Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Children of Cain

                                                     
 
There is too much hate in the world and too many people think it’s just fine and dandy to kill another person. Why do we kill? Did we inherit this curse because of Cain? It’s a strange question considering that I don’t believe in the whole creation story as being based on fact. I believe they were stories that helped early mankind understand our evolutionary process.
While I believe in a GOD; a Creator who stirred the primordial soup to get the show on the road, I believe HE accomplished this task via science. I love the thought of a powerful and loving Spirit who allows miracles to unfold at a methodical pace.
But, because of evolution, we are left with a question that leaves us at a loss to explain. Why do we kill? Is the desire to hurt or kill another living thing inherited? Would we learn the answer from the bible stories? Why did Cain kill Abel?
                                                                

To understand why the mythical Cain would kill his brother Abel, one needs to travel back to the creation story itself. Adam and Eve had everything they needed to survive without pain or worry. They were given free will and with that gift came the first command. “Don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge.” According to the creation story, Lucifer was upset that God gave mere humans free will. Only the angels had free will, but maybe Lucifer could use this gift of free will to destroy the man and woman.
Did Lucifer take on the form of Adam to trick Eve into bearing his seed? This is a possibility and would explain why the Creator would not only banish the male and female, but also punish Lucifer. This would not be the first time we would hear of a god or goddess tricking a female or male human to mate with them. The Roman and Greek mythologies are full of this type of trickery.
                                                           

Eve was faced with bearing and raising a son that did not belong to Adam. Cain had Lucifer’s DNA and also his temperament. Abel, on the other hand was from Adam’s seed? Would this child be more like his human parents? Would Adam favor the younger son who he knew carried his DNA? I can see this happening. The jealousy between the boys would have begun at a young age.
                                                             

While Cain, according to the bible story, was a farmer; Able was a shepherd. There was enough land for both sons to live peacefully, but according to the story, God favored Abel. Why would God do that unless the sight of Cain was displeasing? Did God see the resemblance of his once beloved angel in Cain’s features? Cain was an outcast with both his family and the Creator. Cain had the blood of Lucifer running through his veins. I could see him looking at Abel and thinking that all his problems would vanish if his brother were dead. With Abel dead, Adam and God would be forced to accept him.
Conclusion
The bible story tells us that Abel was murdered by Cain. We know that Cain was made to roam the Earth after a mark was placed on his forehead as a warning that Cain was not to be harmed. If Cain carried the DNA of Lucifer, did he pass the “kill” gene onto his children; to us? Are we a combination of GOD and Devil? Or, is the act of murder in our genes because of evolution?
                                                              

Richard Dawkins book, The Selfish Gene explains that a ‘selfish gene’ revolves around savage competition and ruthless exploitation while capable of acts of altruism. We needed that selfish gene to climb out of the swamps, but we also have a soul. Is the soul the counterbalance to the ‘kill’ gene?
                                                                

If the soul is the only remaining connection we have with the Creator, then maybe, we can and will eventually overcome the selfish gene. Will we one day overcome the Cain legacy that was left to us? Will we stop the mindless killing? I hope so because my heart is heavy with all the hate in the world and...all the needless and brutal deaths.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Metaphysical Time Travel

                                                             
                                                       
 
We all have that one special person in our lives that had influenced us by their words and actions to be the best we could be. For me, my siblings and my cousins, it was our maternal grandmother, Maria Grazia Federico Chiusolo. My grandmother was a very spiritual woman and she also had strong psychic abilities that she passed down to all her grandchildren. She has been on my mind recently.
                                                                
                                                              
Grandmom was born in Benevento, Italy. She came to America at the start of World War 2 and it was a good thing because her home was bombed during the war. My grandfather was already living in Philadelphia and when Grandmom arrived in New York, she brought along her three children: Anna, Lucia and Mario. This is a photo of them as young children and long before they came to the States.
                                                               

