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0 In Gems & Jewelry

Garnet: Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Don’t like garnets? You need to know them better.

Like Tia Garner, in Trust Not the Heart, many women complain they don’t like garnets, the birthstone for January. What they usually dislike, however, is the dark, brownish-red garnet so common in jewelry, especially old jewelry.

And that’s understandable, because it wasn’t until the 1970s, really, that other kinds of garnets began making their mark in the jewelry industry, starting with the reddish-purple rhodolite that Cassie Franklin is designing a ring for as Trust Not the Heart opens. (An exception is demantoid garnet which may be found in antique jewelry. Yellow-green demantoids have almost always been small and rare.)

Wear garnets and never be blue.

Garnets belong to a large group of stones that all have the same crystal structure and similar, but different, chemical compositions. There are seven generally recognized species of garnet: almandite, demantoid, grossularite, hessonite, pyrope, rhodolite, spessartite. (There will not be a test.) But as Cassie explains to Tia, what makes garnets special for women born in January is that they come in all the colors of the rainbow except blue. “I like to think it means that you can’t be unhappy if you’re wearing garnets,” Cassie tells her young friend.

There’s the rich green of Cassie’s favorite, tsavorite, named for the Tsavo Valley in Tanzania which is still the only source of the stone. (Full disclosure: It’s my favorite, too.) There are blood-red garnets, pink to purple garnets, yellows and oranges. There are even star garnets and garnets that change color depending on the light they’re in. There is almost no gem family with more variety.

Garnets are tough as nails.

In fact, I can’t think of anything to dislike about garnets. They are hard (resistant to scratching), tough (resistant to breakage). In fact, the particles in old-fashioned “emery boards” used for filing nails, is garnet. But most of all, garnets are beautiful. They take a high polish and come in any kind of cut you can imagine. To my knowledge, garnets are not treated in any way. That can’t be said for most gemstones on the market today.

If that’s not enough, garnets—especially red garnets—have a rich history. They were the most popular gemstone in Hellenistic jewelry, created in the centuries before the birth of Christ. Sympathetic magic connected the red color, of course, to blood and the female cycle and, as a result, to fertility. A good stone to have on your side if you wanted children or a safe delivery.

A diamond prospector’s friend.

One of my favorite stories is about garnets and ants.

Garnets are often found in association with diamonds. In fact, sometimes, tiny garnets are actually trapped inside diamonds. Because the two gemstones are often found together, garnets are considered an “indicator mineral”—one that geologists look for when searching for new diamond-bearing areas.  

Tiny grains of garnets are often brought to the earth’s surface by industrious ants. When geologists find bunches of garnets around ant hills, it’s a small indication that diamonds may not be far away.

0 In Liz Writes

With Heart-felt Gratitude!

Thank you, Kind Readers!

I want to extend flowers and chocolates, my thanks and a kiss to my kind readers—especially my Nook readers—who have given Dangerous Visions (formerly The Listening Heart) a boost on its maiden voyage. I can’t thank you enough for the time you’ve taken to read about Stacie Cappella and her monster black dog, Bananas, her frightening confrontation with a stalker who wants to see her dead, and Ben Robard, the Eden Beach fraud detective who wants her very much alive.

I’d love to get your feedback on this, my first foray into suspense. You can drop me a line at And if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d appreciate you reviewing the book online.

Thank you so much!


0 In Liz's Life

Good-bye 2020. We won’t miss you.

I don’t think there is a person in the world who isn’t relieved to see the end of 2020, though there is not one of us who will forget it. In the US, more than 300,000 dead from Covid-19, and still counting; hundreds of thousands of families–millions around the world–grieving and unable to say final good-byes; unknown numbers suffering a variety of long-term symptoms; nurses and doctors–no strangers to illness and death–traumatized by the sight of the dead, of their hospitals being overrun with patients, and the prospect of choosing who lives and who dies. Millions of jobs have been lost, businesses shuttered, some never to open again, and millions left with not enough to eat and uncertainty about whether they’ll be able to stay in their homes and apartments.

Then there were the natural disasters: the wildfires, the hurricanes, derechos, floods, and typhoons; and the not-so-natural disasters–half of Beirut leveled by an explosion; violence against gatherings of peaceful protestors and against individual men and women of color; and the peace of Christmas morning in Nashville shattered by a bomb. The only bright spot: the blisteringly fast development of vaccines that promise to control the pandemic.

