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Review: Secrets of the Gem Trade by Richard W. Wise

Secrets of the Gem Trade by Richard W. Wise, truly is a gem connoisseur's guide to the exciting world of precious stones. Written by one of the world's gemstone experts, this 275-page guide leads readers through the in's and out's of the gem trade in clear, easy-to-follow language.

Secrets of the Gem Trade  Learn how to judge and grade quality in gemstones, including diamonds. Learn too, how some gemstone dealers try to pass off inferior stones, and how you can avoid such catastrophies. In fact, after reading this book, you'll almost feel like an expert on grading and judging gemstone quality yourself. 

Secrets of the Gem Tradeis highly recommended, not only to industry professionals, but also those who are interested in making precious stones a part of their investment portfolios, or even the groom-to-be who wants to get the best diamond possible for his bride.

Chapters include the history of precious stones, how to judge color, cut, crystal and clarity, strategic advice on buying gemstones, famous stones througbhout the ages, and new sources of gemstones.  The chapters I found particularly fascinating were those that dealt with each gemstone "family".  For example, you'll find an introduction and overview on  garnets, agates, pearls, rubies, sapphires, opals, diamonds and tourmaline. Included are discussions of fancy color diamonds and lapis lazuli. 

Secrets of the Gem Trade is packed with 120 full-color photographs, including some of the world's rarest and most costly gems, like the Hope Diamond, the Dresden Green Diamond, and the Rockefeller Sapphire.

If you're interested in gemstones, or want to learn more, this is a MUST have reference book in your library.  Order from Amazon, or directly from the author.



Interview with Jessica Macbeth, author of The Faeries Oracle

BA: Could you tell us a little about your background as a writer?

JM: Writing has long been a natural form of expression for me. I remember writing a poem in the second grade. It went:

The deer went down to the water
to get a drink,
I think.

You can see why I gave up on rhymes for the most part. I probably remember that one simply because I kept trying to draw a picture of the deer drinking and couldn't get it to satisfy me. And that may have been the beginning of being a "writer" instead of an "artist" - drawing seemed so much harder.

Traveling was an important contributing factor. I did long stretches abroad before the age of e-mail, and sharing my journeys with family and friends gave me a lot of good practice in description and the telling of the small stories of everyday happenings. The thing is, writers write, and the practice shows. With that development of skill and technique, all you need is something to write about, something you find endlessly fascinating, something you'll always want to learn more about. Writing not only shows us what we know (and what we don't) but teaches us insights we hadn't realized we were capable of. For me, that path was healing and nature - my own experience of healing and my own vision of nature, which includes Faery. Everything I write, even the silly little fables and the nonsense poems, comes back to healing and nature.
BA: Your most recent book, The Faeries Oracle, was done with artist Brian Froud. How did that partnership come about?

JM: I've known Brian and his family for a long time. He and his wife took some classes from me, and we because good friends. Then. on my 60th birthday, at a house party at a mutual friend's home, Brian handed me a bunch of small copies of his paintings and asked if I thought a tarot deck could be made from them somehow. I spent the night sitting up in bed, moving the pictures around as the fae themselves danced around and made wise silly comments.

In the morning, bleary-eyed, I told Brian that, yes, there was almost a deck there. It wouldn't be the standard tarot form, but it would be a great oracle - and there were just a few essential faery folk missing that he'd need to add. He thought about that, and that evening after dinner, asked if I'd like to do the book for the deck. I didn't quite jump on him and fling my arms around him, but I had no hesitation is saying an enthusiastic "Yes!" Voila! The Faeries' Oracle was born! It was a real pleasure working with Brian. He is a truly lovely person in addition to being a world-class talent. He also has a deep spirituality, which informs his art and his life.

BA: Did the Faeries help you write the book?

JM: Absolutely! I could never have done it without them, especially in the time I had. In fact, much of it was almost straight dictation from them, especially the middle part where their descriptions are. They're pretty good at it too - the editor was very complimentary about how relatively little editing had to be done by the time I let her have the manuscript. They are also endlessly fascinating and entertaining writing partners.
BA: Do you have a writing muse?

