Glean History

Dakota tower

Architect Henry J Hardenbergh designed The Dakota in1884. A local chap, he was born in New Brunswick, NJ.  Schooled at Hasbrouck Institute in Jersey City, and apprenticed in New York from 1865-1870 under Detlef Lienau, architect of Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, Norwalk, CT. The Dakota apartments, a coop, is exclusive to the famous, movie stars, musicians and the wealthy.

The Dakota c. 1890

The Dakota got its name because the  area was remote in relation to the rest of the Island of Manhattan, and more like the remote Dakota Territory, so far west and so far north, as mentioned in Christopher Gray’s book, New York Streetscapes.


The building’s high gables and deep roofs with a profusion of dormers, terracotta spandrels and panels, niches, balconies, and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, an echo of a Hanseatic town hall. Nevertheless, its layout and floor plan betray a strong influence of French architectural trends in housing design that had become known in New York in the 1870s. High above the 72nd Street entrance, the figure of a Dakota Indian keeps watch.

Dakota Indian figure

The Dakota is square, built around a central courtyard. The arched main entrance is a porte-cochère large enough for the horse-drawn carriages. The area is sheltered from the weather. The general layout of the apartments is in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only connected to each other, in enfilade, in the traditional way, but also accessible from a hall or corridor, an arrangement that allows a natural migration for guests from one room to another, especially on festive occasions, yet gives service staff discreet separate circulation patterns that offer service access to the main rooms. The principal rooms, such as parlors or the master bedroom, face the street, while the dining room, kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented toward the courtyard. Apartments thus are aired from two sides, which was a relative novelty in Manhattan at the time. Some of the drawing rooms are 49 ft (15 m) long, and many of the ceilings are 14 ft (4.3 m) high; the floors are inlaid with mahogany, oak, and cherry.


Originally, the Dakota had 65 apartments with four to 20 rooms, no two being alike. The apartments all look out onto an open courtyard as depicted here in this photo. These apartments are accessed by staircases and elevators placed in the four corners of the courtyard. Separate service stairs and elevators serving the kitchens are located in mid-block. Built to cater for the well-to-do, the Dakota featured many amenities and a modern infrastructure that was exceptional for the time. The building has a large dining hall; meals also could be sent up to the apartments by dumbwaiters. Electricity was generated by an in-house power plant and the building has central heating. Beside servant quarters, there was a playroom and a gymnasium under the roof. In later years, these spaces on the tenth floor were converted into apartments for economic reasons. The Dakota property also contained a garden, private croquet lawns, and a tennis court behind the building between 72nd and 73rd Streets.


All apartments were let before the building opened. For the high society of Manhattan, it became fashionable to live in the building, or at least to rent an apartment there as a secondary city residence, and the Dakota’s success prompted the construction of many other luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan.

Central Park at the foot of the Dakota

Wikipedia. Click this for more interesting facts like the famous who lived here, and John Lennon’s murder outside the building in 1980.

An entrance to the 72nd Street station of the New York City Subway‘s A B C trains is outside the building. Dedicated as a National New York City Landmark in 1969, and in 1976 a National Historic Landmark.

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Too Damn Many Story Ideas In My Head

Let’s talk plotting.

Rather, my version of plotting, which isn’t really plotting at all. You see, I’m a panster, through and through. What does that mean? It means I can’t outline a potential story idea to save my life. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Okay, no, my life was not on the line, but the plot running through my head was so good. I desperately wanted to capture it, but I didn’t have time to sit down right then and there to put fingertips to keyboard. I can’t remember what else was going on in my life, but I’m sure it had something to do with the day job or the kid or, possibly, a deadline for another book. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t in a position to get the story out, so I tried to outline it, thinking I’d go back at a later date and flesh it out and turn it into a best seller.

That was three years ago, and the outline is still sitting in my WIP file.

Guess what? I’m in the exact same situation, again. I have this fabulous story idea–a new contemporary romance–and I have too many other commitments right now. I can’t focus on it, but the damn story won’t leave me alone. I need to write it down, or at least some semblance of the story. An outline.

Yikes! I can’t. I just can’t.

Okay, so maybe if I write it down here, talk it through with you all, I can capture it, you get a taste of (hopefully) what’s to come, and then, when I have the time to dedicate to it, I can come back to this blog post and use it to remind myself, inspire myself, and write the damn story. Finally.


