Book Releases

Holding On (Colorado High Country #6) —
The Colorado High Country series returns with Conrad and Kenzie's story.

A hero barely holding on…

Harrison Conrad returned to Scarlet Springs from Nepal, the sole survivor of a freak accident on Mt. Everest. Shattered and grieving for his friends, he vows never to climb again and retreats into a bottle of whiskey—until Kenzie Morgan shows up at his door with a tiny puppy asking for his help. He’s the last person in the world she should ask to foster this little furball. He’s barely capable of managing his own life right now, let alone caring for a helpless, adorable, fluffy puppy. But Conrad has always had a thing for Kenzie with her bright smile and sweet curves. One look into her pleading blue eyes, and he can’t say no.

The woman who won’t let him fall…

Kenzie Morgan’s life went to the dogs years ago. A successful search dog trainer and kennel owner, she gets her fill of adventure volunteering for the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. The only thing missing from her busy life is love. It’s not easy finding Mr. Right in a small mountain town, especially when she’s unwilling to date climbers. She long ago swore never again to fall for a guy who might one day leave her for a rock. When Conrad returns from a climbing trip haunted by the catastrophe that killed his best friend, Kenzie can see he’s hurting and wants to help. She just might have the perfect way to bring him back to the world of the living. But friendship quickly turns into something more—and now she’s risking her heart to heal his.

In ebook and soon in print!

About Me

My photo
I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lots of I-Team news!

There's lots going on here at Casa Clare, so here’s a quick catchup.

I finished working with Kaleo Griffith on the audiobook edition of Dead By Midnight: An I-Team Christmas. The audiobook should be out late this week or perhaps next week. Kaleo did an amazing job narrating the story — as he always does — with the sex scenes pretty much melting my earbuds as I “proofed” the recordings. All of you OKD sufferers — that’s Obsessive Kaleo Disorder, for those of you who aren’t yet addicts — are going to get a huge fix soon.

I am so excited to share this with you. I had forgotten that the story starts with Kat and Gabe getting it on, so I went from nothing to meltdown in about 2.2 seconds. You’ll have to be wearing asbestos panties not to get hot and bothered by the sound of Kaleo’s voice reading that scene (or the one of Marc and Sophie in the bathroom or the one of Zach and Natalie or Julian and Tessa at the end).

If you haven’t yet read Dead By Midnight, the most exciting of all the I-Team stories in my opinion, it is available in both ebook and paperback.

Close to Heaven is out in paperback

Close To Heaven: A Colorado High Country Christmas is out in paperback now. Thanks to those of you who took the time to read the story and share your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

If you haven’t snagged your copy of Joe and Rain’s sweet and sexy Christmas story, it’s available on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and Kobo, as well as Smashwords.

I'm about to start working on Joaquin’s story. Yes, you read that right. An I-Team story.

After writing straight contemporary romance for the past year and a half, it will be fun to return to romantic suspense. (Yes, the Colorado High Country series was straight contemporary, something I tried very hard to communicate with readers, who nonethless complained that there wasn't enough suspense. Er... There's no suspense in straight contemporaries.)

No, I’m not abandoning the Colorado High Country series. I love the characters far too much to just skip town. But Joaquin’s story finally gelled in my imagination, so it’s time to give the poor guy his own HEA. He’s been waiting for years!

It’s been a while since I've hung out with the I-Team gang, but working on the audiobook for Dead By Midnight was a good warm-up for taking the series foward. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

Follow me on Book+Main Bites

Also, I have joined Books+Main Bites, so register if you want to come hang and read excerpts from your favorite authors all day. You can find me under @PamelaClare. There are no sales pushes on Books+Main Bites, just sexy photos and lots of exerpts and deleted chapters, etc. This gives authors and readers a snark-free place to hang out that is blissfully far from the chaos and negativity of Facebook.

On the home front...

On the personal side, my sister is flying in for the Christmas holiday on Thursday. She lives in Stockholm, so this is the only time of the year I really get to spend with her. She is my best friend, so I’m very excited to see her again.

As a final bit of good news, I decided to get my blood work for my January oncology checkup done early so that I didn’t have it hanging over my head during the Christmas season. I got the results back today, and everything was normal! Hallelujah. Dec. 9 will mark the three-year anniversary of my last day of radiation. That’s the day I’ll be able to call myself a three-year breast cancer survivor.

That makes my Christmas bright all by itself.

Watch for news about the release of the audiobook edition of Dead By Midnight coming soon!

