Wednesday, August 31, 2016


MAYHEM AND A WRITER’S LIFE
(The Story of Daisy Gumm Majesty, etc.)

2002 was the year I was stricken with the greatest idea of what I laughingly call my writing career: Daisy Gumm Majesty. Daisy was born in my own home city of Pasadena, California, and still lived there with her family. The first book was set in 1920. What’s more, Daisy earned her living as a phony spiritualist, because she could make more money doing that than she could doing any of the other work designated for women at the time, and she had to support her war-injured husband Billy. I wanted the books to be historical cozy mysteries. Amy Garvey, my editor at Kensington, told Linda Kruger, my agent, that she and the late, great Kate Duffy, one of the big muckety-mucks at Kensington, loved the idea for the books but that they thought the books didn’t have enough mystery in them. Therefore, they asked me to remove the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance (because the heroine was already married) and they’d market them as romances. I did, they did, and the books tanked. The books were STRONG SPIRITS (I got a complimentary letter from a copy editor for that book) and FINE SPIRITS.

Kate Duffy actually called to apologize for the poor marketing of my dearly beloved “Spirits” books. I appreciated her phone call but was crushed that I wouldn’t be able to write more Daisy novels. I’d already begun thinking about a series featuring survivors of the Titanic disaster, which I told Kate about during that telephone call. She was enthusiastic, so I worked up proposals for a series of three books. Since the “Spirits” books bombed, the Powers That Be at Kensington asked me to take a new name. It was thus that Anne Robins (my two daughters’ names) was born.

I was in a dreadful funk over the demise of Daisy and had a hard time writing the first Titanic book. Amy Garvey had gone the way of all good editors (she left Kensington and began writing her own books), and I was turned over to Hillary Sares. Hillary was wonderful, and she helped me very much with A PERFECT STRANGER, the first book in the series. After A PERFECT STRANGER the other books come more easily:

A PERFECT ROMANCE (which is my favorite of the series, being in the nature of a romp. Also, the heroine of the piece was rich, a state that was beginning to appeal to me more and more), and

A PERFECT WEDDING

I suggested A PERFECT AFFAIR and A PERFECT DIVORCE, but Hillary didn’t think those would go over well.

About that time a writing buddy, Mimi Riser, asked if I’d be willing to pen a book or two for a new publisher, New Age Dimensions, which had been established by a friend of hers. Feeling abused and mistreated, I penned another historical cozy mystery (a MYSTERY, darn it!) set in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1923. You can see that I’d somehow managed to get myself stuck in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating era, but I’m not quite sure why I like to stick around in it so much. At any rate, PECOS VALLEY DIAMOND was published by NAD in 2005, and I also wrote its sequel, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL. These books starred Annabelle Blue, who worked at her family’s mercantile store in Roswell, and featured Phil Gunderson, Annabelle’s erstwhile boyfriend, whom Annabelle dragged along with her into various adventures. Unfortunately for all of us who were connected with NAD, it was financially crushed by Hurricane Wilma in the great hurricane epidemic of 2005. So there I was, stuck with PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL and no place to put it.

Since I was still mourning the loss of Daisy Gumm Majesty and was really sick of writing sex scenes, I started writing LOST AMONG THE ANGELS, yet another historical cozy mystery, this one set in Los Angeles, CA, in 1926. Mercy Allcutt, the heroine of the book, was kind of a consolation prize for me after the death of Daisy. Again, Kensington didn’t think the mystery a big-enough element in the book. They were probably right, but I was lost again.

And then true tragedy struck when Linda Kruger decided to retire from agenting in order to care for her then two-year-old son Tyler. What, I ask you, kind of priority is that???? I was horribly crushed and didn’t know what to do.

Fortunately, by that time I’d begun editing for Five Star, a publisher that primarily targets libraries. Since I figured what the heck (a recurring theme in my life), I asked if I could submit a book to then. I was told I could, but that just because I edited for them didn’t mean I had any special pull and that my books had to be vetted just like anyone else’s. That was okay with me. By that time, I’d decided I didn’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the reading public and that it didn’t matter that I have a niftier turn of phrase than, say, Dan Brown. Mind you, I respect and admire Dan Brown, and even sort of liked the Da Vinci Code. The point is that he’s rich and I’m not, so that tells you how much writing skills mean in the overall scheme of things.

