Saturday, November 10, 2018

In Honor of My Friends On Veteran's Day #Fantasy&Dreams

5 years ago I posted an interview I did of Col. Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis Groce, both veterans of foreign wars. Dennis served in Vietnam and Kathy served in the Gulf War, Desert storm in Iraq, and 2 deployments to Afghanistan.
Since the original post, Dennis died in his sleep after chronic poor health partly due to his experience in Vietnam and Kathy has retired from the Air Force after a career as a nurse in the Med-Evac unit in which she served. They have both paid a price for their service to our country.
For Veteran’s Day, I’d like to share that post again.

Col. Kathy A. Groce Interview from 2013

1. I would like the American people to know that each war experience is different and each person responds to it differently. Perhaps you can lump generalities together from each war but, no matter what, those who go to war are changed by it in some way. Sometimes the changes are almost undetectable...sometimes they overwhelm. Veterans have faced their own fears and for the most part have put service to our country above their own comfort and safety. For the most part, they have dealt with situations and decisions that the everyday American will never consider. So we come back home from a war and try to fit back in to the times, changes, feelings...and it is hard sometimes.

2. Would I join the service if I had a do over? Yes, I would. The military is a way of life, and though I don't agree with all of it, I like it nonetheless. I learned skills and had experiences that I would never have learned or gotten otherwise.

3. My specific branch of service - Air Force - was pretty good to us. I have no real complaints. They have taken care of me.

4. The most significant thing I learned in the service is that everyone has a responsibility to speak up and to listen up in order to make positive changes. I always thought that those in higher ranks or whoever was in charge knew better ways of doing things than I did...not always true. Some good changes have occurred because someone took the risk of challenging the status quo. The key is learning the proper way to challenge the system.

5. I know that going to war with people makes bonds with them that are hard to break. There is a place in my heart for the folks I deployed with... I know what sacrifices they made and I know how hard we all worked to do our jobs. It is a camaraderie bonus.

The Late Dennis Groce, Vietnam Veteran: 

1. ALL Americans should be very grateful to ALL service members, male and female. Active or retired. For doing their duty for their country! There should be more recognition and less finger pointing, realizing that in order for peace, sacrifices must be made!

2. Age and health permitting, yes I would serve again.

3. Pay for military should be increased and benefits should reflect the difficult training to prepare for a “government" job!

4. I. Learned life survival skills which should be taught to all citizens. Maybe then, the spaces would begin to fill in!

5. My service was mandatory as I was drafted for service in Viet Nam. Every physical exercise was in preparation to either kill or be killed!

It was a Real Change from high school!

A solid mental focus became a natural occurrence when you realize

“I’m not in Kansas anymore“! Overall. I enjoyed the Brotherhood

which developed at all my duty stations. Thanks for your interest in Veterans! God Bless!

* * * *

I want to thank Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis for sharing their thoughts and feelings with us about their service to our country. It is such a privilege for me to have know both of them.

For more than just for today, I hope that you will honor the Veterans of our country for the sacrifices they have made for us. If you know someone who is a veteran, I hope you call him or her, tell them you care about them and thank them for putting their life on the line for the rest of us. Not every soldier got to come home. Some soldiers’ lives have been forever altered by physical or emotional wounds. If you have the privilege of seeing a veteran today or any day please honor them, thank them, and tell them, “Welcome home!

Diverse stories filled with heart

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

CAST AWAY HEART #BlogABookScene #SarahJMcNealFantasyandDreams

(Contemporary Thanksgiving Romance)

By Sarah J. McNeal

Fire Star Press

An abandoned piano, rejected love, and hope
After her fiancé breaks her heart and humiliates her on what was to be their wedding day, Ella Dubois has vowed never to open her heart again.
Nickoli Vesa, a Romanian pianist, has loved Ella for years, but she only sees him as her  long time friend.
How can a deserted piano heal a shattered spirit and inspire it to sing again?

