Black and White Challenge

Invited by an Egyptian Facebook friend, I accepted the Black and White Challenge to post a black and white photo each day for seven days. The biggest challenge turns out to be finding black and white photos from my life to post. The rules say the pix must be photographs that you’ve taken, not snaps or portraits of yourself.

The task set me to digging through old albums, followed by a deal of scanning. The trip down memory lane has well been worth the price of admission. An added bonus was the discovery of the black and white mode on my Samsung Galaxy 8 (cellphone) camera.

With great delight, I am being reintroduced to the universe of gray tone with all the nuance, dreamy mood and crackly reality that entails. Following are my posts. I’ll be adding each day as I share moments of my life through a different lens.

Day One. Zebras. Masai Mara, Kenya

Day Two. Vendor at Paris Flea Market

Day Three. Full Moon over Port San Luis

Day Four. Carpet Market


Day Five. Reflections on our Riyadh apartment 1976

Day Six. Thanksgiving mantle. Pic taken with b&w mode, Samsung Galaxy 8.

Day Seven. Books. Kaleidoscope Collage.

November 15, 2017 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

The charms of Aphrodite codified in the First Greek Sex Manual

Image from Greek drinking up 500 BC.

If you were ever in doubt about the realism of a Temple of Aphrodite with one thousand sacred prostitutes as I describe in The Emerald Tablet, you might enjoy this article drawn from Greek texts. Long before the kama sutra, a fair number of Greek women, both famous and unknown, codified in great detail the arts of love and carnal pleasure.

In this instance, the serving girl of the renown Helen of Troy, kidnapped wife of Menalaos, is credited with discovering positions for intercourse and other wanton acts.

Helen’s Serving Girl Wrote the First Greek Sex Manual

October 5, 2017 at 7:54 pm Leave a comment

Oculus in Aphrodite’s Temple in Korinth as featured in The Emerald Tablet

The oculus of the Temple of Aphrodite of Korinth featured in the early chapters of The Emerald Tablet might have looked very similar to this ceiling of the grand foyer at the Altes Museum in Berlin.

Oculus at Altes Museum Berlin

October 4, 2017 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

Roman mosaic from time of Hadrian and Elektra in Leptis Magna

This stunning, intricate Roman mosaic displayed at Altes Museum in Berlin could easily have been the floor of the triclinium (dining room) of the villa by the sea in Leptis Magna where Elektra of The Black Scroll finds herself enslaved.

September 29, 2017 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Antinous from the Altes Museum Berlin

This glorious marble from the Altes Museum in Berlin shows Antinous in all his glory. This is the first, fully intact, full body sculpture of Hadrian’s renown lover I’ve personally seen. Is it any wonder that Isis, in her many incarnations in my trilogy – The Red Mirror, The Emerald Tablet and The Black Scroll – finds solace in his arms?

September 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

January Ice Mantel

My January Ice Mantel tribute to crystalline purity.

My January Ice Mantel tribute to crystalline purity.

January Ice Mantel by night

January Ice Mantel by night.

January 2017 chez moi

January 2017 chez moi

January 9, 2017 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Happy Holidays from my heart(h) to yours!

Happy Holidays from my Heart(h) to yours!

Happy Holidays from my Heart(h) to yours!

Angel Chimes. A tradition at my home. Not Christmas without them.

Angel Chimes. A tradition at my home. Not Christmas without them.

December 20, 2016 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Merry Christmas!


December 8, 2016 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

Intimate Thanksgiving featured in Beauty & the Feast, Life Choices Magazine

Debut of new feature in Life Choices Magazine

My column on food and table art in Life Choices Magazine

The new autumn edition of Life Choices Magazine is out with my feature column Beauty and the Feast focusing on an intimate Thanksgiving with all the fixings. Take your time reading all the wonderful articles submitted by a bevy of lovely ladies. You’ll find my column Beauty and the Feast on page 52.

A simple Thanksgiving celebrated among an intimate foursome of friends.

A simple Thanksgiving celebrated among an intimate foursome of friends. That’s pink champagne in the vintage coupes.

Roast turkey bursting with oyster cornbread dressing.

Roast turkey bursting with oyster cornbread dressing.

My great grandmother made pumpkin pies like this back on the prairie.

My great grandmother made pumpkin pies like this back on the prairie.

A page from the Walkertown NC Ladies cookbook with recipe for the most heavenly sweet yams ever.

A page from the Walkertown NC Ladies cookbook with recipe for the most heavenly sweet yams ever.

September 20, 2016 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

I’m running for Mayor!

