Monday, November 26, 2018

#InTimesOfTrouble by Sarah J. McNeal

J.R.R. Tolkien 

The world is a place full of turmoil and danger now. Many of us are afraid of what will happen next. But I am comforted, not by the words of politicians or preachers, but by the enduring words of J. R. R. Tolkien in his work THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It took him 12 years to write the famous fantasy, but it was worth every second as he wrestled over the story of how good won over evil, not with mightier soldiers, but with brave hearts and commitment.

Tolkien’s words of wisdom and valor are immortalized now. My favorite among all the wonderful characters is Samwise Gougee, Fodo’s best friend who lifted Frodo’s spirits up even when all seemed lost.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS is filled with inspiring messages about friendship, courage, truth, and most of all, hope.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation between Frodo and Sam that I love:

Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”

Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By all rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo...the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know how they would end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: “What are they holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo…and it’s worth fighting for.

And this is why I love Sam. Through all they went through, when everything seemed lost, Sam never gave up, never surrendered to hopelessness.

In times of trouble, what phrase or passage helps you get through it? Do you have a friend like Samwise Gougee who lifts your spirits with positive energy? What work of fiction always makes you feel better when you read it?

Diverse stories filled with heart

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In Honor of My Friends On Veteran's Day #Fantasy&Dreams

5 years ago I posted an interview I did of Col. Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis Groce, both veterans of foreign wars. Dennis served in Vietnam and Kathy served in the Gulf War, Desert storm in Iraq, and 2 deployments to Afghanistan.
Since the original post, Dennis died in his sleep after chronic poor health partly due to his experience in Vietnam and Kathy has retired from the Air Force after a career as a nurse in the Med-Evac unit in which she served. They have both paid a price for their service to our country.
For Veteran’s Day, I’d like to share that post again.

Col. Kathy A. Groce Interview from 2013

1. I would like the American people to know that each war experience is different and each person responds to it differently. Perhaps you can lump generalities together from each war but, no matter what, those who go to war are changed by it in some way. Sometimes the changes are almost undetectable...sometimes they overwhelm. Veterans have faced their own fears and for the most part have put service to our country above their own comfort and safety. For the most part, they have dealt with situations and decisions that the everyday American will never consider. So we come back home from a war and try to fit back in to the times, changes, feelings...and it is hard sometimes.

2. Would I join the service if I had a do over? Yes, I would. The military is a way of life, and though I don't agree with all of it, I like it nonetheless. I learned skills and had experiences that I would never have learned or gotten otherwise.

3. My specific branch of service - Air Force - was pretty good to us. I have no real complaints. They have taken care of me.

4. The most significant thing I learned in the service is that everyone has a responsibility to speak up and to listen up in order to make positive changes. I always thought that those in higher ranks or whoever was in charge knew better ways of doing things than I did...not always true. Some good changes have occurred because someone took the risk of challenging the status quo. The key is learning the proper way to challenge the system.

5. I know that going to war with people makes bonds with them that are hard to break. There is a place in my heart for the folks I deployed with... I know what sacrifices they made and I know how hard we all worked to do our jobs. It is a camaraderie bonus.

The Late Dennis Groce, Vietnam Veteran: 

1. ALL Americans should be very grateful to ALL service members, male and female. Active or retired. For doing their duty for their country! There should be more recognition and less finger pointing, realizing that in order for peace, sacrifices must be made!

2. Age and health permitting, yes I would serve again.

3. Pay for military should be increased and benefits should reflect the difficult training to prepare for a “government" job!

4. I. Learned life survival skills which should be taught to all citizens. Maybe then, the spaces would begin to fill in!

5. My service was mandatory as I was drafted for service in Viet Nam. Every physical exercise was in preparation to either kill or be killed!

It was a Real Change from high school!

A solid mental focus became a natural occurrence when you realize

“I’m not in Kansas anymore“! Overall. I enjoyed the Brotherhood

which developed at all my duty stations. Thanks for your interest in Veterans! God Bless!

* * * *

I want to thank Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis for sharing their thoughts and feelings with us about their service to our country. It is such a privilege for me to have know both of them.

For more than just for today, I hope that you will honor the Veterans of our country for the sacrifices they have made for us. If you know someone who is a veteran, I hope you call him or her, tell them you care about them and thank them for putting their life on the line for the rest of us. Not every soldier got to come home. Some soldiers’ lives have been forever altered by physical or emotional wounds. If you have the privilege of seeing a veteran today or any day please honor them, thank them, and tell them, “Welcome home!

Diverse stories filled with heart

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

CAST AWAY HEART #BlogABookScene #SarahJMcNealFantasyandDreams

(Contemporary Thanksgiving Romance)

By Sarah J. McNeal

Fire Star Press

An abandoned piano, rejected love, and hope
After her fiancé breaks her heart and humiliates her on what was to be their wedding day, Ella Dubois has vowed never to open her heart again.
Nickoli Vesa, a Romanian pianist, has loved Ella for years, but she only sees him as her  long time friend.
How can a deserted piano heal a shattered spirit and inspire it to sing again?

