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.
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…
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: email@example.com
My spiritual journey began in 2000, when my daughter Jennifer became the victim in a murder-suicide. Her brutal death sparked my need to know what happened next. I was raised in a fundamentalist religion that did not believe in life after earth. Experiences I believed were evidence to the contrary led me to investigate further.
Delving into the world of spirit, I read books and attended meetings on the subject. I meditated to make my own connection with the other side. Astonishing contacts with Jennifer came through spirit mediums John Edward, and James Van Praagh (who even taped a show at my house). I continued interested but my studies dropped off.
Life intervened until last year. Several events made me believe I was being led on a new spiritual path. One of those was the discovery of the calcite rock you see here. The rock was in my home for ten years before I saw the face. One day, I moved it from one place to another in my living room. When I looked down, I thought I was hallucinating! People in the spiritual arena who I’ve showed it to have been just as stunned as I was. Could it be an apport (a gift from spirit)?
Proof of Life
I decided to write a novel with the afterlife as a theme. Imagine my surprise when the idea “dropped into my head” to make it a sequel to my earlier standalone, What She Saw. I’ve been working on Proof of Life for nearly a year and just finished it. My publisher, Suspense, plans for a spring 2019 release (sign up on the contact page to be notified). And guess what–I’ve been told that my daughter worked with me on this book!
Proof of Life picks up Jessica Mack’s story five years after her recovery from amnesia. When FBI agent Zach Smith needs help locating an abducted four-year-old, Jessica is forced to confront the spirit voices she’s been trying to ignore and use her unexplored “gift” for good.
My spiritual journey, though it started twenty years ago, has barely begun. I’m now hosting a bi-monthly group on zoom of likeminded people. Email me for info: firstname.lastname@example.org
My new book, Proof of Life, was released
on May 7th, with more than eighty people celebrating with me at Orozco’s de Ventura Mexican restaurant. With dishes from his mother’s own recipes and excellent service, not to mention the ambiance, I have a feeling that our wonderful host, Guillermo Orozco, is going to be serving many new diners.
It was a perfect event for a hermit like me. I got to sit at my table and sign books, hand out mini Ouija boards, angel wings, and crystal necklaces, while everyone else chatted up a storm and enjoyed the food.
Four delicious flavors of Bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes made a perfect dessert. But I can’t help thinking there’s something wrong with calling yourself “nothing” even if it is a good pun. Still, if you’re in the mood for a couple of bites of something sweet, my favorite is always white chocolate raspberry.
r books. Both were generous sponsors of the event. Check out their websites!
I went a little crazy at one of the local New Age shops and gave away all kinds of cool stuff. Plus,
Amy Herron and Dianne Maggio won character names in the next Beyond the Veil mystery, The Third Door.
Several people donated prizes and had an opportunity to introduce themselves at the mic. Authors AJ Llewelyn, Mike Kennedy, and Connie Hood gave away copies of their books, plus Connie gave me a gorgeous
double moonstone ring (my goal is to lose enough weight for it to fit my fourth finger).
Stephen Joyce gave away a trip (not a timeshare!), Anna Crowe, who narrates some of my audiobooks, gave a month of free audiobooks. Tracey Bolton gave away a bag of goodies. Mary Gabriels, who helped make this party work, gave a jacket embroidered with “Claudia Rose” and one with “Proof of Life.” Linda McCarthy of BNI–and though she couldn’t be there in person, my friend Suzanne Bank sent a certificate for an energy clearing. There were so many prizes, I have forgotten some. So, if you brought a prize and I’ve left you out, please forgive my bad memory. Remind me and I’ll add you in here.
I have an embarrassment of riches in supporters. Friends came from all over to help me celebrate. As always, big thanks to Debbie Mitsch of Mystery Ink for being my bookseller and schlepping all those boo
ks up from Orange County. More thanks are due to Mary Gabriels, who does a fabulous job of making things look great (check out the purple “veil” behind my table). She also stood by the door and got everyone to sign in. I hope the read makes it all worthwhile.
Finally, I love the cool miniature library from Nina Nelson. She sent me a
kit that contained at least 9 million parts. For about thirty seconds as I gazed at that box of wood and paper, she was not my friend. But once it was done and it was so adorable–including teeny-tiny copies of my books (the covers, anyway), it was worth getting all that glue on my fingers. Thank you, Nina
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!