Friday, October 27, 2017


CLOSE TO HEAVEN: A Colorado High Country Christmas (Colorado High Country #5) is OUT! That had to be a speed record.

Kindle US, Kindle UK, Kindle CA, Kindle AU, iBooks, NookSmashwords (international, all ebook formats).

It should be out at any time on Kobo as well.

This full-length novel tells the story of two of people’s favorite characters — Rain Minear and Joe Moffat. We’ve seen them in every Colorado High Country book so far as the general manager and owner, respectively, of Knockers, the brewpub. Now their story comes front and center.

Rain was a mother at 16, abandoned by her much older babydaddy to give birth in a minivan alone. She grew up poor, managed to raise her daughter by working hard and sacrificing, and now at 37 feels alone.

Joe grew up with everything, but his heritage is a burden to him. He is haunted by ghosts of Scarlet Springs' past. He plans to stay single, have no children, and leave all his money to a foundation for the people of Scarlet. I’m telling you right now that things don’t work out the way he'd planned them. In the end, no one will be more grateful for that than Joe.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

A woman at a crossroads…

Rain Minear has fantasized about finding herself in Joe Moffat’s arms for years. It’s just her luck that the night it finally happens, he’s carrying her into the emergency room. It’s Joe who steps up to help her when a tragedy brings her life crashing down. He gives her a place to stay, helps her get back on her feet, and even tries to save her Christmas, though he’s never cared for the holiday. But he’s far too ethical to sleep with a member of his staff, holding her at arms length despite the long-simmering attraction between them.

A man haunted by the past…

Joe Moffat moved to Scarlet Springs to repay a debt. He’s struggled for years to keep his hands off Rain. She’s the general manager of his brewpub, and he is not that kind of boss. But, oh, she turns him on. More than that, she has the biggest heart of any woman he’s ever known. He’d do anything to see her smile again, even put up a Christmas tree and listen to carols. 

A season that changes two lives forever…

When a Rocky Mountain blizzard leaves them snowbound, they can no longer ignore their feelings for one another. As their passion turns to something deeper, it becomes clear to them both that this will be the most important Christmas of their lives.

It’s a fun and emotional story that gives us a glimpse into the historical past of Scarlet Springs and its people. It was a blast for me to research mining history and Colorado history for those parts of the story. 

Want an excerpt? I know you do. Without further ado...

From Close to Heaven...

While Joe set up the tree and retrieved box after box of Christmas decorations from storage, Rain rolled out the cookie dough, cut circles in the dough with a glass—Joe had no cookie cutters—then sprinkled the dough with sugar and put the cookies in the oven. She watched Joe as he came and went. Some part of her wanted to pretend that they were a happy couple preparing for Christmas together, but she was too much of a realist to play that game. Besides, Joe was anything but happy. He seemed tense, even grouchy. He was probably still upset about his SUV being stuck in a ditch.

He was always the first person in town to help others in times of trouble, but he had a hard time asking for it. Worse, he hated being out of the action. Now, he was stuck here with her for a couple of days, sidelined by a storm.

Rain cleaned up the mess she’d made, wiping flour off the countertop and getting the dishes into the dishwasher.

Joe walked in, another big box in his arms. He set it down on the floor near the living room fireplace. “I think this is the last one. I had planned to donate all of this. I just never got around to it.”

Rain dried her hands. “Maybe because it means something to you?”

He shrugged. “Nah. I’ve just been busy.”

Rain rested her hands on her hips. “We don’t have to do this, Joe. If this isn’t fun for you, it won’t be fun for me either. We can just chill and watch TV or do our own thing if that sounds better to you.”

He drew in a breath, closed his eyes, the tension inside him palpable. “You’re right. Sorry. I’m being an ass.”

“I didn’t say that.”

He opened his eyes, his lips curving in a lopsided grin. “Maybe you should have.”

“I’m sorry about your SUV.”

“It’s nothing. Compared to what you’re going through…”

She wanted him to know she understood. “It’s hard for you to ask for help, I know, especially when you want to be out there helping other people.”

“Yeah. Pretty much.”

“Okay, now, get over it. Everyone needs help once in a while—even the mighty Joe Moffat.”

He raised a dark eyebrow. “Is that how I come across?”

“Only when you’re beating yourself up for being human.”

Some of the frustration left his face. “Good to know.”

He walked over to his sound system, pulled out his iPod. “Christmas music. Let’s see what I have on here. Andy Williams. My grandmother loved him.”

