Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag

There were so many things about this book that I loved, but I think it was the opening chapter that will stick with me for life. The weather description, the walk, the tension building as you know something horrible waits. Something so unspeakable you want to cover your eyes. Few authors can instill that feeling with words, but Ms. Hoag mastered it with this book.

Other books by Tami you might enjoy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Glimpse Into A Twisted Mind

I'm not always sure where my characters originate, but Brightstone quickly became a loved/hated character for me.   Perhaps because I understood his pain.

Take a glimpse into a twisted mind.

There was nothing exceptional about my birth, except perhaps for the fact that my parents shared the biblical names of Joseph and Mary. They were a good, God-fearing couple.
Alas, they did not name me Jesus, but their hopes for me were not in vain. They soon realized I was not a normal child. Not like the other five-year-olds. I cared not for toys and storybooks. I spent my time developing healing antidotes from ordinary shrubs. I cared for animals, birds with broken wings. It was not unusual for me to come home carrying a poor dog that had been run over by some careless motorist. I would spend hours stitching up their wounds, applying homemade poultices, and nursing them back to health. I was indeed a savior of sorts.
School was my first experience of the cold reality of being different. Like my parents, my teachers discovered that my mind was much further advanced than they could deal with. How could you teach a child whose mind was a sponge and whose knowledge, within days, exceeded your own? I did not know then how to hide my intelligence and fit in with a crowd. I did not know how to play the games of life and lose occasionally.
Soon it became apparent that our small community was not the best place for a child of such brilliance. Or at least that was what the men in white coats convinced my parents of. So the men took me away for my own good.

I had no best friends, no first dates, no senior proms. Nothing but a cold grey building, lab coats, and books. Lots and lots of books. Not the fun, frivolous stories I should have enjoyed in my youth. Textbooks of knowledge that I absorbed and mastered within days, weeks, and months. I graduated with honors. My parents, whom I had not seen in ten years, were in the front row, beaming with pride. I smiled at them, but there was no feeling behind my smile. Any memory of the warmth of my mother’s touch or the gentle yet firm guidance of my father’s hands had long ago been lost. My father was a stranger, an old man, still handsome in some ways, but the luster was gone from his eyes. My mother, once a spirit of light and life, seemed cold with her sweater wrapped around her thin shoulders, her beauty faded by time. Had their lives grown cold and loveless like mine?

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Rants and Raves - Do Books Kill?

Sometimes I just have to get things off my chest, and today is one of those days.  I've listened to the gun debate for over a year.  The pros and cons for severe gun control.  And once again, my answer is - "you can't cure stupid."  It is a misconception that criminals are stupid.  Many criminals border on brilliant.  There is simply no way to control crime and/or murders by taking away guns.  That leaves knives, hammers, baseball bats, crowbars, poison, ice picks, bombs, and the list goes on endlessly.

We'd like to believe as a society that evil doesn't exist and there are no evil people.  We spend thousands if not millions of dollars yearly on psychological studies of "what makes this killer tick" and "why did little Johnny go off"?  Sometimes it's an overload of nothing more than life.  Sometimes it's something inherent in the person that nothing can change.  There were signs.  Early warnings that were ignored because psychology says we're doing it all wrong.  Children have labels -- ADD, OD, CB, ODD, and the list is endless.  We medicate them with anti-psychotics that create both mental and physical problems.  Have you ever looked at those labels?  Each has a warning that the child cannot stop taking the medication without severe side effects.  Hum...that should give you food for thought.

But back to my original question--Do Books Kill?

In May of this year a child was found dead, naked and emaciated.  She died from hypothermia and malnutrition.  Officials determined she had been beaten with a plastic tube the day of death.  For more on this disturbing issue check out the article at:  Examiner

In the above article the author shares links to several other deaths attributed to a book "How To Train Up a Child" by Michael and Debi Pearl.

I took the opportunity to look this book up on Amazon.  It has 3,900+ reviews.  2,582 which are 1 star slamming the book.  It's #5 in Christian Books and Bibles and #5 in Christian Living.  WTH???????  As a Christian I am appalled that a book that perpetuates child abuse in the form of: beating a child with plastic tubing; training children with pain before they disobey, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding food, hosing children with cold water to potty train them or inflicting punishment upon a child until they pass out or cannot breath to complain could reach #5 in any Christian category.

As I said, as a Christian I am appalled, but I'm not surprised.  The book found a niche in society.  A group that believes many of the old time beliefs that children should be totally obedient.  Children should be seen and not heard, and only seen when YOU want them to be seen.  At the point in time when those beliefs were upheld children were not objects of choice, but objects of need.  Many parents had children, not because they wanted a child, but because they needed that child to work the farm or do the chores.

