At 47, I’m hovering somewhere between early onset of menopause and the rest of my life, spending more time at funeral homes than I’d like as of late, and realizing that retirement is nary two decades away. And realizing that two decades ain’t such a long time.
Bringing that into sharp, and downright painful focus is the passing of my favorite uncle earlier this year to damnable cancer. As his niece, as a writer, and I think, as a human being, I find myself suddenly and predictably desperate to hold onto the stories that are so much a part of my clan’s history, and that rich, intricate and convoluted fabric of family.
For precious moments, those stories of yore bring my loved ones a little closer, and give me the singular opportunity to revel in the undiluted, childish joy they’ve brought me time and again throughout my life. But I also feel a need to honor, in my humble way, the great line of storytellers from which I hail. To remember the gatherings where they were told and retold, by whom, and the embellishments, versions and tweaks that have been added along the way because these stories—something to which everyone has contributed—have become the stone soup of my soul.
Both my uncle and my father (brothers) played off one another at family gatherings like stage professionals, flawless in their timing, their delivery of tales making us all laugh until we cried and our stomachs ached. Where do I begin? Gems such as the time my father and his boyhood friends’ attempt at becoming trappers went sideways comes easily to mind. On one ill-fated day, they snared a skunk, and upon arriving at home with their spoils (which, at this point my uncle would chime in and relate the progression of the smell, in direct correlation with his ride home from work), my grandfather proclaimed with conviction that the only way the skunk hide would be worth the fifty cents my father had visions of earning from it would be to stick two quarters up its ass.
Indeed. Words of wisdom from a man (who I never had the pleasure of meeting), who, if he felt his daughters’ beaus were cozying up in the parlor too late or too long, wouldn’t think twice about strolling through the house in his underwear.
Ah, it’s gems like these that warm me all the way through, and come to mind at odd times, or precisely the right moment – I’m not sure which, for me to regale my daughter with when she needs a lift, or insight.
The storytelling in my family isn’t without its more serious side. In an attempt to record some more of that history, I recently asked my mother to tell me all she could remember about her grandparents, while I recorded it on my phone. Here’s one of my favorites:
In search of a better life, my great grandmother, Susan Jevin (pronounced with a ‘Y’, not a ‘J’, left Czechoslovakia, making the trip to America by herself at the age of sixteen, never to return, and never to see her family again, save for her sister who’d moved to Michigan, years later. Wow. True grit at its grittiest. It honors and humbles me to know that kind of blood runs through my veins. Susan would meet and marry Paul Semes, a skinny but wiry man who, after coming home from working at the local steel mill—he worked in the store room, managing all of the parts, and my grandfather (my dad’s dad) remembered him, said he was your man if you needed to find something, anything)–could, and often did, eat a whole pie, and remained as skinny as the string beans they grew in their garden.
See what I just did? Gave you a story within a story. It seems the stories I hold so dear are more often than not, just that. And to my way of thinking, a gift.
In this same vein of laughter, storytelling and friendship, I’m blessed to have a group of friends, the majority of whom I’ve known over half my life, some all my life. These friends are my family. My people. While we don’t see each other all the time, when we do, we don’t miss a beat, picking up where we left off, telling new stories, recounting old ones, and catching up on all the beginnings, middles and ends we might have missed.
Speaking of beginnings, it occurred to me on a recent trip to the Heinz History Center there are always new stories emerging, all around us. I see this blessed phenomena every day in my daughter, as she prepares for college and embraces her passions, one of which is photography. I found it serendipitous she wanted to see the ‘Eyes of Pittsburgh’ exhibit, featuring the Post Gazette’s photo archives spanning 100 years of the city’s history, while I was working on this blog. Coincidence? Kizmet? Either way, I’ll take it.
As long as man has gathered around fire, stories have been told—to educate and entertain, sustain and soothe, amuse and fascinate. As the self appointed scribe of my clan, I will always treasure the stories of the past. But I’ve also a sneaking suspicion that the best stories are the ones yet to unfold. And often, there’s joy, and a delicious wonder to be had in the not knowing.
For example, to this day, I have no idea how two of my father’s and my uncle’s boyhood friends came to be eloquently, and lovingly referred to as Stump and Pickle. I like to think it might have had something to do with their late night sampling, shall we say, of a neighbor’s apple cider stash.
So far, 2018 has proven a tough year. Several of my family and friends have been sick and ended up in the hospital–myself included. My uncle passed not long ago, after his battle with cancer. There have also been a lot of changes at my day job, and that’s whittled away at my time to write.
