Wanted in Alaska

My new book cover is here!  WANTED IN ALASKA is coming out in February 2009. I’m excited to tell you the story, and what inspired me to write it.

With all the media attention Alaska has been getting lately, I’m reminded how young the state is. The population growth never really got started until the late 1890s, during the Klondike gold rush. Little more than a hundred years ago.

Alaska has an exciting and colorful history. Around 1897, when the rest of America first heard that gold had been discovered in the Klondike, in nuggets as big as a man’s fist, everyone from schoolteachers to mayors to the worst criminals in history headed north for a piece of the action.

The most direct route to get to the rich Klondike River was by ship to the port of Skagway, Alaska. From there, people crossed the mountains by foot, then built rafts to take the rivers to the Klondike. 

I took these photos on my research trip to Skagway. What a fascinating place! They’ve restored the buildings as they were during the gold rush, so I felt like I’d stepped through a time machine. 

With roughly a hundred thousand people arriving in Alaska within the first two years of the gold rush, it took a while for the law to catch up. 

Skagway was run by an organized crime leader who made life hell for folks on the trail. His name was Jefferson Randolph Smith, with a nickname of ‘Soapy.’ 

Soapy was a con artist from the lower States who fled to Alaska to make a fortune. He had his fingers in everything—his gangs targeted gold miners on the trails who’d struck it rich, stole precious supplies of food and clothing headed into the area, and he conned people right off the boats by declaring he’d set up a telegraph office in Skagway so they could wire their families at home to say they’d arrived safely. Well, in order for telegrams to be sent, there had to be wires strung between the two places, usually on posts that followed the railroads. Although several honest people tried to convince the others that the telegraph office was a hoax, many believed Soapy, and wired home. Can you imagine? They had a real building, using fake instruments where they tapped the fake messages and just pocketed the money. Playing devil’s advocate here, what a great con!

Soapy even had the local law enforcement, what little there was, on his payroll. He bribed them and they did as he asked. This is the spark of history that ignited my novel, WANTED IN ALASKA.

It’s the fictional story of an honest man who’s fighting to get the truth out, but he’s been set up by these organized criminals to take the blame for the violence and robbery on the trails. Quinn Rowlan’s face is plastered on every Wanted Poster from Skagway to the Klondike for stuff he didn’t do. In truth, he and his band of men have been saving lives. 

When Quinn’s brother is wounded in one of their heroic fights, Quinn is desperate for medical help. There are no doctors around, so he recklessly kidnaps a nurse. First big mistake.

This would be the heroine, Autumn MacNeil. The book opens with Autumn and her friend at a masquerade ball in Skagway. They’ve come dressed up as each other. Autumn is a singer and her friend is the nurse. Quinn asks for a dance with Autumn, leads her to the balcony, then with the help of his men, snatches her from the party. He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that she’s not a nurse at all.

Besides being an outlaw, Quinn has an interesting profession, but I won’t spoil it by saying what he does. It’s another reason why he has to clear his name.

Of course, Autumn is outraged at what this madman has done, and has a few tricks of her own for survival. What neither of them counts on is how intense and meaningful every moment they spend together becomes.

Slowly, they lower their guard, and set off on a dangerous and exciting plan to set the world right. And their love story unfolds…. 

An excerpt just went up on my website, if you’d like to read it.  www.katebridges.com

Have you ever visited Alaska? Have any of your ancestors been involved in gold mining, or silver or copper, in other parts of the country? So much of our history and our population growth was influenced by the location of precious metals. 

Just like Soapy, don’t a lot of con artists still hang out at railroad stations and airport lobbies to lure unsuspecting tourists? I’ve encountered a couple in European railroad stations, and in New York City airports—men who claimed to be legitimate taxi drivers but weren’t. Have you ever come across any con artists in your travels?

Click on the cover to link to Amazon.      


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42 thoughts on “Wanted in Alaska”

  1. Alaska…the very name seems to drip adventure. One place high on my places to vist….when I win the lottery. As far as I know my husband and I are the only ones in my family to pan for gold and I’m sure the few specks we found are worth nothing but it was hard work. Was fun just to see if we found any though.

  2. Opps, hit submit too soon. I wanted tosay my grandson has been stationed in Alaska and my son and daughter-in-law traveled to see him. Their pictures made me want to go even more.
    I will be looking forward to your book.

