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.

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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)

 

 

 

WHAT JUST HAPPENED…? By Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgDo you ever look around and think “What just happened?”

“How did I end up here?

A flurry of self-searching thoughts tumble out:

Where did the months – nay, years go? This was not what I intended…

I had intended to have at least three or four best-selling novels published by now, maybe a movie deal and a writer’s award or two.

Well, your Honor – it was like this…. Life got in the way. As it does.

As writers we observe people, we notice things. It’s just that sometimes we are so busy looking and living elsewhere that we don’t notice ourselves. We fail to notice our neglected selves as we deal with what life throws at us. We get distracted by life’s fun-an’-games and dramas, family matters and assorted other happenings. Our dreams and goals get left by the roadside.

Then one day we get a breathing space and notice, “Hold on a minute – where am I? What happened to ME? What about my dreams and goals…?”

I’ve had a lot of ‘Shirley Valentine’ moments lately: you remember the movie starring Pauline Collins as the worn-down housewife who had big dreams and realized twenty years later, when she wins a free holiday in Greece and has time to stop and look at her life, that she has let life pass her by? “I’ve lived such a little life…,” she says, “when inside me there is so much more that I could have lived. I disappeared…. I got lost in all this unused life… ”  Author Willy Russell’s words are so observant and poignant.

In fact, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve lived a very ‘big life.’

TravelI’ve lived in England, Paris, Holland, Spain, Malta – and now Hollywood. My movie work has taken me to Germany, France, Spain, Miami, Bermuda, Minneapolis, Colorado, New York. So I really can’t complain. I’ve met and worked with amazing people. I’ve had tremendous adventures – until recent years, when my creative-self got buried.

Sometimes we just get lost on the wrong road and it takes a while to turn things around and find our way back.

But if we creative types – writers – didn’t have these challenges in everyday life and wrong-turns, what would we write about? These diverse roads we follow give us rich fodder for our stories.

The myriad of jobs we have undertaken – sometimes under duress, or to support families and sometimes simply to support our writing habits – give us fuel for our imaginations.

Think of the English writer P.D. James, a Civil Servant, caring for her husband invalided in the war and wrote her first novel when she was 40. The late Michael Crichton, MD, was a doctor, who wrote Jurassic Park, Westworld. Lee Childs was a TV producer in England before he wrote the Jack Reacher thrillers. Agatha Christie worked as a chemist and was married to an archeologist. All great sources of information for their writing.

On the bright side, in looking back through the “What just happened…” in my own life, I realized I have been given a wealth of material to write about. A veritable extravagant buffet of characters, settings and stories. Even living in Hollywood brought me my first publishing contract for Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, which led to my 1920s Hollywood mystery Lottie Topaz and the Flicker Murders.

Hollywood SignI’ve worked at all the major Hollywood film studios as an actress or as a writer. All the dramas and angst of saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood has taught me a lot about the American legal system, skullduggery amongst women and more about the law courts than I wish to know – as well as how to maintain an old historic building and run a business office.

trip-of-a-lifetime-2009-240I dealt with the sudden death of my darling husband, Rick Cameron. I’ve taken care of elderly, lonely neighbors and an ailing mother-in-law and learned far too much about hospitals, nursing homes and Medicare!

But my earlier life was much easier; travelling on the original Orient Express to Athens as a nanny, then sailing round the Greek Islands. I worked as an assistant fashion-designer in London’s ‘Rag-Trade,’ attended the Cannes Film Festivals, movie premiers, working in the theatre, TV and movies in England with some legendary actors, doing dozens of assorted ‘temp’ jobs in London, flying in a tiny 2-seater plane to the race-tracks of France….goodness. I’d forgotten so much from my youth.

I re-discovered a lot of this in my recent de-cluttering sessions.

And I have recently uncovered a stack of novels I’d written that finally need finishing. The material is right there, in our own lives, if only we can see it.

