July 23, 2021

Dispatch #90: Chapter Three Preview Notes

 


      In today's dispatch: some follow-up notes to Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library—Chapter Three:The Creature in Center Court.

 


     Chapter Three begins with Lizzie and Althea entering Valleybrook Mall, which is just a thinly-disguised version of Fort Wayne's Glenbrook Square, or at least the indoor shopping center as it was before its first major expansion in 1976.

 

Glenbrook's original layout when it opened in 1966 (click to enlarge).

     
 

     In the Glenbrook diagram above, center court was the open area between Walgreens, Regal Shoes, Howards Gifts, and Azars Restaurant. The space played host to a variety of events when I was a kid, although for the record, I never saw Santa Claus there, as visiting with St. Nick at Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne was still the thing when I was little.

     Nevertheless, on separate occasions I did see actors dressed up as Batman, Robin, and Spider-Man in Glenbrook's Center Court, and yes, even a freezer containing what was advertised as the dead body of a Bigfoot (see Dispatch #5). While standing in line that day, I remember thinking it odd that Bigfoot's frozen corpse was so close to the Hickory Farms store.

    

The stage where I viewed the Minnesota Ice-Man.

     

       The emotions Lizzie experiences in the story while onstage with The Midwest Ice-Man nearly duplicate my own while peering down at the infamous Minnesota Ice-Man back in the early 1970s.  Other fictionalized elements—such as Jason's feigned illness and Althea's joking reference to the NBC TV show Emergency! during the planning stages of that ruse—were added for entertainment purposes.

     For my part, I distinctly remember leaving the stage that day convinced that I had seen, if not Bigfoot, then the body of a remarkably preserved prehistoric man. Hey, don't be too hard on me—like Lizzie, I was eager to embrace the existence of the strange and mysterious as a kid (see Dispatch #4).

    


    

     In the story, I mention some of the shops inside Valleybrook Mall, giving a shout-out to the now defunct bookstore chain B. Dalton Bookseller. In my younger days, I worked at the B.D.B locations in both Glenbrook and Southtown Mall in Fort Wayne. The chain was eventually acquired by Barnes & Noble, a company I later worked for in NYC (see Dispatch #74).

     And yes, at one time there really was a bronze Boy on a Dolphin statue at Glenbrook (in the story, Lizzie and her friends use one just like it as a rendezvous point). The sculpture disappeared sometime after one of the mall's numerous expansions, and Fort Wayne legend says it turned up on the lawn of a Summit City resident briefly before vanishing once again. I wonder where it is now?

     Aside from the spectacle surrounding the Midwest Ice-Man, Chapter Three also introduces readers to the third member of my youthful Aldeburgh trio: Jason Novak. He's revealed as  Lizzie's oldest friend, one she's known since kindergarten. As a wrote back in Dispatch #20, Jason is loosely based on a childhood friend from Riverside Elementary, but I gave him my affinity for collecting film scores.

     Althea's habit of sprinkling her conversation with occasional bits of Yiddish appears for the first time in this chapter. I mention that she picked up the habit thanks to the games of chess she played with her elderly neighbor back in New Jersey, Dr. Morris Feigenbaum. The good doctor gets his last name from my co-worker & friend at Barnes & Noble, Joel Feigenbaum (who, while neither elderly or a doctor, is a mensch).

     Finally, I point out that after Lizzie drops her completed roll of film off at the drugstore, it will take about a week before she could see her photos of the Midwest Iceman. It makes for an interesting contrast to today, when one can see any pictures taken with a smartphone instantly.

     At the end of the chapter, Lizzie, Althea, and Jason head to their secret tree house headquarters to discuss what they've seen. Their impressions can be found in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library—Chapter Four: At The Treehouse.

    

      There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe


July 21, 2021

Dispatch #89: Chapter Three Preview

 

     In the second chapter of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, On the Way to See Bigfoot, Lizzie caught up with her best friend Althea Robinson at Shamballa Records, a neighborhood music store, and together they rode their bikes toward Valleybrook Mall to see The Midwest Iceman exhibit.

     Click the text link below to read a free preview of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, Chapter Three—The Creature in Center Court:

 

Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library: Chapter Three 

 

     If you missed either of the previous free previews, Chapter One can be found in Dispatch #84 and Chapter Two in Dispatch #87

      As always, please direct any questions or comments about the story (or this blog), to the email address in my Blogger profile.

