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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Stinky Stories by Sarah J. McNeal and a GIVE AWAY

Smells linger a long time in our memories. I still remember the clean, flowery smell of Sweetheart soap in my grandmother’s bathroom. I don’t even think Sweetheart soap is still manufactured. The fragrance takes me back in time the same way the smell of Calamine lotion makes me think of that summer my sister and I spent with our grandmother and got the worst case of poison ivy in my life. That same summer I found a tremendous patch of wild strawberries that were the sweetest tasting berries I ever ate. We all went to the patch, picked buckets full of those berries and Grams made jars and jars of strawberry jam.

The first time the family stepped foot into the two story white house that would become our home for the rest of my childhood, we were greeted by musty smell of old cedar and over ripe apples drifting on the breeze from the orchard. The house enchanted me with its unique and comforting scent. It was as if the scent promised, “This is the place you can rest your heads at night and I will shelter you from all harm.” It’s been many years since I’ve inhaled that promise.

Do you still remember the smell of the fresh ink on those mimeographed papers from school back in the 50s? I liked that smell so much I would hold the paper close to my face and deep breathe it in.

I remember the smell of my childhood friend’s room smelled similar to Chanel #5, lightly sweet like fresh summer flowers.

My mother smelled like Camay soap and, when she dressed up to go someplace special, she used the rosy scent of To A Wild Rose or the more sophisticated scent of Arpege. Pop, on the other hand, always smelled like Old Spice, a scent I find comforting even to this day.

We all have these memories of certain fragrances that take us back to another time and place. When writing a layered scene, I try to use all the senses including smells. Some scents have to be imagined by the reader. For instance, if I write, “She smelled like sunshine,” well, we all know sunshine doesn’t have a scent, but it does evoke memories of coconut tanning oil we used to sunbath on the beach, or sweet honeysuckle warmed by the sun while we ate outside. Including smell makes a story come alive. Negative scents like sour beer, bad breath, and body odor also bring to mind the unpleasantness of certain people in our memories.

Here is a passage from my recent release, HOME FOR THE HEART where smell played an important roll in the scene. It is the opening scene.

Excerpt using smell:

In the quiet of the barn filled with the smell of fresh hay, horse manure, and leather tack, Hank sensed rather than heard someone enter the building. Ah, the smell of sunshine and roses. Must be Lucille Thoroughgood. Without turning to look at her, he set the pitchfork against the wall of Lonesome’s stall. “What do you want, Lucy?” he grumbled as a greeting.

“Mr. Wilding, I have something I’d like to propose to you.” Her voice sounded tense. When he turned to face her, he saw those blue eyes dart away from his to peer at the straw on the floor. She promptly straightened her spine and must have forced herself to look him straight in the eye. Her starched manner made him want to mess with her.

“A proposal?” He moved closer to her…maybe too close. He felt something shift in his chest like a warning bell. “Well now, I haven’t ever had a lady propose to me before.” He joked, badly, just to get her goat. Generally, women were not to be trusted. He’d learned that lesson the hard way. But Lucy was his old friend since grade school. Even though she must have been born straight-laced and proper, she spoke her truth, plain and simple. Beneath that barbed wire exterior beat a heart of gold.
Lucy propped her fists on her hips and he thought she looked like a charming sugar bowl all ruffed up in her pink flowered dress and her sweet, straw hat that sat askew on her gleaming brown hair. She knitted those brows together and narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not proposing marriage to you, Mr. Wilding. I’m proposing a business deal…sort of.”

HOME FOR THE HEART by Sarah J. McNeal 

Love doesn’t come easy…for some, it may never come at all.
Lucy Thoroughgood has gone and done it now—fallen in love with Hank Wilding, a man she’s known all her life. He’s content with friendship, but Lucy’s heart has flown the coop and she knows she’s in love with the determined bachelor. When she visits him with a proposition—to let the orphans she cares for learn to ride his horses during the summer—he surprises her with one of his own. She must accompany him to the dancing lessons he’s signed up for.

Secretly pleased, she hopes that perhaps this arrangement might lead to more than friendship. But Hank’s loved hard and lost, with his engagement to one of the popular town girls going south two years earlier. He’s sworn to never lose his heart to another—including Miss Lucy Thoroughgood.

A teenage orphan, Chayton, could be the key to thawing Hank’s heart—but danger follows the embittered boy. Will Hank be able to give Chayton the home he yearns for—or will the boy’s past bring only sorrow to those he cares for? When a Lakota premonition becomes reality, Lucy’s life hangs in the balance. Will Hank have the chance to let Lucy know how wrong he was?