Think of our fellow bloggers here: Gayle Bartos Pool was a private detective, she lived and attended school in France, where her father was stationed with the U.S .Air Force. She has used all of this and more in her Eddie Buick and her Gin Caulfield series and her many short-stories.

Jackie Houchen travelled to Africa and Europe, teaching little kids to read and write. Her children’s stories are richer for her experiences. Linda O. Johnston was an attorney before she wrote her Harlequin romances and Nocturne shapeshifter novels. Her love of dogs and knowledge of King Charles Spaniels have launched dozens of books in her Pet Sitter series and her Barkery and Biscuits successful series. Linda has sold over one million books – imagine!

Miko Johnson was a librarian before writing took over her life, with ample research experience for her Petal In the Wind trilogy.

English-born Jill Amadio has lived in many exotic places, was a journalist in England, became a motor-racing correspondent for a magazine. She has ghost written biographies for a WWII pilot, Movie legend Rudee Vallee and an array of interesting subjects while writing her Tosca Travant “Digging Too Deep” series. Madeline Gornell lives way out of town in the Mohave Desert near the famous Route 66. This is where her inspiration for such as Counsel of Ravens, Rhodes, The Caretaker and so many of her fascinating stories originates.

So you see, all is not lost – however much time has escaped. Those intervening years have provided us with a wealth of knowledge through experiences.

Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn, had her first book published when she was 72. Grandma Moses started painting at 84. So, there’s hope for all of us, isn’t there?

What just happened? LIFE just happened!

 

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS….

                  by Rosemary Lord

Walrus“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax – and cabbages and kings…” So wrote Lewis Carroll.

And as I have been in Europe, travelling around with my siblings, my mind has been darting all over the place; seeing new and old places, marveling at new sights, meeting new people. A hundred new story ideas, new characters, new snippets of conversations and odd words have been buzzing around my head.

Greece SceneI was recently chatting with my family over coffee in a little taverna in southern Greece – as you do…  “What’s the positive of disgruntled, disheveled and dismayed?” came up. We don’t say “She was gruntled – or “I looked sheveled…” After spilling lots of coffee with our bursts of laughter and giggles, we couldn’t solve that one, but went on to marvel at the intricacies and rather bizarre vocabulary of our amazing language.

Olde English Dictionary Where do these words originate? Most of them we can trace to Latin, Old English or European origins – but there are others that leave us baffled as we delve back into history for a clue. There are so many delicious words for writers to paint a myriad of pictures with. Our language is so rich and colorful when used by good writers and orators.

Not just fiction and non-fiction writers, but poets and song-writers. When you think of the moods created by Henry Mancini’s Moon River lyrics, or Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, the cheery Oklahoma theme, or He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and Paul McCartney’s poignant Eleanor Rigby – to Y.M.C.A. and Get Me To The Church on Time. All these present such different stories, different moods – using the same English language. Clever writers.  Beautiful language.

I wonder how today’s kids, who rapidly text for seemingly hour after hour, will find the opportunity to explore the wonders of our language if their thumbs are trained to only to write “thx, OMG and LOL.” Thumbs may get a workout but what about their imaginations?

Railway ChildrenSpeaking of imaginations: We went to see the stage version of the children’s classic The Railway Children, by A.E. Nesbitt. I’m clearly still a little kid and absolutely loved it. Such an imaginative way to portray the story of the children who watched the trains go by their house every day, and decided to enlist the help of one of the regular passengers they had spotted (a Rich Old Gentleman) to find out what happened to their father who had disappeared. It turns out their father had wrongly been jailed for embezzlement and the Rich Old Gentleman helps clear his name. The book had long ago been turned into a film starring Jenny Agutter. So the stage production had the challenge of dealing with a real train as the central character. The imaginative designers used a portion of the real, working railway tracks at London’s King’s Cross Station with a real steam engine waiting in the wings.