There it stood like a brave soldier, silent in its despair and covered in snow.  One of the ornately carved legs had rotted away and lie on the ground beside it causing the piano to list to that side.  It resembled an old ship that had taken a huge wave and, as the water began to fill its hull, was sinking slowly into the sea.  The wooden underside of the keys had begun to swell and dislodge from the smooth white pads.  The black keys had eroded into splinters and the top of the piano had caved in on the piano wires.
Ella choked back a sob at the sorrowful sight.  How could that awful man watch this happen to such a beautiful instrument? The piano could have brought the joy of music to so many.  How much hatred could he possibly have to find delight in watching the destruction of his wife’s piano?  What a despicable human being.
Nickoli drove the car to the side of the road and stopped.  He turned to Ella and gathered her up into his arms.  “You must stop mourning, inima mea.  Until you stop longing for things to be different, you cannot change your future.  You cannot let happiness in.  You understand, yes?”
She knew he was not talking to her about the piano.  He was talking about Mark.  There was no way for him to understand the pain she still felt from Mark’s rejection.  The memory of her standing there at the front of the church with her friends and family all present as her father announced there would be no wedding that day was still sharp enough to cut into her heart.  “I need time, Nick.  I can’t just let it go like it never happened.”  She pushed back from his embrace and met his eyes.  “It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
He did not take his eyes from hers.  Removing his hands from around her, he moved back into his seat.  “All is required, you let go.  Stop looking back or you cannot see where you are going.”
As they made their way back to the house through the snow and chilly air, Nickoli took her arm, leaned in close enough that his breath warmed her ear and whispered, “And now we have the night to share alone in our room.”
The excitement of anticipation shot through her.  It was thrilling just to think of lying in his arms maybe even naked.  She had not seen Nickoli without his clothes. Curiosity burned along her veins in surging rivers of stirring need.  His hand tightened on her arm and she looked up to see him smiling down at her.  The devilish man seemed to guess her every thought.  Well, he was about to see a new side of her tonight.
If they were going to pretend to be engaged and in love, what harm could there be in having a little fun?  In the back of her mind, she had always wondered what Nickoli would be like in bed.  Well, maybe it was time to find out. 
There were a few minutes of cozy silence before Ella told Nickoli her plan.  “You know how I have been dreading going home to my parents’ house in Independence for Thanksgiving.”  She rolled her eyes comically.  “My two brothers will be there with their wives and their brood of kids, along with my busybody parents and younger sister.  They’ll all start talking about their families, and then they’ll turn their conversation to me.” 
She swallowed against the acidic feelings that came to the surface.  “They’ll all dive into my private business.  Have I got a boyfriend yet?  Am I dating anyone special?  When am I going to get over being jilted at the altar?”  The memory surfaced, and the pain of it pierced her chest.  She swallowed hard and made herself go on.  “I just can’t face them alone—again.  I don’t want them feeling sorry for me.  I especially don’t want them to remind me for the hundredth time that my biological clock is ticking.  Mom will have to go on and on at nauseam about life not being full unless a woman has children.  She’ll just have to ask me when I’m going to give her more grandchildren.”
Ella drew in a deep, calming breath while Nickoli quietly waited for her to continue speaking.  The backs of her eyes burned with humiliation.  “I just can’t do it, Nick.  I want to see them, and I would love to spend Thanksgiving with them, but not if I have to endure an inquisition.”
“What would make you happy then?”  Nickoli asked the question quietly.
“I want to take a boyfriend with me, a fiancĂ©, actually.  Well, not actually a real boyfriend except that they would think he is my boyfriend.”  She could barely make herself go on.  Nickoli’s face seemed to pale, and his eyes darkened though he remained silent.
She summoned up all her courage.  “I want you to go home with me for Thanksgiving.  We can pretend we’re in love.  It will make them happy, and I won’t have to face them and all their nagging.”  She sighed heavily.  “It would save me from the torment of their well-meaning questions.”
“You want to pretend.”  He seemed to put a strange emphasis on the word that made Ella’s stomach clench.
“Well, yes.  Would it be that hard for you to pretend to care for me that way?”  A little knot formed in her throat that hurt her, reminding her of Mark and his casual disregard for her feelings.
He shook his head, but his expression seemed shadowed as his lips thinned in a frown.  “No.  I would not have to pretend to care.”
He was such a dear.  He was like a comfortable pair of shoes that never pinched your feet.  “Wonderful.  Oh, thank you, Nick.  You’ve saved me.”  She leaned toward him and kissed him on his mouth.  His firm lips responded, kissing her back, and a little thrill ran up her spine and quickened in her chest.
The music spilled from the heart of the baby grand and poured its sorrow on Ella until she didn’t think she could bare the terrible loneliness of its mournful sound another moment.  Her eyes welled with tears. Her own deep, unrelenting sadness came to the surface and ate at her heart.  The piano stood in dignified repose like a stalwart soldier waiting for orders, but all the while knowing there will be no further orders, no further requests for its talents.  Ella felt the love of her life had done the same to her and she, like the piano, must press on with whatever dignity she had left.  How long would the piano suffer like this?  How long would she?  
            When Nickoli completed the song and the notes died under the falling snow, he returned to Ella and took her in his arms as if guessing how sad the piano made her feel.  He whispered close to her ear.  “She still has hope.  She still sings.” 
Buy Link: Amazon 

December's Theme on Blog-A-Book-Scene: Season's Greetings

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Mysterious Abandoned House by Sarah J. McNeal #AbandonedHouseMystery

Haunted House

When my family lived in Luthersburg, Pennsylvania before we moved to North Carolina in 1952 when I was 4 or 5 years old and my sister was 5 or 6. Next to our house was an open field and, on the other side of the field was an abandoned house. My sister and I were curious about that house. We knew it was empty.

