Remembering the Titanic

TitanicOn April 15, 1912, the majestic ship Titanic slipped beneath the freezing waters of the north Atlantic Ocean. More than 705 passengers and 701 members of the crew lost their lives—of 2,228 souls aboard. It is these people—millionaires traveling in the finest luxury to laborers sleeping in the bowels of the ship, dreaming of a better life—that the Titanic Exhibit currently at the Center Of Science & Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio.

 I’m in this lovely Midwestern city for the Romantic Times BookLovers Convention. Before the workshops and luncheons got into gear, my roommate and I took in the Titanic Exhibit.  From the moment you step up to exchange your ticket for a Boarding Pass, issued by the White Star Line, you are immersed in the experience, in what the Titanic was and is.

 My boarding pass gave me the identity of second-class passenger Mrs. Edward Nye (Lizzie), widowed, returning to the United States after a trip to Europe to recover from her grief at the recent death of her husband. She has a small cabin on F deck, one of the few second class cabins down that low on the ship. As we perused the exhibit, I found myself searching for hints of her existence, her presence on the ship.

As we stepped around the corner into the darkened exhibit area, a ship’s horn blasted from somewhere overhead. Wall displays and videos documented the recovery of items from the magnificent ship. We walked from case to case, looking at artifacts recovered from the debris field on the ocean floor. In the long string of debris, which stretched more than a half a mile between the stern and bow sections, they found eyeglasses with the lens intact, leather suitcases with the clothes still inside, relatively unscathed; china; crystal; champagne bottles with the champagne still inside; even a man’s bowler hat, lying alone in the sand near the ship, intact and wearable. The curators of the exhibit placed the artifacts in front of 4×4’ pictures of the items as they were found on the ocean floor. Gratin dishes stacked one in front of the other, sat angled in the sand as if the wooden crate were still in place.

Next came the documentation of the maiden voyage. There was such an air of adventure among the passengers, of hope that they were going to better lives in America. Whether their JJAstorIVbelongings came aboard ship in simple cases or elaborate chifforobes, every person on board was looking forward to the twenty plus days on board.

Moving deeper into the ship, we studied the first class cabin that was carefully recreated, right down to the ladies’ gloves lying on the small side table, waiting for their owner to take them as she left for dinner. The shiny baubles she might have worn with the pink silk gown hanging on the door were laid out with care in a nearby case. Docents in period costumes explained where the grand oak staircase led, and who they’d shared dinner with that evening.

The carefully arranged artifacts led us deeper into the ship, down a white and gold gilt hallway of first class, through second class, third class, the crew’s quarters, and into the boiler room, then up to the telegraph office where the ice warnings were received by the crew member and never delivered to the captain.

As we entered the next room, and eerie scraping sound could be heard as the big ship struck the submerged portion of the huge iceberg. The ship’s bell sounded, calling all to life boats, but Mrs. John Jacob Astor IV refused to leave her husband. They’d spent too many years together, she told him, to leave him now. Lifeboats were launched, but there weren’t enough for all the passengers and crew, and those that were used left the ship less than half full.

titanic-bow-railingAs we read the history, the heartbreaking stories of those who had no way to escape, we looked down and realized we were standing in a lifeboat, the image projected onto the floor under our feet. Finally, we emerged into daylight and rescue ships approached to lift the terrified, half-frozen passengers to safety. On the wall of the exhibit of this silent room was a list of all the passengers and crew. Divided into First, Second, and Third Class, and Crew—Survived and Did Not Survive. As we compared our Boarding Cards to the list on the wall, each of us felt a kinship with the passenger whose identity we’d borrowed.

What an amazing, moving experience. For an hour, the designers of this exhibit transported us from a cool April morning to a freezing April night on the open water of the Atlantic Ocean. If the exhibit comes to a museum near you, don’t miss it!

Renee Ryan Moseys This Way

LOVING BELLAHello Darlings,

Well bless my soul, if it’s not Renee Ryan!