Luckily for me, the other Five Star editors, those who read my manuscripts, seemed to have liked them, because Five Star has published:

LOST AMONG THE ANGELS,
CACTUS FLOWER,
SIERRA RANSOM,
ANGEL’S FLIGHT,
FALLEN ANGELS, and
THANKSGIVING ANGELS

And then—glory hallelujah!—Five Star bought the third book in my Daisy Gumm Majesty series, HIGH SPIRITS. Not only that, but they also took on the fourth through the seventh books in the series, HUNGRY SPIRITS, GENTEEL SPIRITS, ANCIENT SPIRITS and SPIRITS REVIVED.

Then, on a whim, I sent Five Star PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, the sole survivor of my New Age Dimensions days, and Five Star decided to publish it! Therefore, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL was published some time in 2011. Since the book is set in Roswell, New Mexico, which pretty much looked in 1923 exactly as it looked in 1883, the twenties didn’t do a whole lot of roaring there, but Roswell’s citizens did their best. After PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL came PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW. I don’t know if I’ll write any further PECOS VALLEY books. I’m getting old and tired, and writing really doesn’t pay for itself. The only good thing so far about my writing life is that I can now supplement my social security income via my editing work for Five Star, which pays ever so much better than writing ever did.

A caveat to that last statement: A couple of year ago, Jeanne Glidewell, whose books I used to edit for Five Star, told me about ePublishing Works, run by the amazing team, Nina and Brian Paules. They’ve taken over my Daisy books, and have since published DARK SPIRITS, SPIRITS ONSTAGE, UNSETTLED SPIRITS, BRUISED SPIRITS, and will publish SPIRITS UNITED if I ever finish writing it. They’ve also repackaged some of my old historical romances and my historical paranormal romances. And, what's even better, they're actually making MONEY for me! Wow. That's never happened before.

By the way, I never wanted to write paranormal books. I was asked to do so by Berkley, and one (if one is me) doesn’t argue with one’s publisher.

Also, bless their hearts, ePW is taking over my Mercy Allcutt books, although there’s some kerfuffle about the rights to the last Mercy book, THANKSGIVING ANGELS. By the way, FALLEN ANGELS, Mercy’s third book, won the New Mexico/Arizona Book of the Year Award for mystery/suspense. I belong to the George C. Scott school of contest-dom and don’t generally hold with writing contests. That’s because I honestly don’t think you can successfully judge all books in the same manner as you can, say, oranges or lemon-meringue pie or Girl Scout cookies or whatever. I prefer Samoas. Other folks love Thin Mints, you know? Every writer has his or her own voice. Some folks like a particular author’s voice and stories, and some people don’t, and there’s no accounting for taste. However, I entered the contest because it tickled my funny bone. I mean, New Mexico? I think New Mexico has the lowest literacy rate in the country. Whatever.

And that, as you’re probably pleased to know, is it for this month’s blog. Whew! That was long.

If you’d like to enter my September contest, during which I’ll let you pick whatever book you want if I have it (that I’ve written, of course), send me an email at alice@aliceduncan.net. Also, please visit my web page at http://aliceduncan.net/ and my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thanks!

 

Thursday, July 7, 2016


May and June

 
Okay, so things didn’t go quite as planned during the merry month of May. I had been scheduled for hip-replacement surgery on May 3, but I got a sudden, acute medical problem, and the surgery was postponed until May 24. Therefore, most of June has been spent in recovering from my hip operation and trying to figure out what’s wrong with my intestines. I know. How disgusting. But it’s a problem, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Anyhow, the hip-replacement surgery and rehab are going well. I can tell the hip is much better because now my back pain is killing me again. However, I do believe there’s something that might be done about that, so I’m not in flat despair yet. Maybe later.

