Guest blog: Writers are often advised to write about what they know. This can present problems. Visit me at Motive Means Opportunity, where I talk about When What You Know Is Boring.
Denver Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show 2016
Last week, I promised to introduce the folks who talked to me at a previous mineral show, when I was still coming up with ideas for book three in my Rock Shop Mystery series. Today, I introduce Jim and Cindy Ackerman of Oreodont Fossils.
Jim Ackerman is a geologist and paleontologist located in South Dakota. The newspaper and plaster wrapped objects on his table caught my eye. When I asked, Jim explained they were DIY fossils - Do It Yourself. Aspiring paleontologists could practice their skills by carefully carving away the dirt from an actual fossil.
As the Oreodont Fossils logo says, Jim and Cindy are "bringing the past into the present." They are eager to share their knowledge. When Jim told me about the world of paleontology, several ideas for a novel buzzed around my head.
You never know what's going to spark fictional inspiration. In Stone Cold Blooded, I include a plot thread based on a disagreement between two fossil collectors decades prior to the story. Morgan Iverson's neighbor Eustace dies under unusual circumstances. One of her running club friends once attempted to interview Morgan's neighbor for a film about local history.
“Was my uncle in your film?” Morgan asked.
“No,” Chuck said. “The filming began after he passed away, and by then Eustace had gone around the bend. He ran the director off his place with a shotgun. Although Caleb and Eustace didn’t make it into the film, I heard second hand the story about them digging up dinosaur bones to sell to museums and collectors, until they had a disagreement.”
“I don’t remember Uncle Caleb talking about his neighbor,” Morgan said. “I was in my twenties when he passed away, but I would have remembered him mentioning a feud.”
“And now Eustace is gone, too.” Vonne leaned her elbows on the heavy wooden table. “So what happened up there Monday?”
If I got any details about fossil collectors right, I credit Jim Ackerman for giving me a peek into that world.
Book Three in my Rock Shop Mystery series will be released October 10. Join Morgan as she attends a mineral show that just might resemble the Denver Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry.
The Denver Coliseum fills with every mineral, gem, and fossil imaginable during one week in September. In today's blog, I'll illustrate how this setting influenced my current novel, Stone Cold Blooded.
I attended the 2016 show with my daughter and two of her children. We both had must-see items on our agendas. Dazzled by the array of glittering gemstones and beads, displays of fossilized dinosaurs and a dire wolf, we wandered the two levels of the coliseum.
First on my agenda was to visit the folks who kindly spent time with me in 2014, sharing details about prospecting and paleontology that made it into book three of my Rock Shop Mystery series. You can read about rock star Dwayne Hall and his wife Marsha, and geologist/paleontologist Jim Ackerman in two upcoming blogs, when I discuss how the terrific folks I met influenced my novel.
At the Sharks Teeth booth, where my granddaughters purchased tiny bottles filled with brightly colored stones, we saw a tusk valued at $16,995. It wouldn't fit either my fireplace mantle or my budget, so I settled on carved stone dinosaurs.
At the last show, I learned that rock shop proprietors like my fictional character Morgan Iverson attend mineral shows to buy as well as to sell. Here's a brief scene from Stone Cold Blooded:
Morgan tried out her bargaining skills. She knew the going price of shark’s teeth, both retail and wholesale. The bucket held hundreds of teeth, more than enough to replenish stock at the shop. They finally settled on a price that was much better than what she had been prepared to pay online.
“So that’s how we start the show?” Morgan asked as she hugged a heavy canvas bag to her chest. “By buying, not selling?”
“That’s half the reason we’re here,” Cindy said. “Hey look. There’s a trough full of geodes. I’ll bet we can get a deal on them, too.”
I studied the coliseum layout on my 2014 trip. This visit, I was able to compare what I wrote with reality. The mineral show is free, and there was not an attendant at the rear door shown in the photo. I invented the security guard, who later plays a role when Morgan's mineral show experience takes a dramatic turn. That's what creative license is for!
After running the gauntlet of tempting treasures, they reached the back entrance. The open double doors could easily accommodate trucks hauling trailers full of livestock.
A man rose from his wooden folding chair as their group approached. The slacks of his brown security guard uniform bore a sharp crease. He exuded authority with his dignified posture. Cindy presented the guard with a printed email displaying their registration number.
“We just got here,” she explained. “We’ll get our badges first thing.”
“No problem.” The guard studied the printout, holding the paper with elegant, if aged, hands the hue of polished mahogany. He wore his white hair combed back in dramatic waves in an old-fashioned style. “Just remember to wear your badges once you receive them, or I’ll have to deny you entry.” His lean face creased in a smile.
“Yes, sir,” Matthew said, with the innocent seriousness of a nine-year-old. “We promise we’ll wear our badges.”
In another scene, Morgan buys lunch for a prospector from whom she hopes to glean information about an old feud between her neighbor and her uncle. The photo shows where Morgan has lunch.
“Do you have a few minutes?” Morgan asked. “I didn’t know Uncle Caleb well. I’d like to ask you about him.” Raymond seemed to hesitate. “I’ll buy you lunch,” Morgan added.
