Her Pet Chiquita Cheetah

Josephine Baker and Chiquita
Well, after all these years of thinking I was being poetic and original, I find out I am not the first to come up with a certain crucial phrase. In my book, Pretty Ballerina, the chorus goes like this:

It’s a pretty ballerina
with a little ocarina
and her pet chiquita cheetah
singing Auld Lang Syne.

This morning, sitting reading a history book, I nearly coughed my tea across the room. It turns out, the singer, dancer and actress, Josephine Baker, who gained fame in the 1930s with her risqué performances, loved animals. She kept exotic pets, such as a snake named Kiki, a chimpanzee (Ethel), a pig (Albert) and… a cheetah named Chiquita. (Ms. Baker even wore a skirt made out of bananas when she performed.) Chiquita often appeared with her on stage and even jumped off into the orchestra pit once, which I’m sure came as quite a shock to the musicians.

According to Wikipedia, “She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934)… Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States.”

During her career she was one of the most photographed women in the world and her huge popularity gave her a comfortable salary, which she spent on fine clothes, jewelry and pets. She adopted twelve multi-ethnic children whom she called her “Rainbow Tribe”.

She was extremely active serving in France during the Second World War and in the American civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s.

From her estate’s website: “More than 20,000 people crowded the streets of Paris to watch the funeral procession on its way to the Church of the Madeleine. The French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Josephine Baker the first American woman buried in France with military honors.”

So when you’re reading this silly book of mine, give a kind thought to Josephine Baker, who loved art, animals and children. She was a strong woman who stood up for what was right and deservingly, was admired the world over. You can’t say that about too many people who wear bananas.

A little update

The Stolen Girl

I’ve been working on new fairy tales for the past year. Two are sort-of done and one is definitely done. I finished it this morning and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s called The Stolen Girl and it’s about a child who finds out that she was stolen from her real mother as an infant. After working for all of last year on a very serious fairy tale, I really needed do something a little lighter, and this one fit the bill. It took three months from start to finish. While most of my stories take place between the 8th and 14th Centuries, this one is set a little earlier. I can’t wait to get it out into the world. As bedtime stories go, this one will surely be a favorite.

(Image Credit: Asher Brown Durand  (1796 – 1886)

Pretty Ballerina – new edition

I’m happy to announce a new edition of Pretty Ballerina! Having read it a gazillion times to kids in schools, I began to see the need for a better layout of the story. So, after shifting a few things around and commissioning a spanky new image from the wonderful David Anderson, we have PB, 2nd Edition. Plus, we get a brand new cover, featuring our artist heroine and the fireman brigade about to hose Rusty right off his roost.

Big thanks to the dependably stupendous Dianna Little for the new layout and for putting up with all my nitpicking!

Finished and Released

Seven Tales by G.C. McRae

Well, it’s been a long road to the completion of this book. I’ve been reading from my proof copy to kids in schools this past week and the response has been pretty great. Nobody wants to wait for it. “Why can’t I buy that one?” they ask, pointing to the book in my hand. It’s been amusing trying to explain that these stories had their gestation two of their lifetimes ago. They just don’t grasp it. I may as well tell them I’ve been working on it since infinity.

The official launch will be at Audreys Books on Saturday afternoon at 2:00, November 14th. Here’s the Facebook event for it, and of course, everyone’s welcome. On October 14th, I’ll be reading from it at my old haunt, The Kasbar as featured reader during Mike Gravel’s The Rasp and the Wine series.

The Monash Fairy Tale Salon
The Fairy Tale Site
Spinning Straw Into Gold
Breezes from Wonderland
I Heart Edmonton
Victorian Fairy Tale Ring

Link to the Print edition on Amazon
Link to the eBook edition on Amazon

The Castle on the Cover


I didn’t mention inside ‘Seven Tales’ where the cover image came from. And that was because I simply didn’t know. I used a public domain scan of the original. But until today, I didn’t know what the original was. I figured it was a fantasy illustration from Victorian or Edwardian times, maybe for a storybook or historical text.

Well, it turns out it, the castle is not from someone’s fancy at all. It is the Lockenhaus Castle which is in Burgenland, eastern Austria. According to Wikipedia, “Settlements in the area of Burg Lockenhaus date to the Stone Age. Illyrians and Celts who settled here are credited with building the castle around 1200 with construction material available locally, although it first appears in written records dated to 1242. Burgenland’s oldest fortress, Burg Lockenhaus was built to defend the area against the Mongols.”


Though castle has been partially destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries, the artist obviously took some liberties with the towers and the proportions. But it does sit on a hill – which the locals call Castle Hill – and it was certainly occupied by knights, kings and queens. And yes, it has a dungeon.


The original picture is a wall hanging and was commissioned by Leipziger School Pictures around 1900 to be used as a teaching aid in schools. The name of the artist is unknown.


Seven Tales

Seven Tales

Well, the book is done and sent off to the printer. My sense of relief is outdone only by my excitement. I can’t wait for people to read it! Huge thanks to my editor Marg Gilks, who did a rigorous job editing the stories. And to Dianna Little for the extraordinary layout of the book (wait till you see the decorative ornaments inside!).