BRUISED SPIRITS, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s tenth (it’s actually the eleventh, but who’s counting?) adventure will be published August 8. Here’s the cover art and the Kindle link. I don’t think it’s up on Barnes & Noble or the other places yet:

 
 


If you entered a contest of mine for either May or June, please feel free to choose any old book you want of mine, and I’ll send you a copy, providing I have one. You can see most of them on my web page (which probably needs to be updated. I’ve not been good for much lately): www.aliceduncan.net

Also, Smashwords, on which most of my back-list historical romances and a few cozy mysteries are published in any e-format you want, is having a half-price sale during July, so you can snap up a copy of any old book you want (of mine, I mean) here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/aduncanzianet

I’ll give away copies of BRUISED SPIRITS at the end of July (or as soon as I get copies). I can send the e-book as soon as August 8 rolls around.

If you’d like to enter my July contest, please send me your name and home address as follows: alice@aliceduncan.net.

Thank you! Please visit my Facebook page if you like, too: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Okay. I’ll go away now. This is the first time I’ve tried to send a newsletter over Mail Chimp, so I hope this works!

Thank you!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Merry Month of . . . April?
 
 
Except for excruciating pain, April wasn’t a bad month taken all in all. I think that’s because I’m so happy to know I’ll get rid of this awful hip pain on May third. Then I’ll be in the hospital and rehab for a couple of weeks, and then my younger daughter, Robin, will wait on me hand and foot. No, no, no. I didn’t mean that. But I won’t be able to bend over until the doctor releases me to do so, and my poor short-legged wiener dogs will have to have someone else place their food dishes on the floor. Except, of course, for Scrappy (he dines on the red chair in the living room) and Bam-Bam (who takes his meals in bed. My bed). Sigh. My dogs aren’t the least bit spoiled.
 
In April I finished writing BRUISED SPIRITS, and started writing SPIRITS UNITED. Don’t get too excited. The union in this book isn’t Daisy’s and Sam’s, but they’re getting closer and closer to the altar. The old Pasadena Public Library will play a big role in SPIRITS UNITED, because I just murdered a woman in the biography stacks. Mind you, I don’t yet know who she is or who did her in, but I’ll have lots of thinking time to work out the details as my hip heals.
 
Here’s the cover art for BRUISED SPIRITS. Love these covers!
 
 
 
Other than that, and my as-yet unfulfilled searched for a good sandalwood candle, that pretty much takes care of April.
 
Therefore, I’ll write no more. Will be in touch in at the end of May, when I hope to heck I’ll be able to tell you my left hip is pain-free. That will be such a blessing. Then we (the doctors and I) will have to deal with my back pain, but one thing at a time, you know?
 
I’ll communicate individually with everyone who won a copy of the audiobook, GENTEEL SPIRITS. At the end of May, I don’t know what I’ll give away, but I’ll think of something. If you want to enter this indefinite contest, please send me your name and home address. My email address is alice@aliceduncan.net. Thanks!
 
Please visit my web page at www.aliceduncan.net, and if you’d like to be Facebook friends, here’s my Facebook page info: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925
 
Thanks!
 

Thursday, March 31, 2016


February and March

 
Oooookay. So February and March were a couple of odd months. For one thing I found out the reason my left hip has been giving me so much trouble lately. For a long time now, when I sit at the computer earning my living every day, when I stand up, I have to hang on to a piece of furniture until the pain in my left hip stops shrieking long enough for me to move again. The dogs don’t understand.

I didn’t understand either, until I finally managed to finagle my way in to seeing a pain doctor in Alamogordo. There’s a pain clinic in Roswell, but my former doctor’s nurse seemed incapable of getting the clinic the proper records for me. Grrr. I now have a new doctor. And soon (glory be!) I’ll have a new hip. I know it’ll hurt. But from several reports, hips are much easier and more successful than knees, which is a good thing for me since the only parts of my body that don’t hurt are my knees. I have no idea when the surgery will take place. Anyhow, the hip will hurt considerably less after I get it replaced and the surgery heals. I hope.