On Saturday, my boyfriend and I were out for a drive, to go nowhere in particular. My favorite kind! It was cold, but sunny, another bonus. We stopped at the Spillway on the Pymatuning Reservoir in Linesville, aka ‘Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish’. Never been? Read all about it here. No fish in March, but hundreds upon hundreds of seagulls and geese crowded the sidewalks and the edge of the pier. A stranger offered us a loaf of bread to feed them. Seeing the birds flock and fight for the bread, flapping their wings, soaring in majestic patterns over the water, I laughed out loud in wonder and sheer delight.
Ah, wonder! It’s my opinion we need to seek wonder, hold on to it, cherish it, whenever we can, however fleeting. And sometimes, magically, wonder finds us, unexpectedly. Those moments of pure joy are what life is about, and indeed, the Spillway was teeming with life that day.
Me? I choose wonder.
What ‘wonder’ moments have you experienced lately? Please share!
A storyteller at heart, my innate curiosity runs deep. As an individual passionate about self-expression, all forms of art and creativity, tattoos have fascinated me for years. And as a writer of romance with an inquisitive mind who adores bestowing said indelible designs upon her characters, I set out to explore how the two intertwined.
The history of storytelling and tattooing are both as old as time. Across cultures and countries, races and religions, both send messages, and even unite us as human beings.
Storytelling, I believe, is an ingrained part of our make up as human beings. We have always had a soul deep desire to explain, understand, teach, learn, calm, empower, commemorate and connect. Too, just as storytelling was, and is an art, so was, and is listening. Stories were told, and retold, and as man explored the globe, those same stories were shared, changed, stretched and expanded, and told again. Messages of wisdom, knowledge, values and beliefs from our collective ancestors are reflected in the myths, legends, fairy tales and other lore—fact and fiction—handed down from one generation to the next, and keep us connected to one another, as well as the past, present and future.
Today, every aspect of our lives it seems, is touched by myriad stories in both the traditional sense, in that we share stories verbally, face to face, and in the modern sense, via movies, books, magazines, music, television, social media and the Internet.
I believe just as storytelling satisfies basic human needs and desires, so does tattooing. For thousands of years, men and women have tattooed their bodies for many reasons, including self-expression and as part of their culture’s rituals. Regardless of the reason, they all have one common denominator: they give us the ability to communicate powerful messages to one another, without the need for words.
In an article at Smithsonian.com, author Cate Lineberry describes tattoos: “These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.”
Indeed! From ancient cave etchings to modern sculpture, history, art and pop culture pay homage to said ‘permanent designs’. And in recent years, the popularity and diversity of body art, which includes tattooing, piercing and painting, has exploded and been wholeheartedly embraced as mainstream, via magazines, social media, conventions, competitions and television shows such as Miami Ink.
Per an article at Huffington Post, it’s estimated that one third of America’s young adults, aged 18-25, have at least one tattoo, per a report done by the Pew Research Center. As such, the tattoo industry is one of the fastest growing retail business in America.
To get a close up, personal view of this ‘tattoo phenomenon’ at one such business and the artist behind it, I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Boney “Joe” Clark, seasoned tattoo artist and owner of Tattoos by Boney Joe in Zelienople, PA. In the business for over thirty years, he generously shared his views on the industry, the art form and some storytelling of his own.
When we met, Joe explained he’d recently returned from a motorcycle trip. “I’m not a conventional traveler,” he said about the trip. “I like to experience it with all of my senses. Smell the air, taste the rain, see and touch the landscape.”
Interestingly, I believe it’s these very things a true artist seeks to capture in his work. And indeed, Joe’s artistry extends to his expertise as a master body piercer, as well as his flair for metal design work.
As a teenager, Joe became interested in tattooing after being at a fair and seeing a guy tattooing people in the back of his van. He’d always loved to draw, and instantly, he thought, “I can do better.” Starting his business on a wing and a prayer, he’s faced his share of trials, including a town that was, at first, slow to embrace a tattoo studio. But in true survivor fashion, he overcame—and not just the challenges of being a business owner. Joe is intensely proud of the fact he’s been drug free since 1988, and the tattoo on his left forearm is a testament to that.