Miss Renee will hightail it to the Junction on Saturday and the Fillies are thrilled to have her back. We’re raring to talk cowboys with her. And to find out more about her new book LOVING BELLA that features an opera-singing heroine. From what I’ve read about the story, it sure has tickled my fancy.

And Miss Renee is giving away a copy to one lucky winner.

So you won’t want to dally. Saddle your horse, hitch up your buggy, or take the ankle express over here.

We’ll have a grand time!

Faro: Forgotten Game of the Old West

Victoria Bylin BlueI’m completely snowed under with revisions for The Outlaw’s Return.  The book is for Love Inspired Historicals, and it’s scheduled for a February 2011 release date.  Some of you might remember last August when I posted about discovering my next hero while listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Outlaw Pete on a cross-country flight.  That hero turned into the feared and awesome J.T. Quinn, a gunfighter determined to win back the only woman he ever really loved.

There’s a problem, though.  More than one actually . . . J.T. has some bad habits.  One ofcards those vices is Faro.  Most people think of Old West gamblers sitting around a poker table, but poker was a rarity until the late 1870s. Faro was the game of choice, particularly during the Gold Rush period. Just about every saloon in every Old West town had at least one Faro table. 

Faro became popular in the Old West because it’s fast, uses a single deck and is easy to learn. It also has better odds than most games of chance, with the odds of winning being close to even.  Of course, that doesn’t account for cheating. I won’t go into the rules–they make for interesting gambling but dull reading–but the betting got steeper as the game progressed. The last bet of the game was the most exciting, with players getting rowdy as they stood around the table. 

Faro started to fade in the late 19th century. A couple of factors contributed to its Faro gunsdemise.  Ironically, the thing that made it popular–nearly even odds–also led to its downfall. Saloons didn’t make as much money on Faro as they did on other forms of gambling. To compensate for the lack of profit, the bankers (the house dealers) were known to cheat by using doctored-up banker’s boxes.  Not all players were honest, either. Sleight of hand was a common practice.  When Hoyle’s Rules for Card Playing was published, it began its Faro section with a disclaimer that an honest Faro game couldn’t be found in America. By 1900 many other gambling games were offered, and Faro faded into history.

Faro has always been a bit disreputable.  Its origins go back to 17th century France, and it  was called Faro, Pharaoh or Farobank. The name originated during the time of  Louis XIV when a deck of cards included a card depicting an Egyptian Pharaoh. The game was also referred to as “Bucking the Tiger,” and back alleys and streets populated with Faro parlors were sometimes known as Tiger Towns.

I don’t remember if the movie Tombstone uses the phrase “bucking the tiger,” but it’s a got a Faro scene with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday played Faro, as well. There are also Faro scenes in Kevin Costner’s version of Wyatt Earp.  Showing Faro instead of poker is more accurate, but the western movies of the 1940s largely ignored the game because viewers were more familiar with poker.  The first movie to correct that false image was The Shootist (1976) with John Wayne.

Faro Table cards

When I started the research for my gambling outlaw, I thought poker was the way to go. I’d never heard of Faro, and I had no idea how popular it had been. As things turned out, Faro suits him perfectly. It’s a game of chance, the stakes can be high and he’d have no trouble finding a Faro table in his travels. My hero doesn’t cheat at cards, but he knows men who do, and one of them is going after the heroine.  Let the romance begin!

How about you?  Do you have a favorite card game?  I’m a Skip-Bo fan, but I like just about all card games. Canasta is a favorite, too!

The Squirrel Cage Jail

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I went on a field trip with a group of writers from my area to a historically interesting jail. 

 And (whew!) they let me go.

The Squirrel Cage

Pay close attention and read this blog post carefully to find the clues you’ll need to get your name in the drawing for a copy of my May Release, WILDFLOWER BRIDE.