What this niche in society doesn't take into account is the changes in society.  When the old time beliefs were instituted families survived by working together, playing together and taking care of each of other.  Interaction with society was limited.  Interaction to other belief structures was limited.  Options for any other lifestyle than the one you lived weren't available.  Times have changed.  The world has changed, and children have changed.  Was it a good change?  Not always, but we have to recognize those changes and we have to find ways to deal with them and beating or starving a child to death is not the answer.  Adopting children or having children because it's "the thing to do" or "mommy and daddy want a grandchild" is not acceptable.

Having a child should be the most thought about, life changing decision any human being makes.  They aren't like puppies that you can feed twice a day, turn out in the back yard to do their business and lock up in cages when you want to get away.  You shouldn't treat a dog that way, but treating a child that way is and should be criminal.  There is simply too much education on birth control and free birth control out there and no one should ever have a child except for one reason--you want to love it, help it grow up and become a healthy, happy, functioning member of society.  100 years ago perhaps you could do that by beating, starving or tossing out into the cold.  Perhaps children were tougher then, physically and mentally.  Just as society has changed, the physical and mental makeup of children have changed.  They're not as tough now.  They break both physically and mentally.  We see prime examples of that every day in the news.

So Do Books Kill?  The simple answer is no, but the real answer is much more complex.  Books don't kill, just as guns don't kill.  People kill.  The question we have to find the answer to is why?  A part of that answer is that we live in a world of extreme fast pace.  We are more frustrated trying to take it all in.  We have more stress in trying to find simple ways to do it all in only a 24 hour day.  We need answers to deal with overwhelming issues that face us every day.  And we want a product that works.  Especially when we've tried everything and nothing has changed.  We want that instant gratification.  The "havitall" pill that takes away our pain, depression, worry and makes us happy.  And worst of all--we don't want to look in the mirror.  We don't want to search our own souls.  We want someone to tell us what to do to make it all go away.  Most intelligent people that might find this book in their hands would read a little and say "these people are nuts"; but there are and always will be those who want someone to tell them what to do, and how to make it all go away.  They'll read this book, try some of the examples, and perhaps for some it might work.  There will be others, like the examples above who believe in the book, just like Jim Jones' followers believed in him.  When the processes set forth therein aren't working, it isn't because the book is wrong and the examples therein won't work for their child, they believe it's because they aren't doing it right.  So they hit harder.  They starve longer.  And eventually another child dies.

The opinions above are my own, but they're not totally biased as I have a counseling degree, but even more important I have a 6 year old child who is being monitored for Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  If you're not familiar with that disorder it describes an angry, defiant child that no amount of reasoning, love, structure or discipline has an effect on.  I've read all the literature, studied all the methods of working with him, and tried almost everything.  We're in counseling.  We have days and sometimes weeks of the sweetest child in the world.  We have days and sometimes weeks of an angry, defiant, destructive ball of energy that can scream for hours on end because he doesn't want to do his homework.  There are times I'm tired, discouraged and I take a lot of long walks.  I keep looking for a solution, but never in my wildest dreams would I consider beating him, starving him or tossing him out in the cold.  Not because I may not be angry at times, or frustrated enough to do that, but because I'm intelligent enough to know that that would not solve the problem.  He might for a while on the surface appear better, act better, but the problem, whatever it is that lies underneath would still be there and someday it would burst forth and I would be looking at the next school shooting or worse.  I will never give up until I find a way to reach the problem and find a real solution, not a mask to cover the issue.  And I will keep loving him, providing structure and discipline and working with him until I do.

The bottom line is books don't kill, but they can provide information that if taken to the extreme can push an already frustrated and "at the end of the their rope" person over the edge.

We have get back to basics in some ways, yes, but we also have to understand there is no "havitall" pill.  And there is no shame in asking for help if you're having a problem or have a problem child.  There is no shame in accepting your child for who and what he/she is or who and what they want to be when they grow up.  Perhaps our grandson will never be the next Einstein.  He may never be an astronaut and make space discoveries.  He's not going to get that basketball, football or baseball million dollar contract. He may not be an Olympic swimmer (although that may be possible as he loves to swim).   I'm okay with that.  All I truly want for him is to be happy, healthy and a functioning member of society that grows up to respect himself and others.   If I accomplish that then I will have my havitall pill.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"You Can Dress Up Ugly....But You Can't Cure Stupid."

I'm often asked if my job as a court reporter gives me inspiration for stories.  I've always said no, because most of the cases I'm involved with would bore the reader to death.  Occasionally when I work with the police departments on a murder case, that may fuel a few of my murder scenes, but not always.  Actually the downtime in driving does give me lots of time to think though.  I'm often on the road two to three hours between getting to the deposition site and coming home.  This morning, on top of pouring coffee into orange juice, I found myself in a somewhat pensive mood.  An hour on the road for a fifteen minute deposition, that without an appearance fee would be a loss for me.  Now, before you feel sorry for me, that isn't always the case.  Court reporters make good money at times, and have lots of jobs that aren't really money makers.  But getting back to my pensive mood.  I found myself looking back over the years to other jobs I've had, and one job I was offered that truly made me laugh out loud as I was driving along because it reminded me of something my daddy said to me when I brought home a particular "pretty boy".  Oh, and he was handsome.  After my date that night when I came home dad was waiting and we sat down to talk for a few minutes.  Dad wasn't a big talker and he often put it pretty bluntly, which he did in this case.  He told me I couldn't go out with that guy anymore and then he said "You can dress up ugly, honey, but you can't cure stupid."

