A TOPSY-TURVY LIFE….

    

                                    By ROSEMARY LORD

           

Do you ever feel that your life seems to have been turned upside down these last couple of years? Topsy-turvy. All those goals you had listed, carefully planned, trips scheduled, Writers’ Conferences booked. Gone. Banished. Cancelled. Due to the Covid pandemic lock-down. So, you took a deep breath and made yourself a cup of tea, coffee or poured a nice glass of something stronger. “Okay,” you told yourself, “I can manage this. Find another approach…”

            How did that work out?  Do I hear peals of laughter?

            I recall that in my Blog of November 2015, Time Out – To Remember,  I was overwhelmed with a too-busy schedule and too many other things on my plate and on my agenda, when all I wanted to do was write my next novel. “Don’t you sometimes wish,” I unwittingly wrote,” you could stop the clocks – just for twenty-four hours – so you could catch up?” I’d become so busy with my other work, there was no time for my writing. I was thwarted by my promise to at least write during my lunch hour, realizing I didn’t have time to stop for lunch. Weekends free to write? I wish…

            So, the Covid 19 shut-down should have provided that time  – not just 24 hours –  but fifteen months to catch up. Yikes! Except that’s not what happened for so many. First was the traumatic health concern and challenges. Then came financial loss to small businesses and to those who ran or worked at those businesses and to the self-employed who relied on customers. I think the techies of the world probably made out okay. But once the external/in-person meetings, lunches, appointments, travel, shopping, et al, stopped – so many other things took over our lives.

            As for those with large families, lots of kids in need of an education, all crammed into the house for longer than a couple of days at Holiday Time. That must have been fun – or not! (Sometimes there’s an advantage to being a singleton again.) 

            On the upside, was the massive de-cluttering we all did. Very therapeutic, if time consuming. After that forced isolation went way beyond the initial thirty-days, we adjusted to our own company – which writers relish. I did eventually write – several different things, still incomplete. I did a major edit, too. So many other writers I know had the chance to try writing something totally different, venturing into different genres.

It gave everyone the chance to re-evaluate the path they had been on and ask, ‘Is this how I really want to spend my life?’

            A lot of people decided to move house – across country, some returning to their family fold, others found the place of their dreams. Some even moved across the world. Others discovered that, like us writers, they could work from home anywhere. New careers were created, less-stressful jobs accepted. Our world was topsy-turvy.

      Serendipity, the Oxford English Dictionary says, is “The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident” Or – when you start out in one direction and fate takes you in a different direction. Sort of like Yak Shaving….  Remember Yak Shaving? It’s when you start out to do something fairly simple, but have to accomplish small steps (or annoying distractions) along the way, before you can complete your original, simple task. And so, that early morning chore is still not completed when, exhausted, you fall into bed that night and promise, “I’ll try again tomorrow…” 

            But we’re a resourceful lot, us humans. We worked through trials and tribulations.

We reinvented not only ourselves, but our lives. At times some of us felt like Sisyphus, pushing that rock uphill, only to be so close to the top when it rolls back down to the bottom and forced to start again. But we don’t give up.

            And as the world begins to open up again, we pick up the pieces of our former lives, now with clearer eyes, so we discard the bits that we no longer want – and add new ventures, new goals to our To Do lists.

            For me and many writers, we’ve missed the in-person writers’ meetings and conferences, where we meet up with old friends from all over the world, and we make new friends, new contacts. In our recent lock-down world, we stopped our instinctive human connection with others and now are gingerly learning social graces again. Do we hug, do we shake hands (That seems currently a taboo!), do we wave-from-a-distance, nod a ‘hello’ – what’s acceptable? Hey – I’m a hugger, as much as I can be these days.

A be-masked clerk at the DMV told me she was terrified of seeing people’s faces again. She didn’t know how she’d react! How sad, I thought. I can’t wait to see everyone’s smiles again. I love the unspoken language of expressions. I’m always ‘reading’ people’s faces – just as we read their body language.

            So, okay, everyone. Are we ready for this new world? Considerate and understanding of some folk’s cautious behavior, while rejoicing the exuberance of others celebrating the new freedom.   The lock-down has left many with new challenges with finances, health, mental-health issues and facing new lives, new careers. We’re putting our lives back together. All of us. It’s like writing a mystery novel, where we purposely misdirect the readers and plot red-herrings and diversions. But at the end, we writers have to tie it all together for a flourishing dénouement.

And so with our lives, this new, topsy-turvy world is waiting.

What fun. What larks, eh Pip? ***

*** In case any young ones are wondering who is Pip: It’s Pip in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations – and this is a favorite quote of Judy Dench.

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN

            By Rosemary Lord

            It was Virginia Wolfe who, in 1929, famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own, if she is to write fiction.”

            I thought about that as I de-cluttered my office-space for the umpteenth time, trying to create more writing space. I’d even bought myself a new smaller office chair – petite, chrome with pale gray leather. Much prettier than the traditional tall black swivel chair I’ve had for years. You see, I don’t have an actual office – a separate room – but use the far corner of my living room, surrounded by bookshelves, for my office. It would be nice, I thought, to have a separate office with a door – that I could shut at the end of each work day, and ignore my mess of research papers and note pads.

            Agatha Christie had a lovely, bright office in her sprawling country home, Greenway, on the River Dart in Devon. Now a National Trust property, the view from her office window is of green lawns and masses of colorful wild flowers. But she said she really did her thinking, about her plots and characters, in the huge claw-foot bath-tub in the upstairs Victorian bathroom.

            Men who write fiction need a room of their own, too. I also visited Bateman’s estate: Rudyard Kipling’s Jacobean home in Burwash, Sussex. You can walk into his book-lined study and see his wide writing table covered with travel mementoes, his inkwell, pen and assorted hand-written pages. Next to the table is a daybed, where Kipling would spend part of his writing day reclining and thinking through his books before he committed his tales to paper. Tall windows overlooking rolling fields and farmlands, made the room surprisingly light.