Council Bluffs, Iowa is the location of the Pottawattamie County “Squirrel Cage” Jail, in use from 1885 until 1969, one of three Squirrel Cageremaining examples of a Rotary Jail. It has pie-shaped cells on a turntable. To access individual cells, the jailer turned a crank to rotate the cylinder until the desired cell lined up with a fixed opening on each floor. 

It takes 5 min to rotate the whole cage one revolution. There is only one opening out of the cage so the prisoners can only come out one (or one cell-full) at a time at each of 3 levels. They put up to 6 people in an area no larger than a small walk in closet.
It is a very dark place to visit.

The Squirrel Cage Jail was the only three-story rotary jail constructed. Although the rotary mechanism was disabled in 1960 the building remained the county jail for another nine years. Similar, smaller examples of the concept can be seen in Crawfordsville, Indiana and Gallatin, Missouri.

The Squirrel Cage welcomed its first prisoners on September 11, 1885. When it closed in 1969, murderers, moonshiners, the King of the Hobos, burglars, horse and car thieves, con-men, and even an infant, had called the odd structure home.  The building, with its three stories of tiny pie shaped cells in a 90,000 pound revolving cage, is interesting in itself.  But it is the people who lived there that make it a truly fascinating.  Many of them spent their time trying to escape and some of them were even successful.  

Here is stage one of what it takes to get in the drawing. As you read, think back to the time you spent in jail. The questions will concern that.

The design and size of the Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail make it a one-of-a-kind structure.  It was one of 18 revolving jails built.

Here (above) are some unsavory characters who were in lock down while I was there at the squirrel cage. Or no, wait, I’m wrong about that. This is a picture of the ladies who went with me. L-R Writer friends, Lorna Seilstad, Rose Zediker, Shari Barr and Dawn Ford.

Here is a model of the Squirrel Cage. The design included this declaration. “The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer.”  It was to provide “maximum security with minimum jailer attention.” 

This is Lorna Seilstad, author of the soon to be released historical romance Making Waves. Lorna is demonstrating how to work the crank that turned the entire three story jail. One person could do it alone. As it says above, maximum security with minimum jailer attention. 

This is a picture of the ‘bathroom facilities’ in each cell. They sometimes had up to SIX prisoners in one cell? It might be for the best to not think about it much.I jumped and squeaked when I saw that guy. Really look at the picture above. Two bunks. So you know it was meant for two at least.  Ten wedge shaped cells on each of three floors. Thirty cells. Up to six prisoners per cell. Do the math people. 180 prisoner capacity. And one jailer for all of them.

There was a book full of the prisoners and what they were in for. Look at some of them. Assault, sure. Desertion and non-support? Of a wife and children? Did they do that back then? Seduction? Excuse me? I’ll bet if he’d done it RIGHT she’d’ve never reported him. And what in the world is VNPA? If I’m reading it right and OWNI? I saw one, a guy got six months for bigamy. And then (I surmise) he got out and had to face his two wives. He probably begged for a life sentence.

 Though the jail has been closed for 40 years, many believe there are ‘goings on’ at the jail that are other than mortal. The Squirrel Cage, it is said, is haunted. Bill Foster, who worked as the jailer in 1950’s, opted not to use the fourth floor as his apartment. He reported hearing people walking around on a floor that had nobody on it, a sensation sufficiently concerning to motivate him to bunk on the second level prisoner floor instead.

The spirit may actually date back to the jail’s origin. A former jail tour guide claimed she believed the ghost to be that of J.M. Carter, the man who oversaw the building’s construction. Mr. Carter was the first resident of the top floor apartment and, according to her theory, has never left.

There have also been reports of an apparition on the fourth floor identified as Otto Gufath, also a former jailer. Museum staff add whatever spirit is present, it is friendly; despite an occasional door that opens by itself, strange lights, or peculiar noises, no one has ever felt frightened or in any danger.

There has been some evidence of a female spirit as well. A few years ago a woman working on a project in the building after hours had been experiencing peculiar sensations. She walked through the building and was shocked to see a little girl with a very mournful expression dressed entirely in gray… inside a cell whose bars were locked with no way in or out. Occasionally, visitors have reported feeling that something was tugging at them, reported a great feeling of sadness in some of the cells, or simply felt that there was a presence there beyond those visible.

