May 27, 2022

Dispatch #151: Lizzie's Tape Recorder

 

The Sony TC-55 miniature cassette recorder

      I'd always envisioned the plucky 12-year-old heroine of my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, as a pint-sized Carl Kolchak, the intrepid investigative reporter from the classic 1970s TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

     To that end, I even equipped her with a miniature Sony TC-55 tape recorder just like the one used by her idol Carl Kolchak to document his investigations into the strange and mysterious.

 

INS reporter Carl Kolchak with his trusty TC-55.


     Of course, in the story, the TC-55 doesn't actually belong to Lizzie, but rather her older sister, Debra, who, after receiving the tape recorder as a high school graduation gift, graciously allows her younger sibling to borrow it occasionally.

     Initially, Lizzie uses the TC-55 simply to record Walter Mitty-esque scenarios in which she imagines herself on the trail of supernatural entities—later using the taped dictation to hammer out imaginative short stories on the vintage Royal typewriter in her bedroom.

     However, after an encounter with Emmaline Webster, the enigmatic owner of Webster House, a grand Victorian mansion in Lizzie's neighborhood (for more on Miss Webster, go here and here), she utilizes the TC-55 during her Webster House stakeout to document activity outside the mansion.




     Back when I was Lizzie's age, I, too, typed out imaginative scenarios fueled by a steady diet of monster movies and genre TV like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, secretly hoping that I might experience a supernatural encounter of my own one day. 

     While I never did uncover evidence of the unexplained in my hometown, I did manage to create a resourceful young heroine who manages to do just that in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library.




     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


May 20, 2022

Dispatch #150: Lawton Webster

 

Statue of Henry Ware Lawton


     In today's dispatch, I explore the creation of Lawton Webster, one of the many characters in my two-part e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library

     As Lawton lived decades before Samantha Stanton—the plucky young heroine in my story—was born, he appears courtesy of a pair of time-traveling Elsewhen chapters in Part Two, which cover a period from the late 1890s to 1920.

     As with most things in my e-book, Lawton's story begins with Webster House, a grand Victorian home in Aldeburgh. Built in 1880 by newspaper magnate Silas Webster for the family he hoped to have with his wife, Josephine, in the end the mansion was home to just a single child, Lawton, after Josephine died tragically in childbirth.

     Although Silas loves the boy, he loves the newspaper business even more, and so he ships young Lawton off to boarding school as soon as he's of age. Lonely, young Lawton learns to live inside his head, in a world of imagination fueled by books. This habit serves him well, for he sells short stories to national magazines as a teenager and sees his first novel published while still in college.

     After his father's unexpected death, Lawton returns to Webster House at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. One of his first acts is to complete the lavish library Silas had intended as a gift to his wife, Josephine, a former teacher. 

     It's in that library where Lawton Webster makes an extraordinary discovery: the existence of an ancient, inter-dimensional portal. Even more incredible: by passing through that portal one is able to visit other worlds—worlds that mimic the books in the Webster House Library.

     Those who read my e-book will learn much more about Lawton Webster and his wife, Nora, but here are some other details about him:

     I created nearly 90 characters for Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, and all of them needed names. I took Lawton's first name from the last name of a highly decorated military officer with roots in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Major-General Henry Ware Lawton (1843-1899). There's a photo of his statue at the top of today's dispatch.

     I never really knew much about Henry Lawton while growing up, but there was a statue of him in Lakeside Park, where I would sometimes play as a child. Strangely enough, Fort Wayne has a city park named for the military hero, Lawton Park, but for some reason his statue isn't on display there. I suppose it was that odd incongruity which helped me remember him when I was searching for a name for Silas Webster's son.


Indiana author Booth Tarkington (1869-1946)


     When I was creating Lawton's background, I wanted him to be a celebrated author in his day, but totally known to young readers like Samantha "Lizzie" Stanton in the year 1975. Naturally, this made me think of Booth Tarkington, an enormously popular Hoosier author during the first quarter of the 20th century (one of only four authors to win the Pulitzer for fiction twice) but one who is largely forgotten today. 

     Tarkington's wealthy family lost much of their fortune in the Panic of 1893, a setback which surely influenced one his most celebrated novels, The Magnificent Ambersons. Coincidentally, I mention the Panic of '93 in the chapter Elsewhen: Emmaline when I reveal that the victims of Julian Blackthorn's financial swindle will suffer even more thanks to that economic downturn.

