Blaire Edens is another fellow author from the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She grew up on a farm that’s been in her family since 1790. Of Scottish descent, her most famous ancestor, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland, was murdered by Robert the Bruce on the altar of the Greyfriars Church at Dumfries.
She has a degree in Horticulture from Clemson University. She’s held a myriad of jobs including television reporter, GPS map creator, and personal assistant to a fellow who was rich enough to pay someone to pick up the dry cleaning. When she’s not plotting, she’s busy knitting, running, or listening to the Blues, and she’s the award-winning author of Wild About Rachel, The Witch of Roan Mountain, and The Fairy Bargain.
My novella, A GHOSTLY WAGER, opens in Virginia City, Nevada.
All of us who grew up watching Bonanza are familiar with Virginia City, Nevada, but like many cities in the West, it was a fleeting metropolis. In 1875, at its peak, there were an estimated 25,000 residents and according to the 2010 census, there are only 855. However, in its peak decades, the town was extremely influential and it’s imprint on the United States is a lasting one.
While Virginia City’s current economy is based primarily on tourism, that wasn’t the case in the nineteenth century. In 1859, the discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States, led to the opening of several mines. The Comstock produced silver and gold ore worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The mines brought jobs, railroads and culture to the town. The city boasted gas and sewer lines, three theaters, an opera house and three daily newspapers. The money also flowed into government coffers, funding a large part of the Union efforts in The Civil War.
And Virginia City had Mark Twain.
In February 1863, Samuel Clemens, a reporter for the local Territorial Enterprise newspaper, first used the pen name Mark Twain. He lived in Virginia City and wrote for the Enterprise from 1862 until 1864. He didn’t leave on the best of terms. An editor at a local newspaper had challenged him to a duel because of his reporting.
At its peak in 1873, Virginia City was called the richest city in America. A stock market in San Francisco existed solely for the exploitation of Comstock mining. A large part of the profit from the Comstock Lode was invested in San Francisco real estate. Without Virginia City, San Francisco would be a very different place.
Even though Virginia City had several serious fires between 1859 and 1875, on October 26, 1875, the Great Fire caused over $12 million in damage. A church caught fire and the blaze penetrated one mine shaft to 400 feet. The heat was so intense that railroad car wheels melted and brick buildings collapsed. More than two thousand people were left homeless.
The city rebuilt in 1880 but it was past its peak by that time and the population continued to plummet for the next hundred years.
For just a blip on the radar, a boomtown whose day in the sun only lasted a couple of decades, America wouldn’t be the same without Virginia City. Without the Comstock Lode, silver might never have been demonetized by the government, San Francisco might be nothing but a small town on the bay. We might not have Mark Twain or the state of Nevada. Without the money that filled government coffers to support the Union cause, we might not even be The United States of America.
Thank you, Virginia City. For everything.
About A Ghostly Wager
Even skeptical detectives need a little otherworldly help. . .
Annabelle Lawson hops a train to Reno to escape a marriage to an older man. Alone and nearly destitute, she spots an advertisement that might change her life. If she can use the dreams that haunt her to land a job with the mysterious Treymane PSI Agency, she might be able to buy a ticket home to Kentucky.
Agent Cole Swansby is an up and coming detective for Tremayne PSI. There’s only thing that can sink his career: if the boss discovers he’s a skeptic. He’s under tremendous pressure to solve a case before the president of Midas Mining comes to town.
Cole can’t solve this case without otherworldly help and Annabelle is just the woman for the job. As they’re drawn deeper into the mystery of the woman in green, they may not be able to banish the ghost without losing their hearts. To each other.
Anna took a deep breath and looked out the small window that faced Sierra Street. She chewed on her bottom lip. “I dream things.”
“We all dream things.”
“These dreams are different. People who have passed visit me in my dreams. Every night.”
“Who are they?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know them.”
“Do they scare you?”
“They did at first but now, after four years of facing them every night, I’ve gotten used to them.”
“They talk to you?”
“They want me to take messages to their loved ones.”
“Do you oblige them?”
“I don’t know how I would ever find the people they’re looking for but they keep coming back anyway.”
“You’re sure they aren’t ordinary nightmares?” She wouldn’t be the first woman who’d been driven insane by the life she was forced to live here in the West.
She shook her head vigorously. “They’re not the same. Not at all. The people that visit me in my dreams are real.”
Cole reminded himself that he didn’t believe in ghosts. If ghosts didn’t exist, the living couldn’t communicate with them. Simple logic. But this woman seemed honest, earnest and for a sliver of a moment, he believed her, or at least believed she believed the dead talked to her. “Are you a widow?”
“He died in the Fire of 1875.” Her voice quavered a bit and she wouldn’t meet his eyes. The woman in front of him was lying.
“You came from Virginia City?”
“Got here last night.”
Something about her story didn’t make sense. Maybe she just looked young, but he couldn’t imagine that she was married six years ago. Even in this godforsaken corner of America, girls didn’t marry at eleven or twelve.
“How old are you?”
Anna flinched and her eyes went wide. “Twenty-three. I look young for my age. People tell me that all the time,” she said with a nervous giggle.
There was more to this story. While Cole might not strictly believe in the mission of the Agency, he was a damn good detective and he smelled a rat. She was running from something. He’d bet his paycheck on it.
“What’s your real story?”
“What on earth do you mean?”
He leaned back in his chair and looked directly at her. “Level with me and I’ll consider hiring you.”
By the way she exhaled and dropped her shoulders, he knew he’d hit the nail on the head.
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