Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MY LIFE AS FICTION

People do weird things, sometimes touching and sweet, and sometimes they do things that are evil, careless, or beyond my understanding. But whatever they do, if I encounter something that results from their actions, you can be sure I’ll write about it in my writer’s journal. Sometimes the situation is such that I can’t get it off my mind. It will haunt me and make we wonder why a person would do such a thing. Such was the case with a baby grand piano that was left out in the front yard of someone’s house which I noticed on my way to work.

The scene was odd enough when I first noticed it, but I thought the owner was trying to figure out a way to get it into the house and the piano would soon be safely ensconced in the house and played by someone who would enjoy it and care for it. But as the days marched by and the weather turned stormy, the piano remained outside. In the beginning it had not occurred to me that someone intended to leave the piano out there on purpose until I saw it standing there in the pouring rain. Then I finally got it—whoever owned that piano intended to destroy it by allowing it to slowly deteriorate in its exposure to the elements. Such a diabolical plan for the destruction of something that, in itself, was a thing of beauty, but also brought delightful music into the world, just seemed too dark for my understanding. In the end, the piano fell into pieces and ended up on the side of the road for trash pickup. I found its demise in in this strange way dark, sad, and disturbing. What led a person to do such a thing? Did they throw puppies and kittens in the trash, too?

Of course, I wrote about it in my journal. I wasn’t sure how I would ever use it for a romance story, but I couldn’t let go of it. I wrote a paranormal short about it in which the piano was possessed by an evil spirit, and then another story in which it was cursed, but that didn’t satisfy me. That piano still crept into my subconscious and haunted me. The piano wasn’t evil, it was sad and broken. Finally, I realized it was a representation of how many of us feel when we are rejected or abandoned by those we love. No one who has lived a life fully has managed to escape heartbreak in one form or another. But it isn’t the heartbreak that’s important, it’s how we respond to it that counts. There are those who get back up, and don’t let the hurt destroy their search for true, forever love. Some people are so devastated by it, they guard their hearts against falling into love and allowing themselves to be vulnerable that they choose “safe” love, not too exciting or deep to hurt them. And then there are those who decide to harden their hearts and even become the people who hurt others before they can be hurt themselves.

Eventually, I was able to use this little chunk of real life into a story titled, CAST AWAY HEART. It is one of my rare contemporary stories without even a dot of paranormal in it.



An abandoned piano, rejected love, and hope

Blurb:
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 longtime friend.
How can a deserted piano heal a shattered spirit and inspire it to sing again?
Buy Links:  Now on sale for 99 cents!



   

Friday, July 24, 2015

Prairie Rose Publications Is Having A Party With Prizes

At last, I can tell you about the big Christmas in July Fandango and book sale. The party begins today. The big Fandango on Facebook begins July 27 at 5:00 PM eastern time and lasts until 10:00PM eastern time on July 28. All the Prairie Rose authors will be there giving away free stuff including new releases. Find out all about it here:
http://prairierosepublications.blogspot.com/2015/07/christmas-in-july-at-prairie-rose.html


Sarah McNeal's photo.

This graphic shows all the books that will be released for very discounted prices.


I will be giving away e-book copies of my newly released singles
When Love Comes Knocking

and

Unexpected Blessings
as well as print copies (In the continental United States) of Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, my Time Travel western that began the Wilding family series

and
The Violin, a Time Travel story dear to my heart

Also, during this time, my novella, Fly Away Heart, part of the Wilding stories is on sale for 99 cents.

You just don't want to miss this huge shindig because there are plenty of authors giving away lots of books, gift card, and other cool prizes.



Monday, July 13, 2015

My Childhood Summer Vacations by Sarah McNeal

Summer Vacation

Most of our vacations growing up were spent visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania. Pop wasn’t much on vacations that cost a lot of money like going to the beach, traveling to see national parks, or visiting historic monuments. As much as Pop was an Eagle Scout and a Boy Scout leader in his youth, he never wanted to go on camping trips either.