He explained the basic mechanics of getting a tattoo to me, the tools that are used, and the artistry involved. Yes, they use what’s called a stencil of the design that’s transferred to the skin of the person getting the tattoo. But that will only take the artist so far. He or she has to also be able to draw freehand for certain designs, like a face, for example. The artist isn’t really ‘drawing’ the face, at least not at first. They use a ‘map’ to build the face, and their talent enables them to complete it. Every design is unique, and the time and talents needed to complete them depend on their complexity.
For any tattoo, Joe wants details and specifics, so the person receiving it gets exactly what they want. And the more complicated, the more details. He used the example of a butterfly. “What kind?” he posed. “A Monarch? A Malachite? A Pearly Eye? Should the wings be open or closed? Should it tilt to the right or left?” It’s details like these that are necessary to ensure everyone’s on the same page, before any work begins.
The tattoos on Joe’s hands are one example of the fun he’s had with ‘ink’ over the years. He explained that during the Veggie Tale craze in the 90s, two of his artists had a tattoo ‘war’, each trying to ‘out design’ the other. The result? On his right hand, a kind of crazed carrot wields a chain saw, and a deranged eggplant eyes the world cockily on his left. Recently, however, the carrot took on additional meaning to Joe, when he beat kidney cancer two years ago. Since then, he’s once again emerged as a survivor, and as such, added a commemorative ribbon to the design—which the carrot’s chainsaw is now ‘slashing’ through. Joe’s message is clear: “I kicked cancer’s ass.”
In thirty years’ time, Joe has designed thousands of tattoos, and tattooed three to four generations of people, even entire families. What’s his favorite thing to tattoo? “I’ll tattoo anything and love it, if it’s something that person is certain about, and it has deep meaning to them,” he said. “I don’t care if it means anything to anyone else. People may even look at it and have no idea what it is. But as long as the person who got it is happy, that’s what counts.” He told me about the woman who, after receiving her tattoo, was so moved she began to cry. “It was deeply satisfying,” he said.
I felt privileged to hear what was perhaps his favorite story, about an 82-year old woman who came to his shop with her daughter and granddaughter–all to get tattoos. When Joe asked her why she was getting it, he recalled what she said in detail. “She turned to me, and said, ‘You know kid, I was married to the meanest son of a bitch for fifty three years and I just buried him two months ago. I’m having the time of my life.’ ” And after the trio was done? This 82-year ‘young’ woman and company were headed to see male strippers. Bada bing. “She was sharp as a tack,” Joe said with a smile.
There’s no doubt Joe has had some ‘colorful’ experiences as a tattoo artist. But to him, it’s about a lot more than just the end result. He sincerely cares about the people who walk through his door, and their long-term satisfaction. At times, he’s even advised people not to get a tattoo.
Case in point—Joe told me the story about an eighteen-year-old man who came to the shop, bent on getting a tattoo that would pay homage to Michael Jordan. “When I asked him why, he listed Jordan’s many accomplishments,” Joe said. “I told him, fine. If you really want it, come back tomorrow and you’ll be my first appointment of the day. But first I want you to think about something. Remember how great everyone thought O.J. Simpson used to be? Things happen. Do you really want a tattoo like that for the rest of your life? It might not be so cool five years from now. Maybe you’re better off just wearing a Jordan ball cap.”
With that, Joe sent him on his way. Later that same evening, the man called him, and told him he’d gone to another shop where the artist had been eager to give him the tattoo. But the man decided not to get it. Instead, he thought about how Joe had gone out of his way to tell him all that he did, and it really made him stop and think. This guy cared.
And so he does. In 2001, Joe had the unique opportunity to share his expert knowledge of body piercing with the local medical community. After piercing the friend of a teaching nurse from a college in Pittsburgh, she was so impressed with Joe’s studio and his knowledge she suggested they present it directly to the medical community in the form of a seminar on piercing removal and care—a topic, at that time, about which there was little knowledge. In addition, Joe is extremely proud the information was also published in a textbook used by nursing students.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about tattoo shops and artists is they’re like McDonald’s, meaning, they’re all the same. They’re not,” Joe said definitively. “That idea leads people to start price shopping, and you just can’t, nor should you do that for something you’re going to have on your body for the rest of your life. Another misconception is that the tattoo industry is regulated. It isn’t, by and large, in Pennsylvania. That makes choosing a tattoo artist, based on their experience and standards even more critical.” That’s something Joe swears by—he holds himself and his artists to the highest standards in all aspects of the business.
Along with his passion for the business, Joe understands what makes a great tattoo artist: skill, passion and personality.
