Friday, November 08, 2019

Let’s Build Some Monsters by Sarah J. McNeal #BuildingMonsters



The Niamso in The Witch-Queen




I love fantasy writing, creating worlds, beings, and, oh yeah, monsters. Even as a kid I was fascinated by monsters. Lord knows, I experienced enough nightmares about them. Most kids have had the belief that a monster is lurking under the bed ready to bite if a foot or hand many dangle down past the mattress into their lair. It is my understanding that every self-respecting closet has its monster.


Myths and Legends are crammed full of monsters, wild things, and creatures of another realm—usually one invisible to humans. From these myths and legends writers can pull up a monster and add or subtract from its original creation and form a completely new being with the magic of imagination.

The Demon, INX in Witch-Queen


I looked up a few of these creatures from “The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference” from Writer’s Digest Books. Here are just a few of these monsters and fantasy creatures:


Kraken: a sea creature big enough to be mistaken for an island


Leprechauns: the little people of Irish lore who love to trick people

The Minotaur: a creature half man-half bull who lived in a labyrinth and devoured 7 sacrificial maidens ever so often


Nemean Lion: a gigantic lion that devoured people but could not be killed because its impenetrable hide.


Sasquatch (Bigfoot): Well here’s one of my favorites. This creature is known throughout Native American lore as a big, hairy, humanoid creature who lives in the deep woods. Some honor the creature, but never speak of it while others believe it steals and eats children.


Vampires: Humans who have died but have revived due to a bite from another vampire. They continue to “live” only by consuming human blood.


Zombies: the undead who must consume human brains in order to continue “living”


Medusa the Gorgon: A monstrous woman with snakes for hair who can turn humans to stone by a mere glance at thus hideous specter.


Fairies: magical human-like beings with wings. Some are kind and good, while others are evil


Dragons: huge lizard-like creatures that breathe fire. They are often assigned to guard some type of treasure.


Clowns: thought to be human and humorous except, every once in a while, an evil clown comes around with diabolical intentions.


Well that’s just a few of the many creatures from myth and legend. There are so many to choose from to build an original monster to delight readers.

In my new release, THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book 1 (completely revised from the previous DARK ISLE), I used several monsters. 

I named the creatures the Niamso, creatures who were part human and part Dark Blood Clan who were evil beings from the Dark Isle ruled by a particularly wicked queen named Mahara. The Niamso look somewhat like Big Foot with thick, hairy bodies, huge teeth and a rapacious appetite for human flesh. They have an uncanny sense of hearing, which is also their weakness. All in all, they are formidable creatures. 
The Evil Dragon OBYOS from The Witch-Queen



Do you write about monsters? How do you build them? Do you give them both a strength and a weakness? What is your favorite monster?






THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book 1

The legend begins when love and evil collide.

Blurb:

The Dark Isle has been a refuge for evil since time began in the world of Winatuke, and the most depraved and wicked of them all is the witch-queen, Mahara, who rules over the malignant kingdom of darkness.

Mahara has taken a captive, a prince of the Nimway people, and she plans to use him for the revenge that burns in her soul. By forcing her own daughter, Isadore, into marriage with Prince Gabriel, she hopes to gain the power she craves over the Nimway—especially her ex-lover and Isadore’s father, Raven.

Her scheme goes awry when love begins to grow between Isadore and Gabriel. Isadore realizes the only way to save Gabriel is for them to escape together, but at the last minute, that plan fails. Separated from Gabriel,  Isadore is forced to continue to the Nimway kingdom of Valmora alone to seek help from her mother’s enemies.

Once Isadore gains their trust, Gabriel’s brother, Raphael, volunteers to travel to present-day Earth to get help. To save his brother, he must bring Raven back to the world of Winatuke, and ask him to risk his own life in the battle against Mahara’s evil forces.

It seems an impossible task. How can they ever defeat Mahara? With the evil forces she can summon at will, it seems Gabriel’s life will be forfeit. But Isadore refuses to allow that, risking her own life to save him. Forced to follow her heart, Isadore wonders if she can ever win her father’s trust or Gabriel’s love. She only knows she must defeat her mother’s evil vendetta for all time. No matter the consequences she must vanquish THE WITCH-QUEEN



Excerpt:

 "You think you can fool me, Isadore, but you should know by now that is impossible." Mahara's eyes glowed like two red hot coals of anger as she faced her daughter. "What were you doing with my prisoner yesterday, that arrogant Nimway brat?"

