This picture from Mary's gallery inspired my story:
There was nowhere better in the world to dig for fossils than Settler, and thankfully most paleontologists didn't know it. I've seen a few amateur diggers over the years, but they certainly couldn't understand what priceless finds they might be making.
I did. I made my career off them.
Every year in early autumn, I'd come to Gold Lake and pitch my tent. Not once have I left empty-handed.
This year I had to attend an important convention during my usual dig time, so now I was hammering away under the mid-summer sun. Eagerly yet carefully. I found a set of raptor - at least I was pretty sure they were raptor - footprints that would win me enough fame to oust the director of my department. I chuckled at the thought of getting rid of the old coot.
Five prints already uncovered and the next ones in the path were open to the air. I swiped my brows and took a long drink of water before I moved to the sixth one.
Funny. The rock was a different color here.
No, wait. That's mud.
The tracks are fresh.
The Gold Rush trickles to a fool’s quest and a string of stagecoach heists. In 1888, Earl Blacke decides to make a new start and become a better man. He escapes into the mountains, heading north. In the wilds of Oregon, a rift inside an ancient volcano opens and sends him into the future, into the present day. It also shaves forty years off his age, forty years to live over again and atone for what he’s done.
Starting over is hard to do. In current day New York, Daelin Long’s dream job at a publishing house goes the way of the dinosaurs her sister chases. With no money and nowhere else to go, Daelin accepts the librarian position in her sister’s dinky town in the middle of Oregon. Nestled inside ancient volcanic peaks, the town of Settler holds onto many secrets. Residents roam the streets with weirdly fashioned devices, and odd lights pulse in the night skies. People whisper of a phantom outlaw and start dying, murdered and missing their heads. On top of it all, Daelin’s sister is missing, and Daelin doesn’t know who to trust.
Earl knows more than he’s saying. He shares a notorious history with the phantom, one he’ll see remains buried. Keeping Daelin’s sister’s secrets is his only chance at redemption, and the only way to keep this world safe.