In those days kids were off the leash and allowed to explore. Everybody knew everybody else and were all up in their business, plus the village was barely larger than a football field before it became fields, forest, and farms. It wasn’t like a crime-ridden city—not even close. So parents allowed kids to have the freedom to roam, explore, and play unattended by adults.
My sister and I decided to go to the empty house and see what was inside. The door was unlocked. I don’t remember if we knocked or just walked right in unannounced. Inside, all the furniture was in place, but the paint was peeling off of most of the pieces as if it had stood like that for years. The dishes were all stacked in the cabinets like they might have been washed, dried, and put away long ago and never touched again. I opened a drawer and found it filled with flatware. The spoons, knives, and forks were sort of untidy in their arrangement, but still, it all seemed present. I do have to admit to a crime here. I stole a butter knife. I don’t know why, I just liked it and nobody lived there anymore, right?

While we were sorting out things in the kitchen, we heard footsteps upstairs. Our eyes met, widened with terror. I couldn’t seem to move. So we stood absolutely still like rabbits. There was a rustling sound and then footsteps again. Fear animated us. We scrambled out the door and ran all the way across the field until we reached the safety of our home and ran up to our room to stare out the window to see if anyone—or any thing might be coming after us. There was nothing except an open field and an empty house. We never went back to the house again and, as far as I know, no one was known to live there again. I will never forget that event for as long as I live.

Have any of you had an experience like mine? Have you ever gone into an abandoned house? Did you see anything interesting there?

Diverse stories filled with heart

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Liberty Has Died

Liberty (October 6, 2018) Her Last Day In My Arms

Liberty has died. 

I found her under the desk in the spare room very sick and weak on Saturday morning (October 6, 2018) . She purred a little when I picked her up. Liberty had managed to escape death recently. With multiple visits to the vet for treatment, she managed to recover, but she was never the same. She had grown weaker in the days that followed and I knew I couldn’t save her this time. I did the only thing I could do; I kept her with me and held her all day even into the night because I didn’t want her to be alone when she crossed over. And because I knew that’s what she needed from me. I slept with her beside me, my hand still holding on to her. In the early hours, somewhere between midnight and 2:00 am she clinched my hand with her paw and pulled it close to her. Her claws dug into my hand, but I didn't care. And then she went still and crossed over into that place where she could be happy until I can join her and my other fur babies where we never have to part again.

Liberty Resting In My Desk Drawer

I’m going to miss the way that little six pound cat stomped into a room and her nightly forays running up and down the hall hollering loudly maybe just to warn any critters that might be about that she was in charge. I’m going to miss that persistent spirit of hers that demanded to be held whenever she felt like it, even when I was trying to work.

Liberty Sleeping While I Work

Right now I would love to hold her like that forever. I wanted her to stay and I did everything in my power to keep her with me, but Liberty had to go. The house is quieter and less lively today. It's just me and Lily now.
My darling Liberty is gone. My grief comes in overwhelming waves of sorrow and memories. I will never forget Liberty and I will love her as long as I draw breath on the Earth.

The Mobile I Made For Liberty

I made this mobile for Liberty to honor her. As soon as Hurricane Michael passes and the winds have gone, I'll hang this mobile from a limb of the Japanese Maple tree above her grave. I'm sadder than I can say, but I must take steps toward "normal" again for the sake of my dog, Lily. She needs me now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's Only Make Believe #blogabookscene #PrairieRosePub.

Vintage Western Romance
Fire Star Press/ Prairie Rose Publications

September's Theme: Creatures and Critters


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.

October's Theme: Autumn
Stay tuned...

Friday, September 07, 2018

I DREAM OF YOU #blogabookscene #fFireStarPress #PrairieRosePub #TheLastWilding

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 and #FireStarPress

September Theme: Critters

Here is my critter excerpt:

Kyle knew he wasn’t going to get out of there without taking a puppy so he knelt by the box and thought which one might suit him and he hoped Mia might like the dog, too. Without a doubt, Kyle believed he could tell a great deal about a person by the way they treated animals.

