Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Hand of Lou Diamond--by Guest: Dac Crossley


“Texas is hell on women and horses.”
I’m impressed by how many strong women come from Texas roots. In a time when they were second-class citizens, many women had instincts for survival that surprise us today.

In my new novel, “The Hand of Lou Diamond,” I imagine the plight of a young woman thrust out into the world with little to guide her except her instincts for survival.

The character Nicolette Devereux, aka Lou Diamond, is based in part on Frank Tolbert’s character Dulce Deno from his novel “The Staked Plain,” and in part on the real-life gambling woman Lottie Deno. But also on the life of my grandmother, Ida-May DeRyee. She grew to woman-hood in Corpus Christi and attended a finishing school in Nashville, Tennessee. Here she is with her fellow students. Ida-May is the one on the far right.


Ida-May settled into a comfortable life, married her high-school sweetheart and had two lively boys. Then her husband died, her father had a stroke, and they relocated to San Francisco where her brother lived. Soon her younger son died, then her mother and her brother. She was left with a young boy and an aging father to care for, and no source of income.

Is that an old, familiar tale in Texas? Ida-May rose to the occasion. She worked nights in a bakery, wrapping loaves of bread, while she attended business school. She sent her father to a German home in Comfort, Texas, and her son to live with Grandparents in Corpus.

Eventually she gathered them all together and found employment as a bookkeeper. She retired from a position at Missouri Pacific Railroad. I thought of my grandmother often while I was crafting  
The Hand of Lou Diamond.

We write fiction, don’t we, but is it so far from reality? As I age, memory blends the two. I want my western novels to be historically accurate – God help you if you place a gun in the wrong period, or write something incorrect about a horse. The stories that we writers tell slip easily through the veil. I hope my grandmother would approve of Lou Diamond.
 BLURB:
Young Nicolette Devereux, an orphan raised in a San Francisco brothel, is sent to a Nashville finishing school for young ladies. Dismissed, she must make her way back, relying on her wits and her skill at card games. Handsome riverboat gambler Ethan Diamond takes Nicolette in hand, but then sells her to a New Orleans brothel. She avoids prostitution with her skills at poker under the name Lou Diamond. She accompanies Ethan when he returns for her. Does he love her? Nicolette is unsure about her feelings for him. Can she break free of him and return to San Francisco? Texas gets in her way.

Dac Crossley
October 25, 2016
“The world forgets easily, too easily, what it does not like to remember.” – Jacob Riis
I’m D. A. Crossley, Jr., a retired professor at the University of Georgia. My nickname is “Dac.” I’m an emeritus professor of ecology. And a curator emeritus of ticks and mites in the Georgia Museum of Natural History.
And I write fiction.
I grew up in a little city in south Texas, Kingsville. It's the home of the famous King Ranch. Grandma King donated land for the city. It was also the home of railroad shops for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico railway company. Everybody in town worked for the railroad or the ranch, or did business with them.
After WWII I went to the local college, Texas A&I, and soon migrated to Lubbock, to Texas Tech in the Panhandle. I started as an English major but fell under the influence of a charismatic biology teacher. I never looked back.
My doctorate was in Entomology at the University of Kansas, where I studied the classification of chiggers - redbugs. I think I'm still the U.S. expert. I'm the survivor.
After the University I was hired at Oak Ridge National Lab as an ecologist. Which I surely wasn't. In those days (1950's) almost nobody was. I looked at the effects of radioactive waste on forests and fields. A fortunate turn brought me to the University of Georgia, where I had the privilege of working with some excellent ecologists.
With retirement looking me in the face, I turned to my first career choice - writing. And hit my stride in writing about South Texas in its pre-civilized days. The Old West lived on for decades down near the Border and in the Wild Horse Desert. Family stories and tales I was told as a child form the basis for my Texas novels.
I am a widower with one daughter, Mary Freeman, a stream ecologist of note, and two sons Greg and Steve Blankenship, contractors, green builders.
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 Dac's previous releases, available on Amazon.
Contact
Guest Author on Sweethearts of the West--invited and posted by Celia Yeary

18 comments:

  1. Dear Dac: How nice to meet you via this post. Your books sound great and I will certainly be looking into purchasing them. Interesting to see a man's perspective on writing about women.