JM: Several, really. There are many who just give me ideas, and leave it up to me to bead the thoughts onto a word string. There are others who virtually dictate to me, sentence by sentence - or even, when I'm being "hard of thinking," it comes phrase by phrase. One, Fulum, (which means something like "educator" or "teacher") seems to be the principal, who keeps all of us in line, more or less. She also is good at herding cats, too, she says. I get mesmerized by her deep, green eyes in her lovely, elegant, fine-boned face, and find that my fingers have just been typing away... It almost seems like cheating; it's so easy compared with other, more intentional writing.
BA: What's a typical writing day like for you?

JM: When I'm really in the flow of a writing project, I wake up with ideas, flip on the computer on my way to the bathroom, and come straight back to the computer and start typing frantically. I've often been known to start at six in the morning and not get up from my desk until two in the afternoon when I run out of words. I'm trying to learn moderation, but I think my muse was a slave-driver in a different life. Just kidding there - it really is my fault for not having better self-discipline. Then, after I've finally eaten a belated breakfast and perhaps had a little nap, I come back and usually work on editing - corrections and filling in gaps. I normally do a lot of editing and even major restructuring of the book - moving chapters and large chunks of text around before I let anyone else see it. If I'm really deeply immersed in a project or a part of it and things are flowing quickly, I'll write until I can't really see the screen clearly, sleep as long as I must, and then start again early the next morning.

Of course, there are days - quite a few of them - that are not like that. When the magic isn't there and I look at the screen and nothing happens, I have various ways of priming my word pump, but they don't always work. I meditate - zazen. I draw a Faeries' Oracle card to think about. I go out and putter in the garden, which at least makes me feel better even if the words don't come. I might even get desperate enough to clean the bathroom - words may come just because that is such a tedious job that anything else, even writing, would be better. There are days when the computer, even the laptop I love, seems like an alien and incomprehensible machine. It took me years to learn that those were the days when I really needed to give myself a break from the intensity of writing.

Long ago someone told me that a Real Writer can be known by the facts that they read dictionaries for pleasure and that they always carry a pocket notebook and pen for fear that a brilliant phrase or notion will escape. I like little notebooks with flowers on the cover.
BA: What advice would you give a writer who wants to break into the "new age" field?

JM: Know your field and write about what you know. Don't just learn it from books, but practice and teach it until you have something new and different and helpful to say. Or else team up with someone who does. Write from the inside, not the outside of your subject. Don't - above all, do NOT preach. We all know we need to be good, self-motivating, clear, loving beings filled with inner harmony - show us how we can do that better in practical ways. If you are a good and noble and spiritual person, do NOT tell us so. Let us figure that out for ourselves from the helpfulness and wisdom of your writing.

If you're writing about other people and their skills and knowledge, be sure you really really listen to them until you've not only understood what they are saying, but have also caught fire with their enthusiasm for the topic, and then let that fire illumine both subject and topic. New Age writing should have creative word magic fizzing in it.

Don't put other people, other systems, other techniques down. As a way of making yours look good, that is always a failure. As a way of making enemies, it's a good place to start. A piece of enlightened self-interest: publishers don't like to publish books that knock the subject matter of other books they might publish. Don't tell what's "wrong" with others; stick to your teachings and how they work.

Also, know how to write well - conversational, fluent, easy reading, user-friendly. Keep your tools like grammar, spelling, focus, writer's "tricks" sharp and in good working order. Avoid pomposity, obscurity and jargon - keep it simple so the profound wisdom shines clearly through the words

Above all else, be a lucky person! And whatever happens, do not lose your cool and turn the publisher into a toad. Toads can't write cheques.
BA: What are you working on currently?

JM: I have several projects outlined in my head. There is a proposal and three chapters almost ready on a book with the working title of Every Day, Faery Wisdom, which is just what it says - wisdom for each day, as, where, and when we need it - Advice On Alle Matters! After that, I want to do a book on The Green Woman's Healing Hints. There are also a couple of novels simmering, a book on raising sensitive, intuitive children, and maybe a little book or three of poetry. I'm also thinking about some shorter e-books on different aspects of healing and other topics that excite me.

BA: Do you have any sort of an over-riding goal for your writing?

JM: Yes, I do. Some years back I was given a mission, which is to help bring people back to nature - back to the natural world, back to connection with Earthmama and the nature spirits of Faery, back to our own true nature. I guess that will keep me busy for a while.
BA: We always like to end an interview using some of James Lipton’s questions which gives us an insight in the author we spotlight and it’s fun. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.