There it stood like a brave soldier, silent in its despair and covered in snow.  One of the ornately carved legs had rotted away and lie on the ground beside it causing the piano to list to that side.  It resembled an old ship that had taken a huge wave and, as the water began to fill its hull, was sinking slowly into the sea.  The wooden underside of the keys had begun to swell and dislodge from the smooth white pads.  The black keys had eroded into splinters and the top of the piano had caved in on the piano wires.
Ella choked back a sob at the sorrowful sight.  How could that awful man watch this happen to such a beautiful instrument? The piano could have brought the joy of music to so many.  How much hatred could he possibly have to find delight in watching the destruction of his wife’s piano?  What a despicable human being.
Nickoli drove the car to the side of the road and stopped.  He turned to Ella and gathered her up into his arms.  “You must stop mourning, inima mea.  Until you stop longing for things to be different, you cannot change your future.  You cannot let happiness in.  You understand, yes?”
She knew he was not talking to her about the piano.  He was talking about Mark.  There was no way for him to understand the pain she still felt from Mark’s rejection.  The memory of her standing there at the front of the church with her friends and family all present as her father announced there would be no wedding that day was still sharp enough to cut into her heart.  “I need time, Nick.  I can’t just let it go like it never happened.”  She pushed back from his embrace and met his eyes.  “It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
He did not take his eyes from hers.  Removing his hands from around her, he moved back into his seat.  “All is required, you let go.  Stop looking back or you cannot see where you are going.”
As they made their way back to the house through the snow and chilly air, Nickoli took her arm, leaned in close enough that his breath warmed her ear and whispered, “And now we have the night to share alone in our room.”
The excitement of anticipation shot through her.  It was thrilling just to think of lying in his arms maybe even naked.  She had not seen Nickoli without his clothes. Curiosity burned along her veins in surging rivers of stirring need.  His hand tightened on her arm and she looked up to see him smiling down at her.  The devilish man seemed to guess her every thought.  Well, he was about to see a new side of her tonight.
If they were going to pretend to be engaged and in love, what harm could there be in having a little fun?  In the back of her mind, she had always wondered what Nickoli would be like in bed.  Well, maybe it was time to find out. 
There were a few minutes of cozy silence before Ella told Nickoli her plan.  “You know how I have been dreading going home to my parents’ house in Independence for Thanksgiving.”  She rolled her eyes comically.  “My two brothers will be there with their wives and their brood of kids, along with my busybody parents and younger sister.  They’ll all start talking about their families, and then they’ll turn their conversation to me.” 
She swallowed against the acidic feelings that came to the surface.  “They’ll all dive into my private business.  Have I got a boyfriend yet?  Am I dating anyone special?  When am I going to get over being jilted at the altar?”  The memory surfaced, and the pain of it pierced her chest.  She swallowed hard and made herself go on.  “I just can’t face them alone—again.  I don’t want them feeling sorry for me.  I especially don’t want them to remind me for the hundredth time that my biological clock is ticking.  Mom will have to go on and on at nauseam about life not being full unless a woman has children.  She’ll just have to ask me when I’m going to give her more grandchildren.”
Ella drew in a deep, calming breath while Nickoli quietly waited for her to continue speaking.  The backs of her eyes burned with humiliation.  “I just can’t do it, Nick.  I want to see them, and I would love to spend Thanksgiving with them, but not if I have to endure an inquisition.”
“What would make you happy then?”  Nickoli asked the question quietly.
“I want to take a boyfriend with me, a fiancĂ©, actually.  Well, not actually a real boyfriend except that they would think he is my boyfriend.”  She could barely make herself go on.  Nickoli’s face seemed to pale, and his eyes darkened though he remained silent.
She summoned up all her courage.  “I want you to go home with me for Thanksgiving.  We can pretend we’re in love.  It will make them happy, and I won’t have to face them and all their nagging.”  She sighed heavily.  “It would save me from the torment of their well-meaning questions.”
“You want to pretend.”  He seemed to put a strange emphasis on the word that made Ella’s stomach clench.
“Well, yes.  Would it be that hard for you to pretend to care for me that way?”  A little knot formed in her throat that hurt her, reminding her of Mark and his casual disregard for her feelings.
He shook his head, but his expression seemed shadowed as his lips thinned in a frown.  “No.  I would not have to pretend to care.”
He was such a dear.  He was like a comfortable pair of shoes that never pinched your feet.  “Wonderful.  Oh, thank you, Nick.  You’ve saved me.”  She leaned toward him and kissed him on his mouth.  His firm lips responded, kissing her back, and a little thrill ran up her spine and quickened in her chest.
The music spilled from the heart of the baby grand and poured its sorrow on Ella until she didn’t think she could bare the terrible loneliness of its mournful sound another moment.  Her eyes welled with tears. Her own deep, unrelenting sadness came to the surface and ate at her heart.  The piano stood in dignified repose like a stalwart soldier waiting for orders, but all the while knowing there will be no further orders, no further requests for its talents.  Ella felt the love of her life had done the same to her and she, like the piano, must press on with whatever dignity she had left.  How long would the piano suffer like this?  How long would she?  
            When Nickoli completed the song and the notes died under the falling snow, he returned to Ella and took her in his arms as if guessing how sad the piano made her feel.  He whispered close to her ear.  “She still has hope.  She still sings.” 
Buy Link: Amazon 

December's Theme on Blog-A-Book-Scene: Season's Greetings