Saturday, February 24, 2018

#The Old Oak Tree by Sarah J. McNeal


Our House and the Tree


Like my father, I love trees, especially those ancient oak trees that have lived a century or more and have stories they could tell. I bought my house because it had a deck and a huge white oak tree to shade it. I called it Grandfather Tree because it provided a home for all kinds of wild things. It seemed so wise because it have lived a long time and knew stuff.
Pop under the tree


Pop loved trees, too. The old house where I was raised stood in the middle of a bunch of very old elms and oak trees. His favorite tree was a huge oak tree in the middle of the front yard. Everybody in the family ended up having their picture taken standing under that old tree at some point in their lives.
Mom under the tree


One of the oak tree’s limbs stretched out over the roof and was maybe only a foot or two above it. When my maternal grandfather came from Buffalo to visit one summer, he noticed that tree limb hovering over the house and told Pop he ought to cut that limb before it fell on the house. Pop, of course, wasn’t about to cut that limb. He said, “That’s the owl limb. I can’t cut that limb and take away their favorite place.” I should mention here that Mom loved owls. They were her favorite animals. So, anyway, the limb stayed for many years. All was well because Mom had her owls and Pop had his tree and the limb that hung over the roof.
My nephew, Matthew under the tree


Many years later Mom died and six years after that Pop died unexpectedly while he was on vacation at the beach in Wilmington. It’s an odd thing though that right after Pop’s funeral, the owl limb fell. A year or so later, my oldest sister, who had inherited the house, sold it. One of the first things the new family did was to cut down that big oak where we had all had our pictures taken.

The old house is on the other side of town from where I live. I rarely have reason to go to that side of town anymore. I don’t go by to see the old house because everything I loved about it is gone. Strangers live there now.  
Me under the tree

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Parkland Shooting in Florida by Sarah J. McNeal

The Parkland Shooting in Florida by Sarah J. McNeal

I want to take a moment and mention the Parkland school shooting in Florida in which 17 people were killed. Since the Columbine shooting, it seems this kind of violence keeps escalating. I can't imagine the trepidation parents must feel sending their children off to school each morning and wondering, "Will my kids make it home alive?" As if bullying wasn't enough, the threat of kids losing their lives in school has become our new reality.
There are so many questions that come to mind. Why is it happening? What measures are being taken to protect children? What about mental health? Surely it must fit into this scenario somewhere. How are kids or mentally unstable people getting guns legally? Are guns being properly secured in homes where there are young children? Are other countries experiencing this kind of violence, or is this just an American problem?
My heart goes out to the parents, relatives, and friends of those who were murdered in Parkland. I know they must be completely devastated. I am so sorry they are having to experience this pain.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!



I wish everyone a day filled with chocolates and love and maybe even bouquets of flowers. Lily (my dog) and Liberty (my cat) are sending out some free kisses today. Y'all be good now, ya hear?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

It's Only Make Believe by Sarah J. McNeal February #blogabookscene #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

February's Theme: All You Need Is Love--Marriage of Convenience


June believed Kit loved her…until she married him

Excerpt:

A loud slap echoed through the house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.
Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand while Snort, Kit’s dog, barked. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours and now this…
“Hush that barking, Snort.” The dog quieted, but kept a sharp eye on June just in case. Kit glanced from the dog to June. “What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”
“You bet you did. I thought you loved me and now…” She wasn’t quite sure how to say it to him now that she knew the truth. Honestly, she could barely believe what she had overheard at their wedding reception. How could she explain to him what she heard and express the doubts she had about his love because of it? Well, best to find a way because it seemed quite evident to her that he wasn’t about to leave her be until she did.
“You’d best tell me what this is all about, June, because I’m beginning to have doubts about your sanity and beginning to wonder about my own.” He cocked his head and narrowed his blue eyes at her.  If this is one of your cockamamie jokes, it isn’t funny—and please don’t tell me you married me just to spite your parents. I’m fairly certain your mother doesn’t think I’m good enough for you. She’s only spoken to me about four times in all the years I’ve known you. It’s a little late for second thoughts, June.” Snort began to pace between June and Kit as if to decide whose side he should take.

It's Only Make Believe is available on Amazon  Paperback   Kindle   

March's Blog Theme: The Ides of March

Sarah J. McNeal

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Hollow Heart by Sarah J. McNeal—February #blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub

Hollow Heart by Sarah J. McNeal—February #blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

February’s Theme: All You Need Is Love

HOLLOW HEART




Madeline Andrews is a grown up orphan. Sam Wilding made her feel part of his life, his family and swore he’d come home to her when the war ended, but he didn’t return. With the Valentine’s Ball just days away, the Wildings encourage Madeline to move forward with her life and open her heart to the possibilities. But Madeline is lost in old love letters and can’t seem to let go.

Excerpt:
Madeline folded the letter and slipped it back into its envelope. Her heart ached as she put the envelope back into the box. She placed it with reverence on her dresser beside the picture of Sam and her, laughing into the sun on that beautiful summer day, years ago. She twisted the gold ring with the little heart-shaped ruby around her left ring finger. Sam had given it to her the day he left for deployment to Europe. He said it was a promise ring. The ring would remind her of his love, his promise to return, and his pledge to wed her when the war ended. A sigh escaped her. None of his promises had come true.