            Beatrix Potter began writing as a very young child, when her nursery was on the top floor of the family’s tall, Victorian London house. (At least she had a room of her own.) She would be brought downstairs to visit with her mother for an hour each afternoon. Her only companions were the household staff. When her lunch (delivered to her room daily on a tray) was late one day, a maid explained “Cook’s got mice in the kitchen!” Beatrix was intrigued: “What’s ‘mice in the kitchen’?” A houseman brought one of the mice in a cage for the little girl to see. The rest, as they say, is history. She asked to keep the caged mouse as company and began to draw the furry creature and write stories about it. Her literary work expanded when, as a teenager, they moved north into the countryside, where she found Mrs. Tiggywinkle and all the other characters she brought us.

            In today’s world, most writers have a room of their own in which to write.  Although Carol  Higgins Clark started out writing on the corner of the kitchen table. She would retype her mother’s (Mary Higgins Clark) novels to send out to her agent. Carol said her mom explained everything she was doing, so that eventually Carol was able to write her own novels and found her own literary success, following her late mom’s very successful path. She now can afford her own office.

            Jackie Collins wrote hugely successful novels set in glamorous Beverly Hills and Hollywood in her equally glamorous office, with big picture windows overlooking Beverly Hills. The furniture was light beige and luxurious, her desk semicircular with a high-back soft beige leather chair. Jackie wrote all her novels by hand on yellow legal pads. She wrote daily from nine to five, with a short lunch break.

jackie-collins-study

            Danielle Steel has not just one Room of Her Own – or office – but two: One is in Paris, where she grew up, and the other in San Francisco. She travels back and forth. The mother of nine now-grown children, Danielle has written almost two hundred books. Her passion for writing has led to an intense schedule. At her desk, built to resemble a stack of her books, Danielle begins at 8 am each day and does not leave until a draft is complete. Sometimes she just stops for four hours sleep and carries on until the book is finished. She wears her comfy cashmere nightgown and eats at her desk, with refills of de-caffeinated iced coffee and a stash of bittersweet chocolate. When she is in San Francisco, she writes on her 1946 Olympia standard typewriter. As I said, Danielle Steele has TWO rooms of her own in which to write her fiction.

danielle-steeles-desk

            I remember visiting fellow Brit-born writer, Jacqueline Winspear. She had a lovely, small home-office, where she wrote many Maisie Dobbs novels. The walls were lined with shelves of books, research, and jumbo post-it notes, with a large table under the window and a comfy chair. Jacqui said that when she shut the door and closed the blinds, she could lose herself back in the Maisie Dobbs world of England in the 1930s.

            I was envious that Jacqui had a room of her own in which to write. A room with a door that she could shut. I remember thinking that if I had a cozy office with a door that I could shut, then I could easily write at least one novel a year – just as Jacquie has done.

            But now, as I settle down again at my table in the corner of the living room and start scribbling another segment of my next Lottie Topaz novel, I look across the room to the patio and the pool outside. I realize that I can’t continue without another cup of tea. Kitchen here I come. Then I have an idea for a contemporary mystery I’m working on set in St. Tropez. You see how quickly I distract myself?

            While other writer friends have churned out dozens of novels, I realize that I have allowed my life and time to be torn in different directions, sorting other people’s problems and dramas. But, hey, I’m getting better. At least I am writing a few times a week, for a couple of snatched hours. I just want to be totally dedicated to writing several hours, every single day, like the aforementioned writers. What’s wrong with me?

            Aha! I have found the real reason behind my lack of focus. I don’t have a

proper office – with a door that I can shut on all those distractions. I need a room of my own.     

            Well that’s my excuse for today…. What’s yours?

LadyWriting

Posted for Rosemary Lord by Gayle Bartos-Pool.

WHAT MAGELLAN STARTED…

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpg

  by Rosemary Lord

Hmmm. Well, it’s been a year of discovery, hasn’t it?

When our world was stopped a year ago, by the dastardly Covid pandemic, we had to re-think our entire lives. The way we did everything. The way we worked, lived and communicated. For those of us living alone, we learned more about ourselves. Those quarantined with loved ones and family members, probably learned more about them than they ever wanted to know!

A year later, look at how much we have discovered about us and everyone else and about the world around us. Our priorities have changed. We have learned to appreciate so many things. We have adjusted, we have compromised. We have discovered whole new worlds into which we never would normally have ventured when, at times, the internet or The Discovery Channel were our only companions during this past year.

That’s where Ferdie comes in. Ferdinand Magellan was born into poverty in Portugal in 1480. He was orphaned at 10 years old. Not a great start in life – but he had an imagination and a curiosity. At 12 years old, he was appointed as a page to the Queen of Portugal. He received an excellent and diverse education at the palace. The more he learned, the more curious he became about the world that he knew must be out there, somewhere. Portugal appeared uninterested in his adventurous ideas, so he turned to the King of Spain. The King listened. When Ferdinand Magellan set out to discover new worlds on his Spanish expedition to the East Indies in 1519, he had a goal. He had carefully plotted. (Take heed, writers: plotting can be useful!) He had a plan.

He had decided to prove Copernicus and others wrong, and prove that the earth was not flat.  Magellan became the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe. And he didn’t fall off the edge! He even named the Pacific Ocean such – because it was more peaceful than the Atlantic Ocean he had traversed. He studied clouds, discovered penguins – and the Spice Islands! How exciting!

All because he had planned and plotted and Life had taken him in a different direction and on a different adventure. And because he was curious…

Curiosity – that’s what is so important to writers. Curiosity and a sense of adventure. With a year of no actual travel, many people have turned to ‘armchair travelling.’ Luckily for us writers, people have been reading books as a way of escape, as a way of learning about new lands, new places and people. They’ve been reading far more books than usual. They didn’t have time before. And many have been so inspired by the places they have visited on the written page, that they have resolved to travel far and wide – once the Covid regulations allow.

