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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ideas from everywhere...
I am often asked about writer's block, and I always respond that I've never had it. There are ideas everywhere; the challenge seems to be how to select the few that I have time to pursue.

Then there are other ideas that filter in - ideas that can be used in any story of any genre.

Yesterday I received a catalog from Venus ( I like to look at the pictures :) and as I was going through it, I realized that some of the models reminded me of characters in my books, The Tempest Murders and The White Devil of Dublin.

I started paying attention to their clothing and the light bulb came on. Looking at these photographs gave me ideas for how particular characters could dress. Their choices say a lot about their unique personalities - quirky or sedate, bright or subdued, temptress or reserved... In some of the pictures, the models were fingering their hair, leaning forward as if listening, shielding their faces with large hats... The ideas are endless for helping to set the scene.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Twitter or Facebook?

If you've been following me on Facebook, you might have noticed a lot of new posts by me interspersed with @ signs and # signs. And if you're not a Twitter user, you might have wondered what's up.

I have a presence on both Facebook and Twitter, and I recently discovered that I could link the two so all my tweets automatically get posted to my Facebook pages. I'd forgotten I'd checked that little box until I visited my Facebook page and saw dozens of tweets listed!

For some reason, it has been easier for me to gain followers on Twitter than on Facebook, and lately they've been signing up to follow me at a rate of 10-12 per day. It's allowed me more of an opportunity to interact with readers and other authors, and also to get the word out about the Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair.

I've also been on a book tour that has blogs appearing all over the world about my newest book release, The Pendulum Files. It's been a lot of fun and one lucky follower of my tour will win a beautiful Celtic cross necklace. The book features Irish CIA operative Dylan Maguire, which is why I love giving away Celtic jewelry. It's a romantic suspense and a political thriller and it's been getting some rave reviews. Visit my website at to download a chapter if you're not familiar with my writing.

Are you a fan of Twitter or Facebook? Which do you prefer, and why? And how do you like to connect with your favorite authors?

To follow my tour, check out the tour stops here:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 6

Psychic spies will often see things as they are currently unfolding, versus seeing into the past or the future. One of the training exercises involves sending someone to a specific place. It could be beside an easily recognizable landmark (in the early stages of training) or inside a heavily fortified building (in advanced training). The psychic is not told where the individual is, but they must describe where they are. The level of detail they provide helps to determine the psychic's abilities.

Some psychics, like Vicki Boyd in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, sketch what they've seen. They can sketch faces like a forensics expert can do, or draw buildings, roads and topography. Others prefer to write what they've seen. The sketches and reports are provided to analysts, who use their information as a piece of the puzzle that comprise the overall mission.

Here's a scene out of The Pendulum Files, in which Dylan asks Sam if Vicki's dreams are premonitions into the future:

When Dylan looked at Sam, his brows were knit and his face darkened. “Are you sayin’ that Vicki here, in addition to bein’ able to travel around the world w’ her visions—she can also see into the future?”
Sam stroked his chin and peered at Vicki for a moment before answering. “Psychics can be highly effective at seeing into the past or even the present,” he said. “But they are less effective at seeing into the future.”
“Why is that?” It was Brenda’s voice now, and as Dylan glanced in her direction, he noted her face had grown paler.
“Scientifically—which is what I deal in,” Sam responded, “everyone on the planet has what is known as ‘free will’. Every decision you make, regardless of how minor or insignificant you believe it to be, places you on a certain path. At any time, another decision can veer you slightly off that path or even on a different one entirely.”
“Meaning there are too many variables—hundreds, even thousands—that can be changed at any instant. Once that occurs, any predictions of the future can fly out the window. Suppose, for example, one of you is told that you’ll be involved in a car accident. You make a decision not to go out to dinner one evening; maybe you don’t feel so well. So you stay home. Or you’ve misplaced your keys and you’re getting a later start than intended. Meanwhile, the drunk driver predicted to hit you is passed out, or a bartender calls him a ride, or he’s picked up by the cops and spends the night in jail. Or maybe, just weeks or months before, he’s had an intervention and he’s not drunk at all. Each one of those factors is enough to change the future.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Meteor Shower to Set Quite a Show

Tomorrow morning before dawn, there is a possibility that debris from a meteor shower should come close to Earth. For those living in the Eastern Time Zone, the best time to see the show is between 2 am and 4 am.

There is a possibility that an average of 200 meteors per hour can be seen with the naked eye.

