Creative Writing

Creative writing–novels, screenplays, memoirs, editing, journalism, co-authoring, advertising, etc.

MYSTICAL SYNCHRONICITY

The Eye Searching for Truth by Heidi Giraud

I believe the creative process is mystical synchronicity and magical. I often wonder where ideas come from. Common advice for writers: Write about what you know. But you don’t always know what you know until you sit in front of a computer or a pad of paper. Or take a walk, go for a swim or perhaps even clean your home to stir up ideas and inspirations.

I’ve noticed when I’m in the process of editing books, or writing blog posts, I’m open to connections/coincidences/synchronicity, call it what you want. While I was editing the book, The Religion of Money—a light-hearted history of economics by Frederick (a pen name)—I experienced a momentary synchronicity as I was reading over the story of the De Medici family of Florence, Italy. Giovanni De Medici was mentioned in the book; not two seconds later my favorite classical music station announced the opera “Don Giovanni” was scheduled in L.A.

If I’m casually watching TV while browsing through a magazine or newspaper, the same kind of thing happens. I’ll read about a certain subject and have it verbalized in some manner on a TV show immediately after, or vice versa. My daughter Heidi and I keep in close touch by phone and Email. If I’m thinking about her, there’s a good chance the phone will ring. I know it’s her before I even check the number. From what I’ve heard from friends, that’s quite ordinary for many of us. When Heidi and I get together, we’ll often wear the same color top.

My mother passed on 43 years ago. That morning I was reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson (coincidentally an alum of my alma mater, William & Mary), and had just read about the death of Jefferson’s wife, Martha, Sally Hemings’ older half-sister. I was absorbing that sad historical news when my dad called to say my mother had died during a kidney dialysis treatment. I’ve always felt my reading gave me a sort of preview and helped me deal with my mother’s devastating death just a little better. Jefferson, my mother and I are all Virginia natives, ironically enough.

Books dealing with metaphysical subjects are a definite attraction for me, and I’m lucky to have edited several of them. High Holy Adventure by R. Alan Fuller is a true story about his mystical experiences with shamans, spirits and mediums, especially in the Andes. Euphoria Zone by Alan Lee Breslow weaves innovative healing techniques into his spiritual adventure. Pat Sendejas wrote Letting Go to Create a Magical Life, which discusses life’s synchronicities and invisible messages. Working with all three authors was enlightening and exciting.
Was my book, Melaynie’s Masquerade, predicted?
In the mid 1980s I had a psychic reading with a woman named Terry, who was supposed to be quite intuitive and knowledgeable in her field. I asked her if I were going to write a book, figuring it might be an emotional story about my divorce, which had recently happened. Terry said her spiritual “guides” had told her I would write something about voyages. She didn’t know what that meant, she told me; perhaps it had to do with my “voyage” through life.

I forgot about the reading until the late 90s when I was finishing up my novel. It was, indeed, about a voyage. My fictional heroine, Melaynie, masquerades as a captain’s boy, and sails with English hero Francis Drake to the Caribbean!

And then there’s Karen, my intuitively psychic friend with lots of talents. She’s predicted some incredible things for me, some I’ve lived or am living through. Where does the information come from? That’s another long story.

To check out my books on Amazon, follow the link  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

EDITING BOOKS — MY PASSION

Edited books of recent years

Edited books of recent years

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide; it was a way of explaining my passion for editing to new, usually first-time, authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.

Before I started editing books, I spent years editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. As a high school freshman, I became serious about writing and I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting for William and Mary’s Flat Hat newspaper and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, easily understood truthful writing to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important facts are given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

I’ve edited over 100 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man experiencing the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man by Debra Pauli (dating tips for the single woman), Beyond Time by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell from African Skies by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like), and eight books so far for Tim Gurung (a Nepalese native who lives in Hong Kong), which includes Dignity and A Nation of Refugees (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees). I’m currently editing a biography about character actor Strother Martin by Madelyn Roberts and another book by Tim Gurung.

If you need an editor or co-writer, check out my website: www.victoria4edit.com.

 

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

WRITING 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.

ANGELS IN UNIFORM – A True Story

The Christmas season always reminds me of angels, however they appear to us. Angels do exist! Besides, I’ve had too many friends tell me their own stories. I’m offering a short preview of my book; for the entire story, this short book is available on Amazon.

When Samantha arrived in Los Angeles, she got an immediate job as a feature film extra. Although she sometimes tired of standing around waiting for filming to begin or end, she found the business fascinating and took the time to ask questions and get to know the players both in front of and behind the camera. Her striking looks, with her added knowledge and flair for the right clothes that attracted attention while emphasizing her curvaceous figure, encouraged many a director or producer to talk with her. On a hot and crowded set one day while filming a crowd scene in a busy parking lot, Peter sauntered up to her during the lunch break.

