When I was starting to write Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold, I made a collage. I’ve done this for other books, and find it a good exercise, as I’m a visual person. Once I decided on Durango, Colorado, who my hero and heroine were and what they looked like, that’s when I started looking for photos for my collage.
I use a 2’ x 3’ bulletin board and staple or pin the things I find to the board. This is often a work in progress while I’m writing the story as things are added. Since the Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold story dealt with the setting, I looked for pictures of Colorado.
The best place for photos of scenery is in National Geographic. When our Friends of the Library have their annual sale, I look through boxes of old National Geographic magazines. For ten cents I buy all the ones with articles on a place I might want to set a novel. I actually found three magazines that featured Colorado. The background for the collage is several large photos of scenery, including mountains and valleys. I even found a map of Colorado. Another place to find photos is to get tourist brochures from where you story is set. So I have nice photos of the Silverton Railroad that runs into Durango.
The inspiration for my heroine was a girl in my office, so I have a couple of actual photos of her. For the costumes, I used Dover Publications Paper Doll series, making a Xerox copy so I don’t actually cut up the book. These items are mostly on the right side. On the left side is where the hero items are. The hero doesn’t necessarily have to look like the individual in the photos, the pictures just have to have something make you to think of the hero. You’ll see there are several pictures of country singers (they have the right hat). For me, the best photo I found was of the iconic Wells Fargo green box (small picture on the map of Colorado).
Once I start writing, the collage goes on the wall where I can glance at it. And when the book is finished, I have souvenir for all the work I did.
To protect her sister, Juliette Lawson stole documents and fled west. Now Wes Westmoreland, undercover lawman, threatens both her plan and her heart.
Socialite Juliette Lawson fled west from Philadelphia on a train and in disguise. In Colorado she’d be safe; she’d take work with her uncle at the Rio d'Oro, his smelting operation. Her actions back east had been wrong, but to protect her pregnant sister from scandal she would have done anything. Then she met a man as hungry for answers as she was for independence. A handsome, honorable man. For him, she wished the truth was hers to tell.
From the first, Wes Westmoreland knew he couldn’t trust her. Having grown up in the saloons and brothels of San Francisco, he saw trust, like love, as a luxury an undercover lawman couldn’t afford. Not on a job like this one, not with gold involved. This woman dressed as a widow was clearly hiding something; he’d felt it the moment they touched. But he’d felt other things too, stirrings in his heart, and for the first time ever, he saw riches worth the peril.
St. Louis, Missouri, 1889
Whistle shrieking, the train jerked to a stop, the sudden lurch throwing Julie Lawson forward. The black silk of her skirt slipped on the hard wooden seat and only the firm bracing of her feet kept her from slipping to the floor. She glanced down at the small valise that hadn’t been out of arm’s reach since she fled Philadelphia.
Julie shifted back in her seat, hearing the echo of her grandmother’s favorite phrase, your impulses will get you into trouble one day, Juliette Marie, you mark my words. Gran had certainly been right.
She let out a shallow sigh. The widow’s weeds she’d hurriedly dug out of the trunk in the attic required a corset so severely laced a shallow sigh was all she could manage.
The train whistle gave a short toot. “St. Louis! St. Louis! Thirty-minute stop in St.
Louis!” came the sing-song voice of the conductor.
She glanced at the watch pinned to her bodice. Enough time for her to walk down the platform and back. As she stood, the hat and heavy veil wobbled. Using her reflection in the dusty window as a mirror, she readjusted the long hat pins. The hat more secure, she peered through the glass.
The platform bustled with activity. Fellow passengers came and went, dodging
scattered trunks and carpet bags. The harried-looking conductor strode by, a piece of paper in his hand and a pencil tucked behind his ear. A small boy in corduroy knickers trailed a large, hairy dog, the boy clutching a piece of twine attached to the dog’s collar.
A telegraph office stood at the platform’s west end near the panting engine. Standing in front of a row of round-topped steamer trunks, a man waited quietly beside the office. His coat and trousers were the color of bitter chocolate. A perfect match to his wide-brimmed Stetson and western boots. A pair of saddle bags hung over one shoulder.
Leaving her coat draped across the seat, she lowered the black lace veil, and drew on her black kid gloves. Picking up the small valise, she left the railroad car.
