Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving "Fowl" Up

Article by Linda Swift

We had just moved to Alabama a few months before Christmas. My husband returned to Kentucky to bring our daughter home from college for the holidays and he also brought my widowed mother, his mother and her husband. They were to arrive in the early afternoon, so I had the morning to prepare the turkey and dressing.

Not bothering to dress while cooking, I wore a faded chenille robe, floppy houseshoes, no makeup, and had my hair in rollers. Things were going well as I attended other tasks while the bird basted in a plastic brown-n-serve bag. 

The stove timer alerted me that the bird was done and I removed the roasting pan and placed it on the stovetop. I was eager to get those succulent juices into the bowl of dressing I was mixing, so I attempted to move the pan to the counter across the room. It was heavier than I anticipated, and the bird started sliding then ended up on the kitchen floor. The bag burst and turkey broth spilled onto the floor and my fuzzy slippers while I stood in horrified shock. Then I went into action, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and mopped up as much as I could. I managed to get the turkey back onto the pan and hoisted it to the counter, lamenting the loss of that essential broth.

While I mopped, I had a few choice words for Tom Turkey and the bag he browned in as I tried to figure out the best way to save the day. At least, this disaster had occurred while I was alone in the house and still had plenty of time to clean up the kitchen and myself. It was a moment before I heard the sound of a car horn in the driveway above my dark mutterings.

And just then, my husband stuck his head in the kitchen door and said with a wide grin, "Surprise. We got here early."

"Go drive around the block!" I snarled, as he crossed the kitchen with open arms to greet me with a kiss. Instead, he slipped on the still-slick floor and clutched at me to steady himself, bringing us both down in a tangle. And we were thrashing about like two lovers in the throes of passion when the others appeared in the doorway.

"Don't come in," I yelled.

"Well, did you ever?" my mother-in-law said to my mother as they stopped in the doorway in shocked disbelief.
I finally disentangled myself and struggled up, while I tried to explain the situation. My daughter led her grandparents to the front door while my husband got a mop to clean the floor. I went to greet the family properly, then got dressed and returned to cope with the situation. I found some canned chicken broth in the pantry and my mother mixed the dressing while I grappled with the bird. He was nice and brown and looked rather regal when I placed him on a platter.

"Did you remember to take the giblet bag out of it?" My M-I-L asked as she eyed the bird with suspicion.

"Oh, yes, I did." I would have thought she'd forgotten that incident from my early marriage by now.
M-I-L made slaw while my daughter set the table. The men brought in the luggage and presents while we finished dinner preparations. 

I reminded myself that all's well that end's well as we sat at table savoring the holiday feast. Though, I couldn't help but notice – my M-I-L was eating dressing without any turkey.

Linda's debut story for our Victory Tales Press Romance Anthologies appears in the  
2014 Christmas Collection.

 A Season of Miracles

As John and Caroline keep a vigil for days at Danny's bedside, a close relationship develops between them. John longs for a family and wants to make Caroline and Danny his own. Will his wish come true in this season of miracles?


Also available in print.

This Time Forever

~ Civil War Romance ~ Clarissa Wakefield remains to work in her home, transformed into a Confederate hospital when the Union invades Tennessee. Philip Burke, a Union prisoner, barters medical skills to avoid prison. As opposing armies fight, Philip and Clarissa wage their own personal battles. Caught in the passions of love and war, will they be faithful to their vows or listen to their hearts? 

This novel was chosen as the basis for the short film, Clarissa's War, currently being filmed.

Please sample the first two chapters free.
and at other online bookstores

Also available in print.

Please visit Linda's Social Media sites for information about all her books and stories.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014




A couple years ago I asked my friend, Kathy and her brother, Dennis, if I could post an interview with them about their military service and they agreed.

Dennis served in Vietnam and Kathy has served in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have both paid a price for their service and I want to honor them, and other men and women who gallantly serve our country by reposting that interview. And here it is.

Col. Kathy Groce: Recently retired from the United States Air Force. She served several tours in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan as an RN in Medical Evacuation.

1. (In answer to what she would like American citizens to know.) 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.

Kathy’s outfit were allowed to ask a civilian to join them on a C130 and talk to their civials about the way they go about their job. I’m terrified of flying and I was scheduled to work that day, but my nephew convinced me it was a once in a lifetime offer and I would regret it for all time if I didn’t go. I pushed back fear and went. It really was an experience I’ll never forget and I learned so much about what it takes to be an Air Force nurse. As much as I have spent my nursing career in Acute Care, so many things are different when it’s all done thousands of feet in the air. I never thought about bleeding in a pressurized cabin, or that water wasn’t available. It’s very different…and everything takes place while dodging bullets. I learned so much about the planes, too. That cargo bay is not only huge, but it can be changed into racks of bunks for the injured, or cleared for armored tanks and other land vehicles. As big as they are, I understand from my talk with the pilot that they are extremely maneuverable and made to land on battlefields. I was so impressed by the equipment and they dedicated military who operated it all. I felt so honored to have been invited and to speak with this magnificent soldiers. I even got to talk to a female general on the flight.

Dennis Groce: Served in the War in Vietnam

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 Vietnam. 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! 

