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Monday, December 8, 2014

NATURE? NURTURE?




     DNA? Musicians, composers, lyricists, painters, sculptors, and writers. Artists whose efforts bring pleasure to devotees born hundreds of years after their work was first presented. Often their skills and talents are passed from one generation to the next—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, siblings and if traceable perhaps a great-grandfather or a rumored cousin three times removed.
     Johann Sebastian Bach’s ancestors all worked as professional musicians—church organists, court musicians and composers. His dad was a town musician in Eisenach, Germany. Johann lost his parents at the age of ten and was brought up by his older brother Johann Christoph—the town organist.  John Sebastian wrote music for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestras, and choirs. His second son, Carl Phillip Emanuel was held in high regard by his fellow musicians—he composed in the then fashionable Rococo style as did his brothers W.F. Bach, J.C. Bach, and Friedemann Bach.
     A self-taught musician, Johann Strauss the Elder, wrote waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and galops. Johann the younger wrote more than 500 pieces with 150 of them waltzes. His waltz titled The Blue Danube established Strauss as “The Waltz King.”
     Oscar Hammerstein I immigrated to America in 1864 and built opera houses that drew a wide audience to listen to some of the finest singers in the world. Times Square became the “in place” because of him. His sons Willy and Arthur presented stars like Al Jolson and Houdini and Willy gifted America with his son Oscar Hammerstein II who wrote lyrics with Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers during the “Golden Age of the American Musical.”. Rodgers begat Mary Rodgers who wrote the music for “Once Upon a Mattress,” and the novel and screenplay for “Freaky Friday,” and Mary begat the Tony award wining Adam Guettel who wrote the music and lyrics for “Floyd Collins” and “The Light in the Piazza.” The sons of Oscar Hammerstein II—William and James—were directors and he nurtured the talent of Stephen Sondheim.
     Actors? Robert Alda gave us Alan Alda, Judy Garland presented the world with Liza Minnelli, Goldie Hawn had Kate Hudson and, America’s Royal Family, the Barrymores, are still going strong with Drew.
    Artists? The Wyeth family is blessed with talent—N.C. Wyeth is the venerable father of three generations of Wyeth-Hurd artists and renowned for his illustrations in grand adventure stories, and classics for children such as Scribner’s Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. His youngest son Andrew Newell Wyeth is recognized as America’s foremost realist artist. His first daughter Henriette became a fine portraitist and his second Carolyn is known for her introspective work in modern-day painting. Grandson James Wyeth found recognition at an early age with his portraits of people and the animals he painted in his rustic setting.
     And taking pen to paper or fingers to keyboard we have the Brontes—Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Anne’s Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. The Waugh family, beginning with Arthur who won the Newgate prize for poetry in 1888, continued with sons Alec who wrote Island in the Sun and Evelyn with Brideshead Revisited and continues with the latest generation, Auberon and Alexander. There’s H.G. Wells and his son Anthony West, Hilma Wolitzer and her daughter Meg, Alexandre Dumas, pere, and fils, and Mary Higgins Clark whose works have sold over 100 million copies and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark who has been nominated for the Anthony and Agatha Awards. High on any list are Stephen King and his wife Tabitha King and their sons Joe Hill and Owen King—writers who keep us up all night.
     Are they any artistic ancestors in your family? How about your children? Do they need, want, love to write?          
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Monday, November 10, 2014

