OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND….by Rosemary Lord

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Rosemary 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.

 

OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND….

… So begins Robert Browning’s poem Home Thoughts From Abroad. Browning extols the wonders of the English countryside and the changing seasons as Spring emerges.

But it’s not the green fields, buttercups and bluebells that I am missing so much lately – although the thought of those always brightens my heart – but I miss the British magazines that I used to read and, indeed, where I was first published as a writer.

When you’re in the midst of writing a novel and you’re stuck at page 218, knowing you have a hundred or more pages to fill, writing a 1,000-word article for a magazine is most appealing.

But then too, reading a magazine is appealing, when you don’t have the time or the attention-span to devour a lengthy novel. Problem is that today’s magazines seem so frivolous; filled with glaring advertisements and little or no content.

We writers start young as readers. Growing up in England, we had a wide assortment of children’s magazines and comics to choose from: Twinkle, Mandy, Judy and my favorite, Bunty. Then we progressed to Schoolfriend, Girl and eventually Jackie – the teen magazine. I suppose the names are a give-away, that these were for us girls.

beanoThe boys had more serious comics and magazines such as The Boy’s Own Paper, The Beano, The Dandy. I guess adding a “The” made them more weighty. But then what about Buster, Topper and Beezer? Not so serious-sounding now, eh boys? As they got older, the boys progressed to The Eagle, Valiant, Look and Learn and Tiger. The Eagle was my older brother Ted’s favorite.

The paper-boy would deliver these treasures every Tuesday. They were a main form of entertainment for children until recent years and stemmed from the 19th century “penny-dreadfuls,” that led to the publishing of serial mystery stories such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes exploits. The magazines introduced pirate tales and adventures of such legends as highwayman Dick Turpin and detective Sexton Blake.

Scottish publishing house D.C. Thompson Inc, started The Beano and The Dandy in the 1930s. The Beano is still published today.

The Dundee-based D.C. Thompson was my first publisher, when I wrote articles for My Weekly, People’s Friend and ended up having my own column in Jackie Magazine for several years – including my Letter From Hollywood column, once I moved Stateside. They were the nicest people to work for and My Weekly and People’s Friend are still going strong.

I also wrote a lot of pieces for IPC Magazines in London, for their teen magazines petticoatPetticoat, Mirabelle  and New Musical Express, as well as the women’s periodicals Woman and Woman’s Own. IPC (International Publishing Corporation) was founded in 1963, but its’ umbrella group goes back to the 1800s and covered the Suffragette Movement, two World Wars, the Swingin’ 60s and today’s revolutions. Taken over by Time Warner in 2001 and renamed Time Inc.UK in 2014, the groups periodicals include Horse and Hound, Woman’s Weekly, InStyle UK, TV Times, Woman, Country Life, Homes and Gardens and seemingly hundreds more.

But back to the children’s magazines that are so dear to me and others of a certain age. They included cartoon-style comic strip stories, but mostly were filled with how-to articles, history pieces and tales of adventure, romance and mystery – letting imaginations run wild. Yarns of super-heroes, dastardly villains, schoolboys-and-girls-to-the-rescue and hilarious school-days tales of characters like Billy Bunter, filled the boy’s comics. Often very “un-PC” – or un-Politically Correct: Billy Bunter was very overweight and always eating cakes and buns. Not to be outdone, his sister Bessie Bunter turned up in the girls’ magazines, preferring cake to croquet or hockey.

For us girls, there was page after page of  “The Secret Adventures of…” – plucky-heroine stories, romantic tales (often nurses falling for doctors), legends, fairy-tales and Cinderella-finds-her-Prince-Charming stories. There was no noticeable class divide, either. We could all dream of being a ballerina, champion jockey, Olympic medalist, a pilot, hospital-matron or doctor – or a princess. There was usually a moral theme to these, where the baddy gets his or her come-uppance and a good deed gets rewarded. Where honesty and loyalty were the benchmarks for everyone. No wonder our generation grew up to be such virtuous, practically-perfect goddesses!

The backdrop for the girls’ tales were often ballet schools, nursing, Boarding Schools, pony-clubs, gymkhanas, ice-skating – and school-holidays in Scotland or England’s West Country: Devon and Cornwall, home of pirates, smugglers, Agatha Christie and cream-teas.

So, as a writer, this was a great market to get started in and learn one’s trade. The money was pitiful – not that it’s much better today. But there were so many magazines that devoured articles and stories every week, that editors would give unknown writers a chance.

