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Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Okay, I admit it; I’m a south easterner who writes westerns. I’d be the first to tell ya I have to research everything—and I do mean EVERYTHING about the stories I write which take place in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming. I confess I have only been to Wyoming once, but I was so awestruck by its beautiful landscape I knew I wanted to use it for the place where all my Wildings live.

My reality is, however, that I have been raised and still live in the beautiful and diverse state of North Carolina where folks speak with a smooth southern drawl and fan themselves while they sit on big porches in the summer while they fight off the heat and mosquitoes. We talk to our neighbors who drop by, usually unannounced, while we enjoy the smell of gardenias in spring around May and Carolina jasmine that blends with honeysuckle and roses in the summer.

We have our own celebrities like Billy Graham who lives just up the road in the mountains in a rather modest house. It’s uplifting just to know he’s there. I know his time is limited on this Earth, and that just makes me appreciate him even more.  We also have the lovable actor, Andy Griffith, who recently passed away and the towns of Mayberry, Mount Pilot and Mount Airy so often mentioned on his show. Of course we have the glamorous movie stars, too, like Ava Gardner and Julianne Moore. Singers are among North Carolina famous—Roberta Flack, John Coltrane, Kelly Pickler, Ronnie Millsap, Earl Scruggs, Arthur Smith, Randy Travis and, of course, James Taylor among the many who hail from North Carolina.

Pepsi Cola, Cheerwine (my personal favorite for road trips), and 

Bojangles all originated in North Carolina. There’s nothing quite as delicious as 

some Cheerwine and a Moon Pie while traveling on a road trip. Some people prefer and RC Cola with their Moon Pie.
One more thing I would like to clear up: Texas Pete hot sauce is not a creation from Texas; it's from North Carolina. Just sayin'...

          The North Carolina Coast

The Smoky Mountains of North Carolina 

And speaking of road trips, I am in the perfect place here in Charlotte to take a day trip to the mountains and get back home before bedtime or I can travel to the beach and spend the weekend listening to the surf and whiling away the time under an umbrella with my toes in the sand. My favorite place is Wilmington where time seems to have stopped about a hundred years ago.
I’ve taken it in my stride when some folks from other parts of the country have insulted my southern roots. I’ve been asked ridiculous questions like, “Do you wear shoes when you’re not at work?” or “Do you people have televisions?” or one of my favorites, “Do you have accredited schools down there?” Well, yes, we do wear shoes, but not in the house so much. Since we have the Technology Triangle and North Carolina ranks #1 across all 50 states for IT Sector Employment Growth at 28.4% between 2010-2015 (double national average), I think we can muster up some television sets, and finally, yes we do have accredited schools like Duke University, one of the four largest medical centers in the United States.

(My Pinterest Board about North Carolina: )

But I don’t write stories that take place in North Carolina. I’m not certain why that is except that my first western, HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, and the sequel novel, FOR LOVE OF BANJO were so well received, I just sort of got into western writing. I don’t mind having to research everything about the west and Wyoming from its wildlife, to its geography, and even its plants and trees because I find it rather interesting. I know Hemingway said once a writer ought to write about what they know, but Hemingway said a lot of things that spoke more of his ego than reality. I know Wyoming because I have studied the heck out of it and I’ve seen it. I know it would be easier to write about stories that take place in North Carolina without having to look up anything, but I don’t mind because research is fun and I love the Wildings I’ve created. I like Wyoming and the tough pioneer spirit of the people who live there. Maybe someday I’ll write some stories that take place in the Southeast, but for now, I am very happy writing westerns.

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride
A haunted plantation… A trunk… And a date with destiny.
Lola Barton’s life has been chaotic and uncertain. When she inherits a rundown plantation, she believes her life has finally taken a positive turn. But, when she finds a mysterious trunk in the attic, it takes her into the past and to a man with dark secrets—and she’s married to him.
Joe Wilding carries his shame in his pocket in the form of a harmonica. The woman he thought he married to save her life, is beginning to break through his stoic wall and find the secret he hides. Loving her could be his ruin. Only time can tell.


