Menagerie – 13 Short Stories! #NewRelease @JoanHallWrites

It gives me great pleasure to host my friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall, today! She has a brand-new collection of mystery, suspense, and contemporary short stories. But I’ll let her tell you about it.


Thanks so much for hosting me today, Jan, and for sharing your space to talk about my latest release, Menagerie. It’s a mixed-genre compilation of thirteen short stories. Each tour stop features a different story where I tell what inspired me to write it.

Like me, you’re a music lover. Summerwood is a contemporary fiction story where the male lead is a guitarist in a popular rock band.

Most of the time, I don’t have a title for a book or story until I’ve completed it. This wasn’t the case for Summerwood. I had a title before I knew the first line. It came about because of the name a housing development I passed while driving to work. One morning, I knew I had to write a story with that title.

The only thing I could envision was a young woman browsing a local farmer’s market. Character names, scenes, and the genre came later. The idea of the young woman shopping in an outdoor farmer’s market was inspired by an Al Stewart song from the 1970s, “Year of the Cat.” That’s all I had.

Summerwood is one of two stories inspired by a photo prompt. Many of your readers knew the late Suzanne Burke, and some participated in her weekly flash fiction prompt. One week, she had a picture of a young man on stage. I wrote a short piece about a rock star who’d grown weary of life on the road. After a lengthy tour, he planned to go home where he could unwind.

I wanted to expand the story, and it dawned on me Summerwood was the perfect place. I made a few changes—the lead character, Dylan, became a lead guitarist instead of the lead singer. That seemed to fit better for what I had in mind.

In the story, Dylan collapses on stage and has to drop out of a lengthy tour. He goes home to the town of Summerwood, where he rekindles a relationship with his good friend, Lydia. Dylan comes to the realization that life on the road isn’t what he thought it would be, so he ponders his future.

For the answer, I turned to a real person. The late John Defoore was a music instructor who taught guitar to many popular singers, including Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Michelle Shocked. In the late 1990s, he bought an old hotel in the nearby town of Mineola, Texas, with the idea of hosting a music-performing venue. He ran the Piney Woods Woods Pickin’ Parlor for seventeen years.

Story ideas often come in the most unlikely places and times. I never thought I would blend the name of a housing development, a flash fiction prompt, inspiration from a song, and a real music venue into a short story, but I’m pleased with the way Summerwood came together.


After Bodie’s announcement about extending the tour the prior evening, Dylan couldn’t even say his usual mantra. The additional weeks were more than he wanted to think about. All he could do was take one day at a time.

Tonight. If I can just get through tonight.

He was in the middle of a guitar solo when everything began spinning. The bright lights dimmed, and the music was barely audible. Even his instrument seemed foreign. Something wasn’t right. The last thing he remembered was Sid rushing to his side.


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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62 thoughts on “Menagerie – 13 Short Stories! #NewRelease @JoanHallWrites

  1. I love how you came about this story, Joan. I’m like you and usually come up with a title after I write a story. I remember that challenge and picture well.

    Thanks for hosting, Jan 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, this sounds intriguing and interesting! Wishing you continued success, Joan. Must check this out! Thanks for hosting, Jan. I always know where to find a great read suggestion. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That name stuck with me, Jill. There is a little town on top of a mountain near Tucson, Arizona called Summer Haven. I think that was in the back of my mind as well when I decided to use Summerwood as a town name.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Congratulations, Joan. I loved Menagerie, and reading the backstories is a delight. Thank you, Jan, for spotlighting Joan and her new release. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m loving the stories behind the stories, Joan. I’ve just finished Menagerie and need to write a review. I enjoyed it greatly. Well done, my friend. Wishing you tons of sales and success. Jan, thanks for sharing! Hugs to you both 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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