                           Aunt Anna, Uncle Mario and my mother, Lucy
They moved into a home on 7th and Ellsworth and there she and grandpop lived until her death sometime in the early 1960’s. Grandmom never spoke a word of English, but she understood me and, I understood her. She always had rosary beads in her hand. She was always praying for us...we were mischievous kids who also happened to be accident prone. We needed every single prayer to keep the Angel of Death at bay.
                                                             

Like I mentioned at the start, Grandmom has been on my mind, lately. Maybe it’s because I am going to Italy this month. It’s the first time I’ve ever been out of the country and although I’ll be with a tour group, I’ll be by myself. That’s okay. I’m not afraid and in a way, I won’t be entirely alone. I have inherited my grandmother’s gift and I can see dead people. In fact, there are two ghosts that live in my house. They are my parents. Their names are Fred and Lucy. I told my parents that I’m bringing them with me on this trip. I also asked my grandmother to come with me. Maybe they can translate for me.
My sister Jane recently sent me copies of some important papers belonging to Grandmom. I studied the papers and the photos and after a few minutes, I was back in time. I must have been around nine years old and I watched as my grandmother sang an Italian song as she cooked the pasta on the stove. The door in her kitchen that led to the yard was open. It was a warm, sunny day. I watched the chickens pecking for food outside in the yard while grandpop cooked a steak on grill that he made from a metal can.  
                                                               
                                                          
Time and space are connected and maybe we don’t need a machine to travel back or forth in time. Maybe our minds, because we are connected to the Universal Collective, are able to make that jump. I did that jump today while looking at the old photos my sister Jane had sent me. You can try this technique, too. Find a photo of a special person who has passed away. Sit in a quiet room. Play some meditation music. Light up some incense. Hold the photo in your hand. Take deep breaths...think of your loved one...now...go back to that moment in time when you were your happiest with them. Let me know if it works for you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Party at the Cemetery

                                                              

Yes indeed! You read this blog title right. The cemetery that I speak of is the Laurel Hill Cemetery located at 3822 Ridge Ave in Philadelphia. I’ve been attending the different events at this fabulous historic landmark for years. The events are top class and the staff is awesome. I love this cemetery so much that my friend and I volunteer there. There are lots of events coming up this month and you’ll want to check out the event page as soon as possible.
                                                            

There is a special event coming up on Saturday, September 10 from 8pm to 12am called Into the Veil.
“Life is eternal. Death is merely a change in condition…" Join Atlas Obscura and Laurel Hill Cemetery for an immersive evening as we explore the liminal world that exists between the land of the living and the realm of the dead. Inspired by the innovative event originated by Atlas Obscura and Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery in 2015, the souls of Laurel Hill invite you to contemplate the veil between life and the afterlife. An evening of hidden art, music, cocktails and entertainment will await under the cover of night as you choose your own path of discovery through the Cemetery’s enchanting hallowed grounds.

In case of rain, the event will be moved to September 11from 8 to 12.
Laurel Hill is America's first National Historic Landmark Cemetery, boasting art, architecture, nature and stunning river views. This final resting place of numerous historic notables is open daily with free admission for self-guided tours or recreation. Joggers, dog walkers, bicyclists and photographers are welcome. Unique public tours and events are offered throughout the year, with all proceeds benefitting the preservation and educational mission of Laurel Hill Cemetery. www.thelaurelhillcemetery.org

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Steampunk Granny Interviews Jersey Paranormal Investigations

                                                                  
                       
Everyone who knows me knows that I love ghosts and zombies. I’ve been seeing the dearly departed since I was two years old, and I've always been interested in what goes on during a professional ghost investigation? I’ve had the pleasure of doing many ghost investigations with several different groups including one with a very capable team known as Jersey Paranormal Investigations. I was able to find out more about the team by interviewing three of the board members: Maureen Carroll, Nikki Steward and Toni Gushue. Join me now as we learn what is takes to search for spirits.

