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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ending A Series

I’ve been writing about the Wildings for several years. It all started with a time travel western romance in which Lola Barton inherits a haunted plantation in Virginia from a mysterious relative who terrified her on the one occasion of their meeting. Lola falls into an antique trunk that takes her back to 1910 just in time to hear the words, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” She is immediately accosted by a horrible man who thinks she’s another woman named Callie. With nowhere else to turn, Lola goes home with her new husband Joe Wilding. I only intended to write this one story, HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, but something happened.

Banjo, an intelligent and courageous, albeit wild teenager raised by whores until he was 10 saved Lola’s life, almost died in the attempt, and won my heart. I simply could not let go of him until I wrote his story in a sequel to Harmonica Joe. Joe’s father adopted Banjo and gave him the last name of Wilding in the novel FOR LOVE OF BANJO.

My fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming cast a spell over me (I have to blame it on something so it may as well be magic) and I decided to write about the second generation of Wildings: Joe and Lola’s two daughters and one son and Banjo and Maggie’s 3 sons, the last two of whom are twins. I also brought to Hazard Teekonka Red Sky who has been searching for his nephew, Banjo. He falls in love with the English immigrant Jane Pierpont who has been raising her son, Robin, on her own after her husband died on the Titanic.
I have written stories of the Wilding children now all grown in the 1950’s. The last of Banjo’s twin sons, Kit Wilding ,a survivor of WWII with battle fatigue now called PTSD has settled into marriage in the story IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE presently under contract, but not yet released from Prairie Rose’s imprint, Fire Star Press.
And now I’m on my final story with Kyle Red Sky and Mia Beckett. Because it is the final book in the Wilding series I want to somehow bring the entire clan together one last time to say goodbye. Maybe it will be a funeral, or perhaps a wedding, but I can’t let them go without some kind of acknowledgement. These characters have been like my family all this time. I have lived through their adventures, heartbreak, and triumphs. I have fallen asleep thinking about them and I confess I will miss them.
You might wonder what I’m going to do now. I’m starting with my contribution to the SWEET TEXAS CHRISTMAS anthology for Prairie Rose this year with A Christmas Visitor. The hero of my story, Sterling Thoroughgood, has one last stop before he leaves Texas to make his way home to the growing little town of Hazard, Wyoming.
Have you ever written a series? Was it hard to let go of your characters? How did you write the final volume in your series?

HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE (time travel western novel)
This book is where the Wildings series begins with Joe and Lola in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming 1910
Logline: A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.
Buy links: AMAZON 

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride is included in a 5 novel collection titled A COWBOY’S BRAND by veteran western authors for the incredible price of 99 cents. I’m not kidding—99 cents.
Buy Link: A Cowboy’s Brand

Banjo was the street wise teenager, raised by prostitutes that Joe and Lola took compassion on and Joe’s father, Ben, adopted. World War I era story in which Banjo searches for his biological father and attempts to prove he’s worthy of Maggie, the woman he loves.
Logline: Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.

A HUSBAND FOR CHRISTMAS (year 1919 short story also included in the Christmas anthology titled WISHING FOR A COWBOY as well as a single)
Buy Link: AMAZON)
While in New York, Banjo saved an English immigrant, Jane Pierpont and her son, Robin, and brought them to Wyoming. Banjo’s uncle, Teekonka Red Sky, has fallen for the widow Jane, but his chances of winning her are slim…until one magical Christmas…
Logline: A night of horror… a wish for a new life...and a secret love
Buy Link: AMAZON

FLY AWAY HEART (novella Great Depression era)
Now only 99 cents
Lola and Joe’s oldest daughter, Lilith, has fallen in love with the English lad, Robin Pierpont, whom Banjo saved along with Jane, the boy’s mother for a factory fire. But now they’re grown and Robin, who loves flying airplanes, finds himself in a desperate flight to save Lilith.   
Logline: The Great Depression…Rum Runners and Old Fears…Love Against the Odds
FLY AWAY HEART is also in a collection of sweet western romance novellas titled
LOVE’S FIRST TOUCH (collection of 4 sweet western romance novels)
that includes myself and 4 other western writers,  Celia Yeary Sarah McNeal Meg Mims Agnes Alexander and Karen Mihaljevich All of these stories for a ridiculous price of 99 cents! AMAZON