Then I went to see the eye doctor, hoping at least to get a new pair of glasses to cheer me up. But nooooo. I have to have the cataract in my right eye removed before I get any new glasses. Phooey. At least the cataract surgery is relatively simple. I know this because, after I had surgery to repair a detached retina in my left eye in 2011, I got a cataract in that eye as it was healing. So I had cataract surgery then, too.

I tell you, my body is falling apart at the speed of light. Doesn’t seem fair to me, but then, what is?

Anyway, toward the end of February I attended Left Coast Crime in Phoenix. I can’t honestly say I had a great time because I didn’t know anyone, and because I was in pretty awful pain. However, I did get to meet several of “my” authors (authors whose books I’ve edited), including Jeff Markowits (who write about the funniest mysteries I’ve ever read); Fankie Bow (who writes funny mysteries set in Hawaii, and who is a lovely woman); and Mike Befeler, who not only writes good mysteries, but who also writes Frontier Fiction. I also participated in a panel called “A Funny Thing Happened…” I’ve gotta tell you that, when I joined the panel, moderated by Simon Wood, and which included Jess Lourey, Catriona McPherson, and Johnny Shaw, I thought... Well, never mind what I thought, because it’s a trifle profane, but I was horrified. Here was I, this little old crippled lady hanging out with a bunch of KIDS! I’m not joking. However, it seemed to go okay. People laughed, and I guess that’s the important part. I also got to have lunch with my son-in-law’s sister, Kathryn, and their mother, Margie, which was mega-fun. And I got to see some old pals, so it was all right, taken all in all.
Left to right: Catriona McPherson, Johnny Shaw (who is extremely tall), Simon Wood, Me, Jess Lourey.

Jeff Markowitz and Me (I'm on the left, in case you couldn't tell)

Left to right: Me, Kathryn McIntire, Margie Paull
 
After the conference, I drove to California, where I spent my first night at my buddy Byron’s house in Yucaipa (or Yucaypa, if you’re my GPS’s Suri) or Yucapaw, if you’re Byron. What a perfectly lovely ranch he has! He also has a gigantic paint horse named Scout, and three dogs, one of which is a pit bull named Harley, who thinks he’s a lap dog.
 
After that I moseyed on up to Pasadena and West Hills, where I saw bunches of friends and ate lots and lots of stuff I can’t get here in Roswell. My grandson, Riki, my friend, Lauren, and I pretty much ate all the sushi in Pasadena. It was gooooood. Also met with some old dancing buddies at Mort’s Deli in Tarzana. That was good, too, and it was wonderful seeing folks I haven’t seen for ages.

Left to right: Art Aratin, Colin Cowans, Stephanie Cowans, Nicki Aratin
 
Then I came home and got sick. Sigh.

But things are muddling right along now. I’m still in dreadful pain, but I see a light at the end of that particular tunnel; and one of these days, I’ll be able to get a nice new pair of glasses, too.

I’ll get in touch with everyone who won a copy of the audiobook, SECRET HEARTS, individually. At the end of April, I don’t know what I’ll give away, but I’ll think of something. If you want to enter this indefinite contest, please send me your name and home address. My email address is alice@aliceduncan.net. Thanks!

 Please visit my web page at www.aliceduncan.net, and if you’d like to be Facebook friends, here’s my Facebook page info: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thanks!

 

Saturday, January 30, 2016


The Joys of January

Oh, my, January was such a confuzzled month. My daughter Anni and her husband Razmik were here for Christmas and then to fix up my house, which needs it badly.
They started out with a bang. Unfortunately for me, both of my children are neat freaks. Since I was born without an organizational gene in my own personal DNA, I don’t know where this characteristic came from. I don’t think their father was particularly well organized. Nuts, maybe, but not well organized. However it came to pass, both Anni and Robin are tidy. Anni even made me clean up a bunch of stuff. Overall, this was a Very Good Thing, because I found some things I’d even forgotten I had, including two wiener-dog pictures by Tom Stoner, late husband of Monica Stoner, my very first critique partner, who now lives, writes, breeds and shows Salukis in Edgewood, New Mexico. We met in Southern California, and then everybody moved to New Mexico. Go figure. Anyway, I’m pleased to have found Tom’s wiener dogs pictures, and aim to have them framed as soon as I can afford to do so.

