Does Inspiration come from the Spirit?

A writer friend asked me “What was your personal inciting incident?” Like knowing where I got my first kiss, I knew exactly what made me do it – what made me want to write.

During my senior year in high school, I had an accident that caused me to be bed-ridden for months in traction; And, yes… from time to time I did look (and feel) like a mummy.

To ensure that I would graduate, my teachers prepared work for me to do at home. All of the assignments were pretty easy and straight forward… except English.

I was to write in a journal every day, read novels and write papers. Journal? Check. Read? Check. Write? “What Should I write about?” I asked my instructor. He sent me a series of articles he had picked up from various sources. He told me to choose one, and comment on the subject matter or write about how it made me feel.

I did all of them.

One in particular really awakened my imagination and opened my eyes to the world of the weird. It was a piece titled “Fire Walking in Ceylon”.

Wow! Everything about the story was new to me. Where is Ceylon? What’s fire walking? Why do people do it? Who had the idea to do it in the first place? What kind of magic or witchcraft is this – why don’t the ‘walker’ get hurt? This was totally new to me and exploded my complacent reality to smithereens!

My questions mounted, and I began to do research on these new subjects. For example Ceylon turned out to be Sri Lanka, a large island nation about 20 miles south of India. I was intrigued that a country would find it important to change its name while keeping its heritage intact. The strange nature of their monkey-told stories of evil magicians kidnapping princesses and free floating spirits in the air expanded my knowledge of far away exotic lands and culture lands;weirder still - they exist now. Thai dancers and royalty wore pointed hats of jewels and pointed shoulder pads, pointed fingernails and pointed this that and the other thing – kind of spooky, yet alluring. I had to know more. But first, the fire walking.

I was fascinated that people from all walks of life would endanger their feet with these red hot coals. For me, a paper cut is bad enough, but burning your feet?! It was all the more vivid for me at the time because I couldn’t walk, even with unburned feet. There was much more here than a dare. Finding out why, took me into the world of paranormal and spirituality, and I’m still intrigued by the genre of ‘Strange, but True’.

Lady with shopping bag walking on coals, behind Monk

I found out that some people believe if you can achieve a thing that you, at first, think is impossible, it can break the chains of fear that bind you. Meditation of various forms is suggested to get your mind into a state that it will believe anything you tell it, rather than believing what it sees and nothing more. This is what separates the human mind from the animal kingdom; a cat or dog would no more walk through a fire pit willingly than a human would deliberately cut off their own hand. I also found out that Westerner’s learn how to fire walk while on vacation – they say it’s easy! *shock*

The conscious mind must also take part; one must decide to do this, then the subconscious mind is contacted through meditation or suggestive thought, if you will. Then the body melds with the higher brain functions and allows the individual to avoid harm during the experience. I still wonder, after all these years, if I could do it. Investigating the supernatural can be a life’s work and still one would only scratch the surface. Being in too much pain to meditate,  I decided to read up on Asian cultures.

I learned that history is always influenced by geography. I saw how a mountain range or large desert affects not only a tribe, or a nations travel but their attitudes, superstitions and religions. Take the Chinese and their dragon lore. It explained the mist rising from a crevasse that you wouldn’t want your children to play near, so you tell them this story that grabs their imagination and voila you have a traditional myth lasting hundreds of generations. Then someone includes gemstones growing between the dragon scales and now you have my attention! So I studied geology of the region, which in turn took me to gemmology. The gems of southeast Asia are plentiful and extensive. Apparently, one can take a shovel and, with eyes closed, drop it blade first into the ground and you have a gem mine! Topaz and moonstone; ruby and sapphires. I eventually became a gemmologist through the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) when it was located in Santa Monica, and did further studies with the Fellowship of Gemmological Association (FGA) Great Britain. That’s inspiration!

The real purpose of this story was to answer my friend. It has become an illustration of how one can be bitten by the writing bug anywhere, anyhow and at any time. So beware!

From this English assignment on, I wrote about what I saw and thought, what I heard and read about and of course, I wrote about things I did, places I went and people I met. Now I write what the characters tell me to write; characters that I (almost) believe have found me and realize I can be a conduit for them by way of the written word, to tell their stories next to my own… like taking dictation from the spirit world.