Thank you Maureen, Nikki and Toni for taking this time to explain your work to my readers.What is Jersey Paranormal Investigations, and why was it formed?

MAC - JPI was founded in November of 2015 by people with many years of experience in the paranormal field.  We were looking to do things just a little different (such as expanding Paraunity and letting the members have greater control over the group as a whole), and thus Jersey Paranormal Investigations was formed.  I've been investigating since August of 2006, so this is my 10-year anniversary!  JPI's investigators are all serious-minded individuals whose main focus is the well-being of our clients.  No matter if the client is a private house, business, or historic location, JPI treats them equally with respect and strives to achieve what the clients have requested of us--evidence, counseling, fundraising, etc. All of our members are volunteers and receive no monetary compensation. Our services are free and JPI is an official 501(c) (3) charitable organization.

                                                  Maureen and Nikki                                                                   
What are the duties of the Board Members?

Nikki: The duties are to take over the world... Hahaha Just kidding.  The JPI Board of Directors is like the engine of a car.  We are a big component of what makes it run, but not without the rest of the parts working too.  We oversee the day to day operations of the group but also try to keep our members as involved as possible in decisions.  This includes, but is not limited to, helping with new member interviews and voting on group expenditures.  We oversee all of our fundraisers and public events as well.  Board Members review questionnaires, schedule cases, and review case reports with the help of our Case Manager, Beth. 

Toni: There are currently 4 Board Members and seats-Director-Nikki, Co-Director-Maureen, Secretary-Toni and Treasurer-Sharon. Collectively, the four of us run the day to day operations of the group, including training, financials, meeting minutes, dispute resolution, networking with other groups, setting up investigations and fundraisers etc.  The Board positions are elected positions, chosen by the membership, and each seat is for one year, beginning January 1st of the year.  This is something that I think makes our group unique, as well as we put the power in the hands of the membership. 
        
                                                   Toni and Nikki

Often, paranormal groups have a Director and that's it, they are the Director for the tenure of the group.  This isn't necessarily the case with our group.  Plus, in having four Board Members, if we are that split on making a day to day decision where it is a 50/50 vote, we will bring the subject to our membership and have them vote on the topic and give them the power to have a say in how the group is being run.

What inspired you to do investigations?

MAC - I've always had an interest in the paranormal, but when I was growing up, there weren't any of the paranormal shows that are so common on TV now.  Sightings and In Search Of were pretty much it.  I had three experiences that I can recall growing up, but the one that sticks out the most was when I was around 16 or 17.  It was Christmas Eve and my Mom and I were up late wrapping gifts.  Everything was spread out on her bed, unwrapped, when we both heard footsteps coming down from upstairs.  My house was built in 1906, and the stairs were made from Oak.  Each step had a distinctive sound and we could tell someone was coming down (as opposed to going back up).  My Mom asked me to see who was coming down.  I checked all the rooms as I made my way to the staircase and no one was there.  I even went upstairs and checked, but everyone was asleep--even the cat.  When I went to tell my Mom, we both thought it was weird, but didn’t' think much more of it.  The thing I find most odd now is that my mother has absolutely no memory of this ever happening.

Toni: I always had an interest in the paranormal since I was young.  My uncle's former residence was haunted and I had an experience there when I was a kid and spent the night at the house.  My cousin and I were sleeping in her bedroom in bunk beds.  She had locked the door from the inside, why I don't know but she did.  When we woke up the next morning, a small table had been moved across the room.  She and I were young, maybe  8 and 6, so we weren't strong enough to have moved the table and the door to the bedroom was still locked when I got up to use the bathroom that morning.  There were a number of stories about things being moved around or going missing in that house.