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    1. Thank you, Gini. It's a pleasure to meet a sweetheart

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  2. First of all, Dac, I just want to say your grandmother was a beautiful and courageous person. She had so many losses, heartbreaking ones, and yet, she held it all together, took care of the situation and gathered everyone back together. I loved reading about that.
    I like that you used her character to build on one your heroines which has to be a mighty powerful woman. Congratulations on your release of The Hand of Lou Diamond. All the best to you.

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    1. I think that many women of my grandmother's era had that silent strength, don't you? That inner grit that got them through the hard times.

      You should hear about my other grandmother -- Lalla V Baird. (Where "V" was a name, not an initial..)

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  3. It certainly was a very different world in those days!

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    1. After this election season -- I wonder, was it really so different?

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  4. Dac, what a beautiful finishing school picture! Imagine what stories each of those young women could tell. I so enjoyed the info about your grandmother. She bore such griefs with strength and resilience, and smarts. You have a wonderful heritage there. I am so glad she inspired a character. I admit first reading the name. Lou Diamond Philips came to mind LOL. Best wishes on your books.

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    1. I discovered I'd made dinner reservations under the name "Lou Diamond." How did that happen??? Maybe I'm on to something....

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  5. Most of all, I loved that vintage photo. Each girl is posed a different way, but all are looking down. The dresses are works of art.
    I'm well into The Hand of Lou Diamond, and it's a winner. I haven't skipped a paragraph or page yet, as I so often do when the plot bogs down.
    It appears to me you might be a poker player!

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    1. Yes, that photo was an inspiration. I contacted the actual Academy in Nashville. Their records don't go back that far. Grandmother lost track of her classmates. I've wondered - where did their lives lead them? What adventures did they have?

      I'm glad you are enjoying the novel. It was fun to write. Remember, Celia, it is all fiction. Like most of our memories.

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  6. I'm not sure which sounds like the better story, your grandmother's or The Hand of Lou Diamond. Will definitely have to get a copy. I love the picture! Your grandmother was as beautiful as she was strong and courageous.

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. I'm fortunate that I was able to spend time with my grandmother and her stories. It all came out piecemeal but I do remember them. I loved her dearly.

      My other grandmother had her own set of hair-raising adventures. I'll bet your grandomthers did, too.

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  7. I love reading stories about family members. I am lucky that my Mother did extensive research on our genealogy and I have quite a few to draw from. What courage your grandmother had to be able to accomplish what she did. Thank you for visiting with us today.

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    1. It was my pleasure to visit the Sweethearts. Do use your family stories in your novels. Then add some of that "what if..."

      Pleasure meeting yo.

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  8. Dac, what an interesting life your grandmother had, well actually, sounds like yours has been interesting also. Though I enjoyed science in school, I much preferred history. I love the picture and being able to see closely the styles of the day. Your stories sound wonderful.

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    1. Linda, I looked at your web site. You are one busy lady!

      You would have liked my mother. She was a historian -- and a teller of tales. She drummed Texas history into us, with bedtime stories.

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  9. The pleasure was all mine! Indeed!

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  10. Dac, so very nice to meet you and I apologize for running late to this post. I too enjoyed the picture of such lovely ladies. Your grandmother sounds like one strong, determined and driven woman for sure, as were so many of them back then. That's why I write historical romance in the Am. west. Tough as nails they were--they had to be. Yet they valued home and family to the hilt. Your story sounds very interesting, fun, and just the kind I like--based on so many memories, history, and family facts. Love it. Wishing you much success. I'll have The Hand of Lou Diamond shortly.

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