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN



     Seventeenth and eighteenth century musicians faced a slow economy and many chose not to publish their compositions with the traditional publishers of their time. Some publishers paid for neither paper, ink nor the hours the composer spent producing a piece of music that often lived on after they were gone—passed down from generation to generation.
     Numerous musicians chose to self-publish their music to promote their work as composers. They retained ownership of the metal plates and were able to print further impressions whenever extra copies were needed. Many of the composers are known to us today and include George Philipp Telemaan, Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
     Today we—as writers—have e-books and print-on-demand and many authors have chosen to self-publish just as writers and composers did in earlier centuries. Eighteenth century authors often faced problems when they offered their writings for publication. The majority of booksellers chose recognized authors rather than take a chance on an unknown writer and risk their currency and reputation. Without a patron or sponsorship from an established author and rejection of an unknown’s work a constant, a number of authors chose to self publish.
     In 1901, The Tales of Peter Rabbit received a few rejections, and Beatrix Potter self-published. The firm of Frederick Warne & Co. who at first rejected the stories soon picked up the book and turned it over to the youngest brother—Norman. The company published 22 additional books during the next 40 years and in 1906 Beatrix and Norman became engaged. Tragically Norman passed away before the wedding.
     Marcel Proust paid to have his masterpiece published 101 years ago. Swann’s Way remains a literary classic.
     Written and self-published by Irma S. Rombauer in 1931, The Joy of Cooking has sold well over 18 million copies. The jacket was designed by her daughter Marion. Later versions, edited by her family, can be found in kitchens all over the world today.
     Non-democratic nations have often banned publication of books written by prominent writers who opposed a regime’s ideology. Fans often manually reprinted a copy that would be considered illegal—another form of self-publishing and a way for a book to reach the reader.
     How many of you have or intend to self-publish and how many have chosen traditional publishing?
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WORLD ENOUGH AND CRIME


Art courtesy of David Teniers the Younger 1610-1690
 
   So many crime novels, so many good authors, so little time. Do you cross borders for books? Travel around the world via the printed page or app to sample a recommended author? How many authors of crime, suspense, noir, cozy and detective fiction that you read come from a nation other than your own?
     As an American, I read Nancy Drew during childhood, later learned about the Navajo Tribal Police with Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, studied the alphabet with Sue Grafton, and the law with John Grisham. I read every book written by Dennis Lehane and Elizabeth George. Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent had me on the edge of my seat and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is said to have enthralled the mob as well as his readers. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains a must for any author while Walter Mosley’s writing entertained a president as well as many of us who borrowed the book from the library and...for a book I return to whenever I need to escape I choose Jack Finney’s Time and Again.  
     I admit to being hooked by British detectives. I’d go anywhere with Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and cannot put down the Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries by Reginald Hill. Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca—I’m sure—for the romantic teen-ager that was once me—there’s still a bit of the romantic hanging around my book shelves and P.D. James with her Commander Adam Dalgliesh is on my top shelf. I join every lover of mysteries by begging and borrowing every Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Miss Marples and Hercule Poirots penned by Dame Agatha Christie. Then there’s J.J. Marric a.k.a. John Creasey who wrote about Commander George Gideon. 
     Canada is home to Louise Penny and her Inspector Armand Gamache—her newest came out this month. Israel has Batya Gur with Detective Michael Ohayon. The Welsh gifted us with Ian Rankin and the fun loving Alexander McCall Smith. The French are known for George Simenon’s Inspector Maigret. Italy for Umberto Eco and The Name of the Rose and Russia Feodor Dostoyevsky’s works live on—think of Crime and Punishment. Swedish crime novels are in today—what American can resist Steig Larson’s heroine? Then there is the Wallender series by Henning Mankell with his unshaven, melancholy hero.
     What country do you reside in, where do the characters you write about live and which “crime” authors have you read that are from other nations?

Bests,
Elise

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Monday, July 28, 2014

CLIP...CLOP...TEN-FOOT COPS



Photo Courtesy Dreamstime_s_24409748

     Police officers sitting on glossy mounts are a nation’s friendly ambassadors—dubbed 10-foot cops because together they can be spotted even in a crowded area. The team draws children of all ages—one partner is often patted on the nose—and they are amongst the most popular couples ever to be photographed by a camera. The mounted police help with traffic, manage crowd control, rein in lawbreakers and encourage busy citizens of and visitors to a city to pause, admire, and smile.
     London’s Bow Street Horse Patrol became the first mounted police force in 1760 and employed eight men though many historians believe the first use of mounted horses began with King Charles’s Articles of War published in 1629. Sir John Fielding, the Bow Street magistrate, produced a plan for mounted patrols to deal with highwaymen who preyed on travelers using the roads that led in and out of the city. By 1805, more than 50 men—dressed in scarlet waistcoats, blue greatcoats and trousers and black leather hats and stocks—were able to protect all the main roads within 20 miles of Charing Cross. Their role changed in the early 1800s when poverty in rural areas led to the theft of domestic animals—the patrols carried swords in addition to sabers as apprehending thieves was considered a highly dangerous job.