 

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

 

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe

July 19, 2021

Dispatch #88: Chapter Two Preview Notes

 

     Here are some follow-up notes to the free preview of Chapter Two of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library in Dispatch #87.

     In Chapter Two, On the Way to See Bigfoot, Lizzie's trip to Valleybrook Mall's Midwest Ice-Man exhibit is interrupted when she spots a bicycle belonging to her best friend, Althea Robinson, parked outside Shamballa Records, a neighborhood music store, and stops inside to look for her.


      In the story, Shamballa Records occupies the northwest corner at the intersection of Kentwood Avenue and DeValera Avenue in Aldeburgh. In reality, no such business ever existed at the corresponding corner of Kenwood and Parnell in Fort Wayne. When I was a child, a pizza place occupied that spot before it burned down, after which it was a vacant lot for several years.

     I invented Shamballa Records (see Dispatch #18) because—with music so easily available to listeners through streaming services these days—I wanted my younger readers to experience what it was like to browse for and purchase music in an old-school vinyl record store. Also, what better way to quickly immerse the reader in the summer of 1975 than by showcasing the popular music of the period?

     Shamballa Records is owned by a former hippie, Bernie Garrard, and managed by a 20-year-old musical prodigy, Terry Hutchison (see Dispatch #35). Terry, we learn, dated Lizzie's older sister, Debra, back in high school.

     The shop is named for the mythical kingdom from Tibetan Buddhism which, amusingly enough, I first heard about as a kid in a 1973 hit song by the rock group Three Dog Night.

     More importantly, however, Chapter Two is where we first meet Althea Robinson (see Dispatch #19), Lizzie's best friend, and a recent transplant to Aldeburgh from Maplewood, New Jersey. The daughter of an electrical engineering professor and an E.R. nurse, Althea—a math & science whiz—is practical and prudent in contrast to Lizzie, an impulsive dreamer.

     We also learn that the two girls bonded over their shared loved of horror movies in the 4th grade, get a sense of Althea's taste in music, and discover that it was she who convinced Lizzie to start writing down her imaginative stories.

   


    After leaving the record store together, the two friends bike on toward Valleybrook mall. While waiting at a red light across from its parking lot, Lizzie tells Althea  of a previous trip to the mall where she saw another unusual exhibit: nine prehistoric monsters from Sinclair Dinoland

     I saw this very same exhibit as a child in the parking lot of Fort Wayne's Glenbrook Mall (see Dispatch #9). In the story, Lizzie's retelling of the tale to her best friend brings back an emotional memory of her late father, Jack Stanton, showing us that she's not completely over his loss.

     By chapter's end, Lizzie and Althea have finally crossed the intersection and rolled their bicycles into Valleybrook's parking lot. Somewhere inside the sprawling shopping center complex waits their friend and classmate, Jason Novak, along with the Midwest Ice-Man—the frozen body of what just might be an actual Bigfoot.

     What happens next can be found in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, Chapter Three—The Creature in Center Court.

 

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     © 2021 SummitCityScribe 

 

July 17, 2021

Dispatch #87: Chapter Two Preview

 

 

     As Chapter One of Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library came to a close, it was a sunny Saturday afternoon during the summer of 1975, and our heroine—known to family and friends simply as Lizzie—had just left home on the lemon-hued bicycle she called The Yellow Submarine

     It was the first day of her summer vacation, and Lizzie was headed over to Aldeburgh's Valleybrook Mall to meet her friends Althea Robinson and Jason Novak. Together, they planned to see The Midwest Ice-Man, a traveling exhibit said to display the frozen body of actual Bigfoot, the legendary woodland creature.

     To find out what happens next, just click on the text link below for a free preview of Chapter TwoOn the Way to See Bigfoot:

 

Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library: Chapter Two  

 

     If you missed the free preview of Chapter One, it can be found in Dispatch #84.

     As always, please direct any questions or comments about the story (or this blog), to the email address in my Blogger profile.

     

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

 

    ©  2021 SummitCityScribe 

 

July 15, 2021

Dispatch #86: A Map of Lizzie Stanton's Neighborhood

Map of Lizzie's Aldeburgh Neighborhood (click to enlarge).

