Friday, April 6, 2012

Friend Friday with Sarah McNeal

Using Real Historical Facts to Enhance a Story

While I was researching World War I events to write For Love of Banjo, I came across some very interesting actual events that would work perfectly in this story.  I needed an element that would connect Banjo to his Western heritage and his love of horses.  Before he was a soldier, he was a cowboy.  He had a great love of big skies, green hills, freedom and horses.  I knew that this early twenty-first century period was one of transition.  While automobiles had become more numerous in society and electricity began to light the streets in big cities and homes, the greater number of people still used kerosene lanterns and used horses for transportation and work.    Even though World War I saw the introduction of airplanes and tanks, horses were still used to transport soldiers and weapons.

The Insignia of the Fifteenth Regiment Calvary

I found that The Fifteenth Regiment Calvary from the United States, formed in 1901 saw battles in the jungles of the Philippines against savage Moros where the spirit of the Regiment was forged in fire and blood.  The Regiment part of the Cuban Pacification from 1906-1909 and found duty along the Mexican border and the hunt for Poncho Villa from December 1917 to March 1918.  The Regiment sailed to France to become became part of the war effort.  The Fifteenth Regiment has a very interesting history.  Although an active cavalry, respected and honored,  the Fifteenth Regiment Calvary was deactivated October 18, 1921 due to cutbacks in the Regular Army following “the Great War.”  The horses were not honored as war veterans and allowed to live out their lives in peace.  Many of them were put down—corralled and shot.  Some did find their way to other uses and a decent life.  In March, 1942, the Fifteenth Regiment Calvary was recalled to duty to serve in World War II.  The Regiment moved deep into Germany and, by the war’s end, the Fifteenth Calvary had taken almost 7,000 german prisoners and had destroyed 78 guns and 495 enemy vehicles. I am happy to say that the Fifteenth Calvary remains active  today.

For Love of Banjo by Sarah j. McNeal
Western Trail Blazers

The first thing Banjo does when he enters the battlefield in France riding in on his horse, Ajax, is to save the life of a man who has fought in the trenches for months.  The man he saves isn’t just any minor character.  Donald Douglas was the brother of John Douglas from my book, The Violin.  The collision of timely events was just too good to miss.  I used a short excerpt from the scene where Banjo saves Donald’s life with a few spoilers removed.
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past.  To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.
Will either of them find happiness?     

He peered at the soldiers of the cavalry seated crisply dressed on their magnificent horses—horses rigorously trained for battle. His stern features lit for moments by the light of mortar fire revealed a mix of military discipline and somber purpose. "Chaplain Morrison will give us a moment of devotion before we ride."
Banjo bowed his head and closed his eyes in prayer, but he didn't hear the chaplain's words. His own prayer echoed in his mind. Please God, if I fall, take care of Maggie and my family. That's all I ask.
When the prayer ended, Colonial Hay gave the last command. "God go with you." He raised his arm in a final salute then shouted. "Now ride!"
Banjo nudged Ajax into a hard run. "Come on Ajax. Give it all you got, boy." The horse galloped past those that fell. Horses screamed in agony as bullets found them. Men cried out and fell to the ground with mortal wounds. Ajax sped forward, the trench just a few more yards ahead. Banjo's heart raced, his breath hitched. Ajax moved like the wind, solid muscle and bravery beneath him. When they reached the trench, the stench of it gagged Banjo. He reined in Ajax to a halt. A quick glance around told him only half the Regiment made it...
Banjo dismounted, grabbed his kit and gear, then spoke his last words to his faithful horse. "You take this soldier out of this hell and back to his loved ones. You're a good horse, Ajax. You take care of yourself now."
Banjo patted him one last time on the withers then hurried to the ladder and made his way down into the pit. The soldiers in the trench were filthy and their smell almost made him retch. Their faces lit up when they saw him. Someone's freedom had arrived. Banjo took a young soldier by the arm who couldn't have been more than eighteen years of age. His face barely recognizable as human for the dirt and mud caked on it.
"What's your name, soldier? Where do you call home?" Banjo had to raise his voice to a shout over the din of noise that surrounded him.
"Corporal Donald Lee Douglas, Sir, Thirty-second Battalion, Eighty-fifth Infantry Division under General Parker. We've been fighting here with the Brits' East Surrey Regiment under Robert Sherriff. My home is Numidia, Pennsylvania." The lad saluted Banjo.
. . . "I hope you know how to ride a horse, Douglas. Just ride west for the tree line and you'll be out of range." Banjo clapped him on the shoulder. "Now get the hell out of here before they shoot my horse."
"Yes, Sir...I mean Sergeant." He started up the ladder but paused on the fifth rail and turned to Banjo. "What did you say your name was? I don't want to forget so I can tell my folks the name of the man who saved my life."
"It's Banjo Wilding. Now get going, Corporal Douglas, before daylight catches you."
The lad smiled. "Thank you, I won't forget you—not ever." Then the young soldier hurried up the ladder and out of sight. Banjo heard Ajax whinny and then the sound of a horse gallop away headed west.
BUY LINKS: (E-Book or Paperback)
Lulu :
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Also available at all other online bookstores.

