Saturday, July 12, 2008

Walking Back In Time

This house was built in 1907 by a wealthy businessman and architect. It is downtown and I have no idea how to explain the fascination this house has held for all the locals. I have passed by this house as a kid walking to town, especially on Saturday en route to a movie. I've drove by it on my way to work a million times. It has always looked exactly like it does in the photo. A big stone house with turrets on one side and soaring columns. So why is this house intriguing? Because it has always been steeped in rumors and mystery to a certain extent.

The house was passed on from the architect to his only child, a daughter. The daughter was the only occupant of the house when I was a child and she died in the early 60's. I have been told she had over 30 cats at that time. I recall seeing cats around the grounds. There is a tall brick wall surrounding the back yard and a tennis court. The cats would lie on the top of the wall. The house became universally known at the Cat House. It was told that when she died she had left the house to her cats. This wasn't true but I think every one thought that because a caretaker continued to look after the cats and do the yardwork for several years after she died. She had a reclusive daughter, who lived only a few streets over, and I found out today the daughter didn't want to live in the house but didn't want anyone else to live in it either. Not even her sons, I guess. So, for over 40 years, the house has been locked up. Never once occupied. I have never seen anyone at the house except a yardman in the summer. Every time I drove by it, I'd think how I would love to see inside it. Just about everyone shared my curosity about the house.

This weekend, the curosity about the Cat House finally ended.

The daughter had died several months ago and it was opened for an estate sale! The entire town was shocked. And, I had no idea it was open until I got downtown today!! The street was blocked off and a woman told me that yesterday there was a two-hour wait to get inside. The fee to get inside was $5, which I shelled out immediately. I just couldn't believe that finally I was going to get to see inside the Cat House after decades of wishing I could see inside it. Of course, I didn't have a camera with me.

What can I say? I went in every room, from the full-size basement to the third floor attic that looked right out of a movie. Overall, it was in a total state of decay. I was on the 2nd floor and heard a crashing sound. I thought someone had fallen through the floor. Turned out the plaster fell from the bottom of the staircase leading up to the attic. I really don't think it had been cleaned up in 40years. It had an elevator in one of the turrets that had long ago rotted. All the windows were rotted and the paint was peeling off all the woodwork and walls. Of course there were a lot of interesting antiques, which were mostly personal belongings ranging back generations. Most of the furniture was gone but I liked looking at the clothes, hats and old jewelry that had once belonged to the "Vanderbilts" of my hometown and trying to imagine what the house, with 16 ft ceilings, was like at the turn of the century.

It's sad to think all that remains of their glory days is this dilapidated an old mansion

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Skylark Drive-In

Remember your local drive-in? This is a photo of The Skylark, our local drive-in for decades. I remember it well. I'm not sure when it was built, probably the late 40's. It was built by the wealthy architect/banker who also built many other notable buildings, including a home that goes by the nickname, Cat House. Back to Skylark, there were living quarters for the caretakers and large playground. Back before TV, when everyone went to the movies, the parents would go to the Skylark and watch the movie while the kids played on the playground. I remember sitting on the slide, looking up at screen or swinging and watching the movie. There was an artesian well beneath the drive-in and a pipe came up out of the ground. It was like a fountain spurting out of the pipe and you could catch a drink but I hated the taste. We called it "iron water".

The Skylark was known for its slaw dogs and popcorn. Of course, it had the metal speaker that you hung on your car door window and there was a knob to control the volume. Sometimes, there was static on it. No such thing as surround sound! And, mid-week was a bargain. A dollar a car, regardless of how many people were in it.

Young love blossomed at the Skylark. By the 60's, most of the crowd were teenagers. The kids who had grown up in the playground were now driving and dating. Usually a date meant going to the Skylark where you would see your friends. Sometimes everyone would park in a row and yell back and forth at each other. In the summer, we'd sit on the car hoods. The steady couples always parked in the rear and often times, all you saw were twirling tennis shoes in the windows.

By the time the 70's arrived, the Skylark's business was fading and the drive-in era coming to a close. A new twin cinema was built and everyone preferred the comfort of an indoor theater with padded seats and good sound.

The Skylark is gone now, torn down years ago. A piece of social history disappeared but it remains in the memory of all those who recall what it was like to watch a movie under the stars.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cheesy Cover But Terrific Book

This was such a delightful historical and I really enjoyed reading it. I must admit I actually stayed up reading it, which is rare when it comes to romance. You rarely find a romance that isn't somewhat predicable and this is the first one I've read in ages that had great plot twists. Bourne has a wonderful voice and I'm looking forward to her next book. I love the charm and wit of her characters. The heroine is a hoot. There were a couple of small flaws but overall this is a great read. However, if you are a reader who wants an erotic-type romance centered on the sexual relationship, this is not it.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all my fellow Irish folks! I've been listening to the High Kings today. Great ol' Irish songs!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Being A Plotter

I'm one of those writers who uses plot boards and I'm currently in the process of creating a new one for my current book. I experimented with a scene board and I think I've ended up with way too many scenes for the length of the book. I am going to have to make some decisions about setting as well and that will change the beginning of the book, too. Oh the woes of revision!

I have gone back to what I consider the standard board for a 400 page manuscript. The one I usually create for a book and this board always gives me a good idea of where I am in the story and what needs to come next. It is a basic twenty block board. I did 4 rows with 5 blocks, also left a top space for a prologue or general notes. Each block is twenty pages. The first 5 blocks equal 100 pages. By the end of the fifth block, the beginning of the book should shift into the middle. The fifth block should contain the first turning point or "surprise" as Evan Marshall calls it.

Blocks 6 through 15 are the middle. I consider 6-10 the first half of the middle and 10-15 the last half. Usually if a middle is going to sag, it will be between blocks 8-12. So I think a little surprise around block 10 is a good idea. By the end of block 15, a major turning point should shift the book into the ending.

Blocks 16 through 20 make up the conclusion. This means tying up loose ends and subplots. By block 18 the story crisis or black moment should be set into motion, followed by the "turnaround" in the plot when the lead characters face the opposition, fueled on by a new goal/change. Marshall refers to this as the Saving Act. By block 20, the lead character has achieved success. In a romance novel, this block contains the HEA ending.