One of Joe’s artists, ‘Tez’, a.k.a Emery Joseph Kertesz IV and Gentlemen Tattooist, was at the
studio to contribute to our conversation, and offered the following insight: “If you take away any one of those three qualities, you have a good artist, and if you take away two, you have only an artist.”
So, why do people get tattoos? “In my experience,” Joe said, “people want to commemorate someone, or an event in their lives, or something they’re passionate about, like hunting. They also do it just because they think it’s cool. And some get a tattoo because it’s a fad.” Most popular lately? “Dandelions, and as their fluff is blowing away, it’s turning into birds. Also semi-colons, and anything with script or words,” he said. (Click here to read more about Project Semicolon)
The word tattoo is thought to be derived from both the Polynesian word “ta”, meaning “to strike”, and the Tahitian “tatau”, meaning “to mark.” Without a doubt, ‘Boney’ Joe Clark has indeed made his mark, indelibly, as an artist, a business owner and a supporter of the community.
So, what’ve I discovered from my sojourn into the world of tattoos, and how they intertwine with storytelling? I believe that not only is each tattoo a story unto itself, so is each client, and each artist. As each ‘tattoo’ story unfolds, both the client and the artist are telling that story—the client, with his choice of design, his experiences and motivations, and the artist, with his execution of that design, his talent, and his passion.
I’m also honored to have heard, and to relate the stories Joe shared with me—and to add my own ‘threads’ to their existing fabric. After all, I am a storyteller. It’s also my sincere hope that my message is clear: I’ve listened, and I’ve spoken. I’ve learned, and been entertained. I’ve understood, and I’ve connected.
I hope you do too.
PLEASE SHARE: What’s the story behind your tattoo? What inspired you to get it?
The year? 1984. On the silver screen, all Samantha Baker wanted for her sixteenth birthday was for Jake Ryan to notice she was alive, and Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese were running for their lives from a lethal cyborg who promised he’d ‘be back.’ Fast forward five years to 1989. Sally Albright and Harry Burns had just begun a decade old argument about whether or not men and women could ever really be friends.
What do they all have in common? Sixteen Candles, The Terminator and When Harry Met Sally are all love stories that’ve become a part of me and my imagination, and continue to speak to my heart, years later.
And they’re all stories that convey the lasting, soul deep, quirky, crazy and desperate facets of romance, passion and love that I’m keen to put on the page for my readers.
I was an awkward, impressionable fourteen year old in 1984. I got Samantha Baker. In a lot of ways, she was me. And I wanted to be Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. She gave me hope, along with thousands of other girls who didn’t have the perfect hair, body, outfit or friends, that love would find a way. And she did it by staying true to herself, and by being kind to Farmer Ted, a.k.a the geek. Lots of laughs to be sure, but the tender dreams in her young girl’s heart echoed my own—and that’s what permanently etched this flick across my heart.
Every time I watch Terminator, I hope Kyle Reese will somehow escape the clutches of the Terminator and have a happily ever after with Sarah Connor. How can I not? He crossed time to find and save the woman he loved. Is there anything more romantic? Or more thrilling than watching the pair run for their lives? From the safety of my seat in the theater, I still remember watching the eighteen wheeler almost run them over. The fleeting amount of time that Kyle and Sarah share is, to me, the indescribable essence of true love in many ways. And this flick captured it, beautifully. The End. As Sarah says, ‘they loved a lifetime.’ And so they did. Time, in and of itself, is meaningless, a paradox in a story about the future. And then, not at all. The special effects might be simple by today’s standards, but the music has me hiding under my pillow every time. This one’s a keeper!
Every time I watch When Harry Met Sally, I think I love it more. Kudos to the incomparable Nora Ephron. The stories within the story cover the gamut, from like to love, from marriage to divorce, from friendship to courtship. And the struggles and triumphs are just as relevant today. I love that Harry and Sally are the complete opposite of love at first sight. How fascinating in our world of instant gratification. Too, the couple interviews throughout not only endear, but echo their journey. Love wins. It works. It’s strange, sometimes unexpected. But young or old, we’ve all got a story to tell. Of how we’ve lost. And won. Too many reasons to count, but this one’s on my permanent HEA list, because I walk away with the message, loud and clear: love endures.
Stories don’t change. But we, the readers, the viewers, do. Not only because of life experiences. But because of the story itself, I like to think. I’ve revisited these epic faves as I’ve moved through the seasons in my own life. From the comical to the confused, the passionate to the paranormal, every time, I think I find a little bit of myself.