Australian Mounted Police

     Between 1800 and 1850, mounted police units were founded in Dublin, Ireland and Calcutta, India. Australia used mounted patrols during the 1851 gold rush and to hunt fugitives who evaded the law. Today, the units locate people lost in rough country and recover stolen domestic animals.
     Horses have been used by New York City’s police since 1845. By 1857, officers rode horseback to halt runaway horses and carriages. A headline in The New York World—written on September 9, 1897—tells this story.
“Policeman Stops a Runaway Trotter.”  
 “Mounted Policeman Frawley and the bay Stallion, Belton, driven by John Kelly, figured yesterday in a big but unexpected event at Fleetwood Park...The wild animal shot past the field and reached the head of the stretch when Policeman Frawley seeing the situation dug the spurs into his horse. The race to the wire was a hot one, but the policeman won...leaning he caught the runaway by the bridle and stopped him a few feet beyond the judge’s stand.”


     The United States Police Horse-Mounted Unit, created in 1934 with one horse rented from a stable, is one of the oldest police equestrian organizations in the United States. Parks with equestrian paths, a stretch of land, picnic grounds, and ball fields could be more efficiently safeguarded by horse patrols than by foot patrolmen or vehicles. Horse mounted patrols were later expanded and used in Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan area, New York City, and San Francisco during parades, and public meetings.
     Approximately 30-years ago, The Boston Parks and Recreation System formed The Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit in nine parks—called the Emerald Necklace—designed by Frederick Law Olmstead more than a century ago. San Francisco’s mounted patrol unit began with 30 steeds helping to protect the city, today there are 13 patrol horses in Golden Gate Park—training is difficult—they must follow commands and go through a program that acquaints them with the clamor of large, urban areas. The horses are skilled at crowd control on New Year’s Eve. Curious and friendly, the horses make a noticeable impression and can restore order without injuring people.
     Beginning in 1899 and for more than a century mounted officers could be seen all over Philadelphia including Fairmont Park, and Rittenhouse Square. Today twelve officers remain. Philadelphia’s stable of fifteen horses include a Dutch horse who performed a series of difficult exercises in his former career in dressage, and a rescued Belgian draft who had worked pulling farm wagons.
     Horse-mounted patrols are used by the Los Angeles Police Department, established in 1987, as part of the Metropolitan Division. Thirty-five policemen and forty horses are present at assemblies, festivals, parades, public parks and beaches during the summer plus the search and rescue of lost and missing persons in mountainous and dense terrain.
      A mounted police officer, his uniform a vivid red coat and a Stetson hat and his horse have represented Canada since 1880. “The Mounties always get their man,” is a familiar saying to anyone that loves motion pictures.
      Height, weight, gender, age and disposition are important. Large horses—approximately 15.2 hands tall and between a thousand and twelve hundred pounds compliment the weight of sturdy officers. Police departments prefer horses between three and seven years old—Clydesdale mixes, American quarter horses, and Tennessee Walkers—who will have a long career on patrol encouraging warm personal relations between the mounted officer and the communities they serve.
     Despite the fine work achieved by the mounted police, their numbers have diminished. Police cars, motorcycles, bicycles and foot patrolmen are seen more often today while the elite horse mounted units are used as a supplement to traditional patrol units, for crowd control and for special occasions such as parades and funerals. The horse continues to encourage warm personal relations between the mounted officer and the communities they serve—ambassadors of good will.

Bests,
Elise

 Scene Stealer, my cozy mystery, may be purchased through Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Carina Press and wherever ebooks are sold.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL.


