Sunday, January 17, 2021

My Dog Lily's Super Powers #The WildingsSeries by Sarah J. McNeal


If the doorbell rings, the mail person deposits letters in the box, a car backfires, or the teenager next door is practicing moves with his skate board, Lily will come running to wherever I am with wide eyes and an anxious expression. I am not fooled into believing she is coming to protect me from an intruder or some such. No. Lily is looking for me to protect HER. She’ll get behind me like I’m her human shield against harm.

If I open the door, but not the storm door which is locked, Lily will bark so much I cannot hear the other person. This is particularly annoying at Halloween. I had to start handing out candy through the bay window because of Lily’s annoying bark. But here’s something interesting, if I open the door and let the person in, Lily immediately becomes an attention hound trying whatever she can think of to get them to pet her.

This is the way it is with Golden Retrievers. If you’re wanting a guard dog, this is not your dog. Now if you need a hug or a dog who will listen to you whine about your life for a while, now THAT would be Lily’s super powers. Golden Retrievers are all about service and kindness.

Lily is also great at chasing squirrels. She has never actually caught one. That was always Liberty and Priss’s (Priss was my cat before Liberty. They looked almost identical) domain (cats). If I lived in the wilderness and had to depend on an animal to fetch dinner for me, I would call the cat—the REAL hunter.

BTW, speaking of squirrels, I haven’t seen Twig today, but I think I saw the daddy sunning himself on the railing of the deck in a spot of sunshine. He looked very well fed and seemed pretty content out there.

When it comes to guardian type dogs, I’ve had 2 of them: Finn and Mac. You would think 18-20 pound dogs wouldn’t be anything to worry about, but I can tell you both those Scotties were determined, courageous, and smart. I wouldn’t have wanted to confront them if I were a stranger. They sounded like big dogs and I think they believed they were big. Those guys were fearless.

Well, Lily has spent all her energy begging for pats on the head from company today, so she’s having to rest to rejuvenate.

Do you have a dog or cat? How would you rate them as guardians? Would they rush in to save you, or hide behind you? What is your favorite thing about your dog or cat that makes you love them even more?  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The McNeal Family Christmas Tree


Back left to right: Mom and Pop  Bottom left to right: Me and my sister, Mary

Far left: The Sad Christmas Tree


I’ve told the story about foraging for a Christmas tree before, but I wanted to tell it again now that I’ve found a picture of that tree to show you.


Every Christmas season Mom would want a Christmas tree because she was a believer in decorating for the holiday to the fullest capacity. Naturally, the task of foraging for that tree fell on Pop, my sister, and me. As much as I loved Christmas trees, I dreaded that trip into the pine forest. It required sturdy jeans, warm gloves, layers of clothes, and a pioneer to get the job done. Pop did not allow any whining along the way—and there was quite a way to go.


First, we had to walk past the backyard, through whatever was left in the garden, beyond the orchard, into the woods. Then the real journey began as we went down the hill to the little creek, up the steep bank over old oak trees that had fallen here and there until we reached the briar patch. Our dog, Ember, the Irish setter, was all over the place chasing tiny woodland creatures and cover in beggar lice and cock-a-burrs (getting them out of her fur was a chore for later.)


The briar patch was a wide strip of blackberry vines heavily protected by sharp thorns. No matter how hard we tried, those thorns caught on our clothes, scratched our hands till the blood came, and even pierced our heavy duty jeans. We would have to step high over the bushes to avoid the worst of the thorns. After a while our hips hurt and we were tired tuckered out—and we hadn’t even reached the pine forest. Ember was bouncing around, barking and running hither and yon, so at least one of us was happy and had some energy.

It seemed that every year we picked the coldest day to go looking for a Christmas tree because, by this time, we were all frozen, our hands were numb, and we just longed to get back home and get something hot to drink and warm up.


On this particular year our grump trio finally reached the pine forest and the end of our enthusiasm. Pop was the one who suggested we just get the first tree we came across and scurry on home. My sister and I heartily agreed. Pop and I did this one year when I was the only one still at home. We lucked up finding the best tree we ever had, but this was not that year. We took down the first tree we saw that was the least bit decent and headed home with it. The journey back to the house seemed to take more effort and we grumbled the whole way home. But I’m here to testify to the fact that Mom was happy with that tree. She didn’t complain about how shabby it looked, not even once.


I tried to get Pop to buy a tree one year, but oh my word, I may as well have asked him to turn over his life savings. He stared at me like I had told him I was giving up my citizenship and defecting to Russia for a moment before he let loose on me about the cost of buying a tree and how it just wasn’t American or something like that. I thought he was going to disown me. I never asked to buy a tree again.


