Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 8 – SACRED LANDS, JUNE (?), 1892 – pages 85-86

Garret’s soul mate the miner finds gold in the Blue River, and now sets his sights on the surrounding hills.

Prospecting his claim was a slow, painstaking process. John Parker found a few flakes and some gold dust in the river, but little else that could be called significant. On land, nothing begged his undivided attention either. However, a few areas, namely Big Bear and Little Bear Mountains, the two knolls he named in honor of the sow and cub black bear he had seen the week or so before, did warrant further observation. These places he would investigate after panning the river one last time. Parker had a hunch that he would find something of value in the river if he only tried hard enough.

Laden with the collecting pan he had purchased from his good friend C.J. McKay, and some burlap bags, Parker walked a little ways downstream to where the river made a slight jog before straightening once again. The discontinuity in stream course caused the current to slow considerably, permitting the water to drop its load in the form of a grass-covered gravel bar. It was here that John Parker decided to pan for gold.

Parker waded into the water on the downstream side of the gravel bar. He hacked into the saturated, matted mass of roots with his hatchet and placed a generous heap of grass, roots, gravel, and muck into his gold pan. He kneaded the mass to loosen the strangulating grip the vegetation had on the rocks and sediment, then began the washing process. Parker’s pulse quickened as he swirled the mixture gently beneath the modest current of the river. Slowly but surely the mass was rendered to a mud slurry. When the water started to clear after the majority of the fines had been washed away, he looked into the pan with earnest. As with his earlier forays in the river, Parker was disappointed. His efforts yielded just pieces of granite and more mica flakes than he could stand. He repeated the process several more times. Each time he was rewarded with the same result: nothing. Disgruntled, Parker picked up his wares and rounded the bend of the bar. There he paused to stretch his tightening back and check on his dog. Satisfied to find Britt chasing a pair of pack rats among the shoreline rocks, he resumed his business, albeit with less enthusiasm than before.

Still he found nothing after what seemed like hours of agony and futility. With a huff, Parker dipped his pan one last time into the sediment and began to swirl. Several long seconds passed, and again nothing. Then his eye caught the glimpse of something that looked promising. Parker plunged a large hand into the broad dish and pulled out a heavy, hickory-nut-sized pebble. From what he could see, the pebble was metallic. Closer scrutiny confirmed that it was indeed metallic, dented, and covered with algae. Feverishly, he scraped the surface with his thumbnail. The stone’s brilliant golden hue soon sparkled through like the star of Bethlehem.

Gold! He had finally found it. It was there all along, just like C.J. said it would be. Parker let out a raucous belly laugh that reverberated off of the mountains. He kissed the large nugget and placed it in his pocket for safe- keeping. Parker then splashed about in the river in celebration of his glorious accomplishment. Britt saw his master’s excitement and hurried to Parker’s side to join in the festivities.

His greed somewhat satiated by the gold nugget and the five others he found just like it that morning, Parker next turned his attention to the two hills looming behind him. He reasoned that since he had already found a significant amount of gold in the river, there must be plenty more where this came from. It was all his for the taking.

Parker scoured Big Bear Mountain for about an hour. The brownness of the rocks intrigued him, but he was neither knowledgeable in geology nor particularly competent in prospecting. Accordingly, their color prompted little more than idle curiosity. Looking up toward Little Bear he noticed that the rocks there, too, had a reddish-brown hue to them. A quick surveillance of several nearby hills and distant peaks failed to show the same earthy tone. These highland areas were colored the characteristic gray or pinkish-gray of the Rockies. The rocks of Big Bear and Little Bear Mountain were just somehow different. Parker shrugged and continued on toward Little Bear.


Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 3 – NICKEL CENTER, ONTARIO, OCTOBER 22, 1985 – pages 39-40

A Blossoming Romance: Garret and Michelle get to know one another by the fire.

Garret and Michelle continued on with their own conversation shortly after Tracy left to find Nick. Garret had fished two more beers from the cooler before sitting down again next to Michelle, then commented that her response to his hometown jab was indeed a good one. This comforted Michelle who, unlike Tracy, always felt insecure around boys she didn’t know very well. After Garret extended his compliment, a relaxed Michelle remarked how nice it was that they had enough wood to keep the fire blazing late into the evening. She shivered; her teeth chattered. Her front was toasty from the heat of the flame; her back as cold as the night air.