Rain didn’t want to be negative. “He’s fine.”

Joe frowned. “Okay, so not Andy Williams. How about the Chipmunks?”

“The Chipmunks?” Rain laughed. “You listened to the Chipmunks?”

“No to the Chipmunks?”

She had a better idea. “Do you trust me?”


Rain drew out her cell phone, found her Christmas playlist, then plugged her phone into the sound system and hit play. José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad spilled into the room. “I love this song.”

She couldn’t help herself. She sang along and then started to dance, the happy melody and the Puerto Rican rhythm calling to her.

Joe crossed his arms over his chest and watched her, a grin on his face, his gaze warm. “You have a beautiful voice,” he said when the song ended.

The compliment hit a sore spot inside her.

“Not beautiful enough to make a career out of it.” She walked into the kitchen, checked the oven timer.

One minute.

“Come on now. You don’t know that.” He was still watching her, and she knew he was trying to decide whether to let it go. He changed the subject, pointing to the speakers. “What’s playing now?”

“Celtic harp. Kim Robertson.” Rain searched for an oven mitt, grateful that he hadn’t pushed her. “She’s incredible. I saw her play in Denver a few years ago.”

The timer beeped, and Rain took the cookie sheets out of the oven, the sweet scent of fresh sugar cookies mingling with the bright pine scent of the tree. She left the cookies to cool, joining Joe in the living room, where he was going from box to box as if trying to decide where to start.

He glanced over at her. “Let’s open these up, and see what we have.”

“You don’t know what’s in them?” She found this funny.

“They belonged to my mother. They were handed down to me after she passed, but I haven’t opened them.”

Was that it? Was that why he’d seemed so tense?

“If this is going to dredge up unhappy memories for you or make you sad, we can decorate with popcorn or ribbons or old socks for all I care.”

“Old socks?” He chuckled. “It’s fine, really. I wasn’t close to my parents. At Christmas, staff decorated the trees—several of them—for my mother’s Christmas parties. They also did all of my mom’s Christmas shopping. I was away at boarding school until right before the holiday. By the time I got home, everything was decorated, and the gifts were under the tree. It’s not something we did as a family.”

An ache in her chest, she watched as he chose a box and lifted it onto the coffee table. It made her sad to think that he had no real attachment to any of these decorations, no happy memories of putting up the tree with his parents and hanging his favorite ornaments year after year. The stuff in these boxes was just stuff to him. No wonder he’d planned to donate it.

“Let’s see what we’ve got.” He lifted the top off the box he’d chosen.

“Oh!” Delight washing through Rain. “They’re precious.”

On top sat a box of old European-style blown glass ornaments in pastel colors with glittering white, gold, and silver details—angels, Kris Kringles, shimmering birds with feathers for tails, elves, a little church, a trumpet, a cello, a violin. Each ornament was tucked carefully into tissue paper.

Joe took out one of the angels, turned it over in his hand as if it were a Rubik’s Cube. “How do you hang them on the tree? There are no hooks.”

“What do you mean?” Rain gaped at him. “Have you never decorated a Christmas tree before?”

“I told you. We had staff for that.”

“Well, it’s about time.” She found a small box of ornament hooks and opened it. “You take one of these and pass it through that little loop there. See?”

“Okay. Yeah. I get it.” He took it from her, started toward the tree.

“Oh, no, you can’t put it up yet. First, you have to put up the lights.”

He stopped mid-stride. “Lights? Right. I wonder where those are.”

~ ~ ~

Putting Christmas lights on a tree could test the patience of a saint. They found two big boxes of the damned things—dozens of strands of white lights—and went to work replacing old bulbs and putting the strands on the tree one by one. Rain took charge, imparting her vastly superior experience in Christmas tree decorating to him.

“You don’t want to drape the lights over the ends of the branches. You need to weave them through the tree, get them deep inside.”

She showed him how this was done, starting at the bottom of the tree and passing the lighted strand around its girth to him, their fingers brushing as they handed the strand back and forth. Awareness sang through him at her touch. Their gazes met through the tree’s green branches, the warmth in her eyes a provocation.

Twinkling lights. Soft music. The scent of pine.


Joe was in trouble. He knew he ought to distance himself from her somehow, maybe go back outside and try digging out his Land Rover again, but he couldn’t get himself to step away. Their fingers lingered now, the touch deliberate.

