SPINNING TALES BY CONNECTING THE DOTS
I confess I have an odd history of collecting miscellaneous bits and pieces – a compelling smile, a story in the news, a flowering meadow under sunlit skies that almost defies description. For the most part, I have no clue how or if these snapshots will come together in a novel. But I am not surprised when that compelling smile one day lights the face of a character, or when that flowering meadow becomes the very place where the lovers in chapter three come together.
Let me see if I can help you understand how the magic and mystery happen.
In 2019, we checked in for a weekend at a seaside hotel in California – a boutique hotel, the brochure called it, which I interpreted as small, over-priced, a little bit quirky, and not necessarily solvent. The pretty young desk clerk who checked us in seemed to be a bit frazzled – all the more so when a colleague tapped her on the shoulder.
“I’ll take over,” she whispered. “Your daughter’s on the phone. She says it’s urgent.”
The desk clerk heaved a sigh, managed a wan smile, and ran for the nearest phone.
Months later, we went to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore. The colossal sculpture, breathtaking in the shadow of the brooding Black Hills, is truly a sight to behold. We toured the national park to watch the buffalo roam, stopped for a night in Rapid City, and moved on to the storied town of Deadwood.
Deadwood, as popularized by the TV series, was the dusty little gaming mecca where Wild Bill Hickok met his Maker. It still supports itself as a gaming mecca, but its neighbor, Lead, is home to the Homestake Mine – at one time the nation’s largest, deepest, and most productive gold mine in the nation. The mine closed in 2002, but it’s still open for tours – so in we went.
I felt a chill as I took a step into the dark, dank interior of the mine, its concrete walls damp with decades of moisture and crosshatched with the remnants of rutted trails embedded by trams and miners bringing up the precious ore.
I leaned forward, peering over the rails into the darkened mineshaft. All around me I heard the quiet buzz of tourists. But in my writer’s mind, I heard the anguished cry of someone falling into the depths.
Who was it? Had they fallen or been pushed? And if they had been pushed, why?
Out of nowhere, the frazzled desk clerk walked into my head and began to tell me a story. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get it down on paper.
If you’re curious to know how a California desk clerk wound up in a mine shaft in South Dakota, please read “The Miner’s Canary.”
As for me, I’m busy connecting bits and pieces for my World War II historical, “Winter’s End,” due out this coming October.
Thanks for caring –
THE MINER’S CANARY
They say you can’t go home again… For single mom Julie Goldman, who long ago left the ghosts of her troubled youth behind her, inheriting her aunt’s old Victorian in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota, is as much a test as a blessing. Her aunt was not the person she thought she knew, and a diary left by her long-dead cousin Kate sets Julie on a path to find her killer. But with two new murders in town, and a series of vague threats, Julie must overcome her personal demons to protect her daughter and stop the killer who has them clearly in his sights.
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The Miner’s Canary: a novel by Barbara Pronin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)
Barbara Pronin saw her first byline in a community newsletter at age eight and was forever hooked on writing. She has worked over the years as an actress, a probation officer, a news editor, and a substitute teacher, the last of which inspired her first book, a non-fiction guide to effective subbing still in print more than 30 years later.
Her earlier mysteries, including three as Barbara Nickolae, earned kudos from such best-selling writers as Mary Higgins Clark and Tony Hillerman, and have recently been republished. Her latest mystery, “The Miner’s Canary,” was published last October. Her newest work, a World War II historical titled, “Winter’s End” is set for publication in October 2023.
A lover of dark chocolate, Greek sunsets, and Dodgers baseball, Barbara lives and works in Orange County, Calif., where she writes on real estate for RISMedia and is eagerly waiting for the next cast of characters to take up residence in her head and demand that she tell their story.
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