“Yeah, Nick usually thinks of everything. Did you see the woods around here? There isn’t a scrap of wood to be found. It looks like frickin’ Haiti.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she said.

The question again almost caught Garret in a compromising position. Yes, he said, remorsefully with some hesitation. He told her he had a sister, though he didn’t offer a name. He then remarked that his parents had been killed in an automobile accident when he was young and that he has lived with an aunt ever since, whose job kept her on the road most of the time. The lie came so naturally and was so effective that Garret could see Michelle’s luminous expression fall by the light from the fire’s flickering glow. Like Nick earlier, Michelle didn’t want to press the issue, so she said nothing in return.

“Enough about me; how about you? How did a pretty girl like you ever get to a school like Huron College?”

Michelle blushed at the compliment. “I was wondering when you were going to get to that. That’s usually the first question someone asks.” She laughed lightly. “Well, Ohio State was too big, North Carolina too far, and Cincinnati and Indiana are too close. So where else would I go?”

“How about Miami University? I understand it’s a good school. Too close, I guess?”

“Too many yuppies. They’re all too squeaky-clean; not my style. The graduate students are pretty cool, though. They stick out like a sore thumb.

You know, shitty clothes and no money. I’m surprised you’ve heard of Miami. Not many people have outside of the area. They usually think of the other Miami down in Florida.”

“I guess being a guy and knowing a thing or two about sports I would have heard of Miami. Ron Harper, college hoops, you know.”

“Wow, yeah. He’s the greatest. I remember hearing about him when I was in high school. Everyone still talks about him back home. I have to admit, though, I don’t follow basketball.”

Even mentioning Miami University still gave Garret heart palpitations. He was amazed that he could even talk about the school with civility. It was a surefire bet. A generous point-spread in his favor, home court advantage, two teams that matched up well with each other. Who would have thought that Miami would blow the spread? Because of that one ill-advised bet in which he overstepped his means, Garret came ever so close to losing his prized Pontiac. At least he didn’t begin to black out again. For this, Garret was deeply grateful.

“What about you?” Michelle said. So what brought you to Huron?”

Garret dismissed the unsavory thoughts of his betting woes to answer her question. “Most of the schools I looked at were in Michigan. The geographical universities—you know—Eastern, Central, Western. Then there is U of M of course. I also looked at Ferris State, Hillsdale, and Michigan Tech. Tech, you could say, is like Cincinnati area schools to you—too close for my liking. Yep, Huron gave me the best offer, and it’s far enough away from home. That the weather is relatively balmy in Traverse City is a plus.”

“Balmy? Are you kidding? It’s cold as hell in Traverse City.”

“It may be cold to a girl from Pig’s Knuckle, Ohio, but when you live practically in the arctic, like I do, Traverse City feels like Rio.”

“All right, enough with the Ohio cracks,” Michelle said in a voice that was only half joking. “Do you know what you want to do when you get out of here?”

Garret shrugged. “I really don’t know. Maybe field camp will help me figure out what I want to do.”

Michelle’s eyes sparkled. “Super. I’m planning to go to the field sta- tion, too. You’re going to Huron’s camp, right?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss Alpine Lodge if my life depended on it,” Garret enthusiastically replied.


Here’s another excerpt from Ghost Creek, Chapter 9, page 99. 

Dr. Hamilton droned on. “For all of their attributes and business practices that may seem at least a wee bit barbaric to us today, early miners did a remarkable job in helping to establish a stable American economy. Hard, diligent work raised many small desolate communities into bustling hubs of wealth and prosperity. Coeur d’ Alene, Ouray, Cripple Creek, Silverton, Breckenridge, the Magdalena District, these places and many more like them were the pride of the West in their day. Then again, all good things must come to an end.”

Hamilton’s words didn’t disillusion Garret in the least. He loved mining, the whole aura about the trade, despite its many shortcomings. His father was a miner, as was his father before him. As a youth, Garret would read tales of mining lore for hours with the hope that one day he would find his own mine.

