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Posts tagged ‘the seeker’

The library and College Avenue remembered in fiction

College Avenue in 1964 looking from the unniversity toward downtown

College Avenue in 1964 looking from the unniversity toward downtown

I grew up in a town where College Avenue led straight from the main business district to the university’s main gate.  I liked the sweeping hill, the brick paving, and the older homes that owned the street as it drew closer to the university’s administration building. As I wrote The Seeker, College Avenue at night looked like the perfect place for a stalker.

And I knew exactly where that stalker would come from: the university library. I worked there as a student assistant to help pay the bills. It was my favorite place on campus except for the fact somebody there was spying on young women. He pushed books out of the shelves in a signature way so he could, apparently, look up dresses and ogle legs.

We never caught him. One minute an aisle leading through the open stacks was pristine; the next minutes there were books on the floor. I often wondered what kind of a sick person was on the loose. I never knew, but my imagination supplied plenty of details for the 1960s-era College Avenue chapter of The Seeker.

Protagonist David Ward is there in the dream world because he fears the stalker is following his girl friend Anne Hill. There’s little he can do, though, but watch the night unfold. He feels as powerless as I did in the library trying to get “the library guy.”

Except from The Seeker

Kindle Version

Kindle Version

David stood at the corner of College and Monroe in Tallahassee, Florida. To the north: the primary downtown business area, including the Florida Theater, which was showing Send Me No Flowers with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. To the west: the State Theater presented Elvis Presley in Roustabout. Farther west, College Avenue grew dark as it approached the university and the night beyond.

He dreamt and he knew he was dreaming. The sounds of the city were clear and, so, too, the conversations of the people on the sidewalk between the theaters, and some of their thoughts as well, expectations of popcorn, concerns about recent exams and questions about who they would see this evening and whom they would be with. Unlike his standard dreams, David walked like a ghost, unseen and unheard among the students and family groups and scattered grandparents. Yes, he could follow Anne or Nick or even RC without their knowledge. But if danger threatened, he could shout no warnings nor take any action.

He walked north and found Anne in front of the Florida Theater with Marta and Karen. Karen and Marta wanted to go out to a hamburger place with three students in a double-parked car. Anne didn’t.

“I’m fine, just a bit of a headache,” she said.

“We should stay together,” said Marta.

Staying together is smothering me.

“The streets are crowded,” said Anne. “It’s a safe night for walking back to the dorm.”

The car pulled away and Anne walked toward College Avenue with David, though she didn’t know it. Her hair was in a ponytail and she wore a light blue sweater against the gentle chill of the evening. The rivers of people coming and going from the theaters converged at College Avenue with cars driven by dates, friends, and parents in a clamor of horns and shouted greetings.

Very few people are walking toward the campus. The hill is dark past Schwobilt’s Department Store and the Baptist Church. Not good. Somebody’s whistling off key across the street. Maybe I should see Roustabout. Afterwards, perhaps a group of students will head back toward from front gate.

David also heard the whistling, but he saw no one there, heard no thoughts to follow within the rag-tag, repetitive “Lord, I Want to be a Christian” that swirled like an ill wind around the YMCA building and several small clothing shops across the street.

Anne hovered hear the ticket booth within the safe glow of light beneath the marquee.

“Go inside, Anne,” he said. While she didn’t hear him, David heard her think of him, wishing she had invited him down for Thanksgiving. The young woman in the glass booth
looked up, smiled.

David would hate Roustabout, but at least he would be here.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Anne.

This is silly.

She looked at the movie posters in the glass cases. Glanced across the street, and then walked away, comforted—he could tell—by the elderly couple standing in front of the jewelry store. She heard them talking about wedding rings and didn’t want to intrude. The Big Bend Bookstore caught her eye. She tried the door. It was locked.

Why are they closed so early? A good night for strolling, movies, and bookstores. I could pick up a copy of Herzog even though Marta thinks it’s strange.

