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WHAT HAS MOTHER DONE? A Mystery…

As a writer-editor, I am naturally interested in books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers and in those creative folks who write for these treasures of communication.

I met my good friend Barbara Petty, author of the new book What Has Mother Done? back in 2001.We were enthusiastic members of a women’s metaphysical group exploring ideas about the nature of life. The women were unique in their professions and backgrounds; one of them had written for the old Carol Burnett TV show.

Barbara Petty

Barbara Petty

I discovered that Barbara was a published writer of three psychological suspense books, and was an active member of a monthly mystery readers’ group, which she encouraged me to join. It was a new journey for me since I had read very few mysteries. During the ensuing years, I was privileged to hear details from Barbara’s creative mind as she developed a mystery series featuring her character, Thea Browne, a former investigative reporter who becomes an amateur sleuth.

What Has Mother Done? is the first book in the series and was recently published as an e-book by Amazon Encore (a publishing arm of Amazon.com). “I think my biggest inspiration was Sue Grafton and her alphabet series, starting with A is for Alibi. Those were my favorite kinds of books—where I could start out reading the first book in a series and follow the growth of the detective—especially if the protagonist was a woman,” Barbara said.

What Has Mother Done_B Petty Cover Final (2)

Circumstances, such as Barbara’s own mother growing older, gave her some of the initial ideas for this book. “I also remembered that the mother of a friend had Alzheimer’s. She told me her mother would sometimes become violent and attack her husband, which piqued my interest,” Barbara said. An episode of Law and Order gave her another idea. The pathologist in the show told the detectives a victim had not only fallen from a great height but had been pushed, because there were two chest-high marks on his body. “I put those two incidents together and came up with the situation in my book,” Barbara explained. “My protagonist’s mother, who has Alzheimer’s, is accused by the local police of shoving her husband off a cliff in an Alzheimer’s rage. My protagonist doesn’t believe her mother is capable of such an act, but does believe that her stepfather had made a lot of enemies in local politics, and she sets out to prove the police wrong.”

Writing and creativity run in the family. Barbara’s husband worked on super hero comics, Ironman and Batman, for instance. And she worked with him on scripts for animated TV shows, including Transformers and G.I. Joe. Barbara did her own scripts for My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms.

As exciting as it was for her working in the entertainment industry, fiction, especially a mystery series, is Barbara’s first love. Check out her new book at: http://alturi.com/s2o2u

 

TOURING LIBYA 40 YEARS LATER – 1999

Here’s more of Hazel Dobson’s delightful recounting of her British tour of Libya’s archaeological sites back in 1999. Hazel found me through the Internet when she was looking for information on the Tripoli of mid-20th century. Hazel’s father was in the British Army and the family lived in a villa on the Lungomare, the boulevard that ran along the edge of the harbor in those days. I lived close-by in Tripoli’s Garden City at the same time. I didn’t meet Hazel, at least I don’t think so, but she knew a cute British fellow, Chris Green, who was a special friend of mine. We were all young teenagers then.

The first “chapter” was on my blog this past Sunday. The tour group had stopped at the Hotel Waha in Ghadames. Hazel continues her story:

Ghadames was exactly as I remembered: a wonderful old underground town with small pockets of open air spaces and courtyards, one of them still contains the mulberry tree I remember from childhood. Ghadaffi   had decided to build a new development of flats, and the whole population was moved out into more modern accommodations, which was great for the residents as the underground town was in a bad state of repair and was being restored as a tourist attraction.   One of the restored houses was furnished with Berber-decorated rooms and access to the roof terraces where the females would sit in the evenings calling across to their friends. These roof terraces “belonged” to the women. According to tradition, once a female reached a certain age or became married that is where she remained, very seldom did she descend to ground level, a tradition still observed in many Muslim countries.