More than anything, all of this talk about mining agitated the itch to find the source of the black crystal adorning the neck of his refound love. Did the crystals come from some old abandoned mine, or did they wash out of the bedrock due to stream erosion? Did Paul Carter excavate some little vug—a hollow void in rock commonly infilled with mud and crystals? Not knowing was excruciating.

Garret continued to flip through the textbook. He paused at another double-page photo spread of someplace that looked strangely familiar to him. Garret looked long and hard at the panorama, trying to place the location. He couldn’t. He was certain, though, that he had seen the very same mountains that rose off in the background somewhere before. In the way that he held the text before him, his hand covered the center of the picture. When he removed it, he had to re-center the book in his grasp. After he had done so, he looked to where his hand had covered the majority of a miner who apparently was the focus of the photograph. And there was the man again.

Hope you enjoyed the read.



As promised in my last post, here is an excerpt from Ghost Creek.

“The Boys,” as they were known to most, had, for all intents and purposes, assumed control of the geology department by the time they reached their junior year at Huron College. Since freshman year either one or the other had held each principal office in the geology club, including president, vice president, and treasurer. Out of respect for Garret and Nick’s influence in both club and department matters, most underclassman geology majors looked to them for advice and leadership. Garret was alive, really alive. For the first time in his life he was on his own with a friend who had no pre-conceived notions of, or expectations for him. His transformation from an insecure boy to a reserved, self-confident young man was so complete, thanks to Aunt Carol, that he even summoned the courage to pledge the Chi Zeta Rho social fraternity with Nick the spring semester of their freshman year. Making his life all the more enjoyable was the fact that those terrible voices had not haunted him for the better part of two years now.

Garret and Nick participated in a wide range of department activities, including the arrangement of the annual department field trip held each October during fall break, along with professors Simmons and Hamilton. The boys were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the previous two field trips, which included emerald collecting in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and a visit to Garret’s old stomping grounds, the copper mines on the Keweenaw Peninsula portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If Garret was adversely affected by returning to his estranged birthplace, he didn’t confide such feelings to anyone. In fact, Nick was only vaguely aware that Garret’s parents—or siblings, for that matter—might still be living in the area.

Until next time,



Ghost Creek Back Story

Fresh on the heels of my 15 minutes of fame after having published a peer-reviewed article in the The Mineralogical Record about the geology and mineralogy of an Indiana geode locality, I then got the foolhardy notion to write a full-fledged novel. It was January 8, 1991 and I was three years removed from grad school, working as a geologist for an environmental consulting company at a time when being published (as I was told) was required for advancement to certain more lofty levels and having just published something others found even remotely interesting was reason for some serious cred around the water cooler. Needless to say I didn’t have the slightest idea on how to start or what I was about to get myself into. I did, however, have the good sense to follow a colleague’s advice and write about something that I both knew and enjoyed.

That evening I had the apartment to myself and with a tablet of paper in hand and a Flyers game on the TV, I lounged on the couch and set my mind to thinking about what to write. Being a recent addition to the workforce, I still had a lot of stuff learned from my geology classes still swimming around in my head and I certainly did love every minute of my college experience (well, mostly), so I thought what better story could there be than an action thriller about a college student who schemes a way to appropriate an abandoned mine he finds on his school’s field camp property for his own personal gain? Field camp was a required field course for all geology majors and mine consisted of a month spent tramping about Colorado countryside in the shadow of Pikes Peak looking for rock formation contacts and making maps. With so many wonderful memories of that experience to draw from, I was certain that I could create a really cool story.

Now back to that I had no idea about how to start said thing mentioned above: I paid no heed to what I didn’t know, dove right in and started to write as the thoughts jumped into my head. I envisioned the main character a student and named him Garret Sutton after the first and last names of several acquaintances. I also decided it best to begin the story with a troubled youth to explain (or was it justify?) why he’d attempt such a foolhardy stunt. By the end of that first night I’d jotted down several pages of chicken scratches and Ghost Creek was born. Nearly two years and 738 printed pages later, I finished the first draft on December 4, 1992. It was a most exhilarating feeling—a real life moment complete. Along the way the manuscript would take many twists and turns—and continue to change during the typing and editing process, which took another couple of years to complete. Along the way characters were created as others drifted out of the story; some whose personalities took on a life of their own didn’t make it through to the end, while others lived on to fight another day; one hero was replaced by an entirely new character, and the tale took on an increasingly darker tone the deeper I descended along with Garret down his path of destruction at the hands of the Ghost Creek curse. All told it was a tremendous growing experience for me as well as the characters that can never be equaled because I was experiencing everything for the first time: all of the wonderment, the what ifs? The many I never saw that coming revelations. Somewhere down the road I’ll delve a little deeper into some of the changes that occurred along the way. But for the next post, how about a few excerpts from the book?