The story is set over one hundred years ago, and the show starts the minute you walk in from the box office into the old-fashioned station waiting room, instead of a theatre lobby. The theatre staff are all dressed in the railway uniforms of that period. We are ushered through the door onto the station platform. The seats are either side of the real railway tracks, audience facing each other. The cast, all dressed in their Edwardian costumes, wander onto the platform, luggage in hand and greet the audience as if we are all fellow travelers. “Are you travelling far today?” and so on. Then, slowly, the play begins. A small square stage area, with tables and chairs for a dining room scene, is pushed along the rails by costumed railway porters and stops in front of the audience as the actors take their places and begin the scene. The set is moved off at the end and another scene appears. Scenic changes are created with spectacular lighting effects and sleights of hand. The whole thing moves along very quickly and the huge climax at the end when the real engine chuffs into place, whistles blowing and people cheering is very moving for kids and adults alike. Words written over one hundred years ago mixed with 21st century technology, amazing designer talents and wonderful imagination all come together to create a happy, moving experience.

Old BooksOf course I came back from my travels with more books in my suitcases. A nice habit I have noticed in England and Greece is the book-exchange. Charming little cafes have walls lined with used books and signs such as “Take one and leave one…” So people bring in the books they have read and swap them for another. Although writers may not benefit financially, it’s a great way to discover new authors. Then I head for Foyle’s bookstore in Charing Cross Road or the Owl Bookstore in Kentish Town to stock up on new authors.  No wonder my luggage gets heavier and heavier. The English tea and custard powder I bring back doesn’t way much. But I am a happy girl, anticipating all the new books I have to read – and even more happy and inspired at the books I am about to write – about cabbages and kings and all sorts of things.

Big Ben

 

START BY MAKING YOUR BED… by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgI have just returned from a long weekend in Vancouver – as you do. I went up there for the Left Coast Crime Writers’ Conference, A Whale of a Crime!

 

The air was fresh with Spring promise and the weather mild – after much cold and rain, I am told. It was expensive. All the attendees were moaning about this – until some of us found a hidden MacDonald’s and the Canadian equivalent, Tim Horton’s. But the local people and hotel staff were very friendly and helpful as we rushed from lectures to book-signings at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver, just a few blocks from the waterfront.  What’s not to like?

 

It was great to discover so many authors – mostly Canadian – new to me.

Books

A Keynote speaker was British-born Maureen Jennings who emigrated to Canada as a teenager. She is now one of their most successful writers and author of the Detective Murdoch mystery series and, since 2007, a highly popular television series, Murdoch Mysteries.

 

Welsh-born Cathy Ace was Toastmaster. Now a Canadian resident, Cathy created the highly popular series of books about the WISE all-women detective agency solving cases in Wales – and eight books about criminal psychologist sleuth Cait Morgan.

 

Ghost of Honor was the late Canadian author, Laurali Rose Wright, winner of several awards for her mystery novels, who died in 2001. There was a special tribute to the late Sue Grafton, too. American Guest of Honor was cowboy author C.J. Box – who never took off  his cowboy hat .

 

signIt was a great time to meet up with old writer friends like Stephen Buehler, who’s short story is in the new collection Murder-a-Go-Go, novelist-sommelier Nadine Nettmann, now Arizona resident and ex-fellow blogger Kate Thornton, Travis Richardson, Craig Faustus Buck, award-winning Scottish Catriona McPherson, and award-winning Brit Rhys Bowen.

 

There were many readers and book-fans, as well as authors. And there was much talk about getting kids to read. Apparently, today around 65% of children leave school not being able to read properly. I was shocked, as my family devoured books almost as soon as we could totter over to the book shelves. In some homes today, they don’t even have books. So there were discussions about how to help and encourage today’s children to read.

 

Internet Friends WorldAnother thing that was pointed out was the lack of children’s and YA books written with boy heroes. Boys need heroes, too. There are plenty of books with princesses and other assorted girl heroines. Most writers have female protagonist and there is a decided lack of boy sleuths and boy role models in today’s books for children and young adults.

