Running from Treasure Hunters…

When I set out to write The Lost Dutchman’s Secret, I had no idea the trouble it would get me into. I knew that people still searched for the mine, but I hadn’t a clue just how obsessed some of them still are. You would think, after 150 years, the hullabaloo would have died down. Apparently, it has done no such thing.

It all started the week of my book release. In the beginning, I thought someone must be pulling a prank. After all, leaving a note by the door when I got home came directly from a scene in my story. However, when I found a note on my car when I left my favorite coffee shop, I decided it might be time to take action.

WE’LL FIND THE MAP. IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.

While I still didn’t know whether or not they could be serious, I decided I had better take precautions. Before the day had ended, I’d sent a special delivery to Cathe Swanson. To be signed for.

The notes, however, didn’t stop. I had another when I headed to church the next morning. And another a week later. And then came the calls, emails, and messages. I started hearing about the notes and strange visitors that my fellow authors were receiving, as the map passed through their hands. Threats, intimidation, espionage. Men in Indiana Jones Fedoras. From what I heard from April, some of them even seemed to succumb to the greed of gold and tried to form their own branch of rogue treasure hunter, (I’ve made note to be wary of Sandy and Cathe for awhile,) while Chautona, Marji, Liz, and Denise experienced the more threatening side of gold fever.

I needed to put a stop to this and fast, before someone else got hurt.

When the weasel with his Fedora wearing backup caught up with me, I stood at the base of the Superstition Mountains, watching a group of deer meander through the rocks.

“There you are!”

The voice startled me, rough and halting. I did wonder why I thought coming alone was such a good idea. I tensed, taking a step back, slipping a hand in my pocket. I knew how to press “record” without looking.

“Did you think that we wouldn’t notice watch for you here?”

“I don’t think I thought that through, actually.” I heard the laughter of children not far off, and the conversation of a couple hiking down the trail. I took another step back.

“Where is the map?”

He really didn’t sound intimidating at all. His friends’ glares and crossed arms caused rather more trepidation than his voice. Or anything about him, really.

“We don’t want to hurt you, Miss Jones, but we will.”

“I don’t have it.”

“Because we believe you.”

I shook my head. “The Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine is lost for good reason – and it’s going to stay that way.”

The man nodded and his men uncrossed their arms.

My hands shook and I glanced around, hoping a random stranger or five would show up to help me if I needed it. “You won’t find the map. I can promise you that.”

“Because you don’t have it? We don’t believe you.”

“Because I buried it.”

The man started. “Buried… what?”

“The map.”

He looked back at his companions and then back at me. “She just admitted she has the m… Wait. Where did you bury it?”

“In the Superstition Mountains.”

“Then we want the map to the buried map.”

“I don’t have one.”

“You lost the map to the Lost Dutchman? Are you insane?

I’ll have a reader note here that I never said I lost anything. I said that I buried it and didn’t have a map. There is a rather amazing difference. However, I didn’t see any need to correct a crazy man. He and his friends stared up at the Superstition Mountains with horror. “You’re insane.”

It seemed unfair to be called insane by a man who literally seemed to embody that trait in the treasure hunting sphere, but again, I didn’t see any need to correct him.

“We could have been rich.” He paused, an evil grin forming. “We will be rich. We’ll find that map before you do.”

I only blinked at him.

He nodded to his men. “Come on. Look at her shoes. She didn’t hike far into the mountains to bury the map. It’s fairly close. We’ll find it.” He raised an eyebrow at me and pointed a menacing finger. Or what he thought was menacing. “Don’t bother trying to get it back. We’ll find it first. We’re good like that.”

I stepped back, clicking off my phone. I felt pretty confident I had the message recorded.

With a last attempt at a glare, the three started off toward the mountain base.

“Are you all right, Miss?” The young man who asked might have been twenty-two. I wasn’t sure what he saw or heard, but I nodded with a shaky smile.

“I am now, thank you. I’m just headed to my car.”

Once in the car, I shuddered, then with a glance back at the Superstitions, I smiled to myself. They were right, I hadn’t hiked far into the mountains that day. I hadn’t even started to climb.

I also never said that I buried that map today any more than I had said I lost it. It wasn’t my problem, however, if their search had been based on faulty assumptions. And until they realized their assumptions would lead to literally nothing, I had evidence to send to the local authorities. And a map – safe, sound, quite buried, but hardly lost. I’d just have to wait awhile before I paid my next visit to the mine. I didn’t want to be followed.

On the other hand, there’s another treasure that’s up for grabs (well, it’s a book but books are treasure, right? And I can call it that, even if I wrote it?) – make sure you enter the GIVEAWAY for The Lost Dutchman’s Secret!

What Time Again?

I woke up with a start. The train had pulled into the station and the conductor yelled for Chicago. Trying to avoid rubbing my eyes, I pulled on my suitcase, and stumbled onto the platform behind the rest of the vaudeville troupe.  

