A novel about the struggle of good and evil. A memoir recalling self healing after living as a victim of abuse. A children’s story about leaving a treat for Santa on Christmas Eve. And a story collection that includes a lesson on how not to get your father to pay you that quarter he owes you. These are some of the books area residents published recently. Some stories bring a smile, others teach a lesson and some pull at the heartstrings. Here are profiles of four Tri-State-area authors and their new books.
James Curwood Murray
Author: James Curwood Murray of Hagerstown
Title: “This, That, and the Other”
Description: Memoir, 111 pages, paperback, $14
Available locally at: Borders Books, Music & Cafe in Centre at Hagerstown, near Exit 6 of Interstate 81; and Wilson Store, 14921 Rufus Wilson Road, near the corner of Cedar Ridge Road and National Pike, west of Hagerstown
James Curwood Murray sprouts stories like an apple tree produces fruit. And like apples, Murray’s stories are tasty and full of local flavor.
Murray grew up in Big Pool, and was one of 10 children. Life was hard for children in the 1940s, but young Murray had plenty of adventures. And misadventures. When he grew up, he served in the Navy for two years, then earned a degree and taught with Washington County Public Schools for 28 years. Now retired from WCPS, he lives in Hagerstown and works in the home improvement business.
But whatever his day job, Murray has at heart been a storyteller.
“I’ve always enjoyed telling a good story,” he said. “When I tell people stories, they say ‘Jim, you ought to write a book.’”
Sometimes he’d write a story down, but he didn’t pursue it in earnest.
“I’ve had these papers cluttering up the house since junior college,” he said. “My wife kept encouraging me. ‘Haven’t you noticed how people enjoy these stories? Why don’t you put these out in a book?’”
Murray finally knuckled down and did just that. His recently published book, “This, That, and the Other,” recounts 40 of his tales, most of them two to four pages long. Each story recalls a scene from his rural childhood in Big Pool, Navy service in Florida or his early career in Washington County.
There’s a tale about a too-tight, hand-me-down necktie, another about smoking corn silk, another about giving his father a bill for 25 cents and getting a bill in return for $7,999.75.
Then there’s one about his father’s notion that the men in the Murray family should walk the 186-mile-long C&O Canal towpath from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C. This was a few years after Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas led the famous first hike of the towpath in 1956.
Many stories feature Murray’s father, a preacher and public school teacher who made a big impact on his son’s life.
“He was very strict, giving sermons to us all the time,” Murray said. “But I used to enjoy hearing my dad tell about his boyhood. We don’t have enough of that. The old people are really a library.”
Murray is a “library” now himself. He’s setting up book signings for “This, That, and the Other,” and he’s already thinking about his next collection of tales.
“I always enjoyed telling stories,” Murray said with a laugh.
Mary Burkhart Reed
Author: Mary Burkhart Reed of Kearneysville, W.Va.
Title: “Healing Point of View”
Description: Memoir, 261 pages; $13.85, paperback; $21.95, hardback
Available at: Borders Books, Music & Cafe in Centre at Hagerstown, near Exit 6 of Interstate 81; and at Turn the Page Bookstore, 18 N. Main St., Boonsboro. Reed will sign books from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at On the Wings of Dreams bookstore, 139 W. German St., Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Massage therapist and author Mary Reed wants people to know they can heal themselves of emotional hurts and abuses from the past. She tells readers how she did it in her new book, “Healing Point of View.”
“The book is about me going from being the victim to love empowerment — using my thoughts to create my reality,” Reed said.
Reed grew up in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and describes her childhood as “miserable,” with a demanding mother and an abusive father. Reed married when she was a high school sophomore and had four children by age 25. Eventually she divorced and earned a degree in business administration, became a certified public accountant and was hired as a corporate comptroller.
But her personal struggles continued, and in 1999, in a six-month period, Reed lost her job, broke up with a longtime boyfriend and lost her best friend to cancer.
But from that emotional low point, Reed worked on healing herself. Step one: Learn about who she was and how she got to be that way. That led Reed to look into her own history and her family’s history. The resulting research led Reed to write “Healing Point of View,” which is largely an autobiography.
Throughout the book, she describes how she her faith in God and in spiritual principles helped her through the obstacles in life.