Let’s start with how I came up with the story idea.

A few days ago, I was driving down the road and stopped at a red light. Next to me was a guy on a motorcycle. He was scruffy, tatted up, and hot.

He’s gotta go in a book. That was my instantaneous thought.

And the heroine has to be the exact opposite—buttoned up, cleaned up, maybe a librarian. Or a lawyer. A bad ass lawyer who doesn’t take shit from anyone—because I do love my strong heroines, and I feel like there could be lots of conflict between a staunchly straight-laced lawyer and a rough, tattooed biker.

But I don’t want him to be a biker, per say. There are plenty of MC books out there, and that’s not really something I’m interested in writing, anyway. So he needs to be something else, blue collar, very different from a lawyer…

A mechanic. Yeah, I haven’t written a mechanic before, and I have a cousin who is one, so I could hit him up for questions. And for some reason, mechanics seem like bad asses to me. Sexy, dirty bad asses.


I’m really starting to feel this book…

These two are definitely going to need help finding their happily ever after. Why? Well, because she’s a divorce attorney. And she represented his ex-wife, when they were battling over custody of his son.

Oh yeah.

In fact, he’s still fighting with his bitch of an ex, and that’s how the book is going to start—with him arguing on the phone over what time he was supposed to pick up their son that evening, even though she knows damn well he can’t get out of work until after six. After cussing her out and hanging up, he’s itching for a fight.

He’s been working on a car all day—some expensive, foreign job—and all the problems stemmed from the fact the owner doesn’t know jack shit about taking care of a vehicle. When the reception desk calls back and lets him know the owners is on her way back, he can’t wait to lay into her, partially to let off steam from the call with the ex, and also because vehicle owners who don’t know the first thing about taking care of such an expensive piece of equipment make him nuts…

That’s when the lawyer walks in. You can imagine their first meeting in the book doesn’t go well. In fact, the first few meetings are disasters. It isn’t until they are both bike riding—a hobby they discover they both love—and she ends up with a flat tire, so he carries her bike home for her and they strike up a surprisingly friendly conversation.

Meanwhile, she is subtly offering advice on how he can see his son more often, maybe even get along a little better with the ex.

And slowly, gradually, the animosity turns to respect, which turns to friendship, which turns to… something more, a lot more. Steamy more. And it appears that we will have another happily ever after on our hands…

Until the ex finds out her lawyer’s sleeping with her man, even if he’s the ex man.


I haven’t actually worked out the ending in my head, but that’s okay. This is enough to start with. I’m pretty excited about this story. I can’t wait to write it.

In the meantime, my characters need names. The mechanic, the lawyer, the ex, even the son, who is three-years-old (because three-year-olds are so damn cute). The shop needs a name, too. Hell, the book needs a name.

Whatcha got for me? Any suggestions? Lemme have ‘em!

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Ghosts of Childhoods Past

Funny the things kids say. For example, the other day I overheard my kiddos talking to a younger relative about toys. As they mentioned different ones, the younger child stopped them, asking what a particular toy was. They had never heard of it. The toy in question was the Bop-it. My kids couldn’t believe the other child didn’t know what a Bop-it was. 

This got me to thinking. Imagine all of the other toys from the past that have been forgotten or near forgotten in lieu of the more modern toys. 

What would kids now days think of them? I mean, the toys I played with were not touch screen, wireless, or all digital like a lot if the “cool” toys now. And what’s more, what about the toys my parents played with? My grandparents? Even my great-grandparents. 

I decided to do a little research on some of the more popular playthings from years ago and see far they have come. Surprisingly for some, they have not changed quite as much as you would think while others have undergone a few major changes. As you scroll through the toys below, see how many you have played with or still play with. I hope this post makes you smile and gives you a sense of happy nostalgia. Enjoy! (By the way, sorry about the weird spacing. I wrote this entire post on my phone.)

1900’s toys

1910’s toys

1920’s toys 

1930’s toys 

1940’s toys

1950’s toys

1960’s toys 

1970’s toys

1980’s toys 

1990’s toys

2000’s toys 

2010’s toys 

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down the memory lane of toys that have shaped many a childhood. Many have outlasted newer, shinier, and more expensive toys and are still enjoyed by kids today. Others have evolved, changed, or disappeared. So the next time you decide to buy a child a new toy, why not consider a new “old” one instead? They may get more out of it than you or they realize. After all, we did didn’t we?  