At least, I thought it I came behind the rest of the troupe. When I really looked up, I discovered only one other person that I recognized, Alf a fellow singer, and he turned to look at me with eyes wide with shock. I tried to ask him the problem, but a wave of dust made me cough and then, I looked around.

First of all, we were in the desert. How we got there, I had literally no idea, but nothing but the desert has that much dirt everywhere. I even saw a cactus. We were supposed to be in Chicago, getting ready to perform at the Empire. This was not Chicago.

Second… The people. The women’s dresses were worn, faded, and reworked. I saw more patches on trousers than I have ever seen in a similar group of men in my life. As for the children, they ran around barefoot in clothes I considered fit for the rag bag.

We’d followed the stream of people without much though. This tiny town absolutely could not be Chicago. Alf’s eyes couldn’t have gotten wider as we walked down the dirt streets that held the scent of farm life.

Past what must have been main street, we found fields of cotton. Near one of these fields, we came across what can only be described as a shack. I didn’t know how it stayed up when wind came. Or how what passed as a roof could have kept the rain out. More barefoot children raced around the shack, not one of the three boys wearing trousers that actually reached their ankles and as for the two girls, their dresses resembled a patchwork quilt.

Alf pulled on my arm, leading us back toward main street. A man, his hat pushed back on his head, leaned against the general store.

“Did you see the election results?”

Another man walking past him, nodded with a laugh. “Sure did. We got Roosevelt again. We’ll see if the president can fix things this term.”

I looked at Alf and he hurried toward the two men. Election? Roosevelt? President? What…

“Excuse me, but did you just mention a presidential election?” Alf’s voice sounded hollow.

“Of course! Did you miss it?” Both men laughed, but we didn’t join them.

I shook my head at Alf, as he turned to look around the town. Dust blew in the wind again and I finally noticed the motorcars. Rounded lines had replaced the sharp angles I knew. I shook my head again.

Alf turned to the men. “Just another question – what year is it and where are we?”

Two barefooted boys ran past me, chasing a chicken and shouting, so the only word of the answer that I heard was, “Arizona,” but Alf grabbed my hand and started dragging me back toward the station.

“Whatever is the matter with you? Where are we going?”

“Back onto the train. Now.”

I pulled back, making him stop. “What did they say?”

He looked back at me, eyes still wide. “Something went wrong. We have to find a way to get back to our time.”

“Our… time? What are you talking about?”

Alf shook his head. “It’s not our time. It’s not 1926. We’re lost and I don’t even know how we got that way…”

Murder at the Empire is releasing this week, but Cathe’s vaudeville troupe is scattered across the decades. Can you guess this decade? I also heard that Liz has some news regarding the troupe, so you might want to read what she has to say… Don’t forget to enter the giveaway before you go!

Where… Wait, did I just see Hugh?

I’d heard that April Hayman had been looking for her hero, Hugh; that somehow or other, he had disappeared from the pages of her book, The Pilot Falls, and that she couldn’t find him. Of course, I’d heard that, but I never expected to do more than hear about it.

It’s been a really wet summer. I know that I live in the desert and that most people don’t associate desert and wet, but it really has been! As in there are days that the roads are flooded, the ditches and retention areas are lakes, and goodness, there is more green around here than usual. Last year, for instance, the sun had scorched about everything in sight by the end of June, I think. Anything the sun left, wilted from lack of rain. Not this year, though.

I don’t tend to carry umbrellas, for the mere fact that there is no where convenient to put a wet umbrella when you go indoors to shop and people don’t always want a dripping mess in their entry way. Also, my umbrella does not have a hooked handle – if I had a classic umbrella with a hooked handle, things might be different. As it is, instead of an umbrella, I tend to make a dash from car to door, and hope for the best. (Usually using myself to shield any books I may have in my grasp.)  

On this particular wet day, while driving in my car, I had to stop partway to my destination, because I was sure I had a flat. Avoiding the puddle of water that nearly resembled a ditch, I parked just ahead on the side of the road to do some investigation, but due to the downpour, I rather ran to the passenger side of the car in a rush.

No flat, but I bent down, hoping I wouldn’t get too wet, to double check what looked like a screw in one of the tires. As I stood, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Standing in that puddle that I’d avoided, where literally no one had been a moment before, (not that I saw – but I was running) stood a man. A tall man.

Actually, I think tall may be an understatement, but perhaps I was just that startled. He immediately reminded me of Goliath of Gath, his light hair plastered against his forehead with the rain. He watched me, looking rather confused or surprised – I certainly couldn’t tell which one.

The rain started to drench my hat, and I glanced toward the driver side of my car.

“Where are you from?”

I jumped. His voice certainly matched giant stature. “I’m sorry?”

He shook his head, gesturing toward me. Or, more specifically, my dress. “What time are you from?”

“Time?” I know I stared. It may be rude to stare at a stranger, but I couldn’t help it. “I’m sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I took a step back toward my car, starting to shiver.