Decorated room in Ghadames

Having dinner in a decorated room in Ghadames

 

After our conducted tour around the old city with its old walls and the famous water clock, we drove out to the desert dunes to join a group of “Bedu” for mint tea, climbed the dunes and watched the sun go down. That evening we returned to the underground city and were served a traditional couscous accompanied by Libyan music in one of the decorated Berber rooms. We were shown and encouraged to dress up in typical Bedouin bridal attire, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. (a photo of Hazel in bridal attire was in Sunday’s blog.)

The evening ended with more songs. Going back to the hotel in the balmy desert night, it was incredible how bright the stars were against the ink black sky. In the UK, we are so overloaded with light pollution it is no longer the norm to see the Milky Way in the sky. I was sad to leave that lovely place with its palm trees and small oasis. The next day we were en route to Garian, a town in the hills of the Jebel Nefusa where we were to stay another night. We stopped at a small place called Jadu where once again, we experienced Libyan hospitality. Lunch was under the shade of trees and our hosts entertained us with dancing and singing Libyan love songs. It was an interlude of spontaneous laughter and pleasure, and true Libyan hospitality. We made a further stop at Tormisa to take in the views across the Jebel from a fortified clifftop village and then on into Garian.

 

View of the road through Jebel Nafusa

View of the road through Jebel Nafusa

 

Garian was an old Italian settlement with some beautiful architecture, all a bit run down but still with the trappings of past grandeur. Arriving just before dusk was probably not the best time as it would have been good to do a bit of exploring, however we discovered that there would be enough surprises in the hotel to keep us amused!

We arrived at about 5:30 p.m. at the Hotel RABTA. In the past, this had been a very reasonable hotel built during the Italian occupation. It could have been beautiful but probably not visited enough to ensure proper maintenance. Several interesting things occurred. First, one of the guests discovered the room cleaner in bed in his room, fast asleep. One of our group found a cleaner watching TV. In my own room I had a filthy bathroom and unmade beds. One quiet American professor finally blew his top when he discovered towels in his room full of holes, which obviously had been used. He ended up staying awake all night with the guest in the adjoining room, who had birds trapped in the air conditioning unit. Ala, our guide rushed around and had my room cleaned and inspected afterwards. It was fortunate that the Head of Tourism was staying there as well. Our Tour Manager, a very feisty lady, gave him a piece of her mind. He took it all in good humor for a Muslim male and, in spite of losing face he joined us and we all went off to see the troglodyte houses where some of the population still chooses to live. Dinner that evening was lamb, unfortunately we saw one beautifully washed and tied up when we arrived – I think that was our dinner!!

Watch for more of Hazel’s story in a couple of weeks on my blog – Words on My Mind.

 

A BRIT RETURNS TO LIBYA TO VISIT ANCIENT SITES

Recently, I corresponded with a delightful Englishwoman, Hazel Dobson, who lived in Tripoli about the same time I did, in the 1950s. She contacted me after reading some of my Tripoli stories on this blog, WORDS ON MY MIND. She enthusiastically shared with me her story of visiting Libya’s archaeological sites in 1999. I am taking parts of her story, along with some photos, to share with my readers over the next couple of months.

Hazel models Bedouin style bridal wear

Hazel models Bedouin style bridal wear

It was by sheer chance that I picked up a magazine from the British Museum and found out that they were running a trip to the archaeological sites in Libya at the end of April, 1999. Libya is very dear to me having spent my childhood there in the ‘50s, living in the white city of Tripoli beside the Mediterranean Sea. It had a huge impact on me and the yearning to return did not materialize until that date even after years of travel with my husband to many other exotic places.

Hazel’s travel decision was last minute but luck was with her and she got a quick visa from the Libyan Embassy in London after writing her reason for going: “I wished to return to the place where I had spent the happiest childhood and wished to visit to visit those magnificent ancient cities of Leptis and Sabratha and the little town of Ghadames south of the Jebel Nefuza.”

