Sunday, October 1, 2017


 
October Again

 
Wow, another year is all but over. Pretty soon Halloween will be upon us, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 2018! 2018???? Unbelievable!

However, on to the blog. There almost wasn’t one this month, thanks to an infected left hand on my own personal body. As with most of the weird stuff that happens to me, this began with a dog; or, more specifically, a dog bite. I tried to break up a fight between Cookie and Bella, reached the wrong way, and Cookie nailed me. Hard. So I cleaned the wound, disinfected it, put antibiotic gel on it, bandaged it, and it got better. The wound healed and everything seemed fine and dandy. Then, two Thursdays ago, the hand began to get extremely sore. I could hardly move it. Then it swelled up. Then it got blue. Then it was Saturday morning, and I went to the ER. The doctor concluded I had tendonitis and an infection, and he gave me antibiotics and a Velcro splint. The swelling went down, but the hand continued immensely painful. So I went for a follow-up visit to my regular doctor. She told me to get a tetanus shot and gave me a prescription for steroids. Boy, those steroids worked miracles. Within one day, the inflammation began going away, and today, October 1, the hand almost doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, I just allowed several of the hounds to take me for an afternoon drag, and the hand lasted quite well. Mind you, I kept the splint on it for safety’s sake, but I actually think I’m going to survive this infected-hand thing. Oh, and I got the tetanus shot.

Then I sprained my ankle. It's getting better.

Then the lower left side of my face began to swell. It got better, too.

Sheesh.

As for September, a few good things happened in the world of what I laughingly call my writing career. For one thing, I finished Daisy Gumm Majesty’s 12th adventure, SPIRITS UNEARTHED, and turned it in to my publisher. The book begins with Daisy, Sam Rotondo (her fiancé), and Daisy’s dog Spike (a dachshund, naturally) visiting Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California. While they’re all there, Spike finds a vagrant shoe. Unfortunately for all concerned, the shoe contains a foot. Thus begins the mystery of to whom the foot belongs, why it was in the cemetery, and what happened to the foot’s owner. If one can be said to own one’s feet. I don’t know why not.

The second good thing was that I began writing Spirits #13, SHAKEN SPIRITS. Ouchily for Daisy, the book begins with her being hit by a car. It hurts. Poor Daisy.

Then the third good thing was that Denise Stradling, who narrates my Daisy Gumm Majesty books for audio, finished reading SPIRITS REVIVED! Nina Paules, who has done all the wonderful covers for my Daisy Gumm Majesty series, even did the cover art for it. SPIRITS REVIVED is technically the 7th in my Daisy series, but the cover of this book says it’s #6 ½ because I don’t have the e-book or print rights back to the book yet. Eventually, I’ll get ‘em back, but I expect it will remain # 6 ½ in the series. What the heck, the cover’s already made and all. I adore this cover:
 
 
So a bunch of people have won copies of SPIRITS REVIVED in its audio form, and I’ll be in touch with them all individually.

This coming month, I do believe I’ll give away BRUISED SPIRITS, Daisy’s 10th adventure. I have a particular fondness for this particular book, because it’s based on a woman’s actual experiences. They weren’t happy. But everything turns out all right.

A word about my monthly contests. I love giving my work to people; however, I found out quite by accident a few months ago that sending books to Great Britain, Australia, and other countries outside the United States is beyond my monetary capability. If a resident of a nation other than the United States has an e-reader, I’ll happily supply that person with an e-book. If a person doesn’t have an e-reader and still likes to read book-books, he or she is on his or her own. I’m sorry, but what I laughingly call my writing career hasn’t made me wealthy yet. And it probably won’t, but let’s not get in to that because it always depresses me. So. That’s that.

If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in e-mails, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

 

Saturday, September 2, 2017



September? Really?