I realize now what I didn't realize then--Dad was always right.  I heard several years later that my pretty boy had committed several crimes, including murder, and was serving a 98 year sentence.  Thanks to dad  I jumped ship on that one before it sunk.

These thoughts led to other thoughts in my pensive mood.  I went back over my life and training as a hypnotherapist.  I spent thousands of hours in classes studying psychology, counseling and hypnosis techniques.  I've always been fascinated by the power of the mind, and hypnosis to me seemed like a wonderful tool to help people.  One of our requirements was to attend and take part in a lecture presented by a top hypnotist on "stop smoking" seminars.  I limited my presentation to the health benefits received from stopping smoking, although there are times I believe there are benefits to those who smoke.  (Don't hit me with wet noodles.  A doctor actually told me that."

I'm a very passionate speaker on topics I believe in.  For years I have taught free meditation and self-hypnosis classes for healing benefits.  I'm a firm believer that the mind has the power to heal us if we can only tap into those resources.  After my speech the presenter made me an offer he probably felt I couldn't refuse.  He wanted me to join their group.  They could book speeches for me and charge up to $300.00 a person for a one hour speech.   What the presenter didn't realize was that I was passionate about what I was studying, but to me it was a spiritual journey in finding ways to help people learn to help themselves. It wasn't about money.  I looked at him, smiled and said: "You can dress up ugly, but you can't cure stupid, and anyone willing to pay $300.00 an hour to hear me speak is too stupid for me to be of any benefit to."

I walked away from that presentation with my morals intact, and still feeling good about myself.  I'd learned some valuable things there and perhaps I could be rich now at the expense of others, but I wouldn't be able to sleep well at night.  Daddy had another saying that we hear a lot.  "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is."  I don't see these people doing seminars anymore so the odds are they priced themselves out of business.  When you're studying something to help others, price should not be a part of the equation.  You should put just as much passion into helping someone who needs it that can't afford to pay as you put into that person who can afford to pay $300.00 an hour . If you do that, then odds are you're going to succeed.  If you don't, odds are eventually you'll run out of people who can afford you.

I turned my thoughts from this to my writing.  And wow, what a kicker.  The third Catherine Mans book just clicked and now I can start writing it.  So if you love the Catherine Mans Psychic Suspense team, get ready--there's going to be a new one coming soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Free copy of The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery for mystery fans

I love it when things finally click.  Spent this week upgrading and putting up a new website, which is now available at:  and it's available on mobile and Kindle Fire at 

The mobile website was a real challenge, but I love the fact that I can integrate my blog and my website for fans.  Now you can have both in one easy spot.

On December 15th I'll start the first of my monthly newsletters to those who have subscribed, and one lucky subscriber will get a $100.00 gift card just in time for Christmas.  If you subscribed earlier---don't forget to check your emails for confirmation.  This was taking you to some crazy page with a 404 error, but they've promised me that's fixed.  What's up for the first newsletter?  Well, Catherine Mans fans will get a chance to see how Catherine met Cody.  This portion is taken from the original book, which like with movies was cut from the final product.  I've hoping to have this, plus a few short stories up for download in .mobi, .epub, .pdf and word for all the Catherine fans.

If you  haven't subscribed to the newsletter yet, it's easy, just fill out the form on the side here or at the website and submit.  You'll get one confirmation email to confirm your subscription and one thank you email.  After that only a once a month newsletter.  I plan on giving away some great prizes in 2014 and hopefully some wonderful interviews with some fantastic guests.  Hope to see you there.

Free copy of The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery with each subscription.  After your confirmation email, I'll email you to see if you prefer .mobi .epub or a .pdf copy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tales From The Darkside - Blacklist and Sip Your Numbed Paradise

Like most of my family and friends, Blacklist has quickly become my favorite show.  As an author I'm in awe of both the stories created by the writers, as well as the genius behind the characters.  I recently found this poem again, written by my son, Charles W. Prather, Jr.  And it reminded so much of James Spader's role in Blacklist. A man who appears to be helpful, but has his own agenda.  He will not change, and yet he invites those around him to join him, to take their souls off for just a moment and become a little tainted.  A little taint never hurt.  And are Liz and Red kindred spirits?  I believe they may be.  Is Red leading the FBI into "numbed paradise"?  I truly believe he may be.  What an amazing character.  

If you've watched the show, read the poem and let me know what you think.  I'm sure Charles would enjoy it, and I know I would. I see James Spader in every line.


