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MYSTICAL MUSINGS

Rebecca E. Neely, Author of Romance with a punch of suspense

Storytellers and Tattoos: For the Love of Art

book-1012275__180A 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.

'Boney' Joe Clark
‘Boney’ Joe Clark

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.

IMG_3877The 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.”

One of 'Boney' Joe's many tattoo designs
One of ‘Boney’ Joe’s many tattoo designs

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.

TEZ_DragonOne 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.

TEZ_GeeseI’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?

Rebecca E. Neely tells stories with a paranormal flair. She adores bestowing tattoos upon her characters, and giving them a story within a story…THE KEEPER, Crossing Realms Book 1 available now on Amazon!

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This Is Why She Writes Time Travel

It’s my pleasure to welcome time travel romance author Donna Steele today. She’s sharing more about her new book, ANOTHER TIME, and why she enjoys research so much.

What inspired you to write a time travel romance, and what is it about research you enjoy?

I’ve always enjoyed time travel stories and shows. Of course, the admonition not to change the timeline causes the rebel in me to rear up. What if it could be positive? That’s what I wanted to explore in this book (as well as get these two characters, who demanded I write them, together). The research was much more extensive than usual for me, but hey, we time travel readers are rabid about accuracy.

One such instance i remember well is the research I did on zippers. And I got caught up (no pun intended). Just for jollies – Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine came up with the original zipper and got a patent in 1851, then forgot about it because the sewing machine was such a hit. Wait 44 years! Until 1895 for the “clasp locker” which still didn’t really go anywhere and from the description was a little too complicated. But finally in 1913 Gideon Sundbach got creative and made something we’d recognize today. He was married to the boss’s daughter at Universal Fasteners and when she died he needed something to do. See how far away I got from my story? And I still remember it? And aren’t you glad I didn’t share the ooey-gooey stuff from my medical research?

Thanks for visiting me today! I’m happy to take questions if you have any.

ANOTHER TIME – Book 1 in the Guardians of Now Series, available now on Amazon

When Dusty Williams goes into a strange bar to contemplate the ruination of his career, the last thing he expects to find is a compelling woman. He’s not even in the mood to get laid. He just wants to escape from all humanity.

Dee Stevens can’t believe she’s in a bar at all. She’s just lost two patients due to drunk driving. Whatever could have drawn her into a strange bar tonight of all times?

When the two meet, and they feel that odd vibration that seems to pull them together, they have no idea what’s ahead, or behind, them and what it can mean for mankind.

ANOTHER TIME Excerpt

“I believe we need to talk.” Dee aimed the statement at Dusty, which sobered him up quickly. He followed her to the doctor’s office and watched as she closed the door firmly behind them and threw the bolt.

“Am I safe in here with you?”

“What the hell is going on?” Dee was in no mood for any levity now. “Where are we? And how do we get home?”

“I believe the question is when are we.” Dusty held up a hand to forestall her. “I know. The whole thing is impossible. I’m the one who studies number theory. Everything I’ve ever been taught says there can be no time travel. I agree. Dee, this is no dream. Everything is too tactile. I smelled Daphne’s blood, I felt Joseph’s shoulder under my hand, and I ate a ham sandwich. As for the second question, I don’t have a clue.”

He sank into the wooden swivel chair at the desk and looked up at her. “I’m willing to listen to theories.”

She leaned back against the counter and appeared to study the floor. “I don’t have one. We crashed into something, the car proves that, but there was nothing to hit. Dusty, I did not drive us head on into something I could see.”

“I believe you.”

She took a deep breath. “Why did you tell them we were married?”

CONNECT WITH DONNA

Website and blog  – http://www.steelestories.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/DonnaSteeleAuthor/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/steele_donna

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5779056.Donna_Steele

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Donna-Steele/e/B007G8V5C6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1464964493&sr=8-1

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/steelestories/

 

This is Why She Writes Paranormal

It’s my pleasure to welcome fellow paranormal romance author Tracey Wood today. Her inspiration for writing paranormal stories may surprise you. Read on…if you dare.

tarot-1775322__340My mother brought me up as a single parent. She split from my father when I was a small child. My Nana passed away when I was three or four, and my mother took it very hard. She suffered with very bad depression for a number of years and never really got over it. When I was around eight or nine, my mother started to dabble with a ouija board and tarot cards.