The feelings of being watched or followed have been most frequently noted on the third and fourth floors.

And could this be complete without the picture of me in lock-up? But I’m smiling? I needed a director to discuss my motivation for this scene. And note I’ve removed my glasses. Like….maybe….I wanted to look my best through the bars? I think the bars overcome any attempt at vanity, but I didn’t see it that way when I was whipping off my glasses and smiling for the camera.

Cheryl St. John just phoned me and told me she’d NEVER been in jail. Whatever. She said MOST people have never been in jail. Really? How odd. Then she asked me what made ME THINK most people have been in jail. I hung up on her.

Squirrel Cage sign

Only four deaths are known to have occurred in the Squirrel Cage Jail. One prisoner died of a heart attack, one in a three-story fall when trying to carve his name on the ceiling, and one prisoner hanged himself in his cell. The fourth death followed an accident in which an officer shot himself in the confusion of fortifying the facility from an angry mob threatening to storm the jail during the Farmer’s Holiday Strike of 1932.

If the deaths aren’t enough to justify a haunting, some point to the fact that the building is on the site of the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church morgue. Excuse me? Church Morgue? Did churches have morgues? This is news to me and may spark another blog post. Additionally, though actual prisoner deaths were few, the cold, damp, dark, tiny pie-shaped cells were likely a very depressing place to spend time. That in itself may be worthy of a ghost or two. I asked the very nice tour guide if he thought the place was haunted and he said, “You know, I don’t believe in ghosts really, but there have been some weird things happen in here. I still don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m a little less SURE than I was before I started working here.” (Note, this is NOT an exact quote. I have this tendency to, when I can’t remember exactly what someone said, to fill in the blanks with what I think they said, or … the internal editor in me instead says what I WISH they’d said, or what they SHOULD have said. Some call this…lying.)

Squirrel Cage buildingOne particularly intense incident occurred in 1894. Police arrested a man accused of raping a 5-year-old. Once locked up in the City jail, however, a crowd began to form and it was clear that trouble was brewing. Fearing a lynch mob, police hustled the suspect into the Patrol Wagon and rushed him via back streets to the more secure Squirrel Cage jail. The news leaked, however, and a lynch mob numbering in the thousands began to gather outside the Squirrel Cage jail. The Sheriff addressed the crowd, ordering them to disperse. Inside the jail, armed deputies and police officers prepared to defend the jail to the death. News of an even larger lynch mob approaching from the South prompted the Sheriff to summon even more help from the Dodge Light Guards; 29 of them, armed with Winchester rifles, were soon stationed at the jail. By 1:00 am the crowd was dispersed and later that morning the prisoner was moved to Fort Madison penitentiary for his safety.

There is a book called Tales from the Squirrel Cage Jail if you want to know more. There is mention of a child being born in the jail. I asked the tour guide about it. It was a child born to the jailer’s wife. Several of the jailers lived there with their wives and children. The wives cooked for the prisoners and hers was a paid position. It was actually a very good, well paying job for a family, plus they lived there so the home was provided. Not the worlds NICEST home, granted. And I think it’s fair to say some of the  other….tenents…weren’t of the highest calibre. But they apparently had quite a few jailers who lived there for many years. 

I now have changed my rules for the game. Since there aren’t enough jail birds among the loyal readers of Petticoats & Pistols(so, Cheryl says…I scoff, but whatever), just leave a comment about an interesting historical sight you’ve been to. Or you could guess what V.N.P.A is? We amused ourselves for quite a while on the tour, guessing. And Dawn really oughta be ashamed of herself for some of those guesses! (Unless you WANT to tell me about your time in stir–hey, you’re among friends–we won’t repeat it) Or you could tell me about your ‘Friend’ who did some hard time. We’ll play along. If you want to go ahead with your denial, just forget that whole unfortunate JAIL THING. It means NOTHING. When  I said that about everyone being in jail I was just KIDDING. I’ve NEVER been in jail, nor known anyone who has. Such a rude question. Stop it. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing. I won’t judge you for your ex-convict status. I can’t promise about OTHERS who will not be named. Oops, the phone is ringing again. I have to hide now.

