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Liz

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.

Continue Reading →

0 In Gems & Jewelry/ Liz Writes

The Enduring Allure of Gemstone Crystals

This 18k yellow and white gold pendant is set with an amethyst of extraordinary color. Design by Deborah Spencer, Trios Studio, Lake Oswego, Oregon.

As I worked on the revision of Dangerous Visions I was tickled to find an article in the March/April 2019 edition of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine entitled “Crystal Hues Persuasion” by Deborah Yonick, who writes a monthly column on jewelry style and trends for LJJA. The piece describes how the “mystic beauty” of crystals has become a trend—or perhaps we should say has returned as a trend—in the making and marketing of jewelry.

Gemstone crystals in jewelry made their debut in the 1970s, as Yonick writes, and remained popular into the early 1990s. Today, of course, they are popularized by their visibility on the Internet and by a number of celebrities. Yonick quotes The Guardian saying that crystals are “one of the breakout stars of the everyday wellness movement.” As crystals come back into the public awareness, many of the myths long associated with gemstones and crystals—that they can ward off negative emotions or energy, or promote harmony—are coming back, too.

Yet while marketers may take advantage of the legends of metaphysical properties associated with gemstone and crystals to improve sales, more often it is the crystal’s beauty and mysterious perfection that makes them irresistible.

Crystal jewelry lets people express their own personality. It lets them be different. It means that jewelry containing a natural crystal (as opposed to a gem material simply cut into a “crystal” shape) is as unique as the person wearing it.

Crystals also allow the wearer to keep in touch with the natural world, to strike a blow against an ever-more-mass-manufactured world.

This burgeoning—or rather resurging—interest in crystals is very lucky for me. In Dangerous Visions, Stacie Cappella, owner of The Bell, Book and Crystal in Eden Beach, California, is very aware of the pull of certain stones. Pure quartz augments her natural gift of Second Sight—a gift she’d rather not have. The irreplaceable amethyst crystal she wears, a centuries-old family heirloom, is said to foretell true love.

Yet Stacie firmly believes that crystals and gemstones cannot heal, as she is at pains to explain to the fraud detectives who respond to a complaint against her.

“[Mir] got it into her head that it was the touchstone I once gave her that healed her acne.”

“Why would she think that?” asked Cruz. Her tone said the idea must have gotten into Mir’s head because Stacie put it there.

“Who knows why anyone believes anything?” said Stacie, an edge to her voice. She was getting a bit angry now that the terror of federal prison had passed. “Someone buys a touchstone because it gives them something to hold onto during chemo treatment. When their cancer goes away, why do they credit the stone and not the treatment?” Stacie had had a customer who believed just that, though she wasn’t going to say that to the detective. “Why do placebos work? Doctors still don’t understand that.”

She glanced at Ben. His face was closed.

She remembered the odd sense of confusion she’d sensed at South Coast Heritage Park.

Not confusion. Imbalance. Uncertainty. As if his tether to the ground had been cut.

As if he were torn between desires. Feeling guilty.

Stacie turned and walked to the case where she kept exquisitely formed quartz crystals—smoky, amethyst, colorless—under glass to protect them from damage as well as from too much handling.

“Personally?” she said, as she unlocked and opened the case and pulled out the drawer holding the crystals. “I think that, for most people, the crystals, the wind chimes, the music—beautiful things, beautiful sounds—just make them feel better, more connected, calmer.” Her hand went unhesitatingly to a smoky quartz the size of her thumb. The specimen was cloudy and dark at the base, but gradually cleared to a lovely gray brown at the finely pointed terminus.

She went back to Ben and held it out to him. Startled, he reached for it, and she laid it in his hand. Stacie saw Colin’s puzzled look as she turned back toward Cruz.

“The tarot, the runes, they simply give people a way to acknowledge what they already know. That it’s time to change jobs. That their boyfriend is no good for them.” From the corner of her eye, she saw Ben watching her, listening to her. She saw his thumb stroking the crystal.