            Terrible thoughts crossed her mind that she might be dying.  The unbearable noise pierced her eardrums.  She couldn’t catch her breath, her heart pounded against her ribs and her nerves shrieked against the unknown.  She felt herself falling and falling into the great dark void, certain that she would lose consciousness, and wishing she could.  Then, just as suddenly as it started, it all stopped.
            She heard bursts of laughter and the clank of glasses bumping together as she tried to open her eyes.  Someone played a piano in discord and feet stomped in time to the music.  The smell of stale beer, old wood and body odor assailed her senses.  Lightheaded and disoriented, it took a moment before her blurred vision focused.  She straightened from her crouched position and stood on a wooden plank floor covered in sawdust, peanut shells and bits of refuse.  The card that had dropped from her grasp lay on the floor at her feet.  She reached down and clutched it in her hand as she heard a man speak in a ceremonious voice. “I now pronounce you man and wife.  Harmonica Joe, you may kiss your bride.”  Laughter resonated and cheers went up around the room. 
            Lola clasped the card tight in her fist and glanced up just in time to see an angular face with mesmerizing coffee brown eyes framed in sandy hair move toward her.  A day’s growth of beard graced his jaw but it only enhanced his handsome features.  She backed away a step only to have someone push her forward.  She collided with the solid body of this imposing stranger.  The stranger’s arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her close as his head dipped down, his mouth capturing hers.  The bristles of his chin scraped her tender flesh that caused a thrill to scamper down her spine. 

A COWBOY'S BRAND is a sensational boxed set from Prairie Rose Publications! This collection includes five full-length novels from some of the best western romance writers in today's field, including Livia J. Washburn, Meg Mims, Gail L. Jenner, Kristy McCaffrey and Sarah J. McNeal. This set makes a wonderful gift for someone else, or for yourself, and at only .99 you can't go wrong!

MENDING FENCES by Livia J. Washburn is a riveting story of the Texas frontier as well as a touching romance between a heroine trying to find her place in the world and a hero whose past may destroy them both.

Meg Mims’s Spur Award-winning novel DOUBLE CROSSING is the story of mystery and intrigue as Lily Granville heads west, determined to track down her father’s killer. But who can she trust? Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE by Sarah J. McNeal is a wonderful time travel story of unexpected love. When Lola Barton inherits a rundown plantation, she believes her life has finally taken a positive turn. But, when she finds a mysterious trunk in the attic, it takes her into the past and to a man with dark secrets—and she’s married to him.

In Kristy McCaffrey’s story, Kate Kinsella has no choice but to go after Charley Barstow and talk some sense into him. Ethan Barstow is hot on his younger brother’s trail, too. All hell breaks loose when they discover Charley—not wishing to be found by anyone! Can Ethan and Kate find their own love and happiness with one another through the deception and hurt? Or will they both return INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS…

This 2002 WILLA AWARD WINNER by Gail L. Jenner is the story of Liza Ralston, a young woman who leaves her settled existence to travel to Montana with her father—a decision she regrets. With her father severely wounded, the Pikuni tribe takes them in. But Liza wants nothing more than to return to St. Louis, despite her growing attraction for Red Eagle, a handsome young Indian warrior. Will Red Eagle and Liza find the love they’ve been waiting for? Beauty, treachery and danger lie ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS.
Buy Link:  A Cowboy’s Brand

THE WILDINGS (in order of publication)

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride (time travel/paranormal)
For Love of Banjo (sequel to Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride)
Fly Away Heart (novella)
A Husband for Christmas (short/also for sale as a single) included in Wishing for a Cowboy anthology
Hollow Heart (short Valentine theme) included in Hearts and Spurs anthology (now in single)
Unexpected Blessings (short) included in Lassoing a Bride anthology
Beast of Hazard (short) included in Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico vol. 1 anthology
When Love Comes Knocking (short) included in Present for a Cowboy Christmas anthology
Home for the Heart (1950’s era novel)

To see all my Wildings, click on The Wildings

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. I'm first! Usually I wait until later in the day when I'm more fully awake to read and comment on blogs, but this one couldn't wait.
    I love your Wildings, and remember, I have given a name for a future I'll be waiting for that one.
    This post was one of the best and most entertaining that I've read in a long time. All our author friends know how to write good blog posts, but this one touched me...because you're talking about "home."
    I have been asked in previous blog during interviews, "If you didn't live in Texas, where would you choose to live?" I have answered every time: North Carolina. And I did get to see it one year driving from Texas to Michigan. Sure, we took a big detour, but my darling husband finally gave in and let me visit NC and its wonderful offerings. The mountains there are as close to heaven as I've even seen.
    So, Sarah, you keep writing about Wyoming and your Wildings, because...well, because the Wildings belong there!

    1. Celia, I think most people are struck by how green North Carolina is. Just about anything will grown here. Because the soil is more acid, azaleas, rhododendrons, and pine trees are especially prolific. Spring time is exceptionally beautiful. I am so happy to know you chose North Carolina as your next favorite place to live. Like Texans, native Carolinians are very friendly.
      I haven't forgotten about that Wilding name we talked about. He'll get a story for certain.
      You always say the kindest things. I'm so glad you like my Wildings. They're like family to me.
      Thank you so very much for coming--and for being first!

