Monday, August 28, 2017

GUILTY PLEASURE by Barbara Catlin

During my earliest days as a writer—well before I was published—a wonderful author friend took me under her wing.  Here's the best piece of advice she ever could have given me, one for which I continue to be grateful:  

In her opinion, readers of fiction are foregoing any number of important duties in order to spend time “reading strictly for pleasure.”  Thus, they tend to feel guilty about it.  So in order to make sure they’re accomplishing something worthwhile, you should always supply them with some sort of significant facts they can take away from your writing. 

Her theory was that if your readers have gained knowledge from this work of fiction, their valuable time was spent on much more than guilty pleasure.

I had never considered that aspect before—as a reader or as a writer—but her philosophy seemed reasonable.  And upon further thought, I realized perhaps that’s why so many of us love reading historical works.  There’s no possibility of coming away from that kind of book without learning plenty of things we didn’t know before.  Why, just read any of the fantastic blogposts on COWBOY KISSES for prime examples!

And although I greatly admire people who pen historical works, I was, and still am, fully aware of my own capabilities…not to mention my limitations.  As much as I love the kind of information we glean from historicals, I’m very much a “here and now” kind of girl.  I knew I could never write anything but contemporary fiction.

I do love romance, though, and I adore the cowboy way of life.  I knew, then, that I needed to apply my friend’s suggestion in the best modern-day ways I could manage.   

In MR. RIGHT, one of my early romance novels, Longhorn cattle play a huge role in the plot.  The hero owns a large, working cattle ranch that also accommodates an exclusive dude ranch, and the heroine is a big-time real estate developer from Dallas who knows zilch about ranching.  (Poor woman!)

While writing that book, I learned about so much more than just “technique.”  I learned that no matter what genre I zero in on, the most exciting part of the story is weaving in the little tidbits of knowledge I want my readers to walk away with…in a natural, believable way, many times through dialog.  And alas, while I’m doing that very thing, my characters are getting to know each other. 

In fact, my readers are getting to know these characters, too.  Far more importantly, they're right there—sharing in the why and how of these people falling in love with each other.

So…guilty pleasure?  I’m all for it!  How about you?  I’d truly love your comments about the topic of learning while reading fiction.  Please let me know!

Find out more about Barbara Catlin here, or visit her website:

Frontier Memories

I have often talked about my love affair with the west. Growing up on the east coast, one might think it a bit strange. But, when I was younger, there was a theme park called Frontier City. It stood in the heart of Virginia Beach, on 66 acres, near the intersection of Birdneck and Laskin Road. 

It had a saloon, the Longhorn which served the biggest burgers I ever saw. You could walk down the wooden boardwalk to the sheriff’s office or head over to Cactus Creamery for frozen pudding otherwise known as ice cream. The bank gave away wooden nickels and yes, I still have one in my jewelry box. A white clapboard church stood at the opposite end of the wide dirt Main Street. 

Winding down the path toward the river, a huge paddlewheel steamer stood moored and waiting to carry passengers on an excursion past the Native American burial ground where snake dances were preformed. Yep, I never got off the boat.

If you wanted a somewhat tamer ride, there was always the train. Of course you had to be careful, bandits usually held up the train as it rounded the bend. Best of all were the shoot outs on Saturday afternoons.  Bank Robbers never made it far before the sheriff and his deputy would put a stop to their shenanigans.

For a young girl of eight, there were what seemed like hundreds of cowboys, horses to pet, and ride, even a candy shop to explore. It was the closest thing you could get to heaven. Oh, to find my Annie Oakley outfit, complete with the turquoise handle revolver and go one more time. Only now, an apartment complex stands in its place and only my heart remembers.

I’ve spent a few days trying to find pictures I know we took, but for some reason, they have eluded me. You will have to make do with what I found on the internet.

What prompted your love with the old west?

Friday, August 25, 2017


Silver had been discovered in Colorado in the 1860s, with early mining in Clear Creek Canyon at Georgetown in 1864. In the early days, the mineral was overshadowed by gold, however, and the low price of mineral meant that most mines were not profitable enough to operate. 
Native silver on matrix from Colorado, USA. CSM 54089, Colorado School of Mines
The Colorado Silver Boom was a dramatic expansion of silver mining activity. It was a response to pressure from western interests which prompted the United States Congress to pass the Bland-Allison Act authorizing the free coinage of silver. It was due largely because of large-scale purchases of silver by the U.S. government authorized by Congress in 1878. The government demand raised the price of the metal to the point where many additional mines were profitable. The discovery of the Leadville district the following year resulted in a flood of new emigrant prospectors to many of the same mountain gullies that had been the site of the gold rush. 
Matchless Mine in Leadville, CO- owned by Horace Tabor
The boom started in 1879 with the discovery of silver at Leadville. Over 82 million dollars worth of silver was mined during the period, making it the second great mineral boom in the state, and coming twenty years after the earlier and shorter gold rush in Colorado in 1859. The resulting opulence was most lavish in Leadville itself. The boom endured throughout the 1880s, resulting in an intense increase in both the population and wealth of Colorado, especially in the mountains.
Silver mines- Aspen, CO
Miners often made higher wages than the average laborer, but the working conditions inside the mines were often very dangerous. Silicosis which, at the time, was incurable, ruined miners' lungs quickly. Many other hazards existed. Apart from the lanterns or tallow candles the miners carried, the mines were otherwise completely dark. Miners at the time were also subject to the threat of tunnel collapse, flooding and the lack of oxygen in the deeper areas of the mines. Often the miners brought caged canaries down with them; when the bird passed out, it indicated that the oxygen levels were dangerously low in the area. Mines were commonly very small and tightly spaced to save on the cost, effort and time it would take to expand the tunnels, and so resulted in the use of people of smaller stature and even children.

This 1899 map shows the locations of the greatest deposits of silver in the United States. From it, both Colorado and Montana had the greatest potential for being large silver producers. It is easy to see why silver became big business in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Ctsy of Florida Center for Instructional Technology
The boom continued unabated throughout the 1880s and early 90s, years that gave the state many of the historic structures in its cities and towns. The government purchases of silver were subsequently nearly doubled by the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act, further extending the boom into the early 1890s. The repeal of the act in 1893 resulted in a collapse of silver prices, bringing about an end to the boom. After 1893, many mining camps became ghost towns. 

I have three novellas in the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs series available. Although only Aaron in the first book is a miner, all three are related, and all three are part of the hypothetical silver mining town of Jubilee Springs.

Book 6:  Cat's Meow

Book 7:  Bargain Bessie