Friday, August 16, 2013

Real-life heroes and heroines

My husband’s addiction to The History Channel can be a good or bad thing. Bad when it’s a seeming replay of war and all its related weapons (in much too much gory detail) but good when it sparks a story idea. Some time ago, a feature about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco caught both our attentions.

Like most story ideas, it gelled in my brain awhile, niggling at me to learn more. Being the research addict I am, I trolled the Web and found a treasure trove of stories waiting to be told. Stories of real-life heroes and heroines who overcame immense odds to rebuild the city after its worst tragedy to date.

Before the great quake, San Francisco was one hot city. The ninth largest in the U.S., it was home to 400,000 people, and rife with crime, prostitution, opium dives and most any vice you can imagine, mostly concentrated in the Barbary District. There, the city’s Vice Squad – for a price, of course – turned a blind eye to the scandalous dance halls, peep shows and whorehouses. More tame fun awaited at the Chutes and Zoo, an amusement park, or the Golden Gate Donkey Rides, where children could ride in goat carts or on donkeys.

Ragtime music was in its heyday, and Enrico Caruso enjoyed immense popularity – he was actually in town during the quake, having performed the night before at the Grand Operahouse.

While Enrico survived the earthquake, not much else in the city did. The Richter Scale had not yet been invented, but geologists estimate the quake to be equal to 7.8, and more than 270 miles of the San Andreas Fault ruptured. More than 3000 people lost their lives, either during the quake or in the resulting fires that destroyed what the quake had left.

The Golden Gate Bridge had not yet been constructed, so residents used the ferry to get back and forth to outlying islands. Trying to crowd onto that ferry to escape the devasation, more lost their lives.

How the survivors managed to carry on, I don’t know. But they did, in an incredible, roll-up-your-sleeves and get-down-to-business way. After President Teddy Roosevelt sent the military with wagonloads of rations, people set up tent cities, food lines and began cleanup efforts. Businesses reopened within days, as shopkeepers were determined to rebuild. Again, every single story told of actual heroes, many who never found recognition for their amazing courage.

In real life, such disaster is heartwrenching. In fiction, it’s fodder for a great story, especially when it has such a hopeful aftermath. I loved placing my heroine and hero in these circumstances. Already down and out, Norah Hawkins and Gerard “Mac” MacKenzie are looking for a better life in San Francisco. Do they find it? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out. :)

And as of today, you can! It's release day for my historical novella Betting It All! Woot! :)

Here’s the blurb:
Norah Hawkins wants a new life as far from her old one as possible, but where can she ever find that chance? When a letter arrives promising her the deed to property in San Francisco, Norah packs her bags and flees the broken shards of her troubled past.
With its anything-goes atmosphere, 1906 San Francisco suits Irishman Gerard MacKenzie just fine. He loves tending bar in Norah’s saloon, and verbally sparring with the shrewd businesswoman for more privileges and work. Her beauty, wit and sass make his blood boil with need.
But disaster looms over their promising new lives when a terrible earthquake buries their dreams and threatens to shatter their future. Norah and Mac must rebuild their lives from the ruins and they’ll need each other more than ever, but can their ties to each other save them or tear them apart? 

About Cate

Cate Masters has made beautiful central Pennsylvania her home, but she’ll always be a Jersey girl at heart. When not spending time with her dear hubby, she can be found in her lair, concocting a magical brew of contemporary, historical, and fantasy/paranormal stories with her cat Chairman Maiow and dog Lily as company. Look for her at and in strange nooks and far-flung corners of the web.
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