Still, vacations were fun. I liked that I could stay up as late as I wanted as long as I didn’t disturb the household. Going for walks in the woods and eating family meals down in the orchard instead of in the dining room were always fun. We visited my grandparents once or twice a year. The trip in the car on roads before there were interstate grand slabs was tedious and long. Mom always packed a big basket of sandwiches, fresh fruit (mostly bananas, and, for some unfathomable reason, hard boiled eggs, and a thermos of coffee. The eggs and bananas filled the car with their combined scent which is still imprinted on my brain. When I get a whiff of those two scents, I immediately think road trip. Oh, and did I mention we always took the family dog with us? Yep. A big Irish Setter, named Robin whose whole purpose in life seemed to be how to take up lots of room in the back seat and slobber in our hair all along the way. My sister and I were probably quite a sight upon arrival. 


 My maternal grandmother was a great cook. It sticks in my memory that she always had a vanilla cake covered in thick layers of vanilla buttercream frosting with sliced bananas between the layers and colorful nonpareils on top waiting for us when we arrived. Everything she made tasted great—even pea soup. Don’t know why. Maybe it was just the magic and wonder of being in a different place with people who weren’t like us. I loved to play her piano even though I couldn’t really play it and no one ever told me to stop or be quiet.



My first memory of my Grandfather McNeal’s house fills me with a kind of wonder even now. He bought an old school house and converted it into a home. I looked and looked for a picture of his house, but I have yet to find one. All the pictures they took were in the yard. Bummer. When I walked into the front room I remember the huge wooden ships with real canvas sails sitting everywhere and the sun gleaming through the long windows to the left of the room. I think my dad made the ships, but he never really said. My grandfather died when I was six, but I still remember how gentle and kind he was. He was frail and almost blind in his later years, but he was fiercely independent and insisted on living in his own house with a rope tied between his house and the outhouse to guide him. The last year of his life, Pop chartered a small plane to fly to Numidia, Pennsylvania to get him and bring him to our house in North Carolina. He died a few months later of a heart attack. I wish I could have had him longer. I didn’t get to hear his stories or ask him questions.

Summer vacation meant freedom for me. No one kept me from flying down the dirt road on my hand-me-down bike which I imagined was my horse or setting up a playhouse in the garage. My life was my own until Mom called us in for supper. Freedom from rules and restrictions allowed me a chance to be who I really was with unfettered imagination. I spent a great of time in solitude after we moved from the first house we lived in to the house beside Berryhill Elementary School. There just weren’t any kids around to play with. I didn’t mind. I had tea parties and gunfights with my imaginary friends and on a rare occasion, with my older sister who was usually more interested in reading or sewing doll clothes.




I didn’t miss having vacations at the beach or traveling. I had plenty of things to do right there at home going on my adventures into the woods, to the neighbor’s pond to fish, and pretending I had a horse. Mostly, what I loved was the soaring amount of freedom my parents allowed me.  

What were summer vacations like when you were growing up? What kinds of things did you do? What is your fondest memory of summer as a child?

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Memories of Pop on Father's Day


My Dad, James William McNeal

My memories are filled with Pop and his sometimes eccentric ways. He taught me to respect nature and all God's creatures. He kept a bird feeder just outside the kitchen window so we could watch the birds while we ate.
The shelves behind his seat at the kitchen table were filled with slides, his microscope, jars of nails, screws and little instruments he used to make slides, and stacks of books. In fact, there were stacks of books everywhere. Homemade bookcases filled with all kinds of books lined the walls and all the nooks and crannies of the house.
No lampshade was safe from his newspaper clippings that he pinned to them like little bulletin boards everywhere. If someone walked by them or opened a door the clippings would rustle and flap around on the shades.
He liked to fish, shoot pellet guns and even arrows at targets on the potting shed door. I managed to shoot well enough to at least hit the potting house with those arrows, but many times the arrows just flew off into no man's land.  I got good at shooting my B.B. gun (a replica of a Western Peacemaker). We even hung tin cans from strings and swung them to make them harder to hit.
Pop loved the ocean even though we seldom went to the beach when my sister and I were growing up. He was a meteorologist. His favorite job was when he worked for Ocean Weather on a coastguard cutter that went as far north as Greenland. Unfortunately, it seemed every time he left port, some catastrophe would take place. Mom finally had enough of Pop's long absences out at sea and he gave up Ocean Weather to work for the United States Weather Bureau.
After he retired from the US Weather Bureau, Pop accepted an offer to be the weatherman for the local news on TV. What he really loved about this job was making films teaching kids about wildlife. He was pretty good at it. Pop was a conservationist before it was cool. Jacques Cousteau was among his favorite wildlife conservationists.
We played our harmonicas together. He liked to play what he called "Dixie", but it wasn't Dixie at all. It was a tune he made up, but we played it just the same. We also played in our grand repertoire, my favorite, Shenandoah.  
He and I sat on the screened in porch during the hot weather to watch the political conventions while we ate caviar with crackers and drank cold beer. That was my first taste of caviar. It's an acquired taste, but I came to like it. 
He taught me to play chess. I only ever won one game. Pop wasn't the type to let a kid win on purpose. If you won, you really won, so that one game was quite a victory for me.
We traded stuff a lot. Once we traded my Thesaurus for his brass ashtray. I liked it because it had a deer in the bottom of it. Pop sometimes forgot what he traded and tried to reclaim his stuff. Because of his forgetfulness, I made him write and sign a release of that ashtray in trade for the Thesaurus. I still have that note and the ashtray.
I still miss him. I miss fighting with him. I miss laughing with him, I miss bargaining for goods with him, and mostly, I just miss him because I loved him.
To all of you who are fathers, have fathers, have kids that are fathers, or miss your fathers, I wish you a Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