My Nana was always very interested in the idea of ghosts and aliens and would read about them a lot, which was surprising to me as most Italian grandmothers aren't talking about Lizzie Borden while they are stirring the sauce.  So, when she was done with a book, she would pass it off to me and then we'd talk about it afterwards. It was always our thing that was just between us. She will be 90 this year and now watches the paranormal shows and we will talk about my experiences on investigations and I will show her evidence we have obtained from public or historical locations (private clients are always kept strictly confidential).

Nikki: I grew up in homes that had paranormal activity in them.  I became somewhat obsessed with the paranormal when I was about 11 or 12.  At the time, my mom was starting to really delve into her genealogy.  We would spend countless hours at libraries, county probate offices and of course cemeteries.  While she spent her time pouring through records and microfiche at the libraries, I searched for any and all books on ghosts and hauntings.  Fast forward to 2003, a family friend was visiting and we took a photo of her.  Right over her face was what we believed to be an "orb".   This seemed to reignite my passion for the paranormal.  I sat down on the computer and started doing some research.  I found my former group, SJGR, and applied to join, curious about what I would learn and how I could help others.  Luckily, they saw value in what I had to offer and the rest is history.  I have spent many years involved in the paranormal since then.  While i was not always with an organized group, i have always used my passion and intuitive abilities to help those who are in need.  It brings me great satisfaction helping those who may be scared or do not understand why they have activity happening in their home or business.

What type of cases do you investigate?

MAC: JPI handles all types of cases from the innocuous to "Emergency" cases that require experienced investigator.  These cases may be human or inhuman, but are considered highly negative in nature.  We also do a lot of work with historic locations, bringing awareness of the location and fundraisers.

Toni: I have only been doing paranormal investigations for about a year, but we are all trained to handle whatever we may encounter along the way.  Sometimes we may go into a residence or business thinking it will be calm and the investigation is going to go one way and anything can happen, so we must always be prepared to roll with the punches.  If we know we are walking into a situation where we believe there to be negative entities at work, we have members of the group who have specialized training and experience that we can send on that type of case.  Nikki has a wealth of experience in this area.

Nikki: JPI handles many different types of cases, including what we consider a "casper" case, which is generally just a human spirit who may be trying to get the attention of the owners, etc.  We also will handle more intense hauntings which may be human or inhuman.

                                            Site of Investigation at Red Mill                                                                 

What training is required to do this work?

MAC: There are several classes that are taught to our trainees before they can be considered for full membership.  These include Psychic Protection, Equipment Training, Electronic Voice Phenomena Training, Evidence evaluation, Understanding the procedures and by-laws of JPI, Cemetery Training, Preternatural Training, and many investigations to gain experience and confidence.  It takes approx. 3 months, but mostly depends on the individual and if the BOD/members feel that person is qualified to obtain full membership status.​

Toni: If someone is an experienced investigator and wishes to join the group, we may just ask them to take a refresher in an area, so that we know they are proficient in it or trained to do things the way we do them within JPI.

Nikki: I believe that it is irresponsible to bring investigators into the homes of our clients without as much information and training as we can provide for them.  While I understand that the paranormal is still a field that there is much to learn about, there are still some basic trainings that are an important foundation for all investigators.

Is it required to have some psychic abilities to do investigations?

MAC: No, that's a falsity some people believe, but the number 1 ability we require is for people to listen and learn.  We are all born with the ability to interact with spirit energy, but most lose it over time--usually between 7 to 10 years old.  However, it is something you can get back with a bit of work.  We say it's like a muscle that atrophies... you can work on the muscle to get it strong and fully functioning again. It's the same with our psychic abilities.​

Toni: Not at all.  In fact, we joke within the group that I have absolutely no psychic abilities whatsoever!  What is required is a willingness to learn, to listen and patience.  Patience is key because paranormal investigating isn't like it is on TV where all kinds of stuff happens in that hour span for the show.  Those filmings take days generally.  It's a lot of sitting in the dark, in the quiet, waiting for something to happen.  Then it's hours of evidence review-audio, video, photo and the more equipment you own, the longer it takes to review everything.