Crumpled cigarettes litter the table,
Alcohol burns the throat,
The pattern of self-destruction forms,
Cacophony of voices permeate the air,
A den of forgotten dreams,
Washed away with pinpricks to the brain,
Here there are no names,
Faces are all that matter,
Time is merely a formality.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Let it sit in the corner for a while,
You don’t need to worry about it,
We’ll take away the cause,
Sip your numbed paradise.

Dance away your memories,
Who needs them here,
You are in this moment,
Just let go of your future uncertain,
You can certainly be sure it’s worthless.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Let it soak in the view,
A little taint never hurt,
We’ll take away the consequences,
Sip your numbed paradise.

The lights are now less faded,
We’ve got to bid you farewell,
Our time,
Out of time,
So long yet so short,
But come back tomorrow,
A kindred spirit cannot be denied,
Your table will be waiting.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Do you remember where you left it?
We’ll help you find it,
Sip your numbed paradise.

By:  Charles W. Prather, Jr.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Power of Words

Two years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a rehab shelter for young women, most of them under twenty-one and many pregnant, who were recovering from drug addiction.  One of the most powerful things we discovered for all of them was their inability to use words to express their emotions.  We worked on this for many months with poetry writing, letter writing, and finally they wrote a play which they produced and put on for family, friends and their children.  It was a wonderful experience and one I miss and hope to repeat in the future.

Words are our most powerful weapon.  We use them to convey our love, our disapproval and sometimes to manipulate people.  As a motivational speaker we use words to change the thoughts, beliefs and sometimes the actions of the people we're speaking to.

In writing, authors use words to convey the emotions and sometimes the personalities of their characters.  My sister-in-law commented that I sometimes used "bad words" in my novels.  I laughed and stated: "It's hard to write a hard-core FBI agent who comes upon a brutal murder scene and have him say "sugar-beads.'"

So what gives words their power?  Basically they're hooks.  And the power lies in the meaning of the word to the persons who hear them.  Powerful weapons, or meaningless manipulations.  Words trigger emotions and emotions trigger actions.  I could say "I love you", but I don't know who is reading this post so if I don't know you, how can I possible truly love you.  I could say "I hate you", but the same would hold true.  I don't know you, so how can I possibly feel strongly enough about you to hate you?

Words without an emotional attachment are usually meaningless to the person reading or listening to them, and basically in time will bore a person to tune them out.  So how do we write exciting words that keep our readers turning pages?  We have to combine those words with emotions and meaning.  We do that with body language and punctuation.

Carrie turned back to the sink and continued slicing vegetables. "I said no."
Carrie turned back to the sink and continued slicing vegetables. "I said no!"
Carrie turned back to the sink, sighing deeply as she slammed the knife into the cutting board. "I.. said... no."

Each of these basically say pretty much the same thing, but express a different emotional state.  In sentence one, Carrie is basically just telling her listener that the answer is no. She's said it before, but she's still calm, and conveying the message without anger or frustration.  In sentence two Carrie is getting angry and frustrated and shouting "I said no!"  Her body language is still controlled and she's expressing her anger through her words only.   In sentence three Carrie is basically losing control as she slams the knife into the cutting board, taking her anger out both in her words and her body language.

As a method of power, sentence one might be enough for someone who was simply asking a question, like a child who wants a cookie.  Carrie says no, end of it with a well mannered child or someone listening who is willing to take no for an answer.  Sentence two goes further and could be the mother who is tired and has a  child, or adult for that matter, who repeatedly asks the same question. It insinuates she's said no before and more than once.  Sentence three is basically a woman who has pretty much reached the end of her rope.  Emphasizing each individual word  She isn't shouting, but using what is actually a more dangerous tone of voice.  Most likely deep, bitter and controlled.

With writing, as with life--emotions run the show.  Love, joy, pleasure, anger, fear, pain.  The only way your reader can possibly feel these emotions is if your character is feeling those emotions.  Jacody Ives said it best in The Gifts--the impact of words was in direct correlation to the emotions of the reader. Words could be twisted, knives to open up wounds long hidden. Maneuvered to evoke buried nightmares. Bare the soul, expose the wound, and you had a best seller.  Make them laugh.  Make them cry.  But above all, make them feel something.

A good writing habit is to set aside what you wrote this morning and come back to it in several hours.  Look at the scene, the words or conversation between characters.  Have you conveyed what your character is feeling?  Do you feel it?  Have you conveyed what your character is thinking?  Do you feel it?   If you feel it, then there's a good chance your readers will feel it, making their reading experience far more enjoyable.

Have a wonderful day!

