Barnes & Noble Signing

On May 18th, I had the distinct pleasure of signing Proof of Life and my other books at my Barnes & Noble signing in Ventura, CA. Arriving 30 minutes early, I found a customer waiting for me to sign two books. I cannot think of a better way to begin a signing event.

Soon, friends started showing up. Some had been unable to attend the launch party last week. I was delighted to sign books for them. In the photo above, from left-right are Ventura County Professional Women’s Network sisters and mister, author James F. Gray, kick-ass coach Kathy Murphy, me, financial adviser extraordinaire Sue Osborn. Thanks also to Diane Myers, Rita Peterson and Randy Jewell, and everyone else who came and bought books. Barnes & Noble signings are always fun because I get to meet new readers. 

One customer bought PoL for his 13-year-old son, who he said is mature for his age. These days kids are exposed to so much, I doubt the themes in the book will scare him. Video games are scarier than a seance!

Gift with purchase

Celebrating the release of Proof of LifeThe “gift with purchase” proved a popular feature. Mini Ouija boards for those who wanted them, stone necklaces to those who were afraid (okay, some people got both). There were numerous comment on the miniature, which you can see on the corner of the table. I brought it along because in Proof of Life, Jessica Mack is a miniaturist. I freely admit, her work is much finer and tinier than mine.

Next signing will be at the California Crime Writers Conference June 8/9. Then on June 29th in Orange County, California, at 2:00 I will be with fellow author Rachel Howzell Hall at Book Carnival and at 4:30 at Mystery Ink. For details check my calendar.

Left: James Gray, Kathy Murphy, Sheila Lowe, Sue Osborn, members of Ventura County Professional Women’s Network.

Staying Motivated

Staying motivated was the theme today as I joined authors Mike Kennedy and Maryann Ridini Spencer in our first official Writers Table Faceook Live panel. We discussed some of the ways writers are staying motivated. More to the point, how the three of us stay motivated.

From our discussion it was clear that every author has his or her own process and none is right or wrong. Maryann is an early morning writer who ignores her emails while she’s working. Mike works late into the night. As for me, I’m all over the place and I answer loads of emails as they come in. This can have a big impact on productivity. Since I waste so much time during the day, I catch up later in the evening.

Click on the link above or here and listen/watch for yourself. I’ll just recap some of my opening remarks.

What needs motivate you?

Staying Motivated

Maslow’s Pyramid – hierarchy of needs

In my work as a handwriting analyst I often use information from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s all about the levels of needs that motivates all humans: basic stuff like food, air, water. Safety and security needs; love and affection from family, friends, society. Self-esteem. The need for creativity and self-expression–what are considered “transcendent needs.”

I wasn’t giving a lecture, so didn’t go into a lot of detail. Our needs can change from time to time as situations change. However, it’s my belief that if we know which of these basic needs motivate us most at any given time, it can help one stay motivated or get re-motivated.

Examining and re-examining what motivates us offers a new perspective. If you need to write in order to pay the bills, that’s one big motivator. If your writing makes the people you care about express their love and admiration for you, it can be a motivator. Achievement builds self-esteem, so there’s another. And writing for the sheer pleasure of creating is a really big one.

Egyptian God of Writing

Thoth, Egyptian God of Writing

One of my small motivators is to put a physical symbol on my desk related to my plot. Part of my current work in process, DEAD LETTERS, takes place in Egypt. I have a small figurine of the Ibis-headed god, Thoth, god of writing.

Even those of us who are fine with staying home for long periods may be suffering from quarantine-fatigue. Zoom, which I have used and loved since 2012, gets to be old after two or three meetings a day! For some people, staying motivated without regular face-to-face interaction is a challenge. Knowing we’re in it together and that we can learn from each other can help.

What’s next at the Writers Table?

At our next Writers Table Facebook Live, June 26 at 1:00 PST, we’ll be talking about traditional vs self-publishing and marketing. Between the three of us, we have a ton of experience. We’d love your questions and your comments, too.

Meanwhile, I still have free codes for some of my audiobooks. If you’d like one or some email me: sheila@sheilalowe.com

Blatant self-promotion

Blatant self-promotion – Outside the Lines

“Congratulations! Your book will be highlighted on Book Club Central’s Sisters in Crime: Very British Murder list!” 

“Book Club Central is an initiative of the American Library Association. Book Club Central is a new online resource for book clubs and readers featuring book reviews, author interviews, discussion questions and more. Award-winning actor, producer, and avid reader Sarah Jessica Parker is the Honorary Chair of Book Club Central and a passionate advocate for libraries and literacy.”

Outside the Lines is the book Book Club Central plans to highlight. Published a few years ago, much of the story takes place in Great Britain, which is good timing. Outside the Lines is on sale next week on Amazon. February 10-17 it’s only .99. Please help me spread the word.

I’ve lived in the US since I was 14, but am always excited to lecture in my home country. I received an invitation to speak at the British Institute of Graphology and jumped on the opportunity. Being back in London reminds me of my roots, though the memories are bittersweet. My grandmother (“nanny”) and the aunts and uncles are gone now. My old primary school on Ecclesbourne Road is gone, too. But not the flats in Islington (N1) where I lived as a child. That old block still rises across the road from the old church. Islington is being gentrified now. Back in the 1950s we played on an old bomb site between the flats and a newer playground. Bits of broken furniture littered the area. I have a clear memory of finding a jawbone–animal, I hope. Do you think that’s where my interest in mystery got started?

Blatant self-promotion is the uncomfortable part of being an author; a necessary evil.

New Audiobooks

Happy New Year, everyone! Early this morning (Jan. 1, 2019), I emailed everyone in my contact list about my two new audiobooks (Inkslingers Ball and Outside the Lines). If you were on that list, you should have received the newsletter. If you think you’re on the list but didn’t get it, please check your spam folder or contact me: sheila@sheilalowe.com. Or just sign up on the contact page here. You’ll be automatically added.

Audible provides authors with a bunch of free promo codes to give away in exchange for fair reviews, and I wanted to spread the word.

Why are reviews important? 1) They let other readers know whether a book is worth reading, or in this case, listening to. 2) Amazon (who owns Audible) uses them in their algorithms to determine which authors should get free advertising. You know–those emails Amazon sends out with recommendations.

So, on this, the first day of my little campaign for my new audiobooks, I received about 50 requests for promo codes. I think it’s pretty cool that the offer generated so much interest. I’ve now given out all the codes I had (luckily, they were advertised as “limited quantities.”), but am trying to get a few more. For those who asked for a code but don’t receive one, I’m offering a free copy of the e-book.

Coming up next

I love meeting my readers. Have you checked my schedule lately? There might be an event where we can meet in person. On January 24th I’ll be doing a Facebook Live with three other authors: James F. Gray, Maryann Ridini Spencer, and Mike Kennedy. Stay tuned for the exact time, but I think it will be at 7:00 PM Pacific Time. We’ll answer questions and talk about our process. Hope to “see” you there. At least, have you see us!

Cover Reveal!

I love cover reveal blog posts. Yes, the new book cover is here, and I love it! When I start writing a new book, I always begin with the title. It gives me a framework within which to build the story. Then, over the next year (It takes that long because my career in handwriting forensics takes precedence), I write it.

Working with Ellen Larson, the independent editor who has been with me since Poison Pen, the story slowly takes shape. I send Ellen chunks of material, she provides feedback and offers suggestions for improvement, or argues against some scene or character. I also read it aloud to my friend, Bob Joseph, a longtime published author himself. Most of the time he is wildly enthusiastic, but he has no qualms about telling me when what I’ve written is bad.

So, by the time the manuscript goes to my publisher at Suspense Magazine, it has been well worked over. Even then, though, I’ll keep tweaking it. By the time editor Shannon Raab sends back comments, there will have been countless small changes, additions, and hundreds of deletions.

Deletions?

Once I’ve written “The End,” I run the manuscript through software called SmartEdit. I adore SmartEdit. It saves me from using too many dreaded adverbs (those “ly” words that weaken writing), and from redundancies. In my manuscript, I discovered over 300 uses of the word “know,” 215 “when,” dozens of “always,” etc., etc. Believe it or not, there were more than 50 exclamation points!!! (that’s a big no-no in mystery writing). Going back over those places gives me an opportunity to find alternate words, rewrite, and improve the story.

So, after addressing any comments Shannon has made, I run SmartEdit again and send the manuscript back. She sends it to another staffer for a final round of edits and when it comes back to me, I’ll make my final SmartEdit run-through. That’s the very last opportunity I’ll have to tweak. This process reminds me of what Dashiell Hammett said. Paraphrasing (or maybe correctly quoting) the famed author of the Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (Nick and Nora Charles) series: “I could edit a book down to one line if given the chance.” Yep. I know the feeling.

But at this point, we’ve reached an exciting moment (I had written “really exciting moment,” but that useless adverb does nothing for the sentence so I ruthlessly lopped it) . . .

The new cover

When I used to write for Penguin, they would send me an email, always with the same message: “Here’s your new cover. We hope you love it as much as we do.” They wanted no input from me, the author, and no changes were allowed. Sometimes I did not love that new cover at all.

I’m thrilled to report that the situation could not be more different with Suspense. They welcome input. If there’s something I don’t like (which is rare), their wonderful cover designer works with me until I do. Which brings me back to where we started–the new book cover is here, and I love it!!!

Proof of Life occurs five years after What She Saw, reintroducing Jessica Mack, and taking us with her on her reluctant journey into the realm of spirit. Sage Boles is back, too, from the more recent Claudia Rose book, Written Off.

Proof of Life is scheduled for release on May 7, 2019 and will be available for pre-order on Amazon in the next week.

Launch Party

If you’re in the Ventura area and would like to attend the book launch party (date TBA), sign up here. There will be food, prizes, networking opportunities, and, of course, BOOKS!!!

What readers say

Reviews are vital to the success of a mystery-suspense author. Besides, I deeply care what my readers think of my books and read all reviews, good or bad. Most of them make me glow. The other kind either complain about profanity or a formatting problem. In the first case, well, I don’t pretend to write cozies, and that’s how modern people speak. In the second, formatting is between the publisher and Amazon. No fair penalizing an author for something beyond their control.

Reader comments

  • I woke up in the night worrying about how Claudia was doing so I guess that’s a testimony on the quality of your work. – Rick
  • You really know how to write an emotional thriller. With all the feeling you put into it, I can imagine you felt quite drained at the end of each scene. – Molly
  • I started reading Inkslingers Ball yesterday afternoon. WOW! I can’t wait to read more. – Michelle
  • I’m working my way through the Claudia Rose series and so far every book deserved five stars. – Ann
  • This fast-paced tale will keep you glued to the pages ’til the exciting end. – James.
  • I couldn’t put it down & finished it last night, really liking how it unfolded. – Cindy
  • I found the story to be so suspenseful and it really kept me going. You did such a wonderful job with the forensic part. – Gayna
  • Sheila Lowe is a friend who can write one mean story. If you’re not already reading her you should slap yourself in the forehead. Then go get your hands on her books!” – (fellow author) Peg Brantley
  • One of the best mystery books I’ve ever read. – Diane
  • I was not disappointed! An afternoon well spent! – Andrea
  • I stayed up all night reading your book. I was enthralled. My only regret is that I’m so sleepy I may not finish the review until tomorrow. – Larry

Signing books at Book Carnival & Mystery Ink

Signing books at Book Carnival and Mystery Ink is always fun. Orange County, where both signings took place, is my old stomping grounds. After moving to the US from England, I grew up in Anaheim and graduated Anaheim High School in 1967. Last year we held our 50-year reunion. How on earth did that happen? Where did 50-years go?!

Last November I had a new book out–Written Off–so I bit the bullet and made the 100-mile drive. It took about four hours, but seeing some old friends and making new ones made battling the traffic worthwhile. I had the great pleasure of welcoming several high school classmates to the two book signings.

Anaheim High Class of 1967 Classmates

Dan Howard (aka Earl Javorsky), Patty Smiley, Anne Saller (owner of Book Carnival)

At both events, I shared the podium with fellow mystery author, Patty Smiley, who was promoting her book, Outside the Wire. At first I was a teeny bit confused. The year before, my release was titled Outside the Lines. The penny finally dropped and I understood we were talking about two different books.

High school classmate John Parsons and Sheila

 

The two independent bookstore owners, Anne Saller at Book Carnival and Debbie Mitsch at Mystery Ink are unfailingly welcoming and ready for the signing. You might think that goes without saying, but in my experience, the big box stores aren’t always as well prepared. Debbie drives wherever I need her to act as my bookseller at book launch parties and other large events. She’s always efficient and on time. I know I can count on her.

If you want to know when I’m going to be signing at a bookstore in your area or giving a lecture, etc., please check my calendar often–I frequently add new events or sign up for notifications.

Whenever you can, please support your local independent bookseller.

2018 Book Events

All the 2018 book events made for a busy year where I had fun around Southern California. At the L.A. Times Festival of Books I signed at the Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America booths. Those 2018 book events included author panels at several Southland libraries: Culver City LibraryEP Foster LibraryThousand Oaks Library , Camarillo Library.

Ventura hypnotherapist Bunny Vreeland hosted a book event at her office, where she gave eight local authors a forum to display their work.  Another venue was the Latino Expo at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, Seaside Park. The Expo is held twice a year, it’s full of fun, vendors, free food and tequila. At one event, the Ojai Valley Retired Professional Businessmen’s Club, members bought a ton of books, which always makes me happy. Ventura Barnes & Noble hosted a writers panel. It was fun to be back and see my books in the store.

Check my calendar to see where I’ll be next. I’d love for you to come out and say hi.

New books about handwriting

The big news today is about the other side of my other career. I’ve just published three new books about handwriting.

After 18 years as an international bestseller, my first book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis (2nd Edition), went out of print. Readers around the world have written to me, saying it helped them understand handwriting better. Graphology teachers use it to teach classes, too. So, I spent over 100 hours rewriting it. I added new samples of celebrity handwriting and gave it a new name: Reading Between the Lines: Decoding HandwritingSo far, handwriting analysts like even better than the first book.

That inspired me to combine seven of my monographs into a second book: Advanced Studies in Handwriting Psychology. This book is a deeper dive into personality through handwriting. Complex topics include childhood sexual abuse in adult handwriting, addictive personality, defense mechanisms, serial killers, and more.

The third book is Personality & Anxiety Disorders: How they may be reflected in handwriting and other important topics. It’s based on a series of online classes.

The book is about personality and anxiety disorders described in the DSM-IV. If you are a psychologist, you’ll know that’s the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual. Since then, the DSM-V came out, but its unpopularity led me to leave it as-is.

New formats, too

All three books are available in paperback and e-books, which makes it easy to look things up.

Amazon purchase links

Reading Between the lines: e-book, print book

Advanced Studies in Handwriting Psychology: e-book, print book

Personality & Anxiety Disorders: e-book, print book

Succeeding in the Business of Handwriting Analysis: e-book, print book

Signing at Barnes & Noble

What’s better than an author signing at Barnes & Noble? A group signing with six authors! That’s what happened on October 20, 2018, when fiction and nonfiction authors were hosted by the Ventura store.

Along with James F. GrayMaryann Ridini SpencerMike Kennedy and I signed together at several events this year. We’ve also created a Facebook page called the WritersTable. Watch for notice of our first Facebook Live event, scheduled for January 24, 2019. Time TBA

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We were joined at Barnes & Noble by Crystal Marshall, a young author who wrote a wonderful children’s book about a hairless cat. Holly K. Thrasher’s book deals photographically with her journey through breast cancer, and Spencer Labbe, a young artist and author who has self-published his first fantasy novel.

My books are back at Barnes & Noble

Seeing my books back on the shelves of a major bookstore was a thrill. They are in the catalog, and with this signing, they are back, at least for a while. If readers go in and ask for them, they are likely to be around longer (hint, hint).

Mike’s wife, Andrea, memorialized the event with her mad photography skills as we answered audience questions and described our writing process. Afterwards, we signed books. After all, that’s what we were there for, right?

Book signings used to be more popular when meeting authors was unusual and exciting. Now, it’s easy to download a book and read it anywhere, and visit authors online. Besides, everyone is so busy, it’s not always easy to wedge another event into the schedule. And that’s why Mike, Jim, Maryann and I are doing the aforementioned Facebook Live.

Check back often for details. And if you have a question you would like answered by four experienced authors, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send an email: sheila@sheilalowe.com