The Horse You Came In On

In the city of Baltimore USA, there’s a lively section of the waterfront called Fells Point that houses a pub called The Horse You Came In On Saloon.

Horse resized

It’s been around since 1775 (originally known as The Horse) and has never closed, even during Prohibition, it’s claimed. The jumping jointHorse plays a different kind of music in each of its several rooms. Choose 1980s rock, or rap, or oldies. Some recorded and some live. But that’s not the only reason to go there. The food is great, the beer conversational, and they’re famous for their takes on Jack Daniels. But that’s still not a good enough reason to go there.

Here’s the best reason: this was the last watering hole of Edgar Allan Poe—the grandmaster of suspense.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_portraitThe guy who invented the detective story in 1841 with The Murders in the Rue Morgue; the guy who wrote a whole clutch of gothic horror shorts, including The Fall of the House of Usher which scared the crap out of me as kid; the guy who sold his rights to the wildly popular poem, The Raven, for NINE BUCKS and never made much money anyway; and the guy whose name lives on in the Edgar Awards issued by the Mystery Writers of America.

His death was as weird as his tales. In 1849 Edgar left his home in Richmond Virginia to travel to New York, they say. And disappeared for a week. Turned up in this joint, drank himself stupid and stumbled out into the night. He was found the next day wandering delirious and shouty. I had friends like this many years ago.  Poe was rushed to Washington Medical College where he died soon after without revealing what had happened to him, or where he’d been the past week. He was 40 years old.

When his wife arrived, she declared he was wearing somebody else’s clothes. No explanation was forthcoming. Later, all Poe’s medical records, including his death certificate, vanished. More mystery.

Even this pub, Edgar’s personal Last Chance Saloon, has unexplained moments everybody attributes to him. Lights flicking on and off, cash registers flying open without warning, and once, the heavy door of the safe swung open by itself.

Why wouldn’t it? Edgar always lacked ready cash, after all.

 

 

 

No Room of One’s Own

I don’t have a permanent place where I sit and write stuff. I’ve tried libraries but they all have beige interiors, noisy readers, and the dreary ambiance of an impoverished resource center. So I drift around town and look for other cozy, undisturbed nooks.

I had planned to work in the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library while staying in that city. Nice, eh?

23-1 Rose Main Reading Room New York City Public Library Main Branch

Two city blocks long, it said on the webpage. Fifty-two feet high ceilings with murals. Majestic was the chosen word. Plenty of room for me and a handful of big ideas, it seemed.

Wrong.

After a piece or two of the ceiling dropped to the ground, the staff decided to renovate the whole room. And closed it. I never made it inside.

I found a few spacious bars (lucky me) that worked fine for an hour or two, but a combination of increasingly raucous customers, and the effects of the beer and wine I was forced (yes, forced) to buy, eventually made my output worthless.

I returned to the NYPL and discovered this little beauty.

17-2 Park Row, Old Post Office, The Harper and Brothers Building Murals In Dewitt Wallace Periodical Room New York City Public Library Main Branch
The New York Public Library De Witt Wallace Room.

Named after the founder of Reader’s Digest, who sat in here for years, editing the original stories to fit his genius of condensation. Let’s ignore, for the moment, the cheesy choice of stories and the rabid anti-socialist tendencies on display.

It quickly became the biggest selling magazine in the USA and even now, as the print media sag from competition on the internet, it remains the world’s best seller with a circulation around the ten million mark (down from a peak of 23 million).

Maybe some of that work ethic would rub off on me, I thought as I quietly slid into my ample seat and gazed at the artworks depicting buildings of various publishers. (Who chose that as a fascinating theme?)

But soon, the blindingly obvious drawback to working inside a work of art grew obvious. Streams of tourists filed silently through the door and stared. At the paneled walls, at the paintings and worst of all, at us—the readers and writers. I tried staring back, but there were too many of them to deter.

I gave up. Walked across the road to the Mid-Manhattan branch of the NYPL, and back into the beige and under-budgeted. Some dreams just refuse to come true.

Behold the Toast Master

Toaster 1For some reason, this underrated Disney animation often pushes in front of other, more deserving memories of mine. The Brave Little Toaster, written by the great sci-fi writer Thomas Disch, starts out as a simple road movie about a bunch of appliances that miss their owners, and go searching for them. Familiar territory, predictable plot. Sure it is. Until it gets darker than a dungeon.

The animation is old-time clunky, but the dialogue is great. The Radio gets great lines, and the Air Conditioner has the best Jack Nicholson voice. Some say there were future Pixar people involved in the making. I’m not surprised; the sharp wit raises it above a child audience.

Despite the cheerful, cheesy cover on the DVD, it’s more than a little freaky for little ones. One movie site had parents rating this as age 6+, while real living kids rated it as 9+. You hear what they’re are saying? The kids are not alright; they are begging to grow for three more years before they can survive this little gem. Myself, I’d add a decade, so I could watch the movie and not leave the room with permanent soul-searing.

Check it out next time you have to babysit somebody who might grow up to be the car mechanic you hate.

Dandelion

Dandelions have nothing to do with the subject of my next release, Never Show Them Money, (when too much money is not nearly enough). It’s a loose sequel to The Upside of Death and is due out by the end of June 2016. It grapples with issues that bite when you hold a lot of money you shouldn’t. I’d like to grapple with that problem one day.

In case anybody was wondering, I have removed my titles from iTunes and Kobo while I concentrate on promoting through Amazon. The marketing guys at Amazon don’t like it if you join their Kindle Direct Publishing program and continue to sell your titles through other outlets. Funny that.

The meme above is a nifty reminder that waiting for perfect conditions for ideas to flourish is not as effective as simply starting anywhere and working hard. I think I’m talking about writing, but I’m not sure.

Free as a Bird

It’s unabashed promotion time again. This week The Backward Time Traveler will be free on Amazon Kindle from Thursday, March 31st through to Saturday, April 2nd.

time-traveler4The Blurb: Keera Miles, a psychic, is asked by her spirit guide Bardo to astral travel back 200 years, to rescue a sacred stone from a Native American tribe before it’s lost forever. She teams up with an annoying, cynical reporter Zach Bones from the Chicago Post. The ingenious, twisty plot throws them into their worst conflict with the malevolent Red Leaf, a healer who holds the stone, and its secret. It’s Romancing the Stone with time travel.

I recently asked the legendary editor Dave King for a read over and comment. He suggested only a few minor changes to expand the story line. What a relief.

The beauty of eBooks is that any changes can be published as soon as they are written. Which I’ve done. That’s practically instantaneous compared to print. Download and enjoy.

Reviews are highly welcome; even one line would be good. If you’d like a free review copy as an epub, email me at my website, or PM me on Facebook.

The Backward Time Traveler

Here’s a useful tip if you’re writing a novel. Make sure you have the ending worked out before you complete the beginning. I didn’t, which is why The Backward Time Traveler took ten years, and a dozen drafts, to write.

However, it’s now available on Amazon Kindle. The Backward Time Traveler is a prequel to my other two novels: The Art of Dash and The Upside of Death. It was supposed to be the first in the series, but its long gestation period changed everything.

There’s an Amazon freebie promotion on September 30 and October 1 (USA time); which means the book is a free download on those days, (no hidden tricks). This is a transparent attempt to gather reviews and kick start the sales process. Without reviews, books languish at the bottom of search engines for several eternities.

time-traveler4

Here’s the blurb:

Keera Miles, a psychic, is asked by her spirit guide Bardo to astral travel back 200 years, to rescue a sacred stone from a Native American tribe before it’s lost forever.

She teams up with an annoying, cynical reporter Zach Bones from the Chicago Post. He doesn’t believe her story, but desperate for a temporary hideout from a vicious loan shark, he agrees to join her.

Zach’s also hoping for closer moments with her. Many of them–as many as possible.

When he wakes up in the body of a Sioux brave, he’s bewildered to the point of madness.   Worse, he becomes an unlikely hero during a Crow raid. Equally nerve-wracking for Keera, the camp’s best warrior demands that she be his wife.

The ingenious, twisty plot throws them into their worst conflict with the malevolent Red Leaf, a healer who holds the stone, and its secret.

And he can’t be killed off. Not ever.

 

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