Until then, I hope you get to enjoy some fair springtime weather that’s finally here. Cheers!

— Rick

Hello again fellow readers

It’s been a shade over two months now since my last post so let me start by extending my most humble apologies. It’s been a crazy busy eight weeks that resulted in our moving to that family cabin property in Northwestern Pennsylvania referenced under the Author tab on my web site at It’s a restful spot on the lower middle section of the Allegheny River in Venango County where there’s a better than even chance to see an eagle soar overhead on most days and where it’s Friday every day. 😉 To all of you who helped us in one way or another, we cannot express how much we appreciate your efforts and support.

Jolie Rouge continues to be received very well and I’m glad to see that a couple of you were kind enough to offer words of praise on Amazon, and to that I say—Thank You!

As mentioned in my last post on Groundhog’s Day, I plan to introduce—or reintroduce as the case may be—my first book, Ghost Creek, in preparation for the forthcoming sequel Reckoning at Little Bear—or RLB. I’m almost one hundred pages into the first draft of RLB now and the plot is unfolding nicely. Stay tuned for future posts with insight into the premise, characters, and progress of the story.

Until the next time,

— Rick

A thank you to my readers

Thank you dear friends for your continuing support. Now that we’re charging headlong into 2016 and Punxsutawney Phil has graciously pronounced that “spring is just around the corner,” I think it’s time to take a few moments to express my sincere appreciation to each of you who have purchased, commented upon, or in one way or another expressed interest in my writing. The satisfaction I feel is unparalleled when someone goes out of their way to say how much they enjoyed either book: whether it be how Ghost Creek had given them nightmares or that they enjoyed the young love that blossomed between Nick and Michelle; or thought that they were actually there, strolling through the streets of Key West or living a renegade life aboard a pirate ship along with the characters in Jolie Rouge. Such comments tell me that you were moved and that I have done my job to serve you well—and for this I say, Thank You!

You see, as I writer I have the good fortune to be each of the characters as I create them, to watch their personalities unfold, to discover how they react to the situation that another part of my mind is simultaneously creating for them. It’s an interactive and often spontaneous endeavor. At times I’m the one who’s directing the action while at others it’s the characters that tell me how a scene is to play out. Add to the mix what and where to infuse a dose of non-fiction for interest sake and the writing process takes on a whole new level of complexity. Simply put, writing is a rewarding challenge that I am proud to share with you. To hear that I’ve actually created something—twice now—that’s enabled you to escape from reality for a little while…well, there’s no greater rush than that.

Jolie Rouge has been available since this past September and as many of you know, the social media campaign started two months later. Each week I see new “likes” appear on Facebook, which tells me that the word is getting out. I am also pleased to announce that all feedback has been highly favorable. Whew! Jolie Rouge was an ambitious undertaking to say the least. I did my best to meld fiction with historical fiction and non-fiction into one cohesive narrative, and doggone it, it looks that I have succeeded. To this end, I encourage each of you who have read either of my works to post a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and by all means to encourage your friends to pick up a copy or tune into my Facebook page or web site at

Many of you will be excited to hear that the Curse of Coronado is alive and well and will be reprised of sorts in my latest project, Reckoning at Little Bear, the third book in the Ghost Creek trilogy. The sequel, EcoGenesis, is a yet to be written, stand alone environmental thriller that takes place in the 1990s. Had life not gotten in the way back then, you would already know what happened. I’ll let you know what does once it’s written sometime down the road. As I write this, I recently returned from a mini-vacation that included a stop in Charleston, South Carolina to play tourist and do a little boots-on-the-ground research where the Reckoning at Little Bear story begins. I found Charleston to be a wonderful city worthy of addition to your bucket list of places to visit when traveling the Deep South.

