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.
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