Often those short stories developed into books, like the Bunchy, Milly-Molly-Mandy, Marigold books, for readers who grew into Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfield or Nancy Drew fans. My Aunty Marjory gave me Gene Stratton-Porter’s book, A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles set in the Indiana wetlands. I read Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna, too. (Were they related?) No wonder I ended living in America.

But it wasn’t just the stories we read in those childhood comics and magazines – there were gifts, too, taped to the inside. Perhaps a slim, brightly-colored plastic bangle, a teeny pink lipstick, a plastic ring, a packet of flower seeds for the garden or an envelope of colored sparkly dust for art projects. And the last page of Bunty featured a cut-out doll’s cut-out wardrobe. Such value for money in every edition!

Bunty survived until 2001, Jackie Magazine lasted longer. The Beano lives on.

Today’s magazines for the young seem filled with advertisements and gossip about pop-icons like Justin Bieber.  Not quite the same. Where are the fanciful tales for kids today, taking them to other worlds, other planets, even, to get their imaginations stirring? Harry Potter was the exception, of course. But that was a book – not a comic magazine. Hmmm. Thank goodness we had Bunty, Twinkle, Schoolfriend and Judy….

Methinks I’ll stay with my tales of plucky heroines and lonely ballerinas, thank you very much.

 

A Monkey’s Tail… by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary 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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When it was suggested we bloggers write about our pets, I panicked.

My first reaction was “You must be joking. I am not allowed pets where I live. I am terrified of dogs (a childhood incident – don’t ask…) and I am allergic to cats…” Where does that leave me? Not wishing to be a spoilsport, I had a good, long think. So here goes:

I once had a monkey called Poggy. I was four years old and living with my family on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where my dad was stationed in the navy. I loved Poggy. Poggy was brown and white, with a long tail and red felt feet and paws. He was very cuddly.

But when we returned to live in England, Poggy stayed behind. In readiness for our big move back to England, Poggy was carefully washed, so he would be smart for the journey, and pegged on the washing line to dry. But somehow, with all the turmoil, soggy Poggy was left hanging on the washing-line in the back-garden, next to the well, amidst grapevines in the Mediterranean sunshine. I hope that the family that found Poggy, loved him as much as I did.

I’m quite good with turtles, though. Or was. My late husband, Rick, taught me to rescue turtles. In Kentucky, over the many years we spent visiting and taking care of his late-mother in the small town, south of Louisville, we frequently encountered turtles ambling across the narrow country lanes. Rick would stop the car and wait. If they didn’t get a move on – before cars or farm vehicles would come barreling down the road from the opposite direction – it became my job to get out of the car and carefully pick up the wandering turtle and place it on the far grass verge, out of harms way. They were often quite mad at me, spitting, wriggling or peeing as I lifted them to safety, before a speeding vehicle could  run them over. Road-kill abounded on those winding trails.

red eared sliderSo did Red-eared Sliders. So-called, because they have a narrow red stripe around their ears. The ‘slider’ bit comes from their ability to slide off rocks and such into the water quickly. Then there’s the common Snapping Turtle. I learned to grab them more towards the back of the shell, because they have longer necks and would, of course, snap at me. Hence the name. They can be vicious little what-nots, craning their necks, trying to reach my fingers and glaring at me as if to say, “Leave me alone, I was on my way to the pond up by the crossroads.”  Mind you, the Alligator Snapping Turtles can be huge, like some prehistoric creation. Their faces look a bit like E.T. on a bad day. My mother-in-law’s doctor had a collection of these in his garden. Some were as big as 75 lbs. Then, of course, there is the  Yellow-Bellied Slider: with a yellow under-belly and sometimes yellow stripes on its’ top shell. Not to be confused with the Eastern River Cooters, who have yellow stripes, too. Here endeth the turtle lesson. See. I used to know my turtles!

Rick was a goodfile00065284551 teacher. He loved all living creatures and had the most amazing knowledge, experience and affinity with them. Turtles and snakes were his favorite. We would go snake hunting, too. That’s when I usually stayed in the car. But sometimes I would have to handle the smaller ones. Or, if he found a large, wriggling snake and didn’t have a big sack to put it in, he would hold it gently out of the car-window with one hand, (careful not to injure the delicate vertebrae) while he drove – very slowly – back to the farm. He often promised (or threatened?) to take me to Death Valley in the summer, in search of the striped Rosy Boa!

Goodness, it’s all coming back to me. Maybe I should think about including some of this herpetological information in my writing. Not sure how ‘Lottie Topaz and the Red- Eared Slider’ would sound…

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?