  3. Love your cover, Kate. Who could resist opening that book, especially with the delightful premise of the outlaw hero kidnapping the fake nurse.
    I was in Alaska more than forty years ago. It was beautiful, but Fairbanks in October is cold!
    In my new book THE BORROWED BRIDE, the hero takes a trip to Alaska to search for his brother. I did some research but didn’t read about Soapy. What a great story!

  4. Kate, your blog today was delightful! Soapy?! How could anyone think a man with a name like that would be a criminal? He sounds, well, squeaky clean. LOL!

    Looking forward to February and seeing your book on the shelves!

  5. Hi Connie! You’re so right–there is something about the name Alaska that sounds faraway and adventurous. I know what you mean about winning the lottery–it is a bit costly to get there, and the food is not cheap because most of it’s imported from the lower States. But definitely worth the trip! That was nice that your family had a chance to visit the State. Good luck getting there, and thanks for the comment on my book!

  6. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for the comments. 🙂 Yeah, October is sooo cold. I lived in Edmonton for 5 years (halfway up the province of Alberta). I remember one year we had six feet of snow on Labor Day (Sept 1st weekend) and still six feet of snow halfway through May. That year, there were only 4 months of spring/summer. So I can only imagine how brutal some winters are in Alaska. Very healthy living, though, (if you can avoid frostbite, lol!)

    That’s interesting how your hero in THE BORROWED BRIDE takes a trip to Alaska. I have the book sitting on my desk and hope to read it over the Xmas holidays. I bought it in California–looks really good! 🙂

  7. Hi Pam! Soapy sounds so harmless, doesn’t he? He had some kind of scam going in Denver, I believe it was, dealing with soap, and some say he got his nickname from being so slippery, others say his nickname involved something else entirely. He was despicable, though, and died when he was gunned down in the streets of Skagway.

    Thanks for the boost about the book! I think we have a few Fillies with books out for Valentine’s this year. 🙂

  8. Hi Kate!

    Your book sounds wonderful. I love the premise. Alaska — no, I never have been there — but it sure is appealing — your pictures make it so.

    I never have been accosted by con artists in airports or anything else — the opposite occurred to me in NY — I had a cabby give me a free ride cause we had talked and talked and talked on the journey and when it cmae time to pay him, he said, no way. Interesting.

  9. Alaska is beautiful!

    I have a brother who lives there and have visited a couple of times but I would NOT want to live there….too cold and too many days of darkness. I’m definitely a sun/summer person 🙂

    Good luck with your new book!

  10. Karen–what a great story about the cabby! New Yorkers are very friendly people and I love visiting the city.

    PamT–thanks! I forgot about all that darkness. We visited in the summer so we loved all the sunshine. But yeah, the flip side is darkness 24/7 during the winter months.

    Cheryl–thanks! I had named her something else for the first 3 chapters, but Autumn kept coming back into my head every time I thought of her. She insisted that’s who she was! lol

    Stacey–it was fascinating history to research. Something you’ll have fun doing for the next little while, eh? Thanks for the nice comments!

  11. Kate, your book is set in Skagway and you WENT THERE?????

    My very first book Golden Days was set in Skagway, well in the deep forests around Skagway, my hero/heroine had to go up the Skagway river.

    I did a ton of research on the area but never got even a twinkle in my eye about going there. I am INSANELY JEALOUS.

    The whole history of the place is fascinating.
    Thanks for these details.

  12. Hi Kate,

    What a great cover!! Love the mad dash being made by the H/H and the gorgeous mountain in the background adds to the flavor. I can’t wait to read this book since I’ve become a huge fan of yours. Your Klondike series really hooked me.

    When is Wanted in Alaska coming out? Hope it’s soon.

    I haven’t had any real experience with a live con man. The only thing I’ve gotten taken on is worthless products I bought. I hate to waste money on things that don’t work like they’re advertised.

    Wishing you lots of success with your new book!

  13. Oooooh, Kate. What a gorgeous cover! Can’t wait for this one!

    I haven’t been to Alaska, but your photosa are so inviting. Since I want to see an eagle fly and a whale breech itself, it’s on my list of places to go.

    I just love the John Wayne movie North to Alaska. I laugh out loud every time. I don’t know if it was actually filmed there, but it had some spurious characters too.

    Thanks for a great start to my day!

  14. Hi Kate – Wow, what a great cover. Really looks like an exciting story! Oh, and I’ll get to Alaska someday. My hubby wants to take a cruise there one day. Do you have suggestions as to what time of year is best to go, for a person who hates the cold?

    Wishing you luck on your story! It sounds great and I’m off to read your excerpt now!