Angels inUniform#1

Six-feet tall with a tanned, muscular body, a Germanic face and thinning blond hair going gray, his studied informal air and casual but expensive clothes gave him away as a producer. Sam perceived all this in an instant; to protect herself she had always been observant and perceptive. He stood in front of her, removing his sunglasses to reveal startlingly azure blue eyes. He gazed frankly into her eyes, assessing her looks and manner with no apology; he had been in this business too long to waste time on courtesies. Her height, in small heels, was equal to his; her forward gaze did not flinch or look away modestly. She took a few lazy moments to give him a slight smile, her nose flaring as she smelled his expensive cologne. She was at ease and ready for any banter he might direct her way.

“Miss?” he opened casually.

“Hunter. Samantha Hunter.”

“I’m Peter Hood, the producer for this epic.” He laughed.

She gave him a cool smile. “I know.”

“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new at this game?”

“Fairly.”

“I imagine you get impatient on days like this, when it’s hot and crowded.”

“Actually, no. I thoroughly enjoy this business, even though I am at the bottom…for now.” She could tell her reactions were intriguing him. He was probably so used to the star-struck, over-impressed, naive routine. The chase, she thought to herself, how they love the chase.

“Would you care to learn more about the business?” He paused for emphasis, testing her self-contained manner. “From a producer’s point of view?”

“What did you have in mind?” She could just imagine, but she gave no hint of sexual interest, it was too early in the game.

“Dinner this evening… perhaps by the ocean.”

She deliberately took her time answering as she slowly smiled at him, her dark eyes were pools of mystery. “Yes…I’d be honored,” she answered with just a hint of sarcasm.

He laughed, genuinely delighted at her comment, and knew he might not be the master of this game. Here was a dark-skinned woman who looked like she would lead him around if he were not careful, a challenge to an attractive, powerful man used to getting his own way. He was heartily tired of having women gush and succumb over him so easily because of his money and position.

They had dinner in Malibu, sitting by the expanse of window at one of the trendier, wood and glass dining palaces perched along the coast. Each crash of the incoming waves seemed to meld these two passionate natures together. Sam was sassy and direct enough for him; Peter was more mellow, but opinionated and strong enough to fight for control. Sexually, the chemistry blazed, and they lit the fire that first night.

He took her to his home, and she’d been with him ever since—until she left this morning, before the sun was even up. Thinking of how their romance began, Sam’s tears began to flow again. They became sobs that racked her body, so powerful they sent pains through her chest and back. She nearly lost control of the car, and was forced to drive more slowly.

As she gained control of herself and the car, she began to analyze. Why couldn’t he accept her as she was, slightly damaged? He knew she had inner strength, had survived much for her young years. Hadn’t she told him some of her darkest secrets? Maybe she should never have opened up to him; he wasn’t the father figure she never had. Was that what she expected? When would she stop looking for the strong, caring male? They did not exist. This thought brought tears again, but she willed them away.

She needed some music and grabbed for a CD in a holder on the console. She put one in without even looking. As she started to listen she recognized Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. How appropriate, she thought ruefully—star-crossed lovers, only happy in death. What a beautifully sad piece of music, certainly in keeping with her mood. Why didn’t she drive off the highway now, and end it in a flash? But what if it didn’t work, and she became more maimed that she was already? She wanted something certain, at least in death. Available in Ebook format on Amazon. http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

MASKING PAIN WITH PINK GLASSES

Pink Glasses#2dup

Mental illness affects many of us in one way or another. I have a cousin who has suffered from bipolar disorder since he as a teenager, and a good friend whose son has been tortured with various mental afflictions for many years. Like so many challenges in life, the sufferer is usually not alone but  affects those around him/her. Since Veteran’s Day is coming up, I can’t help but remember those I know who endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The excerpt below comes from a book I wrote, which is on sale on Amazon. It’s a true story and revolves around Porsches.

Pink Glasses

Betty excused herself from the table of her divorced girlfriends in the chic Los Angeles bar/restaurant and slowly pushed her way toward the bathrooms, about ten excuse-me’s away. When she hadn’t returned twenty minutes later, the others began to look around.

“I see her,” Joyce said. “She’s deep in conversation with some fellow in pink sunglasses. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, except for Halloween!”

Celia and Liz strained to see where Joyce was staring.

“He’s very attractive, and looks interesting,” Liz offered.

“She’s bringing him over, girls,” Celia said excitedly, looking forward to some male interaction.

