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

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romance

Hard Work: It’s All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Recently, I was seeking inspiration for dinner, and in leafing through one of my Cooks Illustrated magazines (April 2015), came across an editorial written by the amazing Christopher Kimball. In it he pays homage to his home state of Vermont and its colorful and varied denizens, and sums up by admiring how many of them ‘stand for something.’

In short, it got me thinking about what I stand for. In the course of my life, I’ve assumed many roles. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend and aunt. I’m also a single mother and a business woman. I grew up working in my family’s restaurant business. I earned a degree in Accounting and, after quite a few zigs and zags, I’ve been with the same company (well, at least the same location) for twenty years. And I’ve been writing in one form or another for about the same length of time.

One common denominator in all of that, I realized, is good old fashioned hard work. As far as standing for something, I’d be honored to lay claim to that.

My parents passed that on, in DNA, as well as in word and deed. And I believe I’m passing that ethic onto my teenaged daughter, who, at this very moment is washing dishes at a local restaurant.

Hard work is satisfying, comforting. It’s basic, reliable, a cornerstone of my life. It’s sustained, soothed, saved me. I need hard work to feed my soul, survive, and thrive in every way. I want to use everything I’ve been given, physically, intellectually, spiritually. And the experiences, the people I’ve met along my journey of hard work have shaped me, made me who I am. And tell my story.

Interestingly, the people in my life are also hard workers. My cousin, the dedicated social worker with 20+ years of experience. My friend, a court reporter who runs her own business. My boyfriend, the contractor with mad skills. And even his father, who, after a recent fall, insists on planting his own flowers. And is upset he can’t mow his own lawn. They do me proud.

At the age of 12, I would go with my father to our family’s diner style restaurant, doing ‘heavy prep’ – mixing stuffing in Rubbermaid size containers, stirring cauldrons of spaghetti sauce with a wooden paddle long, heavy and wide enough to be considered a weapon. By the time I was 16, I’d done it all–waitressed, washed dishes, bussed tables, mopped, ran the register, assisted with payroll. And I did it alongside my father, mother, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins, and a cast of employee characters that live on, large, in my hallowed memory home.

Sadly, when a downturn in the economy pretty much forced my parents’ hand to sell, I looked for work elsewhere and found myself at a local shoe store. I think my favorite part was unpacking all the new inventory. That, and the 30% discount the employees received.

When the shoe store closed after about a year, I odd jobbed, holding both the title of magazine telemarketer and fast food cashier. Alas, neither took for more than a week. I then started working as a grocery store cashier, and it turned out that would be something I’d do for the next 8 years, during summers, breaks from college and post college when I needed extra money.

There, amongst the aisles of HBA (Health & Beauty Aids), the dairy and produce, you truly do see it all, as everyone has to eat. Rich, poor, mundane, bizarre, friendly, rude—the employees and the customers covered the spectrum. It was there I witnessed store employees chase down a thief, saw a Gypsy for the first time, and rang up more frozen turkeys than I could shake a stick at. I learned the names of myriad vegetables, fruits and herbs, and their codes in the system, some of which I still remember to this day. (Bananas were 242, watermelons 393). I was introduced to the art and science of couponing. And became a master in making change.

While attending college, I took part in the work-study program in the school’s computer center. It was there I had a fellow employee stab me in the back, repeating what I’d said about the boss to her. Oh yeah, I remember him. But I learned the value of keeping my mouth shut. And about who to trust. And not to trust.

When I transferred to finish my four year degree, it was back to food for me, working in the dining hall. And on the weekends, I made omelettes to order on a flat top, honing my egg skills to perfection.

After I graduated from college, I began working as an accounting clerk. The three ladies I worked with took me under their wing, and Linda, my favorite, taught me about more than receivables and payables. One of the smartest and wisest women I had the privilege to know, Linda worked part time, choosing to give up her career to raise her daughter. When I left there to move up the corporate ladder, she made me Jello letters spelling out ‘GOOD LUCK’. Yeah, she rocked.

