Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Breath Between

Last night I finished my first draft for IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE, Kit Wilding and June Wingate’s story. I might have to step back from it a day or two before I get into the edits and add to the word count which I am short on. So maybe it’s time to take a breath and readjust my perspective.
I have a strong urge to start writing on my next story. I already have the synopsis (what I use as an outline) for it. I yearn to jump right into the next project all fresh and new, but I know I will just get all jumbled up and get too far away from Kit’s story. I need to iron out a few things, flesh out June and Kit a bit more. I need to REALLY care about them. It still needs something—maybe a dog.
So, anyway, as much as I would love to move on into another story, I’m just not ready yet. Once I get into these edits I think I’ll get deeper into my characters and their dilemma until it will be hard to leave them behind. When I have a hard time saying goodbye to my characters, then I’ll know I have a story readers might truly enjoy.
Do you have the same feelings after you finish a rough draft? Do you have to leave it alone for a while before you dig into the edits? Do you already have another story in progress? Have you ever found a huge hiccup in the story line after you’ve finished? Is it hard to go back and fix a problem after the fact?

Anyhow, I’m taking the weekend off and mull over in my mind what needs tweaking before I get to work mending and fixing things. It’s warm and sunny out today and I hear the deck calling me, “Come and sit a while in the sunshine.” So, off I go…

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Place of Memories

    I have a special connection to central Pennsylvania, especially the northern, agricultural area around Numidia, Catawissa, Sunbury, and Bloomsburg. My parents were born and raised in the area, in fact, my entire family originated there--even me. I was born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, a small college town where most of the houses are old Victorian beauties with well tended yards filled with flowers in the spring and summer and surrounded by soft, round-topped mountains.
    We visited this area so often when I was young to reunite with my grandparents, family members, and old friends of my parents. Sometimes my sister and I would spend summer vacation time there. It's such a beautiful place with the Susquehanna River running through those lush green mountains, valleys where the farmers create fields that look like patchwork quilts. 
    I remember the quiet, the fun running outside in our bathing suites to enjoy the rain, picking sweet, wild strawberries, and Sunday visits to my grandmother's friends most of whom lived on Mt. Carmel and Bear Mountain. They would exchange gifts of their handy work, like homemade baked goods, crocheted items, and quilts. I loved playing with all the kids. My grandmother loved to fish and she often packed a picnic and took us with her. We would spend our time playing in the water while she fished. Such great fun. We went to church bazaars, ice cream socials, and church picnics and ate delicious food and played games with other kids--and once, I actually won a peanut pushing race.
    I only remember the 8 months of actually living in Pennsylvania when I was 4 years old. We lived in Luthersburg, a small town not too far from Pittsburg. I have so many warm memories of living there and the people who were so friendly and kind to us.
    When the weather station closed in Luthersburg, we moved to Charlotte, NC where I have lived most of my life. 
    Since my parents are gone, I seldom go back to Pennsylvania. Sometimes I miss it. I have gone to Catawissa and Numidia a couple times to see to the placing of a monument on my paternal grandparents' and Uncle John's graves.
    While I stood there at The Hillside Cemetery and looked around at the rounded mountains surrounding the town, I felt a kind of homesickness for a place that held so many memories of my childhood and had now become a place where my ancestors can only whisper to me on the wind. It still tugs at my heart.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!


I wish for everyone a Christmas filled with joy, love, and peace of mind.
It's a busy world we live in with so many things to do and so little time filled with uncertainty and responsibilities. During this Christmas season, I hope we all take some quiet time for ourselves to reflect on the things that are really important and enjoy our family and friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pop Culture and Pop Beads

I am not a follower of fashion trends. They come and go and you end up with a closet full of 70's bellbottoms and leather vests with yard long fringe or 80's dresses and blouses with shoulder pads that made women look like the Incredible Hulk and guys with leisure suits made of some kind of permanent press material that was shiny that made men feel they were trussed up in plastic wrap.
And then back when the Earth's crust was still cooling, there were POP BEADS.

What? You don't remember what pop beads were? Well, let me educate you. Pop beads were round, plastic beads with a little knob on one side and a tiny hole on the other so that one bead could fit into the other until they could be popped together into a circle to make bracelets and necklaces.
Of course, back in the 50's no one thought about choking hazards for kids let alone fire retardant sleepwear which in recent times has been condemned for its cancer enhancing chemicals. So, for a short time, pop beads were quite the rage. After a short period of adoration, they became considered gauche and tasteless and lost their prestige.