     Featured in today's dispatch: my homemade map of the northside Aldeburgh neighborhood featured in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library.

     It shows not only the locations of the homes of Lizzie Stanton and her friends Althea Robinson and Jason Novak, but other places mentioned in the story too, such as Randallia Hospital, Shamballa Records, Valleybrook Mall, and Webster House.

     Early in the process of writing my novel, I made this admittedly primitive diagram laying out these important locations in Lizzie's fictional neighborhood to help me remember exactly where everything was as I plotted her adventures.

     Although this Aldeburgh neighborhood was loosely based on the one that I grew up in on Fort Wayne's north side, there were some important differences between them.

     It began with a slightly simplified neighborhood grid, where I shortened some streets, eliminated others altogether, and invented features (such as parks) that don't exist in that part of Fort Wayne.

     In addition, the names of Aldeburgh streets were altered slightly from their Fort Wayne counterparts (Flusswald Drive instead of River Forest Drive, Curtiz Avenue rather than Curdes Avenue, etc.). 

     Also changed were the names of businesses, parks, and points of interest. For example, Dairy Queen morphed into Dairy Treat, The Shady Nook tavern became The Safe Harbor, and North Side High School was renamed Sy T. Norden High School (that last one makes sense if you know a little German). 

     I did keep the name of my old elementary school, Riverside, but I changed nearby Rogers Market into Luley's Market in honor of an old classmate, Scott Luley, while Keltsch's Pharmacy next door became Kielcza's Pharmacy by switching its name from German to Polish.

     I had some fun with the home of the trio of bullies who cause trouble for Lizzie and her friends. What better location for the Dunning Brothers' house (see Dispatch #55) than on Krueger Avenue?

        Of course, the most substantial changes I made were the creation of Webster Avenue, The Webster Estate, and Webster House itself. All three were created out of whole cloth because nothing remotely like them exists in my old neighborhood.

     In Dispatch #2, I asked: is Aldeburgh Fort Wayne? My answer back then—it is, until it isn't—applies most strongly to Webster Avenue/the Webster Estate/Webster House, all of which have no real-life counterparts in Fort Wayne. I created them because I liked the idea of a spooky mansion sitting alone on a quiet avenue just up the street from Lizzie's house (see Dispatch #7) and since such a location didn't exist in the real world, I had to manufacture it for Aldeburgh.

     In my story, Webster Avenue is a wide avenue flanked by tidy sidewalks and vintage cast iron street lamps, with the lonely section between Kentwood and Nance avenues occupied by just a solitary dwelling: the mysterious Victorian mansion known as Webster  House.

      For anyone familiar with Fort Wayne who finds themselves confused by my changes on this map, please remember that you're looking at a diagram of Aldeburgh—an imaginary place that exists only in my novel—and not one of the Summit City.

     Think of it like a map of Oz, Narnia, Middle-Earth, or any other made-up place and use it to track the movements of my youthful protagonist and her friends in my novel, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library.

  

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe 


July 13, 2021

Dispatch #85: Chapter One Preview Notes

 


     For those of you who've read the preview of the first chapter of my novel, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library (see Dispatch #86), here are some follow-up notes:

     In that opening chapter, Into the Mummy's Lair, readers are introduced to twelve-year-old Samantha "Lizzie" Stanton, a precocious girl with a vivid imagination living in Aldeburgh, a medium-sized industrial city somewhere in the Midwestern United States. We also meet Lizzie's family: Miranda, her factory-worker mother, older sister (and nurse) Debra, her late father Jack (a carpenter), and even Fig, the Stanton's pet cat.

     We learn that Lizzie looks at life a little differently right off the bat when, using her imagination, she turns an innocent trip into her sister's bedroom into a tense exploration of a chamber concealing a recently resurrected mummy. This opening sequence is meant to show her as a mix of Walter Mitty and Carl Kolchak.

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak

     The old Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show also inspired various elements of Lizzie's wardrobe—including her father's straw hat and seersucker shirt, not to mention her white & green Adidas sneakers—all included as a nod to Darren McGavin's outfit in that classic 1970s series.