Buy Links:
Smashwords:  Home for the Heart
Amazon:  Kindle             Paperback

What scents do you recall from your childhood? Do they transport you to another time, another place, or to a certain emotion?

A lucky commenter will win a digital copy of my new release, HOME FOR THE HEART!

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. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:



  1. Yes, smells are associated with strong memories here. Growing up in a farming community, the smell of fresh turned earth, the musty smell at harvest, that takes me back. We didn't have artificial scents of any kind in the house, my mother couldn't handle them. Still, I can remember the smell of Lily of the Valley that my great grandmother wore. so many memories associated with her. Cigar smoke evokes memories of my great grandfather. **Sigh**

    Thank you for a great post and a trip down memory lane. Best on this and future stories. Doris

  2. Doris, we used to have hyacinths growing in a flower garden just below my bedroom window. That fragrance will always remind me of spring at home, so I certainly understand how you feel about the smell of Lily of the Valley.
    You had a chance to know your great grandfather? How wonderful that must have been. What was he like?
    Thank you for coming by and commenting. I appreciate it.

    1. He passed when I was about seven. He doted on me, I was the first born great, and to say he spoiled me is an understatement. Fond memories of both greats. I had my great grandmother until my late teens. Doris

  3. Sarah,

    I wandered along childhood paths as I read your post--paths with aromas that when I smell them now, I'm transported to the wonderful hours I spent with my grandpa, George. He smelled of wintergreen Skoal, Kool cigarettes, beer, wood smoke, and freshly turned garden dirt. Whenever I encounter these aromas, I think of him with great fondness and wishes that he were still alive.

    Old Spice and that nose-wrinkling dusty/oily/machine shop combination reminds me of my dad.

    I'm sensitive, perhaps hypersensitive, to smells/aromas/scents. For example, I absolutely loathe the vanilla scent in air fresheners, but love cinnamon. The scents of lilac and geranium flowers are my favorites, and I'm sure it's because I associate them with my grandpa, too.

    I recall a favorite perfume from years past. It was Avon's "To a Wild Rose". "Roses, Roses" replaced it, but it wasn't quite the same.

    Horse-related smells make me warm and fuzzy. Cattle aromas, too. (my heart is in the country although I'm a town-dweller of many years). Leather, sawdust, barn dust, grain, alfalfa... mmm. mmm. mmm.

    As you did so well in your excerpts, I, too, include description in scenes that include aromas. Smells are so strongly attached to memories that even a mere whiff will evoke a memory of a particular time, place, person, or emotion. The scent of the men's cologne, Brut, sends me spiraling into bittersweet memories of the love of my life. *sigh*

    1. Oh yes, Avon's To A Wild Rose was a special scent and it so reminds me of my mother and makes me miss her so much.
      I love layered scenes in a story when I read. When I'm reading a scene where all the senses are used, I feel as if I'm living in that scene. That's what we all want to give our readers. Ya know, Kaye, I almost always write a scene somewhere in which the characters eat and yet, I often forget to include the taste of food. I need to pay more attention to that in the future.
      I've lived in the country on a rare occasion, but, mostly I've lived in the city. I sure do love the smell of freshly mowed grass. From my dating years I do remember the smell of Jade, Brut, and English Leather. Do they even make those scents any more?
      Thank you so much for sharing your own memories, Kaye. I enjoyed reading about them. They brought back some memories for me, too.

    2. Sarah,

      Reading through the comments, I remembered something I wanted to add. In most of my stories, my heroine has a hint of a particular scent attached to her that brings up memories and feelings for the hero. Gardenia, roses, linen... that sort of thing.

    3. You're right, Kaye, giving your heroine a particular scent makes them memorable.

  4. I remember that particular line about the sunshine and roses--and remember I finished the book last night...could not go to sleep until I got to the end...and will write a review. I loved the story. All the Wilding stories are wonderful, with a common thread running through and the people who comes into their lives. Thanks, Sarah

  5. Celia, you are wonderful! One of the most heartening things an author can hear is that someone stayed up to finish their book. You have brought me such good news. I can't express how happy I am to learn you liked my book. And thank you so much for deciding to review it. You are so dear to me.

  6. Sarah, this is so true! I confess, I sometimes leave out the sense of smell in my stories, and find myself reading back through in order to find places where I might add it in--it is SO important!

    I am another huge fan of your Wilding stories, ever since that first tumble Lola took into the trunk that sent her back in time! I admire anyone who can write stories that are based on a family and the characters that intertwine with one another like you do.