They put strand after strand on the tree until it glittered and Joe was about to lose his mind. Then they moved to the ornaments—a new kind of torture. Every time they opened a box, a look of wonder came over Rain’s face, her smile and happiness putting a hitch in his chest. His pulse was tripping, and he wasn’t even touching her.


He got to his feet, walked to the window, needing some distance.

“These must be antique.” She held up a trio of angels. “Look. The faces are made of painted wax, not plastic.”

 “Yeah.” He turned to look out onto a windswept world of white, working to get his emotions under control, while she continued to rummage through the box.


He heard her exclamation, recognized the excitement in her voice, but didn’t turn to see what she’d discovered, too caught up in his own feelings.
“Do you have any tape or thumbtacks?”

He answered without facing her. “They’re in the drawer next to the fridge.”

When are you going to tell Rain how you feel about her?

Rico’s words came back to him. Damn Rico anyway. What the hell did he expect Joe to do? Was he supposed to pull Rain aside and admit to her that he’d had sexual fantasies about her for far too long? Should he tell her that her smile, her laughter, the very sight of her put a warm feeling in his chest or confess that he spent more time at Knockers than he needed to so he could be close to her?

Listen to yourself. You’re pathetic, man.

When this storm passed, he would make an effort to meet someone again. He’d sign up on one of those online dating sites and—

“Oh, Joe.” There was a sing-song tone to her voice that cut through his thoughts.

He turned to find her standing in front of the sofa, a teasing smile on her lips, a look of expectation on her face.

She looked up at the ceiling, drawing his gaze with hers.



It was plastic, but she didn’t seem to care.

“Rain.” He shook his head, but his feet began to move. “I’m your boss.”

Her gaze held his, an almost pleading look in her eyes. “Oh, who cares? It’s Christmas. I’m not going to sue you, if that’s what you think.”

“It’s not that.” Joe had come from a long line of assholes, and he was trying desperately not to become one himself.

Just give her a quick peck on the cheek.

Okay. Yeah. Sure. He could do that.

He closed the distance between them, hesitated for a moment, then ducked down to press his lips to her cheek. But his body betrayed him, and his mouth found its way to hers. It was just a brushing of lips, but the shock of it brought him back for another pass and another. Her lips were warm, soft, pliant, the sweet scent of her skin intoxicating. But he was going to stop. Any moment now, he would draw away from her and end this incredibleexhilaratingfoolishness.

It was her little sigh of pleasure that undid him.

He drew her against him, claiming her mouth in a hungry kiss. She came alive in his arms, arching against him, matching his fervor, her tongue meeting his stroke for stroke, her fingers curling in his hair. God, she tasted like heaven and felt perfect in his arms, her breasts pressing against his chest, her body soft in all the right places.

Joe’s heart thrummed, blood surging to his groin. Some part of him realized that he hadn’t stopped, that he was still kissing her, but he didn’t care, not when kissing her felt so… damned … right. He nipped her lower lip, drew it into his mouth, felt her tongue graze his upper lip, her fingers fisting in his hair.

Whether she stumbled backward onto the sofa or whether he urged her, he couldn’t say, but one moment they were standing, and the next he was lying on top of her, pressing kisses along her throat, her pulse frantic beneath his lips.

She whimpered, her hips moving beneath his, grinding herself against his erection. She reached for the top button on his jeans. “Joe. I want you.”

“Yes.” What the hell had he just said? “No. No, Rain, we can’t.”

“Why not?” Rain stared up at him, disappointment and desire naked in her eyes. “We’re adults. I want you. You want me.”

As if the hard-on in his jeans left any doubt about that.

“I’m your employer, Rain.” Joe pulled away from her and got to his feet, everything inside him protesting the abrupt loss of contact. Not sure what to do or say, he started packing together the empty boxes.

“Seriously? That is your excuse? I told you. I’m not going to sue.”

“Do you really think I’ve got some kind of risk assessment going on in my head right now?” He glanced over at her. “I’m trying to be fair to you.”

Her expression fell, and she broke eye contact.


He’d hurt her. He didn’t want that. “Rain, I—”

“It’s okay, Joe.” She stood, smoothing her hands over her blouse. “Let’s get these boxes put away and have some cookies.”

Joe said what he’d been trying to say. “I care about you.”

“I know. You care about all of the staff.” She packed tissue paper into two empty boxes then closed them, shutting herself off from him, too.

This is what happened when he ignored his own better sense. He shouldn’t have kissed her in the first place. What the hell had he been thinking?

