July 1, 2022

Dispatch #160: Aldeburgh

 

UK artist Neil Fendell's Aldeburgh print.

     Way back in Dispatch #2, I wrote about naming Aldeburgh, the sleepy Midwestern U.S. city from my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, after a real-life village on England's North Sea coast.

     The real Aldeburgh is a lovely coastal town and nothing at all like the actual inspiration for the Aldeburgh in my story: my own land-locked hometown of Fort Wayne. I chose the name Aldeburgh because in Old English it translates to "Old Fort", which also happens to be one of Fort Wayne's nicknames. Since I was using a re-imagined version of my hometown and not an exact replica, the name Aldeburgh seemed a good fit for this hybrid creation.

     I first became aware of the U.K.'s Aldeburgh because of my love for a good English ghost story, and especially those by author M.R. James (1832-1936). James had family connections to England's East Anglia area, which is why the region figured so often in his splendidly spooky tales.

     In 1968, the BBC adapted one of the author's classic tales, Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad for television. It was successful enough to launch a series of yearly adaptions which were shown each December from 1971-1978 under the umbrella title A Ghost Story for Christmas

     Of those broadcasts, my favorite was 1972's A Warning to the Curious, a bone-chilling tale filmed on location in East Anglia. In both the short story & teleplay, the village where the action takes place is called Seaburgh, although it was actually inspired by Aldeburgh, a seaside village James knew quite well.

     And that's the strange but true story of how a village on the U.K.'s North Sea coast inspired me to adopt its name for my protagonist's hometown in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library.

    






     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


June 21, 2022

Dispatch #158: Jack Stanton

 

1940 WPA image of a Carpenter 

     Among the many supporting characters in my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, one who plays a particularly important role in the story is dead before the first chapter even begins. Some of the backstory for this character, Jack Stanton, is present in the e-book's narrative, but other elements appear here at Dispatches from Aldeburgh for the first time.

     Jack Stanton, husband to Miranda and father to both Debra and Samantha (aka Lizzie) died tragically in 1968, seven years before the events of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library (which is set during the summer of 1975). Nevertheless, Jack is ever-present in the story via the thoughts of the grieving family he left behind. In fact, it's the memory of her late father that helps Lizzie in a pivotal moment of crisis.

     So, who is Jack Stanton? I suppose you might say he was a born carpenter. Jack's future in woodworking was never in doubt, as it had been the Stanton family business going back to the time of his Great-Great Grandfather Thaddeus. Some of the oldest houses in Lizzie's neighborhood were framed by Thaddeus and his son, Clement. As a boy, Jack Stanton apprenticed to his father, Gabriel (Clement's son), and later mentored his younger brother, Walt, in the trade, too.

     In his free time Jack loved nothing better than to lose himself in a good book (he favored tales of high adventure). Later, as an adult, he would read these same stories aloud to his daughters, acting out the various characters with great enthusiasm.

     Jack met his future wife, Miranda Mullenger, in 1951, while they were still teenagers, after the Stantons were hired to do some renovations on the Mullenger family home. Although two years apart in age, they quickly became an item. After dating Jack's during his senior year at Sy T. Norden High School, Miranda wrote to him faithfully during his Army service that followed.

     When Jack returned to Aldeburgh in 1953, Miranda was a first-year student at a local art school. By the following summer, he'd convinced her to marry him and start a family. They moved into a two-story house on Kentwood Avenue just before their first daughter Debra was born in early 1955, with Lizzie arriving in late 1962.

     Jack lost his father, Gabe, only a month after Lizzie's birth. Still, even as head of Stanton Family Carpentry, Jack found time to dote on his two young daughters. During Lizzie's bath-time, he seemed to enjoy playing with a toy submarine that had come from inside a cereal box almost as much as she did.

     Jack loved running the family business with his younger brother Walt at his side. However, in the summer of 1968, Walt was faced with a personal crisis and Jack, naturally, offered to help—a decision with unforeseen (and fatal) consequences for him.