Good-bye, 2020, and good riddance.

May this new year bring health to those who have been ill, solace to those who are grieving, help for those whose homes and jobs have been put at risk, awareness of our responsibility toward each other, and the beginning of a return to normal for all of us.

Welcome, 2021. May you be a kinder, gentler year.

0 In Liz's Life

Finding Joy

I found this quote from Moby Dick years ago. Since then, I’ve repeated it to myself in dark times to remind me to look for that kernel of joy, however small and however “deep down and deep inland.” Perhaps it can serve as a reminder to you, too, in times of loss, or even simple frustration, that we all carry those seeds of joy hidden away and that they will grow again, eventually.

0 In Gems & Jewelry/ Liz's Life

Memory Stones

If you’re like me, you’re genetically pre-disposed to pick up rocks wherever you go.

I tend to come home from a simple trip to the beach with pockets dragging. I’ve picked up stones in Japan, Greece, Turkey, England, Michigan, Brazil, and on the top of Mt. Vesuvius. They fill bowls and line window sills.

However, you may have the desire to make something of your finds: drill them, tumble them, have them cut into a cab or carving, and set them. But how do you know what might make a good jewelry stone?

First, the stone should be hard.

Well, yes, all stones are hard, relatively speaking. But if you want to cut or tumble it, this means your stone should be higher than a 5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. The Mohs Scale is a comparative scale of mineral hardness with talc, as in talcum powder, being 1 and diamond being 10.

How do you know if a stone is “hard enough”?

If your stone scratches a knife blade (5.5), it is hard enough to cut and take a good polish. Scratch your stone across the blade. Wipe away the powder to be sure you’ve scratched the blade not just powdered the stone. If the stone scratches the blade easily, its hardness is much higher. If it scratches only with effort, it is about the same hardness as the blade.

Turquoise and obsidian (volcanic glass, apache tears) are on the low end at about 5 to 6. Feldspars (sunstone, moonstone) are 6 to 6.5 Quartz (smoky, amethyst, and citrine) is 7. Garnets and tourmalines are 7 to 7.5. Topaz is 8. Corundums (sapphires and rubies) are 9. Only if you’re rockhounding in the Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park and find a greasy/shiny stone will you have to worry about stones of 10 in hardness.

Second, look for something without fractures, if possible.

Fractured stones will break during tumbling or cutting. Stones with holes or pits in them will capture grits during the tumbling process. The trapped, coarser grits will continue to scratch the stones as you tumble with finer grits. You won’t get a good polish.

If it has too many fractures, but you love it anyway, admire it on the windowsill. I tumbled an agate I found in the Namib Desert, to my regret. It lost all the interesting wind-sanded skin it had.

Third, look for dense, finely grained stones.

These are your best bet for tumbling, cutting or carving. Stones with large grains—many types of granite, for example — may crumble during cutting or tumbling. They may polish unevenly. If you can easily see the grains, the stone might not be a good candidate for cutting. Rub a couple stones together. If they don’t create a pile of debris, you may have a stone dense enough to work with. If the stone is already shiny—especially if it’s been tumbling in a lake, river, or ocean—you’ve got a winner. Sandstone or rocks containing mica will just make dust.

Lastly, consider size.

Depending on whether you tumble it or have your stone cut, you’ll lose between 30 and 50 percent of what you pick up. Believe me, when traveling, rock size is definitely a consideration. 

Here are some winners.

The best stones for tumbling, cutting, or collecting are agates (including thunder eggs), jaspers, petrified wood, quartz of any kind, obsidian, moonstones, sunstones. Garnets and tourmalines are a price, if you can find them. If you get to Arkansas, I wish you good luck.

One last hint.

Carry a permanent marker. Whatever stone you find, write on it where it was found. They’ll all look alike when you get home.

Have fun.

0 In Liz Writes

Writing an Honest, Effective, Helpful Review on Amazon

Did you hate book reports in school?

Even if you loved the book, it was probably hard to tell your classmates why much beyond, “This book was really exciting.”

So even when you want to rave about a new book you’ve discovered—or warn other readers off—you may be reluctant to limber up your fingers and leave a book review on Amazon. What do you say? How do you start?

Start by being honest.

Though some books are over-the-top terrific, and some are eminently forgettable, not every book worth five stars, and not every book is worth only one star. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

What would you tell a friend?