I don’t know if it was connected, but I began to see things in my bedroom. It might have been a child’s imagination, but I really did see toys lift and move, on their own. I had a heavy fairy-tale book that sat on the top of a box of toys at the side of my wardrobe. I saw the book lift, move forward, away from the box, then it dropped to the floor.

My mother came rushing into the room because the noise was so loud. I told her what had happened, but she did the normal, parent thing. She didn’t believe me! This happened a few more times, and on the last occasion my mother was just coming to check on me and was about to open my door when the bang, of the book falling, happened. She opened the door and looked at me. I was looking at the book which was over the far side of the room. She looked from me to the book and back again. I wouldn’t have had time to get back into bed, and she knew it. She asked me if I was all right, to which I nodded. She asked if I was sure and I nodded again. I wasn’t scared; I was puzzled. Unlike other occurrences, this didn’t scare me.

tunnel-1820225__340On a number of occasions, I saw a dark shape of a man standing watching me at the end of my bed, and I was literally frozen with fear. Looking back, I can still see the dark shape, and it is something that will stay with me forever. He was wearing a tall hat; I could see the shape of it, but I never saw any facial features or clothes. By standing how he did, he seemed menacing and I think this is what scared me the most. I ended up sleeping with the light on and again I don’t think my mother believed me.

Other things happened which I can probably put down to my imagination. But I would probably say that the reason I write paranormal stories is because of my own experiences and my mother’s interest in the paranormal. I have always been interested in things that do literally go bump in the night!!

midnight-angel-coverMIDNIGHT ANGEL by Tracey A. Wood

After almost losing her life in a vicious, bloody attack, Kat Shaw, a thirty-something divorcee, discovers that there are such things as monsters. And the predator who attacked her is not human. She starts to develop unusual skills that have murderous consequences. And she becomes an unwilling witness to multiple, brutal murders, seen through the eyes a killer. Thrown into a battle of Good vs. Evil, she falls in love with two men who are not what they seem. While her attacker stalks her and continues to murder the innocent, she has to find the inner strength to take on and fight the demons from hell—to protect her family and friends while also trying to save her life.

MEET TRACEY WOOD

tracey-a-woodTracey A Wood lives in Staffordshire, in the United Kingdom. She has been married for over thirty years and has two children. One of her boys lives at home due to being disabled; the other has flown the coop. She has three cats that are her babies, and she talks to them all of the time. Funny thing is they don’t answer back.

She loves snowboarding, skiing, jumping out of aeroplanes and bungee jumping. Well, that is when other people are doing it. She prefers to have her nose in a book or to be writing one. She also loves to people watch, which her husband is always telling her to stop doing. She has a job that she enjoys and works full time. Although if she won the lottery, that might change! She also has a very good imagination.

In 2014, she decided to take the bull by the horns and send her manuscript to Soul Mate Publishing. She feels so privileged to have her book published, as this is the first one that she has written. It has made her dream of being a published author a reality. Her philosophy is, life really is too short to wait, you’ve got to go for it. She is still working full time and is also working on another book in her limited spare time. Her favourite saying is ‘Everything happens for a reason’.

Her books are fast paced and centered on a female lead who finds an inner strength after being thrown into situations that are beyond her control.

CONNECT WITH TRACEY

Website: http://traceywood.wix.com/tracey-a-wood

Blog: http://traceyawoodblog.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TraceyAWood.Author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/traceya_wood

Google+ https://plus.google.com/+TraceyAWoodAuthor

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/traceywood16121/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/tracey_a_wood

READ ON FOR AN EXCERPT FROM MIDNIGHT ANGEL

The park was empty at this time of night. All the children had gone home hours ago. The nights were getting colder and the evening air bit through my clothes, making me shiver. A light dew clung to my hair and skin as the darkness closed in around me, shrouding me from the main road.

After a long day at work, I made my way along the manmade path. It was a good shortcut taking fifteen minutes off my journey. I would soon be home, safe and warm.

What to have for dinner? Hmm. Pizza! Yeah, I’ll dial a pizza. Treat myself. Why not?

Happy with my decision, I carried on my way.

Pulling my jacket collar up around my neck, I tried to beat the cold and the shiver running up my spine.

A sharp pain shot through my head, stunning me, and suddenly I was flying across the path. My forehead hit the ground with an audible thump. Another powerful flash of pain. Black blotches blurred my vision as I tried to focus on my surroundings.