     And that's pretty much where the similarities end. Tarkington was a staunch conservative who opposed FDR's New Deal (and also hated automobiles). Lawton, meanwhile, believes the welfare of his fellow man is every bit as important as that of his own (oh, and he loves automobiles, or at the very least, his 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Tourer).

     One final aspect of Booth Tarkington's career did come in handy when I had to come up with names for Lawton's fictional best-selling novels. My solution was to simply alter a few of Tarkington's more famous titles. 

     Thus, Booth's The Gentleman from Indiana became Lawton's The Squire of the Plains, his Monsieur Beaucaire was altered to Madame Bellepierre, The Magnificent Ambersons changed to The Remarkable Remingtons and Tarkington's beloved Alice Adams switched to Lawton's Millicent Madison.

     In the scheme of things, Lawton Webster is just a supporting character in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, but one I very much enjoyed bringing to life. Although he and his wife Nora appear only briefly in my story, I hope readers will find them fascinating as well.





     

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe 



May 13, 2022

Dispatch #149: Burckel Brothers Cafe

 


     In Part Two of my 2-part e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library—which is set primarily during the summer of 1975—I jump a bit further back in time over four chapters, each one identified by the heading Elsewhen. Within them, I explore the past of my story's most enigmatic character, Emmaline Webster

     For instance, in Part Two's tenth chapter, Elsewhen: Emmaline, Miss Webster deals with a devastating personal loss by escaping through the interdimensional portal in the Webster House library to the book-worlds.

     It's while visiting Victorian-era New York City—via a book-world resembling Nelson Delafield Adams' classic 1893 novel, Four Gotham Families—that Emmaline makes a key alteration to the "plot" of that book-world, an impulsive act that will cause unforeseen repercussions back in the real world.


The Clarendon Hotel 


     As a long-time aficionado of New York City history, I enjoyed letting Emmaline Webster explore the streets of 1890s Manhattan. Upon her arrival in the Four Gotham Families book-world, she takes a room at the Clarendon Hotel, which once stood on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 18th Street. 

     Emmaline's focus in this book-world is Henry Sedgewick, a man who lives not far away in a home bordering Gramercy Park. Miss Webster's audacious plan to alter the book-world includes convincing Mr. Sedgewick—who had previously remained silent about the confidence schemes of his old friend, Julian Blackthorn—to go public with what he knows.

     In Part Two's twelfth chapter, Elsewhen: Emmaline and Julian, her interactions with Mr. Sedgewick eventually lead to an unpleasant encounter with Blackthorn himself. They finally meet when Emmaline arranges a lunch between Sedgewick and Blackthorn at the Burckel Brothers Cafe, just west of the Clarendon Hotel.


Exterior of the Old Town Bar.


     These days, the former Burckel Bros. Cafe is more famously known as the Old Town Bar. This venerable NYC institution has served customers at 45 E. 18th Street since 1892. As the bar sits directly across the street from the service entrance of Barnes & Noble Union Square (a bookstore where I was once employed), I would see it every day going to and from work and was determined to use it in a story someday.


Interior of the Old Town Bar


     In addition to the Clarendon Hotel and Burckel Bros. Cafe/Old Town Bar, I also had great fun placing Emmaline at some other famous locations from the Union Square of the past, including Constables Department Store, the Domestic Sewing Machine Building, and Luchow's restaurant. 

The New York World Building

     Traveling a bit further downtown, Emmaline has a momentous encounter with crusading 19th century journalist Nellie Bly in the newspaper offices of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.

Map showing the area south of Union Square in NYC circa 1893.


     Not long after that meeting, a pivotal confrontation occurs between Emmaline and the nefarious Julian Blackthorn in the alley between the Union Square Theater & the Star Theater, just south of Broadway (see map above). It's a confrontation that will have far-reaching consequences not just for Emmaline and Mr. Blackthorn, but eventually for Lizzie Stanton and her best friend Althea Robinson as well.

    

   


 


     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


May 7, 2022

Dispatch #148: The North Aldeburgh Corridor

 

Businesses along Fort Wayne's North Anthony Corridor.