And if you miss the meteor show, try looking into the sky at dawn on May 25 when the moon and Venus will rise together just before the sun.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Faking an Identity

I am noticing that more people are faking their identities on the Internet, and the practice has me curious. I've always been careful never to post anything that I wouldn't want to see attributed to me on the front page of the newspaper. Most of my social media presence and even this blog and others that I manage are oriented toward my profession, that of writing and the publishing industry. You can scroll through my blogs, visit my website or follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and find that I am consistent across the board.

So when someone contacts me through any of these Internet venues with a fake name and a fake picture, I always wonder why they are afraid to reveal their true identity. The conspiracy theorist in me (necessary for a lifetime of writing political suspense and international intrigue) wonders if they're the neighbor down the street or they're in the Ukraine, China or Russia.

They might be harmless but my gut reaction is to pull back and not to engage.

Sometimes they use an actor's photograph. I wonder when I am looking at a good-looking bodybuilder whether they're really the great-grandmother of thirty or a disheveled alcoholic using their local library's Internet connection.

Sometimes they use a celebrity's name or a combination of well-known names. Again, I wonder what's wrong with their own name and why they believe it's so important to hide their true identity. It isn't as if I'm selling sex or engaging in illegal activities. I only write about them.

So why are they afraid to reveal themselves? Are they afraid their spouse, their children or their parents will track them and demand to know why they're on social networking sites or visiting blogs? Do they really establish relationships with people through the Internet when they're obviously hiding behind the mask of an actor?

Sometimes their comments, tweets or messages appear to have merit. If they were correctly identified so I know they're an expert in a particular field, I'd welcome their opinions. But how do I know when I'm staring at the obviously spoofed face of Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, that they're not twelve-year-olds afraid Mama will catch them on the computer - or worse, a felon looking for their next victim?

I know many bloggers who have amassed a number of genuine friendships on the web. Their reach may stretch around the world, and many times they've met their contacts in person. It happens all the time with me, as I promote Book 'Em North Carolina. Relationships with other authors are established and I meet many of them in person at our annual BENC events. I'm careful with whom I engage; people troll the Internet for any number of reasons and I look for others with similar motives as my own.I also receive fan mail regularly, and always respond.

So I have to wonder: if you've created a fictitious character to hide behind, why?

And if you've encountered spoofed characters on your blog or through social networking, do you engage in conversation? Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 5

I am not a scientist. I have the utmost respect for them, and I often wish I had their brains and ability to absorb theories such as quantum physics, Einstein's theory of relativity and new theories that have ushered in the nuclear age and technological advancements.

Having said that, there are books a-plenty that discuss in minute detail how science and psychic phenomena are coming closer together.

When a psychic spy is learning how to perform a mission, one important concept is that of time and space.

Try this experiment:

Close your eyes. Think of a happy childhood experience. Relive it to the best of your ability in your mind.

When you open your eyes, you might be tempted to think that it was a daydream or a memory pulled from a physical piece of your brain. Both are true. But what is also true is that during that period of time, you relived that experience.

Science has shown that when a person recalls an experience, their bodies will react exactly the same as when the experience first occurred. With PTSD cases, someone reliving a battle fought, an injury sustained, or another traumatic experience will have the same emotions and the same bodily responses - whether it's fear, terror, anger, rage, depression, helplessness, etc. Their palms may sweat; their skin may grow hot or cold; their heart might pump wildly; they may have trouble catching their breath.

That is because in that moment, they are reliving that particular experience.

You can try it yourself by closing your eyes and recalling an upsetting experience. If it involves other people, you may find yourself feeling angry, sad or betrayed all over again. Even after opening your eyes and attempting to resume your schedule, that memory may still be with you, coloring the rest of your day.

Psychics are taught how time and space bends and is not linear at all. And just as you can not physically see your mind at work, psychics can turn their attention to another place and another time - invisibly.

With Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, time dilation was studied in minute detail and is still studied today. For example, if a clock is sitting still, it ticks at a different pace than a clock that is put in motion. It ticks differently when it is in space. In an upcoming NASA experiment, they will send one twin into outer space while another twin remains on earth, and they will compare how their bodies differ in the aging process. Time reacts differently depending on where someone is in the universe.

The concept of time with watches and clocks is a uniquely human invention, brought about by the steady rotation of the earth around our sun. But what happens in environments that have no sun? What happens with planets that orbit the sun every six hours, versus every twenty-four? And binary pulsars bring about entirely different scientific principles regarding space and time as well.