It doesn’t seem quite fair that, the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. I remember sitting in schoolrooms when I was a kid, watching that stupid clock on the wall, and wishing I could push the minute hand faster so I could get the heck out of there and go home and play with my dog. Now I kinda wish time would slow down a trifle. Oh, well. If wishes were horses…

SPIRITS UNITED, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s eleventh adventure (well, it’s actually her twelfth, but until I get the rights back to SPIRITS REVIVED, her actual seventh adventure, the numbers don’t reflect the entire series). I appreciate everyone who bought a copy, and I’d appreciate even more if you’d buy copies for all of your friends and relations. Heck, even total strangers! I wouldn’t mind being a best-selling author once. Or even twice. But I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to beg.

During the first week in August of this year, I visited California. This was primarily to attend my best friend’s memorial service, but I also had a chance to revisit several places I recall from my youth back in the early middle ages. Some friends and I went to Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, where my best friend has finally joined her late husband. I also wandered around the place, said hello to my late aunt and several cousins, and I think I found about where Billy Majesty might have been planted back in 1922. Here it is:

Daisy’s next adventure, SPIRITS UNEARTHED, begins at Billy Majesty’s grave at the Mountain View Cemetery, so you might want to keep the area in mind for future reference. By the way, one of my spectacular beta readers, Lynne Welch, mentioned that lots of town in the Midwest, East, and South have little cemeteries sprinkled all over the place. If you live in Altadena or Pasadena, you either end up at Mountain View or in an urn on somebody’s mantel. My younger daughter told me I could reside in a box on her mantel in between two of her husband’s late dachshunds. Can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be for all eternity!

I also tootled past Daisy’s house. Whatta mess! If my second ex-husband, Old Weird Robert, still lives there, he’s sure not taking care of the place. I object. On the other hand, the house no longer belongs to me, so I guess there’s not much I can do about it.


The lovely and talented Denice Stradling, voice actor and audiobook narrator, is closing in on the final chapters of SPIRITS REVIVED, which will be published soon and will be available on Audible.com. I don’t have the cover art for the book yet, but I do have a picture of the room in which the ghost of Eddie Hastings shows up, much to Daisy’s distress, during a séance she held at Mrs. Bissel’s house in the book. The room doesn’t look awfully large in this photograph, but my aunt, her children, her two boarders (Burke and Jack, who used to own a gas station at Lake Avenue and Altadena Drive), and my own family of four (Mom, Dad, sister and me) used to dine there every evening. Everyone included, that was maybe ten or twelve people, and nobody was crowded. Of course, my aunt’s table was larger than the one depicted below. This was my Aunt Wrennie’s “breakfast room” back in the olden days. She had a dining room, too, which was much larger. I can’t even imagine what a table the size of hers would cost these days. That thing was huge:

 If SPIRITS REVIVED is available by the end of September, I’ll be giving away audio copies of that book. If it’s not, you may pick your own book of those I’ve written (providing I have copies of same). I’ll be in touch with the winners of August’s contest to find out which book of mine they’d like to have either e-delivered or delivered by post, and I’ll attempt to get the books mailed in a timely manner.

Oh, and before I forget again, many people have asked me what “bishop sleeves” are. Daisy’s always making suits and dresses with “bishop sleeves.” So, for your continuing education, below is a picture of a couture gown from 1924 featuring bishop sleeves! Courtesy Jean Lanvin, in fact. Mind you, these are a little puffier at the wrists than lots of bishop sleeves, but that’s because they have slashes at the wrist and inserts of cloth of another color:

A word about my monthly contests. I love giving my work to people; however, I found out quite by accident a few months ago that sending books to Great Britain, Australia, and other countries outside the United States is beyond my monetary capability. If a resident of a nation other than the United States has an e-reader, I’ll happily supply that person with an e-book. If a person doesn’t have an e-reader and still likes to read book-books, he or she is on his or her own. I’m sorry, but what I laughingly call my writing career hasn’t made me wealthy yet. And it probably won’t, but let’s not get in to that because it always depresses me. So. That’s that.

If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in e-mails, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Spirits United!