To bring us full circle, my daughter (who, interestingly enough is sixteen) was watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries recently on Netflix. As I was making dinner, I caught the tune playing at the end. A cover of The Thompson Twins song, “If You Were Here”, by the Cary Brothers.
Red Porsche. Bridesmaid’s dress. “This is the guy!” Need I say more?
Fun fact: Molly Ringwald actually played Sally Albright in a stage production of When Harry Met Sally, circa 2004.
Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome paranormal romance authors C.D. Hersh. Today, this husband and wife team is sharing more about their Turning Stone Chronicles stories. Specifically, ‘Five Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the Shifter World of The Turning Stone Chronicles’. As for the shifters? They’re not your typical werewolves…
The Turning Stone Chronicles – Three ancient Celtic families. A magical Bloodstone that enables the wearers to shape shift. A charge to use the stone’s power to benefit mankind, and a battle, that is going on even today, to control the world. Can the Secret Society of shape shifters called the Turning Stone Society heal itself and bring peace to our world? Find out in The Series The Turning Stone Chronicles.
The Turning Stone Chronicles is a paranormal romance series that is different than any other paranormal series you have probably read. We have shifters in our books, but they are not the run-of-mill werewolves you might be used to reading about. Our were creatures are based on the psychology of human Id, ego and ???
Here are five interesting tidbits about our unique world. We hope they will pique your curiosity enough that you’ll want to know more about the Secret Society of the Turning Stones.
1.Shifting abilities in The Turning Stone Chronicles series are not based on being bitten or drained of blood, or turned like the run of the mill vamps or werewolves, but on the concept that mankind has three distinct aspects to their beings: male, female, and animal. Accomplished, powerful shifters in our world can reach their tri-status. Less powerful shifters—not so much.
2. To be part of our shifter world, one must have a magic Turning Stone ring in his, or her, possession and read the inscription inside the ring. But watch out! The initial Celtic recitation is a heart-stopper.
3. Have you ever wondered what happens to a shifter’s clothes? In the earliest introductions of shifters those cursed with lycanthropy would shed and hide his, or her, clothes before shifting. When they were ready to convert back to humans, they went back to the hiding place, changed, and put on their clothing. The bad thing was if someone moved their clothing, they were stuck being an animal. Our shifters are not like the tales of werewolves or selkies (seals who become people) who have to shed their clothes or coats to change and cannot get back without them. The ring’s magic absorbs the wearer’s clothing when he shifts to his animal ego.
4. So, you ask, where did this magic ring come from? Many eons ago, when magic existed side by side with man, an ancient magic Celtic bloodstone was given to three young Scottish men, along with the task of using the magic for the good of mankind. The three families cut rings cut from the heart of the stone, the power of each piece varying as it moved away from the heart of the stone.
5. The most powerful piece of the stone was kept by the Keeper of the Stone. But power corrupts, and over time power corrupted some of the factions of the Turning Stone Society. Now the members of this secret society, many living among us in positions of power, are locked in a battle to collect the rings, control the world, and thereby bring peace once again. But whose peace will reign? The peace of the good side or of the rogue, evil side?
To find the answer to that question you’ll have to read the books.
The Promised One (Book One of The Turning Stone Chronicles) Blood Brothers (Book Two of The Turning Stone Chronicles) Son of the Moonless Night (Book Three of The Turning Stone Chronicles) The Mercenary and the Shifters (Book Four of The Turning Stone Chronicles)
Shaw’s heart stopped racing as she relaxed in his grip, then amped back up, pounding against his ribs. Shit. Assault, battery, and now . . . murder. Quick and easy money to pay for the wedding. That’s all he’d been after. They’ll put me away for life if I get caught. Lulu’s gonna be pissed if I screw up her wedding plans.
Pushing into a squat, he stared at the dark stain spreading across the dress front. He removed the ring from the woman’s finger. She should have just given it to him.
The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”
With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.
“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.
Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.
He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.
The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.
A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard.
Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.
Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?
Terrified, Shaw fled.
The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed the excerpt and peek into the magical world of The Turning Stone Chronicles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.
C. D. Hersh is a husband and wife writing team (Catherine and Donald) who are high school sweethearts who know the meaning of true love.
Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to the couple. They’ve done it separately since they were teenagers, although neither one will probably let you read those ancient manuscripts for fear you’d die laughing. They’ve come a long way since those days. But, hey, we all start somewhere.