“It doesn’t matter.”

A crash of thunder made me jump and look up. When I looked back toward my confusing giant, he’d disappeared. Where he went is beyond me.

The rain started down faster with another crash of thunder, and I took the opportunity to bolt for my car. As I started to fasten my seatbelt, I looked down at my dress again, now mostly drenched by the rain. It’s my 1920’s dress. April’s missing Hugh is from… the 1920’s. And he… Did I really just talk to the man and utterly not realize it until it’s too late? I grabbed my phone. I better message April and let her know.

I haven’t seen him since, but maybe someone else has. Denise, perhaps? You could go check with her.

I Won’t, Didn’t, Haven’t Spilled…

The beans, that is. After all, I was too distracted to even respond properly to my interrogator, much less say something I wasn’t supposed to. The first sentence I even understood him to say, just made me blink!

“Did you hear me, darlin’?”

The elderly gentleman who frequents one of my favorite coffee shops and has “Veteran” stamped all over him, smiled after his question. I just caught the smile when I looked up at him from the map I had been studying.

“I… I don’t think so, sir.”

With another grin, he took the seat opposite me. “I saw your Lost Dutchman’s Secret mystery is coming out soon.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir. In November, LORD willing.”

“I mean, I don’t read a lot of fiction, but my wife read the first one in the series – something by a Havig? Last month.”

Chautona Havig.” I said it softly, but his hearing is still keen. I caught sight of a woman reading a book across the room. I could just see the gold letters emblazoning Sarah Sundin as the author. I pulled my thoughts back to the conversation in front of me.

“Right! And my wife, she wants the next one in the series by Marji Laine. The one coming out this week – what’s it called?”

A Giant Murder.

“Right! The Jack and the Beanstalk mystery. My wife is so excited about this series.” He leaned forward against the table. “I hear tell a rumor though, that your publisher has something else going on behind the scenes?”

I blinked again, trying not to think of Agatha Christie or even Perry Mason. I didn’t want to accidentally voice what I was thinking – he might think it had something to do with the rumor he wanted confirmed.

“My wife wanted me to ask you about what they have going on.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have anything to tell you.” This time, I started thinking of the time Mr. Holmes solved the case of the red-headed league. I banished the thought.

“Come on, darlin…” He calls everyone darlin’. “Just something for my wife?”

“I’m sorry.” I pushed my copy of Lord Peter Whimsey’s first mystery back into my bag, beside Alice in Wonderland and my vintage copy of Pinocchio. I looked back at him and smiled. “I don’t have anything.”

He shook his head with another grin. “Well, I can say I tried. I told her you’d keep it to yourself though. You have fun with that new story you’re plannin’ out, darlin.”

I blinked once again. “I didn’t say I was planning a new story.”

The man laughed this time, nodding at my map as he stood. “You didn’t have to. Enjoy your day.” With a tip of his hat, he walked off.

And as you can see, I won’t, didn’t, and certainly haven’t spilled the beans. You can go see if Sandy did, if you like. I promise I have done no such thing. (And while you’re at it, sign up for the GIVEAWAY, since Marji’s book really IS live this week, and we like to celebrate by giving things away!)

May I Present: Café Chocolaté!

When Charles Dickens wrote Nicholas Nickleby and Martin Chuzzlewit, he published them as serial novels in the newspaper. He did this with other stories as well, and people looked forward to the monthly installment with anticipation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle released the famous Sherlock Holmes stories in a similar fashion in the Strand.

The idea of a serial story always fascinated me. I don’t know why, but I always wanted to try my hand at it. Possibly, because two of my favorite authors had done so. There aren’t any newspapers around to publish in, but my blog would do as well. Still, though I toyed with the idea over the years, I never brought it into reality. Until now.

Today, I am excited to announce that my new blog serial Café Chocolaté is, LORD willing, set to release its first installment on Friday, February 7th! Each installment is planned to be one chapter long. Unlike Mr. Dickens, I plan to put up a new one every week, instead of once a month. So, mark your Fridays!

It’s an ordinary Tuesday morning. The regulars are settling in with their coffees and their laptops, when an explosion rips through the air. No one can see what happened nor can they get out of the café. Stranded and perplexed, the people need answers. What caused the explosion? Where are the police? Why isn’t the man in the corner moving? And when will that woman stop screaming?

I’m really enjoying this story. I’m getting to know new characters and having so much fun with older, already established characters. Like I said in my writing update, if you’ve read Grandmother’s Letters you’ll get to see a couple of old friends in Café Chocolaté! If you haven’t, I think you’ll like them anyway. At least, I hope that you will!

In the meantime, isn’t my cover lovely? Perry Kirkpatrick makes such beautiful ones – someday, I hope I learn enough from her to do as well as she does.

Now, I really must get back to work. I’ve got another chapter to type up, another to write, and Patrick Quill is calling my name…

To the KING be all the glory!