I apologize for last month’s blog. I was so down in the dumps, I just couldn’t bear to be funny. Losing a best friend and another friend losing her daughter to murder just sort of wiped out the joy in life for a while. For the record, the murderer of my cousin’s daughter has been found and extradited to New Mexico to stand trial. So maybe he’ll be convicted and imprisoned. That’ll be okay, but it won’t bring Anita back, you know? And I doubt there’s any way a mother can ever recover from the loss of a child, especially to murder, so my friend whose daughter was murdered in June (and whose murderer then committed suicide) is pretty much doomed, I guess. As another friend of mine said, if a person decides to commit a murder-suicide, it’s better to commit the suicide first. I think that’s a brilliant solution to a dire problem, but I doubt it’ll catch on, people being what they are.
Anyway, enough of that. I’ll be in touch with the winners of July’s contest via email since I didn’t specify a book to be given away. You get to pick your choice if you’re a wiener. I mean a winner.

SPIRITS UNITED, Daisy’s eleventh adventure (actually, it’s her twelfth, but who’s counting?) was just released, so here’s the cover art and links to it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

 

 
Okey-dokey, a little bit about SPIRITS UNITED. I was afraid the book would be terrible. You see, I had such an emotional investment in BRUISED SPIRITS, I figured the next book would be a flop. However, people seem to be enjoying it! Go figure. I’m happy about that, and I’m working diligently on the next Daisy book. It seems to be coming along nicely. In order to prepare for it, which is titled SPIRITS UNEARTHED, I’ll be taking photographs at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California, when I’m in California next week for my friend’s memorial service. Feel free to speculate from there.
As for SPIRITS UNITED, it begins at Daisy’s home on Marengo Avenue in Pasadena, but Sam Rotondo (Pasadena police detective and Daisy’s betrothed) comes over just as Daisy is about to visit the library (she hangs out there a lot). Therefore, Sam goes with her on her jaunt to the library since he doesn’t trust her not to stumble over a dead body if she visits there alone. Doesn’t work. A woman is murdered in the biography stacks while Sam is with Daisy at the library. Horrors! Worse, Daisy’s friend, Robert Browning (not the poet), is discovered holding the bloody knife used to murder the poor dead woman. This naturally puts Robert at the top of Sam’s suspect list, although Daisy doesn’t believe for a second he did the dirty deed.

Anyhow, Sam, still recovering from the gunshot he got in BRUISED SPIRITS, and still hurting from it and forced to use a cane, is cranky as heck. Nevertheless, he gets to work.

Daisy gets to work, too, although Sam doesn’t want her to. Eventually the murderer is discovered, thanks to a lot of snooping on everyone’s part. Not only that, but Daisy is thrilled that she’s become a matchmaker. Again. She’s almost as good at matchmaking as she is at sewing and spiritualist-medium-ing.

Oh, and in SPIRITS UNITED, it’s Sam’s Voodoo juju that acts up rather than any of Daisy’s spiritualist paraphernalia. Sam neither believes in nor appreciates its help.

In order to get a feel for the library where SPIRITS UNITED begins, I wanted to see pictures of the Pasadena Public Library as it was in 1924. The present library was opened in 1929. I used to practically live there when I resided in Pasadena, and I worked for quite some time in the children’s room there. Love that library and still visit it when I’m in Pasadena. However, that’s not the library in which Daisy’s latest body was found. Here are photographs (found for me by my lovely niece, Sara Krafft, and a wonderful Facebook buddy, Andie Paysinger) of the old library. It looks like it was a beautiful place:
 


 
The only truly awful thing about SPIRITS UNITED is that I murdered a librarian in it. It’s not my fault! Lynne Welch, a valued friend and excellent beta reader, is a librarian, and she told me she’s always wanted to bump off a librarian. So I did it for her. I still feel guilty about doing so, too.
I’ll let folks pick any old book you want from my backlist at the end of August. If you’re name is chosen from my special contest doggie dish by Bam-Bam, my winner-picking wiener dog, I’ll send you the book you select, providing I have a copy.

