Outtakes 234


By Cait Collins

I love rocks, minerals, crystals, and gemstones. Each one has its own beauty. Even river-tumbled stones possess color, texture, and properties. My interest in rocks began with a good earth science teacher who believed in practical application of classroom lectures. I began searching roadsides and riverbeds for quartz, feldspar, granite, marble, and gold. Never found the gold, but I did have a collection going. One of my favorite pieces was a goods sized rock with varying shades of quartz growing up one side. I carried that rock from Maine to Louisiana to Amarillo, Texas. Over the years, my interest in collecting waned. I developed other interests and rocks fell by the wayside.

I recently began working on a new story with a hero who designs jewelry and his best friend who is a prospector and gem broker. My interest in collecting has reawakened. I’m not referring to gems and jewelry as much as to the science and history of rocks and gems.

Gems are a part of history. The Bible in the book of Exodus describes the breastplate of the High Priest as being set with four rows of stones with three stones in each row. Among the gems are diamond, emerald, sapphire, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper. Zircon is one of the oldest recorded minerals. The diamond mines of South Africa are legendary not only for the quality and size of the stones, but also for the violent history. Faberge eggs are still sought after. The deep blue Hope Diamond is cursed. Opals are bad luck unless they happen to be your birthstone. Columbian emeralds smuggled aboard the Atocha were recovered by Mel Fisher’s crew in the late 20th century.

Crystals and minerals are reported to have healing properties. Verities’ of quartz are said to be beneficial for depression, migraine, insomnia, lupus, blood pressure, and vision. Blue opal is good for panic, phobias, vision, and fatigue. Moonstones help vision, sleepwalking, internal organs, veins, and arteries.

So, if your heroine is Wician, it’s important to know her Zodiac sign and the associated minerals, gems, and rocks. A religious historian would be familiar with gem use in worship ceremonies. The characters will look beyond the origins and science to find a relationship to his namesake. He sees the romance and not just the monetary value.



Outtakes 60


One of my favorite jobs was my five year stint with the Disney Store in Amarillo, Texas. I hired on as one of the original cast members in 1995. Disney training and environment is top notch. Cast members are given every tool to provide the guests with the ultimate shopping experience. Rewards and recognition is a staple. I own a number of awards and prizes for guest service and sales.

With all the training efforts, I was surprised when a guest asked if we carried Figment. She saw them when she visited EPCOT Center, but ran out of time and didn’t have a chance to go back and buy one. I hated telling her we did not carry EPCOT characters. I did give her the website and phone number so she could order Figment. As she prepared to leave, I asked, “Who or what is Figment?” She smiled, “Haven’t you ever heard of a Figment of your imagination?”

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines Figment as something made, fabricated or contrived. With all due respect to Mr. Webster, I prefer to think of a Figment as something that sparks the imagination. What does Figment look like? Is it cloth, stone, or metal? Short or tall? Does Figment have eyes, ears, a nose, and a mouth? The truth is Figments come in all shapes and sizes. It’s the drop of dew on a rose petal. Or snow blanketing the trees and the lawn. Or it’s a baby’s smile when he hears mama’s voice.

Look around your home or office and you will be surprised at all the Figments living there. For me, it my Charlie Brown doll, my Captain Hook watch autographed by the character’s animators. What about my pewter frog wearing a prince’s crown that reminds me you sometimes have to kiss a few frogs before finding the prince. My jewelry box is full of Figments from the jewelry I inherited from my mother, gifts from friends and family to my Celtic cross made from silver recovered from the Atocha. Even my stuffed Puff the Magic Dragon evokes thoughts of being the eternal child.

As you find Figments, consider how they will work into your writing.  Puff could be the guy that refuses to grow up. Instead he forever plays childish games. The silver rattle given to your baby could be the identifying factor for a character in a mystery novel. My white, dew-kissed rose is a gift from a groom to his bride symbolizing true love. And it works all because they are Figments of our imaginations.

Cait Collins


The Atocha

On September 4, 1622, twenty-eight ships sailed from Havana to the open sea. They were six-weeks behind schedule. By morning on September 5, the fleet encountered a massive hurricane. Twenty-two ships escaped disaster, but six went aground and broke up. Among the wrecks were the Spanish treasure galleons Santa Margarita and the Nuestra Senora de Atocha.  While the Santa Margarita was partially salvaged by the Cuban authorities, the bulk of her cargo and that of the Atocha soon lay at bottom of the sea. The great treasure of the Spanish government remained lost for 360 years. In May of 1980, salvager Mel Fisher and his team found the Santa Margarita. Five years later, they discovered the Atocha’s mother lode.

Ships’ manifests detailed much of the cargo in the ships’ holds. However, the contraband proved an exciting find for Fisher and his teams. The Atocha was rich in gold and silver bars, pieces of eight, Spanish coins, gold chains, jewelry, and Colombian emeralds. Imagine the thrill of salvaging this glittering piece of Spanish history. The estimated value of Fisher’s find was $450,000,000, making it one of the richest salvages in history.

I was privileged to view a portion of the Atocha’s wealth when Duncan and Boyd Jewelers hosted a showing of the treasures of the Atocha. Case after case of artifacts greeted patrons. I was astonished by the number of gold bars, pieces of eight, passengers’ jewelry, and pounds of silver for sale. The salvagers crafted reproductions of jewelry and artifacts from the salvaged silver. I purchased a cross, a mariner’s dolphin, and a dragon shaped toothpick along with Eugene Lyon’s book THE SEARCH FOR THE ATOCHA, and a copy of Captain Kathryn Budde-Jones’ booklet COINS OF THE LOST GALLEONS. But it was the emeralds that fascinated me. One of the divers slipped a mined emerald ring on my finger. I gulped when I saw the $7,000.00 price tag. It wasn’t even one of the best quality stones. One stone, a medium-sized, almost flawless, round cut was valued at $65,000.00.

After returning the ring to James, I continued to walk the displays. I played one of my favorite writer’s games. What if a ship from the Dutch East Indies fleet was pirated by a Spanish buccaneer? And what if the English attacked the pirate vessel? And what if all three ships sunk? And then, nearly three hundred years later, a young marine archeologist “happens” on all three wrecks. Among the treasures, the emerald encrusted lizard broach jeweler Juan Carlos de Gara presented to his fiancé before she sailed on the Dutch ship, Van der Mar. And what if, the broach was cursed?

I made one last visit to the emerald case. Beautiful! Not only had I held history, been offered an invitation to dive with the team, but I also had the plot for my third novel LEGENDS, LIES AND LIZARDS.

Cait Collins