    1. I also forgot to say, we always had honeysuckle growing on our fence in the backyard as I grew up--but it was a chain link fence. When Gary and I bought out house 25 years ago, our back neighbor had honeysuckle growing on the fence (a wood privacy fence). It destroyed the fence and when the fence was replaced, it took the workers almost as long to get rid of the honeysuckle as it did to install the fence! I miss it, but I know it's just too hard on the fence to keep it growing back there. SIGH. I always remember, too, how much my mom loved the smell of lilacs. Every time I smell those and gardenia, I think of her.

    2. I don't know if you did this as a kid, but I did along with my sister and our neighborhood friends--we used to pinch off the honeysuckle flowers where they attached to the stem and then we 'd pull the stamen out the bottom and lick up the tiny drop of sweet nectar that came out with it. No wonder hummingbirds love it so much.

    3. Oh, yes! My friends and I thought we were being so daring. And someone told us that you could eat pansies, so we tried that, too! LOL

    4. You can eat pansies. My sister made this huge wedding cake for my nephew's wedding and put eatable flowers on it. It was beautiful, but I didn't eat the real flowers. I'm more of a sugary icing gourmet kind of girl.
      You'd think the entrepreneurs would have already come up with honeysuckle nectar drinks or honey or something...

  7. Thank you, Cheryl. Actually, I think it's easier to write about the Wilding family than to come up with characters I don't know. The Wildings have become my family. I can tell you for a certainty, I will will never forget Lola and Joe either. How little did I realize how those two would change things for me when I first wrote about them in Harmonica Joe.
    I forget to include all the senses in my stories sometimes, too. I have to make a conscious effort to layer my scenes using all the senses.
    Thank so much for coming and commenting, Cheryl. And thnk you to you and Livia for starting Prairie Rose Publications & its imprints!

  8. Honeysuckle. It grew along the backyard fence at two different homes in Houston and on the farmhouse yard fences on the family farm in Missouri where I sent my summers. Believe it or not, that sweet scent mingled with cow, sheep, and pig...well, crap, actually brings back great memories. Us cousins worked hard often shoveling the previously mentioned "stuff" to feed it into the manure-spreader. We played hard too with a lot of the work being converted to play. We didn't just hoist hay bails into the barn's loft and stack them, we built the mountain of bails into a massive multi-level fortress with tunnels snaking all through it. Great, great memories.

    1. The only farm experience I remember involving hay was at my maternal grandmother's farm in Pennsylvania. We jumped from the loft inside the barn onto a pile of hay. It was such fun. And I remember the sweet smell of it. MY grandmother wasn't much of a farmer, but for a few years she had a picturesque Victorian farm house with lots of land and a barn with pigs, horses, a milk cow and chickens. I imagine it must have been fun growing up on a farm.

  9. Wow, Sarah. I was wandering down those paths right by your side, smelling all those wonderful scents. My dad was an Old Spice man, too. My mom loved Emeraude. In the novel I will eventually, I promise, turn in to Cheryl, the heroine has a bottle of Old Spice and a bottle of Emeraude tucked away at the very back of a shelf in her closet, just in case she ever forgets how her parents smelled.

    My dad's mother always smelled of Avon's Hawaiian White Ginger. I've still got a couple of her scarves sealed in a plastic bag and hidden at the bottom of my cedar chest. They're one of the few things I claimed after she died, and I took them because they smelled like Grandma. I've never had the nerve to open the bag and see if they still smell the same thirty years later, but I have Hawaiian white ginger growing in my yard.

    The sweet, sunshiny aroma of honeysuckle, the sharp tartness of crabapples, and the musty damp of a forest floor remind me of childhood summers spent building forts and running through the woods. Slightly citrus-y magnolia blossoms bring back other childhood summers playing in thick, soft grass (which has its own aroma) beneath an enormous magnolia tree that seemed as big as a mountain at the time. The tree is still where I left it, and it still seems pretty darn big.

    Balsam evokes childhood Christmases so strongly that it's almost like a physical touch. Leather and horses and hay put me right back in the middle of barns torn down long ago.

    I haven't thought about Sweetheart soap in years. In Bible School, we'd wrap bars with netting and secure the package with fancy, beaded pins to give as sachets on Mother's Day. The soap always made me sneeze. :-D We'd also stab oranges all over with cloves to give as drawer sachets. I still love that smell.

    It's amazing how many memories are made of smells, isn't it?