Stop by my new website and say hi.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Mystery of the Somerton Man--Taman Shud and the Zodiac Killer

Like all mystery readers and authors I love a good mystery.  I ran across this case while researching for a new book.  It fascinated me at first.  As those who have read my books know, Rosetta Tosalina is my symbol expert and decipher.  I couldn't pass this up.  A body with no identity, a torn scrap of paper hidden in his trousers, torn from a copy of The Rubaiyat.  This case had it all--a secret code, an undetectable poison, lack of identification and perhaps unrequited love.  For the full story check: Wikipedia

The body, discovered on December 1, 1948 had no visible injuries.  Although many people came forward to identify the body, he was never properly identified.

I'm sure in real life this happens more often than we're aware of, so what kept the mystery alive?  A small piece of printed paper found deep inside a pocket sewn within his trouser pockets.  A phrase "Taman Shud" which was translated meaning "ended" or "finished" and was the last page of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Ah, but the mystery grew.

A man, unidentified, came to the police station saying he had found a copy of this very rare book in the backseat of his car a week or two before the body was found.  This book was missing the words "Taman Shud" on the last page and had a blank reverse.  Microscopic tests concluded the missing piece came from this book.  In the back of the book were faint pencil markings and thus the undecipherable Code that has kept this mystery alive for many, many years.

At first glance, I felt that perhaps this was a two person note due to the changes in writing patterns within the note.  But after carefully studying it, I have come to the conclusion that if it has any meaning at all, it is not in the letters, but is instead in the individual strokes of each letter.  Someone took a great deal of time to put this together and I would suggest using different pens or pencils.  One with a thick point and one with a thin point.  The note has been very, very carefully drafted.  I feel it has any meaning at all, it is a system of numbers, names, places and perhaps times and distances carefully constructed into the stroke of each letter.

This brings back images of the Zodiac killer from the 1960's and 1970's who left cryptic messages.  Much of his code was broken, but no has been able to break the entire code and the killer was never found.  There's even a comparison below to the M's written by the Zodiac killer and this note.  Did the Zodiac killer see this somewhere and copy it?  Or was it just coincidence?  Another mystery for another day.

Let’s take a look at the letters:
Line 1

A careful examination shows a line first, and then a W with another line.  If you take the original photo and look closely you’ll see the W appears to be made after the first line was drawn and down on top of it.  Suggesting to me that this is two letters or symbols.  Or if this gentleman was actually British it could be a badly drawn crown without the bottom line.
A close examination of the W without the first line shows it’s similar to the Phoenician M.

There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly outstanding or different about the R G which are letters 2 and 3. Except their proximity, which leads me to believe these two letters go together and possibly represent the initials of an individual.

The fourth letter could be either an O or 0 and the oddity is that there are three of these in the note and all three are somewhat different in shape and slant.  The first O is slanted slightly to the right, the second straight up and the third long and oval.

The next letters appear to go together due to the proximity of the letters. AB
One of the most fascinating things about the entire message to me was the A’s.  There are 9 A’s in the message—but each A is distinctly different.

1 and 6 are similar, as each has a slightly curved middle and are drawn about the same size.  No. 2 is slightly similar to No. 7, however the size is different and the middle slash on 2 is pointed down whereas on No. 7 it’s pointed up.  Also noteworthy that No. 7 is connected to the next letter in the note which is Q.  No. 3 bears a slight resemblance to No. 8; however there are still some vague differences in size and length of lines.  No. 4 is a backwards rendition of No. 7 and also identical except for its reversal.  No. 5 is totally different.  No. 9 is totally different than all the rest and connects to the letter before and after it—G or CAB, which I believe to the writer’s initials.

The B’s are also very interesting.  There are 5 b’s which share some characteristics, but are still very different.

B 1 appears to have been drawn in 3 parts – D with a somewhat bad oval at top and then a curly line to the left.  B 2 appears to have been drawn very similar to 1.  B 2 appears to be a 3 with a line.  B4 also appears to be 3 or similar to several Alchemy symbols.  B 5 appears to be written as two separate D’s, with the bottom D open and the line extending and curved.

There appears to be only one read D or at least it could be a D.

Looking closely it appears the curved portion was drawn before the line.

Now we come to the second line which is believed to have been crossed out and rewritten as the third line.  I don’t really think that was the intention of the author.  Perhaps to underline, but not cross out.

There are 5 M’s in the note, some very similar, some distinctly different in size and slant.  M 1 and 3 and 5 appear to have been drawn in two motions.  1 and 3 the second part of the M appears to have been drawn first and is similar to the Phoenician N

5 appears the same, however instead of a straight line we have a curved line coming up and across somewhat like an r.

M’s 2 and 4 are very similar except for size, and if you look close at 5 the bottoms of the lines are slanted outward.  The only M that has this slant.  One thing I did find rather interesting is the 2 and 4 M’s are similar to the M’s used by the Zodiac Killer.  

The next letters are presumed to be L’s.  One in line 2 and one in line 4.

Both appear similar, except in size and bear a resemblance to the Phoenician L and possibly many other symbols I haven’t discovered it.

Next in line we have what are presumed to be I’s, but could also be 1’s.