When they aren’t collaborating on a book, they enjoy reading; singing; theatre and drama; traveling; remodeling houses (Donald has remodeled something in every home they’ve owned); and antiquing. Catherine, who loves gardening, has recently drawn Donald into her world as a day laborer. Catherine is an award-winning gardener — you can see some of her garden on their website.
They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.
Please make welcome Claire Gem, author of paranormal romance. Today, she’s sharing her inspiration for an upcoming story, CIVIL HEARTS, and you may be surprised to find out how the idea came to her…
Thank you, Rebecca, for hosting me today!
I’m taking advantage of the inspiration of November, National Novel Writing Month, to work on my upcoming supernatural suspense, CIVIL HEARTS. This one takes place in a haunted plantation home in a fictitious town in rural western Alabama. I’m proud today to share with all of Rebecca’s readers a little about the story-in-progress . . .
The inspiration for this book came from an actual experience in my past. Years ago, we were considering a move to Alabama. We toured an old Antebellum home on a lovely piece of land in a tiny town that was, literally, in the middle of nowhere. It had been empty a long time, and was for sale for a ridiculously low price. Our plans to move fell through, but I never forgot the regal old mini-mansion, or the strange vibes I experienced walking through it.
I had completely forgotten about that house until I had a dream about it just last month. Many of my story ideas come to me in dreams, and this one was delivered just about fully formed! I quickly rose and typed out a synopsis. Being November was right around the corner, I figured it was perfect timing. I’m hoping the book will be ready for an early January 2018 release!
But oh, the research! My ghost in CIVIL HEARTS was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. I will admit, my knowledge of that period in history is sketchy at best. I am fortunate that both my brother and his wife are fascinated with that time period, and have been very helpful in helping me get the details right.
So, here’s a sneak peek at the blurb for CIVIL HEARTS:
After her husband’s sudden death, Liv Larson finds herself out of place in her previous circle of all-couple-friends in Manhattan. With no family, no real roots to hold her fast, she questions whether she truly belongs in the big city–the only place she’s ever known. A dart thrown at the map lands on a tiny town in western, rural Alabama. Liv falls in love with the Belle Bride, an abandoned, antebellum home, the first time she sees it.
Heath Barrow lives a quiet, conservative life managing his antiques business in sleepy Camellia. Alone since his childhood-sweetheart-turned-wife left him for the big-city life, he has no intentions of removing the armor from his heart anytime soon. Especially for the new girl in town–a city girl, no less. Yet he can’t deny the synergy between them.
Then, Liv discovers she’s not entirely alone in her new home. And the previous occupant isn’t too pleased about a Yankee living in his house, since he fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War–almost two hundred years ago.
Thank you, Rebecca, for having me on your blog today.
To anyone who signs up for my Author Reader Group HERE, I’m offering my award winning, supernatural short story SECOND CHANCES. I’ll also be selecting a random new subscriber to win a free e-book of ANY of my novels. You can find the complete list at my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.
MORE ABOUT CLAIRE GEM
Claire Gem is the award-winning author of contemporary romance, romantic women’s fiction, and supernatural suspense. You can find out more about her at her WEBSITE or her AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.
I’m very pleased to welcome long time friend, writer & editor, Linda Gerber. I first met Linda over fifteen years ago. At that time, she was the editor of a magazine for which we both wrote articles. I was just starting out, and she mentored me along the way, and helped me to grow as a writer. I wanted to share her writing journey with you today, because Linda continues to inspire me with her unwavering passion, creativity and generosity, as well as her longevity.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing professionally since before my children were born. My oldest is in his early thirties.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. I always loved writing even before I knew I had a talent for it. Putting pencil to paper was an evolving passion long before I ever made a living by writing or editing. It wasn’t until I worked for several publications that I considered myself a legitimate writer.
What is your inspiration, and how do you continue to be inspired?
My inspiration is at its peak when I come across a story that I feel in my heart, needs to be told. Something serious that I feel passionate about and I want to share with others. When I personally experience a situation in life and I know that readers would connect with me, it’s marketable. I am very optimistic so I usually put a funny spin on it. I continue to be inspired by daily events.
What types of writing and other creative projects have you been/are you involved in?
I have been involved with many writing events including: writers’ boot camps, judging writing contests, Barnes & Noble classes, and guest speaking. I continue to be involved in the process of writing and editing as leader of Grove City Writers’ Group.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to this group of writers, and they’re awesome! Young and old, a mix of fiction and non-fiction writers – I always learn something new 🙂
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Venting. Getting the word out, literally. It is sometimes even therapeutic to write, good or bad.