But that’s not all. Razmik put in new floors, painted the whole inside of the house, and I bought a new sofa and chair for the living room. He also re-hung pictures, so that they’re all now evenly spaced and stuff like that. I’ve never had evenly spaced pictures before. This is nice. Love the new floors. And I’ve taken precautions so the dogs can’t ruin my new furniture. I don’t mind a little dog hair, but a couple of my hounds actually pee on furniture. Not anymore. Heh, heh, heh.
 


                       
There are still dead stuffies all over the place, but I don't mind those. 

And then it snowed. It didn’t just snow. It snowzillaed. Mind you, we generally get a little bit of snow here in Roswell, but this snow pretty much brought the city to its knees. The newspaper lady couldn’t get through the snow to deliver the newspaper (no big loss there) and even the mail couldn’t get through. Roswell’s mail is sorted in Lubbock, Texas, and all the roads were blocked into and out of Roswell, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There was no food on grocery shelves, and lots of streets remained impassible for a couple of weeks. We’re more or less back to normal now, but Razmik’s work on the house sort of had to grind to a stop. He’d intended to paint the outside, too, and put new outdoor carpeting on the front porch because the old stuff was coming apart and posed quite a falling risk. He took up the old stuff, but it was too wet to put the new stuff on. Oh, well. Maybe they’ll be able to come back again someday and finish making my house worth living in. He did find a huge problem regarding a leak between the bathroom and kitchen walls, which will have to be addressed at a later time, too, but not much later because the whole stupid house is apt to collapse if it’s not taken care of soon. Which, of course, requires money. Details, details.
 
Anyway, enough of that. I’ll get in touch with the winners of the audio edition of THANKSGIVING ANGELS. And at the end of February… I’ll be gone. Hmm. Just recalled that I’ll be in Phoenix at the Left Coast Crime conference, and then in Southern California to visit friends and family. I’ll mainly be staying at Robin and Gilbert’s home in the San Fernando Valley, because they need someone to dog-sit while they take a vacation. Hmm. Anni and Razmik seem to have usurped my few savings (although it was worth it) and now Robin and Gilbert are usurping my vacation time. But what the heck! I love visiting my friends and family in Southern California, and I can drive from West Hills to Pasadena, can’t I? The answer to that question is a resounding YES.

So no contest this month. I’ll figure out another one for March.

Please visit my web page at www.aliceduncan.net, and if you’d like to be Facebook friends, here’s my Facebook page info: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thanks!

 

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Boy, Am I Glad This Year is Over!

 
2015 wasn’t the best year I’ve ever lived through. For one thing, I was sick during most of it. For another, I lost a beloved dachshund, Bella, who was murdered by Jazzy and Cookie, two of my other hounds—or part-hounds, anyway. And lots of expensive house problems erupted during the year. Gah.

The wieners of UNSETTLED SPIRITS (paper copy) are Holly Huff, Flo Kojima, and Peggy Baker! I’ll send your copies as soon as the snow melts. Right now I’m snowed in. Besides, if I could drive anywhere, I might possibly be able to get to the post office, but none of the grocery stores have food in them. Roswell is 200 miles away from another, larger city. We haven’t had newspaper or mail deliveries since Saturday, December 26. It’s now the 31st, and the FedEx guy (who did manage to get through this morning) says even he’s going to pack it in because the streets are so treacherous. Roswell doesn’t have snowplows. Sigh.

Anyway, all is not horribly bad. In fact, I’m really happy that my daughter and son-in-law, Anni and Razmik Avanesian, are here, and they’re fixing up my house! Well, they will continue to do so if the snow melts enough for them to get to Home Depot. And if Home Depot has anything in it. They went to a grocery store yesterday, and there were no potatoes of any kind, no meat, and no green onions, which I wanted for a chicken dish I’m making today.