Oh, and a word about my monthly contests. I love giving my work to people; however, I found out quite by accident a few months ago that sending books to Great Britain, Australia, and other countries outside the United States is beyond my monetary capability. If a resident of a nation other than the United States has an e-reader, I’ll happily supply that person with an e-book. If a person doesn’t have an e-reader and still likes to read book-books, he or she is on his or her own. I’m sorry, but what I laughingly call my writing career hasn’t made me wealthy yet. And it probably won’t, but let’s not get in to that, because it always depresses me. So. That’s that.

If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in e-mail, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Saturday, July 1, 2017


What Can I Say?

The winners of UNSETTLED SPIRITS, my June giveaway book, are Sharon Sambuca, Anne Harris, Marge Hagan and Tracy M. Thurber. I’ll get your books to you probably the week after next. I’ll also be mailing copies of SPIRITS REVIVED to June’s winners, since I didn’t get them mailed in June. Stupid month, June. Mostly mayhem; very little, if any, magic.
 
In fact, June, 2017, was one of the worst months in my life. I had yet another surgery and, while I’m recovering nicely, I’m tired of various body parts going out on me.

The worst thing that happened in June was the death of one of my very best friends, Barbara Masters. When I lived in Pasadena, California, we did pretty much everything together. Our kids grew up together, we went to exercises at the now-defunct YWCA together, we took our kids to the beach together, we went to see all the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas we could find, we held yard sales together, we saw a whole bunch of things at the Ambassador Auditorium together, and Barbara came to all the holiday feasts I prepared in my little Pasadena shack. The only good thing to come of Barbara’s death (for me) was the renewal of my acquaintanceship with her daughter, Kira Steinberg. I hadn’t seen Kira for at least 20 years, and it was great catching up with her. Kira is a dog-rescuer, as am I, and we both agreed we didn’t really understand crazy in people until we began rescuing dogs. We both have stories, which I won’t go in to here.

My grief at Barbara’s passing, however, can’t hold a candle to the grief another author friend of mine is experiencing. Her daughter was murdered by her (the daughter’s) husband in a murder-suicide a couple of weeks ago. I personally don’t care if people want to kill themselves, but think it’s reprehensible to kill another person merely because you’re mad at him/her. I don’t, from personal experience, know how one copes with the loss of a child, thank heaven. To have a beloved child murdered passes my comprehension. What’s worse, this is the third person I know (including my cousin Jerry) whose daughter was murdered by her husband. I’d say it’s insane, but I think it’s actually more evil than insane. There’s got to be some way to stop this sort of thing. Wish I knew what it was.

About the only good thing to come from June, 2017, was seeing the cover art of my soon-to-be-published book, SPIRITS UNITED, which should be available soon. Here it is:

I think that’s it for July’s blog. I don’t have the heart to write anything else at the moment. Or to be funny.

I’ll let people choose their own book from my backlist in July, since I’m too befuddled to choose one myself. If you’re name is chosen, I’ll send you the book you select, providing I have a copy. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Sunday, June 11, 2017


It’s June, by gum!

Good grief, the year’s half over. Seems like the older one gets, the faster time flies.

The four winners of SPIRITS REVIVED are Debra Guyette, Diane Meng, Kathy Otto, Eileen Kenney! I’ll mail your books ASAP, but since I had surgery a week or so ago, it might not be until the end of this next week. At the end of June, I do believe I’ll be giving away copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS again because I have lot of copies of that one.

Anyhow, since I just had surgery to repair a piece of personal plumbing, this blog’s not going to be very long, but I had a lot of help and fun collecting its various parts.

It all started when my neighbor brought me a jelly doughnut (because he and his wife know I adore jelly doughnuts, but don’t eat them often because I try to eat healthily – I know, how stuffy, huh?) Anyway, he said he got it “from the bottom of his spleen.” That got me to thinking about some of the sayings I grew up with, and I asked folks on Facebook to lend me some of their remembrances. I’ll start with my own home.

