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Rebecca E. Neely, Author ~ Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

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The Stone Soup of My Soul

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.

But that’s a story for another day.

Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

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I Choose Wonder

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!

Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

Dreams and Vibes: Her Story Inspiration

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.

Her Idea Jar & Other Writing Inspiration

Linda Gerber and Thor, the Grove City Community Library dog

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 lgerber360@gmail.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!

Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

The ‘Dream World’ of Author Rayanne Haines

Please welcome paranormal romance author Rayanne Haines. Today, she’s sharing more about her latest book, FIRE BORN, Book 1 in the Guardian Series, and the ‘dream world’ that inspired it….

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.

FIRE BORN – Book One of the Guardian Series

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.

Connect with Rayanne

www.rayannehaines.com

Twitter @inkrayanne

Facebookwww.facebook.com/rayannehaines

Instagram – @rayanne_haines

This is Why It’s Back to School for this Writer

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.

Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

Book Blitz for Sweet Sacrifice by L.D. Rose!

Title: Sweet Sacrifice
Author: L.D. Rose
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Release Date: September 13, 2017
Cover Designer: Wren Taylor

Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.

Former Navy SEAL Sebastian “Bash” Lockard died in Afghanistan after leaping on a grenade to save his comrades. Little did he know his act of heroism would grant him a ticket into Heaven’s elite army as one of the few and powerful Archangels. Struggling with his new existence, Bash still retains his human memories, leaving behind a wife he loves with all of his heart. Although he is forbidden to see her, he cannot resist her lure, or the mortal desires he harbors for her.

As a young widow and nurse, Irene Lockard still mourns her husband two years after his untimely death. His absence is everywhere, and when her best friend weds, she hits an emotional rock bottom. As if summoned from the skies above, Sebastian appears before her, and they share an unforgettable night. But when he once again vanishes, she wonders if she’s truly gone mad with grief.

The only way Sebastian can remain with Irene is if he makes the ultimate sacrifice. But will she overcome her fear of losing him again to another war?

Bash’s gaze caught on a couple on the dance floor, the sight of her sinking into him like hooks and bringing him to a standstill.

With her dark curls springing over her shoulders, she spun across the hardwood, her pale gray dress flowing around her. Much like in his recent vision of her, she tipped her head back and laughed, beautiful, stunning, her smile as bright as the yellow calla lilies tucked in her hair. She swayed with a man in dress whites, a Marine, another fucking soldier she didn’t belong with. And as the rain of realization became a downpour of comprehension, he remembered the engagement, where Claude proposed to Lucille—at their wedding—right before Bash left for another tour of Afghanistan.

“Bash?” Gabriel stepped in front of him, blocking his view, pale eyes narrowed.

Bash’s hand slammed into Gabriel’s chest, pushing him away as he lurched forward. Gabriel reacted faster, though, snatching his arm and wrenching him back at least four feet. Bash lunged again and the Arc’s hand fisted in his white button-down shirt.

“Don’t,” Gabriel growled, all humor draining from his angular face and setting his expression in stone. “Do not.”

Bash’s heart punched at the angel’s fist, every fiber of his being burning with the urge to run to her, to wrap his arms around her and feel her body against his one more time. Envy, rage, longing, and sadness blasted through him in a toxic tornado of emotion ready to whip this place into oblivion.

He nearly ground his molars into pulp. “Let. Me. Go.”

“You are dead, Sebastian. You’re no longer part of this world. All you’ll do is bring her pain, bring yourself pain. Don’t do this.” Twin streams of air whistled from the Arc’s nostrils as he shook his head. “I should’ve never brought you here.”

Bring him pain? More pain than he’d already endured? No.

No.

L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero. She writes dark paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but she’s been known to delve into horror, sci-fi, and medical suspense on occasion. L.D. Rose is a PAN member of the RWA, FF&P, NEC-RWA and CoLoNY. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her studly hubby, her hyperactive Boxer, and her two devious cats.

Sign up for her newsletter for the latest on the Senary, sneak peeks, giveaways, and other fun stuff: http://eepurl.com/bKvuXD. You’ll receive a free horror short story with sign-up!