“Just because I sell these things doesn’t mean I’m a healer. Nor does it mean I endorse them as a method of healing. In fact, I always tell people—like your Mrs. Byers—to see a health professional if they have health concerns.”

“But you let your employee continue to tell customers something different,” said Cruz doggedly.

“Yes, well.” Stacie sighed. “I’ve tried to tell her the stones don’t heal, but she’s convinced they’ve helped her.” Stacie spread her hands. “I can’t help what she believes. I have asked her not to say things like that to customers. The shop alone creates enough trouble by itself.”

Stacie does not really believe that the amethyst crystal she wears can identify her heart’s true love, either. But…

Ah. That would be telling.

0 In Gems & Jewelry

Amethysts and Crystal Power

Gorgeous amethyst crystals with small quartz crystals, from the Jackson Crossroads Mine, Wilkes County, Georgia. USA. Easy to see why people believe in crystal magic. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Perfect gemstone crystals, such a the breathtaking amethyst crystals here, are the jewels of the mineral world. Many jewelry makers are in thrall to that beauty, so it’s not all that hard to find gemstone crystals set into earrings or pendants. (Some of those may be man-made material cut into the shapes of crystals, which shows you how popular crystal shapes have become.)

In addition, because of their color and perfection, for millennia metaphysical powers have been attributed to gemstone crystals. The mystic properties associated with gemstones have made them desirable for time out of mind. After all, we all want a little boost of power sometimes, and what better way to feel that power than to wear a beautiful stone?  

A lot of crystal myth and legend is just that. But quartz (amethyst is a type of quartz) is an unusual stone with a number of superpowers. One of the most intriguing is that it’s piezoelectric. Applying pressure to the stone generates electricity and vice versa—applying electricity makes the stone vibrate.

The thickness of the stone affects the frequency at which it vibrates. In fact, during WWII, quartz crystals were an integral part of radios. Tons of crystals were cut into slices to enable communication. Quartz is used today in watches and clocks to ensure precision timing. The material used for this is man-made, or synthetic, quartz. It’s no longer natural quartz cut from mined quartz crystals.

When writing Dangerous Visions, I used this quartz super power by giving Stacie a quartz crystal to augment her Second Sight abilities. I took the liberty of including amethyst under the blanket of quartz’s “radio capabilities,” though to my knowledge, the impurities that give amethysts their color would probably make the stones useless for radio communication.

But that’s the fun of writing fiction.

2 In Liz Writes

Draft of Dangerous Visions Done!

Finally! The first book in my Eden Beach Crime Novels series, Dangerous Visions, is done and out to beta readers. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought. From some of the comments coming in, it will take a bit longer yet as I make it stronger. I’ve added a suspense element to this one, and that has made the pacing trickier.

This one has a stalker/serial killer who is shadowing my main female character, Stacie Capella. I’ve already had one friend tell me she won’t read it and that’s fine. But I wanted to try something darker. Not sure I’ll try it again, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Now, on to book three as I wait for the rest of the comments from beta readers. I’m determined this one will get done faster.

1 In Liz Writes/ Liz's Books

Happy Valentine’s Day

Bananas. I’m ready when you are! Photo Stuart Robertson/Dreamstime.

Happy Valentine’s Day! A day for hearts, flowers, chocolate, and, of course, love.

It’s Stacie Capella’s 29th birthday. Her wonderful friends have surprised her with a small celebration in her shop, The Bell, Book and Crystal, before opening. Eileen has brought a beautiful cake, which pleases the ever-hungry Colin, and a couple of Milk Bones, which are awarded much tail-wagging by Bananas, the labradoodle on steroids. Stacie is surprised and touched by the exquisite card Colin, a graphic designer, has created for them all to sign, and delighted with the lovely brooch Mir has made from repurposed costume jewelry. It is a wonderful surprise and Stacie enjoys it completely. Colin enjoys the cake. Continue Reading →