Except for the wedding ring couple and the two girls looking at clothes in the Schwobilt’s window, people were disappearing into the night. The lady in the ticket booth turned off her light after putting up a SOLD OUT sign. Anne stood in front of the bookstore looking at the stacked up bestsellers for ten minutes. David saw a few tempting titles, but then, he wasn’t really there.

But he who whistled that song was there.

He’s watching me.

David stared past the clothing shops toward Monroe Street. Nobody. The notes we louder now and more off key, rather like the sound from a poorly made slide whistle prize out of a cereal box.

“Anne, go inside the theater.”

In my heart, in my heart, in my heart. Damned mocking notes, it’s “Nick of Time” Nick looking for girls to pray with him and then what, a private communion?

The song unsettled her. She hurried across Adams Street and tried the locked door at Schwobilt’s as the notes of the song grew closer, then farther away; there were no polices car in sight, no wedding ring couple, and no RC.

The dorm will be safe. No men in the hall.

David walked through every shadow and looked around all the corners, but the tune was everywhere at once.

The church was locked.

No sanctuary here. Just: “ … be a Christian, to be more loving, to be more holy, to be like Jesus,” over and over like a 45 rpm record stuck on a turntable replaying until the power fails.

If I were to visit my old hometown today, I seriously doubt I’d feel comfortable walking down College Avenue at night: I’ve seen that stalker scene so many times, the street has changed.



Saving the Florida Panther – I hope it’s not too late

“The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Less than 160 cats remain in the wild. Most live around Okaloacoochee Slough, including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, near Naples.” – The Nature Conservancy

floridapantherI grew up in North Florida during the 1950s and 1960s before the state became as overdeveloped as it is now. At the time, there was a captive Florida Panther at a local animal museum that had been injured either by guns or automobiles and was there to recover. It was my favorite animal in the place, one that still lived in the wild in the Florida Panhandle.

In my recent contemporary fantasy novel The Seeker, some of the action takes place at a wild, wonderful and somewhat forbidding tract of piney woods, swamps and wet prairies near the mouth of the Apalachicola River called “Tate’s Hell.” That name comes from the legendary man named Cebe Tate who chased a panther through the swamp because he thought it was killing his stock. He disappeared.

He was bitten by a rattlesnake. When searchers found him, his last words were, “My name’s Tate and I’ve been through hell.”

I grew up with that legend–one that included a folk song about Tate by Florida singer Will McLean–and knew the area well. So naturally, I mentioned the legend in my novel which is set at a time when Panthers were still there.

Catching up on the status of the Panther as I wrote the novel was a sad experience. While I was pleased to hear that in addition to the Nature Conservancy, organizations like Panther Net and Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge were working hard to protect the panther and its vanishing habitat, I was saddened to see how much ground and how many panthers had been lost since the says when I hiked in Tate’s Hell.

One conservation push in many areas of the country is wildlife corridors, protected strips or chunks of land that link up with vital habitats, creating a way for animals to travel between them. In some places, you will see green-space overpasses and underpasses routing animals past Interstate highways. Last year, the Nature Conservancy was able to protect a 1,278 acre tract in Glades County, Florida that Panthers in protected areas can use to increase the size of their range near Naples, FL.

According to the Nature Conservancy, “This acquisition will encourage the natural recovery of the Florida panther population by providing habitat where animals can den and stalk prey, and migrate from southern Florida to areas north of the river. Other species will benefit as well.” The range for a male panther is 200 square miles. The range for a female panther is a 75-mile block within the male’s territory.

I hope the efforts of hard-working people to save the Florida Panther will succeed. In a tourist and development-minded state, playgrounds often trump wild places and vital habitats in the eyes of government, Chambers of Commerce and the public. Too bad. It’s a short-sighted view of one’s world.