Nikki: This is a bit of a trick question, as I believe that EVERYONE has psychic abilities!  That aside, it is absolutely NOT required for our members have any psychic abilities.  An open mind is the most that we require in that sense.  It is really beneficial to have a good mix of people with varying abilities.

Why do ghosts stay at a particular home or site, and how do you handle the troublesome ones?

MAC: There is usually a reason why ghosts and spirits stay where they do, but we might not always know the reason.  Some stay with living family members, especially during the holidays, milestones, and life-changing events.  Just as our family wants to be there to support us in life, they continue to do so after they have passed.  Another reason is they are attached to the home, land, or a physical object.  It's completely understandable if a person spends 30+ years, for example, in their home, and then wants to remain there after they pass.  Maybe to them, that's their version of heaven.  When a spirit becomes troublesome, there might be a reason for it--such as they are just trying to let you know they are there for you during a particular time, or they just want to be acknowledged that someone realizes they still exist even though their physical body has died.  No matter what the reason, we tell our clients they own the space they are living in and they need to take control of it.  They need to make the location feel like their home, bring in light, live plants and maybe add a fish tank. They also need to set boundaries, such as telling the spirit what they want or don't want from them.  People have every right to ask a spirit not to disturb them when they are in the shower or trying to sleep.  We just tell them to be firm, but respectful, and to set boundaries when they are not in fear or angry.  We want to keep everything as positive as possible. ​

Nikki: Since we have an extensive questionnaire and investigation process, we often hope to handle any issues very early on.  I have had many experience with spirits that were just plain ol' grumpy and unhappy with the residents, to Native American spirits that felt their land was being disrespected.  Each of these situations has to be handled with complete care and understanding.  Sometimes we have to get an understanding of any religious beliefs that may be holding the spirit to a location and if that is causing the conflict.  I have had experiences where I've had to not only counsel the homeowners and help them understand why things are happening and how to deal with it, but also there are times when I have had to counsel the spirits as well.

Walk us through the set-up of an investigation beginning with that first call from a client.

MAC: Once a client contacts us, we send them out a questionnaire.  This is a form that gives us all the information about the client and the case, starting with contact information, general history of the location and how much time they've been living there, and then questions about what they have been experiencing.  Are they hearing voices or sounds?  Smelling things out of the ordinary? Seeing apparitions?  Have there been other groups involved?  If so, what was their assessment of the case? etc.    

Toni: Once we get the questionnaire back, our Case Manager, Beth, will reach out to the client via phone and confirm details as well as get more information if possible.  After Beth speaks with the client, she confirms with the Board and we decide how we will proceed with the case.  If we are responding to the location, a team leader will be assigned to conduct a short preliminary investigation.  This involves meeting the client and discussing information more in depth, getting a feeling for the location and its layout etc. 
                                                                

MAC: The BOD will read the report and make a decision on what will help the client the best way--either doing an investigation or counseling, etc.  If the client is very sensitive to spirit energy, they might not necessarily need an investigation.  They just need to know how to handle their sensitivity.  That's where counseling is going to be more effective and help the client more than an investigation would.  Ultimately, that's what we want... to make sure that we have satisfied the client's needs and met their expectations.​

Toni: Each case is really a case by case scenario because no two cases are ever the same and each location and client may have different needs that we need to meet.  Our number one priority is just to do everything in our power to satisfy the client and make sure their needs are met and they are happy with whatever the outcome is. 

It isn't always easy for people to talk about paranormal experiences-plenty of times we have heard "You might think I'm crazy, but" and then they will go on to tell us something that they've experienced.  No, we don't think you're crazy, we've heard most everything.  That's why it was imperative that we put the words "without judgment" in our mission statement.  We don't want a client to every feel judged or condescended when they are reaching out to us for assistance.

How can people contact you and is there a fee?

