Saturday, November 29, 2014

The first time I met the Pacific

I remember the first time I met the Pacific. My husband and I were driving through a Redwood grove in northern California, seven miles of serenity without another car in sight. It was then that I sensed her presence. There was still no sign of her, but the air suddenly began to stir with the promise of something bigger than the verdant foliage that had, until that moment, held my attention and my senses in its spell. I stayed on the alert for another mile, watching the road in anticipation, yet I blinked in surprise when the shade of the Redwoods was unexpectedly drawn back to reveal the Pacific in all her magnificence lying in the sunshine ahead.

My impatience to be near her made it seem as though we would never get to her, but it was not too long before we found a beach and parked. I bolted out of the car and rushed across the scraggly, wild-flower scattered grass then scampered down the rocky path leading downward to her threshold. When I at last found my way onto the sand that was clearly her turf when the tide came in, I stopped. I eyed her cautiously, measuring her power, wondering if I were woman enough to brave her strength.

As if reading my mind, she laughed a booming laugh and hugged me in a wind that whipped my hair back from my face, causing me to huddle into my jacket against her chill breath. The white froth of her surf rushed teasingly close to my feet before she retreated with a long sigh to regroup. I stepped back cautiously, thinking it wise not to test her too much, not just yet, not until this ocean and I got to know each other better, not until I knew that I could trust her not to sweep me away in a wild dance that would take my breath away forever.

I turned to my husband standing beside me. His eyes had strayed away from her to take an inventory of the trinkets she had stolen from the coastline and thrown back upon the beach in moments of abandon. He stooped to pick up a piece of driftwood she had worked on before tiring of it. While he straightened himself and examined the smoothed wood as though it were a work of art, I continued watching her in awe. It was a while before I spoke and when I did my voice strained to be heard above the thundering of her waves. “So, this is the Pacific,” I said, as much to myself as to him.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing From The Heart

I woke up to the sound of rain this morning and it hasn't stopped raining since. The rain stormed in early yesterday afternoon with a violent show of lightning and wind to match. But I like the steady, soft rain that's falling now. It's good writing weather.

When I retired from advertising, I vowed to never write another sentence. How I came to pick up the pen again was a friend had a crazy notion that I should write a novel. I told him in the unlikely event I could be persuaded to write a book, it would be something a little more philosophical in nature than fiction. "But," he argued, "You can use your characters to express your views. That's the beauty of fiction." I thought about that. I started writing The Tangled Web, which despite its light, thriller veneer is really an indictment of greed and corruption.

I'm writing another novel now. What motivated this story was pictures like this one I just snatched from Huffington Post - a bird on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast after being drenched in oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Heartbreaking isn't it?

Photo: Huffington Post

A U.S. judge has just ruled that BP's recklessness caused the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This could cost BP billions of dollars in fines, but that can never repair the damage to the Gulf and marine life. The terrible effects of the spill will be seen for years to come.

Greed can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects as demonstrated by two industries that have had a massive impact on the world - sugar and petroleum. These two industries have been powerful enough to influence the global policies of the world's leading nations. We're aware of the role Big Oil has played and continues to play in the world, but the role of the sugar industry has faded along with the past. From the 16th through the 19th centuries, approximately 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic to work sugar estates primarily. The Atlantic slave trade was the largest forced immigration in human history.

Below is a picture of whipping scars on the back of a U.S. fugitive slave named Gordon. This is a mild punishment compared to some punishments that were inflicted upon West Indian slaves.


My story weaves between 1802 (the height of Britain's sugar industry) and 2010 when the BP oil spill took place. The premise is that until the world learns its lessons, until greed ceases to be a motivation, the more things change, the more they will remain the same.

If you have the stomach for it, look at these pictures in Huffington Post taken after the oil spill.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More than 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory in 2013

I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. Fluctuating feelings of anger, sadness and despair kept me tossing and turning until, finally, I said a prayer asking for peace of mind and fell asleep.