  15. My only connection with Alaska is the package I
    received last week from author Dani Harper, who
    lives in Alaska. She drew my name from a list of
    blog commenters! LOL! Also reading about Governor
    Sarah Palin!

    My connection with mining: My grandfather’s first
    job, when he came to the US from Mexico in the early 1900s, was working in Gibbs, NM in a coal mine. BTW, Gibbs is now a ghost town!

    Pat Cochran

  16. Hi Mary–LOL! Yes, it was an amazing trip! I’d just gotten a 3-book contract, and was partway through writing my first novel (Klondike Doctor), where the heroine and hero start in Vancouver, B.C. and enter Skagway, which is the route we took. Took my dh and daughter. They all helped me research by visiting museums, etc. Lots of fun! Absolutely gorgeous part of the world and such pure-smelling air. You’ve set a couple of stories then in Alaska. They sound great! Scenery is similar to the Rockies, Montana, Oregon, etc.

    Hi Linda–you’re so sweet, thank you! The book comes out in February–same time as yours! It’ll be a great month, LOL! 🙂 I hear you on the bad products. I hate that, too. And you know, sometimes I can’t sleep and I watch those infomercials. After half an hour, I think anyone can convince me of anything! I’m always dying to buy the product but usually stop myself.

    Hi Tanya! How was Hawaii?? I’m jealous! LOL on that John Wayne movie. I saw it for the first time just last year and laughed, too. I don’t think it was filmed there. Too many deciduous trees in the background of the movie–I was watching for tell tale signs and that was the only one I could see. But I could be wrong, as I’m no tree expert!

  17. Hi Charlene! Thanks for the cover comment. Those cruises sound really awesome. As for time of year, I’d say June to August would be the greatest, if you like things warm. The rivers are still frozen till April, even beginning of May, according to my research, (the stampeders couldn’t build rafts before then because the rivers weren’t broken up yet.) You’ll love all the sunshine! Don’t forget SPF–it can get very hot! I remember 10 pm trying to go to sleep, but it was still sunny enough outside to get a sunburn.

  18. Pat, what an interesting family history you have! Fascinating that Gibbs is now a ghost town. What a coincidence that you just received that package from Alaska last week, LOL! Enjoy! And yes, Gov Palin is sure making Alaska popular these days! I noticed the snow on the ground when her plane landed and wondered how cold it was.

  19. I would love to visit Alaska but PA gets cold enough for me lol. The scenery is just so gorgeous. There was a blurb on TV the other night with men trying to find wives because there still aren’t enough women up there. Isn’t that amazing in this day and age.

  20. Kate,
    Just read your excerpt! What a great opening premise! I love when things aren’t what they really seem to be. You are such a fantastic writer. Loved the strong character development in such the little bit I read in the excerpt.

    I thought of you, because our chapter is having an expert on Romantic Comedy screenplays talk in December.

    And thanks for the tips on when to travel to Alaska. June thru August is our vacation time anyway!

  21. Hi Jeanne! I saw that TV moment, too, about the Alaskan men. I thought, gee, times haven’t really changed much, lol. I don’t think I’d like all that cold weather, either.

    Charlene–thank you so much for those lovely comments! Very kind of you. If you go to the workshop, let me know how that speaker turns out. If it’s a guy, I’ve probably heard his name! It’s very weird to go to some of these seminars about Rom Comedy and they’re taught by a man–when most of RWA is filled with women. Interesting to get a different point of view. (although they pretty much say the same things we do.)

  22. Hey Kate – I absolutely love your cover! I’m of mixed emotions though – I want it to do good for you but I’m green with envy because I want it for my book – An Outlaw for the Lady…sniff…sniff

    I haven’t been to Alaska, but I spent 10 days once in the Northwest Territories/Nuvavet on a military exercise. No – I did not try to locate Santa’s village – I was too busy for that.

    And, I’ve been to the Yukon. Close enough, eh? We even owned 4 acres of land up there for a dozen years. Gorgeous country but no mountains where we were.

    I love mountains…and historicals…and cowboys…and writers who write historicals about cowboys… 🙂

  23. I have a prayer partner in Alaska. I have learned more about Alaska since I met her on internet in 1999. My youngest daughter would love Alaska because of all the wildlife there.

  24. I have never traveled much, so have not run into any con artists.
    Alaska is one of the few places I would love to visit.

  25. Ooooh, Kate…love that excerpt! Congrats.

    And I loved Men in Trees….although that wasn’t filmed in Alaska either.

