Friday, January 26, 2018

Straw Men, Foxes and Monsters—the Markers of a Writer’s Imagination

I was a weird kid. Sometimes my imagination really got the best of me.
Before we moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, when I was about four or five years old, my parents talked about foxes, rabid foxes that is, and how numerous they had become. According to what they read in the newspaper, rabid foxes had invaded the city streets of Philadelphia. Well, that IS ominous news, even for adults.

Of course, I had no idea what rabies was, but I did absorb the feelings of my parents about the danger foxes were to people. Naturally, foxes became a source of fear for me. Their size, in my imagination, grew into mammoth proportions. Somehow I developed the idea that foxes sought out people, especially children, to prey upon and eat.

About this time, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Maybe moving to a place so different from what I knew had something to do with my increased fear of foxes. I started to have nightmares about them. I worried about foxes coming out of the woods to get me. My mother was hanging clothes on the line one day in the back yard. The woods bordered our backyard. I felt the fear come up in me that a fox might be lurking in those woods. I asked my mother, “What would you do if a fox came out of the woods to get me?” Mom answered, “I’d grab you up and take you in the house.”
Although I’m certain Mom wanted to reassure me that she would let nothing harm me, it validated for me that foxes were definitely something to fear. I wouldn’t sleep without a night light.
In those days, we had a little amusement park nearby. It had a small zoo, mostly comprised of animals from the wilds of North Carolina. Pop was concerned about my fear of foxes. He said I was building “straw men” and then becoming afraid of them. I didn’t really know what he meant back then. Anyway, the family went on a trip to Airport Park one evening, and Pop took me to see my monster, or straw man, in the flesh. I was terrified. And then I saw it…a sweet little fox only a little bigger than a house cat. What a relief! The nightmares stopped after that and I began to love foxes. They became a kind of special symbol to me. When my husband and I bought my first house, Pop gave me a framed limited edition of a fox print to hang on the wall and a brass door knocker shaped like a fox.

The reason I wanted to share this story from my personal history was to show how a budding writer might very well start with a big imagination and empathy. It may not be obvious back in their early years, but later on, kids just might start telling stories and then writing them because they have those two qualities already in place just begging to come out.

Were you a kid with a big imagination? Did you build “straw men” and then get scared? Did you sense other peoples’ feelings? When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

Diverse stories filled with heart

Friday, January 19, 2018

An Old West Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo by Sarah J. McNeal

Today I'm at The Sweethearts of the West blog. I wrote this article about who really shot Johnny Ringo in 2013, and although I've never reposted an article before, I particularly liked that this bit of history remains a mystery today.
A Western Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo? Johnny Ringo In my all time favorite western, Tombstone , Johnny...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FOR LOVE OF BANJO by Sarah J. McNeal #BlogABookScene @starcriter

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag#blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub
Continuing on January’s theme-- Baby, It’s cold outside, here is a chilly scene from my World War I novel

FOR LOVE OF BANJO by Sarah J. McNeal  

(Historical Western Novel)
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past.  To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.

The cold burned her cheeks, and made her feet numb. Horses whinnied in the pasture and a dog barked from somewhere behind the barn. The sun blazed in magenta streaks as it set beyond the hills to tint the world in a rosy, heavenly light.
Banjo let go of the reins, reached out, pulled her to his side, and held her there. He spoke in a quiet voice. “Do you remember when the Titanic sank and killed all those people five years ago?”
Maggie nodded her head in affirmation. “It was terrible. We sat out here on the porch that night, just like we’re doing now, except we were bundled up in blankets—and we cried all night.”
Banjo glanced down at her and smiled. “You cried all night, not me. I stole Papa Ben’s pipe and tobacco and thought I’d smoke a peace pipe like the Indians do to bring peace to those souls.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. “I recall it made you sick and you stayed up the rest of the night throwing up.”
He laughed. “That, I did.” He became serious as he turned away from her. Overhead, the stars began to appear as the sky darkened in the dusk. A cow bawled from the barn a short distance from the house. The wind shifted and brought with it a chill and the promise of more snow before night’s end. “I made a promise to myself that night that I would find my father, somehow, because I wanted a family that really belonged to me. I want what those people on the Titanic lost that terrible night.”
He let go of the reins, encircled her waist with both arms and held her. She moved her hands beneath the warm folds of his long, wool coat to warm them against the fabric of his shirt that lay as a thin barrier between her hands and his skin. The sensual warmth of his nearness made her heart quicken its pace. “I want people I can call my loved ones,” he added. His warm breath moved a loose stand of hair near her ear that tickled her neck.
 From where they stood near the front porch of Maggie’s home, Maggie could see the thread of road that led to the Wilding ranch—her next-door neighbors, and Banjo’s self-proclaimed family. The Wilding ranch spread out over five hundred acres of green hills dotted with horses and cattle in the summer. It looked like a typical Wyoming ranch to anyone who saw it, but inside that white washed ranch house lived the closest thing Banjo had ever had to family.

February’s Blog-a-Book-Scene theme: All You Need is Love
Diverse stories filled with heart

Monday, January 08, 2018

SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS/ A Christmas Visitor #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

January’s theme is Baby, It’s cold outside.  The snowy excerpt below is from my western romance short story, A Christmas Visitor included in the anthology SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS.

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?