 

When I was a kid, we had Enid Blyton’s wonderful adventures of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven: boys and girls solving mysteries on their summer holidays, often at the seaside where there were caves in which to explore, or on a grandparent’s farm. Very wholesome adventures, where these boys and girls meet up each holiday and get caught up in another adventure. But it was girls and boys, with equal focus. Today’s writers seem to focus only on girls.

Okay, fellow writers, how about that? Anyone inspired to remedy this? There’s a whole untapped market out there that publishers and writers could fill.

Switch5

Another topic that came up during the children’s illiteracy discussions was how important it was to “get them while they’re young.” To guide and encourage children from a very early age to find their own individual path in life. To encourage children to think for themselves, to be curious about different subjects that will stand them in good stead as they grow older. How many of us writers knew from a very young age that this is what we wanted to do?  We just had to pursue other paths for ‘a real job’ to pay the bills – but we knew our ultimate goal, even if we wrote only in stolen hours.

 

Children need exposure to all sorts of different subjects in life – and not have their heads stuck in video games where they speak to no-one and lack person-to-person communication skills. Kids need to communicate with real people of all ages. This gives them confidence to deal with life’s challenges. And what better way to inspire this than through books they read.

 

Children need encouragement. People need encouragement. Some more than others.

I remember being taught to make my bed first thing in the morning. If you just do that each day, you have accomplished something. If you’re so down in the dumps that you think you have done nothing with your life, when you go to bed at night you see a freshly made bed – even if it’s not that neat. You did something that day. It is always the little, almost insignificant things that make the difference. Little things we can build on, little step by little step.

So, here I am surrounded by un-opened mail, half-unpacked luggage from my stolen literary weekend, tired from lack of sleep and jet-lag, with a mound of laundry waiting. I sleepily wonder what to do first? I promised so many new friends made at the Vancouver conference that I would contact them…. and yes, I would get new business cards made, finish my website… Most importantly, finish the second Lottie Topaz book. I have serious reports to write for the Woman’s Club with deadlines of today – for the sorry saga of saving this historic Hollywood landmark that is so close to great success.  I have to write the Writers In Residence Blog. I have a heap of bills to pay. I have nothing to eat in the fridge, so I need to go to Trader Joe’s. It is just getting too much. What was I thinking! I feel such a failure. Where do I start….?

I start by making my bed. There. I’ve accomplished something. Now I feel better. Now for a cup of tea….

 

………………………….

 

ON SISYPHUS AND DE-CLUTTERING.… By Rosemary Lord

Trash 2The start of the year always bring out the de-clutterer in people. Especially me.

Although I seem to manage a little clearing-out every weekend, that time between Christmas and the New Year is when I really look around and think “Why am I keeping this?” and “I’d have more room if I got rid of that …” I re-imagine my apartment with fresh new colors to paint and furniture to buy.

As I snatch a quick work-out on my Total Gym, counting repetitions of stomach-reducing exercises, I gaze at the bookshelves in front of me.  “Do I really need to keep all those books?” Hmmm. I pledge to remove those I am not desperately attached to. Someone else might really enjoy them as much as I have.

Total GymRowing back and forth with the pulleys in my pledge to become slim and svelte once more – well I was once, even if it was a long while ago – I turn to the side, to do side-stretches. Aha! What’s that pile of things under the dining table? Oh: more half-hidden things to de-clutter.

Of course, this is the current craze, thanks to a very young, slim Japanese girl called Marie Kondo and her very successful book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even the kids are following her – clearly parents’ admonishments to “tidy up your room,” fell on deaf ears. Today’s kids think Marie Kono invented that novel idea of tidying up your room.  And if you’re as young as she is, you don’t have a life-time of treasures in your home, or decades of travel souvenirs or years of career-related things. So the task is not nearly as daunting.