This is the only picture I have of Mom in her fashionable attire with those charming pop beads around her neck. Shortly after this picture, Mom added her pop beads to my "dress-up bin" of castoff grownup clothes to wear for play.

So ends the tale of pop beads in cultural history.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mercy Hospital's Christmas Competition 1980's

Charlotte in Gingerbread

Way back in the 1980’s when I worked in Coronary Care at Mercy Hospital before Carolinas Medical Center bought out the Sisters of Mercy, we used to have an annual contest for the unit that had the best Christmas display. (We were allowed to call it “Christmas”, not winter holiday or some such politically correct name.) The prize was usually free lunch brought to the unit for the nurses on all shifts to enjoy and a huge platter of Christmas cookies.

We decided to do something extraordinary for our display, something grand that would win that prize. I remembered the gingerbread houses my parents used to make. They were not only beautiful, but very yummy, too. They even brought a gingerbread house to my unit a couple times and I loved that they did that. So my coworkers and I decided to make gingerbread houses for our display. But we didn’t just want regular gingerbread houses, we wanted to make downtown Charlotte like a whole city of gingerbread buildings. (Actually, we made the base of the buildings from cardboard to prevent any catastrophic collapse.)

We worked and worked on that city until the entire unite smelled like vanilla icing and candy. While I was looking at some old pictures, I found a picture of our gingerbread city all decorated for Christmas. We won! We all got to share in the sandwiches and cookies and, of course, a mention in the hospital newsletter that made us all rather proud. It was also my way of honoring the memory of my parents who loved making gingerbread houses out of real gingerbread each year for Christmas. It’s one of my best memories of Mom and Pop.  I still miss them.

Sarah J. McNeal
Author of paranormal, time travel and western romance

Monday, October 31, 2016


When I was around eleven years old, I read Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s famous Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. As much as I have never been a dedicated mystery fan, Sherlock Holmes grabbed my attention and has never let go. As a kid, I wanted to be like Sherlock. I wore Pop’s old trench coat and with my green and white plastic bubble pipe and trusty magnifying glass, I roamed the house and yard searching for clues to some mysterious happening after another.

I was quite proud of the fact that I actually solved the mystery of The Hounds Of The Baskervilles before I finished reading it. Maybe it was the strange characters or just the intensity of how Doyle wrote those mysteries that made me love Sherlock, but I was all in.

I think I have watched every movie and TV series involving Sherlock Holmes and Watson, his faithful sidekick. And, lest we forget, the best villain ever, Moriarty, was penned into these stories—and I do love a good villain. Moriarty has to be the most devious, intelligent, and evil villain that ever existed. What would a detective as innovative as Sherlock Holmes do without his match to test his courage and intelligence?

You may ask why I bring up Sherlock Holmes today, well it IS Halloween, but more than that, I saw in the daily post titled “Today In History” that Sir Arthur Canon Doyle first published The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on October 31, 1892—Halloween! How great is that? Just in case you want to read it, here is the link:

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Never Forget!
I was at work in the emergency department on 9/11/2001. When the first plane crashed into the tower, we were all dumbfounded and sad, but when the second plane hit the other tower, the chill of intentional horror hit us. Then the Pentagon took a hit from another plane followed by the plane in Pennsylvania thwarted from its suspected target of the White House by the brave passengers on board, we all knew the ugly truth. We experienced terrorism on a level never experienced before.
I called my niece and nephew just because I suddenly knew how important family was. The need to reach out to them was imperative in a world suddenly uncertain. We prepared as best we could at work for the possibility that Charlotte might be next. Who knew what would happen next. A torrent of emotions ran through the department from anger to weeping. No one smiled.
It was so odd and somewhat eerie to drive home with a clear blue sky above and not a single plane anywhere—not even a small Cessna. Nothing existed except this feeling of unbearable loss and mourning. When I reached home, I saw for the first time on TV the towers crumbling to the earth and the people posting pictures of their lost loved ones who were in the towers hoping against all odds they would be found alive.
In the weeks that followed, I felt I was living through one funeral after another. The sadness was overwhelming.
In the midst of all this turmoil, I adopted a kitten who had been hit by a car in front of the veterinary hospital. They saved her, fixed her injuries and had the kitten in the lobby. I took my dog, Kate, in for her shots and saw the black and white kitten crying in her cage. They named her Liberty. She was a beacon of light in a gloomy period of history. Liberty. Something innocent and sweet calling out to me. I took her home with me that day and she has brought me endless happiness ever since. I kept the name they gave her. I couldn’t think of another name that could possibly mean more to me than Liberty. My cat, my country, the ideal of our founding fathers. Liberty.