I’ve been following news of elephant poaching for some time, so the latest, coming from Thailand, should have been no great surprise. But for some reason, it was the final straw. Seeing that image of a 50-year old elephant that lived in the protection of a sanctuary sent me flying all over the internet to share the awful news and, hopefully, create awareness of the terrible plight of the world’s fast-dwindling elephant population.

More than 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory in 2013. The Asian elephant, whose habitat ranges over 14 countries across Asia, is also an endangered species with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide. See complete article here. In northern Mozambique, up to 900 elephants have died in the past three years, the victims of poaching. Read more. Thailand is part of the problem, a big part of the problem. “The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said in a report earlier this month that Thailand has the unenviable reputation as home to one of the world's largest unregulated ivory markets." See more about this in Huffington Post

I met an elephant once, while on a visit to Sri Lanka. What struck me most about the elephant was its gentleness; how careful it was to not tread on my feet while I was standing close to it. That’s when I fell in love with the gentle giants. I’m heartbroken and outraged by their slaughter. What a terrible price for a bunch of trinkets.


If you're not able to march, please help by supporting protesters against elephant and rhino poaching by going to hashtags like #elephantpoaching #rhinopoaching and retweeting their protests. Share wherever you can on social media. Let's stop this outrage.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The often very fine line between fact and fiction

An author friend told me not long ago that something he wrote about in one of his thrillers came true. He was astonished when he saw the news item. This got me really thinking, because something similar happened with my romance/thriller, The Tangled Web. Quite a few incidents in The Tangled Web are factual and there are one or two real people mentioned in it, but there’s an event I didn’t know about when I wrote the book. It hadn’t become public knowledge yet, so I simply wrote it down to my vivid author’s imagination.

The incident I’m referring to made headlines around the world when it took place – about a week after The Tangled Web was published. Let me stop here for a minute and explain that the primary setting of The Tangled Web is based on Jamaica and the story is about a government’s ties to a leading Colombian drug cartel. The headline-making incident was the refusal by the Jamaican government to comply with a U.S. State Department request for extradition of “one of the world’s most dangerous drug kingpins.” The drug kingpin was Christopher Coke, then head of the notorious Shower Posse, suspected of having committed more than 1,000 drug-related murders in the United States and Jamaica. As a CBC Canada report stated, “the Shower Posse is one of the world's most violent criminal gangs and controls an international weapons and drug-smuggling ring with tentacles reaching into Europe and North America."

Although my drug kingpin’s tentacles are equally far reaching or even more so, she’s not a man. She’s a beautiful and ruthless Colombian drug boss named Maria Echevarría. And here’s where things get really interesting. I remember when Maria arrived on my computer screen out of nowhere, hissing at her second in command from across the room, “You live in the lap of luxury and yet look how you pour a glass of cognac, like a peasant.” I sat back in my chair staring at the screen and wondering who on earth is she? I didn’t plan to have any such character. She just kind of muscled her way into the story of her own accord. As it turns out, there’s a real life Maria, or there was up until 2012 when Griselda Blanco, also known as "The Godmother," was assassinated in Colombia. In case you don’t know anything about Blanco, here’s her story. She was the mentor of some of the famous Colombian drug lords of the 1980s, including Pablo Escobar. Blanco herself is suspected of having committed more than 200 murders while transporting cocaine from Colombia to New York, Miami and Southern California. More about her here

My friend and I are not the only authors who’ve had this kind of experience, but it leads you to wonder what is it exactly we writers tap into when we enter the world of our books? Is it some kind of bank of universal knowledge? If you’re a writer and have any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them. Readers, you're welcome to weigh in too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I’m excited. I’ve finally started a blog where I can write about something other than fashion history. After a nudge from fellow thriller author David E. Manuel who tagged me for the 'My Writing Process' blog hop, I got cracking on this blog. And here it is. Thank you, David!
David E. Manuel

I’m a fan of David’s. He’s a great author so make sure to visit his blog and check out his books - published and in progress. I’ve read his “Killer Protocols.” Trust me, once you've read that book you’ll never look at the Environmental Protection Agency in the same way again.