JM: My pleasure! Truly. This was a great exercise in looking afresh at what I do and why I do it. Readers might find these questions very helpful for looking at their own motivations if they are interested in writing too.
BA: What is your favorite word?

JM: Shenandoah. Just because of the lilting, rolling sound and the association with flowing water. I haven't a clue what it means. If that doesn't count, "scintillating" and "numinous" both are great favorites. I have to restrain myself from trying to fit them in even where they don't belong.
BA: What is your least favorite word?

JM: I'm thinking, I'm thinking... Do I have one? I don't think I do. Words are magic. Some glow more brightly and others more dimly. One needs all the available shades and colors of them to paint an accurate, clear, and true picture.
BA: What turns you on?

JM: All kinds of things! Flowers! Natural scents! The incredible complexity and delicacy and toughness in a leaf or a twig. Certain voices. Music. My granddaughter's incredible, fresh view of the world. Hands that know how to touch me all the way to my heart. New insights and ideas. Oh, so many things, we'd be here for days!
BA: What turns you off?

JM: People who think that only numbers matter and who don't know how to play together well. Poor deluded souls...
BA: What sound or noise do you love?

JM: The wind in the trees, the rain on the roof. It's lucky that I live in the State of Washington and get a lot of both. Water flowing. Bach's Inventions played on the guitar by Andres Segovia. John Williams, Julian Bream. Harp music, flutes, drums. Johnny Cash singing. Tennessee Ernie Ford. Mahilia Jackson. My granddaughter's voice singing almost on key (she is only three) or imparting her bits of wisdom gleaned from her own observations of the world. My cats conversing with each other and with me. The sound of the raccoons dancing on the roof in the middle of the night.
BA: What sound or noise do you hate?

JM: Sirens - the ambulance, police, fire engine kind, not the beglamouring ladies of the sea. They always mean distress for someone. The upside is that they also always mean an opportunity for someone else to show compassion and heroism, but the initial sound and energy of it... that's hard.
BA: What profession would you be in if not this?

JM: If I could sing, I'd be a singer/songwriter. I might be a sculptor if I could become good enough at it. Or build faery "doll" houses. I've been an antiquarian book and antique dealer, a teacher of healing and other spiritual skills, a painter and decorator, a sign painter, a shipwright, and the usual other assorted things. But I'd probably still be writing about whatever was happening in my head and in the world around me, even if no one paid me for it or read it.
BA: What profession would you hate to be in?

JM: Anything involving a rigid routine and an absence of opportunity for creativity. The worst job I ever had was sewing labels on mohair blankets. Not only was it a sneezy business, but the labels had to be exactly so far from the edge, precisely so far from the bottom, and perfectly square. Once I'd mastered getting it just right and invented an efficient system so I was faster at it than anyone else, it was astonishingly boring. To keep from running amok with frustration, I wrote things in my head, but was too tired by the time I finished carrying stacks of blankets around all day, like a particularly witless ant, to actually write them on paper. It was also the worst-paying job I've ever had. I think it was two-shillings sixpence per hour.
BA: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?

JM: "Heya, kiddo, you're late!" And then she'd wave her magic wand over me (oh, sorry, that's my Faery Godmother) and say, "Now you can sing - get busy on the songwriting. We've got a lot of stories to sing here."


Interview with Nancy Hendrickson, author of Finding Your Roots Online

Nancy Hendrickson is the author of Finding Your Roots Online and San Diego Then and Now. She is a fulltime freelance writer, entrepreneur, and Internet marketing wizard. She lives in San Diego, California, where she grows red geraniums, and has part-time custody of two Ragdoll cats.

BA: Have you always been a writer? Do you have any particular background or creative writing courses that you draw from?

NH: Even before I went to kindergarten, I remember running around with little pieces of paper I'd scribbled on. So yes, I think I've always been a writer. When I was in high school and college, I loved researching and writing term papers, which is probably why I enjoy writing non-fiction. Although I didn't take many creative writing courses in college, my degree is in English--which means I did a tremendous amount of reading. For me, being a writer means being a reader. Reading good writing--whether fiction or non-fiction--always inspires me to improve my own work.

BA: You write for several niche markets. Tell us exactly what a niche market is.

NH: A niche market is a specialized market. As a non-fiction writer, I'm interested in a wide variety of subjects, which makes me a generalist. However, I learned long ago that editors are more comfortable working with you if they feel you are highly skilled and informed in their particular niche.

