Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Childhood Home

Image may contain: tree, snow, sky, plant, outdoor and nature
    This is the house where my sister, Mary, and I were raised. Originally, the front portion was a two story log house. In the 1940's more rooms were added to the back for a big kitchen, dinning room and bathroom. The owners who renovated it made every room downstairs paneled in cedar and French doors everywhere. They also added a screened in porch on the right with a room above it with four big picture windows on 3 walls. I wish they had thought to properly in...sulate that upstairs room because it was kinda cold in winter. This picture was taken on one of those rare winter snow days, I am not certain of the year this was taken, but I'm guessing in the 1960's.
    The house is still there on Tuckaseegee Road, but some things have changed, The big oak tree in the front yard is gone and the field across the road is now a housing development.
    I rarely go by there. It's across town from where I live now and it makes me feel sad that strangers live there now. I have some warm and wonderful memories as well as some sad ones from all the years I lived there. If houses could talk, just imagine what they could tell us.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Pearl Harbor, December 1, 1941

  1. Today in 1941 Pearl Harbor, where most of America's naval ships sat in the harbor, the Japanese attacked and America entered into World War II. Funny, isn't it, how history plays out. Japan, our enemy then, is now our friend, and Russia, then a friend, is now an enemy. Too bad we can't work things out before events like Pearl Harbor take place. I wish we could live in a world at peace.

Memories Make Stories

My greatest asset as a writer is my memories. It is from my memories of my grandparents and their conversations about their lives that I was able to build a foundation for my historical stories. From them and my parents I learned a wealth of knowledge about how a household was run without modern conveniences, what they did to earn a living in those difficult economic  times. I also learned what they did for entertainment in a time before anything with a screen existed and even radios and telephones were a rarity. Hard to even imagine, isn’t it?

My Paternal Grandparents, Matilda & William McNeal

My grandfather McNeal was a post Civil War baby, born in 1867. He had a well with a hand pump beside the kitchen porch. He bought a little red school house with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. He paid for it outright, no mortgage. A coal burning potbellied stove sat in the living room and heated the whole house. In the beginning, it had no electricity or plumbing. By the time I came along, he had a sink with running water and electric lights. I don’t remember him having an electric stove. He had an outhouse. Because his eyesight became bad in his elder years, he had a rope from the house to the outhouse. My grandfather and grandmother were both scholars with certifications for teaching, but my grandfather earned the greater portion on his income from painting houses. He had no horse or automobile, so he walked everywhere, in every kind of weather, even bitter winters in Numidia, Pennsylvania. My grandmother did not work outside of home in order to raise their three sons and take care of the household. She, however fought for women’s suffrage and was definitely her own person from all accounts. I never had a chance to meet her. She and my two uncles had all died before I was born. He died when I was just six years old, but I remember him and that little house vividly. I wrote my time travel story, THE VIOLIN, based on these memories and what memories my father shared with me about his years growing up and about his brothers and parents.

The Man in the Cover is my Uncle John McNeal for whom THE VIOLIN was written

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.

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.

Buy Link:   AMAZON

My earliest memories of my maternal grandmother are from the time when she lived in an old Victorian house on a farm. She had a big green coal burning stove that heated the kitchen, which was huge, and their hot water from a tank on the side. The bedrooms upstairs had fancy iron grates in the floors that could be opened or closed to heat the rooms above stairs. I also recall all the chores my grandmother performed cooking on that stove, cleaning, washing clothes and hanging them on the line, ironing with an iron she heated on the stove, and looking after the chickens and the baby chicks. She was busy all day long, yet she enjoyed sewing, quilting with her friends, knitting, and crocheting—and she considered all that fun. She also went to visit her friends on Sundays which was a treat because they traded goods with one another, the same the women on the frontier did. Visiting was a pleasure, a comfort, and a news exchange.
I used much of what my grandmother did in several stories including “A Christmas Visitor” in the new Christmas anthology, SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS. My only regret is I didn’t ask my grandparents more. There is so much more I wish I knew.

 SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS is an anthology of sweet historical western romances that take place in the state of Texas written by veteran western romance writers: Stacey Coverstone, Sarah J. McNeal, Cheryl Pierson, and Marie Piper.
(my contribution) A Christmas Visitor
Prairie Rose Publications
Releases November 2, 2017

He left her…Now he’s back…But not for long…

Sterling Thoroughgood was Matilda Barton’s first and only love, but he left her three years ago to seek his fortune in Wyoming. And now he’s come back with a puzzle box as a gift with a secret inside. But as far as Matilda’s concerned, it’s three years too late.

Is love lost forever or does the mysterious puzzle box hold the key to happiness?


“Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.

Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”

She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”

Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it.

Buy Link:  Sweet Texas Christmas

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Welcome to December!

This month has always been one of excitement, stress, and mystery for me. So many happy memories are centered around the Christmas season.

It rarely snows here in the southern part of North Carolina and extremely rare for it to snow on Christmas. But when it does happen, it’s positively magical. I feel like I could make a wish when that happens and it would have to come true.

Of course, for many of us there is some sadness felt especially during this winter season. There are people we love so dearly that won’t be with us. Some are celebrating Christmas in Heaven, some will be too far away to come home to us, and some will be serving their country in foreign places. We’ll think of them and hold them in our hearts and our prayers.

One very nice thing about online shopping for presents is that it’s easy, convenient, and no worries about fighting for a parking place. Conversely, there is a certain excitement about shopping in physical stores during Christmas. We will miss out on those special decorations, the music, the smell of real Christmas trees, kids lined up to tell Santa what they want and the exciting energy of the shoppers around us.

So let’s see where this December takes us.

Diverse stories filled with heart