As a junior accountant, I found myself in the unenviable position of working for a difficult boss. Still young, still green in the ways of Corporate America, I went against the grain, and we parted ways several years later. Feeling beat up, disillusioned, I quit my job without having another one. I didn’t work for a month. And I never regretted it. I still believe, years later, leaving there, and taking time off, was one of the best things I ever did, because it was then I truly learned how to stand up for myself.

From there, I worked on and off in accounting as a temp, did a year long stint as a real estate agent, part timed at a house wares store (still fold my towels the way they taught us) and worked as a customer service rep for a national hardware wholesale company. It was there I applied for, and got the job of working as a computer operator in the company’s data center. For the first time in my life, I worked shifts, and with an all male staff. A singular experience, I have fond memories of that crew. They were kind, but they treated me like one of them. Suffice to say, no one worried about filtering their conversation. My skin thickened – but in a good way.

Fast forward a few years. I was once again working as an accountant, married, pregnant, and unhappy with my work. It was then I really started to think about what kind of work I wanted to do. Not for the next year. But for a lifetime. And accounting wasn’t it. Oh, I was good at it. But going to school for business, I realized, had been a knee jerk reaction to my parents’ sale of the business and the resulting financial difficulties, when I’d been at a crossroads in my life. Don’t get me wrong – that degree served me well. But it was never my passion.

But writing was, and is.

Being a woman of action, I read, I researched, and discovered a small magazine accepting submissions. Though I wouldn’t get paid for the articles, I could build my clips, gain experience. I wrote three articles for them, and one of them I know I’m blessed to have written – I interviewed my father about hunting deer, one of his lifelong loves. From there, I went on to write for other local magazines, bid on jobs at a freelancing website, and had the privilege of working with people all over the country.

I discovered I really enjoyed the vagabond nature of freelancing work. Never knowing what I might work on next. No responsibility except to my client and myself for a short period of time. And it was my choice. What I wanted to work on. Who I wanted to work with. LOL – there’s little doubt, in hindsight, that that ‘vagabond nature’ is reflected in my travels through the job market.
And I liked being my own boss. I got a high from creating something from a mere idea on paper, or in my head, for readers to enjoy. And that ultimately earned me payment. And my name in print. But more than that, much more than that, was the bone deep feeling I was coming into my own. This is what I was meant to do. Write.

One of my favorite things to do as a freelancer is to interview people who are passionate about what they do. There’s a fire that comes into their eyes, their voice, their body language. An intensity that ignites interest in me. I’ve written articles on subjects, at the outset, I didn’t think I wanted to know anything about. And certainly didn’t know anything about. (Harvesting cedar, insurance, soccer, to name a few.) Yet, after talking to the expert, they got me excited about it. And I wrote an article showcasing that. When a reader tells me they were moved, or that I brought to life a moment for them in something I wrote, I take that as high praise. Perhaps the highest praise.

I’ve interviewed dozens of people over the years, including a vintner, a team of paranormal investigators, and a tattoo artist. I’ve interviewed the CEO of a casino, and the sole proprietor of a local book store. Those people, their stories, have become part of my story. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to have known these people, if only for a short time. They’ve enriched me, broadened my horizons and excited me with their passion. And incidentally, they all had something in common—they worked hard at what they did.

I’d been freelancing for some years when I became interested in writing novels. I love to read, and romantic suspense is my groove. Once again, being a woman of action, I read, I researched, I joined writing groups, I took online classes. I wrote two really, really bad novels that never saw the light of day. Eventually, after trial and error, I penned my first book. And sold it. Then another. And another. Each one, I felt, was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. And I can’t wait to do it again.

As I said before, the path to get here hasn’t been straight by any means. But I believe everything happens for a reason. And I’m pretty damn happy about the way things turned out. Because right now, here, today, I get to write this for you. It’s hard work. And I’m loving every minute of it.

