I want to extend my thanks to the Sweethearts of the West blog for inviting me to be a regular contributor. I decided as an introductory post, I would share some of my localities for my writing.
I've noticed quite a few authors set their stories in their home states. I have not always done so. In fact, my two most recent books which are part of a multi-author series are set primarily between St. Joseph, Missouri and Salina, Kansas. However, many of my stories are set in my home state which happens to be...
California has every element found in other western localities including all forms of cattle ranching, mining and lawless desparados. Here is a little tour of my neck of the woods, and where I may easily drive to take pictures of regions that become the settings for many of my books.
|Pastureland just west of the foothills and Mariposa|
I live in Merced County, which bills itself as "The Gateway to Yosemite." The southern tip of the Mother Lode region is found in Mariposa about an hour's drive to the east of where I live. Mariposa has a wonderful Gold Rush museum with mining equipment.
|Muller used in the amalgamation process of separating gold from rock|
Another hour or so beyond that is Yosemite National Park, one of my favorite places to visit.
Over the hill (and through some lovely scenery) is Lee Vining and Mono Lake.
|Mono Lake as seen from north of Lee Vining|
However, from 1879 through 1884, it was the town that housed miners for a multitude of gold mining activities in the surrounding mountains, including the May Lundy Mine and the May Lundy Mill (stamp mill). It is there I set many of my scenes in my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, particularly in the earlier part of the year.
The cover of the second book in the series, A Resurrected Heart, includes my photo of the rooftops of current-day Lundy with Mt. Scowden in the background. The May Lundy Mine was on Mt. Scowden. This book has nothing to do with the resurrection associated with Easter. However, in 1884, it took place on April 5th in Lundy and marked a very different type of celebration.
As I continue to travel north on Highway 395, I eventually reach the Mono County seat of Bridgeport. It is in a region that originally was known as Big Meadows, which prompted the title of my first book in the series, Big Meadows Valentine. That book covered the first week in January, 1884 through Valentine’s Day. It is also the region where the later books in the series (so far) are set. The photo of the cattle grazing in Big Meadows was reminiscent of the herds on the Caldwell Ranch.
After turning west on Highway 108, I cross Sonora Pass, a road in use at the time my series takes place. In fact, Mr. Leavitt who constructed the Leavitt House in Bridgeport originally owned a stagecoach stop along this highway.
After a cross the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Sonora Pass, I eventually get to the 49er gold rush town of Sonora. Less than five miles to the north is another favorite setting for some of my books: Columbia, which started as Hildreth’s Diggings in 1851.
Columbia is now a state park. Every effort has been made to preserve the buildings to provide an authentic idea of what the town looked like in the days of the gold rush until the end of the century.
As much as I enjoy writing books set in other states such as Kansas and Colorado (another favorite “go-to” state since I have children and grandchildren living there), I have found the opportunities for locating varied and interesting settings for my historical western novels very close to home in California. The possibilities are as great and endless as the state's beautiful scenery.
And what I have shared today is all within a day trip driving to the east of my home in central California. We’ll talk about the great novel settings in the other directions from my home another time.
About Zina Abbott:
Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. A member of Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America, she currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.
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