She walked along the platform, the warm summer air smelling of coal smoke and dust. As she neared the west end of the platform, she noticed the man she’d seen from the window. A growing commotion behind her caused her to turn. All down the platform, people scrambled and yelled, their shouts mingled with a dog’s deep bark. A flash of tabby fur streaked past her skirt. The dog bumped her knees as he gallumped past.
Off balance, she stumbled backward. And into a solid, warm male body. Strong arms wrapped around her. Her flailing bag struck him, bringing a muffled exclamation. With a thud they came to rest against a steamer trunk. Turned sideways, she half-sat, half-lay over his long legs. She fought to regain her balance, thwarted by the slick silk of her skirts.
“Hold still, lady,” he muttered as he hitched her more securely over his lap. “I don’t want to drop you.”
Throwing her arms around his neck, the bag she still held thumped into his back.
Another exclamation, this one not so muttered, sounded in her ear.
With one arm about her shoulders, the other stretched across her lap grasping her hip, he kept her from sliding to the ground. For a few seconds neither of them moved. She started to breathe again inhaling a faint scent of leather, tobacco, and shaving soap.
The masculine scents made her instantly aware of the intimacy of their position with her draped across his lap, the surrounding warmth of his arms and body. She loosened her grip around his neck and brought the bag back over his shoulder where it plopped to the ground. Unable to get her breath, she blamed the too-tight corset. “I... I beg your pardon,” she managed to get out.
Her hat dipped so far forward it practically sat on her nose. The pins pulled hurtfully at her hair. Without thinking, she reached to fix it and flipped back the veil. She glanced up and got a good look at her rescuer.
His hat gone, his gold-blond hair curled slightly where it lay too long about his ears and collar. His muted green eyes widened in surprise. His gaze flicked from her face, to her hair, and back to her face. Julie’s stomach dropped like a stone. She jerked the veil back into place.
Without the obscuring veil, she looked even younger than her twenty-one years, her hair a pale, but unmistakable, blond. Not the gray-haired widow he’d obviously expected. “I do beg your pardon,” she repeated. “I’m so sorry.”
A grin tugged up one corner of his mouth, white teeth flashing under his blond
mustache. “I’m not,” he replied.
Her heart jumped into her throat, reminding her of her scandalous position on his lap. She squared her shoulders, stiffening in his grasp. She swallowed her heart back to its proper place. “Please, sir,” she said in her best touch-me-not voice.
His fabulous smile faded. “Yes, ma’am. Sorry.” Carefully, he loosened his grip,
allowing her to slide from his lap. Once she’d regained her feet, he stood. For some reason she still couldn’t catch her breath. Drat the corset for making her so breathless and lightheaded.
After a second, he stooped to pick up his hat. Her gaze followed his movement and she spotted her valise tangled with his saddle bags. “Oh,” she gasped.
He shot her a quick glance then extracted the small bag from the snarl of leather.
She twisted her hands together, resisting the impulse to grab for her bag.
“May I carry your bag?” the blond man asked as if to make amends. He gestured with the bag toward where passengers were re-boarding. His face showed a carefully neutral expression. But his green eyes reminded her of the waters of the Chesapeake in a storm. She didn’t want to imagine what thoughts those eyes might hide.
“No,” she stammered, “no, thank you.” She couldn’t even get a simple sentence out. When he handed her the valise, her hand brushed his strong, tanned one. Even through her glove, she imagined the warmth of his touch. “Thank you,” she was able to murmur as she turned.
She concentrated on walking with as much dignity as possible as she returned down the platform. He had to be watching, for she felt his gaze between her shoulder blades as she fought to keep her steps at a sedate pace. At last she regained the haven of the railroad car. Relief washed through her.
She took her seat but couldn’t resist looking out the window. He still stood in front of the telegraph office, hat in hand, looking down the platform toward her railroad car. After a moment, he slapped the hat against his thigh before resettling it on his head.
“Al-l-l aaaa-board!” shouted the conductor. The train whistle echoed with a toooo-tootoot! A loud clanking was followed by a sudden forward jerk. The whistle shrilled again. A series of short tugs became smooth forward movement. Through the window the train depot and platform began to slide away.
Don’t look. Don’t look. Her head remained straight forward, but in spite of her
admonishments her gaze crept toward the window as the telegraph office scrolled by.
Saddle bags resting near his booted feet, he scanned the train. His gaze seemed to penetrate the dusty window and her veil with no problem. His eyes held hers for a split second, making her breath catch. He briefly touched the brim of his hat and nodded as is figure slid past.