These are mostly similar except for size.  The slants are close to the same for each. The fourth one could actually be more of a / between what could be two sets of initials.  I say this only because of placement.

This brings us to line 3 and the first letter which once again has been believed to be an M.

I don’t really think this is an M.  It has similarities to the first that is similar to the Phoenician M, but has been drawn with different strokes.

There are 6 T’s similar in slant, but different in size with other small notable differences.  T number 6 is the smallest of the group and has less of a slant to the top line.

We have what appear to be two P’s.  Humm…. Not so sure about that.

Both are different and both appear to have been drawn similar to the D.  The first P has a curve at the bottom of the half circle making it look like C backwards, where the second P has a slight down curve on the same stroke, similar to the stroke on the D.  And there's just a little space between the top of the P and the downward stroke.

There’s one N in the note.

Again it appears these were drawn in 2 different strokes.  The first a slanted line for the left, and then a Y type stroke to complete the N.

There appears to be only one E letter.

A close examination it appears he drew the 3 lines first and the long connecting line.  And odd way to draw and E, but that’s just me.  Maybe other people draw their E’s like that.

This brings us to the middle of the note which appears to have something similar to < drown out long with an X on it.  Of course in America this is a directional sign or less than sign and X has always marked the spot.

It could very well be a directional sign, but I don’t really see that as an X.  It appears to be more to me like a fallen T.  I thought a saw a symbol similar to this, but if so I haven’t found it again.

The new letters in line 5 are Q and C.

Nothing really spectacular about either, except the C appears to have been written almost as an afterthought.  Higher and set apart from the Q.

The first letter in line 6 could be a V, or once again a directional sign.

It appears to be set apart from the other letters slightly and may have been added once again as an afterthought. 

Which brings us to what appear or have been thought to be S.

Both are drawn slightly different, and the 2nd S resembles several different symbols.  I’ve looked at Hebrew, Phoenician, Greek, alchemy and engineering symbols as well as a host of other alphabets and symbols.  Resemblance is remarkable to some only slightly altered.

So having broken this down, letter by letter my conclusions are that if I had years of time to perhaps break it down stroke by stroke I might possibly come up with a plausible answer.  Would it be the correct answer?  I’ll never know because the majority of players in this mystery are now dead, or their names were withheld from the public for reasons unknown.

Was this his plan all along?  If the condition of his internal organs is correct, that would lead me to believe he had been poisoned over a a long period of time--not just one dose.  Did he write the note?  Was that his intention to leave behind a mystery that could never be solved?  Or did his killer write this cryptic message, stuff the "Taman Shud" note into his trousers to throw everyone off and lead them down a trail that would take them away from who this man really was, and who killed him.  In today's world of conspiracy and cover up--well, it seems to scream cover up to me.  But it could simply have been a joke as it reminds me of the college students who took three goats and labeled them 1, 2 and 4.  Days, hours and weeks were spent trying to find the 3rd goat, when no third goat ever existed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tales From the Darkside - Creative Challenge

                Linda Claiborne paused in the doorway.  She looked around the padded, windowless room and wondered why they kept putting her in here.  “Life will slowly show you the dark side of everything, every time you think you’ve made it.”
                The thought came unbidden, unwanted.  Were they afraid of her?  Afraid of what they thought she knew?  A slow smile lifted the corners of her mouth—or just afraid?
                “Please, sit down , Ms. Claiborne.”  Dr. Hester gestured toward the chair,  her voice coarse and hard.
                Linda stared disdainfully at the psychiatrist.  She hated her.  Hated the shellaced hairdo.  The red, red lips as if she had just devoured another soul.  She smiled softly again.  Because she knew.  Opening her mouth she spoke for the first time in three years.  She spoke the words she’d always wanted to say.
                "You think I’m crazy?" Linda hissed.   Her gazed traveled  around the room again, her eyes blazing with the contempt she felt.  “Don’t trust your sense of security. Don’t trust your profession.  Don’t trust anything.  It’s there; it’s waiting; it’s ready.”
               She watched as  Dr. Hester scratched the area that  long ago had housed a set of prominent balls.  Funny how it was much harder to break the scratching habit than it had been to get rid of those useless appendages
               “Sit down, Ms. Claiborne.”
                Linda turned around so she wouldn’t have to look at the psychiatrist’s haughty face another moment.  She studied the remnants of a stain on the padded floor, wondering what tortured soul  had left it there and why that section of the padding hadn’t been replaced.
                “Several years ago I was just like everyone else.  Young, pretty, my whole life ahead of me.  I had it all.”
~ ~ ~
                Dr. Hester sat, carefully watching as she listened to Linda.  She knew it. She knew eventually she’d break the bitch down.  Get inside her head.  And yet  her words were the same as all those before her.  Wondering what had happened to them.  “It wasn’t long ago I was carefree and happy.” 
~ ~ ~