     "Nothing, Mother, I swear it. I only wanted to see what the filthy Nimway looked like." Isadore could not quite look her mother in the eyes. She bent her head to avoid facing her, and stared at the floor. "I did talk to him just a little." She whispered her confession.

     Mahara whirled around, her black gown whispering and swirling around her as if it had a life of its own. She lifted Isadore's chin with her long, thin finger so Isadore would have to look at her. "And what did you two converse about? Be very careful that you tell me the whole truth," she warned, "I shall know if you lie, or omit anything." There was a nasty tone in her voice.

     Isadore shook visibly in her fear. She knew her mother's powers. There was reason to be afraid…very, very afraid. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "We talked about my father."

     Mahara's eyes grew black with rage. "How could you talk with a child of my enemies about the very thing for which I hate them?" She dug her fingers into Isadore's shoulders and shook her. "Why? Why would you do such a thing?"

     Isadore could barely look at her mother so great was her fear. She didn't want Mahara to see this weakness in her. Her words stumbled from her lips, "I...I wanted to know if...if..."



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Sarah J. McNeal

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book1 by Sarah J. McNeal #TheWitchQueen


The Witch-Queen, Legends of Winatuke, book1

(formerly, The Dark Isle)


By Sarah J. McNeal
Published by Fire Star Press
Pre-Order Link: 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z44XYD1


The legend begins when love and evil collide.


Blurb:
Curiosity draws Isadore, the witch-queen’s daughter, deep into the Dark Isle’s dungeon to take a peek at the captive Nimway prince with the magical voice. In spite of enduring starvation and torture, Gabriel is kind to her even when Mahara forces him to marry Isadore to gain control over the Nimway Kingdom of Valmora.
But Isadore learns Mahara’s plans for Gabriel are darker still and his life is in grave danger. Her attempt to help him escape fails and she finds it is up to her to seek help from his brother, Prince Raphael, her mother’s greatest enemy.
Raphael crosses the dimension between Winatuke and the Strange Land to enlist the help of his family’s long time Earthly friends, Raven and Hawk McKnight. But as they travel back through time and dimension two bystanders, Raphael’s beloved Rose McKnight and her younger brother Peregrine, are accidently swept into the magic of the transport. One of the two will die as the warriors attempt to rescue Gabriel before it’s too late.

Excerpt:
A little burst of happiness spread through her as she contemplated her mission. Of course, Mother would be displeased to find me disobeying her by searching for the Nimway prince she holds prisoner. That he was her mother's enemy only served to make the adventure more enticing. Her eagerness to see what he looked like aroused her imagination. Lucerne, Isadore’s aging nanny, told her the captive prince had golden hair, beautiful yellow wings and a heart of pure light. Lucerne had told her something important about his voice, but she couldn't quite remember just what she had said.
Isadore reached the bottom of the stair and made her way with tentative care down the narrow passage to the prisoner's cell. She had never ventured this far before. The dungeon was an awful place. It smelled of damp stone, urine, and fear.
In the shadows of the cell, she made out the Nimway's form as he stood facing the wall beyond the iron bars with his back to her. He stood tall with a broad back that tapered to a narrow waist and hips. From his back sprang two large, yellow wings etched in black. They reminded her of the stained glass windows now falling from their frames in the abandoned chapel of the north wing. The glow from a burning torch shone through his hair and, in spite of its unkempt length and its need of washing, it gleamed like a golden halo in the flickering torchlight. There he stood, magnificent and beautiful, the Heir Apparent to the throne of Valmora, Prince Gabriel of Fionn.
He must have sensed her presence because he started to turn toward her. Her heart pounded against her ribs. She could not catch her breath. Inside her mind her thoughts ran in excited disarray. But a smart rap on her shoulder gained her immediate attention. A gasp escaped her when she turned to find her mother standing close behind her. Mahara had found her out. "What do you think you are doing, Isadore?" Her black eyes darkened and narrowed with suspicion. Without waiting for an answer she grabbed Isadore’s hand in a painful grasp and jerked her around. "Come with me NOW," Mahara commanded.
Excerpt:
Raphael struggled to fly against the northwest wind. A downdraft in this kind of weather could slam Raphael to the ground without warning. Another difficulty facing him was snow that fell so thick and fast it blinded his vision and the mélange of white sky with white, snow–covered ground disoriented him. The persistent headwind sapped Raphael’s energy. I only have a little further to go. As he recalled Isadore's determination to make the journey to Valmora for Gabriel’s sake, he became inspired. Without knowing how she would be received she made the journey tenaciously focused on her one objective...to save Gabriel's life. Raphael found himself amazed by the magnitude of Isadore's love for his brother. I only wish my own life could be that blessed.
As twilight arrived, Raphael settled to earth at the far side of the Lake of Sorrows. Across the frozen expanse, loomed the Dark Isle. The isle rose up from the murky depths of the lake into a black, ragged mountain that stood in stark contrast to the white, iced–over lake. Cradled in the jagged granite claw, sat the decaying remains of Mahara's castle, its inhabitants of the Black Blood Clan, and the imprisoned humans and Nimway. The black stone had weathered over the years and parts of it had crumbled away. The north tower was all but gone, its base stuck up from the bare ground like jagged teeth. A portion of the wall had collapsed from neglect and age. Great chunks of cut stones lay scattered around what was once a courtyard.
Raphael made out a faint light here and there from a narrow window and an occasional light moving about, which he assumed were guards with lanterns going about their rounds. At the mouth of the castle an iron gate with sharpened bars warded off the most intrepid trespassers from entering its gaping orifice. Raphael was not sure if he shivered from the cold or from the presence of such unbridled evil. He drew his cloak around him and blended into the oak tree behind him. He couldn't light a fire for fear of discovery, so he warmed himself with thoughts of Rose. He imagined her working in her garden with the sun lighting the gold in her copper hair. He envisioned her smiling up at him from his arms and remembered the warmth of her lips on his.
His yearning for her tormented him like a deep wound that would not heal. What a trick fate had played on him. His one true love preferred a man like Bill Harris simply because he was human.  

