My uncle, Darrell Neely, was many things but he was a lifelong reader.

My uncle, Darrell Neely, was many things but he was a lifelong reader.
He fed his mind a steady diet of books, favoring those with a supernatural or mysterious bent but he read anything that caught his fancy.
In the days when becoming a published writer and an author were still dreams, not reality, I sometimes shared my stories with my uncle. He read them, commented on them, and sometimes critiqued them.
Because he and I lived in different parts of Missouri, much of our communication was done by correspondence because in the 1980's, we didn't have the internet.
I spent little time with my uncle growing up for several reasons but as a young adult, I came to know him with affection.
I still have some of his letters tucked away, as I do many, although if I had to put my hand on them today, it would require some searching.
He read my work and encouraged me to keep writing. And, when I began to sell a few short stories to various magazines, he was proud.
Uncle Darrell seemed to know that I would someday realize my goal of writing a book and finding a publisher to bring it into the world, even when I wasn't as certain.
In my life, many relatives and friends encouraged me to pursue my writing dreams, my parents, grandparents, other aunts, uncles, and cousins among them but I didn't share my unpublished manuscripts with more than a few.
One of those short stories I shared was titled 'Witches' Sixpence', a story based in the Ozarks.
I found the title in one of Vance Randolph's folklore books about the region, Ozark Magic and Superstitions. To compile it and many of his other works, he collected folklore from around the Ozarks, including some from Newton and McDonald counties.
In the lore, a witches' sixpence was someone who paid the cost of another individual becoming a witch.
The first of my short fiction pieces were published in the mid to late 1980's, when I worked in broadcast media. I sent each one faithfully to my uncle.
Uncle Darrell died in October 1993, a time when my writing was in near hiatus.
Life interrupted my endeavors for a period of time but I never stopped writing completely.
I had picked up a pen once more and had made a few forays into computers. After I was married in 1994, I began picking out stories, first on a manual Royal typewriter, then on an Apple computer my brother rescued from a destiny with a dumpster. Then my brother-in-law put together the first comuter with online access and a new world of writing opened up to me.
That story, after some rewriting and revision, 'Witches' Sixpence' was accepted by a small publication called Scrivener's Pen in 2003. For the first time, I worked with a professional editor and learned that a good editor will help to enhance and improve your work. Armand Inezian, was that editor. And, the next year, in 2004, I received an Editor's Pen Award from the publication. At one time, the story was still archived online but I'm not sure if it remains.
From that, six years later, in 2010, I signed my first novel contract with Champagne Books and the same year, another with Evernight Publishing. Eight years later, I have novels with both of the above as well as Clean Reads (formerly Astraea Press) and World Castle Publishing. At one time, I also published with Rebel Ink Press. There are several novels, some in paperback and all in eBook format along with a decent list of short story publications in magazines and anthologies.
I have no doubt that my Uncle Darrell would have had each one and he would have bragged about his niece, the writer, to anyone who would listen.
My uncle would be 88 years old tomorrow if he hadn't passed away in 1993.
But, I remember the man as well as the unwavering encouragement and support he gave me. Thank you, Uncle Darrell.

Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer and writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.