One questions authors are frequently asked is “where do you get your inspiration?”
My typical answer is “EVERYWHERE!”
It’s true. I find ideas for stories while flipping through magazine ads, standing in line at the grocery store, wandering through the mall (when we used to wander through the mall), even when I’m doing super exciting things like folding laundry.
But my favorite place to dream up new story ideas is when I’m on vacation with Captain Cavedweller. Ideas for some of my favorite stories have popped into my head while we were driving, exploring, or at a museum.
Such was the case two years ago when Captain Cavedweller and I were making the long, long drive all the way through Nevada.
On a whim, we decided to stop at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely, Nevada.
The museum is a national historic landmark, but it’s also an operating historical railroad. The brochure you’re given when you pay your admission says: “It’s gritty. It’s dirty. It smells of coal smoke, creosote, and sweat…” It is not an exaggeration.
But the museum complex consists of a full-service rail yard encompassing 56 acres with 63 buildings, shops, and structures that served the historic copper mining region of Central Nevada for more than a century. Original railway locomotives, rolling stock, track, a passenger station includes three steam locomotives (two that are operational), six diesel locomotives, and more than 60 pieces of historic equipment.
I loved it! You can walk into the engine house and watch the mechanics working on train repairs. Right after I snapped this photo, a guy popped up in the smokestack. It’s was fascinating to wander around and see everything up close. It really put everything into perspective.
Several trains on display. Some of them were open for guests to climb on and look around.
I loved this train. It made me think of the Polar Express.
In 1910, the railroad needed a new locomotive to pull the passenger train on a daily round-trip from Ely to Cobre, hauling passengers, mail, and express shipments. Number 40 was purchased from the Baldwin Locomotive Works for a cost of $13,139. The train entered scheduled service with a speed of 40 miles per hour pulling a railway post office/baggage car and a first-class coach, both of which are still in service at the museum. When the locomotive was no longer needed after World War II, #40 was put on the list to be scrapped. Because the crews loved the engine, it mysteriously disappeared whenever someone in authority came looking for it. Because of the ghost-like movements of the engine, it became known as “The Ghost Train.” Thanks to the efforts of the crews, the train survived and still operates today, pulling passengers along the track.
And this train became the inspiration for Hope, a steam engine that travels though a whole new holiday series I’m releasing soon!
Another fun thing to see was this rotary snow plow. After a massive snow storm halted operations in 1907, the railway purchase a snow plow. The rotary blade could slice through drifts of snow and keep the track operation. A steam boiler resides inside a wooden body, but instead of turning the wheels on tracks like a regular locomotive, this one turns the massive blade. It could take up to three engines to push the plow through the snow.
In addition to seeing the locomotives, there were several displays with interesting historical items and information. The velocipede was invented by George S. Scheffield in 1877. This particular one was used to inspect the track from Ely to Kimberly and McGill daily. It is operated by pushing and pulling the handles while pushing on the pedals. Weighing only 140 pounds, it could be moved off the track by one person. This velocipede was rebuilt by Rick’s Restoration and featured on the History Channel program American Restoration. There were several pieces of equipment Rick’s Restoration had restored.
There’s also a great gift shop at the museum. They had dirty cat ornaments. I wish I’d taken a photo of the cat, but somehow failed to snag one. When we were in the engine house looking at the trains, a cat that was absolutely filthy wandered up to us and started rubbing on CC’s legs and purring. He kept the cat happy and purring for a while with some good scratches behind the ears then we went back to exploring. When we went to the gift shop and saw the ornaments, we mentioned meeting the cat. The volunteer working in the gift shop gave us a surprised look, then explained that most people don’t see the cat because it usually hides from visitors. We felt pretty special to have received personalized attention from their resident star feline.
Back to the inspiration: Within moments of arriving at the depot, I started thinking about an idea for a mail-order bride story. The more we saw at the museum, the more ideas that popped around in my head. By the time we left, I knew it wasn’t going to be just one book, but an entire series. One that involved a steam engine named Hope, a family tied to the railroad, and a series that spanned many generations. As we drove onward on our trip, we spent the next several hours brainstorming and jotting down pages and pages of notes which have turned into four full-length sweet romances that start in 1884 and conclude with a modern day romance.
The first book in my Holiday Express series will release November 30! I can’t wait for you to read it! And right now, I have it on sale for a special pre-order price of just 99 cents!