You can also join her reader group on FB for more shenanigans. DEVOUR THE NIGHT: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1544747369161573/

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This is the Reason I Return to My Roots

As a writer, I’m often asked about my journey – how I got started, what kind of writing I do, what influenced me, etc. Truth be told, I find it both valuable, and enjoyable to revisit those beginnings. Not only does it remind me why I started doing what I do, it allows me to reflect on where I’ve been, and to focus on where I’m going.

I grew up in a small town, working, cooking and eating in Ricardo’s, my family’s restaurant. It was in that one level, no frills, terrazzo tiled kitchen where I developed my enterprising spirit, working side by side with my family. A memory home, that hallowed ground has been a driving force in my life, and one I revisit often.

Fuel for my imagination, it’s warm, comforting, and takes me back to my roots, especially when I’m running low on entrepreneurial gas, something an author like me needs in abundance.

Ricardo’s was a cool, Mom and Pop retro-style diner. Only at the time, it wasn’t yet retro! In true 1970s fashion, it sported lots of brown and Crayola orange, from the countertops to the paneled walls, to the vinyl covered booths. Design crimes and all, it’s a place that’s part of my soul, and though long gone, lives on graciously in my memory, and now, I’m thrilled to say, in my first romantic suspense novel, A Mighty Good Man.

What a privilege to grow up in such a place! We worked hard, and that ethic stays with me to this day. From the time I was about ten, my brother and I worked alongside my parents, aunt and uncle, cousins and the help, making, on a large scale, tantalizing, from scratch fare, such as spaghetti sauce, (you have to use pork bones), wedding soup, and bread stuffing. Lots of Saturdays, starting at 7am, we did heavy prep, mixing up ingredients in Rubbermaid tubs; pounds of butter, ground meat, celery, onions. We cooked in cast iron and stainless steel cauldrons half my height, stirred with wooden paddles that could’ve doubled as oars. I learned how to work the grill, make salads, and turn last night’s chicken special into today’s soup du jour.

And that was just the food.

The people who worked there were larger than life too, and also live on fondly in my memory. Cooks, waitresses, busboys, dishwashers; men, women, young, old, and in between—they ran the gamut from high school student to retiree, from vagabond to workhorse. Some came and never left, some worked one shift and never bothered to return—characters, all of them.

I remember hanging out at the counter with my Dad for hours, while he drank coffee and talked with customers. I would sit, fascinated by the adult conversation and the things I heard, and shouldn’t have heard. A unique and well-rounded education was mine for the taking on topics as varied as the economy, the local steel mill, sports, hunting, the president, politics, family, and religion.

Regulars inhabited the space, claiming it as their own; they made it a hub in the community, not just as a place to eat great food, but as a place to connect, to complain, to celebrate, and to come together.

The food, the people, the work, the experience—it was delicious, joyous, exhilarating, exhausting, crazy, colorful, strange, and maddening, but above all, unique; so much so, we would often laugh and say we could write a book.

Well, I did.

Rebecca E. Neely is a blogger, storyteller, writer & author. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com 

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

This is Why She Rides a Motorcycle

Without a doubt, motorcycles and the people who ride them elicit strong positive and negative reactions in many people, including perceptions of freedom, rebellion, power, danger and excitement. They also represent a brotherhood—and sisterhood—of strength, unity and camaraderie.

As an author of romance novels who enjoys giving her characters motorcycles to ride, I’ve done research on bikes, talking to friends who ride to get the facts and details right. As a writer, my watch word is curiosity. Very simply, I wanted to find out why bikers are fascinated with riding. Too, nothing intrigues me more than speaking with someone who’s passionate about what they do. For this post, I did exactly that, spending time talking with a woman who’s been riding bikes—all kinds of bikes—most of her life. (And who was gracious enough to educate a non-rider like me. Many thanks!)

Meet Joan Sorce, motorcycle lover. She’s also a real estate agent and a mother of two.

Joan says she’s been crushing on motorcycles since she was a child, and for years, she rode dirt bikes and street bikes with boyfriends and family members. When her son was about ten years old, she began riding dirt bikes with him. It was something they enjoyed together for about five years, until her son outgrew it. Then, she bought her first street bike, a 250 Kawasaki Ninja in bright yellow.

