BEFORE RULES: LEE RENE AND PRE-CODE HOLLYWOOD

frannieLee Rene is a Los Angeles-based, jazz-loving writer who grew up in the City of the Angels as the child of two fervent movie addicts. Lee has studied and researched classic Hollywood for a number of years and spent much of her writing career as an entertainment journalist and movie reviewer in print, on-line, and on the radio. She co-authored a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, The Diva and Doctor God, which Poverty Row Entertainment has recently optioned for a feature film. Lee has also co-written an article for the prestigious British publication, History Today, and had two articles published in The Lancet. Lee collaborated on The Soul of Los Angeles, the history of African Americans in Los Angeles, published by the Los Angeles Convention Bureau. Lee is member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Lee is a contributor to the Simply Sxy on-line magazine. Loose Id published her erotic romance, The New Orleans Hothouse, in 2015 and Solstice Publishing is releasing her Depression-era romance, Mitzi of the Ritz, later this year.

 

 

Mitzi of the Ritz

 

beautiful-mitziPops is dead, the Stock Market has crashed, and the wolf is at the door. When Mitzi Schector crosses the threshold of the Broadway Ritz for a lowly usherette job, little does she know that she has just stepped into her future. Mitzi’s life is about to change into a world of movie moguls, platinum-blonde bombshells, and romance.

 

Welcome to Mitzi of the Ritz, a raunchy and often humorous romantic mystery set in Depression-era Hollywood. The manuscript was a semi-finalist in the 2011 ABNA and a top-twenty favorite with Swoon Reads. Publishers Weekly wrote, “The dialogue is so telling of the era and the mind-set of a young girl. This writing is filled with the specifics of the era, the feelings, the bits and pieces of a girl caught up in a situation that is moving and engrossing, sad and fearsome at the same time.” 

 

In the fall of 1930, the plucky eighteen-year-old protagonist meets a handsome young theater owner named David Stein. Their attraction is immediate, but David is married, a fact that derails their romance before it begins. The feisty teen soon finds herself the unwilling object of the affection of a local mobster. His unwanted advances push Mitzi and her older sister to flee New York for Los Angeles, the scene of a Schector family tragedy. In the early 1920s, Mitzi’s uncle, a handsome film extra, lost his life in a studio fire. While crossing the country aboard the famed Santa Fe Chief, Mitzi meets a cast of the characters who will change her life. Her arrival in Los Angeles coincides with the film industry’s transition from silent dramas to talkies. During this period, known as the Pre-Code, racy films flourished in spite of the constant threat of censorship.  Mitzi soon reconnects with David. Their path to love is a long and rocky one, but David finally discovers his humanity, Mitzi transforms from teen to woman, and solves a decade-old Hollywood mystery.

 

 

Q & A1.

Welcome Lee. I recently introduced my husband to the films of Claudette Colbert and he was taken by their racy nature. Shall we begin with a definition of the Pre-Code era?

 

First I must say that Claudette Colbert’s Pre-Code films are a terrific introduction to a very provocative era in Hollywood history. The term Pre-Code is a bit of a misnomer because from the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers pushed the envelope, and local film censorship boards to keep them in line. Silent films often had provocative subject matterpre-code_hollywood and even nudity, but since there was no dialogue, local censors could snip out objectionable scenes with no problem. The issue became serious when a series of Hollywood scandals in the 1920s threatened the existence of the movie industry. Hollywood producers took matters in their own hands and created their own censorship board with a man named Will Hays. They also had a list of dos and don’ts which filmmakers pretty much ignored. The issue became problematic with the arrival of sound. Moving pictures were no longer silent, the language became rawer, and local board couldn’t just cut out provocative dialogue or a titillating scene without destroying the continuity of a talking picture. Also, producers were looking to Broadway for plays with explosive subject matter. A Catholic priest and a layman created the production code in 1929, but producers were able to maneuver around it or just ignore it until Joseph Breen, or “Mean Joe Breen” as he was known around Hollywood finally implemented it late in 1934.

 

 

2.

The Jazz Age promised social freedom through abandon, joy and booze. Then the shoe dropped with the Depression. What draws you to this age?

