Guest Post: Menagerie by Joan Hall #newrelease #shortstories @JoanHallWrites

Welcome friends! I have a special guest on my blog today—good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall. I’m super-excited to be taking part in the blog tour for her newest release, Menagerie, a collection of short stories that spans multiple genres. Trust me folks, this one is a gem you don’t want to miss. I’ll be sharing my five star review at the end of this post, but in the meantime, please give a big welcome to Joan!

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

A Moment in Time

Thank you for hosting me today, Mae, and helping me kick on the tour of my latest release. It’s always a pleasure to visit with your readers. Menagerie is a mixed-genre collection of thirteen short stories. For each tour stop, I’ll feature one story and tell what inspired me to write it.

A Moment in Time is a dual timeline story set during the American Civil war in the 1860s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Two women, Joanna and Maggie, deal with life as their husbands are away fighting. Despite living a century apart, Joanna and Maggie have much in common. Both are young wives left on the home front to face the realities of war, and they live on the same farm.

The idea for A Moment in Time came from a childhood memory. In the late 1960s, there was a nearby farm that was once known as the County Farm. At one time, people could drive through the place, but it’s now privately owned. 

The owners raised cattle, but there was also a large grove of pecan trees. In the fall, when the pecans were mature, area residents were able to help with the harvest. One year, my parents decided to take part. I went to the farm a few times after school while waiting for them to finish the day. 

The property had an old two-story building that I later learned served as a jail. As I recall, it had stucco sides and a covered front porch with ornate railings. Although it didn’t date as far back as the 1860s, for some reason I always envisioned it during the time of the American Civil War. 

Maybe it was because I’d recently seen the movie Shenandoah, but I felt connected to those days. Almost like I was back in time. I would sit on the porch looking over the farm and imagine what life was like during the war. 

About a year ago, the idea came to write a story with a similar setting. Instead of an unused building, I decided on a house. My 1860s character, Joanna lived in the home. While it was still standing in the 1960s, Maggie could only dream about what it was like a century earlier. After discovering an old family cemetery, Maggie feels bonded to Joanna, particularly when she sits on the steps of the old house.

What Maggie couldn’t know is that Joanna often sat on the porch, reading letters her husband wrote to her while he was away at war. The two women shared many things—fear their husbands wouldn’t make it home alive, worry the wars would drag on forever, and loneliness.

I wish I had photos of the old building I remembered as a child. Writing A Moment in Time enabled me to recall fond memories of that time and place.

Banner ad for Menagerie, short story collection shows jungle landscape with army helicopters overhead, book cover to right

Joanna observed her husband’s expression as he absorbed everything the officer said. “You’re enlisting, aren’t you?” 

Caleb nodded. “Do you understand why?” 

“I want to.” 

“It’s the only way we’re going to save this country. I can’t, in good conscience, not do my duty.”

They had talked at length about the possibility but hearing him say the words made it real. 

“I have to do this. It’s only for three months.” 

Ninety days a wasn’t long time. But even as Joanna mulled the idea, she couldn’t shake the feeling this war would last a lot longer.

Banner ad for Menagerie, a short story collection by Joan Hall shows Civil War cannon on autumn battlefield, book cover to right


Lloyd pulled a letter from his pocket as he sat opposite her.

Maggie feared what it said but ignoring it wouldn’t make the problem go away. She took the envelope from him, opened it, then began to read.

You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States and to report to Centerville Greyhound Bus Station on June 10, 1968, at 6: 00 a.m. for forwarding to an Armed Forces Induction Station. 

“You’ve been drafted?” 

“Honey, we knew this was a strong possibility. College is the only thing that kept me out of the war this long.” 

Tears filled her eyes. “I know, but I hoped they wouldn’t call you so soon.” 

“I’m not the only one. Two others in my class got their notices today.” 

Maggie looked at the letter again. “June 10. Lloyd, that’s only three weeks away.”

Book cover for Menagerie, a collection of short stories by Joan Hall shows close up of old fashioned street lamp at night

King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?

Each is a famous menagerie.

While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.

Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.

These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.


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This wonderful collection offers thirteen tales spanning multiple genres, the heart of each rooted round strong characters and up-close glimpses into small-town life. Several are set in earlier decades evoking simpler times, others are twinned around legends. One even involves a tale told around a campfire. The writing is polished, and the scenes flow easily, packing fully formed and satisfying stories into gems that can be read over coffee breaks, a long afternoon, or as a way to wind down in the evening. 

Each reader will find their personal favorites. For me, those include A Moment in Time, in which 
two women in different centuries try to remain strong during the long years while their husbands are away at war. 

The Dare is a brilliant take on a town legend. Add an old cemetery, a skeptical journalist, and a dare on Halloween night, and I was glued to the pages. Storm Rider also resonated with me by tapping into my love of urban legends.