Here’s my draft logo for my campaign for Mayor of Pismo Beach.

Election Day Nov 8, 2016.
MAYOR email

August 17, 2016 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

Radio Interview about my life and travels in North Africa

Sandra on camel e

That’s me in 1976 outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Not North Africa but Middle East.

For more than three remarkable years of my life I lived in North Africa and the Middle East — specifically Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. Those adventures, both wonderful and not so wonderful, formed the person that I am today, and most especially, the woman who wrote Isis Trilogy. Drawn from my own personal experiences hitchhiking across the Sahara, surviving sandstorms, sleeping under vast desert skies, wandering from oasis to oasis, my books are a fanciful retelling of my life in settings right out of 1001 Nights.

Isis Trilogy: The Red Mirror, The Emerald Tablet, The Black Scroll.

Click Here for the March 18 2016 KVEC am radio podcast that retraces some of those adventures in an interview conducted by Deborah Bayles. My reminiscing lasts about 40 minutes. Commercial breaks have blessedly been removed.

That's me in my photo for Algerian visa to start my journey south across the Sahara.

That’s me in 1971 photo for Algerian visa to start my journey south across the Sahara.


Mark Rankin, the very brave American who traveled with me on our hitchhiking adventure. Yes, sometimes on trucks and sometimes on camels.

Mark Rankin, the very brave American who traveled with me on our hitchhiking adventure. Yes, sometimes on trucks and sometimes on camels.

Highlighted towns from my Sahara Odyssey.

Highlighted towns from my Sahara Odyssey.

May 26, 2016 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

Beauty and the Feast Tajine Debut in Life Choices Magazine

Debut of new feature in Life Choices Magazine

Debut of new feature in Life Choices Magazine

The Spring Quarter issue of Life Choices Magazine pp 30-32 features a new article by me on making killer tajines and setting beautiful tables.

Check out pages 30-32 for my now-not-so-secret recipe for tajine (also spelled tagine). This is a basic recipe that can be adapted to any kind of protein  – or just veggies – mixing up the spices and herbs for a different result each time. You’ll also find ideas for what to serve with a tajine and tips on how to set a drop dead gorgeous table.

Link here – See pp 30-32: Life Choices Magazine feature Beauty and the Feast

Lamb tagine

Lamb tagine

Two of my tajine dishes

Two of my tajine dishes

A leopard dinner to go with a wild meal.

A leopard dinner to go with a wild meal.

April 7, 2016 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St Patrick's Day

éire go brách!

March 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm Leave a comment

Neon hieroglyphs and giants with mystical crowns in the Temple of Dendur

Color the Temple: Scene I The light projection project at the New York Metropolitan Museum Temple of Dendura

Color the Temple: Scene I
The light projection project at the New York Metropolitan Museum Temple of Dendura

When I wrote The Red Mirror, I held an image in my mind of the interior of an Egyptian temple far different than anything I’d ever seen in photos or real life. The walls pulsed with a color palette so vivid that the strange giants with human bodies and animal heads with mystical crowns leapt from the stone to dance in the still air.

Here’s a quick excerpt from Chapter Three – The Temple:

Simmering hieroglyphs in colors bright as neon exploded from every surface. Giants with mystical crowns or the heads of animals performed strange rituals in soaring murals painted in vibrant red, yellow and blue.

I resisted leaning my head back to take in the vast ceiling with its elaborate geometric designs, absorbing as much as possible without being obvious. But I couldn’t stop my eyes from traveling everywhere at once.

As if in answer to my imagination begging for manifestation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recreated by magic of light projection what archaeologists believe are the original colors of one vignette in the Temple of Dendur. The scene couldn’t be closer to what I saw in my mind’s eye when my character, for the first time, walks back in time through the shadowy incense-fogged chambers of a temple on the Nile. Of course, in my vision, every square inch of the walls and ceiling throbbed with the same bold colors as you see in the photo.

Although the beautiful Egypto-Roman Dendur Temple relocated from Egypt is about 500 years “younger” than my temple in The Red Mirror, it reflects the stature and majesty of the setting in my novel. There, among the polychromatic neon gods and goddesses, Isenkhebe Nefrusobek (Isis) experiences her first encounter with Egyptian mysticism and sacred sexuality.

See the New York Times article here: NY Times article on Metropolitan Museum of Art Color the Temple Scene I

February 3, 2016 at 1:22 am Leave a comment

An altar to January purity, peace and beauty

January 2 2016 e

When all the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over, I usually strip my mantle right down for January austerity. This year my hunger for richness lingers on well into the new year. In these troubling times of world pain and conflict, I offer my altar to peace and beauty.