    (Hawaii was gorgeous but it’s always good to be home again. Or not. Got a bathroom to paint before the herd descends on Thanksgiving…)

  26. Anita Mae–hi! Thanks for the comments on the cover! LOL–I think it would suit your book very well, too. NWT and the Yukon are very similar to Alaska, as you say. I never read Debbie M’s series–but if it’s about Alaskan men, it sounds great!

    Jane–how nice that you’ve got such a dear friend in Alaska. And yes, the wildlife is amazing and your daughter would love it.

    Estella–so glad you’ve never met any con artists! Hope you make it to Alaska one day. 🙂

  27. Fedora–thanks! Nice of you to drop by.

    Tanya, what a sweetheart, thank you. Glad you liked the excerpt. I’ve never seen Men in Trees–sounds familiar, though. I’ll have to check it out. Good luck on painting that bathroom, LOL.

  28. Kate. . .What a great story. I have a letter in my possession (well, almost, my brother is holding it hostage) of a relative — a woman — who went to the Klondike. One of her observations was how difficult it was to sleep. Since it was dark several months of the year, no one knew what time it was (apparently a shortage of watches) and visitors would knock at all hours.

  29. Kate what breath taking photos. I love your new book cover and it sounds like a great story line.

    Elizabeth, I just finished THE BORROWED BRIDE, Loved it and can’t wait for the story of Quint.

    Did anyone catch “The Mail Order Bride” on Hallmark this past weekend, it was really good.

  30. Greta–hi! Thanks for the compliment on the cover. Hope you make it to Alaska!

    Pat–I love your story. I’ve never heard that about getting mixed up with time, but of course they would! It was hard to sleep (myself and family) when it was so bright outside, but eventually you get so tired, sleep comes naturally. I haven’t set any of my novels during the winter months (yet) just because I think it would be hard to read that type of novel. Can you imagine reading it? Would be kind of interesting, though. Total darkness for months. A Christmas one would be fitting, but I’ve only done two novellas and they requested spring time for both. Hope you get your letter back! 🙂

  31. Sherry–thanks for the kind words! I missed “The Mail Order Bride.” Shucks! I would’ve loved to see it. Maybe there’ll be a repeat in the near future.

    Oh, and regarding Charlene’s photos–she shared them with the Fillies and we were blown away, too!

  32. Love the cover! and those are some beautiful pictures! I have run across several con artist, actually 5 min. from my house didn’t have to travel to far for that one, they rent from us and 2 of the biggest con artist i know, hope to get them out soon…maybe they won’t pay the rent lol!!

  33. I was the victim of a con job about 17 years ago. My husband and I went on a trip to Costa Rica. We stayed in a lovely hotel on the Pacific side of the country. To get there we had to fly in a little Cessna. It was remote, isolated and beautiful. Now it is all developed and you can fly to the area in a commercial jet. But at that time the hotel consisted of about 10 bungalows right on the beach; hammocks hanging on the rustic porches, iguanas walking across the swimming pool, macaws in the trees above us. It was amazing.
    The con was with our pilot. He told us he and a group of his friends and other tourists were going to buy some land on the Pacific coast and develop it into a group of condos where we could all vacation. We would beat the rush to own land in Costa Rica. He could fly us down the coast to look at the area on our way back to San Jose. We couldn’t wait to see it. It was a beautiful flight. But when we landed in San Jose, he charged us for the additional 2 hours of flight time in addition to the charge for the flight back from our hotel. We were pretty shocked because we felt that he had not been up front with us on that. We thought he was showing us the property for investment purposes. He demanded cash and we basically had to give him all the cash we had left. And of course we never heard from him again regarding the land investment opportunity. We were totally taken, just for a rip off plane ride. We felt really stupid. It wasn’t like it was that much money. We felt more hurt and disappointed. We really were fired up about the possiblity of having land in Costa Rica, in a compound with other Americans and a local guy who could take care of things. It was a beautiful trip and if the guy had just told us he could fly us down the coast for an extra $600, we would probaby have taken him up on it. Why do some people just feel like they have to con others rather than do legit business? He probably did that to just about everyone who used him to fly them to that place. We started wondering if the entire hotel was in on the deal. Now we’re very wary travellers. Oh well.

    Barbara Bergin
    author of ENDINGS

  34. Hi Barbara,
    Wow, what a story. He really had you isolated so that you had no choice in handing over your money. And being in a foreign country, he counted on the fact that it would be difficult for you to seek justice. Thank goodness you came out of it safe and sound!

    Hey, I checked out your website! It’s pretty cool! Congratulations on all your success! 🙂

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