Remember Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show singing that song?  He, in his wig, bustier and boots, is the image that comes to mind when I think about TIME — that annoying dimension that trips me up and causes me to tear out my hair.  Most of all when I’m writing!

I personally believe (and please don’t laugh) that we humans actually bend time and space, like those creatures in Dune, even when we’re not aware we’re doing it.  Haven’t you noticed there are times when TIME lags, and other times, when TIME speeds up?  I like to think I can warp it, like when I’m running late for an appointment, I can rush like a maniac, and mentally crunch and slow TIME itself.  I used to have a watch with a melting Dali-like face.  I liked it a lot because that’s exactly how I perceive TIME.

I am one of those people who really struggles to be on time.  For some, it’s automatic, they start paying attention hours before they’re supposed to be somewhere.  I do too, but I never seem to get it right.  It’s not something I’m proud of, it’s just a fact.  And it’s not that I want to make my friends/doctors/dentists wait for me.  Not at all, I like them very much, but for whatever reason, my natural tendency is to leave for a place when I should be arriving.  I don’t like it.  I fight it – all the TIME!

I so look forward to the invention of the teleportation machine.  How wonderful it will be when we can pop into a little booth a few seconds before we’re supposed to arrive and voilà, our atoms and molecules are rearranged in another spot.  Perfect!  That should solve my problem . . . maybe.   If you’re one of those people who is never late, always on time, would never dream of not allowing enough TIME to arrive somewhere, you’re thinking, what an idiot she must be.  All she has to do is look at a damn clock.  It couldn’t be easier.  I wish it were that simple.

Did you know that Albert Einstein was working on time travel before his death?  He had some very interesting theories about TIME.  One was his Swiss cheese thought model.  He theorized that TIME is like the hole inside a hunk of Swiss cheese.  We perceive TIME in a linear fashion as we cut slices through the cheese and the hole expands, but TIME was there inside the cheese all the time.  We just can’t perceive it because we’re programmed to view it as a linear reality.  Seven days ago, I cut my hair and tomorrow I’ll feed the cat.  See?

And what about those times when TIME bends upon itself.  When an old memory arises as fresh and alive as the day it happened, and brings colors and words and smells back to us, more vividly than a recent event?

Hang with me here.  There’s a point to my ramblings.

I’ve been reminded of my trouble with TIME in several areas of life, but nowhere more forcefully than when plotting a story.  I get lost – a lot!  But how can I be expected to keep track of that invisible nothingness inside the Swiss cheese as I mentally flit through a fictional universe?  How can I be expected to remember my character just climbed out of bed two chapters ago and now she’s creeping through the woods at night?  Uh oh.  How did that happen?  I got lost again.  And I can foresee my editor’s comment box:  “DIDN’T SHE JUST WAKE UP?  HOW CAN IT BE MIDNIGHT SO SOON?  WHAT HAPPENED?”  I cringe, knowing my editor’s right.  I goofed.  Then there are the questions like, “DIDN’T THIS HAPPEN ON SUNDAY?  WOULD THE OFFICE BE OPEN ON A SUNDAY?”  Uh oh, goofed again!

So now, in an effort not to embarrass myself, I am very diligent.  I make charts and outlines to keep focused in this linear physical reality, even though my mind is wandering through a fictional town.  It’s day three of my story and it’s ten o’clock in the morning and so on.  And I have to discipline myself to keep my chart up because I know if I don’t I’ll be in big trouble.  And I’ll have to answer (make excuses for) those bloopers to my editor again.

Now if only my protagonist would do the same and not go creeping through the woods two chapters after she got out of bed.  Einstein isn’t around to help me out anymore.  Just where did I put that Dali melting face watch?  I’ll have to find it.  Not sure I’m enjoying this linear physical reality right now.


