A QUICK ESCAPE…

just-rosie-3 Where do you escape to when it all gets too much? When that sleep that you really, really need alludes you? For those stressed with over-work, with family or money worries or health problems – a respite is definitely needed.  Other than flying away from it all and off to an exotic desert island, what are we ordinary mortals supposed to do?  I have discovered my best escape is found between the pages of a book.

I guess I have always escaped into the magical world of stories. I have been reading all my life. My brother, Phil, reminded me that I started my own library – ‘The Leafy Way Public Library’ – in my bedroom as a small child. I had a little rubber stamp that imprinted the logo in my books. Phil remembers my issuing him with a library ticket that I date-stamped to take out books! My ‘library’ included the different Enid Blyton mystery series, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and the Mary Mouse tales. Phil was not interested in the more girlie books that I loved:  the Pamela Brown adventures about theatre life: The Swish of the Curtain, Blue Door Ventures and Golden Pavements – or Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes and the  Dancing Shoes series.  the-secret-seven

Even at that very young age I found an escape into these magical books. I even wrote my own first book, Make Believe Mondays, when I was ten – carefully handwritten, with an orange, pencil- illustrated cover. I wrote it for my brother Phil, I recall! The love of books clearly stayed with me throughout my growing up. I know I have written before about these books that colored my life.  Books have always been a wonderful escape for me.

But I think this is true for most of us writers. I know that with my fellow bloggers we often talk about the books that we lose ourselves in. Reading is truly a wonderful way of retreating from the woes that life sometimes presents. Even if it is a snatched fifteen minutes on a train or bus ride to work, or a quick read on a short coffee-break. What a relief to vanish from today’s world, for a glimpse into someone else’s fictional world.

the-shell-seekers  And in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning and sheep-counting – reach for a book. I do. I currently have a favorite Rhys Bowen novel about Molly Murphy in the turn-of-the-century New York mystery series. In a different mood, I will re-read Rosamund Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, a Maeve Binchy novel, a Marcia Willet story, one of Carol Drinkwater’s books set in the South of France, or Victoria Hislop’s The Island and her other Mediterranean-set novels. I just love anything set in the sunny Mediterranean. No rush-hour traffic jams, no screaming police sirens, angry crowds pushing and shoving. Just gentle walks though olive grows, planning delicious simple meals, folk watching the tides come in and go out again under breath-taking sunsets. What’s not to like?

heidi         Although my all-time favorite remains the childhood classic, Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, about the little girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss mountains. Some years ago I learned to refocus my mind while in the dentist’s dreaded chair – and would whisk myself off to that Swiss mountain side with Heidi and her goat-herd friend Peter.

As a writer, I love to think that someone else might lose themselves in a story that I have created. I write about another world I like to lose myself in: Lottie Topaz’s discovery of Hollywood in the 1920s. It’s quite exhilarating to inhabit this other reality.

As we lose ourselves in someone else’s stories, one forgets – for a while – the troubles and stresses that surround us.

So the next time that bedroom clock relentlessly blinks 3:30 am at you, and you find yourself start back at number one with your counting sheep, reach for a book instead – a gentle, charming story. Nothing too violent or thought-provoking. Just a beautiful, exotic island of words, with a gentle breeze blowing across the pages and the scent of tropical flowers to lull you into that other realm that will take you out of yourself for a while. Sleep then comes more easily when you leave reality behind. To sleep – perchance to dream – of inhabiting the world of your favorite books… written by your favorite authors….

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ROSEMARY LORD BIOGRAPHY

c19f5-hlwdtandnThe author of Best Selling non-fiction Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born ROSEMARY LORD has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. As an actress, her credits include Monty Python, Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Days of Our Lives, L.A. Heat and more. She did voice-work on Titanic, Star Trek, Shakespeare In Love, The Holiday and Pirates of the Caribbean amongst many others. A former journalist,  she is published in many magazines such as Woman’s Journal, Atlantic Review, Woman, Films & Filming, Jackie, Field newspapers and more in the UK, USA and Australia, where she wrote about Hollywood’s Golden Age, interviewing such luminaries as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston. She was a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures. Rosemary lectures on Hollywood history and is the Historian of the Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She is a member of MWA, Sisters-in-Crime, SAG, BAFTA and contributes to The Writers In Residence Blog.