Copyright (c) 2017 Pamela Clare — All rights reserved

Monday, October 16, 2017

My visit with Kaylea Cross & COVER REVEAL

I swore I’d do a better job keeping up with this blog, but I have failed. So much has happened in the past couple of months.

I took a trip to Canada and spent a week with my friend Kaylea Cross. It was the first time we met in person. The week was packed with adventure. We went on a whale-watching tour in an old refitted US NAVY RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) and saw orcas.

It was my first time seeing any large sea mammal, so I was excited out of my mind. The water was very choppy, and it was raining, which  meant we were slammed around in the boat a bit and were hit in the pelted in the face with drops of water that hurt. Still, it was a blast!

I have to say that Kaylea has an uncanny ability to spot orca fins, whale blows, and whales in general from a mile away. She has the best eyes. She loves whales, so we really enjoyed that.

A couple days later, we flew via helicopter to Ucluelet on Vancouver Island and spent a week plotting together, going for hikes through the temperate rain forest and enjoying the beach. Then we flew back to Vancouver by helicopter, getting a beautiful view of the ocean, the coastline, a plane crash, and the forests of British Columbia. This wasn't my first time in a helo. The last time I was in a helicopter, I was being flown from Mt. Ida, where I’d fallen, to a trauma center. This time was much more fun.

In the meantime, I’ve been working hard on CLOSE TO HEAVEN, A Colorado High Country Christmas, which will be out before the end of October.

This was supposed to be a novella, but it defied my wishes and became a 50,000+ word novel. It tells the story of Rain Minear and Joe Moffat, the reclusive and eccentric owner of Knockers, Scarlet Springs’ one and only brew pub. These two have known each other for 20 years, since Rain was 17 and Joe was 27.

We’re getting a look at the history of Scarlet Springs in this story, including a chance to meet some of the ancestors of our favorite Scarlet Springs characters. We also get to see why Joe keeps to himself—and why he has suppressed his feelings for Rain for so many years.

I hope you’ll enjoy the story. It will be out before the end of the month!

Watch for an excerpt!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A quick tour of the urban farm at Casa Clare

The more we do for ourselves, the more power we have over our own lives. With the world and the country in the state they’re in, it is super important to build security for ourselves and our neighborhoods however we can. Food security is vital.

I have always believed this. It’s in my DNA. My grandparents on both sides grew most their own food, and my parents always had a big vegetable garden. I can’t seem to shake the urge to grow things.

Before I had spinal surgery in 2010, we were growing most of the vegetables we ate through the summer in a patch of amended soil on the south side of our home. Everything was organic and fresh and so delicious that it ruined store-bought veggies for us. But spinal surgery changed what I was capable of doing, and the urban farm was let go.

Now it’s 2017, and the urban farm is back. In fact, it’s better than before. We’re planting everything in hand-mixed soil in raised beds so that I can garden again. In addition, we planted an orchard — eight dwarf fruit trees — in hopes of having a big store of fruit each fall once the trees mature. We also wanted to add to the urban forest canopy to decrease our carbon footprint.

We implemented Phase I this spring. For some ridiculous reason, most of the work of this transformation was listed under Phase I, so this phase felt eternal. It started in march with covering a big percentage of our lawn with weed cloth and 16 cubic feet of mulch and then transplanting seven rose bushes and one giant delphinium from the old rose bed to new beds.

I thought you might want to see what it looks like these days.

We planted two apple trees — Fireside (at top) and Honeycrisp (below). We weren’t expecting fruit this year, but both trees are producing so well that we’ve had to stake most of the branches to protect them, even after culling less desireable fruit from the trees.

You can see the rasberry beds behind Honeycrisp. The plants are thriving and producing a small amount of fruit, which is what one would expect for their first year.

We also planted two cherry trees — Sweet Cherry Pie and Evans Bali — and got precisely five cherries this year. That’s about 500 percent more than we were anticipating. 

Next to the rasperry beds, we have the first of four strawberry beds. We installed a sprinkler system to make it easy for me to water everything. Behind the strawberry bed are our two blackberry bushes and some pretty yard art — a fleur de lis. The raspberry bushes are at right in the photo below.

The photo below shows much of the backyard, with all of the fruit trees, the berry beds, and a glimpse of our transplanted roses. 

You can see how much of the grass we eliminted with mulch. This strip (below) is going to become a row of raised vegetable beds. After everything else, we managed only one raised veggie bed, and that went to tomatoes. Hey, we have our priorities straight. 

We’re doing what we can with whisky barrels. We have herbs and potatoes planted in large containers and whisky barrels on one side of the yard. We also have three blueberry bushes planted in whisky barrels along the fence in the photo above. We will probably add to that number.

We're looking forward to harvesting the potatoes soon.

Our first ripe tomatoes will be coming this week. These are black cherry tomatoes (below). You really can’t have too many tomatoes.

This shows the raised tomato bed, some volunteer sunflowers, and the three whisky barrels with blueberry bushes growing in them. (There are very few ways to grow blueberries in Colorado because our soil is too alkaline to support them even with amendments.)

Our peach tree has precisely 21 small fuzzy peaches on it. Boy, are we looking forward to those! We planted the peach tree, two pear trees and a plum on the south side of our house in the most sheltered area. Peach trees aren’t guaranteed to produce every year on Colorado’s Front Range. We get too many late-spring cold snaps and have such crazy changing temperatures that the blossoms tend to get frozen. We are hoping for the best.

Of course, among the edibles one must have sniffables. These are our transplanted roses and the bed that contains sunflowers (planted by squirrels), hollyhocks, and clematis. The roses all survived, which is a huge relief to us. They’re small this year, but they all blossomed, as you can see below.

Below is a closer shot of Europeana, one of my favorites. It’s such a brilliant shade of red.

Pink poppies are just starting to bloom. I planted these this year, also.

We also planted two pines — one in front and one in back. They do well in our climate and soil, and they give us something to decorate at Christmastime. 

I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of the backyard orchard at Casa Clare and the glimpse of that we’ve planted this spring. It’s a building process, and this is just a start. I hope one day to be canning and setting aside large amounts of food from the garden, adding to our food security and independence. 

If I have my way, I will one day be able to move forward with a local organization that helps people grow their own food and creates community gardens for those who don't have suitable space for growing. Food security is about independence. It’s about saving money. It’s about community and helping to make sure our neighborhoods and cities have some control over where our food is grown and what’s on it. 

Also, it’s about YUMMY. We can’t wait for those peaches and the apples to ripen. 

Speaking of Christmas — okay, I mentioned it — I need to stop posting and get back to Joe and Rain’ story. Rain is about to have a very bad night.

Have a good week, everyone! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tommy sticks and whisky — the history of Scarlet Springs

When is old junk not junk? It’s not junk when it tells a story.

I’m putting the pieces together for the next book in the Colorado High Country series and spent Friday up at the Nederland Mining Museum, gleaning what I could about the area’s hard-rock mining history. The museum has so many artifacts from that era — some of them huge pieces of equipment — that they flow out the door and around to the sides of the building.

Joe and Rain’s story — A Scarlet Springs Christmas — will give us flashbacks into the town’s past. You’ll read all the same last names in those flashbacks — Taylor, Jewell, Hawke, Ahearn, etc. — but the characters will be the great-great-grandparents of the people you know and love.

Joe Moffat, the man who owns Knockers and the mothballed silver mine above town, has a unique relationship to the history of the area that brings with it a sense of responsibility. You’ll see what I mean in his story.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share what I saw at the mining museum.

When most people think of the gold and silver rushes, they think of rustic men panning for gold. That happened in Colorado during the gold rush (1859), but that was never the backbone of mining in my state. Here on this old wagon are a variety of different tools used in placer mining (panning for gold), including a small sluice, several gold pans, hammers and shovels for digging and smashing ore and a basket for sifting through crushed ore.

After seeing this display on the evolution of lighting, I knew immediately that I would never have been able to be a gold miner. Back before Edison and electricity, miners went down into the dark wearing tommy sticks (candles) on their helmets or stuck them into cracks in the rocks or timbers using iron candle holders. Some — those who had a bit more money — made little oil lamps using bacon fat or lard. They burned much brighter than the candles — and advantage when you're in the dark — but were also smoky.

Miners had to work quickly because they had only three candles per shift. When that last candle went out... You can see why I wouldn’t be down there.

Later, they wore carbide lamps on their helmets. A small chamber holding water dripped down onto calcium carbide, creating acetelyne gas. The light from the burning gas was directed using a little mirror on the front of the helmet. But this is later than the period of my story.

Here are more light and helmet artifacts. You can see a candle standing in a wooden candle holder the iron-tipped end of which would have been hammered into the rock or a nearby timber.