I attempted to get up, but something struck my back, flattening me to the ground. The wind rushed from my lungs. I couldn’t move! A heavy weight sat on my back, holding me down. I struggled to draw enough air into my lungs. Something sharp penetrated my back, then my arms and the top of my leg. It was pure agony!

What’s happening? Have I been stabbed?

Tucking my flailing hands under my body, I attempted to get up, a silent scream trapped inside me, but the weight held me in place.

Snaking my body, I wriggled across the compact soil of the path, attempting to pull myself forward. It was no use. I couldn’t even get to my hands and knees.

My clothes were ripped from my back as the onslaught continued.

The pain slowly dulled, even though I was still at the mercy of my attacker. My heart pounded with fear as this predator snatched at my body. I was shaken violently from side to side. My gut told me my attacker was male. He was dominant, strong, and overpowering.

Oh God, this can’t be happening. No, please. I don’t want to die!

Glancing around frantically for a weapon, I realized I still had my keys in my hand. Without thinking, I slashed them behind my back with as much force as I could. They bit into something soft. Warm fluid flowed over me.

I had hurt him and possibly made him angrier. This unseen person was going to do the unthinkable. He was going to violate me, rob me of my life, or both. I desperately needed to get away from this monster. But how? I couldn’t fight back. Damn it; I couldn’t even move.

Nausea washed over me as my body weakened, my life draining away. A dark mist clouded my mind, consuming me, consuming my thoughts. I was going to die here in a lonely, dark park in the middle of London. I would never see my family and friends again.

Why? Why? I want to live. Help me; please help me, someone!

As if this monster had heard my silent plea, the shaking suddenly stopped. The weight lifted slightly, and I could breathe. Relief washed over me.

Had the attack finished? Did he think I was dead?

I lay still, faking death, struggling not to take deep, gulping breaths. I fought the panic pumping through my body.

I became aware of a stroking sensation on my back, a light caress. Small strokes, followed by a sound I could not identify. The strokes became harder and the noise louder. A wet, squelching sound.

What is that?

My head spun with confusion and panic as I strained to locate my attacker. I saw a movement from the corner of my eye. I turned but couldn’t focus. It was too dark, and I was in shock.

Warm liquid ran down my back, arms, and legs. Blood. My blood, but there was no pain, still no pain.

In a moment of clarity, I knew I had to move. To get away before my attacker struck again.

 

Creative Harmony Arts & Books – Small Shop, Big Charm

sf-img_1971
Sandy Ferrainola, owner & visionary of Creative Harmony Arts & Books

Sandy Ferrainola, proprietor and visionary of Creative Harmony Arts & Books in Harmony, PA, recently opened her doors during the quaint town’s Christmas Market in November 2016. A lifelong lover of the arts as well as a big proponent of ‘shopping local’, Sandy was motivated by her passion and her desire to bring people together in the community. “Harmony is the kind of town that’s receptive to the kind of experience I’m offering. It’s small, it’s personal and there’s always good conversation.”

Indeed, the shop is the kind of place where it’s easy to cozy up and spend a few hours, relaxing, learning and escaping into a project. Bright and cheerful, the shop hosts finished art, and art in the making, as well as several work areas that invite folks to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty.

Sandy is an avid reader and writer, and enjoys a wide variety of books. Selected volumes from her own collection are for sale in the shop. As well, she supports local authors by carrying and displaying their books.

sf-img_1970The shop carries many books that aren’t mainstream. “I’m not like the big box stores. You never know what you might find here. For example, a customer recently bought Lord of the Flies, and it made my day. I feel that it’s a book he may not have found or read otherwise.”

A true creative, Sandy grew up loving drawing, sewing and crafting, and is quite clever in repurposing items. She’s made her own clothes, created photography montages, and painted. Just some of the art classes and activities she has planned at the shop include blotted line drawing, jewelry classes, stenciling and the Breakfast Book Club, which takes place the third Friday of each month. There’s also a variety of artwork for sale in the shop, including cards, photography, drawings, wood carvings, textiles and paintings.

sf-img_1975Sandy is currently seeking instructors for all types of art classes, and is always open to new ideas. Visit Creative Harmony Arts & Books –a shop that’s certainly true to its name–at 317 German Street Thursday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm, and online at http://www.harmonyartsbooks.com

Other notable businesses in Harmony include The Harmony Inn, the Bottlebrush Gallery and the Harmony Museum.

ABOUT HARMONY, PA: Harmony is a quaint village of old brick and log buildings, and one of Western PA’s most historically important places. It was founded in 1804 by the Harmony Society of German Lutheran Separatists, who were seeking religious freedom. The Harmonists, who believed Christ’s return was imminent, adopted celibacy to remain spiritually pure, but also assured the group’s eventual demise. When the Harmonists sold the town and 6,000 acres to “second founder” Mennonite blacksmith Abraham Ziegler in 1815, Mennonite families led the area’s resettlement. Harmony’s Landmark District retains the old world architectural character of an old German village and includes more than 50 buildings.

(Source: http://www.visitbutlercounty.com/attractions/harmony)

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The Strange History of Abandoned Talcott Hall

It’s my pleasure to welcome fellow paranormal romance author Claire Gem today. She’s sharing a fascinating ‘story behind the story’ about abandoned Talcott Hall – which, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I have a thing for abandoned buildings! Read on to learn more about the history, mystery and horror of this creepy psychiatric center, which inspired Claire in her upcoming book, SPIRITS OF THE HEART.


talcottfire“Please tell me the smoke isn’t coming from Talcott Hall.”

I spoke these words in a frantic phone call to my sister, Terri DelNegro after seeing a post from a mutual friend on Facebook that said, “There’s smoke billowing over the grounds of the old Psych Center.” Terri is also my cover designer and dear friend who lives in the town where I grew up—Middletown, N.Y.

In that town are the state grounds of an abandoned mental asylum, one I was intimately familiar with as a child. You see, my father, who suffered from alcoholism, was an inpatient more than one time in that facility. In the 1960s, alcoholism was considered a mental illness, not a compulsive behavioral disorder. Back then, illnesses such as epilepsy and diabetes also labeled the patient “insane.”

My earliest memories of the Psych Center are of visiting my father on Sunday afternoons, where he and my mother sat at a picnic table under the shade of giant maple trees while my younger brother and I fed peanuts to the squirrels. Only about six or eight years old at the time, I never understood why my mother cried every time we visited him. Or why Daddy couldn’t come home with us.

talcotthallHaving haunting memories about this place even after half a century had passed, I felt compelled to write a novel set on the grounds of the Middletown Psychiatric Center. Many of the buildings have since either been razed or repurposed, but there are still a few hulking buildings remaining. One of these is—or was—Talcott Hall.

A monstrous, intricately designed brick masterpiece, the building was a thing of beauty encasing what must have been, for those trapped within, a house of horrors. During Talcott Hall’s heyday, mental health treatment still consisted of procedures now looked upon as torture, including hydrotherapy (soaking in ice cold or scalding hot baths) and electro-shock therapy. Lobotomies were still common practice, though none of record were performed at this particular facility.

Talcott Hall was the building reserved for the least tractable, most violent patients. There were bars on the windows, and steel cages encased the external fire escapes. The patients who were admitted to Talcott Hall, in all likelihood, were never going home.

Two weeks before that frantic phone call, I had spent an entire day with Terri, who is a professional photographer as well as a brilliant graphic artist. We drove around the grounds, discussing the plot of the book I’d begun writing. She snapped over a hundred photos that day—most of them of Talcott Hall. The tall chain link perimeter kept us from getting too close. But we could feel them, both of us: the ghostly vibes emanating from that lonely place, even from a dozen yards away. In this video by Antiquity Echoes, glimpses of the interior of the asylum clearly speak to its haunting qualities.

And then, mysteriously, Talcott Hall caught fire and burned to the ground.

Well, not exactly to the ground—the sturdy exterior was constructed of brick and iron. But the morning after, Terri sent me videos of bulldozers scooping what was left of the stately old building into a heap that billowed gray smoke for days.

I was heartbroken.

I’d been in the exhilarating, early stages of crafting SPIRITS OF THE HEART, which centered around Talcott Hall and the ghosts trapped within. Suddenly, it was gone. My muse had gone up in smoke. The fire was labeled arson, but no one was ever charged. I put the manuscript aside, unsure of whether or not the story would ever come to fruition.

Until the day I knew it had to. Talcott Hall must be resurrected, I decided, in my book. And its fiery fate would become one of the most terrifying moments in the novel.