 

Her first mystery novel Lottie Topaz and the Flicker Murders… is set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

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Rosemary’s Blog posted by…

 

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on my way to becoming organized …. by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgRosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

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What I was trying to do was organize my life. Organize my life better – as I had so much writing to do, as well as a life to live.  I had – still have – several books, short stories and some magazine articles I wanted to write. I actually managed to finish a couple of mystery novels and started another. I wrote a magazine article and revised and updated two of my published non fiction books, Hollywood Then & Now and Los Angeles Then & Now. But this was not enough. I decided I really must get properly organized, so that I can increase my literary output.

 But hey – this is me. Remember all my notes on little bits of paper? And my “…I know it was blue – and I was eating something when I last saw it..”?   What chance do I have?

chartThen someone told me about “Org. Charts”… Online Organizational Charts that are supposed to make your life easier. Some of the versions can be very expensive, I was told. I was excited. Perhaps this is the magical cure I had been seeking?

But when I went online and perused various Org Charts, I realized that – uh – this is kind of how I always map out my writing. I just didn’t have a name for it.

 I have a large notice board and cover it with post-its. Each post-it has a chapter number and a brief outline. On a different colored post-it, characters in that chapter are listed underneath. Another sticky note has specific plot details for that chapter. I add to this ‘organizational chart’ of sticky post-its as I finish each chapter.

Towards the end, I review the arc of the story and how I got to this point. Then I sometimes move the post-its around to an earlier or later chapter, as I realize what needs to be revealed at certain times. On a read-through of my first draft, I might decide to cut a whole scene or even a chapter. If it is sounding too busy, I may chose to cut a lesser character out.  So I go back to my board and remove the relevant sticky-note or two and put them at the very bottom of the board, so I can see what I have taken out. I might be able to use those pages elsewhere – or even in another book. I find this method very helpful.

 Now along the way I get many interruptions from my writing time.

A major interruption was when an elderly lady rang me a few years ago and, with a shaky voice, said “…they’ve taken our club, changed the locks – can you help us get it back?” So began my long journey into saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from a real-estate grab and  from being turned into a luxury condominium resort.

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Women’s Club of Hollywood;picture from their website

Founded in 1905, this club is where Mary Pickford attended events and handed-out award-cups for various flower shows. It is where Charlie Chaplin entertained and later on Gloria Swanson lectured on nutrition. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood legends attended fundraising luncheons. Big Bands used to play there. The property is on the site of the old Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joel McRae, (boys were allowed in kindergarten there) and daughters of the early film pioneers Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer and even David Selznick’s mom attended school. Oscar winning costume designer Edith Head was one of the teachers. Actor Charles Laughton came in to teach Shakespeare. The old 1903 school house still stands in the rear of the Spanish-style clubhouse. Property developers salivate at the thought of replacing this historic landmark with gleaming towers of condominiums and apartments.

But it’s not over yet. With huge legal fees accrued, there is a Federal judge and a Federal Trustee overseeing and scrutinizing how it is run. But at least we got the building back for the older ladies to do their charitable works and to save a piece of Hollywood history. Many younger women – and men – now enjoy the social hours and the philanthropic events at this historic club. And this is where I heard ‘The Org Chart’ again.  As a charitable, non-profit business I was told that an Org Chart is essential. Archive materials abound, historic documents, boxes of photos juxtaposed with legal documents, IRS papers and current documents.  So lately my head has been buried in setting up an Org Chart for the Woman’s Club, delegating committee work and assigning volunteers who offer to share the responsibility to keep this Hollywood legend flourishing. Those are the serious, grown-up Org Charts.

 But the Org charts of my own making, to do with my writing, are the real fun ones.  When I was revising and updating Hollywood Then & Now, my board was covered with thumbnail pictures of the various Hollywood landmarks I was writing about, as I attempted to weave the story of the origins of legendary places – and what they look like now.  Of course, throughout all of that writing, my desk, my floor and any other available surface was covered in sheets of paper and many hand-scribbled notes on scraps of envelopes and such. But I knew where everything was and could find the relevant note easily. I was organized. Honest!

 I think (I hope) there are other writers who  operate in this ‘organized chaos’ fashion.  I realize that I am perfectly, creatively organized when I am actually writing. I have to be – so much I write about has historical data and information in it. I can’t fudge that.

 It is my life that is not organized – and my time. Which is why I am often writing so late into the night… and I haven’t managed an Org Chart for that yet.