We flew to Tunis for an overnight stop, met up with our guides and then departed for the border of Libya. We travelled by minibus to Nalut, stopping en route at a roadside café for drinks and a Panini-style sandwich. Unfortunately, with the food came the flies, hundreds of them descended on us, and we had to beat a hasty retreat to the bus. Nalut is famous for its ancient Citadel and Granaries and I was pleased to see that the small Italian- built hotel was still functioning, as it had been a regular stopover for my family. In those days (1950s) it was very simple with tiled floors and woven bed covers, a cool courtyard interior and comfy chairs. Sadly, it was now very rundown and dirty, with a shag-pile carpet, a jukebox in the corner and a very unsavory looking counter for coffee. I was glad that we were not stopping for long. How much I wanted to take it over and return it to its original state and open it up for visitors as Nulut still has a certain charm about it.

The next day it was on to Ghadames where we were to stay the night. The Hotel Waha in Ghadames was in transition: from a heap of sand to a few standing walls and a sort of roof, but the entrance sign, the Libyan attempt to encourage tourism, was up just in case we missed it!

The Hotel Waha in Ghadames

The Hotel Waha in Ghadames

I was allotted a cell-like room with a partly tiled floor. There was a separate shower, lavatory and washbasin in a “future” bathroom area all furnished with very expensive Italian porcelain and taps. The room had a small bed with a very good brand-new mattress and a bedside light and table. The sheets were also brand new and considering there was no glass in the window and no lock on the door, I slept remarkably well, despite the mass of copulating stag beetles in the corner of the room!

At breakfast we enjoyed swapping stories about the previous night. An American, who was a nutritionist, complained that there was a man outside her window all night, so I quickly assured her that it was probably a guard with no other intention than to protect her –at least I hope that was right. If anyone were looking for luxury rather than adventure, they would have failed miserably. One of the most disturbing things for me: not a mirror in the whole place! How can you survive without a mirror! Especially after a 14-hour journey.

Our guide Ala was a delightful, well-educated Libyan who had spent some years in England and had an excellent command of the language as well as an ability to see the funny side of life. He and Yussef, an archaeologist, accompanied us throughout the trip. Our driver was very professional and managed to get us down to Ghadames without a hitch. We were also accompanied by one of Ghadaffi’s “men,” obviously one of the “plants” to make sure we kept to the beaten track. He was quite surly and we were warned that he could understand everything we said. By the end of the trip he had become quite approachable and less isolated. Ala and Yussef, however, were completely fed up with him as he snored all night. In the end he was told to sleep somewhere else!

There’s much more to Hazel’s story and I will continue in small portions over the next weeks.

 

 

 

MY CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS

In the 1990s I got to mingle with a few celebrities on a couple of magazines I helped co-create, write and edit. One of them, Westlife Magazine, featured Bob Hope for our initial cover. Alas, Hope was recovering from prostate surgery . The closest I got to him for an interview was visiting Ward Grant, his longtime publicist in his Burbank office, which was an obvious testament to Hope’s many movies with its framed giant blowups of movie stills going back to the 1930s.

In the mid 1990s, Beverly Hills Country Club, a posh tennis club, decided they needed a magazine featuring their members. My boss was an enterprising Iranian who spoke English but was not fluent in writing English. For our first cover, I interviewed Barbara Eden in her home along Mulholland Drive. Delightful and personable, she wore a cropped top and low riding pants, showing off her still fabulous figure and revealing the belly button that had been blocked out on “I Dream of Jeannie,” her famous TV series. Yes, the cover was “photo-shopped.” I wrote over 90% of the material in the magazine and enjoyed all of it.

World-Class Magazine cover of Barbara Eden

World-Class Magazine cover of Barbara Eden

Appropriately for a sports club magazine, I did stories on members, Rafer Johnson, the Olympics decathlon champion from the 1960s, and 1940s tennis champion Jack Kramer, who had remained active in the sports world promoting tennis and then golf. My first tennis racket was a Jack Kramer and I told him so. Both of these athletes were gentlemen and easy to chat with.