Dennis had health issues due to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. He died in his sleep suddenly this past summer. He was a big Panthers fan, a great dad and husband, and a Mason. He was one of the happiest and kindest people I ever met.

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



For more than just for today, I hope that you will honor the Veterans of our country and their families 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.”

written by Sarah J. McNeal
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction. Her stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Prairie Rose Publications. Her website:   

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Great Lecompton Shootout

Western author John D. McCall will soon have a new release titled South of Rising Sun with US Marshal Alistair Taggart paying a visit to Lecompton, Kansas Territory.
Lecompton, Kansas Territory (Kansas Historical Society Image)
When using a historical setting as the backdrop for a novel, a certain amount of accuracy is important to the believability of the story. Unless you're already an expert on the location and time you've chosen, some thorough research can keep you from looking foolish to your readers, some of whom are bound to catch your mistakes.  One of the fun things which can happen when you put in your due diligence is learning an interesting tidbit of information about your setting you were previously unaware of. This has happened to me many times over when researching the location of my new western novel, set in Kansas. Being a Kansas native for fifty-eight years, one would think I had already learned everything there is to know historically about the state I live in. But once I started researching the setting for my tale, I found out how completely lacking my Kansas history education had been in elementary and secondary school. 

Even if they are not into westerns, nearly everyone over the age of forty has heard of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. They might even know of the Hickock-Tutt Gunfight in Springfield, Missouri or the Hyde Park Gunfight in Newton, Kansas. But few people have heard of one of the largest gunfights ever to take place in the West, a politically motivated shootout in the now tiny city of Lecompton in Douglas County, Kansas. Lecompton was the first official territorial capital in Kansas’s long and often bloody struggle to determine whether it would enter the Union as a free state or a slave state in the latter half of the 1850s. This thriving city of almost five-thousand was the seat of the pro-slavery (at that time) territorial government and was expected to become the capital once statehood was conferred upon the Kansas territory.
John W. Geary
In 1857, John W. Geary had the dubious honor of being the governor of territorial Kansas, one of six men to hold the title during its seven year history of existence.  During Geary’s tenure, the self-appointed sheriff of Douglas County, Samuel J. Jones, resigned his post, and the Douglas County board of commissioners appointed one William T. Sherrard as the new sheriff under somewhat questionable legal authority. Governor Geary was to have signed papers granting Sherrard his commission but stalled, apparently feeling Sherrard’s pro-slavery leanings would conflict with his own free-state inclinations, despite Sherrard’s declaration he would “see that the laws were faithfully executed.” Geary continued to stall, then eventually refused outright, claiming several acquaintances had reported Sherrard was of dubious character and had been involved in several drunken altercations. 

Constitution Hall as it now stands. Kansas Historical Society
For over a month, Sherrard went to great lengths to secure his commission by legal means, but each avenue led to disappointment. Thwarted in all his efforts, he apparently had enough, and an armed Sherrard confronted Geary in Constitution Hall as he left a legislative meeting. The exact words exchanged are not agreed upon by historians, but the story goes that Sherrard chastised Geary for assailing his character and then spat on him, hoping to provoke the governor into an altercation so he would have reason to shoot Geary. Geary wisely refused to take the bait, but his supporters did not let the matter drop. They introduced resolutions in the house legislature condemning Sherrard's actions and nine days, later held a town meeting on the matter.

At one point during the meeting, Sherrard was given the floor to rebut the resolutions and declared that "Any man who imputes anything dishonorable to me in that affair, is a liar and a coward, and I stand ready at all times to back up my words." After Sherrard left the podium, he returned to his place among the crowd and was immediately bombarded with hostile questions and comments. One member of the gathering, Joseph Sheppard, may have remarked that the resolutions were just and moved toward Sherrard. Sherrard responded to the alleged statement by yelling, "You are a G**—damned liar, a coward and a scoundrel," after which he drew his pistol and began firing. Sheppard pulled his own pistol and fired back, but not before being wounded. When Sheppard's three rounds missed, he tried to club Sherrard with the butt of his pistol before the mayor and ex-sheriff Jones separated the two. By then, many in the crowd had drawn their own weapons and commenced shooting, with upwards of fifty shots being fired. Casualties from the melee might have been great had not several in the crowd retained the presence of mind to use their canes to whack the gun hands of many of the combatants when they attempted to shoot.

As it was, Sherrard, having exhausted the rounds in one pistol, drew another and moved in the direction of Geary's secretary, John A. W. Jones, who drew his own pistol in true Western fashion and plugged Sherrard squarely between the eyes. He collapsed and died two days later. Remarkably, Sherrard was the single fatality to result from the shootout, and Sheppard and a merchant from Lawrence, Kansas were the only other two known to have sustained wounds, barring the few sore wrists on some unlucky shooters. 

It has been suggested that the whole affair was orchestrated so that Geary could prove the existence of a pro-slavery conspiracy to do him violence, and that he purposefully failed to use available military personnel to ensure altercations did not take place during the meeting. Any violence which did erupt was to have been proof of such a conspiracy. Unfortunately for Geary, his reputation was irreparably harmed by the circumstances surrounding Sherrard's death, and President Buchanan fired him on March 12th of that year, making him the final casualty of the "Great Shootout at Lecompton."