Any ideas?

 

INHABITING ANOTHER WORLD….by Rosemary Lord

9db14-rosemary2bat2bburbank2blibrary2bjpgRosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

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I was going to write about my many Bad Hair Days. But I realized that, by deciding that I could not write another word until my current strange hair color was sorted, this was just another form of Writers’ Avoidance Tactics – albeit colorful! That is a subject for a whole other Blog to come!

But it reminded me how important I felt the color of my character’s hair was. In my current novel series, my protagonist, Lottie Topaz, has copper-colored hair styled in the 1920s fashionable bob with ‘spit-curls’ on her forehead. ‘Spit-curls’ are so called because you spit on your fingers, then make a couple of curls from your bangs, securing them flat against your forehead with spittle. (Charming – I know!)

Lottie’s best friend, Flora, has jet-black hair in a sleek bob with straight bangs – or ‘fringe’ as we Brits call it. Very sophisticated.

This is why I love writing this series that is set back in the early Twentieth Century. It is such fun exploring the styles and fashions of that era. But not just that: recreating the life-style and sharing the whys and wherefores of a by-gone time. So that I and my readers are immersed in another world.

For instance, I find it fascinating to use a mystery setting where telephones were not readily available. Certainly no mobile-phones. How would they communicate, especially in an emergency?

Mysteries set in today’s world have so many solutions to use: computers, emails, Skype, texting. It appears much easier to explain clues and resolutions of the who-dunnits when you can show your characters following an email trail or intercepting a text message on a stolen cell-phone. Researching people’s backgrounds or tracking addresses or locations for present-day books is swiftly done on the computer.

So, why do I give myself this headache of working out how Lottie and her friends can find out about potential suspects or track locations where they may have traveled to? I guess that’s because one of my favorite things is research. I have Lottie and her friends do what I have always done: Of course, today I do use computer research. But I have always spent hours at the libraries, pouring over musty tomes, looking up old newspapers, checking magazines and advertisements. This gives me the color to weave into my stories, words and names that are not used today. I also glean ideas from those pages as to how to provide clues as well as challenges for my characters.

It is imperative that the details are authentic and that everything rings true. Even when I create situations with a little ‘poetic license’ – I always check it out so that it certainly could really have happened.  As a reader, I hate it when something jars because it is out of the realms of possibility – or just plain wrong! I find it difficult to continue reading after that. So I go to great lengths to ensure I have my facts right.

Then there is ‘the leg-work.’ Over the years I have been drawn to exploring wherever I go in the world. I stroll through streets, note book and pencil ready, checking out addresses and buildings, noting the conditions and architectural style of doorways, windows, even roofs that I can access. Up and down steps and stairways I wander. As I explore these old streets, buildings and gardens, I can really get a feel for what went before me. I get a sense of how people lived and worked.

Basements are especially fascinating. Because they are rarely cleared out thoroughly, I find old magazines, pages of newspapers, abandoned cases, luggage tags and labels on shelves and doors. They all tell a story.

I am very chatty. So in my wanderings I will always chat to people I come across: those guarding old buildings, neighbors in old houses, cleaners, workmen – just anybody I can. “How long have you been here?” I ask. “What was here before?” “How many generations of your family have been here” I ask lots of questions about the past. I am very nosey! But most people are eager to share whatever they know. They love to repeat stories they have heard or tell me about their grandparents, aunts and uncles. I find that almost everyone has a fascinating tale to tell. So I borrow and steal unashamedly from the past.

As I have previously confessed, I have an abundance of scraps of paper with these many notes on them.  Although I do occasionally get overwhelmed by the sheer volume I have accrued, mostly I absolutely love surveying them spread all over my desk and my floor as I piece together my stories.  Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, I work out what gem I can place where and string together a necklace of a mystery.

I have written contemporary stories. In many ways they are much easier, as I don’t encounter an ‘oops’ moment when my character switches on a light – at a time before  electricity was available.

Writing historical books and novels is considerably more time-consuming. But, for me, it is so much more fun.   I love to share what I have discovered about times gone by. I love the intricacies of weaving historical facts and people into my stories. I love using a vocabulary from earlier generations.

Although I am very grateful for modern plumbing, medical advances and internet access, I often feel that the world I write about was a kinder and gentler place – most of the time, anyway.

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