MARY CONNEALY

We have another winner!

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My hardy thanks go out to everyone who joined in the discussion today.  Thanks for your comments and compliments on the excerpt.  It has made my world a little brighter.  And now for the winner.  As usual a name is picked at random, and that winner is Karyn Gerrard.  Congratulations go out to Karyn.  You’ve won a copy of SENECA SURRENDER.  Please do send me an email privately.  I’ll need your snail mail address.

Again, thank you all for coming to the blog today.  You all have a place within my heart.Seneca+Surrender[1]

SENECA SURRENDER, an Excerpt

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Good Morning to you all!

Because I have a new book that’s just come out (April 6th), I thought I might post an excerpt of the new book.  Now, I am going to be giving out a copy of the new book, SENECA SURRENDER, to some blogger today.  So come on in and leave a comment.  🙂

In this excerpt, the heroine, Sarah, is abducted by enemy Indians, the Ottawa.  I must warn you. that this excerpt contains images and narrative of torture.  

Seneca+Surrender[1]“Evening came at a much faster pace than Sarah would have liked.  At present, she and her two captors had stopped and set up camp.  Sarah was sitting upright against a tree, tied to it with a rope around her waist; also there was one tied around her hands, which had been positioned in front of her.  The rope around her hands chafed and cut into her skin, and she could see blood oozing from the sores.  The rope around her waist, though restrictive, was merely uncomfortable.  Looking down, she despaired at the state of her skirts and her bodice, which were both torn and frayed, and her pettiocats, which were both beyond repair.  Plus, to her shame, these men hadn’t granted her the courtesy to allow her to relieve herself along the trail.  Somewhere in their trek this day, nature had had its way.

She’d never felt so wretched, nor so dirty.

The two Indians were busying themselves with a fire, and it was a big one.  They said nothing to her — not that she would have been able to understand them had they tried.  But human decency would have thought they would have at least ventured to attempt it.

What were they planning for her?  The question was one that was likely to drive her mad if she didn’t gain an answer to it, and soon.  If her death were fated this night, knowing it seemed more preferable than being caught unaware.

Of course, she’d never been more frightened.  Nor had she ever felt more alone.  Death awaited.  She knew it.  It was there in the way those men looked at her, and in the way they treated her.

But how were they going to go about it?  Was it to be painful?

There was every indication that it would be so.  Even now, she watched them as they sharpened their knives and their tomahawks.  They were even priming their weapons.

Where was White Thunder?

Many hours had passed since her capture.  Hours that had been spent fleeing along an obvious trail, her feet flying over ground covered with moss, slime and dead leaves.  At times she’d been dragged when she’d fallen and couldn’t keep up with the pace.  During those times, it had always been a struggle to get back to her feet.  Sometimes she’d managed it, sometimes they had simply dragged her.

Surely they had left tracks that White Thunder could follow…if he were still alive.

Presently, one of the Indians rose to his feet and stepped toward her.  Watching him, realizing that his intention toward her was hardly social, she gathered her courage.  Without warning, he flew at her and grabbed a handful of her hair.  He pulled, practically plucking it out by its roots.  Then he spit upon it.  Then her.

He said, “Your…husband…dead.  No sign…him.”sf[6]

Sarah looked away from him, but the warrior forced her face back toward him.

“Our brother…killed.  English, too,  kill…my father.  You…pay.  Will die in fire.”

Though the Indian held her face so she couldn’t glance away.  Sarah refused to look at him, her gaze centered downward.  Tears slipped over her cheeks.

“You cry now…cry more…later.  Torture first…before fire.  You feel…much pain.”

He untied her from the tree.

“You…stand…”

He put some effort into making her rise, but Sarah refused to obey.  If she were to be tortured, then die by the fire, why make it easy for him by cooperating?  If the only defiance she had left in her was to sit while he wanted her to stand, then that was exactly waht she would do.

He pulled her roughly to her feet, but she immediately sank to the ground.  The warrior repeated the same procedure twice.

Had it not been so serious, Sarah thought the situation might have appeared humorous.  It as, however, anything but amusing.

Eventually, because the warrior couldn’t force her to stand, he let her sit.  He came down onto his haunches before her and stuck his face in hers, smiling.  His image was a horrible thing to behold, for his face was painted black, and the stark contrast to the white of his teeth made him resemble a walking skeleton.

All at once, he sliced away the bodice of her gown, as well as the sleeves of her chemise, leaving a large, red cut across her chest and exposing her entire upper body to the cold night air.  Involuntarily, her cry shot thorough the night.

He tried to tear away her skirt, also, but she wore so many petticoats, her outer one being buckskin, that it became impossible.  Eventually he gave up and said, “No matter.  Soon you…feel manhood.”  And he ripped away his breecloth, exposing a man partially aroused.

Sarah was sickened by the sight of him, by his smell and by the idea of what he intended to do to her.  Indeed, what food she had left in her stomach, she lost.

But there was no mercy to be found in this Ottawa warrior’s manner.  He laughed and squatted in front of her again.

Sarah gasped as he took out his knife and once more brandished it in front of her.  He brought it toward her, slowly, slowly, watching for her reaction like a wolf cornering a rabbit.  He sliced off a portion of her hair, grinning at her all the while.  “We do this…all over…body.”

Exposed, vulnerable, Sarah began to wonder if part of the torture were pure fright.  If so, he was being very successful.

Again, he waved that knife in front of her as he once more cut off a portion of her hair.  But this time instead of her stomach losing its dinner, she lost what was left in her small intestines at the other end of her.

It was degrading, and perhaps that’s what decided her.  If this were her fate, then so be it.  The least she could do was to stop cowering in fear.  Since that was exactly what he wanted, then she’d be darned if she would give it to him.

Thus, when next he came close, she took action, doing the first thing she could think of to do.  After all, what did it matter?  They were going to kill her in the most feminine, and probably the most horrible way possible.

She spit in his face.

Immediately he slapped her.  But though the hit stung, it felt good.  it was all she had…defiance…and so long as she was sane, she would resist him to the end.

She hadn’t counted on what happened next, however.  He picked her up by her hair, brought a knife to her scalp and began to cut.

She screamed.  And he laughed, the wickedness of his smile the last thing she beheld before she fell forward into a dead faint.

Seneca+Surrender[1]Yes, this is a romance — and of course it is true romance, and it ends well.  Torture, however, at this time period, was more common than I would like to think.  Anyway, come on in and leave a comment.   I’d love to talk to you.  🙂

SENECA SURRENDER is on sale at bookstores everywhere, in your hometown and also online.  Pick up your copy today.

Waterloo Teeth

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I came across an interesting bit of trivia the other day.  Interesting in a macabre, high-ick-factor kind of way.   It seems early dentures were created utilizing actual human teeth.  While porcelain teeth were developed in 1774, these early models were prone to chipping and breakage and were considered inferior to dentures utilizing real teeth.  Because of the scarcity of healthy human teeth, animal teeth were sometimes employed.  Some sets of teeth were carved from a single chunk of bone or ivory.  But none of these looked like the real thing and normally did not fit well enough to allow for eating or even clear speech.  The biggest problem, however, was the fact that there was no enamel on these materials.  That meant decay set in all too soon.  Which in turn led to a rotten taste in the mouth and unpleasant breath odor.  This problem was one of the reasons for the rise in use of fans as a fashion accessory.

As a side note, contrary to legend, George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood, but of animal teeth.  He actually owned at least four sets.  They included a set composed mostly of hippopotamus teeth, one of horse teeth, of gold teeth and of human teeth.  The image to the left is one of his actual sets, preserved in a museum.

Finding high quality human teeth to implant in dentures was a problem for these early dental pioneers.  The sources most accessible were less than desirable – corpses from potter’s fields, teeth pulled from dental patients, teeth purchased and pulled from the desperately impoverished.  For obvious reasons, none of these sources proved ideal.  Since the supply was limited, prices were quite dear.  Dentists were eager to find a plentiful source of healthy human teeth.

Then, in 1815, the Battle of Waterloo provided a gruesome bonanza.  50,000 men fell that day, most of whom were young, healthy and generally had good quality teeth.  Battlefield scavengers added pulling teeth to their plunder of the corpses, and sad to say, the not-yet-dead.  Most of these teeth made their way back to Britain – by the barrel full.  The top-quality dentures that resulted from this bounty were worn with much pride by the members of the affluent class as a sort of patriotic trophy and became known as Waterloo teeth. 

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Over time, that name came to be used for any teeth taken from a battlefield.  Even though a satisfactory process for creating quality artificial teeth was developed in the 1840’s, as late as the American Civil War human teeth were still being harvested from battlefields.   

Before you think too harshly of this practice, however, you might stop and consider how future generation will view the fact that the most prized wigs and toupees of our generation are those made from human hair.

So, what do you think?  Gruesome?  Icky?  Cool?

Donna Alward: A Cowboy At Heart

MichaelTrucco2I have a confession to make.  While I adore the look of faded jeans, dusty boots, T-shirts and Stetsons, there is also something about a man in a suit.  Maybe it’s that neat and tidy thing that you just want to mess up.  I don’t know exactly why, but I do like reading stories with tycoons and entrepreneurs and a man who can tie a double Windsor.  I especially like it when that’s the man we’re introduced to.  The heroine sees the power behind the suit and is awed.  And then she sees him off-hours in his jeans and realizes to her dismay that it’s THAT man who can crawl behind her defenses. Yum, yum, yum!

That’s kind of what I did with my current release, SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER, only in reverse – it’s the suit and tie Devin that is the shocker.  I had so much fun writing this story.  Devin is unlike any hero I’ve written before, and technically I suppose you could call this a marriage in jeopardy story.  Actually – it’s more of a marriage that has breathed its last breath and needs a crash cart to resurrect it story.  Devin and Ella were married young – and together briefly.  Ella left him, you see.  And she’s tried for years to get him to sign divorce papers, but each and every time they’ve come back unsigned.  She’s at her wits’ end when she finally sees him in person – and on a bachelor auction block.

To all appearances, Devin looks the same as he ever did – only older and sexier, if that’s possible.  But Ella thinks he’s stuck in the same rut she was afraid she’d fall into, and she knows getting him to sign the divorce papers is the right thing.  Things get turned totally upside down, though, when it becomes clear that she doesn’t know Devin at all anymore.  Especially when she walks into his office and finds him in a suit and tie looking very capable and yes, irresistible.  The cover artist even played up this contrast with the cover!

I liked that Devin could be both men – the same down-to-earth guy that she spent time with at the cabin, caring for his horses and fishing on Sundays, and also the self-made man who develops properties for a very good living.  I liked that this side of him totally threw Ella off balance.  I loved that he was just as sexy unbuttoning a dress shirt in his office as he was stripping off a T-shirt on the stage at the Ruby Shoes Saloon.

But what I really love about Devin?  He’s a cowboy at heart.  No Italian shoes or silk tie will change that.  He cares about family, community, his SoldtotheHighestBidderDRAFTV2responsibilities, his honour.  And he’ll do anything – ANYTHING – to get back the woman he loves.  Even wait for her for eleven years.  Even cheat death.

SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER is on sale now from Samhain Publishing in e-book and will be out in print in February 2011.  And today, one lucky commenter will win a free download of the story in the format of their choice!