Excerpt:
“C’mon, fess up. I can tell you’ve been reading those old letters and digging up misery again, haven’t you?”
Madeline sighed as she collapsed in the chair opposite Juliet. “Yes. I confess.” She smoothed out the skirt of her dress and avoided Juliet’s gaze. “I can’t help it. It’s just so hard to believe he might really be gone, that he may never come back.” She swallowed against the rising tide of emotions gathering in her throat. “I feel so empty inside, as if someone has hollowed out my heart with a pocket knife. I can’t imagine my life without him in it. If I just knew he was alive and in the world somewhere, I could bear it.”
Juliet reached over and patted Madeline’s hand in comfort. “You have to stop this, Madeline. Somehow, you have to come up with the courage to go on with your life. I want you to go to the Valentine’s dance and just open up to the possibility that there may be a Mr. Right out there for you besides Sam. If you don’t, you’re going to wither away into a crone like that old Mrs. Havisham in her wedding dress with her dried up wedding cake in Great Expectations.
“What are you suggesting I do?”
“Go to the Valentine Ball. Just go and dance a little.”
Madeline stood and walked to the window to stare out at the white landscape below. “What earthly good would that do?”
Juliet left her chair to join Madeline at the window. “You’re too young and beautiful to closet yourself away like some old hermit. You need to get dressed up, fix your gorgeous, wavy black hair, put on some lipstick and enjoy a dance or two with some handsome men. God knows, there’re plenty of cowboys to go around, here in Hazard.”

Excerpt:
Joey glanced through the kitchen window at the snow falling in the yard. “I’ll do it right away. I wouldn’t want any of Dad’s patients sliding off the road into the ditch. When Mom and Juliet come home, they’ll need a clear road, too. I’d feel terrible if anything happened to them.” He turned back to Madeline and took the broom and bucket of cleaning supplies from her and followed her down the steps to his father’s office. “Did Juliet talk you into going to the Valentine Ball?”
Madeline smiled. “Who could resist the persuasive powers of Juliet Wilding? It’s like trying to take down a brick wall with a wooden spoon.” They both laughed.
“I’m glad. It won’t be so bad, and I can tell you for a fact all my cousins will be standing in line for a dance. Before you’ve had a dance with those idiots, I’ll take a turn first, before you’ve suffered too much damage. Hope you don’t mind some broken toes. None of us can dance worth a hoot.”
“Thank you, Joey. It makes me feel better to know I’ll be surrounded by men who are like brothers to me.” Madeline gave him a friendly swat on the arm.
“You can count on us to get you into trouble or get you out.” He spoke as he headed back up the steps toward the kitchen. “Well, guess I better get on a warm coat and hat and get out to the tractor. Get busy with those mops and brooms, girl; daylight’s wasting.” With a chuckle, he disappeared beyond the kitchen door.

Buy Link: AMAZON



March Theme: Beware the Ides of March

Diverse stories filled with heart


Friday, January 26, 2018

Straw Men, Foxes and Monsters—the Markers of a Writer’s Imagination




I was a weird kid. Sometimes my imagination really got the best of me.
Before we moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, when I was about four or five years old, my parents talked about foxes, rabid foxes that is, and how numerous they had become. According to what they read in the newspaper, rabid foxes had invaded the city streets of Philadelphia. Well, that IS ominous news, even for adults.

Of course, I had no idea what rabies was, but I did absorb the feelings of my parents about the danger foxes were to people. Naturally, foxes became a source of fear for me. Their size, in my imagination, grew into mammoth proportions. Somehow I developed the idea that foxes sought out people, especially children, to prey upon and eat.

About this time, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Maybe moving to a place so different from what I knew had something to do with my increased fear of foxes. I started to have nightmares about them. I worried about foxes coming out of the woods to get me. My mother was hanging clothes on the line one day in the back yard. The woods bordered our backyard. I felt the fear come up in me that a fox might be lurking in those woods. I asked my mother, “What would you do if a fox came out of the woods to get me?” Mom answered, “I’d grab you up and take you in the house.”
Although I’m certain Mom wanted to reassure me that she would let nothing harm me, it validated for me that foxes were definitely something to fear. I wouldn’t sleep without a night light.
In those days, we had a little amusement park nearby. It had a small zoo, mostly comprised of animals from the wilds of North Carolina. Pop was concerned about my fear of foxes. He said I was building “straw men” and then becoming afraid of them. I didn’t really know what he meant back then. Anyway, the family went on a trip to Airport Park one evening, and Pop took me to see my monster, or straw man, in the flesh. I was terrified. And then I saw it…a sweet little fox only a little bigger than a house cat. What a relief! The nightmares stopped after that and I began to love foxes. They became a kind of special symbol to me. When my husband and I bought my first house, Pop gave me a framed limited edition of a fox print to hang on the wall and a brass door knocker shaped like a fox.

The reason I wanted to share this story from my personal history was to show how a budding writer might very well start with a big imagination and empathy. It may not be obvious back in their early years, but later on, kids just might start telling stories and then writing them because they have those two qualities already in place just begging to come out.


Were you a kid with a big imagination? Did you build “straw men” and then get scared? Did you sense other peoples’ feelings? When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?



Diverse stories filled with heart

Friday, January 19, 2018

An Old West Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo by Sarah J. McNeal

Today I'm at The Sweethearts of the West blog. I wrote this article about who really shot Johnny Ringo in 2013, and although I've never reposted an article before, I particularly liked that this bit of history remains a mystery today.
A Western Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo? Johnny Ringo In my all time favorite western, Tombstone , Johnny...
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