Here are some rail cars for moving ore. One of them is hand-pumped. When I saw it, my mind flashed on an episode of Scooby-Doo with Shaggy and Scooby frantically pumping their way down the tracks inside some mine. I have such dignified thoughts.

When I got to the museum, I met a volunteer named Susan, who told me she didn’t know much. She then proceeded to answer all my questions and tell me things I hadn’t thought to ask, using her own very extensive notes. Susan knows a lot, whether she thinks so or not.

This photo above shows the tools a single miner might use in the course of a day — hand drills and hammers. Miners used the drills, which were really iron spikes, to drill holes for blasting. There was single-jacking, where one miner held both the hammer and a short drill. He would strike the drill, turning it 1/4 turn after each blow. But a single man couldn't dig a very deep hole. Double-jacking involved one man holding a larger drill and turning it, while the other hit it with a heavier hammer, or dago, as the hammers were called. You can just see one of those iron candle sticks next to a candle there on the display.

Susan told me that two men could drill a single 1.5-foot-deep hole in an hour. That’s an hour of very hard manual labor. Before dynamite could be placed, they had to drill dozens of holes in a specific pattern in the rock. Those holes would be filled with dynamite, which was connected via long fuses for detonation.

This does not sound like easy work to me.

They have a diorama of the Caribou Mine, the fictional version of which Joe’s family owned. Here you can see the shafts dropping from below the shaft house into the mine below.

How did miners get down there? I’m so very glad you asked. The either climbed down a very long ladder or rode in a kibble — a big iron bucket — together with their tools. The kibble was lowered and raised by a hoist engineer, one of the highest paid men at the mine. He had to be a non-drinker and very reputable because lives were in his hands. In emergencies, he had to move that hoist quickly to get men out of the mine.

Susan told me that the Cornish miners who came here from Devon after the copper mines ran out were a very superstitious lot. They refused to ride down in the kibble but had no problem taking it back up again at the end of their shifts. So they would go down the ladder and then ride up in the kibble. She said men who rode in the kibble would put their tools in the center and then straddle it — one leg in and one leg out. If they were short, this would have put their nuts at risk, but that’s just my observation.

Speaking of dynamite...

See that steel box in the center of the table below, the one with the holes in it? That's a dynamite thawer. Life at altitude is chilly, and dynamite becomes volatile at 40 F — well above freezing. This meant that they had to keep the dynamite warm. One way to do that was to place sticks of dynamite into the slots a dynamite thawer, pour water into the box around them, and then set the box on a warm stove or above a few burning candles. Miners from smaller operations didn’t have newfangled, luxury devices like dynamite thawers and so slept with sticks of dynamte in their armpits. Shut the front door, you say? No, seriously, they did.

Below, you can see some tools that were used by the blacksmith. It was his job to make all the tools used for mining and to maintain them as well. The average drill lasted about six hours in a mine before it had to be resharpened. He spent a lot of time on drills. He was one of the better paid employees. Without a good blacksmith, all work at a mine came to a stop.

If you’re ever in Nederland (Scarlet Springs) stop at the museum. There are fun things for kids to do, like gold panning and putting on period costumes. They have artifacts from mining camps and towns also, including this very fine cook stove and waffle iron. Lots of booze bottles, too. 

So that’s the end of our tour. I learned a lot and came away with new questions. I’m doing research for the historical scenes in the novel now and am really looking forward to hanging with everyone’s ancestors for a while. Eric Hawke’s great-great-granddaddy was a rabble rouser. That’s for sure.

If you haven’t tried my Colorado High Country series yet, now is a great time to dive in. The fourth book, Tempting Fate, was just released a couple of weeks ago, and the first book, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents. The series is straight contemporary romance, not romantic suspense, something that seems to confuse some readers. In other words, there’s no suspense/thriller threat — except that I do sneak some elements of suspense into the stories. It’s not part of the main narrative, however, like it is with the I-Team series, which is romantic suspense.

You can read excerpts from all the books in the new series on my website.

If you had no idea I was writing this series, you might want to sign up for my newsletter so that you can get word of new releases without missing anything. I don’t send out newsletters unless I actually have news, so don’t worry about being spammed. Be sure to check your spam folder for a confirmation email.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A trip to Scarlet Springs

I thought it might be fun to take you all with me on a trip to Scarlet Springs. Everyone needs a vacation, right?

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, right next to the mountains. My view of the world every single day included the incredible Flatirons. We lived a 10-minute drive across town to hiking trails and spent most summer weekends hiking somewhere on the Mesa or McClintock Nature trails or in the Chautauqua Area in general. I know those trails by heart.