So, if you are interested in being a writer and you find yourself asking “What shall I write about?”, then I’d say look for that thing that infuses you with a million questions, and read a lot looking for your answers. Don’t worry – your characters will find you. The rest is easy.

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Gerard Butler Spammed

Gerry Butler has been bitten.

vampiressSpammers go for the soft “neck meat” of your blog; they choose some often used link, like a well-loved celebrity, then they abuse the fans.


Well, initially because they can. Second, they have an agenda.

No, reeeeally?!

Yes, really. Here are a few I’ve uncovered:

  1. There are ways to make money online simply by getting page hits. The new spammers write comments to your blog that sound like they are your fan, but no; they wither artificially create a backlink from your site to get a ‘point’, or they hope you will click on their comment for a reply. *Ding* One more hit.
  2. The spammer has a store (online or otherwise) and they want to increase their SEO ranking – that’s when their site gets  higher on the Google or other browser’s search list because of increasing hits. Same thing as #1.
  3. Spammers help AND COMPETE with each other, so some of the spam you receive on your blog may simply be a training session for a meat-in-a-can newbie.
  4. Some people like to spread their opinions by stomping on yours. These are the truly malicious ones who may also leave a burning bag of poo on the doorstep of your blog post.

Being a blogging writer I thought it might be a good idea setting my site to accept comments. It would lend credibility, right? Maybe, however I realized early on that most readers don’t comment and when they do, they don’t say much. “Nice blog.” doesn’t tell you why they liked it. The spammers say far more but it’s empty. Sadly, I spend more time deleting fake messages than reading real ones.

For example, I was fortunate enough to see Gerry Butler when he was a guest on the 768px-Gerard_Butler_(Berlin_Film_Festival_2011)_2Jay Leno show and I blogged about it, looking forward to connecting with my readers about the event. Sure I mentioned names – how else would anyone know who I was talking about? Well, spammers have loved this blog post more than all the others, probably because Gerry is a big name in Hollywood (and in many a heart *wink*). Daily I get several anonymous comments for this one post, and they are increasing. I’m betting Gerard doesn’t like spam any more than I do.

In the past I have added software to stop the spam. It’s not foolproof. The spam went from “…Gaga puppies love Starbucks trucking evening news Hollywood…” to “I like what you’ve said here on your informative blog.” See, browser filters caught on to the stream-of-tag-words search trick so the spammers had to up the ante. They write a ‘meaningful’ comment but use it thousands of times, taking the meaning out.

Then I set comments to ‘admin accept/refuse’; lots of daily, fruitless comment checking there. So I gave in and let the world see the silly things. No one reads the comments anyway, right?

Well, I wasn’t sure, so I got down to biz and studied the statistics. Wow! I get WAY more hits than I ever dreamed!

Very few comments.

Unwilling to give up, this time I went researching to find a new way to get off the spam target while still accepting comments.

skull of poison_wikimedia commonsI found that I was a victim of what’s called Comment Spam. Comment Spam is a form of Spamdexing which in turn is also known as Search Spam or Search Engine Poisoning! SEP… giving new meaning to the term seepage *shudder* and is:

“the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes […] involving a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system.”

Wikipedia says these random acts of automatic commenting are done by spammers hunting for blogs that accept hyperlinks. In other words, they know who you comment-accepting bloggers are.

“Adding links that point to the spammer's web site artificially increases the site's search engine ranking on those where the popularity of the URL contributes to its implied value, an example algorithm would be the PageRank algorithm as used by Google Search. An increased ranking often results in the spammer's commercial site being listed ahead of other sites for certain searches, increasing the number of potential visitors and paying customers.”

tulips_wikimedia commonsThere are solutions out there like software, apps and self coding bits – none of which I trust or want to spent time learning. I am not a wannabee evil techie; I just wannabee an internet citizen, safe to traverse my harmless, artistic path online.

So after much research and brainstorming I’ve decided to retitle the post that brings in the most spam and see what happens. Watch, those pesky spammers will get on the bandwagon of this post : D

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Images from Wikimedia Commons

What’s MOM got to do with Your Script?