Science has also determined that our universe (and let's be clear, there is more than one universe, dispelling the myth that gave us the name "universe") is expanding. That means that everything you see in the sky is moving further apart. And the further out they move, the faster time is.

Every time you look into the sky, you are looking back in time. Depending on how far away the sun, the moon or the stars and planets are from your position on earth can mean in one glance at the sky, you are seeing some things that were there six minutes ago - and others from thousands of years ago. Some of the stars you might be looking at tonight in the night sky may have actually blown up by now (as all stars do eventually) and yet, night after night, there they are. Why? Because you are looking into the past.

By studying the forces of space and time, psychic spies can train their minds to move outward from the beliefs we've held for eons, using the power of their minds to take them elsewhere on earth, relating back information from a distant country. The better they are at their craft, the more detailed the information. It is never taken for granted that the psychic is right; their visions are used as one piece of a puzzle, always confirmed by boots on the ground - or satellites in the sky.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Irreversible Decline

A few years ago, a study was done of the North Carolina shores. The findings by the scientific community is that the sea level will rise by 39 inches over the next one hundred years, the result of which will permanently change our shorelines. What did the North Carolina legislature do with this information?

They banned the use of further studies.

Now NASA reports that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is melting at a pace that has reached "irreversible decline". You can read the entire article here.

I am not a scientist and I'm not here to debate global warming. I'm just a writer and someone who has come to believe that we shouldn't take our planet for granted. Industrialization has done much to further the advancement of human beings, but it has come at a price. I believe we have the science to correct our course so we can continue to advance as well as preserve the planet for our grandchildren and their children.

But first we have to be willing to recognize the problem and not bury our heads in the sand. Of course, there's a lot to be gained by politicians willing to go that route. They don't risk alienating their constituents who live along the coast and who don't want to see their property values erode. And besides, by the time the sea levels rise, those politicians will be long dead and forgotten.

To see ABC News' report on the banning of scientific studies impacting the coastline by the North Carolina legislature, visit this link:

It takes courage to see into the future and to be willing to sound the alarm that we should correct our course. Take, for example,Clair Patterson, the scientist who discovered that lead, particularly in gasoline, was poisoning us. He came up against the most powerful opponents on earth: the oil industry. That took real courage. But he persevered against the odds and the result today is unleaded gasoline. Read the story here.

Patterson's work did not plunge us back into the Dark Ages. We still have automobiles and they still use gasoline. By taking the lead out, we managed to stop a substance from poisoning us (which also led to banning the use of lead in paint and children's toys, among other things) and we are still able to enjoy the things we've come to rely on.

We need leaders from around the world to continue the push toward a cleaner planet. Yes, we'll all be gone by then - you and me and the others reading this post. But don't you want your grandchildren and their children to have a planet they can continue to live and thrive on?

What's your opinion?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Are you really reading?

Lately, I've been getting some interesting responses to my emails. Folks are asking questions that I just answered, or ignoring parts of my emails altogether, which is obvious in their responses. I was left scratching my head over this until I read another author's post about how people are no longer reading, but they're skimming instead.

Turns out, our lives have become so inundated with information - most of it coming from the Internet - that we no longer read anything. We skim. So we lose valuable information and sometimes we don't even realize it.

I receive more than 300 emails on an average day - not counting the more than 1,000 spam emails I get. Primarily because of my work with Book 'Em North Carolina, I am often added to authors' email lists without being asked. As a result, I find myself first thing every morning deleting everything that I didn't ask to be subscribed to. (I wish opting out was as simple as it sounds.)

When I get the list down to those I actually need to read, I truly do read them. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it means that usually I only have time to respond to one person once a day; I can't go back and forth or I'd never get anything else done. But when I respond, I try to touch on every point the other person made. I believe if they took the time to write it, it was important to them and I should show respect in responding to it.

But I'm finding that I am one of a dying breed. As more and more people skim their emails, particularly on a mobile device whose screen is small to begin with, they don't absorb what was written, they don't respond to it, and later they're left wondering what happened. I recently responded to a request from someone for information. I took the time to respond to each of her points. The response I received back was half a sentence that did not address everything that needed to be addressed.

I'm wondering - how many of you experience this same thing? Do you skim emails, or do you find others are skimming yours?

Does this carry over into the way that you read books? Are you absorbing the scenes or do you just hit the highlights?

And what do you do with the time you save by not completely reading something?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 4

One crucial step in training psychic spies is for the psychic to know themselves so they can recognize what is coming from their own mind or soul versus what they are seeing or experiencing during their mission.