January 19, 2016 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

Christmas means gløgg season at the Nielsen house

Nectar of the Gods. The Nielsen Christmas gløgg bottled, labeled and ready to gift

Nectar of the Gods. The Nielsen Christmas gløgg bottled, labeled and ready to gift

Every year we put on a smashing party and pack in 50 or 60 friends to imbibe Danish spiced (mulled) and fortified warm wine known as gløgg. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced a little like water gurgling down a blocked drain. Glug. Glug. But with a kind of caveman growl. Put your whole body into it! Imagine how a Viking would sound.

We bottled the remainder, and I created some labels. Voila! Hostess gifts for those lovely friends who invite us this season.

Merry Christmas! Glaedelig Jul! Skål! Godt Nyt År. Happy New Year!

Countdown until guests arrive. Gløgg warm, glass cups, raisins and almonds ready.

Countdown until guests arrive. Gløgg warm. Glass cups, raisins and almonds ready. House smelling divine.


Cautionary note: Gløgg must be served warm – but never boiled. The boiling will not only burn off the alcohol but also dampen the spices. We’ve learned the hard way.

In each glass cup, put a spoonful of raisins and blanched almonds that have been soaked for days in brandy.

The key to the spicing is to use only fresh, be very generous, and let “mull” for at least two days. note: I buy only from Penzeys which sells the best spices in America. If you can’t make it to one of their many shops, order on line Penzeys.

Ingredients in our gløgg:
Red wine (mainly)
Port wine (generously)
Brandy (a little less than port)
Rum (go easy as this is what gives it real punch. You want your guests coherent)
Cinnamon sticks
Cardamon pods
Whole cloves
Fresh ginger root
Orange peel
Lemon peel
Sugar boiled in water to create syrup

The very beginning. Start with red wine and a bottle opener.

The very beginning. Start with red wine and a bottle opener.

Prep time with Jesper, Rex and Dawn

Prep time with Jesper, Rex and Dawn

December 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm 2 comments

A Christmas gift from my kitchen to my parents’ table

Instead of wracking my brain to think of yet another Christmas gift for my 90 year old mom and 91 year old dad who don’t need anything, I was inspired to cook up a bunch of homemade meals. The chicken in sherry and mushroom sauce is my mom’s recipe. I’m thinking they can have that for Christmas Eve. Or maybe the stuffed Cornish hens. The soups will be perfect on those cold winter evenings when the ground outside is icy. Ozark winters can be br-r-r-r cold.

It’s a win-win-win kind of gift. My dad will be happy eating. My mom will be free from cooking. I had a lot of fun in my kitchen, listening to Gregorian chants and filling the house with delicious aromas.

My Christmas gift to my parents. A box of home-cooked meals from my kitchen to their table.

What’s in the box?
– Chicken in sherry mushroom sauce with wild rice (enough for at least 2 meals for 2 people).
– Italian meatloaf (2 meals for 2)
– Mexican meatloaf (2 meals for 2)
– Bolognese spaghetti sauce (2 meals for 2 – probably 3-4)
– Cornish hens stuffed with cornbread, scallions, celery, sage, mushroom, raisins, walnut & water chestnut dressing. (2 hens) Sides of sweet potato delight with garnish of cranberry chutney.
– Turkey soup (1 liter)
– Minestrone with beans and ham (3 liters)
– Split Pea soup with smoked bacon (2 liters)

I put 10 lbs of dry ice to keep the already frozen meals icy cold for the 2 day UPS air trip from Coastal California to the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

December 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…

There are few things I enjoy more than decorating for the holidays. Any holiday, actually. But there’s something about Christmas that truly sets me free to be as extravagant and outrageous as I desire.

The heart and soul of Christmas is my mantel. I never know what will evolve. Last year I craved purity and focused on white. This year I went “Borgia” with over-the-top opulence. The mood is quite changed from day to night, yet always lush.

Christmas 2015 mantal daye

Christmas 2015 mantel nighte

Antinous must be adorned as all gods demand of us. He’s sporting a gold necklace of stars this year to go with his Dionysus hair wreath.

antinous 2015e

The Ghost of Christmas Present from A Christmas Carol is a favorite.

Piano e

My grand piano with glitter and shine in mirror mosaics accented by golden angels.

We gave up on big trees and now recycle a lovely little fake tree that I picked up at Marshalls. I change the lights, use different ornaments – or none at all – and wrap the base in leopard or silver or gold. For the first time in ever so long, I strung garland. I’d forgotten how hard it is to hang just right.

tree daye

The end product turned out to be one of those old-fashioned trees you might see on a Christmas card.