 Photo courtesyimages.mpg.org
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     John Shakespeare enrolled his seven-year old son William in The King’s New School of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1571.Latin was the most important subject taught and many children later became scholars at Oxford University but Will wanted to grow up to be just like the traveling players who performed medieval, religious and new pastymes (plays) in Stratford’s Gild Hall and the Bridge Street innyards. Stratford had amateur mummers (actors and mimes) and two touring companies, The Queen’s Men and the Earl of Worcester’s Men who played Gild Hall. Artificial light did not exist and spectacles and dramas took place during daylight hours. Limelight, gaslight, electricity, incandescent lamps and computer light boards, had not been invented in the 16th century. 
     Portrayals of Will’s life between school and the time he arrived in London differ  Some accounts state he was apprenticed to a butcher, others think he was a schoolmaster or believe he left Stratford because he was caught poaching in the deer park of Sir Thomas Lucy, a local justice of the peace.  Many are convinced a theatre company passed through Stratford and invited Will to join their troupe as a minor actor and scrivener (dramatist).  
     When William Shakespeare arrived in London in the late 1580s, he explored a vibrant and dramatic city of contrasts that stimulated his imagination. Shakespeare’s London had tall buildings and the majestic St. James Palace, the residence of kings and queens of England for over 300 years. Londoners shopped at Cheapside, a large market where country people displayed their goods, a butcher’s market in Eastcheap and a fish market on Fish Street Hill  People had to watch where they stepped in London; beggars and artful dodgers roamed; garbage, body wastes and dead animals were thrown into streets and alleyways and epidemics of plague often raged.
     The English navy scored a great victory over the Spanish Armada (an invasion fleet of about 130 ships) in the 1580s.  Francis Drake, the explorer and naval hero and Walter Raleigh, a navigator, writer and colonizer, had returned after their voyages of discovery which led to the expansion of trade in the Americas.  When Will crossed London Bridge on foot, the only crossing over the River Thames, he joined crowds of people—London had two hundred thousand inhabitants. On the bridge were houses—some over four stories high plus shops, a chapel and gatehouses on both ends. The bridge had been rebuilt many times and a nursery rhyme told its story.
London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down
London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady
     Shakespeare lived in a section of London called Bishopsgate in the gloom cast by the Tower of London. When he crossed the Thames, he could see coal barges moored in front of the Tower and wherries carrying passengers. The Tower was a prison for high ranking citizens. Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned in the Tower, suspected of participating in an assassination plot against the Queen, Elizabeth I. Elizabeth signed her death warrant and Mary was put to death on Feb. 8, 1587. Shakespeare mentioned the Tower in many of his plays such as Richard III, Henry VIII and Henry VI Part III. There were 18 prisons around London; each held a special class of criminal. Newgate held felons, debtors and those awaiting execution. Ludgate held bankrupts and the Fleet held offenders waiting for their day in the Courts of Chancery. 
     Shakespeare worked with many theatre companies before joining James Burbage and his sons as an actor and dramatist. He soon became a charter member of a new company known as The Lord Chamberlain’s Men that appeared by royal command. Shakespeare became one of the most popular playwrights of the day. 
     London’s Lord Mayors disapproved of plays believing they encouraged irreverence, and idleness; when trumpets blasted the air and flags were raised announcing a performance, workers were lured away from jobs. To avoid restrictions imposed by the authorities, theatres were built outside the walls of the city; across the Thames in Southwark, easily reached by boat or bridge and close to bear-baiting rings, prisons and cockpits.
     The Queen’s Privy Council protected the actor/managers because the Queen enjoyed being entertained. Elizabeth I wrote poetry and music and took pleasure in drama, plays at Christmas and masques—a dramatic entertainment based on mythological or allegorical themes. She appointed a Master of the Revels, who acted as a producer/director and guardian of morals, in addition to providing costumes and a hall to be used for performances. Composers worked at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace.
     Beginning in 1598, the first Globe Theatre was raised in Southwark and the plays Henry the Fifth, and As You Like It were written for the theatre in 1599. Considered the glory of the Banke, the Globe had a central “discovery place.” Double doors, covered with finely embroidered hangings, a curtain or both allowed the actor to reach the upper level for balcony scenes. Above that was a room with machinery for special effects – cannon were fired, angels or ghosts descended and a trap door in the floor led to hell.  Wooden stage posts, painted to look like marble, supported a canopy representing heaven filled with clouds, stars, moon and the sun; the canopy also protected the actors and their costumes from the sun. 
     Groundlings (commoners) paid one English penny to stand in the open yard of the Globe, two pennies would purchase a seat on a bench in the gallery, protected from sun and rain by a thatched roof made of water reed. A cushioned seat close to the stage cost three pennies and six pennies bought the most prestigious seats of all – the Lord’s rooms – behind and above the stage. Music underscored Shakespeare’s plays – the audience entered the theatre to the faint throb of a drum then the musicians of the Globe would   begin playing trumpet, cornet, sackbut and percussion. The players filled the stage and a stave pounded the floor. The music gradually increased in volume and intensity, adding to the excitement until every onlooker felt a part of the drama as it developed.
     Commoners, known as stinkards because they rarely washed themselves or their clothes, stood in a yard covered with a mixture of hazelnut shells, cinders, ash and silt. They fought amongst themselves and critiqued the actors with rousing cheers, hisses or a missile of fruit, often an orange. A useful piece of fruit, the orange could be used protect the nose from the stench of the unwashed or eaten to stave off pangs of hunger.
     Shakespeare describes the Globe in his prologue to Henry the Fifth when the chorus asks the audience to use their imagination, Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France? Or may we cram Within this wooden O the very casques That did affright the air at Agincourt?
     When Elizabeth I died in 1603, she was succeeded by James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. James valued the arts, particularly theatre and the Chamberlain’s Men. He demanded they come under his patronage and granted a royal patent. Their name changed to the King’s Men.
     Shakespeare’s company played the Globe in winter and summer. When epidemics of the plague caused the Privy Council to close the theatre, they became traveling players.    Fire destroyed the first Globe theatre in 1612. During a performance of Henry VIII, a piece of wadding fired from one of the stage cannons, landed on the thatched roof, smoldered, smoked – the audience was too engrossed in the play to notice – and burst into flame. In less than an hour, the fire consumed the Globe but the three thousand spectators managed to escape through the two exits. One patron’s pants began to burn but his companion, used his wits, and doused the flames with a bottle of ale. Quickly rebuilt, the second Globe, was built on the foundations of the first, and protected by a tiled roof.  It was said to be the fairest that ever was seen in England.
     In 1949, the Shakespeare Globe Trust was founded and the new Globe, modeled after the first, was inaugurated in 1997 with Henry the fifth. It stands today, as a living memorial to the greatest playwright of all time.