They watched as Betty and the tall lean man in the pink-frames with darkened pink lenses pushed their way through the tightly meshed crowd toward the table of women. Wavy dark hair was cut close around the man’s small head; it resembled a military cut and was much shorter than the current style. As he got closer they could see his dark brown, somewhat unruly eyebrows sat over kind brown eyes. At ease with himself, he was smiling as if he’d known all of them as friends for a long time. They noted he was handsome and dressed casually in a navy blue-plaid shirt and tan pants. He wore loafers without socks.

A chair at the next table was empty, and Celia pulled it over. “We’ve got a chair for you,” she said as she looked up at him hopefully, waiting for an introduction.

“This is Will,” Betty said and then introduced each of the friends.

The empty chair was between Celia and Joyce, and Will sat there leaning into the table as if eagerly waiting to hear whatever the women had to share with him. The friends looked at each other with surprise, they were taken aback by his open friendly manner. Nearly all of the men they had encountered here hid their feelings and kept their thoughts to themselves.

Most men would be a bit put off and act mysterious confronted by four intelligent women, Joyce thought to herself as she scrutinized their guest. She wasn’t currently involved with a man; maybe she’d explore this one.

“You girls come here often?” Will asked.

“Once in a while,” Joyce offered and added, “I haven’t seen you here before.”

“How do you know if you don’t come often?” Will answered, smiling. The others laughed, a bit self-consciously, caught in their attempt to be cool.

“Will told me he was a Navy pilot, girls. Remember Top Gun?” Betty asked.

“A Navy guy who favors pink sunglasses!” Celia remarked, a bit too pointedly. She looked slightly embarrassed after her remark and made a note to herself to stop treating all men as if they were Malcolm, her live-in for so many years.

Liz, the tender-hearted, interjected, “Men need a little softness in their lives. What’s wrong with pink? It used to be the rage in the ‘50s, with charcoal gray.”

“And, of course, we all remember the 50s!” Betty couldn’t resist and laughed at her willingness to reveal her true age.

Joyce, who had recovered from her earlier faux pas, asked, “So what do you do?”

“You women,” Will answered, laughing lightly, “you don’t waste any time. Or is it just this place? Everyone wants to know how much money you make. Or what sign you are.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Joyce said petulantly as she ran her hand through her shoulder-length blond hair.

“Girls, girls,” Betty interrupted. “Give him some breathing room. Will, are you sure you can handle all of us?”

“I’m between jobs,” Will said quickly. He leaned back in his chair looking softly from behind the pink lenses; a small smile played upon his attractive, yet childlike and vulnerable face.

To find out what happens, check out: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

CREATING A SCREENPLAY

I have probably seen thousands of movies in my life; it’s a passion of mine. And I’ve always liked historical stories. I must have learned something from all that watching and absorbing. I knew it would be challenging, but I was up to writing a script, I thought.

Before I sat down to write my screenplay on 16th century English sea captain, Sir Francis Drake, I needed to do some historical research. And how the heck would I write a screenplay? In the 1990s I’d never seen a script before or even been curious about how to create one.

Relying on CARIBBEAN, the book that had excited me to begin with, I was disappointed to discover that James Michener’s sagas weren’t entirely accurate: all those huge tomes about Hawaii, the Middle East, Alaska, Texas, Colorado, etc. Since he didn’t call them histories, he felt free to fictionalize. It made for a simpler story since real life is never tidy, although reel life is! James Michener didn’t even work as hard as I had presumed: he had his own research team.

Michener’s story about Drake was so tidy he created a neat rivalry between Drake, the English privateer, and a Spanish official of some high rank. In the 16th century, Spain was the ruler of the Old World and the New World: my story of Drake’s saga took place some years before England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. The Michener story was entertaining and neatly handled even though the Spanish enemy didn’t exist (he was a conglomerate of many Spanish ship captains, officials, etc.). Drake made lots of Spanish enemies before he was through robbing their gold, jewels, and various battleships.

After I’d been lent a few sample screenplays, and a book about creating them, I was soon happily engaged in writing–lots of instructions about NIGHT, DAY, FADE IN, FADE OUT and what sort of emotion was on whose face, not to mention setting the scene. Aiming for a standard page count (at least then) of 120 pages, I was confident and joyful.

My creative partner, Dudley Hood, and I had met more than a few people industriously working or aspiring to work in the entertainment industry. It was relatively easy to interest people in helping to create a potential movie, TV program, etc. In LA, many of us live on dreams of stardom and success, and there are always a few who do realize their dreams, even in spectacular fashion.

I can no longer remember if Jan, our associate, was involved with costumes, set dressing or what, but she had been in the film industry for a few years and was making a living at it. She was an encouraging, enthusiastic kind of person as well as intelligent. Our project must have sounded feasible.

I could hardly wait for her to take a look at my creative efforts. I’d put a lot of work into my script and I was brimming with pride.