  2. Love hearing all things North Carolina! I'm just up the road near Blacksburg VA. It's so fun learning of the famous people around your area. I could not imagine someone asking those questions. I'm pausing to think about that...Will have to check out your books!

    1. Hey Sally! Nice to know you're practically a neighbor. I once lived in Norfolk, VA when my dad was on ocean weather. I was 3 years old then. But since Norfolk is a Navy town, it's not filled with regular Virginians. Your state is a great deal like mine in having both beautiful mountains and a shore. It's a beautiful place.
      I do hope you get a chance to check out my Wildings books and, if you do, I hope you fall in love with them. Harmonica Joe is only 99cents in the boxed set with 4 other fantastic authors. Quite the bargain.
      Thank you so much for coming by today and commenting. I really appreciate it, Sally.

  3. Coming from a long line of folks from the South, I relate to the beauty and resilience of the region and its people.

    Lovely post, and like you, research is the joy of writing. (At least for me).

    Thank you for a great post. Doris

    1. Darlin' Doris, I didn't know you had some southern roots. I love where I live.
      I know you must get lost in research the way I do. It is fun finding out things I never knew before.
      It was so nice of you to come over and comment. Thank you!

  4. Loved your post, Sarah, and I'd love to visit North Caroline sometime. I did drive through the western corner but didn't get to spend time there. One thing, though--I do write many of my stories where I grew up and I research a lot. No, I don't have to research the actual area or the mindset of the people who lived in Owyhee County, but there's always something I need to know. An example would be the terrain and number of robberies of the stagecoach road from Winnemucca to Silver City. Stuff like that. I don't think you ever get away from having to research, so you might as well set your stories wherever is best. ☺ And the Wildings definitely belong in Wyoming!

    1. I think it's a wonderful feeling to love the place where you live, and I know you love your home, too--Idaho--right? Still, it is kind of fun building stories in a place where I don't live. It's like an adventure or studying for a road trip. Like you, Jacquie, I like to research things and I agree, even when you're writing about a place you know well, you're still going to have to research something. I guess we never stop learning new things.
      Thank you for your words about my Wildings in Wyoming. You're very kind.
      I've never figured out how to pronounce Owyhee and now you've added Winnemucca to the mix. LOL
      Thank you so much for coming by. I know you're busy so I appreciate it all the more.

    2. Owyhee is the original anglicized spelling of Hawaii, so pronounced similarly: oh-WYE-hee. Winnemucca is a Paiute name: winn-ah-MUCK-ah.

    3. Thank you, Jacquie, for showing me how those 2 words are pronounced.

  5. Sarah,

    I've not been to North Carolina, but I lived in Cleveland, Ohio for three years (a long time ago), and I often made it to West Virginia. It's a beautiful country back east, but I'm a Colorado prairie girl at heart, and I missed my wide-open prairie when I lived there.

    I love the research, too. Sometimes, I love it too much, and I get to engrossed and carried away with this topic and that tidbit.

    I agree with you about Hemingway. He was just a bit too full of himself for his own good. *wink*

    I'm with the other ladies who have commented, you just keep on writing about your Wildings and Wyoming, and we'll just keep on reading them. *hugs*

  6. Kaye, I remember a friend of mine when I live in Nebraska told me she didn't like trees. I was horrified. She went on to tell me the trees made her feel claustrophobic. She said she needed to see the sky. So I do understand how each person develops a love for the place where they are raised. BTW, I love the pictures you post on your FB page of places you visit.

    Hemingway did say one thing I agree with--"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." I think one of the hardest things for me is to write something I feel deeply and expose it on the page of a story. I'm not a fan of Hemingway. However, I do like the advice Oscar Wilde and Josh Whedon give to authors.

    You are so sweet to compliment my Wildings characters and to encourage me to keep writing about Wyoming. Thank you so very much for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Sarah, I'm a day late and a dollar short! Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post. I know that phrase is hammered into writers--WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. But if that was true, we would never have any fantasy or sci-fi books to speak of, or a lot of historical books that we enjoy so much! I love your Wildings as you know--it all started with Harmonica Joe and his very reluctant bride! LOL Great idea--and when you think about it, who knows about time travel? LOL I love it when there's a big family and cast of characters that we can revisit from time to time. You do a great job with those, and with setting them in Wyoming. Keep up the good work!