THE VIOLIN released today!


Revised Edition Released Today!

THE VIOLIN by Sarah J. McNeal
STAR FIRE PRESS
Released today: April 21

Can the heart live inside a violin case? Can a message reach across time?

Genevieve Beaumont is haunted by dreams of a drowning man she is helpless to save. When she buys a violin and discovers news clippings and pictures of its owner and how he died from downing, she knows he must be the man in her dreams.

She travels to the little town where he died 90 years before to investigate who he was and how he died. Little does she know how her own life is tangled in the mystery…until she steps through the threshold of time to 1927. 
Available in paperback and all e-book formats including Kindle at Amazon, Smashwords, KOBO, and Barns & Noble.

Buy Links:

Excerpt:
John took her hands in his and just stared at her for the longest time before he spoke. When he did speak, his voice sounded raw, almost sad. "Remember me," he said softly. He took a little shaky breath and hesitated. "I mean remember that day after tomorrow you're coming to the house to help Mama bake. I'll meet you here about noon and walk with you to the house. Maybe I could take you for a ride on my motorcycle after all that baking." He grinned, and it warmed her.
He has a beautiful smile, Genevieve thought. "Unless something prevents me, I'll be here." She didn't want to leave him here. God knew what was around the other side of the curve. She might never be able to get back, might never see John again. Her heart sank like a stone in her chest. She wanted to say something, but words wouldn't come to her.
As if he sensed her dilemma, John pulled her to him and laid his cheek on the crown of her head. "Don't worry so much, Genevieve. Everything's going to be all right." He said it with quiet reassurance, like an unspoken promise.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

THE VIOLIN for Preorder

 THE VIOLIN revised edition from Fire Star Press now for PreOrder on AMAZON

 
Can the heart live inside a violin case? Can a message reach across time? 

Genevieve Beaumont is haunted by dreams of a drowning man. When she buys a violin and discovers news clippings and pictures of its owner and how he died from downing, she knows he must be the man in her dreams and is compelled to investigate his death. Little does she know how her own life is tangled in the mystery…until she steps through the threshold of time to 1927. 


PREORDER: 


 


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter Y'all



When I think of Easter, it takes me back to the years growing up with Mom, Pop, and my older sister. Often times, when the weather was good, we would move the Easter dinner to the orchard. Does food taste better when it's eaten in the out of doors? It seems that way to me. It felt lazy and festive at the same time. Mom made my sister and I Easter baskets long after we were grown. She loved holidays and made certain we celebrated with her. I didn't realize until after she died how much she contributed to our happiness on holidays. But I sure do appreciate all the memories she gave us in the time we had with her.

Mom made chocolate covered Easter eggs, some coconut, some peanut butter, and cherry. I can still remember how good they tasted. Of course, we made dyed Easter eggs. What's Easter without those? And it doesn't take much skill to make them, so I was all into that.

I still have my old Easter basket and some of the fuzzy chicks with hats she included in it over the years. It's kind of worn and the chicks have tattered, but it brings back those wonderful memories of home.

Parents may have no idea how important the memories they help create are to their children. All grown up and looking back, I still hold dear those cherished memories of Easter in the orchard and baskets full of delight my parents gave to us.

I hope all of you have a wonderful day today celebrating with your loved ones, both family and friends creating memories that could last a lifetime.