     It was hard for the Stanton family to move forward after the tragedy of Jack's demise, but hardest of all for Lizzie, who was not yet six at the time of his death. In Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, her father's loss is a wound that is still not quite healed, a condition which will affect her in ways she cannot imagine.

     

     Here are some last bits of trivia about Jack Stanton:

     Full Name: John Allan "Jack" Stanton

     Birth: November 3rd, 1933  

Death: August 13th, 1968 (age 35)

     Height:  6'0"

     Hair Color: Chestnut Brown 

 Eye Color: Hazel

     Occupation: Commercial Carpenter

     Interests: Woodworking/general home repair, Books (classic adventure novels), Movies (swashbucklers/westerns), Music (Pop Standards: Bobby Darin/Frank Sinatra/Rosemary Clooney/Julie London)



     

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


June 18, 2022

Dispatch #157: Debra Stanton

 


     Today's dispatch is the sixth in a series of profiles about the characters from my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, this one focusing on Debra Stanton, the older sister of my protagonist, Samantha "Lizzie" Stanton.

     In my story, set during the summer of 1975, Deb is a twenty-year-old newly minted L.P.N. who works the late shift at Aldeburgh's Randallia Hospital (the same medical facility where Maxine Robinson is employed). 

     As she typically returns to the Stanton residence each morning just as her mother departs for her shift at Optimum Motors, Deb provides an adult presence at home (albeit while asleep) during the day while twelve-year-old Lizzie is on summer vacation from school.

     Thanks to her late shift at the hospital, Deb is off-stage (and asleep) for much of the first Samantha Stanton Adventure. This changes in the second adventure, Samantha Stanton and the Literary Invasion, where Lizzie's older sister plays a larger role as a mystery illness sweeps through Aldeburgh, filling Randallia Hospital with its victims.

     With a gap of seven years between them, Deb usually assumes more of a parental role—rather than that of a playmate—to her younger sister. Nevertheless, Lizzie's precociousness—the result of her voracious reading habit—usually keeps the older girl on her toes.

Randallia Hospital in Aldeburgh.

     As the first-born child of Jack and Miranda Stanton, Deb is perceived as more responsible than her impulsive younger sibling. A diligent but unremarkable student, Deb participated in a variety of extracurricular activities while in school and was popular with her classmates. Although more outgoing than Lizzie, she lacks the younger girl's imagination.

     After time spent working as a Candy Striper, Deb began to think seriously about a future career in nursing. During her senior year at Seymour T. Norden High School, she began taking L.P.N. classes as part of its vocational program—attaining licensure after graduation.


     Living at home allows Deb to put some money aside toward her first car. In the meantime, she drives her mother's metallic blue 1965 Chevy II, usually with the radio cranked up and tuned to WBRG ("Home of the 'Burgh's Best Music!"). Her odd work hours make dating difficult, so most of her free time is spent with old friends from her school days or new ones from the nursing staff.

     While they were students together at Sy Norden High, Deb dated Terry Hutchison, a talented local musician who now manages Shamballa Records. After graduation, their busy lives (Terry is pursuing a music degree in addition to running the record shop) caused the couple to drift apart romantically, but they remain friends.

     Nevertheless, whenever Lizzie visits the store, Terry invariably asks about her older sister, indicating that he still carries a torch for Deb, and indeed, their romance is rekindled in the second adventure.

     Miranda Stanton, a big movie fan, chose to name her first daughter after a popular screen actress of the time, Debra Paget, and seven years later, wanted to name her second child after actress Sandra Dee—that is until husband Jack persuaded her to honor his mother, Samantha, instead.

     On a personal note, I had two nurses in my own family, but Deb, a wholly fictional character, isn't based on either of them.