“I’m happier,” she said. “I’ve always looked at the positive side of life. Healing yourself creates a better world for all.”
Reed said when writing the book, she followed advice from two of her grandparents.
“Grandaddy Frazier said, ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ But my grandmother said, ‘Leave the world a better place than when you came in,’” Reed said. “They’re both important to me.”
Author: Bernie McGarity of Waynesboro, Pa.
Title: “My Silent Helper”
Description: Suspense thriller, 95 pages, $24.99, hardback, $15.99, paperback
Available locally at: Dru’s Books & Things, 1511 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa., and at Turn the Page Bookstore, 18 N. Main St., Boonsboro
Bernie McGarity is a practical man. When the 62-year-old Waynesboro, Pa., business owner needs information, he turns to experts or other knowledgeable sources.
In October 2009, during his 40th anniversary trip to Las Vegas with his wife, Lou, McGarity decided he wanted to write a novel. He’d never written a novel before, and didn’t know how to begin. So he turned to the web-searching site AskJeeves.com.
“I asked Jeeves ‘How do you write a book?’ and I got 20 pages of information,” McGarity said. “Eventually, I bought a computer program from Britain. It told me what should be in chapter one, what should be in chapter two, and so on.”
McGarity thought he would combine several of his passions — James Bond, his Catholic faith and his experiences while traveling, especially in Las Vegas — into one novel. The result is “My Silent Helper,” which McGarity published in September.
“I’m a James Bond fanatic. I’ve seen every movie,” McGarity said. “And I’ve always had a fascination with the law. And with industrial espionage.”
The novel is a fast-paced tale of Link Pierce, an attorney who specializes in corporate law and security. Pierce is a Catholic who relies on his relationship with the Holy Spirit to help sort out good from evil. This helps him in his work with clients. As Pierce tells one client early in the book, “All my life I have had the Holy Spirit as my silent helper.”
The 95-page book is a quick read. McGarity said that was intentional.
“I’ve read Patterson, Grisham and others. Their books are this thick,” McGarity said, holding his finger and thumb two inches apart, “and they go all over. (‘My Silent Helper’) is just the story. It sticks right to the point.”
McGarity self-published his novel through Xlibris. He has received positive feedback from readers, and he’s planning more for Link Pierce.
“I’m already working on a second book,” McGarity said, “and I’m working with Hollywood to pursue a movie version.”
Author: John Graham of Shippensburg, Pa.
Title: “No Sweets for Santa”
Description: Children’s picture book, 44 pages; $15, hardback
Website: Search for the book title on Facebook.com
Available locally: Go to www.mypalmark.com and click on “shop.”
Family traditions are important for Shippensburg, Pa., author and father John Graham. So when he and his young family moved to a new house in Indianapolis a decade ago, he and his wife, Stephanie, and two children developed a new holiday tradition.
Instead of making cookies, they made pizza for Santa on Christmas Eve.
Graham came up with a backstory about the pizza-making concept — about how Santa’s wife thought he was too pudgy and shouldn’t eat any sweet treats as he delivered gifts on Christmas Eve.
His children loved the story, and so did friends and relatives. As years went by, Graham expanded the story and illustrated it with simple crayon drawings. “I said my 5-year-old daughter did it,” he joked. Later, his wife painted a set of large illustrations that Graham used when reading the story to groups.
By now, their third child had been born and the Grahams had moved to Shippensburg. Finally, a year ago, Graham decided he wanted to publish his story as a full-color, hardback children’s book. He found a professional illustrator, Mark Mariano, who envisioned the book’s images as Graham did. They worked on the book while Graham raised money and sought a printer.
In October, Graham self-published his story as “No Sweets for Santa.” Now he’s marketing the brightly colored book throughout the region at libraries and schools.
He’s thinking about a sequel, but mostly he’s thinking about helping other local writers.
“The first time is always scary. You need someone to help you out,” he said. “Since I have put out this book, I have met so many people who are writers. My goal is to get together a network of writers and illustrators to help each other.”
As for “No Sweets for Santa,” Graham hopes readers come away with more than a smile. He said the book is also about families creating their own holiday funs.
“Growing up, traditions around the holidays were so important to me,” he said. “I don’t care if people make pizza their tradition as long as they have a tradition.”
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