For all the aggravation it was going into the forest to find a Christmas tree each year, I miss those days. I miss being in the forest, letting the dog run free, and finding our own tree. I miss the joy on Mom’s face when we brought the tree into the house, and I miss Pop making us take that dreaded trek into the woods to fetch that tree.  I’m glad at least to have these memories to treasure.


Did you have to take these treks into the woods for a tree or did your family have a different tradition? What is your favorite childhood memory of Christmas or the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

My New Release: Legends of Winatuke: Pennytook & Peregrine’s Curse


My New Release by Sarah J. McNeal

Legends of Winatuke: Pennytook & Peregrine’s Curse

Fire Star Press

Buy Links:




My new release is actually 2 stories in one volume which finalizes the Legends of Winatuke series. PENNYTOOK is the first story, a short story about the Gypsy who has helped so many rid themselves of the Witch-Queen through his knowledge wisdom, and courage. In this short story, Pennytook finally finds love again.

PENNYTOOK, Legends of Winatuke book4

Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.



Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.

Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.

A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.


"Aye. That mare in the ring would be a good match." Sabo tilted his head in the direction of the performer. A crowd of Chergari and Djamba Gypsies had gathered around the riding ring where they stood, and cheered as the performer flipped backward and landed with her feet on the horse's back. When she did the same trick through a ring of fire, the crowd's cheers grew even more enthusiastic.

"Do you know that chi? I must make her an offer for her mare." Pennytook hoped his friend could introduce her to him, but not just to speak to her of horses. "I wonder that I have never seen her before—not even at the annual horse trading in Vel'ka Mulano or at one of the festivals in Valmora. Do you know her or where she comes from?"

A breeze ruffled the eagle's feathers. The creature cocked its head as if it listened to some far off sound. Sabo made a clicking sound with his tongue and the bird settled quietly on his arm. "Her name is Esmeralda Kanaluka."

Something about her seemed familiar, but Pennytook felt certain he had never seen her before. Perhaps she reminded him of his beloved wife. He had lost Anka when they were imprisoned on the Dark Isle so many years ago. The horror of her death haunted him still.


The second story in the duet is a novella, PEREGRINE’S CURSE. This final story was the most challenging story I’ve written so far. Because the heroine is deaf, I had to find ways to make her communicate through sign language, lip reading, and her odd speech. She is also a dancer and I had to find unique ways for her to understand the patterns of music and move to them. Above all, this is a love story.

A musician who cannot love and a dancer who cannot hear …Can they find happiness?


Peregrine McKnight is a successful musician and composer who wants above all things to fall in love, marry a woman who understands him completely, and to have a family as close as the one in which he was raised. Though Peregrine is blessed with unusual music ability, he is cursed. After a foray into the dimension of Winatuke to save a prince from the witch-queen, Peregrine was thrown into the deadly Lake of Sorrows where he suffered a curse from the evil Nivasi king who ruled there. He managed to survive the curse, but its shadow remains preventing him from falling in love.

Parisa Jahida Habuba, a Bedouin, survived the war in Syria along with her older brother after their parents and younger brother were killed in the conflict. Her aunt and uncle, who live near Wilmington, North Carolina, adopted Parisa and her brother when they were children and gave them sanctuary in America. Her Uncle Rahim is a Christian minister and her Aunt Alice raises a line of superior Arabian horses. Her brother, Ahmad formed a friendship with Falcon McKnight and Thomas Zoradia and, through them, she learns of a position for a dancer with the famous musician, Peregrine McKnight, Falcon’s younger brother. It may be her only chance to prove she can dance in spite of her hearing loss.

When she falls on stage in the middle of a performance, Parisa believes she has ruined her chance at dancing. But when Peregrine helped her up and began to dance with her as if it were part of the performance, something unexpected happened between them.

It might take a miracle for Peregrine and Parisa to find love. But, in Winatuke anything is possible.


Peregrine ran his gaze over the filled seats in the audience and grinned. This is what I love; playing my music and having people enjoy it. He placed his violin under his chin and signaled to the small band of musicians and the backup dancers. The audience cheered as Peregrine began to play. 