 

decoI’ve always loved so much about the Jazz Age, flappers, the birth of the automotive industry, Prohibition (I had a bootlegger great-uncle who made a fortune as a very young man), and the birth of the film industry. I grew up in Los Angeles near some of the larger studios. I loved the classic film tours of Hollywood and Beverly Hills and seeing the mansions where major stars lived. When I became a journalist, I actually visited those same studios. In addition to Pre-Code films, I also loved listening to the Depression stories my neighbors and relatives shared and watching the fabulous films. I also love the silent cinema which I watch on TCM or film society screenings. Thank goodness for Turner Classic movies and the amazing stars of the 1930s.

 

 

3.

Tell us about Mitzi Schector and the qualities that help her navigate that tantalizing landscape in MITZI OF THE RITZ.

 

Mitzi is a plucky eighteen-year-old New Yorker whom I based on several women I met new-york-1930through the years. The story begins in New York in 1930 after the Crash has wiped out the fortunes of so many. Her father’s death leaves Mitzi and her older sister, Leah, destitute. Leah takes a job as a taxi dancer, something that was well-paid, but not respectable at the time. The times force Mitzi to drop out of college and look for work. When she answers a newspaper ad for a theater usherette, the drama begins the minute she crosses the threshold of a huge New York movie palace, the Broadway Ritz.

 

She meets a handsome young theatre owner named David Stein, a young man much like the actual boy genius, Irving Thalberg, who has been running his late father’s theater company since he was barely out of his teens. David’s attraction to Mitzi is fiery and immediate, but she doesn’t return his feelings. In addition to being controlling and cynical, David is a married man, a reality that derails any hope for romance. Mitzi also finds herself the unwilling object of affection of a local mobster who will stop at nothing to make Mitzi his. Mitzi and Leah flee New York and board the Santa Fe Chief heading for Los Angeles. The two girls meet people who will change their lives and begin their adventure.

 

I loved writing Mitzi and her two older sisters, Leah and Zisel. I wanted to create a plucky heroine who speaks in the parlance of the time. I also loved adding Yiddish slang to the mix, writing a Jewish romance, and exploring the racial politics of a different time and place.

 

 

4.

I see you coauthored a biography of Sarah Bernhardt that has been optioned. Do you find collaborations more satisfying than working in solitude? Do you go off on your own when you write?

 

I wrote the Sarah Bernhardt project with a doctor who lives in Australia. We worked together online. I’m used to writing solo, but I enjoyed getting another perspective on Sarah’s life and times. My collaborator is French fluent and visited Paris frequently. While I made a number of great connections online, she was able to get the book published in French and make a lifetime connection with people who helped us on our journey.

 

 

5.

Mitzi of the Ritz is the latest in a career begun in print, on-line and radio journalism. When does it come out and does it mark the beginning of a career in novels?

 

I’ve already had another novel published, an erotic romance. I worked with a small publishing house and went through an extensive editing and proofing process with experienced editors. They sent me a style guide that I continue to use. The problem with erotica is that it’s difficult to find reviewers, and some people feel uneasy with it. There has also been a glut of erotic novels since Fifty Shades of Grey became a success and it’s next to impossible to break out of the pack. While I like writing erotic romances, I wanted to try another direction with a more conventional romance although my newest bends genre, crime drama and romance. Mitzi is New Adult with a moderate level of heat. I also write Young Adult novels under a different pen name.

 

 

6.

I watched a “thriller” over the weekend that featured some very talented actors sitting around a table watching flat screens as other actors effected change through push buttons while also watching flat screens. Do you think our gadget infused culture robs characters of useful things to do? Is that why we’re seeing more recent past stories being published and then made into film?

 

Look at the popularity of shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, shows with vibrant action and intriguing characters yet nary a computer in sight. Look at Outlander, a time-travel romance based on a popular series of books.

 

Once upon a time, I’d go to moves two or three times a week and when I was a reviewer, I was out five nights a week during movie season. Now, I pretty much skip them and get screeners. Marvel Comics, remakes, and films for the teen market pretty much dictate what’s out in theaters. I don’t have an issue with them, they aren’t my type of film, but if I want provocative fare, I won’t find it at the movies. I go online with Netflix or Amazon, watch premium cable or God forbid, read.

 

Ed. – Lol. I hear ya!

 

 

7.

Is the Code alive and well? Are we better when we go around it?

 

The Code ended in 1968, but now studios are playing it safe with remakes and comic book adaptations. The most interesting projects are usually I think the premium cable and online studios like Amazon and Netflix are creating the most provocative works, but certainly not film or network television. I understand the issues with censorship, but I think we’re better off without it.

 

 

8.

Any WIPs in the works, or are you taking a well-deserved break?