MAC: We are very active on our social media pages, so Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc.  They can also email us at JPIHauntedHelp@gmail.com or visit our website at Jersey Paranormal. com All of our services are free of charge to the public.
                                                            



Our most recent cases have been investigating The Red Mill Museum in Clinton NJ.  In September, JPI will be conducting a paranormal fundraising event for them.  We have only been able to do 2 investigations, yet the evidence collected from The Red Mill has been excellent and we haven’t finished evaluating all the evidence as yet!  We have video of a trigger prop’s activation, another of a possible light anomaly, and a slew of EVPs, some of which are interactive with investigators.  There were personal experiences such as investigators being touched, seeing shadows, and hearing disembodied voices.  The Red Mill certainly lived up to its haunted reputation!

Thank you, ladies. If anyone is interested in learning more about ghost investigations or if you think your home is haunted, you now know who to call.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Ghostly Protector

                                                                  


I not only see dead people, but I have two deceased family members hanging out in my home. Everyone knows about my Fred and Lucy stories from my blog, but what they don’t know is that Fred and Lucy remain quite active in their family’s lives even though they have passed to the other side.
Everyone has ghostly family members who check up on them. You do, too. Your deceased family member will make an appearance using several methods to let you know they are there:
Smell
We associate certain scents with family be it perfume, cologne, cigarette or cigar smell and even food. I always smell my mom’s perfume, but it is one that she hadn’t used for years and years; Evening in Paris. I guess Heaven keeps a healthy supply of that particular perfume for some strange reason.
Dreams
Sometimes, our lives are so hectic that the only way the deceased can contact us is through dreams. Don’t dismiss the messages you receive in dreams. They offer support or warnings.
                                                                    
My dad likes to visit often, but he doesn’t come alone. Fred usually brings other recently departed souls to meet me. Most of the time they want to tell me how they died. At first, I was frustrated because I didn’t understand what I was required to do with this information. I soon realized that I was only required to listen and that took the stress away from the visits...that is until my dad brought a recent victim of ISIS for a visit. The man just wanted to tell me how he died. The vision he sent was graphic. He also gave a warning..."Don't allow adult male refugees into the country." I
Music
Sometimes, when you’re thinking of a loved one, a song will come on the radio that you know they liked. With my mother, it’s usually a funny Italian song that she would sing to us when we were little.
 


Electrical Activity
Lights or the television goes on or off without explanation. Some spirits can even change the channel on the TV to get your attention.
Displaced or Moved Objects
Our loved ones will try everything possible to let you know that they are there. Sometimes, they can help you find a lost item. A year ago, after my husband lost a lot of weight per doctor’s orders, he lost his wedding band. We looked all over, even in the almost freezing pond because he had been cleaning the aeration set up in the pond. We searched for an entire week. Nothing! I was doing the dishes when I heard my dad tell me where to find the ring. I told Dan to check his gloves. Bingo! The ring was in his work glove. My sister knows when Fred and Lucy visit her home because they move things and make lots of noise.
Touch or Sense
If the spirit is strong enough, they can tug at your hair or touch your cheek in a loving manner. Sometimes, they don’t have to do a thing, but you can sense them in the room.
Animals
Seeing certain animals over and over every time you’re thinking about a loved one is definitely a sign that they are trying to communicate with you. I always see the cabbage butterfly for my dad...even in the dead of winter, and I see a moth for my mom.
                                                             
Fred and Lucy
My dad is with me all the time. Maybe he feels the need to protect me because I am a psychic and I do ghost investigations. Maybe, because I was the eldest of the four children and he seemed to favor me. Maybe it’s because he knows that I can be reckless. Whatever the reason, other Mediums and psychics always sense him standing behind me. I’m okay with my dad being with me. I feel safe, especially, when investigating places with a dark history. My mom also stays at my house, but lately, she’s been hanging with the grandchildren.
Conclusion
Do you sense a deceased loved one? Do you receive hints that they are around? Do you acknowledge your loved ones when they do visit? DEATH is not dead. Death is just a change of form from the physical to the spiritual. I know my parents look out for me and it makes me feel good.
                                                               
My daughter and grandsons are not afraid of the dead. They know that Fred and Lucy are watching over them. I’ve told my daughter and grandsons that I intend to visit often after I die. My grandkids are looking forward to the visits, but they're hoping I come back as a zombie.