Thanks to the wonderful Jane Beebe, this dinner and mystery author panel was a fabulous event!  I was in great company with Ellison Cooper, Paddy Hirsch, Paul D. Marks and Patricia Smiley, and last but certainly not least, our moderator Carlene O’Neil.  My only concern was navigating the fire I spotted from the freeway, but all was well.  We all made it, the library was safe and the fire was extinguished quickly.  We had a very enthusiastic crowd at our dinner and I fell in love with the masks on display.    You can see all my photos right here on Facebook!

My interview at Mystery Rat’s Maze is up today at King’s River Life!

Jenn McKinlay has graciously invited me to visit Jungle Red Writers.
You can read about my journey to becoming a mystery writer here!

And the next day I visited Amy Metz at A Blue Million Books to chat more about the latest release in the Zodiac Mysteries.

My interview at Archeolibrarian posted on August 8, 2018.  I gave up lots of secrets about the Zodiac Mysteries and my San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti who always finds answers in the stars!


My interview with Fran Lewis was a great chat!  On its release date, we discussed Tail of the Dragon, the Zodiac Mysteries, writing, mystery plots, astrology and more. 

Bodies in mysteries can be discovered anywhere, right?  Preferably within the first few chapters of a book.  But I’m always looking for interesting places.  Places where Julia Bonatti, my San Francisco astrologer, can become involved in a crime.  And I love the thought that she could be found at an iconic San Francisco site – like the “Rock.”

People know Alcatraz, the island of pelicans, as a federal prison.  But well before then, the island had a long and interesting history.  It was first discovered in 1775 by Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala, although Native Americans claimed to have known of its existence for 10,000 years.  Alcatraz boasted the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast and in 1828 it was put to use as a military prison during several wars — the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and even World War II.

From 1934 to 1963 it was a federal prison for the most notorious criminals in America — Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. “Doc” Barker, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis.  In addition, another 700 people– wardens, guards, electricians, along with their families, lived a sheltered life in a small, intimate community on the Rock.

Alcatraz was considered inescapable because of isolation by the cold and hazardous currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay.  Yet thirty-six desperate prisoners, in spite of the dangers, made fourteen separate escape attempts.  Twenty-three of them were caught alive, six were shot during their escape, two drowned and five are listed as missing and presumed dead.

Of those five in 1962, the Anglin brothers, John and Clarence, are considered the most likely to have survived the swim.  As boys, they had learned to swim in the icy waters of Lake Michigan.  It’s just possible they had the stamina to survive.  One long-standing rumor holds that they survived the journey and escaped to Brazil.  However, the F.B.I. officially concluded in 1979, on the basis of circumstantial evidence and expert opinion, that the men drowned in the frigid waters before reaching land.  The U.S. Marshal’s case file remains active though.  The Anglin brothers, probably long deceased, remain on its most wanted list.

Today Alcatraz is a popular tourist stop by way of the ferry from Pier 33. 

If you’re so inclined, I warn you — it’s a cold and creepy place.  The stone and brick walls are dank and slimy and, I swear, there are some strange odors.  The Rock in my opinion is a monument to human misery.  Oh, and did I mention?  It’s reputed to be haunted too.  No surprise!  But more about that in a later post.  Maybe it’d be a good place for Julia to visit after all.

This post first appeared at Jane Reads on June 27, 2018.  

I love ghost stories, especially the scary ones, even though I’ve never written about a ghost.  Well, maybe that’s not quite true.  If you’ve read The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries, you’ll remember there’s a ghost story connected to the Gamble House and even a séance!  But considering that San Francisco isn’t that old a city, it does seem to have more than its share of haunted sites.

For example, the Squando was a Norwegian sailing ship that docked in San Francisco in 1890.  The captain discovered that his wife was having an affair with his first mate, so he lopped off the first mate’s head and dumped the body in the Bay.  Shortly after, the captain, his wife and the head disappeared and were never found.
The story doesn’t end there though.  The next three captains of the Squando were murdered by their crews.  The ship was finally docked in New Brunswick but no one could be found who would guard the ship.  All claimed they saw a bloody headless man roaming the ship at night.  It’s also said that on foggy nights an old three-masted ship can be seen sailing aimlessly in San Francisco Bay.