Wrapping the base is a bit of an art form itself.

Apollo Belvedere e

Apollo Belvedere regards the room from the golden glow of a Greek god.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with warmth, joy, peace and love. “Gods bless us everyone.”



December 6, 2015 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

Thoughts from the Central Coast Writer’s Conference

It’s been more than 24 hours since the Central Coast Writer’s Conference 2015. I’m hoping that enough time has elapsed that I can succinctly convey the experience and all that I took away.

First let me say, it was my first writer’s conference and my first book fair. When I look at the photo of my little booth, I confess I  cringe. Yet I share the pic with you because Chantelle Aimée Osman said in a workshop on writing Mystery, “Don’t hide your work.” I do that. I do just that. And I intend to change.

Getting set up for the book fair. Perfectionist that I am, I cringe a little, but there it is.

Getting set up for the book fair. Perfectionist that I am, I cringe a little, but there it is.

I fell quite by accident into the opportunity of judging the Golden Quills writing contest in three categories: Poetry, Flash Fiction and Short Fiction. My tit for tat for that labor of love was free entry to the conference, a place on two panel discussions, an invitation to the marvelous oceanfront, rooftop party for staff and presenters only, and a gratis table at the book fair. I’d say that I came out way ahead. Especially when it turned out that one of my fellow judges was English historical detective fiction author Anne Perry. I’m told I can use her name in my resumé. I’m not sure how that works, but then I freely admit, I’m new to this game.

My first panel discussion was at the boot camp for beginning writers. Christy Halsell, LeeAnne Krusemark and I were slated to talk about New Writing Technologies (Blogging and Twitter) from 1:30-2:00. Pulled together at 12:55, we were told, “You’re up now. Until 2.” With a precision teamwork that might have been orchestrated but which was utterly ad lib, we pulled it off with admirable aplomb. The key was to talk straight, keep it simple and then open up to questions. With a room of a hundred or so new writers, there were plenty of those.

The second panel discussion took place on the rooftop terrace where we’d partied the night before. The blue Pacific stretched without a ripple to a cloudless horizon. The sun blazed; the air was still and hot. Four women writers answered a few questions about “Finding Inspiration.” Verbose as we are, we managed to fill the hour. No questions from the audience, which I would have enjoyed. I quite adore speaking off the cuff.

When asked with whom we share our ideas, a fellow panelist confessed that she shares with no one out of fear of her ideas being stolen. I was so stunned by this concept that I probably went a little too far by saying that my books are so complex and so utterly me that I didn’t think anyone else could pull them off. Oh well, I am known for speaking my mind.

The book fair bombed. Foot traffic was sparse. The day was too hot. Anyone with any sense was at the beach. I did share my umbrella shade with a lively author named Corey Lynn Fayman whose good cheer and company made the time pass with laughs. Potential readers cruised by my voluminous books to finger his two thin novels.  I heard him say over and over in just one little sentence, “These are mystery detective.” I saw him sell the thinnest.

Oh, how I envied that he said everything about his books in just those few words. Right then and there, I decided that no matter that I have ideas for three more books in my Red Mirror Series, the next book I write will be to a genre and skinny.

I have to give Jonathan Maberry special mention.  He is the nicest successful author one could ever hope to meet. A teddy bear with huge heart. I ended up in his workshop “Horror Horror,” not because I have any talent for that genre, but because he was so engaging at the grand panel discussion that I simply wanted to be in the same room with him. The gods smiled on me, and I met him again at the rooftop party – a gathering tantamount to Mount Olympus for a novice like me. Elevated. Yes, I definitely felt elevated.

Three cheers for the Central Coast Writer’s Conference. Thank you to Teri Bayus for her leadership and spunk. Yes, there were some hiccups and blemishes, but those are best mentioned in the evaluation form. I prefer to focus on the good, of which there was plenty to experience at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference 2015. Twitter #CCWC2015.

Central Coast Writer’s Conference
Teri Bayus Website
Jonathan Maberry Website
Corey Lynn Fayman Website
Chantelle Aimee Osman Website
LeeAnne Krusemark Facebook
Christy Halsell Website
Anne Perry Website


September 22, 2015 at 4:35 pm 2 comments

May the Gods Bless America! Happy July 4th!

4th July 2015 May the gods SLGore e

July 4, 2015 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

Follow me on Twitter!

Flickr Photos

Recent Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,485 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: