Review for “Angel’s Flight”

This is an incredible read. I could not put it down…cover to cover in less than 24 hours.

Laura Shepard Townsend is beyond masterful…this tapestry of words is a treasure…especially to Venice California  ( gift yourself and your friends this book and the two predecessors: “The Gypsy’s Song” and ”Lions and Gondolas” available in paperback on Amazon)

Book cover WITH title and author 300 ppi





Loretta’s Commentary on Destiny’s Consent

I did send you that text about book two and I love book two even more than book one.  It is very rich with details, reality, emotions, and characters plus an unusual subject area – the circus arts, clearly a dying art too.
 circus poster1
You might want to see if any Sarasota, FL, outlets might want to sell/distribute your book if that’s possible.  Sarasota is the home of performer Nik Wallenda on the tightrope and his entire family of performers.
circus angelica on trapeze

Angelica on the Trapeze

As I may have said before, it is probably the only remaining place that circus and aerial arts are taught in the public schools and there are several conservatories and schools for circus artists here, as well as the home of John Ringling and all of the B and Bailey circus companies.  The bookstores here carry lots of circus theme books.
I think it is very cool that I can ‘see’ your persona come through in reading your books – the magical aspect, the mystical angle, your humor, your perception of the deep ties between 3 generations of women and the different stages of their lives.  I’m not done yet, but I had to tell you how wonderful you are as a writer.  Keep it up, dear old friend.  I’ve been reading the book on the beach sometimes and I laugh out loud at parts of it.

A Review for Destiny’s Consent from Paula

I woke to one of my neighbors shearing away my bougainvillea blossoms that had had the audacity to stray into her yard.  I felt sorry that somehow the floral exuberance did not enthrall her heart and soul…and blessed the dying blossoms and her….so I arose, not exactly thrilled with life and its circumstances on this morning.

I wandered into the studio, almost swooning with the scents of orange blossoms. I checked FB and discovered these three posts on my page by Paula Jean, an intelligent adventuress I met at a Butterfly Sanctuary and Garden in the hills above Montezuma, Costa Rica.

                 “I am thoroughly, completely enjoying your book, It is my perfect escape from all my worries. I have been dealing with fleas these days in FL and for you to write about the Flea Circus has me giggling. It is so perfectly written from the standpoint of this child. How imaginative, how delightful, and filled with drama and conflict, filled with descriptive images. I can hardly put it down, thank you for writing it and will no doubt read your second one. Such a treat to have met you and to now read your magical story. It took over a year for me to buy the book, but I suppose I needed to find myself battling fleas to time it right, LOL.”

                “I weep as I come to the end of The Gypsy’s Song. I should have ordered the second book at the same time. Now I must wait for its arrival. The story is captivating and filled with so much, so many parts that have influenced our lives. Small tangents that speak to me on another level. Perhaps I was a gypsy in a past life. The draw to Bohemia touches us both profoundly and I love all the small references to a larger philosophical belief, references to Jung, The Tao, reincarnation, oh so many.”

                 “I am reading a delightful book by Laura Shepard Townsend, titled Destiny’s Consent. I was fortunate to meet this beautiful woman in Costa Rica last year. Not sure exactly why it took me a year to pick up this book but so glad I did. It’s a beautifully written story. If you are looking for a great read, beautifully written descriptive story about Gypsies in S Ca in early 20th century pick it up from Amazon. She has a great web site too”

Needless to say, my puny mind has shifted from my neighbor’s actions to Paula’s generosity of spirit embraced within her words. For a writer and an artist, there is little better happenstance in this world….thank you, Paula….

 The Gypsys Song smallfinal-cover-web



If you love Venice Beach, these free spirited characters…

final-cover-web “If you love Venice Beach, these free spirited characters will warm your heart and enrich your consciousness.

This wonderfully written novel combines two topics which fascinate me—-bohemians and Venice Beach. As the first book in the “Destiny’s Consent” trilogy, it’s an entertaining and enjoyable read. I was immediately transported to the magical world of Los Angeles at the early part of the 20th century. The women in this novel are strong and empowered, and their gypsy culture is colorfully described, making you feel like a participant in every vivid scene.

 Patricia Nolan Stein


A Creation Myth

(In honor of Venice-of-America’s 109th Birthday)

In a time that was,
(And in a time that was not)

Abbot Kinney hid in a bin on a dock
To safeguard his life
From Turks bayoneting any infidel found
Oh, how the blood of Christians
Spilled onto the dock that day
A carmine blood delta flowing to the sea.

And Abbot Kinney knew his life was over
But it was not, it was not….
Destiny had other plans for Abbot Kinney
He escaped
And procured a small boat to sail toAfrica
With only his life
With only HIS life!
And Abbot Kinney now Knew
Oh, the preciousness of life!!
Not only his, but all life
The mighty as well as the weak….

That was the day Abbot Kinney’s soul
Made a stringent vow to never trivialize
The significance of his own life
With mundane endeavors of any kind
And his heart heard…and knew the truth of it
And his intellect heard and knew the truth of it
And thus sanity was born in Abbot Kinney
And Abbot Kinney returned from Africa
An integrated man, enveloped within his own intuition…


Young Abbot

Fast forward to another lifetime in OceanPark
A partner dies, a partner buys
The usual arguments of money and greed emerging
Abbot Kinney calls a meeting of the partners
To trade all of his holdings in their developments
For a mosquito swamp to the south
A sump already deemed
By experts as unsuitable for habitation

The investors gleed in their greed
Oh, the wily Kinney has finally gone mad, he’s mad!
Wind-fallen prosperity they nabbed with avarice
And signed the papers oh so quickly
Deeding the marshland to Kinney
Before the asylum came to claim
The insane Kinney and drag him away.

man hunting with dogs

But Abbot Kinney had walked those bogs
And marshlands to the south
He had felt an energy harbored there
Oh, yes, we still sing the song of those spirits
In Venice to this very day! Nothing to be done with marshes, but canals

And so it was on the first day of dredge

As steel blades of chuffing bulldozers
Pushed dank Cambrian ooze to formulate banks
Abbot Kinney saw faint illuminations of vapor
From the foaming primordial mud
An interred Goddess emerged


The workmen saw the apparition not
But it was The Goddess Venus
Come to ply Abbot Kinney with visions
Golden tresses bewitched by the
Breaths of her attendant deities and fairy folk

And then Venus began her songs of creation
In altered states of melodic harmonies
Goddess songs of cities ancient and mythical
She sang of past golden cities of magic and light
To enchant Abbot Kinney with the land in his keeping
And ply his mind with visions of a creation
And its significance to the Earth and to the World

Abbot Kinney, smitten, changed the name of the city
To Venice to honor the Goddess VenusAnd her Aura…..
Venice — a place of learning and enlightenment
Venice — a haven of harmony and inspiration for artists
Venice – a perfumed sensory experience
Venice – where transformation is guided by Muses

And Abbot Kinney continued in his creation of a city that
Venus sang as revelation to him

A city that he fiercely loved with all of his heart
A city he gave to the world for all time

The Original Lagoon

That city is called Venice

Published in the Free Venice Beachhead JULY, 2014

A Creation Myth



A new review of “Destiny’s Consent” on Amazon!

Lions and Gondolas is enjoyable on many different levels.
final cover
It serves as a coming of age novel, as a sympathetic treatment of the Romani people, as a thrilling story of a woman lion tamer, and as an inside look at the early days of that magical city, Venice, California.As an amateur historian in Venice, I can say that Shepard Townsend has written a turn-of-the-century novel that is so authentic you can almost hear the waves hitting the pier, and see the gondoliers making their way down the canals. If only most writers paid at much attention to detail and accuracy.In addition to a three-generation Romani family, we meet a young Howard Hughes and a magnificent Abbot Kinney, who single-handedly conceived and built this city of enchantment that continues to delight tourists. Ah, but if they could only have visited it 100 years ago. Now, thanks to Laura Shepard Townsend we can do just that.

“Destiny’s Consent: Angel’s Flight”

To those who are eagerly awaiting the next book — I have begun writing my third book, Angel’s Flight. This is chapter 1 in its entirety.

Chapter I

I live in Venice, a world by the sea, visited by wild parrots, where an unknown oracle answers to those inquiries borne of the soul, and where constellations are so genuinely reflected in the stillness of canal waterways, that the world becomes a twirling vortex of possibility.

That is, of course, until I went out into the winds to try to forge a path for myself, as well as a way to support it.

Book cover WITH title and author 300 ppi





(As published in The Beachhead, December 2013 issue)

abbott kinney xmas starry sky_obscured print captionedweb


If you can spare a moment to contemplate Abbot Kinney’s Venice when he hosted the annual and most splendid Christmas Parties at the Venice Dance Pavilion. The local papers described it this way: “nowhere else in this country could be witnessed such a sight as was presented in the Venice Dance Pavilion. Had a page been torn from a book of fairy tales, enlarged and filled with animation, a similar picture may have been obtained, but no other way.”

Venetians at that time, already knew that they were living in a very rare place as evidenced by the crowds who piled into Venice for each holiday and weekend to savor the resort and its offerings, but perhaps this was even more true, during the Christmas holidays.  Think of it…starting in 1906, Abbot Kinney began his tradition of throwing what was to become the legendary Venice Christmas Party….this he continued until his death in 1920.  And each year, the tree got bigger, the attending children more numerous, and all were welcomed.  To those in need, turkeys were given away for free, so that all Venetians could celebrate the holidays.

But of course, Abbot Kinney was no novice to generosity.  From the start, his creation, Venice of America, a City of Canals, was built to not only enthrall the working man, but also the poet. And Abbot Kinney would have it no other way for though a rich man, he had once not been rich, and because of this, never viewed the poverty of a person as a crime.  As Abbot Kinney explained his personal philosophy, “why should a man want to die wealthy?  It is far better that he build something that will be a pleasure and a benefit to mankind.”  And so, simply, he did.

Abbot Kinney spent his millions of dollars to transform a swampland into an enchanted city, where the aroma of the sea blended with the earthy perfume of exotic flowerings.  Parrot tribes had begun to thrive in his desert landscape of eucalyptus and palms, their raucous calls a syncopation to the tinkling of piano tunes and strums of gondoliers’ mandolins.  Venice was to be a Renaissance city that nurtured mankind’s souls as well as their intellects.

Not one to stop there in his gifting, the Doge automatically gave $50 to any child born in Venice, no matter what race, creed, color or religion.  Abbot Kinney thought that just by being born in Venice justified a reward.  Assuredly, there were fusses to be had, when an African-American child received the same amount as those seemingly more entitled.

And it was in Venice, a city where there was ‘an air of constant excitement and the collection of gorgeous excesses’, that annually thousands of kids and their parents would stand outside the door of the Venice Dance Pavilion, all dressed in gala holiday attire.

Each year, the festivities had become more and more fanciful until 1918, the wintering Barnes Circus brought elephants to the pier to entertain those waiting for the doors to the Pavilion to open.  Just the sight of an elephant in those days was magical, but this year, the elephants handed bags of candy to each child brave enough to receive it.   The very chic Ship Café served free turkey dinners, never slighting those in need, and guaranteeing that all patrons would be finished in time for the main event  of the day — Abbot Kinney’s Christmas Party. When the doors of the Venice Dance Pavilion finally opened at two o’clock, thousands of kids crushed to be the first to get inside….

No matter what the year, the vast hall was converted to a veritable fairy land.  To those entering, Arthur Reese, fanciful decorator of Venice, transformed the Pacific daylight to the darkness of night in snowy mountains. There, a small town gleamed warm light from each one of its windows.  Icicles hung from the eaves, and snow blanketed the ground.

An impossibly tall tree stood in the middle of the town’s square, decorated with colored lights and ornaments, candy canes, ribbons and pine cones.  Garlands of popcorn circled the green boughs.  Underneath, thousands of presents were piled, all wrapped in colored paper with satin bows.  There were bags of penny candy, and stockings lumpy with goodies, topped by oranges.  The cheer of red poinsettias was everywhere.  From the stage, Lew Lewis’ orchestra played holiday music.

The Barnes Circus brought ponies for pony rides to entertain the ‘kiddies’ until it was time for the annual Christmas Play. To make room for the performance, the orchestra left the stage; the lights dimmed.  Winged Angels in glitter costumes flew above; a bright star appeared, and moved across the night sky to guide bejeweled Magi kings into the snowy village on real camels.  It was an enactment of the birth of Jesus, the stable filled with live sheep and cows, which mooed and baaed throughout the production’s entirety.  All too soon, the play was over. As soon as the lights were turned back on, it was time for the annual Venice Christmas Parade.

While the presents were being gathered, children marched around the 20 foot Christmas tree, clad in paper hats, blowing horns as loudly as possible.  Abbot Kinney always helped ‘Santa Claus’ distribute bags of candy, gifts and stockings to every single child there until all the wrapped gifts were gone.  Every child had equal rights; no favorites were made of anyone. And for those Venetian children, who were ill and could not attend the festivities, presents were put into reserve for them.  No one was forgotten at Abbot Kinney’s Christmas Party.

When the celebrants reluctantly emerged from the Dance Pavilion, it was night, the stars dancing twinkles in the black sky overhead.  Three thunderous booms echoed, and fireworks began lighting up the sky. Flowers of light blasted into existence, blossomed, and then faded, only to be replaced by another flower.  The spectacle ended with three booms of thunder.  For the adults, this signified the beginning of the Yuletide Ball.

Christmas of 1919 was no different…except the tree was 40 feet tall, the largest tree yet.  After all the gifts: Russian dolls, kewpie dolls, fairies, snowbirds, jack-in-the boxes, and poinsettias were distributed, Abbot Kinney rose to give his traditional Christmas greeting to Venice.  It has been reported that there was a special gentleness in his eyes that year.

I have the hope that each of you will be granted all the wishes that lay
               deep within your hearts.  As for me,  my wish this Christmas is that we
              discover the formula for eternal peace and the entire absence of
              discord in all matters.  God bless each and every one of us.

No listener was aware that while he was making this poignant speech, Abbot Kinney knew he was dying.  In fact, he did not make it to the next Christmas, dying on November 4th, 1920.

Venice mourned him by their exuberance of celebrations of the holiday season in 1920.  Various periodicals wrote of Arthur Reese’s remarkable strivings to ensure that Abbot Kinney would be proud of his Venice, and every light post, nook and cranny was ornamented.  The people of Venice joined in, seemingly decorating their homes to the max, but they also kept their curtains open so their neighbors and passerbys could enjoy them as well as tribute to their beloved Doge.

The Venice Christmas party was such a beloved tradition, that Thornton Kinney, Abbot’s son, announced that the Christmas holiday of 1920 would be much the same as it always had been, under his father’s care.  However, on December 21st a small stove caught fire, burning down not only the Venice Dance Pavilion, but the Venice pier and much of Windward Avenue close to the Pacific.

Reeling from the destruction, but determined to not let Abbot Kinney’s tradition die, a holiday tree was hurriedly erected and decorated in front of the St. Mark’s Hotel.  For you see, the stockings had already been prepared, crammed full of goodies; presents were already wrapped, embellished with satin bows.   Three thousand kids came and were not disappointed.

The presents were distributed, but it would never be the same without the presence of the kind and generous visionary human who had created Venice, the man who loved his city and its denizens so well.





Spring in Venice


Ahhh! Spring in Venice
The fragrance of jasmine perfumery
The Venice Art Walk
The return of tourists…..

But for me the spring atmosphere
Wrenches jagged with
The cries of desolation and despair
Only the hungry Baby Mockingbird can manifest

Sensitized I am to their calls
For I have raised two to flying
Amelia and Beauregard
Gobs of blue-veined plasm flesh
But when grounded, a sorry plight indeed

Baby Mockingbirds fall
Insistent to fly before they even have feathers
Impatient to get on with IT!
Disobedient, adament

Unfortunately prowling Enemies
Of teeth and of claw
Hunt, always alert for opportunity
Those crows, hawks, cats, raccoons

Whadda ya think?
Baby Mockingbirds should become
Venice’s official city bird:

Composed of the disobedient citizenry

Haunted by prowling Midases
With cash to gobble her up.