How about the tall glass and steel highrise at 555 California Street.  It was built in 1969 and for a long time housed the Bank of America.  Office staff have been freaked out by files flying off shelves and cold spots moving through the rooms.  One theory is that victims from the 1906 earthquake are still trapped underground.  That’s not much of a stretch actually, because in truth, rubble from collapsed buildings and hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies were plowed into the Bay when the clean up after the earthquake began.  The powers in the city at that time were in a big hurry to clear up the mess and attract investors.  So much of the land South of Market Street is filled land (not good in a quake) and was created from this very rubble.

Then there’s Flora Sommerton.  She was a debutante from a wealthy family who was about to be forced into a loveless marriage to an older man.  Flora was having none of it.  At her engagement party in 1876, she ran away and never returned home. Many years later in 1926, she was found dead in a cheap hotel in Butte, Montana.  It’s said that on foggy nights, young Flora can be seen walking down California Street from Nob Hill still wearing her white ball gown, the same gown she wore that fateful night in 1876.

There are many more ghost stories in the city – the lady of Stow Lake, the Haskell House, the Atherton Mansion and even more.  If you’re interested in exploring, check out this site for a walking tour:  San Francisco Ghost Hunt.   Hope you’re not easily scared.  It’s not for the faint of heart!

This post first appeared at the Pulp and Mystery Shelf on June 26, 2018.   


On this blog tour for Tail of the Dragon, the third book in the Zodiac Mysteries, I planned to highlight a few iconic San Francisco locations — places where my sleuth, astrologer Julia Bonatti, might visit or become involved in a crime.  The Island of Alcatraz was one of them.  However, there was a slight problem — there is so much history and so many stories on this tiny island, just a mile and a quarter from the city, it was too much to squeeze into just one post.

So here goes – here’s what I’ve learned about the spirits of the island:  Alcatraz is considered one of the most haunted places in America and certainly the most haunted prison in the country.  Early explorers to the island found an eerie atmosphere.  Native Americans knew of the island for thousands of years and even though they gathered bird eggs and fish for food, believed that evil spirits resided there.  They used the island to deport criminals under tribal law and as a burial site for outcasts.  When the Spanish began to spread Christianity in the 1700’s, natives who did not want to convert used Alcatraz as their refuge.

Long before it was utilized as a federal penitentiary, it was a military prison for America’s earliest wars.  Many were incarcerated there, some were declared insane after their imprisonment, many died and many were horribly tortured.  So it’s no wonder that prisoners, rangers and visitors have reported a wide range of ghostly activity — whispering in empty cells, locked cell doors opening, phantom figures in corridors, cold spots, floating blue lights and figures, moaning, the clanking of chains in unoccupied cells and even the sounds of musical instruments and sewing machines.

Psychics and paranormal investigators believe that D-Block, the worst cell for punishment in the “Hole,” is the prime location of most of the ghostly activity.  Four of its forty-two cells are thought to be haunted.  Cell 14-D in particular is permanently icy cold even during the summer.  One inmate in this block claimed to have seen glowing red eyes in the dark and screamed for hours.  He was found dead the following morning with a purple face, bulging eyes, and unidentified strangle marks around his throat.  Although I suspect it’s likely there was human cause for his death.

In an odd twist of history, Native Americans occupied and held the island from November 1969 to June 1971 in an effort to create a cultural center on the basis of a broken 1868 treaty between the Sioux and U.S. government.  In their statement to the world they said:

“It would be fitting and symbolic that ships from all over the world, entering the Golden Gate, would first see Indian land, and thus be reminded of the true history of this nation. This tiny island would be a symbol of the great lands once ruled by free and noble Indians.”

Their efforts were commendable, but in light of the island’s eerie history, perhaps they should have heeded their ancestors and chosen a less haunted place.

What do you think?  Would you fancy a short ferry ride to Alcatraz?  Would you want to stay there overnight?  Brrrrr . . .

This post first appeared at Varietats2010.blogspot on June 17, 2018.