The 90s included a few years of writing a weekly column, People and Places, and local play reviews for the Daily News, a major newspaper that still exists. I must have seen and reviewed about 200 plays, performed by a range of talent of all ages. I was a positive reviewer; it was essentially community theater and equity waiver. I recall a production of “Mr. Roberts,” starring Harry Belafonte’s son-in-law. The still very attractive Belafonte was there and I was thrilled to shake his hand as he told me he loved community theater. Although I was sorely tempted (Remember those famous lines: “Day O, day O?”), I did not hum any calypso songs!

One of my weekly columns focused on Jake Lloyd, a seven-year-old starring in his first movie, “Jingle All the Way,” with Arnold Swarzenegger (before he became the California Governator). Jake was charming, easy to interview, and full of a little boy’s energy. On the huge sound stage at 20th Century Fox, he led me up to a sort of catwalk on the upper levels of the living room set, where I could have an overview and see where the cameras and lights were positioned. They were filming the last scene of the movie that day. As filming is erratic and scenes are not filmed in order, the last scene of filming would be the actual first scene of the movie. Jake went on to play Anakin Skywalker in a Star Wars movie, “The Phantom Menace.”

I left journalism when I had the opportunity to take time off and concentrate on writing my adventure/romance novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, which I self-published. My historical fiction novel and several shorter books are all available on Amazon. http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

REMEMBERING MY MAMA ON MOTHER’S DAY

My mama, as she would refer to herself in the Southern way, was a “pistol,” according to my dad, who called her “Pistol-packin’ mama;” the phrase is from an old country song. He was right: those were qualities an Army officer’s wife had to learn as she stood up for herself and her children (she raised three of us).

Garnette Motley Williams

Garnette Motley Williams

As the seventh of eight children, Mom had practiced being her own person early in life. When it’s Mother’s Day, I remember Mama and all the effort she put into making sure her kids had the best she could give. In retrospect, I can truly appreciate her creative efforts, which came right from her heart. It’s difficult to write this story without tears: Garnette Motley Williams died 41 years ago this month. She wasn’t quite 53. She didn’t go to college, but she knew a great deal about life and how to treat people with love and consideration. She let her heart dictate and then she went for it–whatever she chose to do– with enthusiasm and energy.

 

Mama on my Wedding Day--she made her dress.

Mama on my Wedding Day–she made her dress.

Besides being the best wife, mother, sister, cousin and friend she could be, her primary talent was sewing. She tried her hand and/or the Singer sewing machine at almost everything stitchable: slipcovers and drapes, specialized window coverings (swag and jabot, Empire style sheer curtains), men’s shirts and ties, children’s clothing and almost any fashionable garment for women. When I was younger I had a Madame Alexander doll, about six inches tall, and she made tiny outfits for it. Her creations for me assured that I’d be stylish despite my dad’s thrifty habits. She kept the old Singer  humming; it came along with us to various Army posts, including Tripoli, Libya. During my teenage years in the Middle East, we found material, probably in an Italian shop, and set up our version of an assembly line to sew clothes for the two of us. Mom and I wore the same size and would pick out a pattern that was suitable for both of us, although we’d use material of different colors and patterns. We didn’t want to look like twins! I would cut out the pattern and sew the darts, for instance, and Mom would put in the zippers and work on anything difficult. I still remember the cotton 1950s style scoop-neck sundresses: hers had a black background with a lively print; mine was red. Those were the years of puffy crinoline underskirts, which girls had to starch and keep clean to keep their outer skirts sticking out. Mom came up with the unusual idea to use soft plastic chicken wire as an underskirt. It kept its shape longer and was easy to keep clean. As I remember, I didn’t wear it often because it was a little too unique, and I was wary that someone might discover it.