     In this dispatch I continue my exploration of the Aldeburgh neighborhood found in my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library and its relationship to my childhood neighborhood in Fort Wayne.

     When I was growing up on Fort Wayne's north side, my family did our weekly grocery shopping at two primary locations: the Scott's on North Clinton (mentioned in Dispatch #144) and the Rogers Market at the busy intersection of Vance & Cresent Avenues with North Anthony Blvd.



     Rogers Market faced North Anthony Boulevard, the first of a series of shops & businesses along what's known as the North Anthony Corridor (a few of which I wrote about in Dispatch #43). 

Rogers Market on North Anthony Blvd (1984)

     In the above photo, you can see a free-standing Keltsch Pharmacy to the left of Rogers Market. Back when I was a kid, however, Keltsch's was located to the right of Rogers instead, one of a handful shops lined up together on that side of the grocery store.





     In transforming Fort Wayne into Aldeburgh for Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, I re-named Rogers Market to Luley's Market (in honor of an old school friend, Scott Luley) and changed the spelling of Keltsch from German to Polish to come up with Kielcza's Pharmacy

     In my story, the two stores sit side-by-side along North Aldeburgh Blvd in the original locations of Rogers & Keltsch's from my childhood—and as seen on the map in Dispatch #86. Naturally, the people in my e-book would refer to this area as the North Aldeburgh Corridor.

     Kielcza's Pharmacy is the setting for an unsettling sequence found in Chapter Seven: Althea Returns from Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, Part Two. In this chapter, Althea Robinson, soon after returning to Aldeburgh from an East Coast vacation with her parents, accompanies Lizzie and Miranda Stanton on their Saturday afternoon trip to Luley's Market & Kielcza's Pharmacy. 

     Although my story—set during the summer of 1975—contains a generous helping of nostalgia, it was important to me to point out (as Billy Joel himself once sang) the good old days weren't always so good. In a scene set inside the drugstore, Lizzie—along with the reader—discovers something her friend Althea Robinson is unfairly forced to deal with on a regular basis.

     Although Althea's unpleasant experience is one with which she is already quite familiar, for Lizzie it's a real eye-opener—and also, I hope, for some of my young readers, too.




     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe




May 1, 2022

Dispatch #147: The Field

 

Bird's eye view of the Field

     Today's dispatch is a direct follow-up to Dispatch #146, which detailed the northside Aldeburgh neighborhood that's home to the plucky young protagonist of my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library

     In this neighborhood, 12-year-old Samantha "Lizzie" Stanton shares a secret tree house hangout with her friends Althea Robinson & Jason Novak, located in a tall oak at the east end of an undeveloped area known as the Field

     Both the tree house and the Field make their debut in At the Treehouse, Chapter Four of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, Part One, for which I provided some background notes here.

     

Map view of the Field

    
       The Field also existed in my childhood neighborhood on the north side of Fort Wayne. It was the name my friends and I gave to the undeveloped area between the backyards of the houses on Kenwood & Vance Avenues, and it stretched nearly all the way from Parnell Avenue to Kentucky Avenue.

     Back then, there were no structures of any kind in this wild area, a place where the vegetation quickly grew from ankle-high grass on the west end to bushes, shrubs and trees as one moved east up the steep hill toward Kentucky Avenue. It really was a kind of no-man's land which the kids in the neighborhood eagerly co-opted as a playground. 

     Sadly, as evidenced by the Google Earth photo at the top of today's dispatch, the area's wild quality no longer exists the 21st century. Although this means the Field of my childhood is no more, I was able to revive it for Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, a story set during the summer of 1975.

     In my e-book, the Field in Aldeburgh is bordered by DeValera Avenue on the west, Webster Avenue on the east, Nance Avenue to the north and Kentwood Avenue to the south. Of course, these are all just fictionalized names for the real-life Parnell, Kentucky, Vance & Kenwood avenues in Fort Wayne.


Detail from my map of Lizzie's Aldeburgh neighborhood.

     Back when I was a kid, I never knew why Glazier Avenue (which began down at the banks of the St. Joe River) stopped so abruptly at Parnell Avenue, or why Glenwood Avenue did the same at Kentucky Avenue, but as an adult, I recognize that if either street had continued, the Field as I knew it could never have existed. 