Piddle on the snow. My dogs have been piddling on the snow, for sure. At the moment, it’s kind of a block of ice out there. It’ll probably melt a bit and then freeze again. According to the weather gurus, the air is too cold for the snow to melt, and the air is cold because there’s so much snow on the ground. And there you have it!

Interesting story about Razmik (I don’t think he’ll mind my telling it). He’s an Armenian from Iran. Armenians are culturally Christian, and when Iran because a Muslim theocracy, it ceased being a good place for Christians to live. Therefore, Raz and his family had to learn how to do everything, from building buildings and repairing stuff to cooking over open flames. Eventually they all got out except for one of his sisters, who still lives there.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a Christian theocracy any more than I want to live in a Muslim theocracy. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they chose to separate the church from the state.

For the month of January, 2016, I’ll be giving away audio copies of THANKSGIVING ANGELS! Whee! If you’d like to win an audio copy of THANKSGIVING ANGELS, please send me an email at alice@aliceduncan.net.

And here, for your visual pleasure, are pictures of our snow! This is more snow than Roswell’s ever had in its life. Go figure.

This was taken from my front door. You can't see the walkway, the porch steps, the street, or the cross street. Still looks like that today.

 
And this was taken from my back porch. The doggies have trampled a piddle patch for themselves.

Please visit my web page at www.aliceduncan.net, and if you’d like to be Facebook friends, here’s my Facebook page info: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thanks!

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Mayhem and Magic, For Real

November was not a month of unmixed blessings. In fact, something truly horrible happened during November, so I’ll get to that first.

 No secret I rescue dachshunds. About four years ago I received a bonded pair from a puppy mill in Big Spring, Texas. Bella and Bam-Bam had spent their first couple of years in concrete crates and never learned how to interact with people or, really, be dogs. To this day Bam-Bam is terrified of men, and Bella was uber-shy around strangers. I realized after I’d fostered them for a while that they weren’t suitable candidates for adoption, so I kept them, and we loved each other. They both were fine with me, even though they were still unable to relate to strangers.

Well, on Friday the 13th, Jazzy and Cookie, who grew up on the streets and have absolutely no self-esteem issues, ganged up on Bella. I rushed her to the vet, where she was stitched up. When I picked her up on Saturday, she seemed to be doing well, but on Sunday evening Bella had a stroke or a seizure, and she died early Monday morning. My heart is still broken. My neighbor and fellow writer, Ann Wilmer-Lasky, wrote a Haiku for Bella, and here’s a picture of Bella taken by her husband Barry:

 

Treasured Friend: A Haiku
Innocence, truly,
Has no protection against
Pack mentality.

Okay, that’s the ugly stuff. My heart will probably never get over aching for Bella. I feel kind of like a murderer, in fact. Gah.

On to nicer things. Several people won copies of the audio edition of HUNGRY SPIRITS, narrated by Denice Stradling (who is now working away on GENTEEL SPIRITS, bless her). I’ll be getting in touch with each of the winners individually.

I also got the cover art for Daisy Gumm Majesty’s next adventure, BRUISED SPIRITS. I love it:

 
Also, Darlene Allen has finished narrating THANKSGIVING ANGELS for audio, so it will be available in December (I think). I’ll be giving away audio copies at the end of the month in my contest. If it’s somehow or other not available in December, I’ll give away copies in January.

 
And December is the month UNSETTLED SPIRITS, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s latest adventure, will be released! I’ll be giving away either e-copies or paper copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS in my December contest.

Therefore, if you’d like to enter my December contest, for which Bam-Bam (who is coping much better with the loss of Bella than I am) will choose wieners at the end of the month, please send me your name and home address (if you want a paper copy of UNSETTLED SPIRITS) to alice@aliceduncan.net

 

 
If you’d like to visit my woefully out-of-date web site, the URL is http://aliceduncan.net/ and if you’re interested in being Facebook friends, please visit https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thanks!