Our writing has that effect on people. We paint pictures of enchanting islands where romance lingers in the air, or dark, mysterious back-streets winding through spice-scented villages, or vast golden sands stretching out to reach the azure skies. Perhaps an overcrowded city-scape, where throngs of bustling people hurry on about their lives, speaking an unfamiliar language – or the quiet charm of a Cotswold village of fifty years ago, or a painted houseboat on the Ganges…

There’s a whole world out there that we, as writers, have introduced our readers to. Often places we, ourselves, have never visited. We just love to do research and we’re good at it.

For generations, people the world over felt doomed to travelling every rush hour to a cubicle office in an anonymous tower, to work in order to earn a pay check to support their families.

Well, this past year, they discovered that, like us lucky writers, they could do a lot of work from home. Lives changed forever. People got creative and reassessed just how important is that promotion, that fancy office title? Perhaps they could downsize and lessen their financial burdens. Maybe they could stay home and become a carpenter, or a painter – or write that novel they had always felt they had in them… Well they did. And they have.

This past year our writers’ world has changed, too. Without Writers’ Conferences, we have Zoomed, Skyped and learned the mechanics of Webinars. We’ve learned our way through self-publishing, while waiting for traditional publishers to resurface. It seems that more books than ever have been published and more books than ever are being read. If you’re not commuting to the city every day – you have time to read more. A lot more.  So it works out for everyone.

This past year of discovery has affected our writing, too. During the decluttering that we enthused over, we have unearthed and finished old, forgotten manuscripts. Some writers are exploring writing in different genres. They’ve found a different voice. A different song to sing. 

So the adventures and challenges (big and small) of this past year and our discoveries about ourselves and our life today may not sound as exhilarating – and certainly not as dangerous  – as Magellan’s. We may be on a different path now, and not where we thought we needed to be. But it’s still our own discovery and just as magical in its own way. Thank you, Ferdie, for leading the way….             

Posted for Rosemary Lord by G.B. Pool

WORDS & MUSIC – AND INSPIRATION…. By ROSEMARY LORD

                     

We writers write to express ourselves, to share an idea, to inspire – to give a glimpse of another life. We write to take people on a journey that they might never take in reality; journeys to places they might never see, in a time or a world they may never inhabit or discover. But, if it’s written well, our readers feel they have been there, maybe have lived that life, fulfilled that ambition – vicariously.

After finishing a good book, readers know more about that distant place or country, that time in history – or even the fictional future. Our audience has had the opportunity to have learned something new about people, their work, their pursuits and more about the world – vicariously.

Reading books is a way we ‘meet’ new people that we would normally never get to encounter and the chance to have wonderful, or perhaps scary, or even exotic, or romantic adventures, without ever leaving our armchair or couch.

Within these stories, the writer skillfully creates characters and plot lines that touch on parts of our own personal qualities and idiosyncrasies that we, as the reader, can identify or empathize with. Or perhaps the characters brought to life are those we recognize as someone we know or have met along the way.

The books that readers immerse themselves in are a wonderful escape from the humdrum and the stress of everyday living. They broaden our horizons and sometimes inspire people to make changes in their lives, to try something different or find a new perspective.

Inspire: there’s that word again. So, what inspires us writers to spend such long hours composing in our notebooks or wrestling with words on our computers?

Writers – Where do you find your inspiration when you’re stuck?

For me – music often inspires me. As I’m driving or when I’m washing the dishes or cleaning up, and I hear a particular song or piece of music, a story idea often pops into my mind. I find the inspiration for maybe a new twist on something I am writing. Sometimes it’s simply the title – often, the lyrics – and the music brings it all together. Songs can inspire perhaps a new character to solve a plot problem or a change of scenery that will move my story along.

The lyrics of some of our classic songs tell a story. When you think about it, just as poets have that special skill to say so much in a few (usually rhyming) words, so lyricists have a special gift of creating characters and a scenario, which they edit down to just a handful of words that say so much. Those carefully chosen simple words meld seamlessly with the melody and can touch on a story that we novelists can fill in, color, investigate, enlarge upon. We can be inspired to creat a whole world around a brief stanza that we then nurture into many thousands of words of a completed novel. That is our writer’s talent.  

As a scribe, we can change the names and places, (to protect the innocent and the copyright!) but the plot line in some songs is already set out. So, when you’re stuck for what to write next, think of, say, the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby. What a poignant story for us creative minds to fill in the gaps. Or the dark storyline in Mack The Knife. Johnny Mercer’s Moon River is a more whimsical tale of “Two drifters off to see the world…” And how about Cole Porter’s 1934 facetious tale of the hanging of a society woman after she murders her unfaithful lover – the song made famous by Ethel Waters and later Ella Fitzgerald: Miss Otis Regrets, she’s unable to lunch today

Take George Gershwin’s An American in Paris – inspired by his time in the City of Lights in the 1920s. Apart from the lush musical score, what story could that simple title inspire?  Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, “I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main roads…” could be the start of an intriguing tale. Barry Manilow wrote about showgirl Lola’s ambitions stymied by a jealous admirer in his disco hit Copacabana: there’s a tale ripe for embellishment. 

What about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memory from his musical Cats, based on T.S. Elliott’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats? Or Elaine Stritch’s signature song, Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch, from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. Perhaps a more whimsical tale could be based on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Girl from Ipanema.  You get the idea.

Today, even traditional world-famous book titles can inspire us. I notice that some of the new books now use old and borrowed titles anyway. When authors had worried about their ideas being stolen, someone pointed out that if ten writers were given the same assignment, their styles and experience would be so varied that the ten books would turn out to be totally different.

And so I pondered: what if we wrote our own version, inspired by just the title, of A Tale of Two Cities, The Man Who Came to Dinner, A Caribbean Mystery or Witness for the Prosecution? The results would be as varied, as creative and fascinating as befits our own individual talents. Some scribes’ version would be a romantic comedy, or a hardboiled noir, others would produce a thriller, a cozy or a charming escapade.

Today I see inspiration everywhere – and am frankly open to ‘borrowing from the best’ when I get stuck. I like to channel their inspiration. I enjoy any way I can to write and to perpetuate writing for all of us. To paraphrase Pinocchio’s chanson – “Hi-diddle-dee-dee – A writer’s life for me….