A couple of tunes into the show everything was going great. Peregrine felt confident that his new album was going to be a success. A glance back over his shoulder at the backup dancers told him Albert had done a terrific job on hiring the choreographer and dance company. The costumes were colorful, ruffled renditions of Gypsy dancers he remembered so fondly from that other dimension and his family’s secret world of Winatuke. He smiled to himself as he thought of his friends in that magical realm: Pennytook, the Gypsy chieftain, his brothers-in-law, Gabriel and Raphael Fionn, both princes in the kingdom of Valmora. The smile faded when he remembered the demon who threw him into the malignant Lake of Sorrows and the curse the Navasi king cast over him. With painful clarity, Peregrine remembered how the curse kept him from ever falling in love. He would never experience the most intimate relationship a human could have or ever hope for a family of his own. His music was all he had.

All of the sudden, the audience gasped, and Peregrine’s thoughts were swept away from Winatuke and his curse when he glanced back and saw one of the dancers had fallen. She glanced up and met his gaze with dark eyes filled with humiliation. He handed his violin over to another musician and signaled for them to keep playing. There’s only one thing I can do.

Peregrine walked casually over to the dancer and stretched out his hand to her. A cloud of confusion moved across her face as she took his hand and allowed him to help her to her feet.

“Am I fired?” she asked in an odd slurred voice.

“My God, woman, are you drunk?” Peregrine wrapped one arm around her waist and held her other hand in his.

The woman shook her head. “No, of course not.”

“We’re going to dance the Samba and make it look like it’s part of the act. Can you do that?”

She nodded her head in the affirmative. Her eyes were wide and alert and she certainly didn’t dance like someone inebriated. The Samba suited this piece of music perfectly and Peregrine was relieved when the audience clapped and cheered as he and the dancer began to move into the sensual dance.



Sarah J. McNeal

Author of Heartwarming Stories




Amazon Author's Page




Tuesday, November 03, 2020

November is Native American Heritage Month by Sarah J. McNeal


Native American Heritage Month


I did not know until this morning that November is Native America Heritage month. I feel deeply about the treatment of our Indigenous People which has mostly been ignored. They experienced the worst genocide in the history of the world. They deserve better. Please support and respect them.

November is dedicated to celebrating rich and diverse cultures and traditions as well as acknowledging the important contributions of Native people.


At Running Strong for American Indian Youth® we support cultural programs that are preserving traditions throughout Indian Country, and we look forward to sharing more about these with you in the coming days. 


We'll also be sharing fun facts like the ones below with you to enhance your understanding of Native history and why it matters today! 

National Native American Heritage Month provides the opportunity for us to educate the general public about tribal life, life as a Native American today, and to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people and Native communities have faced both historically and in the present.


We hope you will support us in our mission to uplift Native tribal citizens, children, and families as we work together to address and conquer these challenges by giving what you can today.


Link to Support Our Culture Programs



Sarah J. McNeal

Author of Heartwarming Stories




Amazon Author's Page

Sunday, October 25, 2020



Because my parents allowed us to read comic books to interest us in learning to read, in fact encouraged it when we were children, my sister and I were free to read comic books all we wanted. Pop preferred us to read classic stories in comics, but, well, we were kids after all. I had a fascination for ghosts, “Casper the Friendly Ghost”, was my favorite comic. I had quite a collection of them. I did, however, have one classic comic which I favored above all others: “THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW” by Washington Irving written in 1820. This Halloween favorite takes place in Sleepy Hollow, New York—a real town in Westchester County. Some think Irving was influenced by a poem written by Sir Walter Scott in 1796 titled “The Chase” in which A Heisman soldier lost his head from a cannon ball in the American Revolution.


Disney's Less Scary Animated Movie of Sleepy Hollow

Disney produced an animated movie about Ichabod Crane the tall, lanky school master who met up with the famous headless horseman. This movie was scary enough to satisfy children without terrifying them.

Tim Burton's Movie of Sleepy Hollow With Johnny Depp

Most recently, the movie version of Sleepy Hollow came out starring Johnny Depp as a somewhat eccentric detective. It’s playing on Netflix for any of you who might be interested in some Halloween movies without the horror of some movies these days.

Sleepy Hollow the TV Series

I don’t know if this TV series still exists, but I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow with Tom Mison until I gave up cable TV. I quite liked the series. In this series Ichabod, an American soldier in the Revolution is brought back to life into the present with the mission of finding and eliminating the Hessian soldier who still haunts Sleepy Hollow.


This is the actual town of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County, New York.

What is your favorite Halloween movie? Why is it your favorite? Did you read comic books as a kid? Which ones did you like best? Did you trade comic books with your friends?     