Bests,

Elise

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 370

    

 Artwork courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


     We feel sorrow, sympathy and fear when we read the newspapers or see photographs of the southern Indian ocean where victims of Flight 370 are said to lie. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends but we are writers and there is something inside of us that will write an ending if it is not found.

     More than 100-years ago, our parents learned of the Titanic--a 46,328-ton British liner that sunk after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage to New York. At least 1,500 people are said to have drowned. Prominent members of society, the rich and the famous were amongst the lost.
     Books were written, films made, posters, television shows and even a Broadway musical. Writers had to write about the dramatic circumstances, the beautiful people, the tragedy. 
     In 1985, the ship was found by American and French researchers on the bottom of the ocean south of Newfoundland.
     Today, no one knows why or how Flight 370 was lost and writers will pen tragedies, fantasies, mysteries and scientific novels about the passengers, the pilots, the conflict between nations and the plane's diversion by using their imagination to construct an ending.
     Are you one of the writers?

Bests,

Elise


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

WARM-UP


Courtesy of Wikepedia


     This morning as I sipped my coffee and listened to WQXR, our city’s public radio station for classical music, Jeff Spurgeon—the knowledgeable and delightful morning host of the program—was about to play one of George Gershwin’s most famous songs I Got Rhythm. Spurgeon mentioned that Gershwin was inspired by a musician he heard warming up by practicing several notes on his trumpet.
     Seeds of future writings often take root in authors, when we become fascinated by bits of dialogue overheard in a restaurant, shop or train, the look on a person’s face, a memory of something that happened to ourselves, a friend, relative or acquaintance, a walk on the hard concrete of the city’s streets or a landscape that in our mind defines a foreign country. Weeks, months, years later the bits and lines we jot down in a notebook or on a scrap of paper and throw in a drawer—our warm-up—becomes  a cast of characters—people with needs, desires, opportunities and thwarted hopes. The landscape may be the backdrop or part of the action. We begin a short story, a play or a novel with the scraps that have grown, been transformed, and conjured into something new, something different, a tale we want and need to tell. 
Bests.
Elise
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