     Lastly, here's some other trivia about Deb:

Full Name: Debra Jean "Deb" Stanton

Born: February 10th, 1955 (age 20 during the summer of 1975)

Height: 5'5"

Hair Color: Blond (worn long, straight, and parted in the middle)

Eye Color: Blue

Interests: Dancing, Roller-Skating, Macrame, Movies (comedy/romance), Music (rock & funk)



     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


June 15, 2022

Dispatch #156: Maxine Robinson

 

Actress Diahann Carroll as TV nurse Julia Baker

     Today's dispatch is a profile of Maxine Robinson, another character from my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library. Maxine, a Registered Nurse, is married to Professor Nathaniel Robinson (profiled here) and the mother of Althea Robinson (profiled here and here).

     As was the case with most of my supporting characters, very little of the backstory I created for Maxine Robinson made it into the pages of my story, so readers will be discovering it here for the first time.

     Born in 1938, Maxine is the daughter of Ella Atwell, a graduate of the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, and Lionel Atwell, a popular bandleader during the Harlem Renaissance.

     For most of Maxine's childhood, the Atwells lived in New York City. The middle child of three, Maxine was seen as more responsible than her older brother Erroll (who often skipped school to play music with his friends) and for the way she looked after her younger sister, Nina.

Beverly Johnson on the cover of Vogue, Aug. 1974

     Tall and photogenic as a teen, Maxine entered and won several (segregated) pageants while still in high school. When creating Maxine, I always pictured her as glamorous and outgoing—in contrast to her reserved & professorial husband—and imagined that if she hadn't become a nurse, she might have been a contemporary of supermodel Beverly Johnson.

     Tragedy struck the Atwell family in 1955, when Lionel was killed in an interstate bus accident while on tour with his band. Following her husband's death, Ella moved with her children across the Hudson River to Paterson, New Jersey to be closer to her extended family.

     Following in her mother's footsteps, Maxine attended nursing school after graduating from high school in 1956. That same summer, she was introduced to Nathaniel "Nate" Robinson by her brother, Erroll. Although Nate was five years older, Maxine was instantly smitten by the studious, soft-spoken engineering student (although she was careful not to show it at first). The two dated while Maxine completed her education and Nate worked toward his PhD, finally marrying in 1959.

     Newlyweds Maxine and Nate lived in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey, a home they eventually shared with a baby girl, Althea, in 1963. Once Nate became an associate professor, the trio moved into a small but cozy home several miles west in Maplewood.

     Like many mothers of that time, Maxine stepped back from her career to care for her daughter, but once Althea was of school age, returned to work at St. Barnabas Hospital in Newark. After five happy years in Maplewood, the Robinson family departed the East Coast for the Midwest when Professor Robinson accepted a position at Aldeburgh Tech.

Randallia Hospital in Aldeburgh

     Maxine—by this time an experienced E.R. nurse—easily found employment at Aldeburgh's Randallia Hospital, where she won the respect and admiration of her co-workers with her cool demeanor under pressure and no-nonsense attitude. 

     When not dressed in her nurse's whites, the tall, elegant Maxine prefers wearing stylish, glamorous clothes. Much like her mother & grandmother, she's an excellent cook and charming dinner host. Maxine began writing poetry as a teen, a hobby she continues as an adult. During family game nights she's always fiercely competitive but a graceful winner afterward, often making popcorn for her defeated opponents.

     Back in Dispatch #35, I revealed that I had named the members of Althea Robinson's family after famous jazz singers & performers. I did something similar when it came to Maxine: her family name, Atwell, comes from Trinidadian pianist Winnifred Atwell, who enjoyed world-wide popularity in the 1950s.

     In The Samantha Stanton Adventures, Maxine and Nate Robinson provide a safe, stable, and loving home for their daughter, Althea—a contrast to Lizzie Stanton's warm but single-parent home and Jason Novak's emotionally distant two-parent household. Nate may be where Althea gets her analytical side, but it's from Maxine that she gets her moxie. Althea's mother makes her debut in Part One's Chapter Seven: Shock Theater

     

Additional trivia about Maxine Robinson:

     Full Name: Maxine Marietta Robinson (maiden name: Atwell)

Birthday: February 14th, 1938

Height: 5'9"

Interests: Books (James Baldwin & Maya Angelou), Music (Jazz, R&B), Clothes/Fashion, Cooking/Baking

Automobile: Maxine drives a 1973 Burnt Orange Chevrolet Monte Carlo




     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe


June 12, 2022

Dispatch #155: Nathaniel Robinson

 


     Continuing the character profiles from my e-book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, today's dispatch offers a closer look at Professor Nathaniel "Nate" Robinson, the father of Althea Robinson (I wrote about her here and here.)

     Much of the backstory I invented for Nate Robinson never made it into the pages of The Samantha Stanton Adventures, so I'm happy to share it here for the very first time.

     Born in Paterson, New Jersey in June of 1933, Nate showed an engineer's curiosity at a very young age by taking various items he found around the house apart and reassembling them (sometimes with mixed results).

     However, it was the Christmas gift of a crystal radio set in the early 1940s that paved his way to becoming an electrical engineer. Nate loved using the home-built set to tune in thrilling radio programs such as The Mysterious Traveler, Suspense, and Murder at Midnight.


     After graduating high school in 1951, Nate enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and found himself stationed in Japan, where he made friends among the enlisted men who worked on the Far East Radio Network.


     Upon his return to the States, Nate worked at the Lafayette Electronics store on Central Avenue in Newark while attending the Newark College of Engineering (now known as the New Jersey Institute of Technology or N.J.I.T.) on the G.I. Bill.


      After learning that his high school sweetheart had married someone else while he was overseas, Nate put aside this heartbreak and threw himself into his studies & his job.

     It wasn't until his junior year that his high school friend (and fellow Air Force vet) Erroll Atwell re-introduced Nate to his younger sister, Maxine, that loved bloomed again for the hard-working student. Nate and Maxine dated steadily while both worked to further their education (Maxine, five years younger, had just started nursing school when the two met).
 
     Nate & Maxine were married in 1959, after Maxine graduated from nursing school and received her RN certification. Nate attained his PhD two years later, in 1961. Although the newlyweds hoped for a child immediately, that wish went unfulfilled until April 1963, when Althea was born. Like many women back then, Maxine then stepped away from her career until Althea reached school age.

     As an Assistant Professor, Nate taught and performed research at N.J.I.T. for several years before graduating to Associate Professor in 1968, after which the Robinson family moved from their Newark apartment to a small but cozy home in Maplewood, New Jersey.

     Then, in 1973, Nate's former N.J.I.T. mentor, now the dean at Aldeburgh Tech in the Midwest, offered him a full professor's position at the small, for-profit school, prompting the Robinson Family's move from the East Coast to the industrial Midwest.

A Pioneer RT-908 reel-to-reel tape deck.

     At home, Nate enjoys reading about cutting-edge technology, rooting for the New York Yankees, tinkering with electronic projects, and listening to vintage radio dramas on his Pioneer RT-908 tape deck in the den (the OTR shows are sent to him regularly by his old Air Force buddies). Professor Robinson smokes a pipe occasionally but never inside the family home, as Maxine doesn't allow it.

     Although a kind and thoughtful man, Nate's reserved manner can make him seem aloof to those who don't know him well, but he's quick to show his affection for Maxine & Althea, the women in his life. As a father, he's a steady, reassuring presence in daughter Althea's upbringing, with Maxine usually assuming the role of disciplinarian around the house.

     Here are four final bits of trivia about Nate:

     Full Name: Nathaniel "Nate" Edwin Robinson
    
 Birthdate: June 3rd, 1933
    
 Height: 6"2'

Automobile: Nate drives a Zodiac Blue 1971 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible




     I hope my readers enjoyed this profile of Althea's dad, who makes his first appearance in Chapter Seven: Shock Theater. Look for a profile of her mother, Maxine Robinson in the next dispatch.

     



     There's More to come in the next dispatch.

     ©2022 SummitCityScribe