    Thanks for such a wonderful post. :-)

    1. Those were great memories, Kathleen. Hey, I made those oranges with cloves, too. It smelled like Christmas. Here in North Carolina, long needle pines are plentiful. We used to hike in the woods and cut one down for our Christmas tree. That's some of the tackiest, sticky sap ever.
      I say get the nerve up and open Grandma's bag! I would by dying of curiosity about whether it smelled like Emeraude still or not. C'mon, it's not going to smell of rotted flesh or something groce. My grandmother was definitely a person of the Great Depression. She wouldn't use any of her expensive soaps because, like your grandmother, she was saving them for some day special or something. So all these great soaps spent their days in boxes in her dresser drawer losing their scent over time. Just one of those crazy wack-a-doodle things the Great Generation did that made no sense.
      It was awful sweet of you to come and visit me here with this nice comment. Thanks Kathleen.

  10. My great-grandmother's house always smelled like burning coal. I know a lot of people don't like the scent but it always reminds me of Granny. Great blog, Sarah.

    1. Keena, back at my grandmother's farm house, she had a coal burning stove in the kitchen. It actually heated the whole house because they had these ornate metal grates in the floors above that could be opened to allow heat upstairs. They closed the parlor in winter. We used to open the grate above the kitchen after they thought we were in bed to listen to the adults talk, Yep. We were bad. But anyway, I know what a coal burning stove smells like. It's not unpleasant--especially if there's a turkey in the oven.
      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your memory, Kenna.

  11. Sarah, what an evocative post! Your descriptions are so apt I can smell them too. My gram wore violet cologne...I thought of that just yesterday!

    Your blurb and excerpt are five star. How talented you are, my friend.

    1. Violet perfume sounds like a lovely scent. Violets in the yard don't smell like much of anything. I called my grandmother Gram, too.
      Thank you for all those kind words, Tanya. It's difficult to choose just the right excerpt. This one was easy because it's the opening of the book. Cheryl edited my original blurb s I have her to thank for this rendition.
      Thank you for coming, Tanya.

  12. Glad to see you included the manure, lol! Smells, more than any other of our senses, bring back the most vivid memories and associations one can experience. Fifty years after having my tonsils out, the smell of ether is one I can hardly tolerate to this day.
    Given my desire to try and pain an accurate picture of the early days of the West, I have often struggled to figure out just how far to go with including some of the less pleasant smells you mention which were probably encountered back in the day on a frequent basis. I'm sure cowboys didn't have a lot of opportunity to bathe and commercial deodorant made its first appearance in 1888 (to little enthusiasm from the public), so a saloon scene should include some mention of B.O., but I haven't found a picturesque way of describing the overpowering stench of sawdust, sweat, beer and cigar and cigarette smoke that wouldn't gross a reader out. Maybe it's just as well. Good post, Sarah.

    1. Well, JD, anybody who has been around a farm knows how it smells--the good, bad and in between. I don't think there's a picturesque way to write the realities. What could smell worse than an outhouse? Unless you're talking about your hero being a stinky mess, what could be wrong with the truth? Okay, if your hero is a rank smelling person, hopefully, you've made him aware of it and getting him into a bath with some pine scented soap as we speak.
      Thank you, JD, for your ingenious aromatic descriptions. I liked 'em.

  13. It's time to announce the winner of the digital copy of HOME FOR THE HEART. And the winner is...Keena Kincaid!
    Keena, please contact me at starcriter at yahoo dot com and I will give you the secret code to get your book.

  14. Well Sarah, I'm sorry I'm late--couldn't get on computer at all yesterday. Today I read your interesting post and made a caomment and when I went to send it, the page read webpage not available. WELL! Shoot! So I did enjoy your post and have learned over the years to definitely use smells as part of the whole senses picture. I draws one in so much better. And I always remember going to my grandma's in RI and the minute we went inside you could smell her soup throughout the entire house. Mostly chicken veg. and oh so good. I have HOME FROM THE HEART and look forward to reading soon...

  15. Dang, Bev that's a lot of problems encountered just trying to post a comment. Makes me appreciate your comment even more. RI might be a tiny state, but it's a beautiful one. Odd, isn't it, how our grandmothers gave us such great memories just from food. Because we lived so far away in NC from my grandmother in PA, it was always an event when we went to visit. I remember her wonderful Pennsylvania Dutch cooking to this day.
    Bless your heart for already having HOME FOR THE HEART. I hope so very much that you like this story. Thank you...and thank you for jumping all those hurtles to give me such a lovely comment.

  16. It's has been a long time since I thought of the smell of those old inked up papers from school. I loved to take a deep sniff before I passed them to the desk behind me. Thanks for the memory--the reminder. And best wishes, smells like you have a good story there.

    1. C.A., I'm glad I could remind you of the memory of those mimeographed pages. LOL, what does success smell like? Thank you for your good wishes and for dropping by my blog.