Four generations discover the wonder of the season and the magic of one very special train in these sweet holiday romances.
Aren’t the covers glorious? The amazing Josephine Blake from Covers and Cupcakes waved her magic wand and created them for me.
Release Date: November 30
Pre-order Price: 99 cents
Infuse your holidays with hope and humor in this sweet western romance
Left alone in the world after losing her parents, Cora Lee Schuster travels across the country to the newly-established town of Holiday, Oregon, to become a mail-order bride. She arrives in town to be greeted by her future father-in-law with her betrothed nowhere to be found. When it becomes obvious her reluctant groom-to-be has no intention of showing up at the family ranch where she’s staying, Cora Lee must decide if she’ll follow her head or heart.
Jace Coleman has loved trains since the first time he rode on one as a boy. Now, he spends his days as an engineer driving the Holiday Express line on a new engine named Hope. When a mail-order bride turns up at his father’s ranch to wed his brother, Jace has an idea his meddling father has tried his hand at matchmaking. The longer Cora Lee stays at the ranch, the harder Jace works to keep from falling for his brother’s intended bride.
Will Jace and Cora Lee discover the gift of hope? Find out in this sweet holiday romance full of memorable characters, warmth, and Christmas cheer.
Holiday Hope is the first book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 7
Pre-order Price: $3.99
Hearts and humor collide in this sweet holiday romance
Zach Coleman spent his childhood dreaming about trains, and now he’s one of the repairmen at the Holiday engine house who keeps them chugging down the tracks. Life couldn’t get any sweeter, or so he convinces himself, until he’s on his way home from work and saves a woman from getting hit by a wagon. How was he to know that one, brief encounter would upend his world?
Lorna Lennox grew up with the best of everything in life. Her father, a railroad tycoon, has made sure of it. Now that he’s moved her into a new house in a remote Oregon location, Lorna wonders if she’ll fit into the small community. She’s barely arrived in the town of Holiday when an adventure leaves her at the mercy of a handsome stranger. One she finds impossible to forget.
Will the holidays present a chance for hearts to entwine? Find out in this sweet holiday romance rich with history, humor, and the joys of Christmas
Holiday Heart is the second book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 14
Pre-order Price: $3.99
A winning combination of romance, humor, and history
Widow Britta Webster can hardly remember life before her village was overrun with German soldiers during World War II. All she wants is to live a peaceful existence and raise her child. But she will do anything to protect Joshua, even if it means begging a stranger to take her to America where her son will have a safe place to call home.
Honor, grace, and duty are the driving forces behind Bryce Coleman’s approach to life, even as he strives to survive in war-torn France. Severely wounded, he’s left by his comrade in the cellar of a woman who clearly wants nothing to do with him. When she pleads with him for her son’s future, Bryce feels bound by an obligation to the widow for saving his life.
Will a burdensome agreement turn to love when hearts come home to Holiday? Find out in his sweet historical romance packed with vintage charm, nostalgia, and the wonder of Christmas.
Holiday Home is the third book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
Release Date: December 21
Pre-order Price: $3.99
Will delving into the past kindle a forever love?
Kali Hoyt loves old things. Old books. Old dishes. Old cars. Old love stories. Hired as the director of the newly-formed preservation society for the town of Holiday, she can’t wait to begin digging into the history of a place she enjoyed visiting during her childhood summers. When her cousin introduces her to his best friend, Kali has no idea the grease-covered redneck will have such a monumental influence on her future.
Trace Coleman has spent his life being groomed to take over his family’s vast Lennox Enterprises empire. Astute at running the company, he much prefers to spend his days tinkering with the old steam engine that his great-great-grandfather worked on as a mechanic in the Holiday engine house. When he encounters the newly hired director for the preservation society he founded, he knows her presence in Holiday is going to change his life in ways he can’t begin to imagine.
Will two reluctant hearts succumb to the magic of the holidays? Find out in this sweet holiday romance filled with humor, heart, and love.
Holiday Love is the fourth book in the Holiday Express series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome, holiday romances brimming with the spirit of the season.
I am so excited about sharing these books with you and hope my readers will fall in love with the Coleman family like I have. There’s even a man named Nick who suspiciously looks a lot like a Victorian Santa making an appearance in all four stories!
What inspires you?
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