Was it coincidence that Talcott Hall burned down two weeks—to the day—from the day Terri immortalized it in photographs? I don’t believe so. I also don’t entirely believe it was random arson, especially since the building had sat empty, its windows all broken out, with vines winding their way up its edifice and hawks building nests atop its turrets, for over twenty years.

I believe the fire was a sign. I believe it was my ghostly muse tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear: “When Talcott Hall goes down, it must go down in flames of fury.”

In Spirits of the Heart, it does.

Many thanks to Nick Elia of the Middletown Fire Department, who took some amazing photographs of the fire, and granted me permission to use them in promoting my book.

You can read a sneak peek at upcoming release, Spirits of the Heart, HERE.

Available for pre-order NOW!

SPIRITS OF THE HEART – A Haunted Voices Novel

spirits_of_the_heart7_very_lt-grey-1An addiction counselor and a security guard struggle to reunite a little girl and her father—two spirits trapped within the walls of an abandoned mental asylum.

Laura Horton returns to her hometown to start her career with the Alcohol Crisis Center. But her homecoming is jarring. Her old friend moved out unexpectedly, so Laura’s new roommate is the friend’s intimidating ex-boyfriend—in a house that snugs up to an ancient graveyard.

Miller Stanford works nighttime security for the State grounds. He’s a man with a shattered past. His Dad destroyed their family with alcohol, a weakness Miller is terrified will consume him too. The last thing he needs is an addiction counselor—a sexy blonde one, to move in and start watching his every move. When he begins to see specters in the dark, he starts questioning his own stability.

But Laura sees them too—Greta, a pathetic child-spirit searching for her father. When Laura starts digging into old asylum records, she reveals a horrific cover-up. Can Laura and Miller unravel the mysteries of Talcott Hall without jeopardizing their love—and lives—in the process?

MEET CLAIRE GEM ~ Strong Women, Starting Over ~ Redefining Romance

claire_2516Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of emotional romance—contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. No helpless, hapless heroines here. These spunky ladies redefine romance, on their terms.

Her paranormal/romantic suspense, Hearts Unloched, won the 2016 New York Book Festival. Her latest release, The Phoenix Syndrome, won the women’s fiction division in FCRWA’s The Beacon Contest.

A New York native, Claire has lived in five of the United States and held a variety of jobs, from waitress to bridal designer to research technician—but loves being an author best. She and her happily-ever-after hero, her husband of 38 years, now live in central Massachusetts.

CONNECT WITH CLAIRE – FIND OUT ABOUT ALL OF HER BOOKS & MORE!

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Damsel in Defense: On a Mission to Empower

didEmpowering ourselves and others is something I believe in strongly, and that’s reflected in the books I write—as an author of romance, many of my characters are on a journey to empower themselves. Because many of my readers are women, and because I’m a woman, an innately curious writer, and a single mother of a teenage daughter, I’m thrilled to share with you more about Damsel In Defense, a company specializing in personal protection products to keep women safe.

Their mission? “To equip, empower and educate women to protect themselves and their families. Independent Damsel Pros are not only arming others and experiencing financial freedom, but also offering empowerment and healing to those affected by assault.” #becauseofdamsel. (www.damselindefense.net)

Both Senior Damsel In Defense mentor Theresa Testa Zamagias and Junior mentor Kristy Gilbert generously shared their time to talk with me and answer my questions.

Theresa explains that she got involved in Damsel In Defense “by accident” about seven months ago when she attended her cousin’s presentation, who is also a Damsel In Defense mentor. “I sat in the audience, paralyzed, nauseous. I’d just moved my twenty-one year old daughter to Florida to live alone in a ground level home. And I’d given her nothing for protection.”

Theresa Zamagias, exhibiting Damsel In Defense products.
Theresa Zamagias, exhibiting Damsel In Defense products.

After the presentation, she bought her daughter just about everything in the catalog! She now works as an Independent Damsel Pro part time. “It felt very natural to become involved with Damsel. I want to help people, because that’s who I am. It’s a way for me to give back, and empower women.” As well, her daughter’s friend was raped in her first year of college, making her involvement extremely personal. “I jumped in head first. I couldn’t get enough information.” One of her go to resources is the book, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, the nation’s leading expert on violent behavior. She said he stresses our ‘sixth sense’. If something doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right.”

