Today, I was a guest blogger for Anne Louise Bannon on the mysteries of handwriting. Anne is the president of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime and a fellow author, so it was an honor to be invited to write something for her.
I decided to use the opportunity to talk about how I went from the mysteries of handwriting to mystery writing. My work as a handwriting analyst, uncovering the mysteries of personality has been intriguing. But the fact is, after so many years in that field, I was ready to kill someone. Obviously, not literally. Doing it on the page is enough excitement for me. It was quite a leap from my first career as a forensic handwriting examiner to mystery writer. If you would like to know how it all came about, click on this link.
In other news, watch for updates about my next book, Dead Letters, coming in late summer 2021.
This is an old blog post and having given my website a facelift, I’m attempting to improve the SEO. I’m going back over some of the older posts. If you are reading this paragraph, I apologize. I needed to add some words, and here they are.
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In the 1980s, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association designated January 23rd as National Handwriting Day. The birthday of John Hancock marks the occasion. Why John Hancock? Because he wrote his signature on the Declaration of Independence big and bold. The story may be apocryphal, but legend has it that he signed it that way so King George could read it without his spectacles!
Other countries may not be invested in celebrating American independence but want to honor handwriting, too, so the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (AHAF) suggests we expand National Handwriting Day. We’ve now made it International Handwriting Week.
We encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate with us. Take a picture of your handwriting and post it on your social media like I did. You can click here to see it. Or make a “pencil toast,” selfie like mine below. Just hold up your pencil and smile.
The SoCal chapter of AHAF’s meeting on Saturday, January 25th will mark the occasion. The public is always welcome to our meetings and there is no fee. Attendees bring snacks to enjoy together during the break. We meet at the EP Foster Library, 651 E. Main Street, Ventura CA, in the Topping room. Time: 10:00 a.m. to noon. Learn what your handwriting says about you. Join us!
If you are interested in learning more about handwriting analysis, please take a look at my nonfiction books. Readers of my Forensic Handwriting Mystery series say they learn a lot about handwriting, too.
I love visiting book clubs. After all, what’s not to like, they’re reading one of my books. I’ve visited book clubs in Thousand Oaks, Orange, Solvang and others in person. Good food and wine is usually served along with the conversation.
Sometimes, I’ve joined the conversation via Zoom or Skype. An Atlanta book club invited me to their meeting last summer. I was out of town and joined from my laptop–worked well. Of course, in those cases we can only hoist a glass in virtuality (I think I just made up a word), but it’s still fun. I’ll gladly send a bunch of bookmarks and signed bookplates, too.
The latest book club to pick one of my books was this week in Pahrump, NV. This time I visited by proxy. One of their members, my very dear friend and mentor, Bob Joseph, recommended Written Off for their December read. Since he was there and I was not, Bob spoke on my behalf, telling the group about me and my work. Apparently, everyone liked the book a lot, so that made my week.
Awhile back I posted a blog about a local book club visit here in Ventura. They invited me for the second time last year at Halloween, where they all dressed up as characters in What She Saw. The creativity of those ladies was outstanding!
It’s always interesting to hear what readers think of my books and the characters that populate them. Do you have a book club that would like a visit from a mystery author? If so, please think of me 🙂
Last Sunday, I caught a ride with fellow mystery author, Raul Melendez, to L.A. to attend the November meeting of Mystery Writers of America SoCal Chapter. The chapter meets at the Tam O’Shanter restaurant, where we enjoyed excellent food and a fascinating speaker. Detective Robert Bub has been working cold cases. Terri Nolan, who has been consulting with Bub for ten years on her own books, conducted the interview.
Detective Bub detailed the Sherri Rasmussen murder case, which his team solved 25 years after the 1986 killing.
Here’s the story he told: Sherri’s husband, John Ruetten, pictured left, returned home from work work one evening to find Sherri “brutally beaten, and shot 3 times in the chest.” A bite mark on her arm also played an important role in identifying her killer.