IdeasUs writers tend to keep things for inspiration. Shelves of books from our favorite authors, reference books on what it’s really like to hack your way through a jungle, jump out of an airplane and, of course, different ways to murder people. We have folders of song-lyrics, poems, homilies that might be our next book-title. We have copies of every book that our far-more prolific writer friends have produced. And books that we just love to read over and over.

How often have we started to clear a bookshelf, and lost ourselves in reading a passage in a favorite book, only to find the day has gone and we’re in the same spot, eagerly getting towards the end of the story. Even though we know what happens, we relive the journey the author’s taken us on with their carefully chosen words. Bliss!

But where did our allotted de-cluttering time go? Oh, and you can’t get rid of that book.

Ms. Kono says we should ask of every object in our home, “Does it bring me joy?” Well, yes – my books bring me joy. I think that goes for most writers.

Pushing RockAlas, this does little for my de-cluttering attempts. I feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the mountain, but on reaching the top, the weight of it pushes him down to the bottom so he has to start again. I keep starting again with my book culling.

I have better luck with my clothes. It’s easier getting rid of skirts or shirts I haven’t worn in ages and scarves and shoes that really are uncomfortable to wear, purses that no longer “bring me joy.”

A young girl I knew only kept things for six months then she’d replace them, including furniture. She had a very minimalist apartment. Besides, her parents were wealthy, so she just kept buying new things.

I even knew someone who de-cluttered her friends: She said that as her husband was signing a big new contract with a major studio, she would be ‘letting go’ of their less successful friends. That is those who didn’t live in the right area or drive the right cars – because their new, very wealthy, successful friends would judge her badly. She wanted to ensure being accepted into this new elite Hollywood circle. I guess keeping less successful friends might have reminded them where they came from – and it might be catching, like the measles or something. Of course Rick and I were part of that group to be ‘let go.’ We didn’t have flashy enough cars or live in the right zip-code. She told me the right zip-code was most important. We never heard from them again – not even a Christmas card! Of course, this was Hollywood! And they weren’t writers…

 

But back to the real world and de-cluttering. It can be a fun adventure. Long forgotten, old favorite things I come across as I open another drawer or cupboard, swiftly take me back to when and where I bought – or was given – items. That is where the writer in me thrives, as a new story starts wandering around my head.

It’s usually after a spell of decluttering that I sit back down at the typewriter – nay, computer – and get back to work, with that satisfied feeling knowing I have an empty shelf or drawer. I write away blissfully with renewed enthusiasm.

Too many booksIt seems to be true what they say: when you clear out old things, you freshen the atmosphere; your energy becomes unstuck, making room for more positive energy.

And space for more books.

Has anyone else got the de-cluttering bug? Or been de-cluttered by a supposed friend?

…………end……….

AFTER THE RAIN…. by Rosemary Lord

UmbrellaAfter the rain cometh the fair weather, quoth Aesop –  

        …… he of the many pearls of wisdom.

            I was thinking about this recently, having spent a lot of time in inclement climates. After years of growing up in rainy England, I made a new life in Los Angeles where it was claimed, “It never rains in Southern California….”  Hmmm.

            Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was with my family in England. I find myself working long hours, seven days a week in Hollywood, so my only break from this is to fly far, far away from it all.

            Of course it rained, and it was dark by 5 pm. But it was cozy, and the Christmas lights and busy shops and crowded London streets were cheerful. For a while. I’m just not used to being so cold anymore.

            Umbrella over SunMy siblings and I spent a few days in southern Greece, where the Mediterranean sunshine was very welcome. It was on the cool side, but the feel of even the winter sun on our faces was such a tonic.  However, later on, after the sun dipped down setting into the reddening sky over the Aegean Sea, the thunder rolled in and lightening crackled and cracked. The heavens opened up and rain lashed out, whipping across the beaches and coastal village throughout the night. It was spectacular to watch – and rather scary to listen to, as I lay in bed, unable to sleep because it was so loud. But it was dramatic and exciting.

