To jump off a cliff is Very Big Decision; one I recently made: I am going to independently publish my new book, Dead Letters (#8 in the Claudia Rose psychological suspense series). After publishing my nonfiction books on handwriting psychology for a while now, I find this choice infinitely more daunting. I waffled over it for a few weeks, not entirely sure it was the right thing to do. Then, this happened…
The day after making the VBD, I intended to go grocery shopping in the morning. But, procrastinator that I am, I put it off until well after lunch. Just before I left my keyboard, I emailed my friend and fellow author Peg Brantley to share the news. The subject line was: I just jumped off a cliff.
Words of wisdom
Driving across town to the local Winco, I tuned the radio to NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Thanks to my lagging, I’d caught the last few minutes of what had clearly been a great interview with the venerable actor, Sir Patrick Stewart. When I heard what he said, I confess to promptly bursting into tears. Speaking of his early days in the business, he quoted a teacher who had told him something he said he never fully understood until much later:
“Patrick, you will never achieve success by insuring against failure.” I thought, huh, that’s so true. But it was his next words that made my mouth drop open.
“You have to take risks,” he said as if directly speaking to me. “You have to be brave; you have to step into the unknown.”
Then: “You have to step off the edge of a cliff.” OMG, that’s what I had just written to Peg! But wait, there’s more…
Patrick Stewart said, “I always make sure I’m dead letter perfect.” OMG, OMG, OMG!!! Dead Letters is the title of my new book!!!
To make sure I wasn’t misremembering or putting words in his mouth, I looked up the interview online and transcribed exactly what he had said. I don’t know about you, but I believe in spirit guides and angels, and I believe that when we ask for help, we get it. Oh boy, had I been asking! Just think–had I gone to the store in the morning, rather than procrastinating, I would have missed the interview. If I had been a half an hour earlier I would have missed the interview.
Look, I know that everything Sir Patrick said could be applied to any author. But I don’t believe in coincidences. If it had been just the first statement, well, that was encouraging. But the second, and the third—at that moment, those words were meant for me.
2020 was a super-rotten year for all of us, some more than others suffering intolerable losses of many kinds. But all of a sudden, a bright ray of hope carried me into 2021. Soon, I’ll have more to tell you about this adventure, but for now, I wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope that by my tale of jumping off a cliff, you will feel empowered and encouraged, too.
A version of this blog was published on 1/4/21 at Blackbirdwriters.com
Elvis Presley Bill Bixby and Me–and unlikely trio. But I just came across this 1992 video of The Elvis Conspiracy, in which I gave an opinion about some handwriting. I was young, had big hair and big shoulder pads–those were the days! The host, Bill Bixby was investigating claims made several years after Elvis Presley’s death. There was no shortage of people who thought they had seen Elvis. This time, though, handwriting was involved.
You can watch the whole show if you’re interested, this video is set just before I come on around 30 minutes in.
A man had received a handwritten letter signed “Jon Burrows,” which was a pseudonym Elvis had used when signing hotel registers and other items. If he was correct in his belief that the letter was genuine, that meant Elvis was still alive.
I was on a trip to Hawaii when I was informed they wanted me to appear live on the show. So, instead of getting to meet Bill Bixby, of whom I was and am a fan (My Favorite Martian and the Incredible Hulk were must-watches at our house), I went to the studio when I got back home and tape my segment. Bixby introduced me and I explained what I had done and my conclusions.
If you believe Elvis Presley is still alive, maybe you believe Bill Bixby is, too. You might not want to watch my “testimony.” But if you’re curious to see how I reached my conclusions, watch and, I hope, enjoy.
That’s the kind of thing I do when I’m procrastinating–look for old Youtube videos of myself. Or at least, it was today. What I should have been doing is working on the ending of Dead Letters–20% left to write.
Finally, you might like the podcast of a radio I did the other did day. It’s with Coach Ron Tunick and Scott Harries on The Edge Radio. The show is on mental toughness. I’m on for the whole second hour.
Kindness Matters happens to be the name of a radio show on which I recently appeared as a guest. One of the hosts, Lloyd Brock, is a longtime handwriting analyst, stage hypnotist, and retired Treasury agent. Way back in the 1990s, he contacted me with a questioned document case that he was unable to do because it conflicted with his job.
