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From the Author of the Award Winning Pennies from Burger Heaven

 Pennies from Burger Heaven by Marcy McKay
Pennies from Burger Heaven by Marcy McKay

Hi, I’m Marcy McKay from Amarillo. I’m excited to be a Radio Reader for High Plains Public Radio. To kick off my summer reading, I chose my own award-winning novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven. It’s about an eleven-year-old homeless girl who “lives” at the cemetery, then wakes up one morning to discover her mama is missing. She must brave the big, bad world alone to discover what happened.

Now, did I pick my own book because I’m an egomaniac?

No, and shame on you for thinking that.

I want to tell you about the backstory because it’s so cool. In the fall of 2008, I was in Llano Cemetery in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas. A place I’ve visited countless times because my father is buried there, as are both my maternal grandparents, and all my husband’s family. On that afternoon, as I drove past the wrought-iron gates, I heard a voice in my head.

Don’t be alarmed. Writers hear voices. I don’t recall exactly what she said, but I somehow knew it was a homeless woman who lived at that cemetery. She spent her days battling the mean streets of the big city, and her nights sleeping beneath “The Warrior Angel” statue for protection.

Ironically, there is no such statue at Llano. I immediately pictured the Archangel Michael statue as her home base in my mind’s eye. The homeless woman also made sense because my brother had been a runner in high school back in the 1980’s for a local CPA, and Llano was one of his clients. My brother would drive out there twice a month to pick up their accounting books, then return them.

On one such visit he met a homeless woman who lived at that cemetery. She was single and alone on the streets. Because people think ghosts and hobgoblins haunt graveyards, she would sneak through the gates before sundown when Llano was locked each night. The whole place is fenced in, so she felt safe there.

My brother began bringing her fast food during his trips there and would hide it inside a giant bush she’d considered home base – Taco Villa, Burger King.

Fast forward to 2008, when I started writing that story. I would get up at 5 am every weekday before my kids woke up for school, then my husband and I would each trot off to work. I also had several moments that felt like synchronicity. Like the pennies I sometimes found outside my car door as I unlocked it. Pennies that I SWEAR were not there before.

But fine – everybody has found pennies. There was also the time I found a worn cardboard sign under one of my tires that I hadn’t noticed when I parked. The kind you see folks holding on a street corner:

NEED MONEY FOR FOOD

GOD BLESS

I still have that sign. The most incredible example was when I found a business card outside my car door. One on side, it depicted a painting by the artist, Thomas Blackshear, called, Watchers in the Night. It literally shows a giant angel watching over a sleeping child in a dimly lit space.

The other side of the card had Psalm 91:11 on it:

“For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

Google it to see for yourself. These stories still give me goosebumps and were just the fuel that my faith needed to keep going to tell the mystery about this little homeless girl. A gentle reminder that even if you do what you feel like you’re being called to do – it doesn’t mean that the journey is easy.,

So, that’s the backstory of Pennies from Burger Heaven. I hope you enjoyed it. This is Marcy McKay, local author from Amarillo and Radio Reader from High Plains Public Radio. For more information, go to HPPR.org.


 Marcy McKay
Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay has survived both a house fire and raising two teenagers, though she’s not sure which was worse. She’s an award-winning author, speaker, and teacher. Her debut novel, "Pennies from Burger Heaven" has 300+ reviews, and her first nonfiction book, "Transforming Your Stress" hit #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases. Marcy and her husband live on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon with a codependent pug, while their grown kids are off making better choices than Marcy did at their age.

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Summer Read 2023: Summer Reading List 2023 Summer ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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