In later years, when I was in college, she made me some elegant party clothes: a spaghetti-strap basic black satin dress with a little short-sleeved jacket with a scalloped bottom that I wore to a college dance, and a sexy, form-fitting black wool sheath with a boat neck and long sleeves I wore to several parties. There were many more creations, but the only garment I still have is my wedding gown. I got married in Germany in the ‘60s while my parents were stationed in Frankfurt. My mother found the ideal satin and lace material, and the perfect net for a veil, and it looked divine. It even had a small train. The gown is stored in a box, without all the fancy acid-free tissue of today. Even though I wonder what shape it’s in, it’s comforting to know I still have it. The only garment Mom didn’t make for my wedding was Dad’s suit. Interestingly enough, the wedding dress design is somewhat similar to the one worn a few years ago by Princess Catherine of the United Kingdom.
Years later, Mom made my cousin Penny’s wedding gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses as well. After all the work on Penny’s gown, Mom ironed it, but the iron was too hot and lifted off some of the material on the front of the dress. Mom agonized, but Penny’s sense of humor and practicality wouldn’t let my mother fret. “I’m glad it’s you who did it and not me! It doesn’t matter because my flowers will cover it,” Penny declared. After the ceremony and a few glasses of champagne, Penny cared even less: it was a funny sorry to tell all her guests. I didn’t always appreciate Mom’s talents. Regrettably, especially in college, I envied the girls whose parents gave them money to buy clothes in a department store. It was only later that I figured out that my mama’s talented fingers created original attire for me, and they were sewn with all the love she could give. She created clothes for me that could never be bought.

Oh, my Mama Mia, I miss you so!

TIME’S ILLUSION

I love working with words—those that come from my own ideas to create a bi-weekly blog and those I use to create the books I’ve written. I’ve dubbed myself a Word Wizard since I have been blessed with a talent to edit others’ words into various formats. What an enlightening education editing has been for me over the past 30 plus years.

Helping an author craft his/her book is very satisfying and my authors benefit from my enthusiasm. One of my latest favorite projects was the spiritual Time’s Illusion, Miracles, Dreams & Finding My True Reality by Carey Jones. His inspiring book was recently published in paperback by Pauli Publishing House (PPH), owned by Debra Pauli, a longtime editing client of mine.

Time's Illusion Cover

Carey says in his foreword, “As a young man I learned a law of time, which contradicted my day-to-day experience of it. The discovery led me on a search, a search that would take most, if not all, of my future adult life…these questions led to a transformation in my thinking: an awakening that changed how I look at the world.”

In one of the chapters, Carey says, “Native Americans stress the importance of our interconnectedness to everything around us. In the Himalayan mountain regions, in places like India, Nepal and Tibet, a deeper spiritual search for the meaning of existence has been happening for millennia. Buddha lived 2600 years ago! But in the West, we have purposely separated ourselves from a deeper understanding of existence…technology has insulated us and separated us from the greater reality.”

In a clear and understandable way, Carey writes about his quest for answers to metaphysical questions about the greater reality. Along the way he learned more about Einstein and his theory of relativity that explains time is elastic. Carey says, “Time is a paradox. Time can release as well as imprison. It is experienced differently by each and every one of us.”

He also explored the ideas in A Course in Miracles, which can be described as spiritual thought that teaches the way to love and peace. He points out that according to the ancient Chinese philosophical classic Tao Te Ching, “We are one with all things.”

Some of the chapter titles describe his themes aptly: Fear; Ego and Forgiveness; Living vs. Thinking; Guilt and Experience; Sickness and Health; Compression of Time; Truth, Mind Training & Revelation.

Time’s Illusion is Carey’s second book but far from his last. He began his writing career with Faraway Thunder, A Journey through Army Life & the Gulf War a few years ago. For more information about Carey Jones and his books, visit his website: www.careyjonesbooks.com.