If  you would like a more in depth list of toys and games, check on the list below:












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      Marisa Makes Memories

      Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

      You bet your New York Times Best Sellers list, you can. Authors who have made it that far are firing on all cylinders, with access to the best resources available. Their covers are like advertising billboards, inviting you to step inside their story.

      What makes you buy? The humorous title? The woman on the cover? The six pack? And I don’t mean Budweiser. Does the back cover synopsis lure you inside?Banner-CoverLove-01

      With so many books now viewed on a mobile devices, a book cover has to do heavy lifting in a limited space. Think Good Reads, Amazon, and social media sites. You access them most often on a small screen first.

      Well, for those of you who are published, I’m sure you’ve given great thought to all the ingredients that make up a tempting front and back novel cover. You may have done thorough research or have great resources of your own. However, there are few trade secrets that may help with the sales, ranking and searchability of your next novel. And I’m willing to dish.

      A few weeks ago, I attended a special RWA local chapter meeting, where I learned from two publishing professionals insider tips to consider when crafting a book cover and title. The special event, hosted by Central Ohio Fiction Writers (COFW), invited Soul Mate Publisher and lead Editor, Debby Gilbert and New York Times Best Selling author, Eloisa James, to share industry secrets. They both know their stuff!

      According to Debby, there are a few important things to keep in mind when considering your book title’s searchability. For example, be cautious about using a title if there are already novels using the same name on Amazon. She warns if your title is too similar, social media readers may have trouble finding your book. And make sure the title you choose, comes up in the book section and not the product section. Imagine a book called, The iPhone Affair and the trouble that could cause.

      In addition to great cover art, you should create a title that is clever and engaging. Consider these three key points Debby shared with our COFW group.

      1. Use Alliteration, which is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Good examples of this are:

             The Great Gatsby

                  Of Mice and Men

                  Pride and Prejudice


      You get the idea…

      1. Consider using an Oxymoron, a figure of speech where contradictory terms appear in conjunction. A few titles that showcase this are:

                   Divine Evil

                  Public Secrets

                  True Betrayal

      1. Make it Unique, whether it’s a play on words or to foreshadow what’s to come:

                 To Kill a Mockingbird

                  Gone with the Wind

          A Scot in the Dark

      I could write a lengthy magazine article about all the fantastic tips both Debby Gilbert and Eloisa James shared with our COFW group, but here’s my favorite from Eloisa, honed from writing twenty-five historical romance novels:

      “Pay attention to the back cover copy of your book. You’re not done when you’ve written  the book. You must then think about how your reader will make the buying decision.   Readers make their buying decisions by looking first at the cover, then at the back cover copy, then at the first page. In the back cover copy, a savvy author will make use of           themes or tropes such as the wallflower, heiress, or pirate.”

      And finally, if the sage advice of these two literary professionals isn’t enough, according to a study commissioned by the Romance Writers of America organization, the back cover copy and the cover art of a book rank higher on influencing sales than recommendations on social media sites or endorsements from other leading authors:

      Most-important factor when deciding on which romance novel to buy (ranked from most to least important):

      (1) The story
      (2) The author
      (3) Price
      (4) Review
      (5) Part of a series
      (6) Back cover copy
      (7) Cover art
      (8) Recommendations on a social media site
      (9) Deal/bundle/bargain/special offer
      (10) An endorsement by another leading author

      Source: Romance Writers of America commissioned Nielsen to perform the creation, implementation, and analysis of the 2014 Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey. 

      You are judge jury and jury when selecting your next read. I’d love to hear what you think.





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      When Good Cliches Go Bad

      “You, sir, are a masher and a cad!”

      “Who shall hold me responsible for being beguiled by such a nymph?”

      “Yeah, well, your approach really threw me for a loop.”

      “You’re in the major leagues now, fair maiden.”

      Er, what?

      Imagine you’re reading a romance novel set in a place and time that requires a specific parlance: Regency English, for example, or early-20th-century American English, or even that funky-formal-high-fantasy speak. Now imagine falling into the unfamiliar but intriguing rhythms of the language, feeling it lull you into a cozy state of sleepy receptivity. And then, out of nowhere, BAM!, an idiom squeaks its way into the symphony, jarring you back into the real world.

      Alas, the dreaded novelist trap has been sprung: you as a reader have become aware of the mechanics of the story.