My wife Nora played no small part either and helped me hugely on several fronts. She read and critiqued the tales as a devoted reader, a staunch feminist and a professional editor. She never let me get away with anything iffy, let me tell you.

I can’t wait for this fall when I get to share the book with kids in schools. For me, it’s almost (almost!) as much fun reading to kids as it is scribbling away in my office.

So there it is. Twenty years of writing between the two thin covers of a book. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy it.

If you’re a blogger or reviewer and would like an advance review copy of Seven Tales, you can email me here: EmailAddr

Progress on Seven Tales

Seven Tales-detail
My designer, Dianna Little, has been hard at work on the interior of the Seven Tales for the past couple weeks. I’m happy to report that she’s almost done and it looks absolutely beautiful. The finished book will be 5¼x8″ and around 270 pages. The font will be of a generous size, meant for reading out loud, though not large enough to qualify as ‘large type’. She’ll be done the interior in the next couple of days and then start on the cover.

I can’t wait to have a copy of the book in my grubby little hands (well, they’re large and clean, but still). I expect to be able to receive a proof in early May and start sending out advance copies later that month. The official launch date is October 7th, 2015, and already, I’m booked up for readings all that week.

The Seven, Done


Since my last update, I’ve been working on the last fairy tale that will be included in Seven Tales. The story is called, The Miller and the Old Hag. It was published over ten years ago in the zine, Challenging Destiny, but since honing my skills on the other six tales, I thought I could do better version of the story.

The Miller is going to be the one tale that isn’t published as an ebook before the print version comes out in the fall of 2015. I can’t tell you how much I agonised over this story without sounding like some idiot over-sensitive artist. But it was tough. It was already a good tale and the last thing I wanted to do was wreck it by tweaking it too much. But like the miller in the story, I spent more time standing back and considering than doing any actual work. The result, according to my darling wife, may have turned the story into the best one in the bunch. Well, certainly the most emotional and holy cow… the one most riddled with symbolism.

The story is now as much about the miller’s wife as about the miller. That look on the face of the woman in the header image above tells you everything about her.

Yesterday, it went off to my wonderful editor. The book is now six sevenths complete and a few weeks from now, all the word work will done and the design and layout will begin. I have wanted to have this book in my hands for over twenty years. Now… I’m goofy with anticipation.

(Image Credit: La Fille de Ferme by Gustave Boulanger)

At Year’s End

The Dollmakers Daughter

Well, it has been quite a year. It started out in the spring with the launch of my first young adult novel, “Kana and the Red Pilot”. I was such a blast reading it in schools. My favorite reading was to the kids at Academy at King Edward, where one poor fellow nearly died laughing. I’m not kidding. He had acute asthma and if by chance he laughed too hard for too long, he could have died. Well, that day, he and his class laughed for an hour straight at my goofy book. It was contagious, which didn’t help my reading or the health of young Master Asthma, who ended up on the floor, screaming with hilarity, his teacher hovering over him with great concern.

Then came my fairy tales. Getting those finally polished, edited and out into the world has given me such a sense of satisfaction, if I got bit by a cobra on my writing fingers tomorrow and could never write again, I would rest content, knowing I’d done some pretty decent work.

And so it’s Christmastime. For twenty years I carried around the story of the princess who discovers the dollmaker’s house in the woods. I wrote it and rewrote it dozens of times over the years, never satisfied. Now, it’s done. Though it doesn’t say so in the book, the story is dedicated to fathers who must work far away from home and miss big parts of their children’s lives. It’s as much a tale of the king as it is of his daughter, of best intentions that result in tragedy and letting go resulting in redemption.

For the five days around Christmas, I’m giving you the story as a heartfelt gift. Read it, share it if you like. And if you’re a father, home only for the holidays, hey, let it go.


The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen

The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen

Along with every other writer of children’s books, I seem to have a thing for orphans. In my case though, it isn’t some calculated literary device. I was given up for adoption at birth and spent the greater part of my life wondering where the heck I came from. The word ‘adopted’ represents only Scene Two of any adoptee’s emotional landscape. Scene One is all about the words, ‘given up’. Every one of us experiences the two in different proportions.

Finding my birth parents decades later was a sort of fairy tale conclusion to my own story. But it never erased the mental and emotional knowledge of what it’s like to be a young child without blood-ties, facing the world as a sort of one person nation. You have to have some tricks up your sleeve in order to survive.

The story of The Sneaking Girl came out of a decades-long attempt to turn a great idea into a workable fairy tale. Last year, while giving the idea another go, I failed once again at the original story, but succeeded in coming up with this one. (I’ve since conquered the plot of the original tale and am in the process of writing it.)

This one has a lot in common with The Wishing Oak. Both have female heros and villians and both have a high quota of quirk worked into their tellings. I have a big soft spot for The Sneaking Girl. Yeah, she’s an orphan. And I’m happy she made it. But I’m just as happy I’m here to tell about it.


The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen is now out on Amazon.