Imagine hearing a conversation in your mind; I'm sure we've all experienced that, especially when we're trying to make difficult decisions. Now imagine separating the two voices - the one that tells you to "Go ahead" and the one that says "This isn't the right decision." This is the dilemma psychics have during their missions. One voice could be their own and the other voice could be what they are hearing outside of themselves.

It could take years for someone with psychic abilities to know themselves well enough to recognize which thoughts are their own and which ones are coming from an external source.

Then once a psychic can recognize their own thoughts, feelings and emotions, they must set them completely aside. It is only then that they can see the scenes they need to, hear the words that are spoken, and report back with objectivity.

Where they run into problems is when they begin to second-guess themselves. This happens with main character Vicki Boyd in the Black Swamp Mysteries Series. In the fifth book in the series, The Pendulum Files, her CIA boss Sam reminds her that she should never question the validity of what she sees. That's his job - or the job of a third party that is not associated with the psychic mission. The psychic scene is one piece of a puzzle, one that boots on the ground would confirm if it is accurate.

For example, psychic spies knew that Saddam Hussein was hiding underground and they were even able to pinpoint the geographic region. Psychic spies used during the Iran Hostage situation in the 1970's knew when the hostages were being kept together - and also knew when they were going to be separated, which prompted the (failed) rescue mission.

Here's an exercise:

Turn around in your chair and look straight ahead for a few seconds. Then turn back to your computer.

What did you see when you turned around? No cheating - can't look behind you again! Write down everything you remember. Be objective; don't start second-guessing. Then turn back around and compare the scene behind you with what you've written.

Pick a room that you are familiar with but one that you're not in at the moment. Write down everything you remember about that room. Then take your writing into that room and compare what you've written.

In both instances, you are seeing the scenes in your mind's eye. When you turned back to the computer, you were recalling what you'd seen "from memory" - same with the room you weren't in at the time you recalled it. Yet for both of those moments, you were there in your mind.

As psychic spies progress through their training, they are sometimes given coordinates (latitudes or longitudes) or specific places (such as a street address in Paris) and asked to describe it. As they become more advanced, someone is on the ground in that exact location, and they are asked to describe what that person is doing. The tasks become more complex as their minds grow sharper and they become more attuned to what they're seeing, even though they are not there physically.

How is that even possible, you might ask?

It goes straight to the scientific principles of time and space. That's covered next week, so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An update to the nightmare

Last week, I mentioned a nightmare I'd been dealing with. It all started when the local grocery where I've shopped for years informed me that they could not accept my checks. Even though I'd never had a problem with my bank and there was more than sufficient funds in my accounts, TeleCheck, a company I'd never heard of before, had blocked them.

After numerous calls, we finally were told what happened. I should add that all of our calls to TeleCheck ended in frustration and no answers - until we contacted Lowe's Foods headquarters, and they phoned TeleCheck on our behalf. I suppose TeleCheck didn't care what consumers experienced, but they decided they did not want to lose Lowe's Foods' contract.

So here's what happened, and the representative from TeleCheck tells me this is completely legal and an acceptable business practice:

I have contractors work at my home on a regular basis. I might pay them for mowing my lawn, cleaning my house, or performing handyman tasks. I pay them with a check. I always have. I don't carry cash and I'm certainly not going to ask them if they will take a credit card.

If a person takes my check to a store and asks them to cash it and that store uses TeleCheck's services, the checking account number on MY check is linked with THEIR driver's license number. From that point forward, their credit is linked with mine.

Here's what that means to you: if you write a check to someone who does not have stellar credit and they cash your check at a store (versus a financial institution) YOUR credit will be associated with THEIRS if the store uses TeleCheck. Your credit can be absolutely pristine and if theirs has tanked, so will yours.

And the TeleCheck representative told me this is perfectly legal and an accepted business practice.

I can only think of one person who was a worse one to pull this stunt with, and she's now a United States Senator. So of course once I got TeleCheck's official story, I contacted her office. Since then, I've contacted another Senator, a Congressman and I filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission - who, incidentally, just fined TeleCheck $3.5M in January of 2014 for similar actions. Read the official report here, subtitled Penalty Matches FTC's Second Largest Ever in an FCRA Case.

And I'm not finished. I am also in the process of completing paperwork for the Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau - and any other agency or congressional subcommittee who may have jurisdiction. Google TeleCheck and you'll see literally thousands of consumer complaints.