When we met after she’d read it, I eagerly awaited her verdict. I was sure I had a good beginning and I even liked my dialog.

“Where’s the conflict?” she asked me gently. “Every film has a conflict.”

“It’s got plenty of conflict,” I replied, defensively. “Drake’s always fighting this battle or that one.”

“It’s a dramatic technique to keep the audience interested. The work has to focus on a primary conflict of some kind as it builds to a climax and the conflict is resolved, one way or another,” she told me gently. “You also don’t want to lose your viewer in all sorts of unnecessary details.”

My screenplay was just history with a few flourishes.  Maybe Michener was more right than I gave him credit for.

Back to the drawing board, I thought ruefully. It wasn’t so simple after all. In the next couple of years, I rewrote my screenplay eight times. I even received encouraging reviews!

BACK TO THE BEGINNING–WRITING

Since I continue to have a problem with uploading images to my blog, I will stick to writing for the time being. Hopefully, I’ll figure it out with some help and be back in fully working mode this week. In the meantime, I’m creating a trip down Memory Lane:

My writing career has been an adventurous one: lots of fun, great experiences and for years very little money. As I tell my editing clients—you must create through love, not desire for money. Like most creative endeavors, writing is rewarding to the heart and soul but it takes time for compensation to reach your wallet, much less the bank. Sometimes it never does.

Reporting stories began with the Barracan, the Wheelus High School newspaper at Wheelus Air Force Base, adjacent to Tripoli, Libya. I was 14, it was the 50s and our high school had less than 100 students. Except for the views of palm trees, the nearby Mediterranean Sea, and Libyans in native costumes (women wore barracans—all-encompassing white wool garments that covered them head to toe, exposing only one eye and their feet), Wheelus was filled with typical American teenagers. Jeans, loafers, saddle shoes, and crinolines to poof out our circle skirts were the usual attire. We had proms, one radio station that played rock ‘n roll (perhaps a bit later than American Bandstand—unless you were new to Wheelus, you probably didn’t even know the program existed), and a teenage club that had its own student band, Stardust.

I recall only one story I wrote—the Junior-Senior prom with Ebb Tide as the theme—held at the Tripoli Beach Club. Ginny Stewart had a coketail party first at her family’s nearby villa. The entertainment as I remember it: a fully dressed Libyan woman in a very modest wrap-around indoor garment (not the confining outdoor barracan) doing a belly dance to a rhythmic drum. She pushed some of the shawl-like elements of her dress down to accentuate her hips.

In college—William and Mary in Virginia—I wrote for the Flat Hat college paper. Lots of stories I no longer remember, but I was pleasantly surprised at one class reunion when a displayed scrapbook had three of my stories!

When my kids were in grammar school and didn’t need my full attention, I wrote my first column: Hillrise Highlights, which covered local events and turned into a political campaign to get a nearby highway bridge widened in Agoura, CA. I even participated in gathering signatures to get the County of Los Angeles or the State interested in funding the construction.

I graduated to covering news for the Acorn, a weekly newspaper for a rapidly growing suburb of LA, in the Conejo Valley, on the border of Ventura County. By the early 80s I was the editor, responsible for a little bit of everything—writing and editing, headlines, photos, attendance at chamber of commerce meetings and mixers. City incorporation attempts, wildfires, water quality, and commercial/residential growth were some of the pressing issues in those days. There were also the unusual stories: my trip in a hot air balloon in a fur coat and attending a nightclub show of sexy male strippers, an early Chippendales-type show.

In the 90s I got to mingle with a few celebrities on a couple of magazines I helped co-create, write and edit. One of them featured Bob Hope for our initial cover. Alas, Hope was recovering from prostate surgery and the closest I got to him for an interview was visiting his manager’s office in Burbank, a testament to Hope’s many movies with its giant blowups of movie stills going back to the 1930s.

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 blocked out on “I Dream of Jeannie,” her famous TV series. Yes, the cover was “photo-shopped.”

Appropriately for a sports club magazine, I did stories on members, Rafer Johnson, the Olympics decathlon champion from the 60s, 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. Belafonte was there and I was thrilled to shake his hand as he told me he loved community theater. No, 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 Governator). Jake was charming; on the sound stage of 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, 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.”

WEIRD DATES — LA STYLE

Most writers love what they do, it’s the marketing that can be a drag.  But since I write a bi-weekly blog, I can publicize the books and stories I’ve written once in a while–they’re all available on Amazon. All of them are based on my life, even though I’ve changed the character names for the most part. Being single can be daunting when you’re looking for good men.   It’s such a popular topic that the Los Angeles Times is publishing a true story every week in their special Saturday section.

Below are two excerpts from my dating adventures chronicled in a Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

For more details, check out–    http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noticed a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button