Theresa, who works full time in commercial real estate, explained that she frequently speaks to real estate agents about what Damsel In Defense offers, and why it’s especially important for them. “Agents are often alone at open houses, and they never know who they’re going to meet. Sadly, that makes them prime victims.”

Unfortunately, crime statistics are increasingly disturbing. A violent crime occurs every 26 seconds. 1 in 3 women will suffer domestic violence, and 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape. (www.damselindefense.net)

What can you do to help protect yourself and your loved ones? Both Theresa and Kristy shared their TOP SAFETY TIPS:

1. When walking through a door, never have phone in hand. Have keys and choice of protection in hand, always look around, and be aware.
2. When you’re pumping gas, lock your car. Most women put their purse on the front passenger seat, and because you have your back turned to the car, thieves can easily steal it.
3. When you go to the grocery store, lock your purse into your cart using the child seat belt.
4. Change your routine. For example, take different routes if you jog daily.
5. Have your pepper spray ready to use and accessible, versus it being at the bottom of your purse.
6. Know your surroundings.
7. Back into a space so you can get in and pull forward quickly, versus having to back out.

But above all, the most important safety tip? Be aware. “It’s your best defense,” Theresa explained. “We’re often so distracted by our smartphones, for example.”

“As a mentor, sadly, I’ve heard many tragic stories about violence,” Theresa said. “I’ve also been privileged to hear many stories about triumph over violence and assault. One in particular sticks in my mind. Recently, I had a booth at an event, and the woman who was next to me listened to me talking to people all day about the Damsel In Defense products. She was so excited about them and the mission she joined as an Independent Damsel Pro the very next week. She’s a great person, spending lots of her time volunteering, including at her church. About a month after she’d joined Damsel In Defense, she was alone at the church, when a homeless man high on drugs charged her and began demanding money. A police officer’s wife, she has a permit to carry a gun concealed—but she didn’t have it with her. She used her Sock It To Me® striking tool, hitting the tops of his hands, and yelling ‘Get away from me!’ The man ran off, and she was able to get away safely. Needless to say, I was relieved she was able to protect herself. It gives me such a sense of fulfillment to give people a sense of security they may never have had before. In essence, empowering others empowers me. And if I can help one person, I’ve accomplished my goal.”

Theresa explained more about why she feels Damsel In Defense is so unique. “The two co-founders, Mindy Lin and Bethany Hughes, don’t put profit first. They’re very personally invested in the company, which started only five years ago, and already has 17,000+ mentors nationwide.”

The company is also faith based, and communicates that through their mission, which states: “Our hearts and eyes are wide open for where God will take us next.” A portion of all sales is donated monthly to local, national and international charities, including the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, an organization working toward safety, healing and freedom from domestic abuse and sexual assault, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and Wipe Every Tear, an organization committed to bringing hope and healing in the lives of women trafficked in the sex trade.

“The products are top quality, and they come with lifetime warranties,” Theresa said. “What they offer covers the entire spectrum for digital, auto and home security and protection for women, men and children. In fact, the husband of one of the co-founders was so invested in getting behind the products, he volunteered to get pepper sprayed, just so he could personally attest to its effectiveness! (That’s love in my book.) “So, as you can see, it’s very easy to get behind, and believe in Damsel In Defense.”

stun-gunimagesA cool bonus? All of the products are fashionable, and come in a wide range of colors and patterns. For example, the Daphne concealed collection of purses allows women to carry their lethal and non-lethal protection in style. Some of the most popular products include the Sock It To Me® striking tool, Hardcore® pepper spray, and the Gotcha® stun gun. The pepper spray is top of the line, and can spray up to sixteen feet. As well, it contains a UV dye, which won’t wash off an assailant for up to a week. The assailant can’t see it, but a police officer can detect it with a black light—making identifying a criminal easier.

Theresa explained she’s never without one of these protection items, and often has all three. Too, she always has one or more on her key chain, readily accessible, no matter where she goes. “Knowing that I have protection changes my confidence. I feel like, ‘I got this’, and that empowers me,” said Theresa.

Well said. As is the message Damsel In Defense shares in their Facebook video—the company is offering “Healing to the hurt, Opportunity to the oppressed, and Hope for the helpless.”