 

I’m always working on something. I have four unpublished manuscripts that I’m presently querying and I’m writing a YA story set in New Orleans in the 1950s. I also started outlining a wild, contemporary saga set in the meth amphetamine capital of California. I hope to write more novels set in the same fictional movie studio in West Hollywood that I used in Mitzi. I’d like to write a generational saga that looks at the movie industry from the silent era to the 1950s. I plan to create different characters, but the setting will be the same studio.

 

 

REVIEWS FOR MITZI OF THE RITZ

“The dialogue is so telling of the era and the mind-set of a young girl. This writing is filled with the specifics of the era, the feelings, the bits and pieces of a girl caught up in a situation that is moving and engrossing, sad and fearsome at the same time.”  Publishers Weekly

 

“I enjoyed the story and loved the how the early 30’s were brought to life. I liked the heroine but it did take me a little while to warm up to the hero (although he was worth the wait). I thought the story was well paced and the imagery vivid. For me, the end was a little abrupt. I guess I would have liked one more scene with David and Mitzi – then again that could just be me being greedy. That being said, I really enjoyed Mitzi of the Ritz and would recommend it.” 🙂 – Nicole – Swoon Reads

 

“I’m a few chapters in. The quirky dialogue and descriptions feel authentic to the era. Great cover too.” 😉 – Kristy Brown – Swoon Reads

 

“Okay, that’s it. I’m officially in love with this book. It’s awesome! The style is so well done, historically accurate, a very distinct voice, I’m impressed. As for the story and the romance, they kept me at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. I would totally buy this book and reread it, I love it 🙂 Also, it reminds me a bit of Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things which has the same tone and glamour. Thank you for writing this, it’s perfect!” – M.C. Frank – Swoon Reads

 

“Wow!! I felt like I was in the olden days! The writing was easily to follow along and smooth and the characters were lovable. I wish I had some criticism, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t really think of any to give! Great job!” ABNA

 

“I felt like I was transported back in time to a strange place that somehow felt eerily familiar. I remember my grandma telling me stories of life in depression-era LA. Lee Rene captures the feeling perfectly. I loved her characters and the way the story unfolded. Her characters seemed real and not stereotypes. I couldn’t put this down.
I wish it were longer.” – Peter Taubkin – ABNA

 

“I’m a fan of romance, a dedicated Twihard. I love to be transported to different places and times. Mitzi of the Ritz delivered. I learned about Hollywood during the Depression, a dark time in American history. It brought a much-needed smile to my face and is worth Five Stars!” Amazon

 

“I don’t normally read romance novels and was a bit leery of starting this one. Luckily, it’s not a traditional historical romance, no bodices are ripped, no hyper-sexuality. Instead, it’s a funny look at a dark era in American history, the Great Depression. I felt very much a part of the action, loved the characters, the banter, the 30s slang. A real winner.”Swoon Reads

 

 

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Thanks for joining us today, Lee. Count on a lot of us checking out MITZI AT THE RITZ! 

Cheers,

ABF

 

 

 

LOOKING INTO THE UNEXPLAINED WITH DAVID MANNES

Hello from beautiful Bonville, Ontario! Like so many writers this time of year, I’m neck deep in a brand new work for NaNoWriMo 2016. For those not in the know, NaNo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Believe it or not, a 50K manuscript can be hashed out in a month if a writer dedicates about 1,600 new words to the page every day. But I digress…

The blog needs to be fed, and so it is my great pleasure to welcome multi-talented author David Mannes. Spiritual and curious, David plumbs a fascination with the paranormal while exploring relationships at their most personal. With TWO releases out this year, his energy and creativity is an inspiration to us all.

Welcome to the blog, David.

 

 

1.

As a Cantor-Educator you are a spiritual man who is also interested in the paranormal and the unexplained. How do you reconcile dogma with secular interests?

 

Judaism’s belief about what happens after you die is a gray spectrum with an evolution of beliefs over the millennium looking at biblical and Talmudic views. We do believe that the soul is eternal. But I certainly don’t believe in demons, possessed souls, or Satan- at least in terms of the Christian view, which has its origins with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman theology. In Judaism Satan-pronounced Sah-tahn in Hebrew- or the Accuser, is sort of like a prosecuting attorney.  (Satan is mentioned briefly by a couple of the prophets and predominantly in the book of Job (an allegory piece of literature about faith).  However,  I did live briefly in a haunted house for awhile in my teens. (See May, 1976 issue of Fate Magazine-‘The Spite House’) and I have friends who are psychic. I tend to keep an open mind as to what happens to our spirit after death and in terms of Jewish belief.