 


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Monday, May 20, 2019

MY INSPIRATION: JOHN DOUGLAS MCNEAL #InspirationForTheViolin




My creative inspiration came from a man I never met, my Uncle John. I only knew him through stories Pop told me about him and faded old photographs.  Whenever Pop talked about his older brother, I could see the pride in his eyes and hear the reverence in his voice. It was obvious to me that my dad loved his brother and idealized him.

John aspired to be a civil engineer and, like all three of the McNeal brothers had an aptitude for math. I think John had a special connection with Pop. He didn’t write many letters, but in one of them written while he was away in college, he asked about “Jimmy” (my dad), and told his parents to encourage his younger brother with his math. They certainly did that.

John was a bit of a rebel. He rode an Indian motorcycle around the United States and canada when he worked for a traveling opera show out of New York City. He sent home plenty of pictures, but not much in the way of letters. I wish he had done more writing, but that was not his way.

He loved music and played the mandolin and violin. His violin instructor rapped him on the knuckles with a pencil for playing a piece wrong and that was the end of lessons from that instructor. Did I mention the McNeals had a bit of a temper? John, apparently, did not put up with disrespect or shenanigans from others.

In his youth, Uncle John contracted Scarlet Fever. Although he managed to survive, he had seizures from time to time. There was no real treatment for seizures back then except Phenobarbital which has the side effect of drowsiness. I can only guess from what I know about John, being hindered by a medicine that interfered with his active life was probably unacceptable.

In May 1927, John went fly fishing with some friends down at Roaring Creek near his home in Numidia, Pennsylvania. His friends moved downstream around the bend and out of sight of John. It was then that John had a seizure, fell face forward into three foot of water, and drown. He was only twenty-one on the threshold of a promising life when he died. A light went out in the McNeal household. His wake was held at home as was the custom in those days. Pop said people came from everywhere to pay their respects, especially young women. According to Pop, John had a particular charm that drew the affections of the ladies.

After my Grandfather McNeal died Pop, the only living family member, sold their family home, an old red school house, and auctioned off most of their belongings to pay for my grandfather’s funeral. But Pop saved a very special treasure for me—John’s violin. He had it refurbished for me and I began to take lessons. I loved playing that violin. In later years I played it with my great-niece Madeline who took a genuine interest in music. A couple years ago I gave John’s violin to Madeline because I wanted to honor the memory of John for generations to come. She named the violin Lola. In return, Madeline gave me her violin so I could keep playing music.

I always felt sad for John that he never had a chance to find love, marry, have a family, and fulfill his dreams. I wanted to write his story and I wanted to make as true to his life as I could, but give him the life I wish he could have had. I wish Pop could have lived long enough to have seen my fictionalized version of his brother’s life, and part of his own, in the book I titled THE VIOLIN. I think it would have made him happy. I dedicated the book to Uncle John and my father.
“This book is dedicated to the memory of my uncle, John Douglas McNeal, whose tale I have told here in the pages of this almost true story, and to my dad, James William McNeal, who loved and missed John until his own death in 1981.”

Livia Washburn Reasoner created the cover for THE VIOLIN using an actual picture of John.



THE VIOLIN

by Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press/Imprint of Prairie Rose Publishing

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 who died from downing inside the case, she realizes he is 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 came to drown that day. Little does she know how her own life will be tangled in the mystery…until she steps through the threshold of time to 1927.

Excerpt:

She heard him take in a slow breath before he spoke to her in a more relaxed, quiet tone. "I beg your pardon, miss, I didn't mean to curse. What's your name?" The younger man’s voice soothed her as he knelt beside the couch where she lay. He wrung out a cloth in the bowl of water beside his knee, folded it, and applied it to Genevieve's brow.

"My name is Genevieve Beaumont. I was just standing at the window and now…I'm here." She lifted a shaky hand to her brow. "My head is pounding."

"You bumped your head when you fainted. Is that a French name?"  He lifted a quizzical brow and smiled.

She lifted her eyes and got a good, close-up look at him then. Her heart almost stopped beating in her chest. She sucked in a deep breath. What was happening to her? How could any of this be possible? The man holding the cool cloth to her head was the man in the pictures she found in the violin case!
She would not have guessed he had auburn hair, or that his eyes were such a vivid, bottle green. He wore a collarless, khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up and suspenders instead of a belt held up his tan, canvas trousers. Oh, but he was handsome—so much more than his pictures ever allowed. She didn't have time to admire the young man's good looks because her mind swirled round and round with the unfathomable implications of her situation.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Reflection on The Life of Mister Rogers by Sarah J. McNeal



I didn’t grow up with Mr. Rogers like so many kids did. Lucky them. Even if he had been on TV when I was a kid I still wouldn’t have had the chance to see him because we didn’t have TV except those transient times when Mom found some second hand TV for $5 or $10 that only lasted a week or two. But for those of you who were fortunate enough to get to know him, I am so happy for you.
Fred Rogers was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1928. He didn’t sail through his childhood on some magic carpet. Like most of us, he suffered some emotional setbacks. Kids made fun of him because he was overweight and he did not make friends easily. Mostly, he was alone and somewhat shy and introverted. In high school a life changing circumstance happened to him. He worked with a football hero who was, naturally very popular. Their relationship grew and they became lifelong friends. Because of their association, Fred became accepted by his classmates and began to move out of his shell. He began to be a positive influence on others.


His first experience watching TV had a negative effect on him. He watched as two men threw pies in each other’s face. Fred thought that was so demeaning for anyone to do and for children to watch such a thing. Though his goal in life was to become a theologian, he had several jobs working in TV studios which gave him some great ideas about what he really wanted to do to help kids—kids who were poor or picked on, or sad, or treated with disregard by even their parents.


He did become a Presbyterian minister. But then circumstances and opportunities came his way so that he became the director of a children’s TV program. He didn’t like being the center of the show, but he used the opportunity to change the way we talk to kids and taught a great message of quiet kindness and showed people how to listen to children. He wasn’t entertainment, he was a teacher using puppets and his authentic self to show kids how to love and accept others.


His mother made sweaters to give to charity and for the war effort. Every sweater he wore on his show was a sweater knit by his mother’s hands—300 sweaters total. He was a vegetarian because he didn't want to eat "something that had a mother."
Now that I know about this extraordinary, humble, and kind man who was the same person off camera as he was on, I am going to incorporate his ideals into my own life as much as I can. I know I can never measure up to his standards, but I want to work on it.


Did you grow up with Mister Rogers? What did you think of him? Did you change in any way from his influence?
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

HOLLOW HEART #Blog-A-Book-Scene#TheWildingsSeries by Sarah J. McNeal

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. You can find us at #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub
February's Theme: Love Letters
March's Theme: Kidnapping

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 KINDLE


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