But enough about David. I have to follow the hop rules here – meaning tell you about what I'm up to. So, to quote Dylan Thomas, one of my favorite writers, to begin at the beginning. Luckily I was given questions to guide me and luckily for you there are only four.

And here's question number one...What am I working on?  
The seed that would grow into the novel I’m writing now was planted at the time of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It struck me then that big business has never done the world any good. I saw a distinct parallel between the sugar industry of the 17th and 18th centuries and the petroleum industry of today. Both industries were (the petroleum industry still is) powerful enough to influence the global policies of the leading nations. Both industries caused wars and human suffering and it’s now widely acknowledged that the petroleum industry is a major contributor to our environmental woes.
But what can we do? We’re all entrenched in a way of life in which oil plays a big part. Which of us would turn off our air conditioning on a blistering day or walk instead of driving for the sake of the environment? Sarah Granville my 1800s character is vehemently opposed to slavery and yet she prefers her tea sweetened. Remember sugar and slavery went hand in hand at the time Sarah lived. Robert Courtney, who believes all people are equal, admonishes Sarah when she says the African slaves are no more than savages. Yet Robert Courtney is a slave owner. Often the noblest ideals fall by the wayside of life.

The challenge was linking the past and present in a continuing story confined to one novel. The solution was re-incarnation. Two people who lived in the early 19th century meet again in the 21st century to face their unresolved issues. In the year 1802, Sarah Granville is a young English aristocrat, an abolitionist and a feminist. As fate would have it, she falls in love with Robert Courtney, a sugar baron who has more than eight hundred slaves working on just one of his estates. The two meet again in 2010 when Sarah is now a die-hard environmentalist and Robert is a top level oil executive. Will they put their differences aside to be together at last? We'll see what happens. The book isn't finished yet.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that fans of historical fiction will forgive my departure from the norm seeing I've done a good job of capturing early 19th century England. But although a large part of the novel is set in the 1800s, much of it takes place in current times. Also, there's the paranormal element. I've yet to decide what genre this book is. Historical? Historical Romance? Paranormal? Paranormal Romance? No worries. I'll figure it out by the time I finish writing it.

Question number three. Why do I write what I do?  
I have no idea why I write what I write. It just comes to me and I go with the flow, wherever it’s taking me. 

How does my writing process work?  
The word process alludes to the kind of discipline that certainly doesn’t exist for me. I don’t plot very much. It’s pointless, because a character can do something that will derail all my plans. My stories come to me in scenes and they're often not consecutive. I don’t think in words so much as in visuals and like a movie, a lot of the scenes aren’t shot strictly in the order they appear on the storyboard. For example, a visual of Courtney and Sarah dancing came to me one evening when I was just about to fix dinner. It’s been in my “scenes” file waiting to be slotted into a future chapter. That sounds a bit hodgepodge, but somehow it works, for me anyway. When I start the chapter, I’ll be moving toward this moment when, after two rather strained encounters, Courtney hints at a romantic interest in Sarah...

     “I think you take pity on me in asking me to dance.”
“It is not as you say. I would do you no such dishonor. I dance with you because you are lively of mind.”
“How strange that you should dance with someone because you find them lively of mind. A ballroom floor is not the best place to converse.”  
“Indeed it is not, but tonight I give thanks for the ballroom floor.”

Dance scene from the movie Pride and Prejudice

Well, let's leave Sarah and Robert to sort it out, because it's time for me to introduce you to thriller authors Jan Ryder and George Henry and multi-genre author Annamaria Bazzi. Please make sure to visit them and see what they're up to.

Jan Ryder
 Visit Jan at

George Henry
Visit George at

Annamaria Bazzi

Visit Annamaria at