 

Re: the unexplained or extraterrestrial: In Jewish tradition God created and destroyed many worlds before creating this one, and then God continues to create.  God is a creative force. It’s what God does. Also, it’s pretty egotistical of us to think we’re the only intelligent life form in the universe, and really, looking at our world and the history of humankind, there’s got to be something out there smarter than us.  The universe is billions or trillions of years old.Humankind is still in it’s relative infancy.  We may have become more sophisticated, but we haven’t matured much.  We don’t know everything.  The world and the universe will continue to surprise us.

 

2.

Is that how you became involved in the arts? Or did the arts come first?

 

I was always interested in fine art (especially cartooning) and writing. I majored in Art initially in High school and my first year of college, then switched it to a minor and majored in English. I’ve been writing since upper elementary school and got a lot of encouragement from teachers and in creative writing classes. I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I knew I wanted to be a writer since fifth grade.

 

3.

Your character Jeff Reimer in THE CANTOR’S SON reminisces about the year of his Bar Mitzvah, which took place in the 1960s. I’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles lately and find it very reassuring. What is it about the 60’s that keeps us coming back?

 

We are the baby boomer generation. We had great music, great causes and its generational influence is still present. While The Cantor’s Son has a Jewish slant, it also speaks to baby boomers and any kid whose father was clergy.  I think it was a great era to grow up in, despite all the war and social problems.

 

4.

Jeff “comes home” after forty-six years. What is his take on ‘home’ in the year 2016 CE?

The book is about Jeff’s journey not only as a young adult but as an adult. Getting older gives us a different perspective on life and what’s important. There’s a lot of people (adults) that are still figuring it out.  Overall change happens. Growth happens. Life is a continual journey and Jeff is entering a new stage but experience has given him a new outlook too, one that I think the character is happy with.

 

5.

You have also authored THE REPTILIAN ENCOUNTER and SCARLET JUSTICE. Do these works support common themes, or are other agendas at work?

 

scarlet vengeance-001.jpgWell Scarlet Justice started out as a screenplay that I was going to produce with a couple of buddies, but there was a recession on in the early 90’s and we couldn’t find interest or financing so I did a novelization of it. I grew up watching old B westerns and the Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. While doing research for the Writing-on-Stone documentary I read a lot about the early years of the Mounted Police and it  gave me a lot of story ideas that I’ve incorporated in this series. The second book, Scarlet Vengeance will be out this fall, and I’m working on a third book in the series.

           

The Reptilian Encounter is actually the third part of a trilogy (I published the first two volumes independently on Amazon kindle) but it’s also a spin-off for a continuing series. I’ve been interested in UFOs since I was a kid. I use to read Frank Edward’s column in the newspaper and have been doing reading and research on UFO’s for probably about 50 years.  As well, having grown up in the 60’s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E was one of my favorite shows, as was X-Files in the ’90’s. Both influenced tunguska-cover-2the creation of my character Damien Wynter.  According to some of my research, after the Roswell crash of 1947 President Truman set up Majestic 12, a group of military, industrial, and private organizations and individuals who investigate and obtain alien technology, and understand extraterrestrials, but at the same time keeping it secret to prevent public panic. My novels are based on actual or alleged incidents but with fictional license and conclusions.  The series is sort of a Man from U.N.C.L.E meets the X-Files. The second book, The Tunguska Encounter is coming out this fall.   I’m hoping this series takes off and I think it’d be great to see The Reptillian Encounter made into a movie.

 

6.

And you have also worked in film as a producer/director and scriptwriter. How do these experiences compare to writing in solitude, if you, indeed, write in solitude?

 

Definitely there are parts of media production that are creatively collaborative; but both involve storytelling. I think visually no matter what the media. I always have. The difference for me is in the pacing. Working in media is a very intense and frantic pace a lot of the time, given budgets, deadlines, etc. Writing is more relaxed. The only deadline we have (other than from our illustrious publisher during the editing phase) is one that we set.  There are times I enjoy being in my ‘Batcave’ with music in the background and letting the story take me in new places.  Solitude is essential when writing. I find myself quite comfortable when I’m in ‘the zone’.

 

7.

What is the glue that holds society together currently?

 

Relationships and common goals. To have a society means that there has to be rules that everyone agrees to and abides by. That’s the main purpose of the Ten Commandments (though in Judaism according to the rabbis, there’s 613).  It’s the minimal rules to have a safe and just society.

