The Goldtown Adventures came to life because a lot of parents wanted middle-grade novels for their boys. Sure, boys enjoy the Circle C Adventures, but many could not get past the girl on the cover. So, I set four books in 1864, during the waning days of the gold rush.
Later on, I wrote a younger series about Jem and Ellie, set in 1859, but there are no interesting cover stories about those books. My publisher hired an illustrator (from Turkey!) and he created the covers and the interior illustrations. If you would like to see those covers, here they are. The interesting thing about the Goldtown Beginnings is that Jem and Ellie’s mother is alive. She does not die from influenza until after book 6, Jem’s Wild Winter.
Badge of Honor
Jem has real problems in this first story. His pa has just become sheriff of lawless Goldtown. Jem thinks the six-pointed star on Pa’s vest is a bulls-eye for outlaws instead of a badge of honor. Fun fact. I created Jem’s pa after watching an old TV western episode called “Rimfire.” I really liked the boy and his father, eking out a living in a gold-mining town. So that girls would want to read the book, I gave Jem a spunky sister, and I also threw in a city cousin who ends up becoming a good friend and not a stereotypical “city slicker.” At first, maybe, but both boys grow and change in this first book.
These three covers show 1) the original cover but it was rejected because my marketing manager says beige/tan don’t keep consistent colors. This I believe. The original Circle C tan colors were never the same shade of tan, which makes me happy that they went with different colors in the anniversary editions. 2) the final cover, after searching forever on photo sites to find more than one picture of a western-looking boy. He’s “okay,” but 3) my vision of a revised and updated cover using this boy who is exactly the same age and coloring of Jem. Kregel told me they were updating the covers, but that was two years ago. So far, they have not. I would like to have different colors for each book in the Goldtown Adventures. It’s really hard to tell all four books apart (what was I thinking? I could have requested a different color at the time but I didn’t even think about it. I liked the blue.) Oh, well.
Tunnel of Gold
I got the idea for this book straight from “Rimfire,” an episode from the old TV western, The Big Valley. Sheriff must stand up against a mine owner who wants to evict the Chinese miners, who have what they think is a legal claim as “scavengers” to mine old diggings. The mean miner owner needs an airshaft to expand his mine. Oh, yes. It’s very similar. The sheriff’s boy even sells frog legs and sawdust. I decided this would be a great story to tie together with the Circle C Adventures. So Chad and his father, James Carter, end up being part owners in the mine. Yes, similar to the hero family in the TV show. They partly owned the mine too. I think this was my favorite book to write. It was so easy. Just add a bunch of kids to the skeleton of the episode and throw in a collapsing mine (which was not in the TV show). All in all, a fun story.
Canyon of Danger
This story is one that starts out with a definite hook. Jem runs into the house to grab the rifle to go after a wolf. Pa is away and Jem is the “man of the family.” Trouble is, what he thinks is a lurking wolf in the dusky woods is really a man. Oops. Worse, a former Pony Express rider, which most boys of that era held in high esteem as heroes. Double oops. Nightriders, stolen horse and rifle, floods, captured by outlaws. This story was a lot of fun to write.
River of Peril
Just like I wanted to send Andi to the city (San Francisco), I wanted to send Jem someplace new. So I researched what was going on in the capital of California, and lo and behold! They had paddle wheel steamboats chugging up and down the Sacramento River from the capital to San Francisco. Perfect! The books are set during the War Between the States, so intrigue, gold, and a group of Southern sympathizers and a plan to steal a shipment of Goldtown’s gold (which Pa the sheriff is supposed to be protecting) makes this a fun book too. I learned a lot about paddle wheel steamboats writing this episode.
Enjoy the covers. Just below are a couple of background pictures I either took or found. And the last picture is the sheriff and his son from that old “Rimfire” episode. I just love getting ideas from great, old shows and turning them into brand-new adventures all my own.