What advice would you give to someone interested in writing, and just getting started?
Not every writer needs to write a book or to get published in any form. It’s OK to just write for yourself. At the beginning, join a group of other writers who share your passion. You are welcome to become part of my writing group if you are local. (Grove City, PA) If you are looking into profitable writing, be patient. Start small with newspapers and magazines until you fine-tune your art. Although it’s great to see that byline, don’t give too much away for free. It’s alright to write without compensation to get those first few clips, but if you want true respect for quality work, make them pay!
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
It is quite an accomplishment to have been able to make a living by writing and editing although there is a lot of competition in both of those fields. Surprisingly, what I am most proud of is being able to give back through my writing group and my book group. Honestly, it’s hard work because I see my members as trusting and hungry for information so I have to give my best at every meeting. I know it’s hard to find time for people to get together physically for discussions. I want them to know that they will walk out of the groups feeling that it was not a waste of precious time. Giving back is what it’s all about!
What challenges and triumphs have you experienced as a writer over the years?
Challenges? Mostly deadlines, as I’m sure you know. Also writer’s block, which comes when you least expect it. Triumphs? Getting published. Seeing that byline and receiving a check that values your talent.
Describe your writing process. Pen and paper, or computer?
Definitely pen and paper. The computer comes in later. My writing process always starts with an idea, which needs to be written down immediately. Any piece of paper will do at the time. Short notes to remind me of key points are then folded and placed into my idea jar to be reviewed at a later date.
What types of books do you like to read?
I like every genre! The look and feel and smell of books… it’s all good! Since I lead a book club, I have to be open to all possibilities. Of course, the fact that I work in a library helps me to expand my horizons.
Favorite author(s)? E reader or actual book?
Actual book. By a landslide. Favorite author? Rebecca E. Neely 😉
Are you on Facebook/other social media, where blog audience can connect with you?
If anyone wants to contact me, they can either email me at email@example.com (please put Rebecca Neely in the title) or call me at Grove City Community Library at 724-458-7320. All are welcome to join my Writers’ group that is held within the library the third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 p.m.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
I used to think that writing was a talent that we are born with, like being an artist. I can’t draw and I don’t believe art is a learned talent. Artists are genetically gifted and can be amazing at art without any instruction because it comes from within.
So are we born with the talent of spinning a story? I have learned that there are very talented writers who can pour out words as smooth as silk with little effort, while others have different and sometimes more difficult ways of writing.
If you feel the desire to write, in my mind, you’re a writer.
My biggest issue? I can’t turn off the editing button! Even when texting or reading signs! Hey Rebecca, remember the quote on the wall of our cottage where you stayed for your little vacation? It has an error in usage. That’s why I bought it!
LOL – yes I do remember! And as you know, my biggest pet peeve is incorrect use of apostrophes, for making an ‘s’ possessive 🙂 That’s all I have to say about that…
Linda – thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful answers. I appreciate you spending time with us today, and I wish you all the best as you continue your writing journey!
I’m a huge fan of Aldi’s grocery stores. If you’ve never been, you put a quarter in the grocery cart slot to ‘rent’ it while you shop. When you’re finished, you return it to the cart station, lock it back up, and receive your quarter.
The kindness of strangers I’ve witnessed over a mere quarter warms my heart each time I visit the store. People will graciously offer you a quarter for the cart, as you’re returning it to the store. When I’ve done the same, some people have even refused it, saying they’re passing it on, because it was given to them.
That’s the kind of paying it forward I’m talking about.
And that one simple, small act of kindness just seems to set the overall tone for the shopping experience. Yesterday, it was extremely busy in the store. But people weren’t stressed, complaining and muttering. Everyone seemed fine with waiting, even laughing about how crowded the aisles were. People were patient, polite, saying ‘excuse me’. While standing in line to check out, I spoke with the woman behind me, and we commented on different items we were buying, and how good they were.
We’ve all had our share of people who’ve been downright rude, unkind and unpleasant. We all know there’s a lot wrong with the world. Goodness knows social media and the news reinforces that daily. But there’s also a lot that’s right.
And I’m a big believer in enjoying the little things, which can sometimes be huge. The kindness I witness each time I go to Aldi’s is one of them. It warms my heart, renews my faith in people.