Bub portrayed Sherri’s killer, Stephanie Lazarus, as a jealous lover who could not let Sherri’s husband go (the affair continued following his marriage to Sherri a few months earlier). When Bub revealed that, like John Ruetten, Lazarus was also a cop, a gasp rounded the room. Arrested in 2009, she was convicted and sentenced to twenty-five to life.
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Kings River Life Magazine offers the new Mystery Rat’s Maze podcast and you will want to subscribe. Mysteryrat’s Maze features mystery short stories and first chapters of mystery novels (maybe even one of mine, soon…), read aloud by local (Fresno area) actors.
Click here for a short story by Dennis Palumbo, one of my favorite authors (did you know that besides being a bestselling mystery writer, he’s also a psychologist–of course you did).
I’m happy to share this information with my readers. Please check out these good people. They’ve been devoted to the mystery genre for a long time and their new mystery podcast is a fantastic addition to the Kings River Life Magazine.
They’ll be featuring me and my current book, Written Offin their next newsletter.
Everything you wanted to know about…me. I posted a question on Facebook: What do you want to know about the authors you read? The questions were surprisingly personal and boiled down to several that were asked multiple times. I’m going to answer some of them here.
When did you know you were going to write? Was it always in your soul?
It feels as if I’ve always written. I started writing poetry as a child and eventually went on to writing stories about the Beatles. Yes, I was a Beatlemaniac and the year was 1964. I grew up, had 3 kids, got divorced, went out to work, and then started writing technical papers about handwriting analysis. I was determined to have a book written by the time I was 50 and I made it by a few months: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis, followed the next year by Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. After that, I finally got down to writing my first mystery, Poison Pen.
Where did you grow up, your education, family, profession?
I was born in London, England, long, long ago. We moved to the US permanently at the end of 1964 when my parents split up. By the way, my mother’s name was Elizabeth Taylor (yes, really), and my brother was Richard, so you can imagine the prank calls we used to get.
I didn’t get a college degree until I was in my 50’s thanks to the fundamentalist religion in which I grew up (Last Writes is my revenge book!). They frowned on higher education. But finally, I went back to school and earned a bachelor of science in psychology, followed by a master of science. I had started studying handwriting in 1967, but I worked in the corporate world until 1989 when I started a full time practice. I’ve covered that period in detail in my new book, Succeeding in the Business of Handwriting Analysis, so won’t belabor it here.
What about the little things–tea, coffee, wine?
I’m a Brit, so I am a tea lover (no coffee for me, please). People often gift me with variously flavored teas, but Earl Grey or English Breakfast with cream and sugar are my first choice. When it comes to alcohol, I’m a lightweight. A glass of white zinfandel once in a while, or some fruity mixed drink like a mojito or pina colada. Rum and coke is good, too (a favorite of the Beatles!).
How long does it take you to write a book?
I marvel at people who can produce a book in a couple of months. The way I write, it takes about a year. I start with a title, look for a story, eventually write an outline, and then get down to writing the book. Remember, I’m working around my other career as a forensic handwriting examiner, plus I sit on two boards of directors of nonprofits, so it tends to take longer than if I were strictly writing books. Maybe someday…
What is your writing routine?
Honestly, I don’t have one. My handwriting analysis practice comes first because it pays the bills. Sometimes I’m very busy with forgery cases or personality assessment, and at other times there are periods of relative radio silence. I spend a lot of time Facebook spouting politics, and do loads of email. After that, I write. Not every day, but when I’m working on a book, I set a goal of at least 1,000 words a session.
Was that everything you wanted to know about…me? That was probably more than you ever wanted to know. But if there are any burning questions I haven’t answered, please send me an email and I’ll do my best: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last time blogged I was getting ready for my Big European Adventure. Three weeks in Germany/UK/Gibraltar/Spain/UK. Then I actually went on the trip. And since October 14, have been recovering from the trip. I brought home a cold and ear infection. Lesson: if you have to fly with a cold, wear spongy ear plugs when the plane is ascending and descending!