     Kolchak's relentless pursuit of the truth—regardless of the terrifying places it often took him—was the inspiration for Lizzie's quest for the strange and mysterious around Aldeburgh in my story.

Carl Kolchak's Yellow Submarine

 
Lizzie's Yellow Submarine

     It's also why I have Lizzie refer to her lemon-colored Schwinn Breeze bicycle as The Yellow Submarine (as Kolchak's 1966 canary-hued Ford Mustang was affectionately known) and why she sometimes carries a portable tape recorder and camera slung over her shoulder, just as Carl often did.

     We also discover that Lizzie enjoys a big bowl of Count Chocula breakfast cereal while watching Land of the Lost and Superfriends on Saturday mornings (just as I once did).

Hmm...Lizzie's house looks just like my old house.

     The Stanton house in the story, with its cream-colored exterior and green-shingled roof, is, of course, modeled on the Kenwood Avenue home of my Fort Wayne childhood. For example: Deb Stanton's bedroom is situated at the end of the second-floor hallway on the left-hand side, mirroring the one my two older sisters shared. 

     Lizzie's room, meanwhile, (described in detail in Dispatch #46), is at the beginning of that corridor, near the top of the stairs, and a duplicate of the one I once shared with an older sibling.

     Finally, the opening chapter also lays out the novel's time frame: the summer of 1975. It's June when the story begins and with school out until September, Lizzie Stanton has three whole months of vacation ahead of her, which she believes is rife with possibilities to uncover the strange and mysterious in Aldeburgh. Is she right? You'll have to read the rest of the story to find out.

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe


     

July 11, 2021

Dispatch #84: Chapter One Preview

 


      Now that you've had a look at the front cover mock-up of my book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library, how about a peek inside?

     Click the link below to read Chapter One of my story and meet its heroine, Samantha Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stanton:

 

Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library: Chapter One

 

     As always, for questions or comments about the story (or this blog), use the email address in my Blogger profile.

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe
 

July 10, 2021

Dispatch #83: Front Cover Mock-Up

Front cover mock-up for my novel (click to enlarge)


     I've written here before about how I used various images pinned up on a bulletin board above my workstation to inspire me while writing my novel. At the top of today's dispatch is one of those very images: a mock-up of the front cover to my book, Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library

     The image above is obviously not some slick photoshop effort—merely a crude prototype—and not intended to represent the final product. It's simply a quickly-assembled collection of images I'd cultivated from the web to pin above my desk, one that I could glance up at now and again while typing out Lizzie Stanton's adventures.

     In the mock-up, just under the book's title is a photo of English actress Barbara Shelley (the physical model for my character Emmaline Webster). Beneath her photo and bracketed by a pair of open books are silhouettes representing (from left to right) Jason Novak, Samantha Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stanton, and Althea Robinson.

      Below them you'll find the image of a beautiful amethyst brooch—much like the one belonging to the Webster family in the story—and beneath it a representation of Webster House itself. 

     As you can see, three separate images are superimposed over the Victorian mansion. First up, on the left, is a tall ship at sea. The center photo is of  Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, the physical model for my character Nicholas Ballantine. Finally, over on the right is the image of a steampunk submarine.

     Of course I'm not going to use images of Barbara Shelley and Jonathan Pryce on the finished cover, but I still wanted to share this early version of it. Since the image helped to inspire me while writing my novel, it's my hope that by posting it here, you might be inspired to read it.

     There's more to come in the next dispatch. 

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe

 


July 7, 2021

Dispatch #82: Maiden Lane & West Berry Street

 

The Swingin' Gate Teen Club at 224 West Berry St. in Ft. Wayne.

     

     At the top of today's dispatch is a photo I've posted here before. It's a pic of The Swingin' Gate Teen Club in downtown Fort Wayne (see Dispatch #39). The building on the left at 224 West Berry Street was the club's home and the building on the right is the Odd Fellows Lodge at 222 West Berry

     Both buildings have since been demolished. I haven't been able to determine exactly when 224 W. Berry was torn down, but I'd estimate it was sometime in the mid-1970s or early 1980s, because that spot on the corner of Maiden Lane and West Berry was a parking lot for as long as I can remember.

Two trees mark the former location of the Swingin' Gate on W. Berry (photo: June 2019)

     Meanwhile, 222 W. Berry (the Odd Fellows Hall), built sometime around the year 1900, was demolished much more recently, in December of 2019, to make way for the Ashberry Building.

