The Rocky Mountains are my favorite range, its peaks and accompanying valleys never fail to fill me with awe, and have done so for as long as I can remember. The Rockies are the panorama of my spirit.
Nevertheless, I left the Rocky Mountains in my late twenties after a decade of living along the Front Range, a decision driven by my desire to escape from the circumstances surrounding a bad marriage's end. But, even though I then built a wonderful life in Maine, filled with good friends enjoyable activities, and steady work, I missed the West and Colorado terribly. Thus it was that four years later, I returned to Colorado with a dream and high hopes. That dream took me to one of my favorite places: Cripple Creek. To my mind, it's not the most fetching of towns--too exposed and spare of trees for my personal preference, sitting in an ancient caldera and stripped of forest by decades of miners--but there's an intangible something that pulls me in whenever I'm there. Maybe a past life?
By the time I moved to Cripple Creek in 1994, a lot had changed from the days of my family vacations there (we had been visiting Colorado, regularly, since I was a toddler). It had transformed from a sleepy little relic of Gold Rush days into a chaotic harbor for limited-stakes gambling, one of three Colorado towns approved to do so in 1991. These were not places within Native American reservations, mind you; they were, rather, an experiment designed for and directed toward "boosting economies and preserving the past" -- or were supposed to be. I lived just outside of town, an adventure in and of itself, plus worked for one of the hotel and casino ventures in Cripple Creek for an exhilarating and often daunting eight months.
So what happens when gambling is made legal in a small town in the modern American West? That's just one of the questions addressed in my Chantilly Lace series of novels, the first book of which is to be released this winter. While the town of Chantilly Lace is a synthesis of several places (some in Colorado, others around the country), Cripple Creek was definitely my initial inspiration for it.
My personal hopes and endeavors quickly fell upon hard times, not once but twice, however, those experiences have not in any way dissolved my peculiar bond with Cripple Creek or tainted my adoration for the Colorado Rockies.
Isn't it strange how a place, a particular landscape or part of the country, can keep us held in thrall no matter what the external experiences may be?