HOLLOW HEART (post World War II short story also included in the Valentine anthology, HEARTS AND SPURS as well as a single)
The grown up orphan, Madeline, was engaged to marry Sam Wilding, Banjo’s oldest son. But when the War ends, Sam doesn’t return and now Madeline is faced with a lifetime ahead without him. Now what?
Logline: Lost love and the hope for possibilities
Buy Links for short story: AMAZON KINDLE 

THE BEAST OF HAZARD (1940’s short story included in the Halloween anthology, COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO, Volume 1)
Joe and Lola’s youngest child and only son, Joey Wilding, has transformed the family ranch into a veterinary clinic where he treats anything from house cats to cattle. He meets a circus performer who finds herself in desperate straights.
Logline: A Terrorized Town…A Killer Beast…And Deliverance
The Beast of Hazard is available as a single, but if you’re looking for a real bargain, you can buy a boxed set that includes COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO VOLUMES 1&2 for only 99 cents. Volumes 1&2 Boxed Set

UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS (1950’s short story also included in the summer anthology,
Joe and Lola Wilding’s youngest daughter, Juliet, has cancelled her wedding to Harry O’Connor when she learns some devastating news. What happens next may surprise them both.
Logline: A broken dream…a cancelled wedding…and an unexpected blessing
Buy Links for the single: Amazon 

WHEN LOVES COMES KNOCKING (a short story also included in the Christmas anthology, A PRESENT FOR A COWBOY) Buy Links: AMAZON 
This story takes you back to 1910 before Banjo was adopted by Ben Wilding. Later in his life, Banjo speaks kindly of the widow, Penelope Thoroughgood. When Love Comes Knocking is the widow Penelope’s story which takes place at Christmas time.
Logline: A lonely widow…an indiscretion…a gift for redemption
Buy Links:  Amazon 

HOME FOR THE HEART (Contemporary Wilding novel)
Love doesn’t come easy…for some, it may never come at all.
Lucille Thoroughgood is a social worker for orphan children. She is known to the town’s folk as dependable, logical, determined, and…well…stubborn. But Lucille has a secret affection for the determined bachelor, Hank Wilding.
Hank Wilding loved hard and lost. He has sworn to never marry. After Lucille makes a bargain with him, he agrees to allow troubled and physically challenged children from the orphanage to ride his horses as equine therapy. One of the orphans is a half Lakota boy, Chayton, who reminds Hank of his own father’s painful childhood. 
But a Lakota prophesy holds a shadow over the rejected, embittered teenager, threatens the happiness of the inhabitants of Hazard, Wyoming, and may end in tragedy for Lucy.

Smoothing her hands over her lavender shirtwaist dress, Lucy took a deep breath. Hank is never going to be interested in a plain woman like me. She turned from the mirror just as she heard the knock on the front door downstairs.
Her mother called up the stairs. “Lucy, honey, Hank is here.”
A thrill rippled through Lucy’s core. Hank. Handsome, unattainable, Hank Wilding. A reminder flashed through her mind. Even if she was beautiful, it wouldn’t matter. Hank was a self-proclaimed bachelor. Guard your heart, Lucille Thoroughgood. It will only get broken.
The sight of Hank standing with his hat held politely in his hands at the bottom of the stairs caused her heart to leap into her throat and beat so fast she could barely breathe. Her hands shook from the surge of adrenaline. No man should be that beautiful. A lock of his bronzed hair had an enticing way of falling over his brow. She wanted so much to touch it and sweep it back just so she could feel its texture. Hank gazed up the stairs at her with his dark brown eyes and seemed to hold her in his spell. And if that wasn’t enough, he grinned at her in that charming, crooked way she found so endearing. It wasn’t often Hank smiled. He frowned most of the time. It was a good thing, too, because, if he did smile often, women all over town would be swooning at his feet.