                Linda continued talking, ignoring the smirk on Dr. Hester’s face.  Her eyes took on a dreamy far away look.
                “You want to know what happened to me?”  Linda turned back to the psychiatrist, her hands clenched tightly at her side.  “It can happen to you too, you know.  You think you’re so smug.  So smart. But you don’t know what’s out there.  You think it lurks in the dark.  It doesn’t."  Linda paused, wiping the  drool from her chin, “It’s coming.  It’s coming for you.”
                Dr.  Hester laughed. “Please, Ms. Claiborne, surely after three years of silence you can say something more profound than this dribble.”
                “Remember the dark.  Notice it around you.  Be aware of everything.  Don’t brush off those little things that bother you; those are your warnings.”
                Dr. Hester yawned, clicking long nails against the desk.  “Three years.  I’ve waited three years  to get inside your head, and this is all there is.  How boring."  
                Linda turned her back to the psychiatrist and closed her eyes.  Closed out the ugly vision. 
                “And the funny thing is, Doctor,” Linda spat the word doctor out like a four letter word, “you will never see it coming.  I can promise you that.  You will think she’s your friend.  Oh, if I didn’t hate you so much, I would actually feel sorry for you.”
                “You can go now, Ms. Claiborne.  I’ll see you in group tomorrow. “
                Linda smiled, her voice soft, gentle.  “I’ll grant your wish, Dr. Hester.”
                “And what wish would that be, Ms. Claiborne?” Dr. Hester scoffed, shuffling the paper work on her  desk.

                Linda didn’t answer,  but opened the door, quickly leaving the room.  Soon.  It would be soon.   Her lips curved into a smile.  “ I’ll let you inside my mind.”

Had a lot of fun with this one.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll do the light side.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tales from the Dark Side--And the Light - A Creative Challenge

Sometimes in between books I love to play and give myself a challenge.  For today's challenge I've chosen a picture and will attempt to write a short piece from the dark side of my nature and then from the light side of my nature.  If all goes well, I may continue this--just for inspiration.  Care to join me?  Post your dark or light tale in the comments section.

Challenge 1:


"Wecome to your new home, sweetheart."

His words were almost drowned out by the pounding of my heart as my eyes widened, taking in the crumbled concrete, litter strewn floor and single chair in the middle of the room. The scream that rose from my chest choked off midstream. There was no place for it to go.  He'd stuffed the gag tightly inside my mouth, tying it in place with the dirty red bandanna he'd taken from Terry's body before he tossed it over the bridge. He'd killed him with one swift plunge of that horrible looking knife he carried at his waist. And now he was going to kill me.

He pulled me further into the room, his crippled bony hands cold against my skin. "I don't bring all my girlfriends here. In fact, you're the first."  He brushed my hair away from my face as his laughter echoed through the long hallway. "But you won't be the last."


"This may not be such a good idea, Jenna."  Terry eyed the crumbling old building before turning his attention back to me. "From the looks of that place it could collapse at anytime now."

Taking his hand I pulled him toward the steps.  "Don't be silly.  It's made of concrete and brick.  The only way it could possibly collapse is if we had an earthquake and according to the weather bureau there's none on the horizon.  Besides that's where Mama Pearl went, so that's where we're going.  Sarah has to sleep tonight."

I hoped I sounded a lot braver than I felt at the moment.  Darn Mama Pearl for putting me in this predicament anyway.  Terry and I had been searching for her kittens for almost a week now. We'd followed her all over the neighborhood and Sarah had cried herself to sleep every night for the past week.  We had to find them today.  There might not be any earthquakes on the horizon, but the weatherman was predicting a massive blizzard and I knew if we didn't find the kittens soon they would freeze.

We picked our way carefully through the litter strewn hallway to the double doors at the end. The wind outside was picking up, creating a mournful howl and rattling the windows.

"We'd better make this quick," Terry pushed the door open wider. "The snow is on its way, and I definitely don't want to be trapped here when it hits."

"Shh...," I whispered, listening intently. Somewhere within the howl I'd heard the slightest of mews. "Did you hear that?"

Terry shook his head. "I didn't hear anything."

Squeezing through the doorway I stopped just inside allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  The sound came again from a far corner. "There."  I pointed across the room to where Mama Pearl's bright eyes glowed from the darkness.  Taking a step forward I stopped when the board beneath my right foot crumbled and crashed to the floor below.  Terry grabbed me from behind, pulling me backwards.  "We can't go in there, Jenna. It's too dark and too dangerous."

I knew he was right, but I also knew I couldn't leave Mama Pearl and kittens here to die.  Sarah would never forgive me. Kneeling I called out to her and held open my coat. "Come on, Mama, bring the kittens to me.  We have to get them some place safe and warm."

 She meowed once, long and low.  I continued to kneel as she came toward us, a bundle in her mouth.  I took the tiny kitten from her, placing it inside my jacket as she moved gingerly back across the floor.  It took four trips before her meow told me we had them all.