Castle_wikipediaI’ve been watching Castle on Netflix. Nathon Fillion plays Richard Castle, a successful, well-known author of romantic crime who-done-it’s. He has landed a sweet deal through the mayor (all those guys know each other) to work with New York’s best homicide detective, Kate Beckett, played by the ravishing Stana Katic. Kate is not just beautiful but  also happens to be intelligent, capable, independent, stubborn and feisty. Yep, you guessed it; she becomes his muse.

Every once in a while the dialogue focuses on the art of writing. Rick will drop the occasional “That’s what writer’s call the inciting incident”, or when speaking to his daughter, Alexis (played by the very talented Molly Quinn), “Remember, I was the one who taught you sub-text, young lady.”

Writer’s will realize that Rick Castle need not bring up all the tricks utilized by novelists, like the first rule ‘Show, don’t tell’, because they don’t help solve murders. However, using some writer’s rules can be helpful in sorting out a crime puzzle.

GMC, the second rule, for example. No, not General Motors Corporation ; ) - goal, motivation, and conflict. It’s not enough that a suspect has motivation. They also need a way to get at the victim. Castle often brings up motivation, means and opportunity as a way to figure out who might be the most likely suspect.

Motive, means, and opportunity; I like to rearrange the terms to motive, opportunity, and means, then think of it as M.O.M. This doesn’t necessarily take the place of GMC, because without conflict there is no reason for the story, but they hold hands.

old truck_US National Oceanic and Atmosphereic Acministration_theb1921I bet two can play this game; What if I be Castle and use show-don’t-tell to help work a crime investigation. Let’s see… mom is chewing on a bit of hay sitting behind the wheel of a beater 1948 GMC pick-up truck, her tanned arm resting in the open window, mischief in her eye. A blood stained blanket covers a lump in the back of her truck.

If it works for Castle, and it can work for you.

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PHOTO CREDITS: Castle = Wikipedia, black & white truck = US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

More Cake Love

Some people… a LOT of them are so creative. I mean just look at this Scrabble cake!

Lizie Scrabble cakeThe time it takes to make one of these starts with the idea, then comes the research- that’s huge. Then buying the supplies. If you’re using fondant, that can get pricey. If you’re squeezing decorations out, be prepared for a hundred flubs. If you have to roll out something like for ribbon, expect that to be the time an earthquake hits, because even after you do everything in your power to do it perfectly, something will ALWAYS do the gremlin thing. But does that stop us artistic types? Not a chance. Check these out:


Lego cakeroulette cakewine barrel cakecamera cakeTaj Mahal cakesuitcase of money cake

Cool, I say… yummy cool.

5000 Year Old Wine May Cure What Ails You


I was reading about the tunnels under the Giza Plateau, a relatively new archaeological find in Egypt, when I was intrigued by another link. It took me to information about an early Egyptian ruler, the Scorpion king. Yep, he really existed, though not as the movie portrays him.

multiple jugs of wine_ScorpionKingTombIn April of 2009, Archaeologist Patrick McGovern and colleagues have found a cache of wine jars in Scorpion’s tomb that contains herbs and tree resins. They believe the additives were for medicinal purposes.

McGovern is sharing his new information with Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center. Using residue of ancient winebiomolecular analysis, they are attempting to recreate the recipes of the wine find. The purpose? Maybe the ancient Egyptians were on to something – like a cure for cancer. While the concept of utilizing archaeology to help cure disease is thrilling, I can’t help but wonder why the Egyptians felt a dead person needed medicine.

Evidence is looking like these remedies are as much as 3350 B.C. Interestingly these appear to be imported wine concoctions as the Egyptians did not, at that time, produce their own wine. If you were an Egyptian ruler and imported medicated alcohol, wouldn’t you try to preserve peace with that exporting nation? Sometimes I think we could use a little bit of that wine, and the political friendship it fostered.