      As authors, we should of course be wary of slipping into the verbal shortcuts of clichés, colloquialisms, idioms, and slang. It’s an English 101 lesson, sure, but clichés diminish the impact of our writing by doing the thinking for our readers. A reader presented with a colloquialism fails to use her imagination, meaning she becomes less emotionally and mentally involved with our carefully-crafted story.

      Okay, that said, I have to admit I’m not opposed to characters employing the occasional slang; heck, using clichés or platitudes may become an endearing or annoying trait of a particular character. Nothing wrong with that, right? The keys are authorial awareness and intentionality.

      So, unless used with intention, I suggest we remain vigilant against those insidious idioms, clichés, and slang terms. And, it must be said, this is especially important for those of us who write stories set in different places and times. In historical and fantasy realms, there’s just something especially eye-twitch-worthy about encountering modern, regionally-specific concepts and phrases. I mean, let’s get real: Nothing says amateurish like a Victorian heroine discussing her “excess baggage,” amiright?

      Cliches and idioms can be powerful instruments in our authorial symphony, but we need to make sure and wield them wisely and well.

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      The Vampire Special Pizza Courtesy of Vampire Princess of New York

      51-vgevc4flThis is a foodie special for our readers. In Vampire Princess of New York, Noblesse Vander Meer loves certain foods and some of the Manhattan restaurants indulge her and the human man who loves her. One of her favorite meals is called the “Vampire Special.” It’s a Pizza that is garlic free.  For this blog article, I enlisted the help of my daughter Cera. She and my husband are the chefs in the family. She helped me with this home cooked recipe of a Vampire Special with Mushrooms and Mozarella. This is our family recipe and not meant to be professional by any means.  You will see by the description below that I’m not a cook. 🙂

      Items I Used:

      A rectangular almost flat pan
      Aluminum Foil
      Spray Canola Oil
      1 8 oz. package of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
      1/2 15 oz. Can of Tomato Sauce that is without garlic
      2 packages of 15 oz. Fresh Pizza Dough — There are premade flat ones and I will use them next time
      1 and 1/2 cans of mushrooms

      What we did:

      Preheated the oven to 400 degrees F.
      Took out the pan and put aluminum foil
      Sprayed with canola oil
      Stretched out the pizza dough.  We had to put flour on it and roll it out with a rolling pin.
      (What we should have done but didn’t, was to prebake the dough for 3 to 5 minutes or until brown and then flip it and continue.  It would have made a better less doughy crust.)
      Used a spoon to spread a layer of tomato sauce
      Put shredded mozzarella cheese all over it
      Put mushrooms all over it.

      Then put it in the oven for 10 minutes. We ended up checking it every 10 minutes, and total, it took 30 minutes to cook. It was delicious but could have been better.

      Here are the photos of the process:
      Pizza 1Pizza 2

      Pizza 3Pizza 4

      Pizza 5Pizza 6

      Take it from me, cooking can be hazardous with burns, sharp utensils, food poisoning or allergies. This recipe is just my way of sharing. Please, be safe which cooking. Susan Hanniford Crowley and Soul Mate Publishing LLC assume no responsiblity or liability for damages you may have if you choose to use this recipe from this website.

      All the best,

      Susan Hanniford Crowley, Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance
      Where love burns eternal and whispers in the dark!

      NEW: Vampire Princess of New York, Arnhem Knights of New York, Book 2 available in Kindle!
      Vampire King of New York, Arnhem Knights of New York, Book 1 available in Kindle and Print and  Barnes and Noble Print








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      The Cosmetic Huckster

      History Imagined

      This week’s Victorian character impresses as more than just colorful. Madame Rachel, notorious con artist and flamboyant celebrity, made a fortune off the vanity and gullibility of high society. She may have been an actual madam as well. If she lived today she might well be found as a purveyor of health and beauty products to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

      Madame Rachel Madame Rachel

      At the height of her fame, Madame Rachel served clients from a salon on Bond Street, where she welcomed countesses and the wives of wealthy businessmen. She also attracted the lonely and the desperate. Her precipitous fall, when it came, exposed her clients as fools even as it exposed the ugly anti-Semitic undercurrents prevalent in  England.

      Madame didn’t start out in high society. Born Sarah Rachel Russell in London in 1814, she grew up the hard way in London’s East End. She worked as a seller…

      View original post 1,330 more words

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