            In the morning, a weaker November sun began the task of drying up the pavements and puddles. These spectacular night storms that vanished at dawn continued for several days.

            When we drove back to Athens for our return flight to Gatwick, we stopped en route for lunch in Ancient Corinth. The winter sun had warmed considerably as we sat on the terrace of a small taverna, enjoying a simple Greek salad and souvlaki, at the foot of the Temple of Apollo. Rain seemed a distant memory.

           Lady with Umbrella We arrived back in England in the dark. It was freezing cold. Thirty degrees. I had forgotten the misery of the bitingly cold, damp, weather of my early years.

            The rain and the cold continued when we took a day-trip down to Hastings in Sussex. With the drip, drip of rain somehow getting inside my collar, wet hair plastered to my head and the wind lashing around my icy, mauve-with-cold face, we braced ourselves for a walk along the pebbled beach where many Foyle’s War episodes had been filmed, then hurried into the warmth a local café for fish and chips and hot cuppa (cup of tea). Bliss.

            I don’t remember England being this cold – or wet. My energy seemed focused on trying to keep warm and dry. My family teased me about being ‘soft’ and spoiled by the artificial life in Hollywood, where Christmas day is usually sunny. It was the warmth of having my family around me that made it so special. We chatter continuously and laugh a lot. But I’m not sure I would want to get used to the endless gray skies and rain again.  

And so I came back home to sunny California.

            It certainly was warmer in Hollywood the first couple of days; the sky was blue with just a few wispy clouds. Hallelujah! Then it started. A pitter-patter on my windows. Oh no – not again! For the following three days, the rain bucketed down and skies remained dark.

            But then it stopped. The next day it was blue skies and sunshine and I got my smile back.

            I realized that it wasn’t just the rain and overcast skies that had been getting to me. It was that time of year. Many of us silently panic that the year is rolling to a close and we have not finished what we promised ourselves we would do. Uncompleted To Do lists, abandoned projects, all those holiday gifts and cards to buy and taxes to start thinking about. Writers have unfinished stories and articles to write. I certainly do. And what about that extra weight we were going to lose?  But what’s the point of dieting now, at the eleventh hour, with all the holiday parties and meals with friends and family almost upon us. What’s the point, with all the chocolate appearing everywhere we look? No point at all. (She says, savoring another favorite Quality Street chocolate: a purple wrapper this time.)

            So we resolve to switch to healthy salads and fruit plates in the New Year. This time I mean it! Except that the winter has only just started and salad weather seems a long way off. We’re about to have the shortest day of the year… January and February can be very cold, wet and gloomy. Lots of rain. Oh dear.

            But there’s another way to look at it. Especially if you’re a writer. Winter’s the best time to shut oneself away and write, with no distractions. You can’t really potter in the garden, should you have one. So you might as well stay inside and write. No matter how gray the sky is, how torrential the rain or how short the days are outside, we are inside, with an extra layer of sweaters on and perhaps a wooly scarf to keep the draughts out, and a clever little heater aimed at our feet, keeping us warm as toast.

And we write – and write. Typing away, as our imagination takes flight. It is the best time to do what makes us feel alive: the best time to write. We shut ourselves away in our own literary world. And with a little discipline and lots of cups of tea or mugs of coffee, we turn out yet another masterpiece with our name on.

Lady Typing 2

            Then one day, we realize that it’s not so cold. A scarf and a layer of sweaters get discarded, the heater gets turned down a notch. When we finally look out of the window again, there is the smattering of blue patches in the sky.  

            He was right. Aesop, that is. After the rain cometh the fair weather – with all the possibilities of the spring season, with summer to follow. And a tumult of new ideas and fresh approaches to our writing.

            Clever lad, Aesop also said that the level of our success is limited only by our imagination. That is something writers have in spades. Imagination. So what are you going to work on to get you through this winter? Where will your imagination take you?

…………………end………………………..