PERFICK!

By ROSEMARY LORD

Just Rosie 2

I’m trying not to be – perfect.

Or ‘perfick’ – as H.E. Bates had Pop saying in The Darling Buds of May. For Pop, each day and everything around him was – ‘perfick.’

And that’s what I have always aimed for.

I’m very much a ‘Pollyanna,’ and always seek the best in every circumstance and find positive outcomes for the most dire situation. When someone tells me ‘No, you can’t do that. It’s not possible…” My reaction is always: “I’ll find a way!”

I have also been my harshest critic. Until a friend recently said, “Rosemary, you don’t have to be perfect. You are too hard on yourself. And you expect everyone around you to have those same high standards. They don’t. So don’t beat yourself up about it.”

Hmm. Food for thought.

Life has been a challenge for everyone in the last few months.

At first, I found the lock-down a sort of blessing. An opportunity for us all to take a collective breath and count our many blessings, reassess our lives, and think about what is really important for each of us. Find what it is we really want to do with our lives.

heartofhwd-wch-sketch-6_orig   It certainly gave me time to sort out a lot of Woman’s Club files, paperwork and organization. That makes it easier for me to delegate and hand over the reigns, so I can focus full-time on my writing once more.

And, working on the WCH from home, I was able to squeeze in writing time. I found more and more new writing ideas and goals and decided it was time to put my own life first. To make writing my full time work again. Sooner, rather than later. That’s the plan – and I’m getting closer!

As the Brazilian author of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, said, “There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to avoid them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them, will we understand why they were there.” Paulo’s parents committed him to a Mental Institution when he was seventeen, after he told them he wanted to become a writer! “Not to punish me, but to save me from that life,” he later said. They failed. Today he is a highly successful author.

Mercy! Makes us appreciate our own parents, doesn’t it? Thank you, Mum and Dad, for being you!

file3171299616544         But after weeks of world-wide shut-downs and no travel permitted, I also saw how small some of our lives had become. Often out of fear. When we do something out of fear – we cease to think rationally, boldly. Our courage leaves us. Some never get it back, especially as we get older.

We did as we were told and stayed home, closed down businesses, gave up jobs we liked, cancelled vacations and celebrations. We stopped going to the gym, too. And having our hair cut. (Well, that’s my excuse for my temporary extra pounds and my ‘mop’ of hair!)

 

Internet Friends World

But all was not lost, as many people became very resourceful and creative. They shone through this adversity. They found new ways to keep small businesses going, create sideline businesses, found new ways to communicate, and celebrate. Not worrying about being perfect, they just got the job done. People offered help to their neighbors and strangers, and acknowledged gratitude to those who continued daily schedules in the community as ‘essential workers.’ So, the Covid shut-downs had also brought out the best in some people.

But life had been put on hold.

Meanwhile, I have spent long hours at my computer, at home, on Woman’s Club matters. I’ve accomplished much in working through these months, including resolving a complicated, year-long IRS Audit. But I wished I could be speedier with that very work. I wished I could work faster and do shorter days. I wished I were more technology-minded and that I could work more quickly in these areas. I wished I could do more for the club with online events. But I don’t know how – and felt a failure in those areas. I chastised myself for not doing better.

Remember school reports? “Rosemary could do better. She could try harder.”

So that stuck with me. I could never do well enough for me. And that’s where my friend pointed out my frustrating perfectionism. I had created my own fear – of having to do everything to perfection. Are there any other perfectionists out there? It’s a disease, I tell you!

So, I have taken a deep breath and let go of some of it. Or I’m trying to… They say old habits die hard. And it’s really tough, sometimes!

Lady Typing 2   In my former writer-life I spent many solitary hours writing. I was oblivious of the world around me. I forgot to eat. Not good when you had a husband hoping for dinner, after returning from a long day’s work! But Rick was very patient and sometimes cooked for us, and a plate of food would appear in front of me, on top of my typed pages. “You haven’t eaten in hours. You’ve GOT to eat…” he would grin and return to listening to his music through headphones, so as not to disturb me. But I loved what I was doing. He knew that, so he was happy.

And I’d lost that joy since he’s been gone.

So, after losing Rick, I took on the responsibility of saving the Woman’s Club, as a way of  escaping or forgetting, I guess. But it was such a different challenge. So much administrative work I’d never dealt with before. But I made myself learn. How hard could it be. Ugh! But I felt I must do a perfect job – in order to succeed.

I changed, I later realized. I rather lost my sense of humor. I was NOT amused by the battle I had to fight. The corruption. The thievery! I gritted my teeth and battled on through horrendous episodes. I had taken on a responsibility and I was not going to give up.

But I lost my writing along the way. And that wasn’t all. I’d lost spending time with good friends; friendships neglected. Life was whizzing by neglected and unlived.

These months working alone again at home I realized that, yes, I was a perfectionist where the WCH was concerned. Although no-one else seemed to notice. After my friend pointed this out, I realized I was being too tough on myself. I wasn’t having any fun – and I’d lost my sparkle. A girl has to have some sparkle. And I don’t know where I’d left mine.

So, I began to turn my attention to life around me again. Little by little. Now, new people have appeared to take some of the responsibility of the Club from my shoulders. And if they are not doing it as perfectly as I would like, that’s okay. It’s good enough. Gets the job done. They’re champing at the bit to get back out there. Back to work. Organize fun, interesting events. Escape from the Zoom Room. They are energized, brimming with ideas. And they think it’s fun!! What a relief.

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpg So I am becoming a happy writer, once more. I’ll be even happier once we’re allowed to travel, too. Even if I’m not going anywhere, at least I like to know that I could if I wanted to. I’m a dreamer, too.

So, my less-than-perfect writing schedule is coming along. With my less-than-perfect editing in my less-than-perfect office space – also known as a messy desk. And my definitely less-than-perfect filing system works just fine.

I’m remembering to eat, most of the time. Sometimes it’s a late-night dark- chocolate bar. And so my girlish figure is less-than- perfect. But that’s okay too. I still occasionally mutter, “I promise to do better.” But now that makes me giggle, instead.