In an entirely different vein, The Homecoming is a moving story spun around several generations of a military family who have gathered to honor a fallen hero. Told from several POVs, it’s both a family drama and a beautiful salute to military veterans.

Finally, at the top of my list is Hot August Night in which the author skillfully captures a snapshot of small-town Americana—especially when she delves into a past decade. From the sultry summer air to the odor wafting from a nearby paper mill, to railroad tracks, old records, and family relationships, this is a superb story. The descriptions alone make it a delight to read, and the characterizations are pure gold.

I highly recommend this thoroughly bewitching collection of tales!

I love learning how authors develop their ideas for stories and books. Isn’t it great how we can take a memory from childhood, hold onto it for years, then use it as a springboard for a tale decades later? I’m so glad to be able to host Joan today, and hope you’ll take a moment to drop her a comment.

Afterward, don’t forget to hop over and grab your own copy of Menagerie. It’s a gem!


97 thoughts on “Guest Post: Menagerie by Joan Hall #newrelease #shortstories @JoanHallWrites

  1. Like you, Mae, I’m always interested in learning the story behind the story and what inspired an author to write their tale. Some of those memories from our childhood certainly make a lasting impression. Best of luck to Joan as she begins her tour.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! I have this one on my Kindle, and after reading that excerpt, I KNOW I have to find time to start reading it very, very soon … like maybe TODAY!! I suspect you’ve knocked this one out of the park, Joan, and I’m really looking forward to digging in. And because it’s short stories, I think I can actually find time to do so, rather than just good intentions that fall short. Yay!

    Thanks for hosting Joan today, Mae, and Joan, here’s wishing you huge success with this one! Great post, you two! 🤗❤️🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judi, I found an image of an actual person’s draft notice online, so I took the writing verbatim (changing the name, date, and location). I also talked with my brother who didn’t go to Vietnam but had to go for a physical. A group traveled by bus to Dallas. Some of them, including my brother, were students, but they were told they’d get draft notices anyway, along with another letter to ignore the notice. (Government work at its finest.) By the time he finished college in 1969, he had a medical condition that kept him out of the draft. Please express to your husband my deepest gratitude for his service.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your brother might not have appreciated it at the time, but I’m glad he didn’t have to go to Nam. I hope if his friends did, they all came home. A lot of HH’s friends didn’t. He got lucky–and I do mean that–he was only there for a few months before a sniper shot him through both legs. Didn’t hit a bone or a major blood vessel, but it meant he couldn’t carry a heavy load and walk very long, so they sent him to Japan to heal, then back to the U.S. to finish out his service. If he’d have stayed there longer, it was the Tet Offensive. I don’t think he’d have made it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow! We had a close family friend who served (and came home). Also two cousins. One in the Navy, the other Army. The one who was in the Army carried the scars of that war until he died an early death. I believe agent orange was partly responsible for his illness. The Tet Offensive was a bad one. I almost had my character being involved with that, but changed my mind. I’m glad your husband made it home safely.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A fabulous introduction to Joan’s collection of stories, Mae, and your review is a wonderful hook. I have the book waiting for me in my kindle and hope to start it tonight. A good reason to turn in early. Congrats to Joan on her newest book. It sounds like a winner. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was such a brilliantly written dual-timeline story, Joan. I loved it and the connection the two women felt across the span of time. What a great place to start your tour! I wish you tons of success. Thank you for hosting, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • This was one of my absolute favorite stories in the book, Jan (second after Hot Summer Night). I’ve read so much about the Civil War, and I loved the way Joan paralleled that time with Vietnam. I agree it was just spectacular.
      Thanks for adding your recommendation and for cheering on Joan with her latest release!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Fascinating and haunting story concept. I especially love the picture in my head of Maggie and Joanna intersecting across time with their experiences and emotions. Wonderful post. Very well done. Big wishes to the multi-talented Joan. Many thanks to Mae for sharing quality reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I was writing this story, the title “A Moment in Time” came to me, but I wasn’t sure how to make it work for the story. I was near the end of the first draft and thought I might need to title the story something else when an idea sparked. I enjoy reading dual-timeline stories. Writing one about two women a century apart just seemed to come naturally to me. Thank you so much for stopping by today.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There used to be a lot of pecan groves in our area. I’m not sure if the one is still there on that farm or not. Yes, both those wars (and all wars) were full of bloodshed. Those times were especially trying for many.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never seen a pecan grove, but would love to, Jacquie! 🙂

      I agree with you about those women. I know the men put heir lives on the line, but I the wives and family they left behind went through their own kind of emotional trauma.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review. Thanks for cheering on Joan!

      Liked by 2 people

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