Original article:

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The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing . . . wouldn’t that be nice? Could one of these blog-hop books be the next Fifty Shades of Grey? You could say you saw it first.
For those of you not familiar with a blog hop . . . it’s a bit of a treasure hunt. After reading a blog, look for a link to another author’s blog, for another treasure between the pages. Some books are still in in progress, as mine is, so names may change and plots may twist.  Some books are being released  while you read this blog. So exciting! My friend Christine London, who tagged me to participate in this tour, has many such published treasures. I have so much to thank her for it won’t fit in a blog; hardly fits in my heart. She is a writer of great emotion, and her characters travel to places I want to live. I’m sure you will find you need her books on your bedside table as much as I do. Visit her at and continue to enjoy the work of our fellow authors on the tour.
What is the working title of your book?
A Spirited Wine.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Growing up in England, my family lived in a three-hundred year old farmhouse, and while the images that may conjure seem bizarre, let me assure you I was not raised in a barn : ) Rather it was a two-story, perfectly normal house with a few ghosts. You read that right; ghosts. Auditory, dream-state and olfactory-based ghosts. Just so you don’t think me mad (yeah, I know… too late) I was not alone.
We first heard about the ‘guests’ from the house keeper and gardener, her husband who ‘came with the house’. They do things like that in the ‘old country’. Mr. and Mrs. Elder told us multiple stories, with plenty of details for us to poo-poo. My parents checked with the previous owners to be certain we didn’t have a couple of loonies in our home; same thing – ghosts.
Every one of us had very similar dreams about places in the house that might be lived in by beings able to pass through walls.
Many years later, I was offered a glass of exceptional pinot noir. I can’t explain it logically, but it changed my life. The magic of it stirred my imagination, and I realized I had to find a way to share my revelation.
Ah ha; fiction! I could combine the magic of wine and the mysteries of the supernatural. That way, no one will ever think me mad, just creative!
What genre does your book fall under?
Supernatural Suspense with a touch of romance.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Jude Law as ghost, Jessica Alba as Alexandra, Marion Cotillard as Monique, Javier Bardem as the police detective, Beyoncé as the detectives secret girlfriend (they work together *gasp*), Olivia Wilde as Alexandra’s mother (make-up to age her 10-15 years), and Robert Downy Jr. (playing a slightly more serious role than his Sherlock Holmes) as Alexandra’s older brother.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Greek vineyard ghost helps solve a mystery with Alexandra Rives, who has recently sustained a head injury.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m on the fence about this one, though will eventually self-publish, even if I go with a publisher first. Hold on to your rights!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and often take the opportunity to weave a weird one for their challenge to write 50,000 words in a month, so about two to three months. (One must have something to start with before beginning the word count frenzy.)
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Buffy, the Vampire slayer for the supernatural / human connection, and anything by Martin Walker for the journey through to solving a crime-mystery, while eating fabulous food, and drinking wine.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Remember that pinot noir I mentioned earlier? It was from the vineyards of the Nuit-Saint-George in the Côte de Nuits sub-region of Burgundy, France. I also spent a summer in Europe recently, and was so partial to France, I want to haunt the place for an eternity : )
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Creepy villain, er villains. Really creepy villain…s.
Who else should you visit?
I’m going to leave the links to a few friends’ blogs who may not have had time to join the tour (because of my lateness to get on the blog-tour), but deserve to be included.
1. Rochelle Staab, author of Who Do? Voodoo (supernatural suspense)
2. Nico Rosso, author of Night’s of Steel (romantic science fiction)
3. Veronica Blade, author of My Wolf’s Bane (young adult paranormal)
4. Brenda Scott Royce, author of Monkey Love (romantic comedy)
5. And, of course, my dear friend Christine London, author of Soul in His Eyes (contemporary romance). Enjoy!

Mysteries of the French Countryside

I recently discovered a wonderful book of suspense and romance by Martin Walker, complete with intrigue, sex, food and wine. From the first paragraph I am swept away into the French countryside cheering for the underdogs, waiting for the cross-examinations, following the narrow mountain roads overlooking breathtaking views, and raising a glass to the hamlet’s only café.