Matilda swept the floor for the second time that morning to give herself something to occupy her instead of thinking about the tall, handsome Sterling Thoroughgood. She recalled the sight of him standing tall and slender with wide shoulders in his long black coat and the broad-rimed hat with that light dusting of snow gathering on both his hat and coat. His dark hair and brown eyes framed his strong, angular face and all those memories came back to her—memories of those warm lips on hers and whispers of endearments. They were all lies, every single one. Matilda sighed a heavy breath. And why in tarnation does he have to be so handsome? It’s just not fair.
A glance in the mirror from her bedroom as she walked by into the kitchen told her that her dress was shabby and worn. Her light brown hair tied back in a tight chignon at the base of her neck made her look severe and old. What does it matter? He’ll be gone come morning and I’ll probably never see him again anyway.


The house was ghostly quiet as she cleaned away every remnant of her life there. As she worked, she took her time to touch and smell, and remember her life, her father, and Sterling. She let the fire go out in the stove. Once she swept the old plank floor to make the house presentable to the new owner, her home of twenty two years became a stranger’s house to her. The weight of her feelings were almost too heavy to bear. Instead, she grew numb to them.

Two hours later, she shut the door on her previous life, leaned her head against the heavy wood of the portal, and said goodbye. It didn’t take her long to pack up Hector with what little remained of her belongings and then rode into Sunray to Mrs. Pritchard’s Boarding House.
The attic room where she would reside was nothing like she imagined. Instead of a quiet, cozy little nook where she could find peace and solitude, she found a dark, cold attic with a sheet hung from a clothesline to claim a small space with a cot and a washstand with a pitcher, a basin, and a single candle on it to call a room. The unfinished walls had openings where the wind blew through and the rafters offered little to cheer the place. There was no fireplace or stove for heat. Thank goodness she had plenty of blankets and her mother’s quilt to keep her warm in the dank, gloomy space.

February’s Blog-a-Book-Scene theme: All You Need is Love

Diverse stories filled with heart

Friday, January 05, 2018

WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING/ January #blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePub @PrairieRosePub

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

With record cold temperatures right now, this is the perfect theme for this January day.  
January’s theme is Baby, It’s cold outside.  The cold wintry excerpt below is from my western romance novel, When Love Comes Knocking

A lonely widow…an indiscretion…a gift for redemption


It was a relief to get inside the warm house. Gil set the basket by the door and helped Penelope remove her coat. The coat was one of Evan’s old ones. She must have tailored it to fit her. Why didn’t she have a coat? The sorry answer came to him quickly enough; Evan spent the money on gambling. He hung his coat on the wooden peg by the door and stared at the two coats hanging there together, and for a moment, got lost in a daydream. If only her coat was always next to mine. He shook the thought quickly from his mind.
“I brought some wood with me, but I’ll chop more for you when we finish this pie and coffee. I see you’re running low.” He took a chair at the old table that wobbled and gazed out the window at the gathering storm. “Looks like more bad weather coming in.”
Penelope poured him a cup of coffee and added a generous slice of pie onto a chipped pink plate. “I appreciate all the help you’ve been. I wish I could do more for you than mend and wash your clothes.” She sat opposite from him and sipped on her coffee.
“No need for that. You do enough—more than enough. I don’t like to see you out in this weather hanging up clothes. You risk frostbite and the clothes freeze on the line.” He grinned as he prepared to tell her his plan.

Available on Kindle  Print  Kindle Unlimited

February – THEME: All You Need is Love

Diverse stories filled with heart

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Ready for Preorder: AMAZON
Releases January 15, 2018
June believed Kit loved her…until she married him

June Wingate has just married the man of her dreams only to overhear a conversation at her wedding reception regarding the truth about why he married her and that her marriage is a pretense. Her heart and trust are broken. 

The newly elected mayor of Hazard, Kit Wilding, needs a wife because the town demands that their mayor be a married man. He trusts June, but now that they’re married, his wife has become distant and secretive.  Kit wants to fix things. He is not the kind of man to give up easily.


A loud slap echoed through the house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.

Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand while Snort, Kit’s dog, barked. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours and now this…

“Hush that barking, Snort.” The dog quieted, but kept a sharp eye on June just in case. Kit glanced from the dog to June. “What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”

“You bet you did. I thought you loved me and now…” She wasn’t quite sure how to say it to him now that she knew the truth. Honestly, she could barely believe what she had overheard at their wedding reception. How could she explain to him what she heard and express the doubts she had about his love because of it? Well, best to find a way because it seemed quite evident to her that he wasn’t about to leave her be until she did.

“You’d best tell me what this is all about, June, because I’m beginning to have doubts about your sanity and beginning to wonder about my own.” He cocked his head and narrowed his blue eyes at her.  If this is one of your cockamamie jokes, it isn’t funny—and please don’t tell me you married me just to spite your parents. I’m fairly certain your mother doesn’t think I’m good enough for you. She’s only spoken to me about four times in all the years I’ve known you. It’s a little late for second thoughts, June.” Snort began to pace between June and Kit as if to decide whose side he should take.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Meeting the New Year 2018

So we begin a new year filled with new and unexpected challenges, some happiness, and an occasional sadness. But all these experiences and events that test us make us stronger, wiser, and compassionate. It isn't always easy standing here on the threshold of a new year facing the inevitable challenges that will come our way, but we will do it and we will find satisfaction and hope in each of our accomplishments and find our strength in overcoming adversity. Welcome 2018!

Diverse stories filled with heart