The highlight was meeting the most perfect baby ever born, my granddaughter Cleo Ayla. She was two weeks old when I left Germany. I’m not allowed to post her pictures online, or believe me, there would be dozens of them. I am grateful, though, that though we are 6000 miles apart, her beautiful parents keep in touch via video and FaceTime. While in Frankfurt, I got to attend a military ball with my younger son, Benjamin. He’s a rock star in one part of his life, and my prince for the evening.
Isle of Wight
From Germany, I flew to England, my original home, and met a DNA-found cousin for a trip to the Isle of Wight. My mother’s great-grandparents lived there and I’d never been. We met a bunch of other cousins and I discovered that I’m part of a wonderful family who still live on the island.
King Charles I’s room
One of the fun things some of us did was visit Carisbrooke Castle–who knew there was a castle on IoW. There were hundreds of steps to climb. I lost 5 lbs whilst away! The picture below with the fireplace was the room where King Charles I stayed before he was beheaded on January 30, 1649.
Gibraltar and Spain
Next stop, Gibraltar, this time with cousins from maternal grandmother’s side. My g-g-gmother was born in La Linea and I’ve always wanted go. Having our flight upgraded to business class made it even better. Champagne, good food, more room!
Gibraltar is tiny–2.5 square miles–but seemed much larger while driving around. We took a cable car to the top of the Rock, where monkeys roam free, stealing what they can from tourists. There are also vast caves full of immense stalactites and stalagmites. The tunnels Napoleon’s men used were, sadly, closed that day (not that I knew there were tunnels before the tour guide told us).
Clouds over the Rock
Upon crossing the border to Malaga, Spain, the first thing we saw was a Burger King. Seriously! We rented a car and drove up the mountains to Casares, where Diego Garcia, another ancestor, lived in the 1700s. Casares had extremely narrow, cobblestone streets. Loads more walking, more steps to climb, and fabulous views. I had a Coke in a little cafe–some things are everywhere.
Back to England
Tower of London
The last two days of my trip I spent in London. This time, the cousins were on my dad’s side and we’ve known each other forever. A visit the Tower of London got the kibosh. Amazingly, despite living his whole life in the area, my cousin had never been there. I have, twice (though I haven’t been to Disneyland in the past 30 years). But it was late in the day and the 30 pound entry fee was a bit much. Seeing it from the outside this time was good enough. For being nearly 1000 years old, they’ve kept it pretty clean, lol
Last day in UK
Three weeks away from home is a lot for an introvert, regardless of how wonderful the trip. But my last day in England was fun. One of the new cousins came down from Kent on the train. When I asked where we should meet he said “Victoria Station, under the clock, like in the movies.” So that’s what we did.
We then went into the London Underground, something I vow never to do again. Ever. OMG!!! There were at least a million people on the Tube platform. And that was Saturday at noon. Once we had pushed our way onto the train, others pushed in behind us. Somehow, the doors managed to shut with riders crammed against it. Eventually, we left the train for long staircases and a lift (elevator) that held about 50 people. I’m getting claustrophobia just remembering.
We got off at Battersea Park, where there is a famous cat and dog rescue. But that’s not where we were headed. We each had an appointment at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain. I had a terrific reading with a medium named Pauline Mason. My grandmother came through as my caregiver early in life and a wonderful pianist. There was also my daughter, my dad, and my late boyfriend. I love being reminded that there is life after earth.
Getting to the end…
After our readings we went to Covent Garden, where we had planned to eat at the Cheese Bar. Sounded like fun when I read about it in the LA Times. Unfortunately, the wait for a spot at the bar was nearly 2 hours and that’s too long to wait for food when you can get it elsewhere.
We left the market and I ducked into the Astrology Shop, which was way cool, but…it was as crowded as the Tube. Apparently, Londoners are as interested in New Agey stuff as I am.