It occurred to me that although I am a generalist, I can specialize in several different niches. I picked the areas I know the most about, and went about presenting myself as a specialist in those areas. For example, I wanted to write about genealogy, so I started a genealogy newsletter and built a genealogy-related Web site. Both positioned me as an expert, and helped in getting some of my first genealogy assignments.

BA: You've developed several of your own niches; genealogy, computers, Internet marketing, and history. Did this develop from a special interest you had in each or did the interest develop once you found the market?

NH: Those particular niches were based on my own personal likes. However, I've learned to develop my own "niche within a niche" in each of those fields. For instance, although I've been interested in genealogy since childhood, I positioned myself as an expert on Internet genealogy because I've been online since 1986 and it was easy to call myself an online expert.

I've had computers for years, but it wasn't until I bought a Handspring Visor--they're like Palm Pilots--that I really got interested in writing about computers. My first articles were on using Palms for various hobbies. I sold pieces on Palms for astronomy, Palms for health and Palms for genealogy. Once I had my foot in that particular door, it was fairly easy to get other computer-related assignments.

I'm a great believer in writing about things you really enjoy. Why go after assignments that you're going to hate writing?

BA: You've written for several magazines with different interests, do you have a favorite subject?

NH: I love writing about people or events that transcend ordinary life and touch us somewhere deep in our collective consciousness. For me, this usually happens when I'm writing about history. I don't get to do this often, but when I do, it's Nirvana.

BA: Writing for niche markets takes research, can you lead us through a typical beginning, middle and end of preparing your article?

NH: You're absolutely correct about needing to hone research skills as a niche writer. When I get an assignment, the first thing I do is decide how I'm going to approach the article (my tone, style, structure), whether I need to do interviews, and what type of research will be necessary.

For example, I did a piece for The Writer magazine on "Holiday Gifts for Writers." For it, I needed to come up with 20-25 items a writer would like to get as a gift, then write a paragraph about each, including the price and where to buy it.

This piece was fairly straightforward--I added things to the list that I'd like to have, and then incorporated things my editor wanted on the list. After that, all I had to do was search the Web for each item, and write my descriptions.

A more typical piece for me, though, is one I just finished for a genealogy magazine on "finding your frontier ancestors." After deciding on the components I wanted the article to contain, I got on the Web and started looking for experts to interview. I eventually interviewed two authors who specialized in the frontier, as well as an expert on military history, and archivists at four different state historical societies.

Next, I took all my notes and started fashioning the article. Once I did that, I could see where my research was a little thin, so I went back on the Web, as well as through my own books to fill in the gaps. Once that structure was complete, I began writing the piece. By that point, I had enough information to write the piece. Of course I went back a couple of times to polish it, which means not only catching my errors and improving the way I said something, but also moving paragraphs around until the piece flowed the way I wanted it to.

One last thing--and this is just my personal quirk--once I know how I want to structure the article, I frequently write my lead paragraph before I do anything else. Having a solid lead keeps me focused.

BA: What or who influenced you to get into article writing?

NH: I truly love helping people understand a subject better, and writing articles gives me the chance to do this.

For example, I like writing an article that helps you get the most from your Palm Pilot, or one that helps you find your ancestors, or one that gives you a piece of medical information that alleviates your worries. Writing these articles gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction.

BA: What type of books do you like to read when you find the time?

NH: Unfortunately, most of my reading time is spent on keeping up with computers and Internet technology. It doesn't leave much time for reading for the pure joy of it. However, a friend of mine recently inspired me to start reading novels again. Of those, my two favorites are The Archivist, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. My criteria for a good read is that it makes me think, it touches my heart, and that it's beautifully told.

BA: We always like to end an interview using some of James Lipton's questions which gives us an insight in the author we spotlight and it's fun. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.

BA: What is your favorite word?
NH: Hubris. I love the image it creates in my head.

BA: What is your least favorite word?
NH: Interface. God, spare me.

BA: What turns you on?
NH: Music that makes me feel every emotion, from the inside out.

BA: What turns you off?
NH: Whining.

BA: What sound or noise do you love?
NH: A downpour on the roof.

BA: What sound or noise do you hate?
NH: Car alarms.

BA: What profession would you be in if not this?
NH: Music composer.

BA: What profession would you hate to be in?
NH: Anything that traps me in an office or forces me to do the same thing day after day.

BA: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
NH: "You did good, kid."

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