Monday, March 30, 2015


THE VIOLIN is undergoing revision and will be released on April 21, 2015 by Fire Star Press.  Livia Washburn Reasoner has created a new cover for it. What makes this cover so very special to me is that Livia used a picture of my Uncle John Douglas McNeal on it. I wrote this story about John who died long before I was born. He was only twenty-one when he drown while fly fishing with his friends. My father was devastated by John's death. I wanted to give John the life he never got to live so I wrote THE VIOLIN in his honor and in memory of my father's love for his older brother.


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. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Remembrance

James William McNeal

Pop and I shared a birthday. In the years since his death, my birthdays have never been quite the same. Someone is always missing.
In my early years I didn't like having to share my special day with my dad. I wanted it all for myself. But as the years went by, I began to enjoy sharing that cake and birthday greetings with pop.
Even now I have my personal tribute to my dad on our birthday. I write a note for him, light a candle, and play his favorite bagpipe tune. It's my way of celebrating his spirit and all the things he ever taught me like the reverence of nature and conservation of Mother Earth.
 He wasn't a saint. Just like every other parent, he made his fair share of mistakes and missteps. But he was my touchstone. If I had a problem I couldn't solve, Pop was my go-to guru. He was all common sense and rational thought. And he made me laugh.
So, today on my birthday, I just want to take a moment to pay tribute my dad. He always had my back. I love you, Pop.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day


Whether you are Irish or have the heart of the Irish, I wish you a happy and very lucky Saint Patrick's Day!!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Oddball Ancestors

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I come from a long line of oddballs and unconventional ancestors. Some might call them eccentric, and others might call them weird. I choose to call them inspiring, free-thinking, and dear.

Will and Matilda McNeal (my grandparents)

My grandfather McNeal was a collector. He collected paper bags, boxes, string and tin pie pans. Being a bit of a neat freak, he quite naturally kept these items in neat and orderly fashion. He kept the string in a ball. Whenever he added more string to it, he would just tie it on and roll it around the ball. Back into the kitchen drawer it went until he needed it to wrap packages or tie tin cans together for an impromptu communication device for children.
True to his sense of order, he stacked the paper bags, neatly folded, of course, according to size in a corner of an empty room next to the kitchen. I know for a fact that you can never have enough paper bags. They’re perfect for art projects, wrapping gifts, writing that scene that may have just popped into my head, and preparing a package to send off in the mail.
The pie tins were all neatly placed in a tidy stack after my grandfather washed them. Who hasn’t needed a pie tin at some time? They’re great hung from strings in the garden to keep the birds from carrying off the seeds, and handy for making Halloween masks and stars for on top of the Christmas tree as well as making all sorts of shiny ornaments. Pie tins make perfect bird feeders and bird baths, too. 

Pop on Ocean Weather

Not to be left out of the eccentric circle of relatives, my dad had a few quirks, too. Pop believed every lampshade had a secret desire to be a bulletin board. Whenever he found an interesting article in the newspaper or a picture of something he liked, he pinned it to a lampshade. He and my grandfather had the idea that books can be turned into scrapbooks. I have a couple of books with newspaper articles and magazine pictures pasted onto their pages. I never understood that one. In our large kitchen sat a breakfast nook by a window with Pop’s birdfeeder so we could watch birds there while we ate. Pop built the nook and added several shelves behind the seat on one side. This was his “office” where he kept his microscope, slides and other hobby paraphernalia.  I think I mentioned before that my dad thought the big freezer was an animal mortuary. I never knew what I would find in there. Once he put a cat in a paper bag with its tail hanging out for me to identify when I got home from school. He found the cat on the road in front of the house and thought it might be mine. It wasn’t, so he buried it. Another time, he had a huge horned owl someone hit with a car in there to keep until he could get it to the Rapture Center for study. He dug up an ant hill, bagged it, and put it in the freezer to keep until he could construct an ant farm for my oldest nephew. The ant farm turned out pretty nifty, but he didn’t get the queen, so they all ended up dying. .  My mother was so tolerant of my dad’s quirks. She never fussed at him to clean up his mess—or mine, either.

Mom with her new perm and me on my maternal grandmother's farm--a whole other strange story

And speaking of Mom, she had her own little eccentricities, too. Mom hated to iron. She would sprinkle all the clothes, roll them up tight and place them in the freezer to keep from getting mildew until she got around to ironing—which barely ever happened. We ironed as we needed something. There was seldom room for actual food in the freezer.
Of course, there’s more, but I've probably already made you gasp and shake your head. My parents and grandparents were “different”, but for all their weirdness, I feel so lucky to have had them…just the way they were.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Midwinter Blues and Exercise

This is my idea of dealing with winter.

Here we are in the middle of winter. It's that place where the light at the end of the tunnel isn't quite visible yet and all the really fun holidays are behind us. Working on either of my WIPs seems to take an act of sheer will like deciding to go out and plow a field with a spoon. Well, what'd you do to keep the blahs from taking over?

I read an article that said exercise improves your mental outlook and your physical health. My sister swears that it keeps her depression at bay. She goes to the gym like it was church and takes long walks as if it was fun. I hate her. I'm more the slug type. I like to conserve my energy. I think naps are beneficial.

In my younger days I would walk every where and thought exercise was just part of the daily routine. I don't think I really knew how age could change things. It all seemed so easy then. I remember practicing the bagpipes and losing 2-3 pounds from the effort. Those were the days, my friend.

I could probably hibernate for the entire winter laying around watching TV or reading, but my doctor seems to think exercise might help me get some wight off and give me some more strength. What do doctors know?

Well, I've been giving this whole exercise thing some thought. Along with the physical benefits, I want to see if exercise will help me through this infernal winter and improve my spirits.

Have any of you tried to use exercise to chase away the winter blues? What do you do to get your happy back? I expect a full report.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Deep Breath

It seems as though the Christmas season begins earlier every year. Maybe it's just me getting older and time seems to pass so quickly now, but as soon as Halloween ends, the Christmas ornaments come rolling out at all the stores, advertisements and movies about Christmas begin on TV, and companies begin expounding on their Christmas present ads. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

Most people are out there rummaging the stores for bargains and racking their brains trying to think of thoughtful gifts for everyone on their lists. Believe me, it's not possible to give the perfect gift to every single person on that list.The battle for parking places begins and, on the evening news, the accounts of thieves and muggers escalates. It's dangerous out there. And what about the cost? Many of us are struggling to keep afloat on any given day, let alone attempting to buy something for everyone we know. There is also the inevitable guilt about not being able to afford gifts for everyone.

What about Christmas cards? You try to remember to send them out to all your friends and family, but you already know, you'll forget someone. We all hate it when we feel we've hurt someone by not getting that card to them.

All the magazines and advertisements on TV have beautifully decorated houses and rooms. Some are overdone or garish, to be sure, but many are just right. We try to make our homes like those images we see. It takes energy, money, and time to decorate. No one wants to have the dark house on the block.

And then there's the cooking. We prepare food as gifts. We makes several different kinds of cookies and decorate them, usually the children assist us as best they can. Then there are the cakes and pies and candies to make. Just as we are about to explode with the sugar rush, it's time to prepare that huge Christmas feast--and didn't we just have that big Thanksgiving feast last month? So here we go again, in the frenzy to have all those good eats on the table to celebrate the day.

Now mind you, all these frantic activities are things we enjoy doing to make our families happy and create joyful memories for them, but it's exhausting.

So now we've come to the end of the big celebrations. There are two weeks between Christmas and the New Year when we start the coming year with a clean slate and normalcy returns. This is the time of the Deep Breath. This is when we reflect on the year about to pass, the things we hope to change. This is our quiet time, our time to meditate, to stop talking and just listen to God. We need to rest and regain our strength and perspective.

And so I wish for all of you to take that Deep Breath, come to peace with the year passing away, and fill yourselves with hope for the year about to begin.

Joy, Health, and Peace to you in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

HOLLOW HEART, a post World War II story that takes place in 1947, was part of the Valentine anthology from Prairie Rose Publications this year and now it's out as a quick read with it's own beautiful cover created by Livia Washburn. You can preorder it right now at Amazon. HOLLOW HEART will be released on December 11 for only 99 cents.

Lost love and the hope for possibilities


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.


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.