Excerpt: Banjo comforts his son, Hank
His hands shook as he placed the telephone receiver back in the cradle. The magnitude of what had happened hit him like a freight train. His knees felt weak like they might give out and his breath seemed to shut off. His whole world seemed to be falling apart. The earth swayed. His life shifted. Banjo stepped forward and grabbed him into his arms. His father hugged him so tight Hank didn’t think he could draw breath. He didn’t care because he realized then and there how much a father’s love truly meant.
“I’m scared, Dad. I’m so damned scared.”
“I know, son.” Banjo ran his hand through Hank’s hair and smoothed it the way he’d done when Hank was just a kid. Hank found it comforting. 
“Do you think Mom will come soon?”
Banjo grinned. “You know your mother, she’s already on her way.”
Buy Links:
Amazon:  Kindle     Paperback

Another Wilding story under contract and coming in the near future:
IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE (contemporary Wilding romance)

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.

I DREAM OF YOU (Work in Progress--final book)
A Dream of Love and a Foreboding Danger
Kyle Red Sky dreamed of the woman with fire in her hair, but when she comes to town, she doesn’t seem to recognize him. Something dark and dangerous follows her. He wants to help her, but she is reclusive, secretive, and avoids him. Something is very wrong.
Mia Beckett is a survivor. Finally, she has found sanctuary in a small western town far from danger where no one knows her or her past and she intends to keep it that way. Unfortunately, a man she saw once in a strange dream told her the paths they walked were destined to meet and he would be waiting for her at the crossroads. When she awoke, she wished the dream would come true.
Kyle Red Sky is the man from her dream, but now she realizes, if she allows the dream to become reality, she will put them both in danger.
To learn more about my Wildings series click on my link: The Wildings
Or go to my Author Page at Prairie Rose Publications: Prairie Rose Author Page

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. 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. She welcomes you to her website and social media:



  1. I've not been writing long enough for a series, but I think I'd be like you and not want to let them go. I do think at some point I'd have a 'family' reunion for hello and goodby, but not sure.

    I know we will miss this family, but we have the books to read again and again when we start to miss them. Goodby is hard, but memories are priceless. Doris

    1. I hope I can do the last story right--make it special and bring everyone out for a bow of some kind like they do at the end of a theatrical performance.
      I sort of fell into writing a series--just one thing led to another. But I'm glad I did. Maybe some day you will fall into a series, too. If you do, you'll have to give me your opinions.
      All good things your way, Doris. Thanks for coming.

  2. Sarah,

    I haven't written a series, and I admit freely that I'm envious of those of you who write series stories. (I want one of my own someday. lolol)

    I understand your comment: "...I have fallen asleep thinking about them..." I've learned that until I think about the story I'm working on day in and day out, that I'm not 'bonding', so-to-speak, with the story and characters. I have to step away from those works-in-progress stories and put my writing efforts into some other story. I have many incomplete stories that began as intriguing ideas, but for whatever reasons fizzled out or became too complicated to develop.

    Anyway, I'm sorry you're bringing your Wilding stories to a close, but I understand the need to let go and move on.


    1. Kaye, I really do think writers get so involved with their characters they take on a life of their own. We lay awake at night thinking, "How am I going to get them out of this mess?" Or you wonder how we're going to get them from this complicated scene into a quiet garden, or what the heck is that villain going to do next? I'd certainly rather think about story problems and plots than worry over family disputes and problems. I can actually fix a story problem so that part is good. I can drift off into peaceful sleep thinking about a story.
      I really get your "bonding" statement. I started writing Harmonica Joe right after I wrote The Violin. I had fallen deeply into my connection with John in The Violin, but I felt distant and disconnected to Joe Wilding. I went into writer's block. (YIKES!) A writer friend of mine told me I needed to fall in love with my hero. I started my night time thinking about Joe. What made him sad? What secret was he hiding that was killing him? I began to get into Joe. I came to understand what kind of man he really was and wanted to make him happy.
      I have gobs of "fizzled" ideas, too. I guess our writer minds are always spinning even though we can't always write every story we come up with, intriguing though it may be. Do you ever wonder how we came to be this way? Is it genetics? I wish I knew.