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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Epic and 80s – Love Stories That Speak to My Heart

The year? 1984. On the silver screen, all Samantha Baker wanted for her sixteenth birthday was for Jake Ryan to notice she was alive, and Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese were running for their lives from a lethal cyborg who promised he’d ‘be back.’ Fast forward five years to 1989. Sally Albright and Harry Burns had just begun a decade old argument about whether or not men and women could ever really be friends.

What do they all have in common? Sixteen Candles, The Terminator and When Harry Met Sally are all love stories that’ve become a part of me and my imagination, and continue to speak to my heart, years later.

And they’re all stories that convey the lasting, soul deep, quirky, crazy and desperate facets of romance, passion and love that I’m keen to put on the page for my readers.

I was an awkward, impressionable fourteen year old in 1984. I got Samantha Baker. In a lot of ways, she was me. And I wanted to be Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. She gave me hope, along with thousands of other girls who didn’t have the perfect hair, body, outfit or friends, that love would find a way. And she did it by staying true to herself, and by being kind to Farmer Ted, a.k.a the geek. Lots of laughs to be sure, but the tender dreams in her young girl’s heart echoed my own—and that’s what permanently etched this flick across my heart.

Every time I watch Terminator, I hope Kyle Reese will somehow escape the clutches of the Terminator and have a happily ever after with Sarah Connor. How can I not? He crossed time to find and save the woman he loved. Is there anything more romantic? Or more thrilling than watching the pair run for their lives? From the safety of my seat in the theater, I still remember watching the eighteen wheeler almost run them over. The fleeting amount of time that Kyle and Sarah share is, to me, the indescribable essence of true love in many ways. And this flick captured it, beautifully. The End. As Sarah says, ‘they loved a lifetime.’ And so they did. Time, in and of itself, is meaningless, a paradox in a story about the future. And then, not at all. The special effects might be simple by today’s standards, but the music has me hiding under my pillow every time. This one’s a keeper!

Every time I watch When Harry Met Sally, I think I love it more. Kudos to the incomparable Nora Ephron. The stories within the story cover the gamut, from like to love, from marriage to divorce, from friendship to courtship. And the struggles and triumphs are just as relevant today. I love that Harry and Sally are the complete opposite of love at first sight. How fascinating in our world of instant gratification. Too, the couple interviews throughout not only endear, but echo their journey. Love wins. It works. It’s strange, sometimes unexpected. But young or old, we’ve all got a story to tell. Of how we’ve lost. And won. Too many reasons to count, but this one’s on my permanent HEA list, because I walk away with the message, loud and clear: love endures.

Stories don’t change. But we, the readers, the viewers, do. Not only because of life experiences. But because of the story itself, I like to think. I’ve revisited these epic faves as I’ve moved through the seasons in my own life. From the comical to the confused, the passionate to the paranormal, every time, I think I find a little bit of myself.

To bring us full circle, my daughter (who, interestingly enough is sixteen) was watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries recently on Netflix. As I was making dinner, I caught the tune playing at the end. A cover of The Thompson Twins song, “If You Were Here”, by the Cary Brothers.

Red Porsche. Bridesmaid’s dress. “This is the guy!” Need I say more?

Fun fact: Molly Ringwald actually played Sally Albright in a stage production of When Harry Met Sally, circa 2004.

This post originally appeared on USA Today’s HEA blog.

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

Romance. Paranormal. Suspense.

All books available on Amazon

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Werewolf

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome paranormal romance authors C.D. Hersh. Today, this husband and wife team is sharing more about their Turning Stone Chronicles stories. Specifically, ‘Five Things You’ve Always Wanted to Know About the Shifter World of The Turning Stone Chronicles’. As for the shifters? They’re not your typical werewolves…

The Turning Stone Chronicles – Three ancient Celtic families. A magical Bloodstone that enables the wearers to shape shift. A charge to use the stone’s power to benefit mankind, and a battle, that is going on even today, to control the world. Can the Secret Society of shape shifters called the Turning Stone Society heal itself and bring peace to our world? Find out in The Series The Turning Stone Chronicles.