I've asked my Congressional representatives whether this is, in fact, legal. And if it is, they should close this loophole. No one should ever have their credit arbitrarily linked with someone else. The implications are frightening.

And of course I've seen a book in this. Stay tuned. You may be reading a suspense thriller with this scenario in it sometime in 2015!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Making of a Psychic - Part 3

There are currently a number of governments around the world who employ psychic spies in their military or intelligence agencies. One accepted method that leads to training is to begin with a complete psychological profile of the person. When someone is undergoing a psychic mission, the last thing they need is for their own personal agenda, biases or emotions to get in the way. That can alter the results and make the psychic less reliable.

Then they undergo a series of tests to see if they actually have some psychic ability or they're just guessing... or they are charlatans.

One of the first basic tests includes a series of pictures, letters or numbers. One person will go into a room that has never been seen by the psychic. They are instructed to turn over cards, displaying each of the pictures, letters or numbers. They don't do this rapidly but wait a minute or so between each one.

The psychic is in another room and is told to describe the images that come through to them.

A true psychic will begin to pick up on the images or the specific letters or numbers, repeating them back. The higher their score, the higher their potential.

Someone who is just guessing or someone who is a charlatan will be completely clueless about the images.

One of the best psychic spies tested not only described each of the cards but described the young woman turning them over and the room she was seated in - even though he had never seen the woman or the room before.

A fun way to test your own psychic or intuitive ability is to be shown a photograph. It's up to you to determine who the person is or what their characteristics are. One that recently came across my desk was from Anna Sayce. Check out this blog to view the pictures:

Then go to this blog to see who the woman actually is, her nationality and what happened to her life:

Next week I'll discuss more testing of psychic spies and how their training begins to develop. In the future, I'll also discuss pitfalls they have to avoid and how governments double-check the results of their psychic missions with boots on the ground.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The nightmare that could happen to you...

Last week, my life was turned upside down and I found myself in the nightmarish situation of being unable to write checks to pay my bills. My situation did not involve identity theft. And sadly, it could happen to anybody at any time.

It all started when I wrote a check at my neighborhood supermarket, a store I routinely shop a couple of times a week. When the check came back as denied, I told the cashier that it simply was not possible. She was well aware that I'd frequented their store for years and she immediately responded that it had to have been a machine error. She asked for another check, which I gave her, and the answer was the same.

She was apologetic but her hands were tied. It turned out that a company called Telecheck certifies the checks on the spot, and they had placed a block on my account.

My first thought was that someone had stolen my identity. I raced home, put up my groceries (which I had to pay for on a credit card) and accessed my online banking accounts. They were fine; the balances were exactly what they should have been, and the checks that had cleared were in fact those I had written. I have two checking accounts; one was opened in 1967 and the other in 1996. I had never, at any time, had a check bounce, had insufficient funds, or even had a check written to me that had bounced.

I phoned my bank, and they told me that they would never have blocked my accounts. They suggested I telephone Telecheck to determine the problem.

I was on the phone for two days with Telecheck and the situation is not yet resolved. The bottom line is that they associated a checking account at a bank I've never heard of in a state I've never been and in a name I've never had... with me. They were unapologetic. They were in a foreign country and were very difficult to understand; yet they demanded my social security number, my driver's license number and personal information before they claimed they could resolve the issue. I repeatedly requested to speak to a supervisor in the United States; under the law, they must transfer a caller to an American supervisor if they request it. They repeatedly promised to do so, only to transfer me to someone else in a foreign country. Finally, I was told they could not transfer me to an office in America. Apparently, they don't have one.

So here is what this means to you, the consumer: when you walk through the doors of any establishment that uses Telecheck's services, your account information can be linked to someone who bears no resemblance to you, your social security number, your driver's license, or your identity. Once that link occurs, good luck on getting it removed.

As a result of this nightmare, I enrolled in a credit monitoring service. When I described this incident to them, they were astounded. My credit score is one of the highest they've ever seen and there are no indications that my identity was stolen. That is great news - except I can't write checks. I have plenty of money in my accounts but my checks are blocked by a third party company that I know nothing about - and had never heard of before my trip to the grocery last week.

I am learning how to pay bills online direct from my account to the payees. And I guess from this point forward, I'll be paying cash for groceries or using a credit card. I don't believe in debit cards (one word: Target) and I've never carried cash before, which has protected me in the event my wallet was lost.

I am also filing a complaint with the Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau, and other appropriate reporting agencies.

It's a whole new world out there.