What one or two points—good or bad—you would tell a friend about over coffee. Some of the following questions might give you some ideas.

  • What kept you reading? (Chemistry between lovers? Entertaining sidekick? A nasty villain?)
  • What would you want to see more of? (Action, sex, dialogue?)
  • Who would you recommend this book to? (Close friends, book group, your aunt?)
  • How does it compare to other books in this category or authors in this genre? How are they similar? Different?
  • How did you feel about the characters? (Heroes, sidekicks, villains?) Who stood out?
  • How did you feel about the main character’s growth/change—or lack of it?
  • Was the ending satisfying?
  • Was the pacing fast or slow?
  • Would you read another book by this author and why—or why not?

See? Not that hard.

Give it a try.

If you want to give it a try, go to the book’s page on Amazon and click the ratings link, just under the author’s name. It will take you to the reviews section and you’ll see a box that says “Write a customer review.” That’s all there is to it.

Reviews help other readers to decide whether to try a new book or new author or not. Think about what you would want to know before buying a book by an untried author. Simply try to answer those questions for someone else.

2 In Liz Writes

Liz’s Website Remodel

It’s a mess in here!

If you’ve checked my website here in the last few days, you’re probably wondering where you are. And no, I’m not changing my name to Oleander. That’s the name of the new WordPress template I’m using.

Whether you’re getting new furniture, reorganizing your office, remodeling, or simply repainting a room, it always looks worse before it looks better doesn’t it? Same with a website revision. It’s a mess.  

But slowly it’s straightening out. That’s in large part due to Solo Pine, the originators of this template. They’ve been incredibly responsive to my questions as I apply my pitiful WP skills to this project.

I think you’ll like it when I’m done. So please be patient. Thank you for sticking with me!

0 In Liz's Books

Dangerous Visions–New!

I’m so glad to announce the release of my new Eden Beach Crime Novel, Dangerous Visions. Adding suspense, and a very creepy stalker/serial killer, was a challenge. I learned a lot about pacing.

In the process of writing, I re-read a favorite romantic suspense writer, Mary Stewart. I hadn’t revisited her books for years, but I’m glad I did. The first one I ever read was The Moonspinners. It’s still my favorite.

Dangerous Visions doesn’t take place on an exotic Greek island, but in the small, imaginary town of Eden Beach on the southern California coast. My leading lady, Stacie Cappella, is not on vacation, but working hard as a bookkeeper/tax preparer while running a small crystal shop on the side.

Stacie was born on Valentine’s Day, but love doesn’t seem to be in her future, even though she wears an amethyst crystal pendant given to her by her great aunt. It’s an old family heirloom said to foretell the wearer’s true love. It broke when Stacie’s great, great grandfather, Tomasz, was murdered, and Stacie’s sure that, even if the legend was true at one time, the fracturing of the crystal destroyed its potent fortune-telling capabilities.

Quartz, of which amethyst is one variety, is a fascinating gemstone, and one of its properties is piezoelectricity–it responds to pressure by producing an electric current and vice versa. It was used in radio communication during WWII, and I took some liberties with what that property might mean for those psychically inclined. I had a lot of fun with it. I hope you’ll have fun reading it. For more about the story, see the book’s dedicated page here on my website.

0 In Liz's Life

Spring in Oregon

Look at the cherry blossoms! / Their color and scent fall with them, / Are gone forever, / Yet mindless / The spring comes again.” Ikkyu      

One of my favorite places to walk is an old cemetery not far from my home. Spring is a particularly favorite time, not only because of all the old trees coming into leaf, but because of the number of flowering trees planted there, especially cherry trees.

The cherries always remind me of a spring in Japan when I was grateful to be alive after an awful illness the previous winter. Every time I see the fragile blossoms of the cherries against the gnarled and weathered bark of a sixty-year-old tree, I’m reminded to hope.

Even in a time of pandemic, they bring me joy.

0 In Liz Reads

Liz Reviews: Dan Brown’s Origins

Origin is another Dan Brown novel featuring Robert Langdon. Brown really hit a home run with the creation of this great character.

Langdon is everyone’s favorite professor, which gives Brown the opportunity to pontificate. He’s the voice of reason in situations that are usually very unreasonable, and even as he ages (Brown doesn’t tell us how old Langdon is), he’s a bit of a babe magnet. He’s also the kind of physically fit even young guys dream about.

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