I LOVE what I’m writing, and can’t wait to sit in front of my computer and create – or grab my pad and scribble notes.

writer Lady 3

Mark Twain once said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow-lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sounds wonderful to me…

Just perfick!

 

 

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA – THROUGH ADVERSITY TO THE STARS…

      by Rosemary Lord

Just Rosie 2

Per Ardua Ad Astra – Through Adversity to the Stars – has been the motto of the Royal Air Force since 1912 and subsequently adopted by the Royal Flying Corps other nations flying corps. It seems an appropriate motto for what the world is experiencing just now with this Corona virus.

It’s important that we find the best of ways to get us through such times as this. Sometimes, when we may feel ourselves spiraling down and all the forces seem against us, it’s easy to give up. But as writers, we are fortunate to have our own methods to halt that negative direction. We are used to being isolated, stuck indoors, as we write. When we get ‘writer’s block’ – we have learned to distract ourselves with beautiful music, watching an inspiring movie, or reading a book. Or even the simple act of cleaning out the fridge or de-cluttering a closet. It gives the chance to focus on something else for a while. Then we can look at our writing – or even at our life – from another angle. A different perspective. We come up with new ideas and a fresh outlook.

So with all that we – and most of the world – have been going through in recent months, people have become resourceful in ways to manage their lives and families and continue their productivity. Indeed, some fantastic ideas have been formed out of this adversity. And many people will have created amazing new lives for themselves; some less stressful or more efficient. Others will have had time to re-assess where they are going and what they really want to do with their lives. Most of all, we have seen a wonderful appreciation of other people; of help given and help received. Countless people have focused on how they can show their gratitude to all the ‘front line’ workers – and how they can help other people in need. Most of all, we have a new appreciation of what freedom really means.

william-james-bookseller            As writers and readers, one of our easiest ways to help can be to support the small businesses that are straining to survive while closed to foot-traffic. Especially the small bookshops, that have been struggling desperately in the new world of online literature.      These small bookshops welcome writers, help us launch our new books, promote our work with book-signings and author events. I found a few where we have a chance to give a little something back. (I have been buying a book or two, including my own books, online from them.) Let us know if you have ‘hidden gems’ in the bookstore world that we can also help.

 

HollywoodThe most famous small bookshop in Hollywood is LARRY EDMUNDS and it is fighting for survival. Founded in 1938 and moving to Hollywood Boulevard in the 1950s, Larry Edmunds specializes in books, scripts and posters covering all aspects of Hollywood and its history. Famous for events with Hollywood celebrities such as Debbie Reynolds, Ernest Borgnine, William Friedkin and Tippi Hedren. Quentin Tarantino shot Once Upon a Time in Hollywood there. Current Proprietor Jeffrey Mantor began as a stock-boy 29 years ago, and today works closely with American Cinemateque and the Turner Classic Film Festival. But because these are both shuttered, this once-thriving store is not sure it can last and, since the shut-down, they are relying on mail-order sales alone – which doesn’t cover basic running costs. And so Jeffrey has set up a GoFundMe page to save this piece of Hollywood History. https://larryedmunds.com

ReadersSKYLIGHT BOOKS on Vermont Avenue is a real, old-style neighborhood bookstore that opened in 1996 on the site of a landmark book shop, Chatterton’s, known in the 1970s for its poetry reading events. A hangout for local writers, artists, musicians and scholars, Skylight normally features several evening Author/Artist/Musician events during the week and on weekends in the day-time, so during the shut-down they have an occasional Zoom event, but most have been postponed. Online book purchases continue. www.skylightbooks.com

 

bookstore-1129183__340THE LAST BOOKSTORE’s current and third incarnation began in a downtown Los Angeles loft in 2005. The 22,000 square feet of more than 250,000 new and used books and vinyl records is in the Spring Arts Towers at 5th and Spring Street. On their website in bold print it says, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR – WE WON’T BE HERE FOREVER.” How true for so many independent bookstore everywhere. The Last Bookstore is said to be “One of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the World,” with comfy old sofas around every corner, vintage décor, an old sewing machine, old chandeliers, a resident cat or two – in an eclectic booklovers’ haven. You are welcome just to sit, read, hangout. And this is where, it is said, you can find books you cannot find anywhere else. Unfortunately closed during the shut-down, the store is relying on mail orders, like everyone else. But as soon as they are open for business again, try to catch one of their legendary author events. It’s worth the schlep downtown. www.lastbookstorela.com

 

freddie-marriage-w8JiSVyjy-8-unsplashIn Pasadena, one of the landmarks is VROMAN’S BOOKSTORE – I think most of us have attended book launches there. The oldest, still-running ‘bibliopole,’ Vroman’s was established in 1894 and when Mr. Vroman died in 1916, he left the store to his employees. Vroman’s Author lectures and book-signings have proved to be very popular and prestigious. Today their 200 plus staff and management are working remotely – some furloughed as the shut-down lengthens. Online sales continue and curb-side pick-up will resume as soon as local ordinances allow. www.vromansbookstore.com

 

MoreBooksIn West Hollywood, BOOK SOUP on Sunset Boulevard is the place for us book-lovers. I have a soft spot for them as Book Soup gave my Los Angeles Then and Now and Hollywood Then and Now a FULL window display of rows and rows of my books on the original launch. A favorite local hang-out for local famous personalities, Book Soup is known for celebrity author book-launches and signings. During the shut-down they are doing mail-order sales through Ingrams, online events for new releases and will open up once the stay-at-home orders are lifted. www.booksoup.com

 

Old BooksOver in Hancock Park, CHEVALIER’S BOOKS in Larchmont Village has served the book-loving public since book maverick Joe Chevalier opened his doors in 1940. They normally have a very busy calendar of a variety of author events and book launches and cover a wide variety of subjects. They sell gift-cards with “A book is a present you can open again and again” written on the card. But while they remain closed at this time, they have an online Fiction Book Club and a $25 Friends of Chevalier club and tote bags. They suggest you “lay off Netflix for just a bit” and order books online; they offer free door-to-door deliver in local zip codes, otherwise regular shipping costs. Curbside pick-up should open on May 15th. www.chevaliersbooks.com