In preparation for the new book, I plan to reconnect some of you while introducing others to Ghost Creek. Future blogs will include excerpts from Ghost Creek, updates on the status of Reckoning at Little Bear (I cringe at the thought of having to cave to the dumbing down process and reduce the title to an acronym, though I have to admit RLB does roll nicely off the tongue), and what I hope you find is interesting insights learned over the course of my writing experience.

Until next time, stay warm, be safe, and thank you again for your continuing support

— Rick

Welcome to Jolie Rouge!

The idea to write a pirate story took root in early 2010 following a recent family vacation to Key West. It was a wondrous trip filled with sipping boat drinks in the sand by day and strolling up and down Duvall Street by night. Fond remembrances are still had of the dinner we shared at the Conch Republic Seafood Company one evening of the mahi-mahi I caught earlier that day, prepared by a restaurant chef.

I had been considering a pirate-theme project for sometime. It was a Friday afternoon in May, after throwing in the towel for the workweek, when I decided to sit down and finally flesh out some ideas. It didn’t take long to realize that the best pirate novel was one that captured the essence of Key West’s carnival-like atmosphere and answers the questions I inevitably find myself dreaming about whenever I’m at the beach; questions like: what’s out there beyond the horizon? What would be like to ply the high seas during the age of sail, or to be a pirate for a day? Are there pirates out there right now waiting to prey on one of the pleasure boaters once they cruise beyond sight of land?

The budding concept took a fortuitous turn when I stumbled upon the remarkably obscure pirate Bartholomew Roberts during my research. To say the least, the historical record of Roberts’ exploits was every bit as dramatic as the best fiction, so I elected to recount his piratical life in full. The same can be said about Haiti, a country with a rich and turbulent history so incredulous that it, too, begged to be summarized in detail in support of the fiction portion of the story that delves into Voodoo (Vodou) and zombies (zombis).

I hope you find Jolie Rouge to be the perfect beach read or companion to help chase the winter blues away. Thank you for your support and enjoy the adventure.

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!


Excerpt from “Chapter 10 – Little Inagua, Bahamas – Monday”

Jolie Rouge: A Swashbuckling Tale of Adventure and Intrigue by Rick Ley

Excerpt from “Chapter 10 – Little Inagua, Bahamas – Monday”:

Pete awakened Saturday morning long before the five o’clock alarm
had sounded. In fact, he had been awake for much of the night in
anticipation of the adventure about to unfold. Emerging from the shower,
his senses were pleasantly aroused by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee
drifting his way from downstairs. The aroma, paired with the reason for his
wee-hour rousting, fondly reminded him of their first morning in Brett’s
condo. Pete reckoned that he must have awakened Cat despite his best
efforts at cat-like stealth. He laughed softly under his breath; she had no
doubt already rummaged through his things, making certain that he’d
packed everything, his passport in particular. She’d probably also checked
his wallet to ensure he had enough cash on hand to tip the airport limo driver.

By the time he’d made it downstairs, Cat had a hot cup of coffee waiting
for him. “Thanks,” Pete said. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

Yawning, she said, “No, not really. I needed to get an early start today,
anyway. I can make you some toast.” On her way to the cupboard she added,
“It looks like you have everything.” Pete smiled warmly. “What?” she said,
casting him a wary eye.

Excerpt from “Chapter 9 – Cape Coast Castle, Ghana – March 28, 1722”

Jolie Rouge: A Swashbuckling Tale of Adventure and Intrigue by Rick Ley

Excerpt from “Chapter 9 – Cape Coast Castle, Ghana – March 28, 1722”:

It was only a matter of time before he was captured or killed in battle.
Roberts surely must have known this, considering that his success had
made him a hunted man on both sides of the ocean. The world was fast
becoming a much smaller place, the coastlines less remote, the shipping
lanes increasingly crowded with warships to accompany a burgeoning
trade. Roberts certainly would have observed this fact as well. Then there
were those Woodes Rogers sorts—the Englishman’s success at eradicating
the pirate trade at New Providence in the Bahamas no doubt would have
resulted in the placement of provincial governors of a similar bent of mind
at strategic locations in the Old World before long. Until then Roberts could
only hope to buy time, to perhaps find that someplace left where he could
continue roaming the seas uncontested, or perhaps some foreign land where
he could assimilate back into society a wealthy and obscure man.