Carey Jones visiting Germany

 

 

 

MYSTERIES OF CHAUVET CAVE

Since I am always fascinated by history, a few years ago I saw Werner Herzog’s documentary, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” about the Chauvet Cave in southern France. This remarkable cave is full of 30,000 year-old prehistoric drawings and bones of animals: lions, horses, rhinoceros, cave bears and wooly mammoths, among others. Protected by an ancient landslide, the cave was hidden until 1994 and is in pristine shape. Herzog was given special permission by the French minister of culture to film there. Ancient cave drawings in Southern France below:

Chauvet Horses

Chauvet Horses

Smithsonian Magazine had a long and informative article about the Chauvet Cave in April. The French, seeking to preserve the real Chauvet Cave, have built a duplicate three miles away, naming it the Caverne du Pont d’Arc (the name of a natural archway over the Ardeche River nearby). This new museum, which cost $62.5 million, was opened this April. It took 500 people about 10 years to create the new wonder. The French had learned a difficult lesson from the famous Lascaux Cave discovered in 1940 and opened to the public in 1948. From exposure to thousands of people, that wonderful cave with its amazing drawings was mostly destroyed by bacteria, algae and fungi.

Other than the incredibly beautiful and realistic drawings and the realization that humanity was capable of so much more than we’ve thought, I was intrigued by the observations voiced by Herzog and the French experts Herzog interviewed for his film. A French interviewee said ancient man felt differently about his/her world. As I interpreted, the mind was not of primary importance, emotion was. Mankind felt more connected to the world around him: to the animals, the earth and its features, birth and death. They were more naturally spiritual.

Herzog said that he and his crew, plus many of the scientists who studied the cave, sensed other presences when they visited the site. They felt as if they were being watched. I can easily imagine this cave is a sacred place of spirits.

Some of us are more spiritually aware than others. Perhaps some were born that way or have had experiences that have opened up their sensibilities. Perhaps certain cultures can make easier use of the third eye, as it is called in Hindu philosophy, which leads to the inner realms of higher consciousness. Millions of us have had inexplicable encounters, and I am always intrigued by them.

My friend Sally remembers an incident driving home to Los Angeles from San Diego late at night. She began to get very tired and sleepy. Instead of pulling over, she kept trying to keep herself alert. All of a sudden, she was frightened by a loud noise and flashing colorful lights. It jolted her wide awake. When she couldn’t figure out what had happened, she pulled over to check everything on her van. By the time she determined the van was fine, she was totally alert and got back in the car to finish the drive. She never forgot, and later concluded she had received spiritual help in keeping her safe.

My cousin Jackie’s husband Ray is a Vietnam vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has battled his demons over the years. For help in this world, he sees a psychiatrist every three months and takes pills for depression every day. Despite the negatives, Ray’s life has been blessed with some unusual spiritual positives.

Ever since Ray almost died from an overdose of pain pills and alcohol in the 1980s and had an encounter with a deceased friend from his Vietnam days, he’s felt and seen spirits in his peripheral vision. When he walked into a bathroom in his home not long ago, he heard large wings flapping and felt wind in his face, despite the fact that the windows were all closed and there was no air conditioning running. “I suddenly had a very warm feeling of love in my chest,” Ray told me.

Ray feels spirits of people beside him, but if he turns to look, they disappear. “I hear voices but I can’t understand what they are saying. I hear a woman calling me at times, but I don’t recognize the voice.” He’s grown used to these unusual experiences over the years and appreciates them for the comfort they bring.

As Shakespeare wrote and Hamlet said to his friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

PERIL OR PLEASURE — MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE

The following is an excerpt from my historical adventure/romance Melaynie’s Masquerade. To purchase as an Ebook or as a softcover, go to Amazon:

MelDrawing

http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

*****

Diego had seen Melaynie leave by herself that morning, her cheeks rosy, a distant but peaceful look in her eyes. He was pleased his young friend was taking some time to be by herself; she had worked as hard as the men in building the fort. His contented thoughts were jarred a short time later when he saw Jerome saunter out the stockade gate, a lascivious look upon his scarred face.