Since then, Lloyd has had me on his show a couple of times. Here’s a link to the latest discussion: I would have been on video with them, but there were technical difficulties, so we did my part on the phone.
I love the theme of the show. Especially these days, when it’s so easy to be anonymously snarky and mean on various social media platforms, we need to be reminded that kindness matters. I love it when I can re-post stories of random acts of kindness. One I posted today is about a 15-year-old Texas boy who bought a Valentine flower for every girl in his school (172 of them). He had noticed the year before that not everyone got a recognition. This was his beautiful remedy.
Kindness matters in handwriting, too. While there is no “this-means-that” in handwriting, some features point to kindness more than others. For example, some curves balanced with straight lines and a moderate slant. Features that point away from kindness are extremely heavy pressure combined with many angles and sharp strokes, especially when there is also an extreme slant.
Where to learn more
But those are generalities. A handwriting professional always looks at the whole handwriting when making an assessment. Here’s a link to my other website for more information. And here’s a link to the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. This wonderful nonprofit organization is more than 50 years old. I’m currently the president, so a bit prejudiced. But you won’t find another handwriting analysis organization that offers more free resources to its members.
I’m now working on the next Claudia Rose book, Dead Letters. In actual fact, writing this blog post allows me to procrastinate working on a difficult chapter. I’ve also just finished re-editing What She Saw with the help of Betty Almeida’s eagle eye. Readers had pointed out errors (typos and stuff) 🙁 While correcting them I found bits that I wanted to rewrite–like the whole first page. So, hopefully, my excellent publishers, Suspense, will soon have the new version up on Amazon.
And now, no more procrastinating…
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.
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.
The CBS show, 48 Hours episode, One of Their Own, covered the crime.
Next month, SOCAL MWA joins with Sisters in Crime/LA for a holiday party. Trust me, I will be there!
If you are interested in the forensic side of handwriting, check out my non-fiction books.
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.
All you have to do is subscribe to the podcast. You can also find Mysteryrat’s Maze on iTunes and Google Play. Featured authors include Cleo Coyle, Elaine Viets, Jeri Westerson, Dennis Palumbo, and many more.
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 Off in 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
Join Sheila at the Game of Books Writers Podcast with hosts Christie and Cathy.
Join Sheila and Josue Briseno as they discuss handwriting analysis and what led Sheila from graphology to mystery writing.
Join Book Scene authors, Maryann Ridini Spencer, Sheila Lowe, Mike Kennedy, James F Gray, as they get together to discuss writing and their books. Ask your questions about mystery writing, publishing. Challenge the authors!
Imagine waking on a train with no recollection of how you got there. You have no idea who you are…no name, no memories, no life. The only thing you know is, you cannot tell anyone, especially the police. By chance or fate, this young woman runs into someone who knows her and gives her a ride home, where she finds two IDs, two sets of keys, one face, but two separate lives.
When 18-year-old Monica goes missing from an archaeological dig site with an archaeologist whose shady past has spilled into the present, her aunt, Claudia Rose, goes on a heart-pounding search around the world. Will Monica become a casualty of a deadly terrorist plot? Her fate may hinge on Claudia’s abilities as a renowned handwriting expert
Was Professor Madeleine Maynard’s murder tied to research gone wrong? Handwriting expert Claudia Rose flies to Maine in the middle of winter to interview a convicted serial killer and uncovers more questions than answers.
Following a brutal attack in the courtroom, forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose flees to the UK. But trouble follows her via Scotland Yard, the FBI, and an ecoterrorist who wants her help.
Explosive drama erupts when the life of a teen with a tortured past is jeopardized by her secret tattoo. Claudia Rose joins forces with Detective Joel Jovanic when the same tattoo is linked to several other cases.
Time is running out for a missing 3-year-old in a religious cult. Handwriting expert Claudia Rose, one of the few outsiders to be invited inside the Temple of Brighter Light, must hurry to uncover their secrets before a terrifying prophecy is fulfilled.
Dating habits of the rich and feckless—Claudia Rose meets Baroness Grusha Olinetsky who runs an expensive dating club where members are dying to get in.
When forensic handwriting expert Claudia Rose is called to investigate a forgery case, she grows attached to a troubled teen and breaks one of the cardinal rules of business: never get personally involved.