What does she love most about riding? “It’s like a moving meditation,” Joan explained. “I’d liken it to yoga. That may be a strange comparison, but it’s true. It’s very freeing, and uplifting,” she said, smiling, and her eyes got a faraway look in them. I could tell she was visualizing it, and at that point, I almost could too. “I put on a lot of miles by myself after a hard day,” she continued. “It’s my way of relaxing.”

Little Scoot (L), Mama Lou (R)

Joan owns both a Harley Davidson Sportster 883L, and a Harley Davidson Street Glide. These she affectionately refers to as Little Scoot and Mama Lou, respectively. Little Scoot is a blue, lighter weight bike with a smaller engine than Mama. Mama Lou is 800 pounds of big and beautiful in an ice blue flip color that changes to purple when the light hits it. It’s customized for Joan. “Customizing your bike really showcases your personality,” she said. “I didn’t really understand that at first.” She’s also interested in maybe getting a rat rod someday.

DID YOU KNOW? A rat rod is a style of hot rod or custom car that, in most cases, imitates the early hot rods of the 1940s, 1950s, and early-1960s.

 

 

How does she decide which one she’ll ride? “I love them both, but it depends on what mood I’m in. Little Scoot is lighter, because it doesn’t have any bags. (Bikes with bags are a.k.a. ‘Baggers’). “It’s good for short trips. Also, it depends on how hot it is outside, because there’s already a lot of heat coming off Mama Lou’s engine.”

Joan is big on safety. “As much as I enjoy riding, there’s a lot to be scared of. There’s a lot going on, including the rules of the road, shifting, turn signals, and negotiating threats. For example, the other day I was out riding, and there was a two by four piece of wood laying on the road. You have to be aware of hazards like that, because a car could hit it and it could kick up and hit you.”

“Riding the bike is all about control. When you slow down, you lose balance. It’s also harder to maneuver. Parking lots and sudden stops present challenges. When I first bought the Harley, I would practice figure eights in an empty lot just to get the feel of the bike.”

What’s her biggest tip for new riders? “Know how to drive a stick. Gain confidence, and experience. Start on a dirt bike in your yard. Riding dirt bikes was early training for me. It enabled me to know how a bike would respond to different terrains, like grass, mud, and gravel. The Department of Transportation offers courses. I’ve taken them twice, because simply, I don’t want to die. I’ve also taken professional rider courses, which were well worth the few hundred dollars.” Riders can also take part in ‘bike rodeos’, which are often run by police officers, to improve their skills.

DID YOU KNOW? The first motorcycle was built in 1885 in Germany. Read more here.

Joan is also a big fan of helmets, but she wasn’t always. “Pennsylvania is a no helmet state,” she explained. “I used to wear a non-DOT helmet, also known as a ‘brain bucket’. Not anymore. Tragically, a good friend of mine was in a bad bike accident. She suffered a severe brain injury because she hadn’t buckled her helmet.” Joan’s eyes turned somber. “I promised her husband that I’d always wear mine. And I do, although, truth be told, I hate wearing one. But it’s the only head I’ll ever get. I bought it for comfort. It’s considered a half helmet.”

Though Joan is an experienced rider, has received many hours of instruction, and does everything she can to ensure a safe ride, she’s still suffered a few accidents. Several years ago, a deer ran out in front of her on a stretch of country road and hit her bike. The fact that Joan was able to keep the bike up when a nearly one hundred pound animal rammed into it is huge – it speaks to both her skill and presence of mind.

“Besides scaring the hell out of me, the deer dented my fender and scratched the bike (Mama Lou) up pretty good. It was like I was watching it in slow motion, the whole thing. The deer was laying on the fairing!” And, she added with a rueful grin, “I had deer shit all over me.” Yikes! After that, Joan was able to straighten out the fender and ride home. (What’s a fairing? I had to look it up, so I’m assuming you may not know either: Per Wikipedia: “A motorcycle fairing is a shell placed over the frame of some motorcycles, especially racing motorcycles and sport bikes, with the primary purpose to reduce air drag.”

Unfortunately, she had another accident only a few weeks prior to the writing of this post. A car hit her in a parking lot, and even though it was at a low speed, it knocked her to the ground violently. She’s still severely bruised in her abdomen area, and angry, rightfully so, that the driver was so careless.