"That was amazing." Terry cuddled two kittens inside his jacket, close to his heart.  "Are all cats like that?"

Picking up Mama Pearl I placed her inside my jacket with the other two kittens.  I couldn't wait to get home and show them to Sarah.  "That's what all mothers are like.  It's getting late we'd better run for it."

Wow, it took a lot longer for me to do something in the light than it did in the dark.  The dark just rolled.  And I might even look into incorporating that into a real story eventually.

6 Great One-Dish Wonders - Grandma's Cooking

As the holidays approach I'm always looking for ways to save time--and money.  The one-dish wonders make meal preparation easy and sometimes fun.

Chicken and Biscuits - Yummy!

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces fresh mushroom, quartered
1 cup fresh baby carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch blended with 1/2 cup cold water
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 (4-ounce) jar sliced pimentos, drained
1 package Frozen Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine chicken, potato, onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, broth, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high head.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Stir in cornstarch mixture; cook 2 minutes.  Stir in peas and pimentos; return to a boil.  Transfer chicken mixture to 2-quart casserole dish; arrange frozen biscuits on top.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Serves 4 to 6


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chicken breast cubes
1 cup uncooked rice*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can (8 ounces) stewed tomatoes, chopped, undrained
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small red pepper, cut into strips
1 small green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup frozen green peas

*If using medium grain rice, use 1 1/4 cups of broth; if using parboiled rice, use 1 3/4 cups of broth.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot.  Add chicken and stir until browned.  Add rice, onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring, until onion is tender and rice is lightly brown.  Add broth, tomatoes, tomato liquid, paprika, ground red pepper and saffron.  Bring to a boil, stir.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes.  Add shrimp, pepper strips and peas.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Serves 6.

Turkey-Olive Ragout En Crust

1/2 pound boneless white or dark turkey meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup (about 10) small whole frozen onions
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken bouillon or turkey broth
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 small bay leaf
1 medium red potato, skin on, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
10 frozen snow peas
8 whole small pitted ripe olives
1 can (4 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

In medium skillet over medium heat cook and stir turkey in garlic and oil 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer pink.  Remove and set aside.  Add onions to skillet, cook and stir until lightly browned.  Add bouillon, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and potato.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until potato is tender.  Remove and discard bay leaf.

Combine turkey mixture with potato mixture.  Stir in snow peas and olives.  Divide mixture between 2 (1 2/4 cup) individual ovenproof casseroles.

Divide crescent rolls into 2 rectangles; press perforations together to seal.  If necessary, roll out each rectangle to make dough large enough to cover top of each casserole.  Sprinkle dough with dill weed, pressing lightly into dough.  Cut small decorative shape from each dough piece; discard cutouts or place on baking sheet and bake in over with casseroles.  Place dough over turkey-vegetable mixture in casseroles.  Trim dough to fit; press dough to edge of each casserole to seal.  Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.  Serves 2.

Hearty Noodle Casserole

1 jar (26 1/2 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 pound Italian sausage
1 pint (16 ounces) ricotta or cottage cheese
1 package (12 ounces) extra wide noodles, cooked
1 package (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 can (4 ounces) sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring to separate.

Combine sauce, sausage, ricotta cheese, noodles, half the mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and bell pepper in large bowl.  Spoon into 3-quart or 13x9-inch baking pan.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered about 25 minutes or until heated through.  Serves 4 to 6

String Pie

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 jar (15 1/2 ounces) spaghetti sauce
8 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook beef, onion and green pepper in large skillet over medium high heat until meat is browned.  Drain fat.  Stir in spaghetti sauce.  Combine spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, eggs and butter in large bowl, mix well.  Place in bottom of 13x9-inch baking pan.  Spread cottage cheese over top; cover with sauce mixture.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Bake until mixture is thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.  About 20 minutes.  Serves 6 to 8.

Beefy Nacho Crescent Bake

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 can (11 ounces) condensed nacho cheese soup, undiluted
1 cup milk
1 can (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent roll dough
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place beef and onion in large skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Brown beef over medium high heat until no longer pink, stirring to separate meat.  Drain fat.  Stir in chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Cook ans stir 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Combine soup and milk in medium bowl, stirring until smooth.  Pour soup mixture into prepared dish, spreading evenly.

Separate crescent dough into 4 rectangles; press perforations together firmly.  Roll each rectangle to 8/4 inches.  Cut each rectangle in half crosswise to form 8 (4-inch) squares.

Spoon about 1/4 cup beef mixture in center of each square.  Lift 4 corners of dough up over filling to meet in center; pinch and twist firmly to seal.  Place squares in dish.

Bake, uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until crusts are golden brown.  Sprinkle cheese over squares.  Bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts.  To serve spoon soup mixture in dish over each serving, sprinkle with cilantro if desire and serve with salsa.  Makes 4 servings.

Have a favorite one-dish wonder?  Please share.