After speaking with Theresa and Kristy, I realized how much I could learn and empower myself and my daughter. I’ll be hosting an Empower Hour soon! I’ll be in touch to let you know all about it. Oh, and I’m thinking the heroine in my next story might just be carrying a stun-gun. In pink, of course!

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All the special women in my life! From L to R: My daughter, Megan, me, my mother, Mary Ann, Penny & Kay, 2 long time family friends

I’d be grateful if you’d take a moment to share this post with the loved ones in your life. A huge thank you to Theresa and Kristy, and to all the Damsel In Defense founders and representatives for carrying out this vital mission, every day.

Rebecca E. Neely is an author of romance, the paranormal and suspenseful kind. Visit www.rebeccaneely.com

Join Rebecca’s mailing list & monthly, be entered to win a FREE e-book ! You’ll also receive deleted scenes & other cool stuff 🙂

My Top Ten Powerful Posts This Year

img_1875Today, I’m celebrating what I consider the TOP TEN powerful posts on my MYSTICAL MUSINGS blog in 2016. I met and interviewed some fascinating people this year, who graciously allowed me to ask all kinds of questions about their passions and expertise, and I came away from the experiences a more educated, enlightened and learned person. Plus, I had a blast! In other posts, I connected and explored memories and passions of my own. As an author, a writer, a storyteller and a blogger, It’s always an adventure sharing what I’ve learned and discovered with readers, and hearing your comments and feedback. It’s a journey that I want to be on, and I look forward to another great year. Thanks so much for joining me!

What powerful posts have you written, or read this year?

Here’s looking at you! Happy holidays, and Happy New Year!

If you’ve read my posts before, you know I cover a wide range of topics, from tattoo artists to paranormal activity.  Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:

Storytellers and Tattoos: For the Love of Art

This is the Reason We Connect with Tribal Tattoos

Goodwill Hunting – The White-Tailed Deer, That Is

This is Why They’re Fascinated by Fossils (and more)

Ghost or No Ghost? Spotlight on Steel Town Paranormal

Soulful Silver & Why I Love It

Mystical Movies: Why The Magic Isn’t Only in the Making

If You Believe It, You’ll See It: Celebrating Abundance

Empowered and Encouraged: Visitation Dreams with my Father

 50 Shades of Green – Healing Crystals, That Is

Rebecca E. Neely is an author of romance, the paranormal and suspenseful kind. 🙂 Visit www.rebeccaneely.com

Join Rebecca’s mailing list & monthly, be entered to win a FREE e-book ! You’ll also receive deleted scenes & other cool stuff 🙂

Celebrating THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms Series

the-watcher-1-1_830x1250I’m celebrating the release of THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series this week, and I’m thrilled to finally be sharing Dev and Meda’s story.

Today, I’m talking about writing, and sharing inside info about hero and heroine Dev and Meda.

Here are some questions I’m asked frequently:

What was it like writing THE WATCHER? Writing THE WATCHER was the most challenging story I’ve written to date. It’s the longest story I’ve ever written. As well, Crossing Realms is my first series, and writing the second book in a series is a challenge all its own. I wanted and needed to continue the quest begun in Book 1, as well as build the foundations for Book 3, AND weave Dev and Meda’s tale. I wouldn’t consider the books stand alones; you’ll enjoy the series more if you start from the beginning.

Why did you pick New York City as Meda’s initial locale? I love New York City. I’ve visited Manhattan several times, and I love the vibe of the city, the energy, the architecture, the character. It’s teeming with life, and even though there’s so much happening there, as I put it in the story, Meda is able to hide in plain sight. Plus, Dev needed a little quest to get him and his Harley going. 🙂

Where did the inspiration for Tan come from? Ah, Tan. I walk almost every day around town, and there’s a dear old lady who likes to sit on her porch who I pass often. She’d call to me as I went by, and we’ve become friends. Her dog was named Tan. 🙂 He was a mutt, really old, and his back legs would often give out from under him if he tried to stand too long. A total sweetheart! She loved him, and he loved her. I always adored the name Tan. It’s so simple and sweet. I decided I would use his name a long time ago, and I chose a German Shepherd because I’ve always wanted one, and because he could be a protector of Meda.

