goods were still always allowed to be brought into school for classroom parties and treats.

beistle-halloween-decoration-black-cat-moonAs the day approaches this year, I’m hanging some decorations and getting into the spirit, hoping to give some children the same happiness when they trick-or-treat at my door that I felt on those Halloween nights long ago. 🙂

Do you have any treasured Halloween memories to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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)?

Old Kitchen Nostalgia

imagesGTMBP5VTI enjoy home improvement shows. I particularly like those where renovations happen to bring a “bargain” purchase up to modern speed…but my “weirdness” comes in during the first look at the “before” aspects of the homes.

renovation101216dIt almost always makes me feel a little twinge of poignancy. A pang. A bittersweet sense, of nostalgia for those times and places gone by.52ebec5f697ab040980006d1__w_540_s_fit_

renovation1950s-kitchen

Beautiful 1950s kitchen

I can’t help envisioning, sometimes – especially with the kitchens – the happy times, the meals cooked and eaten by countless people, the gatherings enjoyed, and holidays and birthday celebrated. It can be places from times long before I was born; it doesn’t matter.

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Kitchen from around the time I was born in the 1960s

The room(s) that hosted those events is being cleared out, emptied, stripped down. That wallpaper or those cabinets and countertops so lovingly selected in 1957 or 1963, or 1990 are nothing more, now, then a mark of a bygone era, and the people who chose them and lived there have moved on, literally or figuratively, to greener pastures.

It makes me kind of…sad.

7-lodge-gothics-snow-cozy

peeking into a lit window at a cozy scene

Perhaps my feeling is connected to the game my mother and I would play (and that I still do sometimes even now, I confess) when we’d be driving somewhere, especially at night, and I could glimpse through some open shades or curtains a lit room or two in a home as we passed by. I was always fascinated by that, imagining the people who lived there by having that quick look. What were they like? What were their hopes, dreams? Were they happy or in the grip of a tragic or challenging circumstance? That “What if?” game led to me writing novels, I’m sure – but it’s also part and parcel of what niggles at me during those home improvement shows.

I’m pretty sure that makes me weird (so if you’re akin to this, or even understand what I’m talking about here, please chime in through the comments, so I know I’m not alone, LOL)!

Do YOU ever get a bittersweet sense of poignancy about something that doesn’t have personal meaning to you?

“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!)  🙂

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! 🙂

Going Out On a Limb

heartI’ve had a few limbs break off behind me. I’m still pumping my wings like mad to keep from hitting the ground, though every now and again, an updraft helps lift me up.

Sometimes it’s an unexpected, nice comment or even a review of one of my books. Sometimes it’s a hug, or seeing something beautiful out in nature or the world. Sometimes it’s a piece of music that seems to pierce in a wonderful way to my inner soul. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea and a quiet night in, with the wind howling around the house while I’m snug inside.

What are your little updrafts, when you’re pumping your wings to stay afloat? 🙂

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. ❤