The Turning Stone Chronicles is a paranormal romance series that is different than any other paranormal series you have probably read. We have shifters in our books, but they are not the run-of-mill werewolves you might be used to reading about. Our were creatures are based on the psychology of human Id, ego and ???

Here are five interesting tidbits about our unique world. We hope they will pique your curiosity enough that you’ll want to know more about the Secret Society of the Turning Stones.

1.Shifting abilities in The Turning Stone Chronicles series are not based on being bitten or drained of blood, or turned like the run of the mill vamps or werewolves, but on the concept that mankind has three distinct aspects to their beings: male, female, and animal. Accomplished, powerful shifters in our world can reach their tri-status. Less powerful  shifters—not so much.

2. To be part of our shifter world, one must have a magic Turning Stone ring in his, or her, possession and read the inscription inside the ring. But watch out! The initial Celtic recitation is a heart-stopper.

3. Have you ever wondered what happens to a shifter’s clothes? In the earliest introductions of shifters those cursed with lycanthropy would shed and hide his, or her, clothes before shifting. When they were ready to convert back to humans, they went back to the hiding place, changed, and put on their clothing. The bad thing was if someone moved their clothing, they were stuck being an animal. Our shifters are not like the tales of werewolves or selkies (seals who become people) who have to shed their clothes or coats to change and cannot get back without them. The ring’s magic absorbs the wearer’s clothing when he shifts to his animal ego.

4. So, you ask, where did this magic ring come from? Many eons ago, when magic existed side by side with man, an ancient magic Celtic bloodstone was given to three young Scottish men, along with the task of using the magic for the good of mankind. The three families cut rings cut from the heart of the stone, the power of each piece varying as it moved away from the heart of the stone.

5. The most powerful piece of the stone was kept by the Keeper of the Stone. But power corrupts, and over time power corrupted some of the factions of the Turning Stone Society. Now the members of this secret society, many living among us in positions of power, are locked in a battle to collect the rings, control the world, and thereby bring peace once again. But whose peace will reign? The peace of the good side or of the rogue, evil side?

To find the answer to that question you’ll have to read the books.

The Promised One (Book One of The Turning Stone Chronicles)
Blood Brothers (Book Two of The Turning Stone Chronicles)
Son of the Moonless Night (Book Three of The Turning Stone Chronicles)
The Mercenary and the Shifters (Book Four of The Turning Stone Chronicles)

Here’s an excerpt from The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) available from Amazon in e-book and print.

THE PROMISED ONE
By C.D. Hersh

Shaw’s heart stopped racing as she relaxed in his grip, then amped back up, pounding against his ribs. Shit. Assault, battery, and now . . . murder. Quick and easy money to pay for the wedding. That’s all he’d been after. They’ll put me away for life if I get caught. Lulu’s gonna be pissed if I screw up her wedding plans.

Pushing into a squat, he stared at the dark stain spreading across the dress front. He removed the ring from the woman’s finger. She should have just given it to him.

The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard.

Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed the excerpt and peek into the magical world of The Turning Stone Chronicles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.

C. D. Hersh is a husband and wife writing team (Catherine and Donald) who are high school sweethearts who know the meaning of true love.

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to the couple. They’ve done it separately since they were teenagers, although neither one will probably let you read those ancient manuscripts for fear you’d die laughing. They’ve come a long way since those days. But, hey, we all start somewhere.

When they aren’t collaborating on a book, they enjoy reading; singing; theatre and drama; traveling; remodeling houses (Donald has remodeled something in every home they’ve owned); and antiquing. Catherine, who loves gardening, has recently drawn Donald into her world as a day laborer. Catherine is an award-winning gardener — you can see some of her garden on their website.

They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Connect with C.D. HERSH:

Website: https://cdhersh.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://cdhersh.wordpress.com/blog-2/
Soul Mate Publishing: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cdhershauthor
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cdhersh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCDHersh
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/CDHersh

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

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

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 🙂

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