The merry little stream washed over Melaynie’s dappled sunlit body, caressing her erect nipples, flowing through her legs, cleansing the sounds from her ears. It was so soothing she failed to hear the snap of wood or the rough sigh.

Jerome stood on the stream bank, his good eye riveted by the sight of tiny breasts floating on the water, glistening in the flashes of sunshine. The curly blond pubic hair clearly hid no male genitalia. It was a surprise he would never have imagined. The boy had always seemed just a bit too feminine, but no matter. He’d just as soon stick his cock in one hole as another. It would provide excitement of a sort he hadn’t bargained for, and this time she didn’t have her knife on her. Perhaps he could frighten her into giving it up to him whenever he wanted, especially if he threatened to divulge her secret. His mouth hung open as if he were contemplating a meal to be devoured, as he quickly slid out of his breeches.

The sucking sounds of a foot in mud and the splash of a body entering water finally alerted Melaynie. She righted herself and let go of the branch, but it was too late. Jerome was in the water and reaching for her breasts.

“So, this is what ye’ve been hiding from me, Christopher,” Jerome sneered as he grabbed her, twisting her nipples. His breath was foul and his jagged teeth looked rotten.

She grimaced in outraged anger as she tried to hit him, but he laughed at her efforts. Although the water was not deep, the soft, slippery stream bottom kept her off balance. He pinned her arms as his wet open mouth clamped down on a nipple. She opened her mouth and lowered her head to bite at his thinning dirty hair, and when she had some in her mouth, pulled back as strongly as she could. Her feet found a solid place, and she drew her knee up and slammed it into him quickly. He stumbled backwards to protect his genitals, and the knee caught him on the chin.

“Ye want a fight, do ye?” he laughed derisively rubbing his hairy chin, his walleye askew while the other glared in lust. He had not lost his balance and lunged at her again, this time firmly catching her pubis with his long-fingered hand.

She shuddered with revulsion and twisted her body around and out of his grasp, throwing him off-balance. Neither of them heard the first ominous sounds of something heavy sliding into the water from the opposite bank.

HOW I WROTE MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE

Mel book cover #1
Writing a book is a fascinating process, a great deal of it unconscious. While you’re in the act of creation, you’re thinking about the story, planning how you’re going to do it, making notes, maybe using index cards for the various scenes. In my case, since I wrote an historical fiction novel, I needed to do lots of research into the 16th century, a process I enjoyed. The Internet wasn’t the effective tool it is today and I used libraries for most of my research.

When I needed to describe a 16th century ship or the variety of clothing worn then, I headed for the children’s section of bookstores (when there were lots of them) or libraries. Picture books were just the thing. I had to know how my heroine was going to accomplish her daring feat, how she would look, and what her family home looked like. The various Time-Life historical series were a great help; they always had lots of graphics. I’ve always been a history buff and had attended many a Renaissance Faire where I’d seen Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake in action, not to mention all the hired characters and faire-goers in costume.

It doesn’t take long before the story and its characters take control. You’re living with them in your head, so no wonder. Many authors verify that oddity. Behind-the-scenes, your subconscious and your own past mingles together in the ethers, at least that’s how I explain it. I did a lot of creating while I was swimming in a pool. Water was the best element to get my “flow” going, especially since I was devising a sea adventure.

I finished the book, after five years of creating, letting it lie dormant and then recreating. During one of my last readings/proofing of the book, I began to realize why many of my feelings had come forward, unconsciously, in the book. I had given my heroine a kindly, generous father and three brothers who spoiled her. She needed one brother’s help to fulfill her dream adventure of sailing with Francis Drake on one of his early voyages to the Caribbean.