The Scarlet Springs series is set higher up in the mountains — about a 30-minute drive up Boulder Canyon. In real life, the town of Nederland sits there, nestled in a little valley surrounded by mountains with the Indian Peaks as its backdrop. This is a look at Scarlet/Nederland from the other side of the reservoir where Moretti likes to boat and where Hawke taught Victoria to wakeboard.

A couple of weeks ago, Benjamin, my younger son who is a park ranger, went up there with me to show me his secret patch of columbines. I took advantage of being up there to take pictures to share with you.

At the top of this page is a small glimpse of that secret columbine patch. Why is this field of flowers a secret? It's a secret because people don’t follow the rules. When you go into the mountains DO NOT pick flowers. Not only will you be ticketed and fined if you’re caught, but you will be depriving plants in a harsh environment of their one and only chance to make seeds this year. If enough people do this in an area, those flowering plants die off, and there are fewer flowers in the mountains. That's why this is a SECRET columbine patch. It absolutely enrages me when I see people picking flowers in the mountains. It’s not your garden, folks. It belongs to everyone.

When I was little, my father, a semi-pro rock climber and alpinist, taught me this:

“Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.” 

That’s the proper ethic for time spent in nature. If everyone takes a pretty rock/pine cone/flower, there won’t be any left.

Here’s a closer look at Colorado’s state flower. Columbines are so delicate. They tend to cling to shady areas, often in glades of aspen where you also find poisonous hemlock.

On the hike up to the columbine patch, we passed this little pond where you can often find moose. There were no moose there that afternoon.

 Here’s a look at Mud Lake, what I call Moose Lake in the series. There are often moose there. I’ve seen them myself. This is the lake where Chaska takes Naomi where they see the mama bear and her cubs.

These are some of the wildflowers alongside the trails as you hike up to Mud Lake/Moose Lake. Penstemon was in high bloom, along with cinquefoil, columbine, and many other flowers. The pink/purplish flowers in these two photos (above and below) are penstemon.

On our way up to Scarlet/Ned, we stopped to hike up to the Crow's Nest, a feature on a parcel of country open space that gives you a 360-degree view of everything. The view below looks out over the damage caused by the Four Mile Canyon fire toward Sugarloaf, that rounded mountain just to the right of the dead tree. Sugarloaf is the place Chaska takes Naomi to watch the sunset. It truly does have the best views of the area. 

The tree itself was fascinating, and I took many photos of it. Wind shaped it; fire killed it. One of my readers felt there was a kind of poetry to this image. It was very poignant, she said.

This is a slighly better look at Sugarloaf. I’m going hiking there soon, and I’ll get photos when I do.

Cinquefoil blooming next to an old log fence.

 A pond near sunset. Still no moose, darn it!

Now, we’re in the town of Scarlet Springs. Above, you can see the little roundabout where two highways come together. That’s Bear's roundabout, where he likes to expound on the Gospel for spare change.

The average street in Scarlet Springs, busy with summer tourists.

The geod store I mention in the stories.

There isn’t a cryogenics business in Nederland, but there is a famous dead guy in a freezer in a tough shed. Locally, we all call him “Grandpa in the Tuff Shed.” A Norwegian guy who lived here many years ago put his deceased grandfather on ice in his Tuff Shed for the day when he might be brought back to life. After he lost his fight to stay in the US, locals felt they had an obligation to take over paying for the electricity and maintaining the Tuff Shed for Grandpa’s sake. Hence Frozen Dead Guy Days, probably the biggest event in Nederland each year. The cryogenics place in my series is a nod to this cultural element. A local ice cream store sells a Frozen Dead Guy flavor of ice cream — blueberry ice cream with crushed Oreos and sour gummy worms.

You can’t make this shit up. The real world truly is stranger than fiction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse of the area around Scarlet Springs (Nederland). I am headed up there today to visit the Nederland Mining Museum to do some research about the town’s mining history for Rain and Joe’s story. We’ll get Joe’s back story, which is really the history of the town itself. There will be historical flashbacks that show the ancestors of the characters you all love. I’m really looking forward to writing it.

If you haven’t tried the Colorado High Country/Scarlet Springs series, the first book, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents. The fourth book in the series, Tempting Fate, came out a couple of weeks ago and is getting overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
—Emile Zola

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"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
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—the character of Chaucer in
A Knight's Tale