      I hope you do get into a series. It's easier to get one started if you have sisters or brothers in the story who are very unique from one another. You can then continue into the next generation, too.

      Once I finish Kyle's story, the last of the Wilding stories, I'm planning to go back in time to the beginning of Hazard (fictional town), Wyoming and build it from the characters who first took residence there.
      Thank you so much for coming, Kaye. I so appreciate it.

  3. This was a wonderful synopsis of your stories and how they fit together. I would say I don't know how you kept everyone straight, but I do know. I did this same thing with the Camerons of Texas and even had offshoot stories from those. To keep all the family members straight, I made a genealogy chart.
    I just realized I named a heroine Lola in a recent story I just submitted! Ah, well, it is a wonderful name.
    Your stories are filled with angst and happiness and bewilderment and mystery. You are truly a very good of the best around. I loved your Wildings.
    Congratulations on so many releases, coming and going! I, too, will have some..but at this moment I have forgotten. Cheryl knows, though, and that's all that counts.
    Don't let up...keep writing...and stay in touch.

    1. Celia, seems like we talked about this once before because I also had to make a family tree for the Wildings. I also had to keep a notebook with their horses' names, dog names, hang-ups, and personal traits like June's compulsivity, and Lola's tendency to mention things from the future (from which she came)that befuddled people. BTW, Lola IS a good name and later I'm going to name a character Jack even though I know you used that name. A good name is worthy of being used by both of us. LOL
      Thank you for all the wonderful things you said about my writing and the Wildings. It warms my heart to know you like my stories.
      I'm going to have to plan what happens next. I believe I'm going to keep my fictional town of Hazard, but start writing stories about the people who built it and made it into a lovely place to live.
      Thank you for coming and for your wonderful comment, Celia. I always look forward to your take on things. When does your story release? Do you know yet? Title?

    2. My Lola story is part of a series...and right now, I do not have license to announce it or anything about it! Stayed tuned! I can't wait!

    3. I'm excited to see what you came up with, Celia. You know I'd love to get the whole scoop on it.

  4. I fully understand your reluctance to give your series up. I wrote what I thought was going to be the final Fresh Baked Mystery, book 10. The publishing company had sold and was cutting many mysteries. My due dates were a year before release, and after being away from the characters a year, it felt wrong to not write another. Fans begged me to continue, so I got my rights to use the characters back from the publisher, and now book 13 is coming out on the 13th of this month. I'm already working on the outline for the next one. It's hard to give up old friends. And our characters do become our make believe friends.

    And just can always work the other direction in history. Just who were Lola's parents or grandparents... LOL!

  5. Ohmagosh, Livia, you've got fans! I don't think I have very many of those. I wants me some.
    There is so much about the legal aspects of writing for which I am completely ignorant. I did not know a writer had to ask for their rights back from a publisher just to use the characters they created.
    I can't take the Wildings back in time because I already got their back stories out and they came from Virginia, so that would prohibit me from writing them as a western. At some later date, I could write present day stories about the Wildings. I'm not certain how popular present day stories are with readers. I only know that the 1950's are not that popular.
    My intention now is to write stories from the beginning of my fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming. Some of the characters in the Wildings stories had ancestors from the beginning, so I'm going to see what I can do with them...and add some others.
    I admire your ease with writing mysteries. I wish I could do that. I get tied up in knots just thinking about plotting out the clues and not giving away the culprit first chapter in. I cannot imagine a publishing company closing its mystery line. Aren't mysteries one of the most popular genres? Most of my friends at work were into mysteries. I think middle school kids adore mysteries. My niece certainly did.
    Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing your experiences. I just learned something I didn't know before from your comments, Livia. Thank you!