My stepfather, the US Army officer who raised me, was a very thrifty taskmaster. He saved his charm mostly for others, his strong sense of discipline for the family. It was comforting for me to create an imaginary father, who spoiled my heroine! What fun it was to write about a heroine who, despite the ups and downs, succeeds in her adventure! In inventing Melaynie’s part of the story, I found actual history made it easy to manipulate and blend real facts with my imagination.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading an excellent biography about the clever and daring Francis Drake before I started on my project, and made sure his part of the story was accurate.

I’ve always been an adventurer, but certainly not as bold as my heroine, Melaynie. Of course, she has many of my traits—how could she not! Her feminist ideas and determination were mostly mine, but I wasn’t consciously creating them in the book. All these factors snuck up on me! Or did they?

 

SELLING A SCRIPT IN HOLLYWOOD

Before I wrote my novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, I wrote a movie script. My screenplay, simply called Drake, went through many incarnations. Eight rewrites that I can recall. It got so good I had several people in the business (not any recognizable names) compliment me on the writing. But I couldn’t take that to the bank.

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake

My friend and partner in the adventure to get a project on film was Dudley Hood, an Australian musician and writer. We had a wonderful time exploring all the possibilities—it even felt legitimate. For a time we went to monthly parties held at a fancy home in the exclusive hills of Brentwood to meet lots of aspiring actors, directors, etc. We were looked on as potential employers and were offered a buffet and drinks (all contributed by the hopefuls). A few days later I’d get a huge envelope of head shots in the mail. I held onto these photographs for a long time before I tossed them. The attendees didn’t know, but might have guessed, we had no money but plenty of hopes, no different from any of them.

We shopped our project, which we called Caribbean Kaleidoscope (historical tales of the Caribbean made for TV), created brochures—thanks to a very talented artist named Jon Wincek, had countless budgets put together by Fred Culbertson on a program called Movie Magic, if my memory serves me. Fred, luckily, had his own transportation business, Hollywood Studio Vehicles. We attended various industry events like the American Film Market in Santa Monica. Searching for funding can be lively and frustrating—Dudley traveled to the Virgin Islands and New York City—but there’s no guaranteed pot of gold or happy ending. As is frequently said: Life is the journey, not the goal.

The Film Market was fun, however. Located at a couple of well-known hotels on the beach, it was full of aspiring players in the independent film world from everywhere (8,000 or more attended). Hundreds of films, from the expensive to the low-low budget, are shown and shopped from all over the world during this week-long event. What a place for people watching! I saw Roger Corman, king of low budget movies, and various star impersonators, like Michael Jackson (while he was still alive) and John Travolta.

Francis Drake miniature

Francis Drake miniature

 

We met Stan Lazan, a friendly guy who had been a cinematographer for TV’s “Bonanza” years before. He was looking for work and was happy to offer his advice. He had lots of fascinating tales to tell of his years in the industry, not to mention some pointers on industry terminology. I hadn’t learned yet what P&A was, but it was the talk around the hotel bar. Prints and Advertising is a vital part of a movie budget: without prints of the film and advertising to sell the movie, nothing would move forward. I kept up with Stan and enjoyed his company for years afterward. He has since passed on. But “Bonanza” still plays on TV.

Dudley was very tireless and enterprising. He managed to get us a meeting with a CAA (Creative Artists Agency) agent at their posh headquarters in Beverly Hills. The agent and his younger associate listened to our project pitch (I think we were “selling” Drake at that point) and seemed interested but there were too many pieces of the puzzle missing to make any kind of commitments. The two of us, however, were ecstatic and felt like real wheeler-dealers! Ha! CAA has moved from its unique modern building in Beverly Hills, probably to something more spectacular. That was then and this is now!

Not long after CAA, we managed a meeting with the VP of IMax Pictures. Dudley played his guitar to show him we were planning music for our huge production. It’s hilarious and a little bittersweet to think of all the gallivanting and all the hopes. You’ve got to be starry-eyed and innocent to a great extent to make your dreams come true in Tinsel Town. To make it happen, you must never give up. To paraphrase a current ad, we may not have made any money but the experience was priceless.