 

LadyWritingBut a very specialized small bookstore on the west side in Culver City is THE RIPPED BODICE: A Romantic Bookstore. This is, as you would imagine, a romance only-only bookstore that is run by two sisters, Bea and Leah Koch. They normally have a variety of romance author events and created The Ripped Bodice Award for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. However, currently the store is closed to foot-traffic and all events stopped. The staff are staying home, so Leah is processing all mail orders and handling new orders of Care Packages of assorted romance fiction for yourself or friends. But they ask for your patience with delivery, so Leah doesn’t get overwhelmed. On their website the girls suggest: Send some love, support a small business.” Let’s do that!  www.therippedbodicela.com

 

So let us keep writing, keep reading – and ‘spread a little sunshine’ with our words and with our actions in supporting other individuals and small businesses and enterprises. Together we can get through this. Many public events have been cancelled – but, as someone recently reminded me – HOPE has not been cancelled.

………………………………………..

 

THE WRITERS’ CONFERENCE THAT WASN’T…  

By ROSEMARY LORD

 

Writinhand           Well – who could have known…

I was heading for the Left Coast Crime ‘Murder’s A Beach’ writers’ conference in San Diego.

Two Southern California authors were being honored: Rachel Howzell Hall and T. Jefferson Parker. I was moderating a panel, “Hooray For Hollywood: Tinsel Town as a setting…” with Kellye Garrett, Lee Goldberg, Sherri Leigh James and Pat Broeske on Friday.

These conferences are always a great time to catch up with other writers who live far and wide – all coming together because of their love of books, of reading and writing – and especially mysteries. They readily share their knowledge, expertise on novel writing and their encouragement to those in pursuit of a publisher. It’s also a chance to meet their readers and fans.

MoreBooks

I bumped into old friends writer/magician Stephen Buehler, wine-expert Nadine Nettmann, Catriona McPherson, Sheri James and Pat Broeske on my way in. But I’m getting ahead of my self.

It was a long, slow drive from Hollywood through a heavy rainstorm, averaging 9 miles an hour. 4 hours later, as I drew into the Marriot Mission Valley, I was looking forward to all the panels and lectures I had marked on the busy schedule.

Having checked in, left my bags in my room, I had already missed the ‘Not Too Distant Past: 20th Century Historical Mysteries’ panel that I wanted to hear, so I headed for the Rio Vista ballroom to listen to Toastmaster author Matt Coyle being interviewed. I stood at the back, as it was already underway.

A small cluster of somber-faced women with clip-boards arrived and stood at the back. Hmm. At a long pause in questions, they walked up to the front and one announced. “Please everyone stay in your seats – do not leave!” Then, the dreaded words followed that the San Diego Health Department was shutting down the conference, due to the Covid-19 virus concerns. Effective immediately. (The Arizona Book Festival and the L.A. Times Festival of Books would soon follow.)

Microphones

The conference organizers had spent 3 year planning this what-would-have-been-wonderful 4 days of panels, discussions, celebrations and networking. They were, naturally, devastated. They announced they would be emailing us about refunds. Some in the audience suggested that we return any refund to put towards the huge cost of putting on this event. Then there was the discussion of the Saturday Night Award Banquet, when awards for the Best First Novel, Best Historical Novel and so on. No solutions yet. The crowd promised to meet up at the next Left Coast Crime conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April 2021.

We were asked to vacate the ballroom. Immediately.  

“But we’re here, together, now – can’t we at least have the Opening Cocktail Reception before we leave?” rippled through the crowd. A glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres sounded very welcoming at that moment. Alas no. They shut that down too.

But, as we filed out of the room, the hotel staff wheeled out trolleys of spring rolls and wantons into the corridor, offering us plates to help ourselves as we left. They explained that they had cooked them, so we might as well eat. But the wine-bar was quickly moved out of sight!

The rest of the evening was spent congregating in the bar-café area as we figured out our next step. I had a relatively short drive, compared to many who had flown in from Canada or the East Coast, with return flights booked for Sunday.

Ladies Study

The attendees include not only writers, publishers and editors, but many readers – fans. They seem to often be older women – often Agatha Christie fans who love meeting other mystery writers, collecting signed copies of their books. I wondered how many of these fans lived alone and, having had just had their big, exciting vacation crushed, would be returning to empty apartments and homes. I also thought about the struggling writers who spent hard-earned money on promotional items such as pens, notebooks, bookmarks to give out at various events during the weekend, attempting to sell their books. And then there were all of the extra hotel staff hired especially to work this conference. What happens to them?

Although I appreciate that this is insignificant compared to the health risks of those who are felled by this awful virus and the impending suffering of so many workers, travelers and businesses affected by the quarantines in force.

But it was sobering to observe this sliver of the rippling effect.

But I don’t want this to be all doom and gloom, for this, too shall pass. We will get beyond this bizarre situation we have all been thrown in together. And when we come out the other end, we will be much wiser and a lot more appreciate of the freedoms we usually enjoy, of the good friends we have, aware of the health and safety of our loved ones, friends and co-workers. Many of our parents lived through World War Two. The motto then was KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

I shall be working from home for the next couple of weeks, having closed down the Woman’s Club as a health precaution for our members, guests and volunteers. Although I still have a large stack of club paperwork to tackle, I shall be able to take more time to work on my Lottie Topaz books and a couple of new ideas I have.

It’s a chance for all of us to take some time to reflect on where we are going with our lives and our writing careers, to count our blessings and make wonderful plans for a bright future.

So just remember to check on friends and neighbors living alone. Stay safe and healthy.  See you on the other side of this pandemic.

So keep calm and carry on writing….!

Keep Calm

THE HAPPY WRITER….

                     by Rosemary Lord

 

Happy 2020!

Well, this new year has got off to a busy start. It’s not just a new year, but a new decade. Where, oh where, did these years go? It seems to have been a decade of run, don’t walk, through life, ducking and dodging life’s many ‘surprises.’