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Steampunk Granny Interviews Author Gail Priest

                                                            
 
If you’re a writer it can be a lonely journey because to write, you must lock yourself away from the “real” world in order for you to enter the secret recesses of your imagination. If you’re a savvy writer, you belong to a writers’ group. I met Gail Priest at the South Jersey Writers’ Group where we are both active members. Gail was also one of the authors at this year’s Steampunk Granny Authors’ Bonanza. There are so many different sides to this fabulous lady and I wanted to learn more about Gail. Join me now as I put Gail on the hot seat.
                                                          

You are quite the Renaissance woman in that you excel in everything you do. Please tell my readers about the many sides of Gail Priest.

Gail Priest: I have degrees in theatre and counseling psychology. I love teaching and began as an English teacher in 1977.  Eventually I became a guidance counselor. I left public school for a decade to pursue my acting and directing career. Even then, I still taught acting at the Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township, NJ. I also did private coaching with actors. I began writing my first play, Eva’s Piano, when I spent the summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. I followed that with a screenplay, A Thing with Feathers, which I rewrote as a stage play. I went back to teaching theatre as an adjunct at Rowan University. After five years, I decided I wanted to return to full time work in education. I began looking for guidance counseling positions, but ended up spending my final public school years as a theatre arts teacher in a high school performing arts program. It was the most gratifying work because I used all my skills as a teacher, counselor, coach, and writer with those students. Now I’m back at the Rowan Theatre and Dance Department as an adjunct. It’s perfect because I still have time to write and promote my books.
                                                          


Where did you get the inspiration for your Annie Crow Knoll Series?

Gail Priest: My husband and I began renting a little cottage in a summer cottage community called Evergreen Knoll on the Chesapeake Bay in 2000. That setting inspired the Annie Crow Knoll stories. Evergreen Knoll became Annie Crow Knoll. The characters are fictitious, but the setting is based on this real and most beautiful place on the water. I’m sitting on the porch of Cockatiel Cottage right now as I answer these questions. I look out at this view, and I feel like I must be the luckiest woman in the world.

Tell us a little bit about the books and especially the newest addition, Moonrise.

Gail Priest: The series is a family saga that takes place on the Chesapeake Bay with themes of the healing powers of nature, art, and friendship.

Annie Crow Knoll: Sunrise begins during the civil rights time period on the Easter Shore of Maryland. Annie is a strong-minded girl, who battles with her secretive mother to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s suicide.  At nineteen, Annie goes against social convention and trusts and relies on Bo, her family’s African American friend and her surrogate father, as she struggles to save the fourteen summer rental cottages left to her by her parents. When the family legacy of depression emerges in her early adulthood, and Annie faces estrangement from her husband and young son, she has the chance to embrace love and acceptance from someone who has been there all along.
                                                           
 
Annie Crow Knoll becomes a place where people come to restore their spirits, heal their pain, and reclaim their lives. This is emphasized in the second novel, Annie Crow Knoll: Sunset. 

Nate Bidwell blamed his mother Annie for his parents' divorce.  Buried hurts and resentments between mother and son make Nate reluctant to risk his heart when his childhood friend Beth Ann offers him her own. Instead, he allows himself to fall in love with the fragile and dependent June, and Annie's opposition to their marriage reignites years of unresolved conflict with her only child. Nate swears that he will never return to Annie Crow Knoll, his family home on the Chesapeake Bay. He and June move to Manhattan where he opens his dream restaurant and tirelessly works to build his career as a chef. When near-tragedy strikes their lives, though, Nate is forced to return to the one place he hopes may save his wife: Anne Crow Knoll.

In Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise, Annie Crow Knoll continues to be a place to grieve loss, accept change, and rebuild a life worth living.

Annie’s granddaughters, Breezy and Jemma, are world-class cyclists until violence at a race leaves Breezy with permanent physical disabilities and kills the man she loved. With her Olympic dream shattered, guilt and shame threaten to destroy her future happiness. Her sister Jemma escapes with only minor injuries, but the psychological damage she experiences shakes her self-worth, her Olympic potential, and her capacity to accept love. 

The young women return to their childhood home on the Chesapeake Bay to heal and reclaim their lives, and with their parents and grandparents, struggle to make sense of life after this tragic and irrational incident. 

Annie Crow Knoll: Moonrise is a story about the power to reinvent life after surviving loss and trauma. (This novel can be read as a stand alone.)
 
                                                         

You also wrote a play, Eva’s Piano. Could you tell us about more about the play? What do you enjoy more writing books or plays?

Gail Priest: Eva’s Piano revolves around middle-aged siblings whose mother has just died. As Joy go through her childhood home in preparation to sell it, family secrets begin to weaken her already tenuous relationship with her brother.  Complicating matters is a handsome, but much younger, neighbor who is falling for Joy and making romantic advances by encouraging her to act our scenes he’s written in an original play. The lines between memory, fantasy, and reality become blurred.

I don’t honestly have much of a preference between writing plays or novels, except a play is shorter and is all dialogue, which is my strong suit.  It seems that the characters decide whether their story is going to be told on stage, on screen, or in a book.

Where do you do your best writing?

Gail Priest: I prefer to be near nature. At home, I have an office that overlooks our back yard with bird feeders. We get lots of birds, and we have rabbits and chipmunks. When I’m able to be at the cottage, I prefer to work on the front porch where I can best enjoy the view of the water.
 
                                                            

What are you working on now?

Gail Priest: I’m busy marketing Moonrise. It takes a lot of time and effort. I am in the very beginning stage of mulling over my next story. I’ve worked on an outline and some character backgrounds. I’m looking forward to actually beginning the writing process.

As an author, how important is it to blog?

Gail Priest: I think it’s very helpful for building a platform and following. I’m miserable at blogging. I only do it sporadically, and it’s something that will require more of a commitment from me. I admire writers like you, Marie, who blog consistently. It takes real discipline.

As an author, do you find that belonging to a writers’ group is helpful?

Gail Priest: Yes, I have found the writing groups I belong to are very helpful. The South Jersey Writers’ Group is how I met you, for which I am very grateful. SJWG has a supportive membership. It’s been a positive experience for me. I also belong to the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association and the Chesapeake Bay Writers. There are several on-line writers’ groups I belong to as well. The networking made in these groups is essential, especially for independent authors. Writing is a rather isolated activity. Connecting with other writers, being able to ask questions, and having a chance to help one another all contribute to keeping the home fires burning.

How do you promote your books? Is it book signings, ads or social media?
                                                             

Gail Priest: I do it all. I’m learning every day how to do it better. I read a lot of blogs and articles on promotion. With each book, I’m gaining ground, but it’s not for the thin skinned or weak hearted. I came up with a statement that helps me. “I am productive without attachment.” Although I can get discouraged, if I keep that statement in mind, I am able to stay on task, no matter the results.
 
                                                            

What advice can you give to a young person who is thinking of writing as a career?

Gail Priest: Read, go to plays, and see films. Take writing classes. Keep yourself open to inspiration from unexpected places. Stay open to opportunities. Surround yourself with supportive, positive people. Let go of the ones who put you down. Stop the negative self-talk. Consciously attract what you want. Take a break when you need one.

Thank you, Gail, for taking this time to share with my followers. If readers are interested in ordering Gail Priest's books, you can find them here, here and here.