     I'm grateful for the hours of fun my friends and I had in that wild, unclaimed space. I'm saddened it's now gone, but I'm pleased it exists once again in the pages of Samanatha Stanton and the Mysterious Library





     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


April 26, 2022

Dispatch #146: Lizzie's Aldeburgh Neighborhood

 

A map of my childhood neighborhood in Fort Wayne.

     As regular readers of this blog know, I based the fictional Aldeburgh neighborhood of the youthful protagonist in my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, on the northside Fort Wayne neighborhood of my own childhood. 

     Back in Dispatch #86, I outlined the changes I made to that real-life neighborhood to create the fictional one that Lizzie Stanton, Althea Robinson, and Jason Novak inhabit in my story—and even included a crude, hand-drawn map of that section of Aldeburgh.

      

     In that same dispatch, I also revealed the biggest change I made to my old neighborhood was the creation of the fictional Webster House and the Webster Estate, which have no real-world parallels in my old Fort Wayne neighborhood.

     In the real world, Glenwood Avenue stretches eastward from Kentucky Avenue. In my story, however, Glenwood only does so from Crescent Avenue onward, leaving a wide swath of land to the west that I transform into the Webster Estate.

     The location of the Webster Estate was inspired by my discovery of some old maps of my childhood neighborhood—in particular, a map from the year 1919. At first, I was simply surprised to discover that Kenwood & Vance avenues originally had very different names. Back then, they were known as Carson & Annie avenues, respectively. As far as I have determined, both of those names changed sometime after 1930. 

My northside neighborhood in 1919.

     Examining the map further, I was intrigued to find that Glenwood Avenue did not extend west of Crescent Avenue in 1919. This left a large swath of undeveloped land from Crescent east to Parnell—roughly equivalent to the space occupied by The Field & the Webster Estate in my story! After seeing this, I had no trouble deciding where to place Silas Webster's grand Victorian mansion in my story.

My northside neighborhood in 1897.

     So, although no such lavish domicile ever truly existed at that spot in real life, the land it sits on was vacant at one time, a fact which inspired me back when I was originally gathering ideas for my story.

     Remember, if you like reading these behind-the-scenes dispatches regarding The Samantha Stanton Adventures, any questions or comments you might have about them can always be directed here.




     

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


April 22, 2022

Dispatch #145: Elf Soda

 

      


       Back by popular demand! This is a re-posting of a previous dispatch from April 13th, 2021:

     In trying to recreate the American Midwest of the 1970s for my YA fantasy e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, I drew on my own recollections of growing up there during that era, even down to the type of soft drinks favored by my characters.

     To be honest, I don't recall consuming a lot of carbonated soda before I was a teenager. During my pre-school and elementary school years, I drank mostly water, milk, and fruit juice. When it came to the sugary stuff, more often than not it was powdered drinks like Kool-Aid and Funny Face, or a spoonful of Nestle's Quik in my milk.

     When I do remember having soft drinks back then, it was rarely the big-name brands such as Coke or Pepsi. With four kids in our house, whenever Mom brought soda home from the store, it was usually some of the cheaper stuff: Faygo or Elf

     Elf Soda (seen in the picture at the top of today's dispatch) was a store-brand of soft drinks sold at markets in the SuperValu chain, to which Scott's Grocery in Fort Wayne once belonged. When I was little, my family used to shop at the Scott's on North Clinton (it's now a Kroger), across from the Memorial Coliseum.

     Although the stuff was cheap (its primary selling point) Elf Soda tasted just fine to me. I remember being especially fond of the lemon-lime flavor, which was sort of an ersatz 7-Up or Sprite.

     In At the Treehouse, the fourth chapter from Part One of my e-book, Lizzie Stanton and her friends Althea Robinson and Jason Novak decamp to their tree house headquarters after their encounter with the Midwest Ice Man at Valleybrook Mall (see Dispatch #5). While there, I have them discuss what they've just seen while sipping from cans of Elf Soda. For the record, Lizzie chooses Lemon-Lime, Althea has an Elf Cola, while Jason opts for an Elf Ginger Ale.

     I haven't seen any cans of the stuff in ages, so I'm not sure if it's still being made, but I just knew I had to include Elf Soda in my story set in the (Pre-Rustbelt) Manufacturing-Belt Midwest of the 1970s.

 


     
     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe