Angelic Knight Press has released a sneak peek at the cover art for No Place Like Home: Tales from a Fractured Future. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to see the other authors, and I’m clearly in good company on this one. Some great artwork from Rebecca Treadway.
For more information, click here.
What does the future hold?
Next Friday, in honor of Halloween, I’ll be featuring an analysis of one of my childhood favorites, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
Yeah, that’s right. I’ll be talking about Charlie Brown.
But without further ado…
I lived in Missoula, Montana for about six years. Of the many places I’ve lived, it has to be one of my favorites. I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Montana back when their program was one of the top five in the country.
I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, but back then, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a writer. The town had a history with writers. Poet Richard Hugo taught at the University for 18 years (there was a great photograph of him in one of the classrooms, I think, sporting a cigar and a tumbler of bourbon). David Lynch was born in Missoula, and there are hints of the town in his Twin Peaks series. There’s just a certain atmosphere about the town that seems to draw in artists. Hell, it’s why I went there.
I remember several people telling me before I moved that Missoula was also well-known for the fact that “it has more bars than people.” Well, okay, that sounded good, too. This was obviously some hyperbole, but the downtown does sport a wide variety of pubs, from modern sports bars to cowboy bars to the Oxford, a saloon and cafe established in 1883 now open 24 hours where you can still get brains and eggs (if you’re feeling brave… or drunk).
Hmm. Maybe this contributes to the large writer population as well.
But there is also a good bit of history in the downtown. One of these places is the Atlantic Hotel. From Montana History Wiki:
The construction of the Milwaukee Road and the reconstruction of the Northern Pacific Railroad through Missoula sparked a second railroad-era building boom in the early twentieth century. The need for accommodations for both railroad workers and passengers occasioned the construction of several hotels at the city’s north end near the depot. The Atlantic Hotel was one such establishment, designed by Missoula’s most celebrated turn-of-the-twentieth-century architect, A. J. Gibson. Completed in 1902, the ground floor included a barber shop, saloon, and restaurant with the “best meals in the city.” Patrons could secure lodging on the two upper floors for seventy-five cents and up.
Currently, the Atlantic serves as something of an artist’s commune, with almost every square inch of available space taken by some form of art or another. Even though it is a residential space, the Atlantic used to be part of the First Friday art tour. I spent more than a few interesting evenings in the Atlantic with some fascinating people (and not just on First Friday…sometimes more like “late night Friday/early morning Saturday”). And it seemed like a perfect place for the protagonist of my novel, The Imaginings, to live when he showed up in Missoula.
Here is an excerpt from The Imaginings to give you an idea of the place (and also, of course, of the story). Special thanks to Steve O. (dharmpunk at Flickr) for permission to use his photos. All photos can be clicked on for more detail.
Oh, and currently the ground floor of the Atlantic is home to Circle Square Secondhand Store. If you’ve read The Imaginings, this store was the inspiration for Buck’s Shop or Drop, the pawn shop Jeannie goes into in Idaho (the one with the Elvis collection). But anyway…
From Chapter 9 of The Imaginings:
[David] opened his eyes to blue sky, with just a hint of wisps of white, and for a moment, he felt free, back in the mountains of Colorado, camping with the kids. Or even better, Ann.
Then David saw the crack that split the sky, the crack in the plaster of the ceiling that a previous tenant had painted in an attempt to give the small room in the downtown apartment building limitless possibilities, and he wondered if he would ever be free.
The demon had returned. Or caught up. Whatever. Maybe it had never been gone in the first place. Recent events led David to suspect the latter, and he wondered if he was alone even now.
. . .
He was quite a sight when he showed up in Missoula, his beard grown in on the side of his face unscarred by the fire, looking haggard but hard. A nice woman at the Poverello Center, the local soup kitchen, had helped him get a job. David hadn’t swung a hammer for a living since college, but it was a job he could get without his employer asking too many questions. Then he found the Atlantic Hotel.
David looked around his room. With the bed, a small desk, and a chair, there was barely much space to move. The sky-painted ceiling hadn’t been the last resident’s only contribution. She also painted the walls. Evergreen trees. And through a break in the trees, she had painted a jagged mountain peak in the distance. The manager told him it was supposed to be somewhere in Glacier National Park. It had been the only room available at the time of his application. Even in civilization, he couldn’t escape the wild.
David threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt. Saturday morning. No work today. But he had plans nonetheless. He stepped out into the hallway, where plants hung from the high ceiling and filled in the spaces on the walls unoccupied by artwork, making the already narrow passageway almost impassable in spots if two people were coming from opposite directions. The Atlantic was quiet as he made his way to the kitchen. Saturdays were often quiet, as most residents were either nursing hangovers or already gone for the day in pursuit of some sort of outdoor activity.
David passed the door to the last room before the kitchen. The girl living there had affixed a white-washed picket fence to the wall on either side of her door. Strips of canvas in the shape of a house framed the door and hung down behind the fence. David had overheard her telling a friend that she called it Home. “With a question mark,” she said.
Most of the time, David liked the fact that, for all intents and purposes, he lived in an art gallery. Most of the time, the creativity inspired David. It added a little color to a life that had been gray for too long.
Sometimes the chaos was a little too much. Sometimes his own memories provided him with enough torment to fill the hallways; he didn’t need the constant reminder of others’ pain, especially evident in some of the darker artwork that he had noticed during the previous winter.
More recently, since the return of the demon, David felt like an exhibit himself, or like he was part of one. Like he was being watched. Tested. Maybe by the demon. Maybe God. Maybe both. And more recently, “Home” only reminded him of something he may never experience again. Instead, as he walked into the open kitchen, a headless dressmaker’s doll in the corner with feathers glued to her arms seemed to welcome him to another day on display.
He reached up for the cereal box that had his initials written on it. He was wondering when the demon would make another appearance when he heard a cough from behind him. Someone in the common area across the hall from the kitchen, or the “Uncommons” as they called it.
Is this it? he wondered.
(end of excerpt)
What do I want from you?
Have you ever visited Missoula? It’s the greatest, right?
Have there been any buildings that have struck you as being a great setting for a story (besides the Shining hotel, of course)?
Check back next Friday for a little Halloween humor, Charlie Brown style.
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