Sarah McNeal may be found at the following locations:
Moonlight Romance Authors:  
My Amazon Author’s Page
My Website and My Blog:

I will giving away a PDF copy of either The Violin (a 1927 time travel historical where Donald Douglas appears), Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride (1910 time travel western where Banjo becomes a beloved character), or For Love of Banjo (1916 historical of Banjo’s own story)        


  1. Wow, Sarah. That's one powerful excerpt. Perhaps the best I've read on any blog. Way to go!

  2. Thank you so much, James, for that rather fantastic comment and for coming by and leaving a comment. I always appreciate you.

  3. A moving excerpt, Sarah! And I also enjoyed learning a little about the use of horses in WWI. When I was a kid, I remember the old man who lived a few farms away had been in the cavalry in WWI. Now I wish I'd been more interested and asked him about hsi experiences.

  4. Congrats on your release!! Love the cover, the blurb, and excerpt. Wishing you many sales!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I love reading history facts in novels. When I was in college at the ripe young age of 36 and read my very first romance novel, I found it made my history class a bit easier and more entertaining if I read about history facts in a novel then matched them with my assignments. I'm so ready to read one of these titles for the excerpt is fabulous!!

  7. Jacquie, thank you so much for coming by. I had to do some searching to find an American calvary in WWI. The British had several divisions but America not so much. When General MacAuthor decided to modernize America's troops, he got rid of swords and horses--and many of the horses were gathered in corrals and shot. A sad end for such magnificent animals.

  8. Sylvie, thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate that you took time to come by and leave a comment.

  9. I love the handle Moundsbar--made me want a chocolate covered coconut treat. lol Thank you so much for coming by and leaving such a kind a comment. You forgot to add your email address in case you win a choice of my books. I hope you come back and do that.
    Thanks again for commenting.

  10. Hi Sarah,
    Great excerpt. My TWRP novel, Wild Oats, is set during World War 1. I find the era fascinating but so tragic, it wrenches my heart. I have actually visited the World War 1 battlefields in France and Belgium, a truly poignant experience.
    Good luck with Banjo's story, sounds like a terrific read.


  11. I agree, Margaret, WWI is a great era to write about and such an interesting one to research. I wish you much success with your WWI novel, Wild Oats. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  12. Sarah, I'm a day late but I enjoyed your excerpt. This sounds like a wonderful book that will appeal to women and men. As Margarget Tanner mentioned, I have visited a WWI battle field in France and it is an unforgettable experience. I wish you success with this new book. Linda

  13. Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment, Linda. What a wonderful adventure to go to France and visit the battlefields--and then the vineyards. It was so nice of you to come and leave a comment-late or early, no matter.

  14. Yet another fascinating blog, Sarah. I love reading your stuff

  15. That's quite a compliment, Jenny. Thank you. I really appreciate that you came by and commented on my blog.

  16. The winning commenter is MoundsBar. Congratulations. I'll get in touch with you about your choice of books very soon.
    In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone who came by to comment. I appreciate each of you for taking the time and making the effort to come by my blog.