What’s up with Dev? On the surface, Dev Geary seems pretty simple, pretty straight forward. As he puts it, “He’ll get in, rock his Compulsion, and get out. Boom. Done.” Famous last words, right? Indeed – he’s anything but simple. Guilt, darkness and a need for revenge haunt him, and complicate his life and his relationships. However, there might just be a woman who’s ready to take him on…

Find out more in THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series, out now on Amazon!

Missed THE KEEPER, Book 1? It’s on sale for 99 cents until December 3rd!

Join my mailing list & MONTHLY, be entered to win a FREE ebook! You’ll also receive EXCLUSIVE sneak peeks, offers & sale info!

Put some paranormal in your life. Go on. I dare you.

Goodwill Hunting – The White-Tailed Deer, That Is

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When I first began writing professionally over fifteen years ago, I freelanced, writing copy, articles and profiles for people and companies all over the country. I’m proud to say that one of the very first magazine articles I wrote was about my Dad, and his love of deer hunting. Since it’s opening day of deer season in my neck of the woods, Western PA, and because I grew up in a hunting family, I started thinking about my father, who’s never really far from my mind, and who passed about nine years ago.

He was an avid outdoorsman, and for him, hunting was not only a sport, but a time honored family tradition steeped in memories, rituals, as well as his deep respect for nature and creation.

My father was an amazing storyteller, and so I think I like to think I inherited just a little of that from him. And indeed, a lot of great storytelling is part of the enjoyment and experience of hunting. I still remember the tales I heard and enjoyed many times over, sitting around the kitchen table with my family.

When I gathered information for the article, I gave him a list of questions, which he completed by hand. I feel so blessed to have this now! I was going back through his notes this morning, and came across this passage:

“Hunting is much more than harvesting a deer. A true hunter applies his skills to everyday life. He hunts or seeks the truth in everything. He seeks a genuineness in relationships, honesty and reliability in everything he does. From the first time I stepped into the woods as a young boy, I sensed there was something reverent and something linked together.”

And so it is for me. While I’m not a hunter, I deeply respect and appreciate his philosophies. I too seek out and revere the perfection and harmony of nature, by going camping, by hiking in the woods, and by tagging along with my boyfriend from time to time while he hunts. For me, these experiences bring my Dad closer.

And, as I get ready to release my third novel this week, I know he’s proud of me for following my passion, just as he pursued his while he was alive. Here’s looking at you, Dad!

I invite you to read the article here: Hunting the Whitetailed Deer: A Lifetime of Memories.

I hope you enjoy it.

Rebecca E. Neely is an author of romance, the paranormal and suspenseful kind. 🙂 Visit www.rebeccaneely.com

Join my mailing list & monthly, be entered to win a FREE e-book ! You’ll also receive deleted scenes & other cool stuff 🙂

THE WATCHER- The Inside Scoop on the Characters

Meda regarded him silently. “What is ‘Dev’ short for?”

“Devlyn.” He laughed half-heartedly. “It means brave. Or misfortune. Take your pick.” And that just about sums up Dev Geary, former Keeper and reluctant Watcher. This hunk and his Harley will take on the human realm in the seven days he’s been given to save his clan—and conquer the very thing that killed him.

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I enjoyed the challenge of crafting Dev. He’s a bit of an anti-hero—he’s belligerent, hell bent on his own agenda, an opportunist, a unique blend of strengths and vulnerabilities. His catch phrase and philosophy on life is to be ‘between the inches’, or to embrace his death wish. It’s a fine line between thrills and terror, and it’s the only place where he can feel alive, free from the darkness that lives inside him. Free from the secrets and shame he suffers.

Combine all that angst with some super human powers, and you’ve got yourself a hard ass hottie, fiercely determined to guard and rescue humans. The irony, and the beauty of his character is he doesn’t realize he could use a little rescuing himself.

Enter human Meda Gabriel, a cagey, street smart bar owner with a unique skill set, who might just be of some help in that area—and his quest. But she too, harbors a few secrets.

And the clock is ticking. That kind of pressure is bound to bring out the best—and the worst—in both of them. Will bravery, or misfortune win the day? Find out in THE WATCHER, Book 2 in the Crossing Realms series, available for pre-order now on Amazon!

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Catch up with me today at Fresh Fiction, and don’t miss a chance to win a Kindle!

Join my mailing list & MONTHLY, be entered to win a FREE ebook! You’ll also receive EXCLUSIVE sneak peeks, offers & sale info!

Put some paranormal in your life. Go on. I dare you.

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