Although she would have taken him for a meat and potatoes kind of guy, Raymond requested a chicken wrap from one of the healthier food vendors, and a cold organic coffee drink. They found a quiet table in the open space near the food vendors.
“Your uncle was a fair man,” Raymond said. “And honest. He appreciated the effort it took because he’d tried his hand at gemstone prospecting.”
My daughter, grandkids, and I also had lunch here. We tried the hummus and veggie wraps.
Author's often use real settings for their novels. Depending on the story, the layout or circumstances might be adjusted to fit plot developments. The setting of the Denver Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show influenced my story. As you'll learn in two future blogs, the people I met made an even deeper impression.
I would have enjoyed spending more time at this year's show. There were so many vendors and displays, we had to hurry through just to see a fraction of the show. I plan to return next year!
Stone Cold Blooded release date - October 10.
I have a release date for book three in my Rock Shop Mystery series. Stone Cold Blooded will be available October 10. To celebrate, I am planning guest appearances on blogs and at author events. Stay tuned for more news!
Embrace who you are. What do I mean? We are all self delusional to some degree.
Example. Years ago, the elevator doors opened to an amazing vision. An elderly lady stood on wobbly spike heels. Her trim hips and legs were encased in leopard-print spandex. An industrial bra hoisted high a bosom that should have long ago succumbed to gravity. Topping it off? Blaze red hair and red eyeglasses sprinkled with sparkly spangles. Oh yes, and plenty of makeup.
Am I being critical when I suggest she might have been self delusional? She probably was still hot stuff in the geriatric set. We should all look that good at 80. Maybe she deserves our praise for strutting her stuff long past her stuff's expiration date.
Okay, how about some less ambiguous examples. The coworker convinced he or she is a genius when you're pretty sure the person couldn't escape a wet paper bag. The dude who thinks he's God's gift to women, while the ladies gag at his approach. The dear family member who belts out tunes for everyone's appreciation, but consistently sings off key. The fixer-upper whose projects routinely self-destruct.
Oh so funny, until you catch yourself in a moment of self delusion. One of mine came this summer. Our elder daughter and her family vacationed at Disneyland. The grandkids brought me back a thank you gift for babysitting the cat.
I was pleased to receive an Eeyore mug, thinking the kids thoughtfully gave me something with a gray donkey emblazoned on the side, like the donkeys in my novels.
No, my daughter explained. The Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore reminded the kids of me. Seriously? The depressed donkey who constantly loses his tail? Whose catch-phrase is "thanks for noticing me"?
Long hard look in the mirror. Okay, so I do have a doom and gloom, Old Testament prophet outlook most of the time. The Zombie Apocalypse has already arrived, people, and you are so unprepared.
What do I do with that realization? As the title of my blog declares, Embrace Who You Are. I'll just have to roll with the fact that I view the world through gray-tinted glasses. I also find humor in that gloom. My attitude is very much that you can cry or you can laugh, so you might as well find something funny in the bleak situation in which you find yourself.
A large part of who I am is a writer. Life has pulled me away from writing as much as I'd like. Things are settling down now. I am going to embrace the writer part of me and plunge full-force back into creating fiction.
We're all a little self delusional. Have you experienced a moment of self revelation recently?
After a slow start, I have finally been taking advantage of the weather. It may be September, but summer does not officially end for two more weeks.
An abundance of fruit
This is a bumper year for fruit on the Western Slopes of Colorado. My husband and I visited our friends' ranch to pick apricots last month. The trees were loaded. We barely made a dent in the masses of fruit. It won't go to waste. Deer, birds, and wild turkeys eat apricots.
We stopped at Fritchman Orchards to purchase cherries, peaches and corn. There are fruit stands, and then there is Fritchman's. Photos in the slideshow below.
With this abundance of fruit in our possession, we now had to process it all. Our eldest daughter and the grandkids spent a day with me, canning apricot butter, peach pie filling, and peach-mango salsa, and drying apricots. I also froze peaches, and made apricot juice for a future batch of jelly. My husband started a batch of what he calls cherry sherry.
A couple weeks later, making apricot jelly from already prepared juice was a breeze. The grandkids are delighted with extra-special peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwiches.
SUMMER SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
Antony and Cleopatra at Rock Ledge Ranch
All that was fun, but a lot of work, too. For a relaxing evening, my husband and I went to a local production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. As usual, Theatreworks amazed and entertained.
And September Begins
This weekend, the grandkids helped me with a bittersweet project. We weeded the front flower garden, and cut back the dead flowers. Cleaning up now will make spring garden prep tons easier.
So on Labor Day, I spent time in the backyard vegetable garden. I'm already thinking about what did well, and bears repeating, and what changes I'd like to make. Can it already be time to start shutting down the garden in preparation for winter?
I'm going to cling to our remaining summer days as I anticipate the changeable fall weather. The first killing frost will come soon enough. For now, I'll spend as much time as I can outdoors, soaking up the last rays of summer sun.
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