Demolition of the Odd Fellows Hall at 222 W. Berry (Dec. 2019)


      I stopped by the Ashberry construction site a few days ago (which is still just a big hole in the ground at the moment) and took a picture. The photo below is looking west down Berry Street to the corner at Maiden Lane, which is where the Swingin' Gate once stood. There's a picnic bench outside Cindy's Diner (that's its green roof on the far left) where you can sit and look over at the spot where the club used to be.

West Berry at Maiden Lane in July 2021 (click to enlarge).


     At least when the former location of The Swingin' Gate was a parking lot, you could point to it and tell people the empty space was once home to a historic Fort Wayne rock and roll club. Once construction on the Ashberry Building is complete, however, the last vestige of The Swingin' Gate will finally be gone.

     That's why I wish the City of Fort Wayne—or the people behind the Ashberry project—would consider putting a plaque up to commemorate the club. Without one, a bit of Fort Wayne history could eventually fade entirely from memory.

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe

 

July 5, 2021

Dispatch #81: Spooky Games

 

Transogram's Green Ghost game (1965)

     When I was a kid, we had all the usual board games around our house: Monopoly, Twister, Aggravation, even Headache with its pop-o-matic gimmick. As a devoted fan of all things spooky, however, there were two that stood out as my favorites: Green Ghost and Voice of the Mummy.

     In the late 1960s, I remember my older siblings allowing me to join them in playing Green Ghost, the first board game designed to be played in the dark. After exposing the game to bright illumination, you would then turn off the lights to begin play, thrilling to the eerie green glow of the various game elements.

     Players had the choice of moving around the board as a vulture, rat, cat, or bat, with the goal of collecting as many little green "ghost children" as possible. Once all the little ghosts were claimed, they were placed in the holes around the larger Green Ghost figure, which was then spun around. Whichever player had collected the ghost child that the Green Ghost happened to be pointing at when it stopped rotating was declared the winner.

     I loved everything about this game, from the spooky Addams-family design of the board and figures to the gameplay itself, and of course, I was always a sucker for anything that glowed in the dark.

Milton Bradley's Voice of the Mummy game (1971)

     Later on, in the early 1970s, I received a spooky Milton Bradley game as a birthday gift, Voice of the Mummy. As a big fan of Universal's Mummy movies as a child, I'm sure I pestered my Mom early and often for this one.

     During this game, each player would take turns moving their figure up and around the steps leading to the sarcophagus at the center—collecting small jewels along the way—in the hopes of being the first to reach the mummy and claim the larger jewel (and victory). 

     If a player landed on a marked spot, they would get to activate the recording hidden inside the game for instructions that were read in the spooky Voice of the Mummy, messages such as: "return at once to your temple" or "listen to the lost souls whispering in eternal darkness—take one jewel"

     Yeah, as an adult I realize it was all a bunch of colonialist nonsense, but as an 8 year-old kid, I went for it hook, line and sinker.

     I remember slipping the little plastic jewels from the game into the hidden compartment in the back of the plastic Buddha from G.I. Joe's Search for the Stolen Idol (see Dispatch #70), which is probably how most of them got lost. Later on, when the Voice of the Mummy was silenced after the game's record player stopped working, I used the board as an Egyptian tomb-themed setting for my action figures instead.

Milton Bradley's Which Witch? (1970)

     Another spooky Milton Bradley game from around that same time was Which Witch? I think one of my sisters had that one. I don't recall too much about it other than the nifty haunted-house setting, but I do remember players had to draw cards from a pile with instructions from one of three witches: Ghoulish Gertie, Wanda the Wicked, and Glenda the Good.

     When I look back on my monster-kid childhood, the spooky games I played, along with Aurora monster models, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, TV shows like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Shock Theater, and Night Gallery, even breakfast cereals like Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry, are all mixed up together in a frightful (and delightful) monster-mash of memories.

     Naturally, I couldn't resist mentioning Green Ghost and Voice of the Mummy in my novel—and so that's why Lizzie and Althea play both during one of their Saturday night slumber parties.

     There's more to come in the next dispatch.

     ©  2021 SummitCityScribe.