Contest Winners, Saturday’s Writing Prompt, etc etc etc

  • realmccoysToday’s Writing Prompt: “Bubba, if I catch you eatin’ plastic one more time, I’m gonna tan your hide.”
  • The Real McCoys (lost episode): Luke (Richard Crenna) tells Grandpa Amos (Walter Brennan) that he dreamt of going where no man has gone before. Kate (Kathleen Nolan) overhears the conversation and accuses Luke of fantasizing about Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Grandpa tells Luke to get the stars out of his eyes before the police show up.
  • Inspiration: Bones, by Smoky Zeidel, “Last month, as we walked along Pebble Beach in Big Sur, enjoying the roar of waves crashing on shore and marveling at the abundance of wildlife on the beach, Scott made the most intriguing find in what I refer to as a bale of kelp hay (who knows what marine biologists call it; bale seems fitting, though). He found a single vertebral bone, tangled in the detritus.”
  • Only $4.99 on Kindle (I know you can afford it!)

    Only $4.99 on Kindle (I know you can afford it!)

    Springtime Giveaway for The Seeker: Congratulations to the winners of the giveaway contest for my new contemporary fantasy novel. The winners are Cynthia, Kathy, Charmaine and Terry. Thanks for entering the giveawat!

  • Quotation: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” ― A.A. Milne
  • Lists: 11 Neil Gaiman Quotes on Writing, by Chris Higgins – “Neil Gaiman is a prolific author spanning genres — he has hits in the worlds of comics, young adult fiction, grownup fiction, television, film, and even nonfiction (I particularly enjoyed Don’t Panic, his Douglas Adams/HHGTTG companion). Here, eleven quotes from Gaiman on writing.” Mental Floss
  • rangerlogoFrom the Oh, Well Department: Since previous posts about the USS Ranger here on Malcolm’s Round Table have gotten a lot of hits, I had high hopes for Navy to Scrap Historic Aircraft Carrier Next Year. I thought the USS Ranger Foundation, a group trying to turn the decommissioned aircraft carrier into a museum in Oregon, would see the post and explain why they appear to have given up on the project. This is one post that didn’t get any traction. To bad.
  • Words to the Wise: “A good storyteller is a person with a good memory and hopes other people haven’t.” – Irvin S. Cobb


A few updates – interview, a new review, Book Bits, and Glacier Park

  • coracoverI enjoyed my interview over at Deanna Jewel’s blog Tidbits. It will be posted there until February 8. Stop by, say “hello,” and sign up for a chance at a free copy of my e-book ghost story “Cora’s  Crossing.” We talked about food, Scotch, writing advice, contemporary fantasy, and location settings.
  • Meanwhile, I’m trying to wrap up everything I need to do for my fantasy adventure trilogy that’s coming out this year. The Seeker is the first novel in the series, planned for a March 2013 release. For more information on the trilogy, surf over the my website page for an overall synopsis and a book trailer for The Seeker.  My website also has a new inspirations and links page with info for writers and lovers of fantasy.
  • For those of you who try to keep up with the latest book reviews and author news, I’m publishing ” Book Bits” several times a week on my Sun Singer’s Travel’s blog. Essentially, this is a page of links. The most recent “Book Bits” post was uploaded today.
  • portoI enjoyed reading The Woman of Porto Pim by the late Italian author Antonio Tabucchi. An English edition translated by Tim Parks is schedule for release in June from Archipelago Books. I posted my review of this collection of stories this morning on Literary Aficionado. If you’re on GoodReads, you’ll also find a copy of my review there.
  • With a bit of luck, I might just make it out to Glacier National Park late in the summer season. I’m looking forward to it and hope we don’t get any early snowfalls that kluge up the trip. We’ll see if I can get some pictures of many of the locations I use in my fantasy novels. I’m also curious to see how Many Glacier Hotel looks after the recent updates and refurbishments. Once again, the Federal government is providing insufficient funds for the park’s most basic needs. Here’s a recent story about that:  National Park Service memo details $2.5M in proposed budget cuts at Glacier, Yellowstone.
  • mythmoorI can’t resist sharing this quote from Terri Windling’s blog: “Current cant equates fantasy with escapism, and current fashion would have it that fantasy is both easy to read and to write. It isn’t. When it is done honestly, by a skillful writer, fantasy takes us far enough beyond our daily perceptions to open us to the essential realities beneath it. This is the true goal of all art.”- Ellen Kushner
  • And, for a bit of Jock Stewart satire: High Video Game Score Guarantees Lucrative Government Employment