Monday, October 19, 2020

PETS ARE ANTIDEPRESSANTS By Sarah McNeal, #TheWildingsSeries


With so many people isolating at home and maintaining social distancing, they have turned to pets for companionship and comfort. I don’t know many people who don’t have a pet; they are a rarity in my circles. A pet will not allow you to be lonely. They are like little circus acts filled with joy that nurture our spirits and make us laugh. They are our furry buddies we can hang out with all day who rarely complain. (Cats might be an exception since it must be in their job description to display distain, but even their persnickety and grumpy opinions amuse us.)


We already know that some dogs have been specially trained to help people with physical or emotions issues. But even untrained dogs can bring us the comfort and love we all need. Children who may not have friends ordinarily have taken their pet as a friend, confidant, and companion. I imagine it is particularly difficult for kids in this pandemic who don’t even have the friendships from their classmates. Having been raised in a family where pets were always welcome, I know how important it is for a kid to have a dog or a cat. I’m certain there are those who prefer fish, or birds, or gerbils (or whatever) as their tiny companions, but the result is the same—unconditional love.


Shelter animals are finding homes in unprecedented numbers these days. That’s a really good thing in my book. Every shelter pet deserves a loving home and this is a time when they are most needed. My greatest hope is that, when the pandemic is over, that these pets will remain in those homes. They’ve done an outstanding job of keeping us happy and somewhat sane; it would be a betrayal to return them to a shelter. My wish is for people to discover the joy of having a pet and what a difference it makes to have a fur buddy who will stay at our side through thick and thin. Pets are our heroes and better antidepressants than any pill could ever provide.  

Sarah J. McNeal

Author of Heartwarming Stories




Amazon Author's Page

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Review for WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING #TheWildingsSeries

My morning brightened when I saw a wonderful review by Michelle R. for my Christmas short story, When Love Comes Knocking. The review has certainly brightened my day.

Book review for: When Love Comes Knocking by Sarah J. McNeal

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Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do?

My review:

When Love Comes Knocking is a short and sweet story that delivers quite a bit of feels, and I'm not talking the winter's chill on a hot August afternoon.

Emotions are high and rolling as Penelope and Gil finally decide it's time to own up to their desires - even as fear and jealousy grip tight. I just felt bad that it took as long as it did for both of them to find their bravery... all that time lost! However, with thoughts like this from Gil: He would love her until the starts burned out, the wait was obviously well worth it. I was smiling as things finally got sorted out.

One other fun nugget: The way to love a woman can be a mysterious undertaking. Isn't that the truth! lol

Purchase link:



Once he took a sip or two of the coffee she poured for him, Banjo studied her for a moment. “You’ve got dark circles under your eyes like you haven’t slept and you’re running around like a maniac. What’s troubling you? Wait. Let me guess. You thinking about Gil Thoroughgood by some chance?”

“Are you mocking me?”


“Certainly not. The two of you are about to make me crazy. Gil came to see me the other night after he left your place—the night we put up the clothesline and the Christmas tree. He wanted to know my intentions.” Banjo grinned. “Maybe I ought to marry you, but he’d kill me for sure then.”


“Stop kidding around, Banjo. He suspects something is between you and me and he probably hates me.” She buried her face in her hands. “I don’t know what to do. I haven’t seen him since that night.”


“Penelope, darlin’, it’s not like you to sit back and do nothing. Where’s the woman I know you to be? What do you want from Gil? What does he mean to you? What do you really want?”




After the bags were placed inside the door, Banjo glanced around the room. “I see you’ve got a Christmas tree this year, Penelope.” He stepped over to the tree and examined it, touching some of the wooden ornaments. “Gil, these are nice. I know you made them. I can tell your work. You’re the best carpenter in town, maybe anywhere in the state. You ought to make these to sell.” He peered at Gil with those dark eyes framed in wire-rimmed spectacles. “The townsfolk talk about your rocking chairs and tables, but I bet they never saw anything like these beauties. Oh. Before I forget, Belle wants to talk to you about ordering new chairs for the Iron Slipper. Seems some rowdy cowpokes got into a scuffle over a card game last week and some chairs met their end.” Banjo grinned.


Gil wanted to dislike Banjo, but he just couldn’t. For all that he was orphaned as a baby and left to be raised by whores, he was one of the kindest young men he knew. “I’ll drop by her place on the way home and see what she wants.”

Just for a fleeting moment, Gil saw the shadow cross Penelope’s face. Probably just the mention of the Iron Slipper or Belle probably still brought the memory of Evan’s death to her and the pain that went with it.

Sarah J. McNeal

Diverse stories filled with heart





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