I started writing Fire Born – Book 1 of the Guardian Series about four years ago. I think it has been simmering below the surface for two decades at least. I have always felt in tune with the earths energy and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t believe in magic and other worlds. I often catch glimpses of things in the shadow. Or hear whispers below the surface of everyday conversation.
Often, playing make believe has felt more real to me than real life. Maybe that’s what makes a good author; the ability to step into other worlds, to hear the voices of others and bring them through.
In 2007 I went through a messy divorce and found myself losing all sense of who I was. A friend and I went to see a psychic. Perhaps it was more about searching for “the other” again than trying to find myself, but I asked my questions and the physic gave me her answers. All quite standard stuff. Until the end. She looked at me and informed me that I had two caregivers that stood in the shadows behind me. The truth of the statement hit me so hard I began to cry immediately. She reminded me that if I ever had any questions about my life, all I had to do was ask my question before sleep took me and my answers would come to me in my dreams.
What is strange about that is that I am imminently aware that I have voracious dreams but I’ve never been able to clearly remember them for more than a minute after waking. DreamWalking became a focal point in this story because it is something that I consistently question.
So why do I write Paranormal and why these characters and this story? Because I believe in the earth elements, in the dream world, in that which we cannot see. And I believe these characters have been asking me to tell their story for quite some time. I hope I got it right.
Independent, tough as nails, and fierce to her core, Alex Taleisin can’t quite believe it when she has to fight for her life against something not-quite-human in the YMCA parking lot.
That’s when her aunt lets her in on the family secret. They’re immortal—Elementals to be precise, and Alex is the long-lost daughter of the strongest female warrior of their time.
Her guardian (a freaking Dragon!) and the sexiest man Alex has ever seen gives her a choice. Go with him, learn how to control her fire, and find her father’s people, or try to survive on her own. It’s an easy choice considering she’s only twenty-six. And the Elders may already be on her trail thanks to the fight with the nut job in the parking lot kick-starting her dormant DNA.
Enter an insane grandfather, a shifter with a hidden agenda, and a witch with a shoe addiction, and suddenly loner Alex is wishing for a quiet house in the hills with the dragon she’s falling for.
But a fight is coming and Alex knows the only way to find her answers is to trust her powers and become the warrior she was destined to be.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak to my daughter’s creative writing classes. What an amazing experience. I was truly honored and delighted to speak with these ninth and tenth graders, many of whom I saw myself in at that age—full of promise, creative, shy, hopeful, a bit awkward.
After writing professionally for 15+ years, it’s a privilege for me to give back, and share my experience whenever I can. What motivated me further to wrangle an invitation from the teacher was that as a teenager, I really wanted to be a writer but didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know any writers. The internet hadn’t been invented yet. I had no concept of career possibilities in writing beyond journalism. Nor was the kindly high school guidance counselor a help, whose counseling amounted to informing me late in my senior year that I had enough credits to graduate. So much for guidance. But that’s a story for another blog. Long story short, I ended up getting a degree in Accounting. But again, that’s a story for another blog.
With all this in mind, I set out to create a brief presentation for the classes. Certainly, I wanted to tell them about my experience, about having come at writing sideways, from an accounting career. And about how I began freelancing, and eventually writing romance novels.
But much more important to me was to get them talking. Because guess what? It’s not all about me. I even asked the teacher to have the students put together some questions ahead of time so I could be prepared, and not waste any of the 42 minute period.
I also plied the students with chocolate, knowing they would be hesitant to participate. But once I got them going, they really opened up. I asked them their names, why they were taking the class, what their favorite books and movies were. Interestingly, they much prefer a real book to an e-reader.
I asked them to do a short writing exercise, involving show versus tell (I told them how us writers struggle with that too. That impressed them. Yeah, us writers aren’t so big and bad.) I asked them to read what they’d written aloud, which is a big deal, especially at that age. I know adults who get tongue tied if asked to share their work.
What a win/win. These teenagers inspired me with their courage and their creativity, renewed my zeal with their uncomplicated, unbiased opinions and ideas. How precious and wonderful to know they have their whole lives ahead of them. I truly feel if I helped one person that day, or gave someone an idea, a possibility, or direction, then I’d succeeded.
Of course, I was thrilled when my daughter came home and told me that her friends thought I was cool. Especially after she said something like, “You? Coming to talk to my friends? That’s so embarrassing! OMG,” when she first found out I was coming.
In short, these up and coming writers made my day. And the teenage writer in me felt pretty warm and fuzzy too.