I, for one, am very happy to move on to 2020.

 

For me, the last 10 years were overshadowed by the intense work on the whole sorry Woman’s Club saga, which began when the property was stolen February 8th, 2010. Almost 10 years ago! The club finally came out of bankruptcy at the end of 2019 and back on its’ own feet last month. I was glad to see the end of that challenge and the end of that decade.

heartofhwd-wch-sketch-6_orig

Although the biggest shadow, and the most devastating happening of the last decade, was the sudden death of my wonderful husband, Rick, in 2012. I subsequently buried myself in the dramas of the Woman’s Club, which helped me move through the grief.

Trip of a Lifetime 2009 240

During this time I made several trips back to be with my family, my siblings in England and Greece, for which I am so very thankful. We spent much wonderful family time together, reminiscing and healing the loss of a husband and, for them, a much-loved brother-in-law. And we re–discovered each other and created an even closer family bond.

We had adventures and we laughed a lot, amidst the tears.

 

Sideswiped by that grief, it was a decade where I had mostly abandoned my novel series about Lottie Topaz. But writing is as important as breathing, for me. So instead I wrote this Blog and I wrote updated versions of my Los Angeles Then and Now and Hollywood Then and Now books. The latest Los Angeles Then and Now, a travel-size edition, is to be released this March, 2020. But these are non-fiction, historical research books. So they’re not an emotional journey for me or the reader, unlike Lottie’s tales.

 

I love Lottie, and find myself laughing and crying with her as she whispers her stories in my ear. I am her conduit and her typist. And so it was difficult working on her books until this new year, when the  new decade dawned. January 1st, 2020 it felt different. Now, Lottie and I spend every hour I can spare, editing her first book.

writer Lady 3

I am now fastidiously logging each chapter and every page – giving myself a clear map of what I have managed to weave. I did a brief version of this chapter outline early on, but realized it was not enough. This is a serious, freshly focused chapter log!

Lottie Topaz and the Flicker Murders (the full title of this first book in the series) has been rejected by some agents – without even a cursory reading – not even the first 10 pages – due to the length, I have learned. Novel submissions must be 75-90,000 words. Apparently, only established, successful novelists can earn a publishing contract with much longer manuscripts.

At the California Crime Writers’ Conference I was told that agents and publishers are so inundated with prospective books, that it is a way to eliminate and cut down the number of manuscripts they have to read.

The draft I sent out was almost 120,000 words. Okay – so I got carried away – I will fix it. Hence my map of where I may trim more than just a few words – probably whole scenes – which I will put aside and hopefully use in one of Lottie’s other books. That is the plan afoot. Besides, reading it through after all this time, I have fresh eyes and find it easier to see where things need to speed up, or where descriptions or conversations are superfluous.

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So this year I have fallen in love with Lottie and her travails all over again. She and I have also been working on Lottie’s second novel,” Seven for a Secret” in which we go back to her beginnings in London, as well. It’s bliss. I’m a happy writer.

This new year, this new decade, I have found my love for writing again.

 

And look at how this past decade has opened up so many new avenues for us writers. The flourishing world of self-published books has been brought out of the shadows and finally feted and honored alongside the traditionally published books. Writers can happily control their own literary destiny. And instead of dire warnings of an over-saturated market, I have heard both here and in Europe that people are reading more than ever.

 

Young readers have their own burgeoning world of YA favorites, children’s books are increasingly popular and the genres for everyone have expanded into a multitude of worlds, time-zones, creatures and beings – only limited by the imaginations of writers and readers alike. Today reading has been expanded into so many new forms: be it on a kindle, with audio-books, through pod-casts or faithful paperbacks and hardbacks.

Old Books

So I do declare, from my happy writing desk, that this wonderful new year, this exciting new decade will be the The Year of the Writer – nay, The Decade of the Writer – with happy readers discovering us all.

Happy New Year everyone!

Rosemary at Burbank Library JPG

 

 

PADDY’S HOUSE

by Rosemary Lord

 

Paddy's house 1Paddy’s House was finally open for visitors. It’d been long enough. For 3 or 4 years, during our summer and winter visits, my siblings and I had peered through endless tall shrubs and overgrowth at the seemingly abandoned house, wondering what was going to happen to this magical home in the middle of nowhere. It was at the water’s edge of the remote little town called Kardamyli in Greece’s southern region of the Peloponnese.

Paddy himself youngerThe house had belonged to British-born writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor – known as Paddy to friends and followers. A great traveler and adventurer, at age 18 in 1933, he walked across Europe, from Holland to Constantinople. He was travelling through Germany just as Hitler came into power and carried on to Greece at the outbreak of World War II, when he joined the Irish Guards. Having learned several languages along the way, Leigh Fermor joined the S.O.E and fought to help free occupied Crete.

Many years later the film Ill Met By Moonlight retold this wartime episode, with Dirk Bogard playing Sir Patrick.

Paddy's book 1Patrick Leigh Fermor’s first non-fiction book was The Travellers Tree, followed by his only novel, The Violins of Saint-Jacques which was published in 1953. His later books about his travels include Mani, Roumelli and A Time of Gifts. These he wrote first in longhand at his Kardamyli retreat.

 

 

Paddy's house 2Paddy began building this charmingly beautiful, rambling Kardamyli House in 1965. He paid the local youths a penny a rock to gather small and large boulders from around the craggy area and help him create a rustic hideaway. He wove rock and pebble designs throughout the floors inside and outside in the meandering seating areas. Stone benches abound, each with a different inspiring view of the sea or the towering Taygetos mountains behind the property. A series of individual guest rooms surround the main house. In the centre of the house is the large living-room with long built-in, comfy seating at either end, under the windows that cover the length of the room and overlook the craggy rocks leading down to the turquoise waters of the Messinian Gulf.Paddy's house 3

In the ensuing years Paddy and his wife Joan played host to writers Lawrence Durrell, John Betjeman, Henry Miller and painters Picasso, John Craxton, Ghiko and other literati of the day, inspired by the surroundings. This was how ‘Paddy’s House’ got its reputation.