After both accidents, Joan had the courage to get back on her bike and ride, something she loves. And something she doesn’t want to lose. I applaud her for that. “I can’t let my fear beat me,” she said. “If I sell both my bikes what will I do? It would be like losing my identity. It’s not just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle.”

Joan loves to ride all year round, weather permitting. Once again, deferring to safety first, she has heated handle bar grips. “Literally, this can mean the difference between life and death. If your fingers get numb, you can’t respond as quickly as you need to.”

Joan is anxious to explore more of the country on her bike. “There’s so much beauty in America that you can see from a bike that you’ll never see from a car. It’s just not the same. Being on a bike allows you to go places you’d never be able to in a vehicle.” What’s her most memorable ride to date? “I’d have to say West Virginia. The switchbacks, and the views, are amazing.” She’s planning a tour of the United States, and says she’ll go by herself if she has to. In particular, she wants to ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway noted for its scenic beauty that stretches through North Carolina and Virginia.

“In addition to riding being relaxing, and the amazing beauty I see while on the bike, I appreciate the camaraderie with other bikers,” she said. “Once, when I was out on the little bike, I’d run out of gas. Some other bikers stopped and helped me. They understand. They’ve been there before.”

Many bikers take part in group rides, organized for charitable causes. Joan is no different. “I enjoy the ride, I enjoy socializing. Often, I’ll catch up with people I haven’t seen for a long time.”

She’s ridden in various organized rides, including the Brotherhood Memorial Ride, is coming up on Sunday, August 20th, and for which she hopes to be healed enough to take part. (See Spotlight on the event below) Located in Zelienople, PA, proceeds benefit the Brotherhood Memorial Fund, and was started in memory of fallen firefighters. Other rides she’s been a part of include Chaps for Charity, sponsored by Pizza Roma, located in Cranberry Township, PA, and Riding for the Cure, held each July, which promotes breast cancer awareness. Also in August, she plans to take part in a ride honoring the Veterans Traveling Wall Tribute, which will visit Butler, PA on August 24th – 27th. She’s also taken part in the Big Mountain Run and Mountain Fest, both in West Virginia. These bike rallies also do bike runs during the 2-3 day events.

Everyone has seen bikers extend a hand to one another as they pass on the road. What’s it mean, I asked? “It means, ‘I get it’, I feel the same way you do,” Joan explained. “Not everyone waves, but I always do. I especially like to wave to kids. They’re always enthralled by my bike.”

As a lover of motorcycles and riding, one thing Joan doesn’t care for is that often, people stereotype a female biker. “I’m not a lesbian, and I don’t have any tattoos,” she said with a chuckle. “I don’t have anything against those things, it’s just not me. Sometimes it can be frustrating, that bikes are my thing. People either get it or they don’t. Basically, I just don’t fit the mold.” Again, her eyes shone, with the content of someone who’s exactly where she’s supposed to be, and doing exactly what she’s meant to do. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

DID YOU KNOW? The “Gremlin Bell” is thought by some to be a supernatural protector against evil spirits that haunt the roads looking for bikers to harm. Others believe it’s simply a tradition of kindness between riders and friends. Read all about the legend here.

SPOTLIGHT ON BROTHERHOOD MEMORIAL RIDE, Sunday, August 20th

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Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Paul Reynolds, volunteer fireman and co-chair of the Brotherhood Memorial Ride. Ian Walker is also co-chair. Paul, who’s been a volunteer fireman for 25+ years with the Harmony Fire District, says the event is close to his heart. “The event is in its eighth year, and along with my co-chair, Ian Walker, we’re looking forward to another great event this weekend. I’m proud to say that many people have told me it’s one of the best organized rides they’ve been involved in. So many people generously help plan the event. We’re happy to have riders of all ages, and the safety of our riders is the most important thing to us.”

Paul says his favorite thing about the event is the reason for the ride – to honor all public safety and emergency workers, including firemen, policemen and emergency responders. Proceeds benefit the Brotherhood Memorial Fund, as well as the Zelienople Skate Park.

The ride begins and ends at the Zelienople Community Park. Registration is from 9am – 11am. $20 per bike, $10 per passenger. Food and refreshments will be served at the park following the ride.

Rebecca E. Neely is a writer, blogger, author and storyteller. Visit her at www.rebeccaneely.com
All Rebecca’s books available on Amazon

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