 

 

8.

Many of us imagine life before the digital age. Others of us have lived it. Which category do you fall into? Can you share a pre Instagram anecdote with the readers? (Mine involves chasing my younger brother with a manual egg beater *lol*)

 

I definitely lived life before the digital age and was very thankful when computers came out. Made writing a lot easier..lol.  I remember as a kid we’d play army.  Our next door neighbors were an older couple.  They had a retaining wall on one side of their property.  We kids used to go around through another yard and take a running leap off the retaining wall and do a tuck and roll to pretend we were parachuting.  The problem was the cement walk that separated the wall and the grass. You had to jump far enough so you didn’t splat on the walk.  We didn’t understand liability issues, but the old guy was always chasing us away when he caught us doing that.

 

9.

What words of wisdom would you impart to our first extraterrestrials when they arrive?

 

Don’t judge us by the stupidity you see. We are worthy and capable of better. We are also tenacious and unpredictable. Don’t piss us off.

 

10.

Any last words?

 

Follow your dreams. You only live once. Appreciate the people in your life because that’s the most important.

 

Thanks, David. Now let’s check out the novels…

 

THE CANTOR’S SON

the-cantors-son-cover-conceptRabbi-Cantor Jeff Reimer returns to River City, Iowa after forty-six years, as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom. As Jeff connects with the congregation on a variety of issues, he also connects with his past.  It leads him to reminisce about the year of his Bar Mitzvah, and the pivotal events and personal relationships that have led him back to River City again, and that makes Jeff the man he has become. This is a humorous coming-of-age story set in the turbulent 1960’s where Jeff fights off the stigma of being a clergyman’s son, contends with Junior High shop classes, stumbles through B’nai Mitzvah party dances and a semi-reluctant romance with April Blackman.

 

 

SCARLET VENGEANCE 

Released October 14, 2016

 

scarlet-vengeance-001Ride with Northwest Mounted Police Constable Alfred Kingsley and  ex-gunfighter turned scout Charlie Buck in two new adventures: Scarlet Vengeance–  Hatred is a powerful motivator. When rancher Amos Pike spots ex- runaway slave and black rancher, Elijah Samuels, a man he blames for his family’s downfall, Pike plots a merciless revenge to take away everything Samuel’s holds dear. But he doesn’t count on NWMP Constable Alfred Kingsley and Charlie Buck, who head out on the trail to track the kidnappers and murderers down.   In the second novella, Scarlet Gold, Kingsley and Buck, while on their way escorting a prisoner to Fort Benton, aid the U.S. cavalry and Marshal Ben Tucker track down a ruthless band of gold thieves in Montana.

 

THE TUNGUSKA ENCOUNTER

Released September 30, 2016

 

tunguska-cover-2The cold war is back on but with a twist…a remnant, a computer chip, exists from a  UFO that exploded over Russia in 1908. Now Damien Wynter, special agent for the clandestine Majic-12, is on a race to get it before  SETKA, his Russian counterparts.  From the canals of Venice to old city of Dubrovnik, to the pyramids of Bosnia, Wynter and  Michelle Martin run a gauntlet of anarchy, destruction and death in an all out battle to obtain technology that could be the greatest boon to humankind or launch its destruction in THE TUNGUSKA ENCOUNTER!

The Majic-12 series explores the clandestine side of UFOs and the covert organizations that investigate them.  This is an espionage-action-adventure sci-fi series that takes place in present day.

 

About the Author

david-m-mannes_4847_100516

 

David M. Mannes is a Cantor-Educator and a member of the American Conference of Cantors. He has served congregations in the United States and Canada.  He is also a former educational film producer/director and scriptwriter. He was nominated in 1990 for best non-dramatic script in the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Association (A.M.P.I.A.) awards  for “Writing-on-Stone” that he wrote and produced for Alberta Parks. David is the author of  The Cantor’s Son, The Reptilian Encounter (Damien  Wynter –Majic-12 series), Scarlet Justice (Constable Alfred Kingsley and Charlie Buck series), among others. He has had a long time interest in history, as well as UFOs, paranormal and unexplained phenomena. David is a member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta and the International Thrillers Writers.  David Mannes is married and lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Links

 

Email: david_mannes@hotmail.com

Webpage: http://davidmannes.wix.com/david-mannes

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/David-M.-Mannes/e/B004RQNWNA