Now Paddy’s house has been lovingly restored. It is light, airy, simple and very welcoming. Just the place to hide away and write a book. It was finally opened to the public this October and exhibits his vast book and art collection and is once again a writer’s retreat. Writer guests are chosen by a panel from UCLA, Princeton and the Banaki Museum, sponsors of this refurbishment.   Elpitha, Paddy’s house-keeper for his final eleven years after his wife Joan died, gives private tours and shares glimpses into Leigh Fermor’s life. She would clean for him, cook his favorite moussaka dish, drive him places and told us that he would clamber down to the sea and swim each morning until not long before his death in 2011 at the age of 94. He spoke mostly Greek to her.

Paddy himselfPatrick Leigh Fermor certainly had a full, well-lived life, as his books tell. Living in such a remote part of Greece – or anywhere in the Mediterranean area – would seem like a perfect place to inspire creativity; to write and paint. Or is it? It certainly is a wonderful respite from the hustle, bustle, traffic and cacophony of Hollywood or London – for a week or two. A wonderful place for me to meet up with scattered family members. A chance to relax, recharge one’s batteries and catch up on sleeping, eating – and writing. But I realize that I find my inspiration from my surroundings. The everyday tales of those I meet. The lengthy chats about youthful adventures. The revelations of the history of our surroundings.

I really look forward to my sojourns with no thoughts of any time-keeping. Instead, timeless days spent wandering through olive groves, exploring ancient ruins and unfamiliar towns. Or walking along the deserted beaches, watching the distant tide creep in and turn to crashing waves and then, later, marveling at the fierce summer thunder and lightning storms in the night. Hours spent enjoying free-flowing conversation over a simple, leisurely meal. What’s not to like? But would I want to live there?

I have a feeling that, were the opportunity to arise, I would get little work of any sort done in those surroundings. Especially writing. At my impending return to the ‘civilization’ of Hollywood, I relish the chance for another fresh attack on my next book. I look forward to sitting at my newly re-ordered and de-cluttered desk. It awaits all of the inspiration gathered during my travels. A new blank page waiting to be filled with fresh ideas and newly remembered forgotten words.

What’s not to like? How do you re-charge your batteries?

Typewriter and desk

HERE THERE BE DRAGONS….. by Rosemary Lord

Here there be dragons“Here there be dragons…”

In the 1700s, this phrase was used by cartographers when drawing maps. They knew so little of the world in those days – a mere 100 miles or so beyond their own spheres. So, when they did not know what lay in those outer regions, they would mark it with drawings of sea monsters and the warning, “Here there be dragons.”

But it is still used today to warn people away from unchartered or unexplored places and areas. Untried actions. Hmm.

There are a lot of dragons about today, it seems. I don’t know about you, but I keep wandering off into uncharted waters. Unintentionally.

I’ve recently faced all sorts of dragons where the Woman’s Club of Hollywood is concerned. We are finally steering our way out of the choppy waters of bankruptcy. We’re removing the tentacles of uninvited outside parties, desperate to make a quick buck on another land grab of a historical Hollywood property.

ATT00019“It’s just a bunch of middle-aged women who don’t know what they’re doing. They can’t stop us,” one was overheard saying. Oh, that set my blood boiling.

I found strength I didn’t know I had and learned to dance very fast, maneuvering through loan papers, legal documents, escrow. I – who know nothing about real estate! But I’m learning.

I’m a writer, following my own instinct as to what would work best. I asked for the impossible – and got it. Borrow $4 million? Sure. If that’s what it takes to stop evil and greed.

As certain parties saw the promise of all that real estate money being moved out of their reach, desperate last-minute threats (some ugly and personal) came my way. But I was on a mission. Them there dragons can be quite scary.

But then the magic started. The wonderful, angel-people began to step forward to help, guide and encourage me. So many ‘coincidences’ happened. People turned up just when I needed them. Old friends and acquaintances stepped up.

The Woman’s Club in bankruptcy was as if it had leprosy. People shied away. But now, as I faced the dragons and survived, wonderful opportunities have opened up and I have a fabulous, strong team now working on the future of this historic institution. I don’t have to shoulder it alone. And as I can step back a bit, I get to return to what I really need to do: my writing.

This whole saga has taught me so much – and of course I will write about it, too.

Here there be dragons 2It can be scary stepping off into the unknown. It took me a long time to find the courage to sit down to write a mystery novel, for instance. I had no idea where to start or how to go about it. Those were baby dragons and easily overcome.

As well as my Old Hollywood adventures of Lottie Topaz, I now have several other, totally different books swimming around my head, waiting to be written. Those are not in dragon-occupied lands. Just perhaps amongst porpoises – and the occasional mermaid.

It’s the realization that tomorrow is promised to no-one, so you’d better get on with it. Dragons or not. Carpe Diem and all that.

Life has thrown many of us some challenges this past year. But we have dealt with them. So maybe it’s time to make a fresh start – take a few risks. Try writing something totally different. Start painting, sketching, pottery – do something else creative to get those juices flowing again.

One idea I heard is to write your own obituary. No – it’s not as grim as it sounds. Honest. Write out how you would want to be remembered. Was it for having the cleanest home in the world – or was it for writing that brilliant, life-changing book? Did you write an amazing character that brought pleasure to millions of readers?

And what happened before all that acclaim? How did you actually write that book, or paint that picture? Work your way back in your life. Before you hit the Best Seller list – or won the Housekeeper-of-the-year award – what led up to that? Keep going back until you are where you are today, when you made a decision to change your path. To really follow your hidden dreams. To step out of your comfort zone and risk rejection. Start with the day you decided to step off in to that unknown world, despite all the warnings of “Here there be dragons…”

I am amazed at what has happened in the recent months. It’s not been easy. And I often thought that I could just not go on. But I did. And it has been exhilarating, when I look back and see where I came from, the new path I’ve taken – and how brilliant the future looks. Those dragons turned out to be quite magical….

Who knew?

Dragon with book (2)