So, after a lovely Italian lunch I left my cousin for a very expensive cab ride to my airport hotel. There’s a bit more to that story, but probably not so interesting to anyone else. If you’ve got this far with me, I’ll say thank you and leave it there.
I finished the last day having fish and chips with a friend/colleague at my airport hotel. We covered handwriting and life after death–how’s that for a mix?!
BTW, compliments to LHR Hilton Garden Inn, whose bed was the most comfortable ever. It helped me prepare for the 10.5 hour flight the next day, which felt twice that long (can you sleep on a plane? I cannot. Ever).
Heathrow is the size of a city, and not such a small one. If I ever go back, Gatwick will be my choice of airport. The flight was good (considering my dislike of flying), and all went smoothly when I arrived at LAX Customs. Trump didn’t stop me coming back into the country. My very good friend Raul Melendez arrived at the curb to drive me home. Even Lexie the Evil Cat welcomed me back.
If I wrote all about the trip I’d fill a book. Speaking of which, I’m already working on the outline for Claudia Rose’s next outing, DEAD LETTERS. Of course you know my next book is going to feature some of this scenery, right? Oh! And my next audiobook, DEAD WRITE, will be out any day now.
Thanks if you read all this. I loved every minute of my Big European Adventure, but am thrilled to be back in my own chair at my keyboard.
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My new non-fiction book, Succeeding in the Business of Handwriting Analysis is the result of more than fifty years’ experience and practice. I wrote it for people who want to start practicing professional. It’s the book I would like to have had when I entered the field. Succeeding in the Business of Handwriting Analysis doesn’t promise to make you a millionaire but it does cover a lot of helpful ground.
Here are a few of the wide-ranging topics included:
The kind of education you need to become a competent handwriting professional
Terminology you should and should not use
How to prepare legally sound reports
Your professional image
Marketing your practice
Legal aspects of analyzing handwriting
Reading this book is the first step to starting your successful practice or boost the one you already have. It doesn’t matter what method of analysis you use or what school you attended. There’s plenty for you to learn.
It’s available in e-book or in print. You can order it from my online store or Amazon. If you would like an autograph for any of my books, send me an email email@example.com with your address and I will put a signed bookplate in the mail for you.
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We love libraries and they have been around a long time. Since 30 AD in Alexandria, Egypt, in fact. My first library experience was a later than that. As a little kid growing up in Islington (a borough of London, England) during the mid-1950s, I still remember the feeling of awe, staring at all those amazing books. Billions of words, arranged into sentences and paragraphs and chapters that tell incredible tales. And credible ones, too. I learned to read at four, so the access to all those books opened up the universe.
When my family moved to the US, I haunted the children’s section of the old Anaheim Library. Down in the basement, scouring the shelves for Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books–my favorite pastime. (I just googled her and learned that amazing lady is still going strong at 102!).
Fast forward to 1964, more libraries
By the time the fancy new library was built, I was devouring one mystery after another (Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart). Every morning at school, Jo Levetsky and I traded books. Those Gothic tales were far more interesting than homework. It was during those times that I started writing stories for my friends to read. They would check them out from me, just like at the library, and return them. 50 years later, I still have those checkout lists! And now, my own books are on library shelves next to the authors I admire so much. A dream come true.
Recently, a friend and handwriting analyst colleague, Betty Almeida, asked her local librarian to order my Forensic Handwriting mystery series. The result is in the photo above. All it takes is asking, as Betty did.
I would love to see my books in more libraries around the country, so I’m offering a bribe prize, to anyone who posts or sends me a photo of themselves next to a library shelf with my books on it. Your choice, a mini handwriting analysis or a free book. I’m also happy to send the librarian a list of my ISBNs and a stack of bookmarks to give away to their patrons. Email for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently did an interview with Barry Eaton of Radio Out There, from the land down under–Australia. Barry has some fascinating guests who talk about all sorts of things. He and I discussed what happens when someone dies, which is the topic of my new book, Proof of Life.
I hope you enjoy the chat. Feel free to leave a comment:
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