 He missed his dog, Wichahpi which was Lakota for “Star.” Rob had given him the dog years ago after he rescued her from two desperate men known for their cruelty. She had been a great dog and Kyle had loved her dearly. He gave her a Lakota burial to honor her and all she meant to him, but he thought he could never love another dog that way again. Deep inside, Kyle knew it was time to open his heart to another animal companion. Though he could never replace Wichahpi, surely he could find a puppy that would be a treasure to him even if it was in a different way.

Closing his eyes, Kyle placed his hand over the box of puppies and imagined just the right puppy for him would come up to lick his hand to tell him, “Hey this is me. I am the one you want and need. I am the one that will love you.” A few moments later, a puppy licked his hand and, when Kyle opened his eyes, he saw it was the little auburn female with a patch of white under her chin and pointed ears. She barked in her puppy voice to show him she liked him. He named her Shappa which was Lakota for “Red Thunder.”

“Ah, I see you’ve chosen the sweetest of the litter,” Joey said when he returned to the clinic.

Kyle sat on the floor next to the box holding Shappa in his hands. He grinned. “Actually, she chose me. I think she’s going to grow bigger than her mama. Look at these big paws.”

October’s Theme: Autumn

Diverse stories filled with heart

Thursday, September 06, 2018

I DREAM OF YOU by Sarah J. McNeal #TheLastWilding

For years I have written about the Wilding family in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming. The saga began in a time travel story with Joe Wilding and his adopted, part Lakota, brother, Banjo. I loved them so much I began to write about their children, and then their grandchildren. They were my family and my friends. I cannot see pictures of Wyoming or hear about the state without thinking of my Wildings.

I enjoyed having the Wildings help each other out of tough situations. Through these stories they counseled one another and shared their hopes, dreams, and burdens. They supported each other and fought for each other. And they had no problem speaking their mind when they thought a family member was about to derail.

And now I have come to the last Wilding story with their part Lakota cousin, Kyle Red Sky. He is the wisest of the Wilding clan and he has a special Lakota gift. I have written Kyle into several previous stories in which he has lent a hand to another Wilding in trouble. He has given wise counsel to his cousins on occasion, and he has warned them when he knew, in his mystical way, that trouble was coming.

And now, for my final Wilding, I am telling Kyle’s story. Of all the Wildings, Kyle is the most deserving of happiness. To make this last book special I have included scenes here and there in which each of the Wilding clan from previous stories shows up. I included Joe and Lola Wilding who are now the elders of the tribe. I wanted to let them all say goodbye. Kyle has always been dear to my heart and it was my desire to show his depth of character in this last story. I hope I succeeded.

I Dream of You
By Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press, imprint of Prairie Rose Publications
A Dream…A Kiss… And Deadly Secrets
Kyle Red Sky dreamed of the woman with fire in her hair, but when she comes to town, something dark and dangerous follows her. He wants to help her, but she is reclusive, avoids men, and the scarf she always wears around her neck tells him she harbors a dark secret.
Mia Beckett is a survivor. Finally, she has found sanctuary in a small western town far from danger where no one knows her or her past and she intends to keep it that way. But she can’t forget the man she saw once in a dream who told her the paths they walked were destined to meet. However, when she meets Kyle Red Sky and realizes he is the man from her dream, she knows, if the dream becomes a reality, he may die.

Kyle kicked open the door of his mother’s former dress shop despite the sign that read, No Men Allowed. The raging fire upstairs in the private quarters made this an emergency, certainly enough to ignore that sign. Smoke began to fill the shop as he raced up the stairs calling out the name of the new shop owner. “Miss Beckett! Miss Mia Beckett, where are you?”
As he reached the landing of the second floor, he heard someone cough nearby. With the wet blanket wrapped around him he rushed toward the direction of the cough until he found the woman lying on the floor almost unconscious from smoke inhalation. As soon as he removed the wet blanket he wore and wrapped her in its protective layer, he scooped her up in his arms to carry her away from the flames and smoke. The scarf she wore fell away from her neck and her head lolled back against his chest to reveal a thin, straight scar that ran all the way across her throat from her left ear to her right. It wasn’t an old scar, most likely no more than two or three months in the past. She attempted to raise a hand as if to cover her throat and replace the silk scarf. He’d always seen her wear a scarf of some description or another around her neck since her arrival in town. Now he knew all those scarves were not her unique sense of fashion, but her desire to hide the scar. She was a woman attempting to keep a secret.
In a whisper he could barely hear, she said, “Please, don’t let them see.” And then she fell unconscious.
“You have my word.” He knew there was little chance she could hear his promise, but it didn’t matter.
Buy Link: Paperback       Kindle

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, Fire Star Press, and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: