I just spent the best nine days on overseas travel adventures. My younger son, Ben, the avowed bachelor, got married. He’s a pop star who performs around the world. But after meeting Tuba, a Turkish-German woman who is utterly gorgeous inside and out, he “traded in his leather pants for a polo shirt.” This article tells the tale.
The wedding was in Bad Hamburg, a quaint little town with 500-year-old buildings, and could not have been more perfect. My ex-husband and I even got along for four whole days. That was a 40-year record.
The UK leg
Life imitating art, like my character Claudia Rose in Outside the Lines, I was invited to present a lecture at the prestigious British Institute of Graphologists. So, the day after the wedding I flew to the UK, my home country. My first solo international flight. Woo hoo!
That first night, when I opened the door to my hotel room at the meeting venue I had to laugh. It literally was the size of a walk-in closet. In this photo, which I took from the doorway, you can see that the headboard and footboard of the twin bed touched each wall. The bathroom fixtures didn’t quite work the way they should, but it was all part of the adventure. There was lovely English tea, and a chocolate bar on the desk. I woke up in that tiny bed on Sunday morning, thinking to myself, “I’m in London!!! I’m home!”
Happily, the lecture went as well as the wedding. It was lovely to see old friends and colleagues, too. Adam Brand, the Director of BIG, was kind enough to see me to the train station. I was off to Sidcup, Kent.
If you’ve ever traveled the London Underground (the Tube) you will have heard the “Mind the Gap” announcements as you board the train.
On to Kent
I stayed there a couple of days with my friend Janet, whose bangers and mash are the best. She went back to London with me, where I was meant to do research for my work in print whilst in the UK (look how my English accent came back straight away). I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of going to a location to give a story verisimilitude. But it was not until I was right at Charing Cross Station that I ‘got’ why the bomb scene I’d written was not going to work. Being there really does make all the difference. Luckily, I saw how to fix it.
Later, we were in Eltham High Street, gorging on sausage rolls and scones when I got a text from Lufthansa. My flight the next day had been cancelled. The pilots had gone on strike. Arrrgggghhhhhhhhh.
Screaming Baby Airlines
Long story short, I got the last seat on a flight to the US. Had I known I was booking on Screaming Baby Airlines (otherwise known as Norwegian Air), I would have stayed in the UK another day. Who knew that a one-year-old baby girl could shriek at the top of her lungs for most of 12.5 hours straight? I’m not kidding.
First, though, we sat on the runway for an hour at Heathrow. The captain announced that a passenger was “not fit to fly” and needed to be escorted off the plane. It turned out that meant he was “stinking drunk.”
The minute we took off, the baby started. Why was she screaming? It wasn’t that the cabin pressure was hurting her ears–that would be understandable and draw sympathy. But no. She’d just learned to walk and thought it would be fun to run up and down the aisle. That’s not allowed while airborne, so everyone within earshot got to know how irate she was. For the entire flight and beyond. Here’s a bit of irony: at the ticket counter, the very nice agent had said, “Let’s see if we can find you a better seat.” Little did we know that the “better” seat would be right next to said screaming baby.
So, I plugged in my earphones and watched Gone Girl for the second time. After that, The Interns. Then a show about animals. By then, my ears were bleeding (okay, it felt like it). The young man next to me had his fingers stuck in his ears.
Back in L.A.
Arriving at LAX after the 10 hour flight (plus the hour waiting on the drunk passenger) we were stuck at the gate for 90 minutes more, waiting for an Air France flight to move. By 8:45 PM when we deplaned (oh, that’s when the baby stopped screaming and went to sleep), I’d been awake 24 hours and was close to freaking out. The very last shuttle home to Ventura (60 miles west of LAX) was at 9:30. After a lengthy walk to Customs and Immigration, I found that because I’m not a US citizen, there was not one, not two, but three loooong lines to go through. Can someone tell me the point of having to show the same documents three times in the same facility? Then the fingerprint reader wouldn’t accept mine. Thank goodness I only had carry-on luggage.
I threw myself on the mercy of the Customs agents, who were nice, and made it to the shuttle with 10 minutes to spare. And since I got home safely, I was happy. Hey, at least I wasn’t on the BEA flight that burst into flames in Las Vegas just before take off the day before! Any safe landing is a good landing.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever you can, please support your local independent bookseller.
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 Library, EP Foster Library, Thousand 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.
Dozens of friends gathered at Mimi’s Cafe in Ventura on November 14, 2017 to help me celebrate the release of my latest book, Written Off. Food, prizes and lots of fun. As she has for all my other releases, Debbie Mitsch of Mystery Ink drove all the way up from Huntington Beach to sell books at the Written Off launch party.
We had such a great time, I plan on doing it again when my next book, Proof of Life, comes out early in 2019.
Local author and buddy James Francis Gray also had a table with his books.
James is the best-known author in Ventura. He belongs to every networking group there is and he’s the best person to know if you need the word spread about something you are doing. He touts the Latino Expo and has made Tatiana’s Coffee & Tea the most popular independent coffee house in Ventura. Tatiana and Diego display local vendors’ wares there, several of which are authors, including yours truly.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I gave anyone who brought a prize a 30-second commercial to talk about anything they wanted to. There were all kinds of prizes. My good friend Tracey Bolton, a phenomenal psychic medium, donated a reading. The person who won really lucked out. Everyone who buys books gets a free ticket for each one they purchase. Then I do a drawing free handwriting analysis.
Since moving to Ventura in 2004 I’ve made some great friends, many of whom became my readers. When I got published, they all came out and supported me. It’s warm feeling to know you belong to a community.
At the end of October, 2017, the zany ladies of the Hillside, Ventura, Book Club read What She Saw (a young woman with amnesia. For the second time, my friend Amy Herron invited me to attend their meeting as guest author. They met the night before Halloween and they dressed up as characters from the book. What a thrill to see my characters come to life that way! Almost as good as having it made into a movie (almost).
Irene Mefford (in mermaid green) hosted the event at her home in Ondulondo, a neighborhood in the hills high above Ventura. Imagine the view of the lights at night, the Pacific Ocean during the day. Irene went all-out with fabulous Halloween-themed food. She created claw-shaped meatloaf, witches head apples in cider, Jello shots in huge syringes. As you can imagine, by the time we got around to judging the costumes, everyone was in a great mood.
Teri Casey dressed as Jessica Mack’s backpack! How’s that for creativity? She won a prize for that great costume.
Tragedy strikes the book club
Tragically, few short weeks later, Irene’s beautiful home became one of a thousand casualties of the Thomas fire, a heartbreaking loss. Other club members in the neighborhood were also evacuated. These terrifying experiences teach us a lot about what is really of greatest value in our lives.
The good news is, the book club continues to meet and I hope to be invited back again some time. How would they dress up for my upcoming book, Proof of Life, which is the sequel to What She Saw.
What She Saw, a young woman with amnesia. Imagine waking up on a train and realizing that you don’t know who you are, where you are going. or where you came from. Furthermore, something tells you that you can’t call the cops.