The author, Mr. Walker, comes from a political and historical Bruno cover2approach to journalism, but has no difficulty turning his pen to fiction. He regales his readers with the adventures of a lone policeman in Saint-Denis, France in his pilot novel, “Bruno, Chief of Police”. You read that correctly; even though Bruno’s rank is Chief of Police, he is the only policeman in his lovely little village in this part of Burgundian France – Bordeaux. Unraveling the mystery of a murdered Algerian war hero who lived the life of a hermit on the outskirts of town, Bruno must keep the peace on multiple fronts -the crime touches some of the highest seats of the French government Bruno must answer to, while it stirs memories and buried emotions from the war against Nazi Germany among his friends and their relations of Saint-Denis.

As for the genre, there are some that feel a writer must not read what they write for fear of copying. I disagree. When another author does it right, all others should take note, for one can only learn; and learn, I do. For example, these stories are about Frenchmen doing French things, in France, yet I am reading in English. But wait, there is plenty of the French language tucked between these pages, craftily woven into the tale – you hardly notice; no need for a character to even say “Bien sûr” or “D’accord”. You just know. Genius. Not how I would have done it, but I find I prefer Walker’s technique.

The Dark Garden2I love recipes that crop up in books as the characters grill a steak (ooh, must try that marinade) or prepare an egg or potatoes and veggies (so simple, yet so very French). Everywhere Bruno goes he is offered food or drink, giving one an insight into the French way of life. I couldn’t ask for more… except perhaps a second in the series.

Well, I got my wish and a have starting reading “The Dark Vineyard”.


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Too Much Mr. Hyde

When things go wrong, I resort to art.

I know this about myself, so there's no need to report me to the Strict People. It's nothing new. I know I should try to be like others, take a deep breath and conform, but it just doesn't work for me. I can only take so much before I need to be creative.

"Or what?" you ask.

That's a complicated question, possibly without an answer.  I have Dr Jeckle_Mr Hyde_moviehad the opportunity to analyze it, though. The left side of the human brain can do the math, bit for all its accuracy, a staircase is a series of equidistant, linearly connected, perpendicular lines in a two dimensional plane. I live in the world of sweeping spiral staircases festooned with rococo carvings dug deeply into old oak banisters. I am a right-brainer and can't help myself. Somewhere inside I suspect I have no intention of looking for a cure, yet I still feel shame.

The little devil on my shoulder wants to know how come I think things are going badly. Stinker; he knows damn well I'm stumped with a computer programming problem. Ah! A left-brainer's pursuit. No wonder! I was too close to the unhappiness  to see it.

"Now what?" you ask.

Now, I draw, glue, cut, paint. I design, carve, melt, solder. I take a break, pet the cat and watch Dr. House videos - I watch him get ah ha's. Might be contagious. If I could solve my puzzle, I could go back to the left-brain project. Maybe that's what this is all about; I've been Dr. Hyde too long - it's Jeckle's turn. OK: I've got an art journal, Dr. House is on pause, cat's within reach - I'm goin' in. Don't wait up.

The Kiss

Posted on 14 July, 2012

My sister was recently married in London, England and decided to have a reception in the States. We were ecstatic, and got right to work on preparations.

I was in charge of the cake.

Being that it was to be a small venue of close southern Californian friends and immediate family, I didn’t think the multi-layer cake was in order.

The Kiss_cake Since the art business is where my sister ‘calls home’, it seemed fitting that the cake should reflect that, and the romantic Gustav Klimt came to mind. His 1908 painting, “The Kiss” portrays a newly wed couple in a loving embrace of gentle affection. No other image would do.

Fondant City
I surrounded myself with coloured fondant icing – every inch of the rainbow, expanding it by making my own colours, working the dough-like frosting as if it were clay. It might have been more fun without the plastic cloves, but it was important to me that the cake be suitable for the pickiest eater. Accents of edible gold leaf pulled the image together. (The ‘glow’ around the couple is a gold leaf covered rib of fondant, as are a few areas of the garment designs in the photo detail, above.)

When the thing was presented to the newly-weds and guests, no one was willing to cut into the artwork – not even the bride and groom! Cake maker Alex Kent (aka Niki Chanel) had to do it amidst hisses and boos and gasps of disbelief… but they all had a piece.

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Weird and Wonderful Sight in the Sky

A murmuration is a swarm of starlings in flight... you know, a visual algorithm. Don't you just love it!