When my dad thought someone was a meanie, he said the person had a scab over his liver. If he thought someone had done something particularly bone-headed, he’d say, “One more brain, and you’d be a halfwit.” My dad and my nephew Stephen were both in the U.S. Navy for eons and of course, for them both, creamed chipped beef on toast was always shit on a shingle. Stephen also mentioned that his mother (my half-sister, by gum) would say something was slick as a fart in a mitten.

My younger grandson, Riki, called Albuquerque “Albu-turkey” for a long, long time before he learned the proper pronunciation (well, the way New Mexicans say it, anyway).

My daughters both called hamburgers “han-gurmers.” Ever since I was given a black dachshund by a friend of mine, my kids said I was Weenie’s (that was the hound’s name) “grammoi.” So I am now Grammoi to my grandsons and both of my great-grandchildren.

My mom’s cousin’s husband, Miles Gilbert, when asked how he felt, would generally say, “Fine as a frog’s hair split four ways.” I’ve heard other people say “Fine as frogs’ hair,” but Miles had his own unique take on the expression.
Here are some other gems folks added to the list:

J.M. Cornwell produced these: Hope the crick don’t rise; lyin’ like a rug (when someone was fibbing); looks like the running gears of a katydid (when someone is skinny); gimlet butt (for someone who doesn’t have big hips); dumb as a box of rocks; a few bricks shy of a load; and a revolving door on her bedroom.

Judy Reutebach recalls her mother telling her “Your face will freeze like that” when she wore an unpleasant expression.
David Bedini’s family’s philosophy was, evidently, “Today’s plums are tomorrow’s prunes.”

Vicky Fannin offered this from her dad, Byron: “Never say only and money in the same sentence.”

Carola Dunn’s son used to say donedies for donuts. To him all four-legged animals were “maus” (probably for meow).

Nina Paules’s grandmother, when asked what was for dinner, would say, “Layovers for meddlers.”

Diane Jasperson offered these charmers: Those maniac drivers passed me by like a dirty shirt; as well as: drunk as a skunk; purdier than all get-out; coffee is strong enough to curl your toenails; and does a bear poop in the woods?
James C. Work said his mom, when entering a dark room, would say, “It's dark as Egypt in there." His father thought she had mistaken "darkest Africa" but was too polite to mention it. James also remembered these: Somebody sure put a burr unner his saddle; don’t know him from Adam’s off ox; and dead as a doornail.
Here are some delights from Charlotte Westbrook McDaniel: So poor you don’t have a pot to piss in; ain’t that a kick in the head; about as useful as teats on a boar (or a boar-hog); It’s fixin’ to come a gully washer (hard rain).
Marcia-Lee Finocchio’s mom used to say she’d do something “after I eat this egg.” Marcia-Lee still doesn’t know quite what it means. Nor do I, but I like it.
Kathryn McIntyre grew up with these: She looks like the wreck of the Hesperus; time to bring out the brass monkeys; there’s frost on the pumpkin; like chasing a fart through a bucket of nails (when something is entirely futile); colder than a well-digger’s shovel.
Vicki Lemonds’ grandmother would say: It’s cold enough to freeze your pockets off and, when something didn’t go as planned, “Must not have been holding my mouth right.” For some reason, that last one really tickles me (editorial comment).
Sue Krekeler recalls hearing: S/he looks like five miles of dirt road (when someone is really tired).
Sherry Davis Fritz’s father would say something was colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra; and something was “knee high to a tall Indian.” I have to admit I’d never heard that last one. I recall something being “Knee-high to a grasshopper” (editorial comment #2 or 3 or something).
Donna Weatherfield (another intrepid dachshund-rescuer) recalls the following: Hell’s bells and panther pants; Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger; and as nervous as a whore in church.
Debbie Sanders’ husband’s Pawpaw (whoever that was) used to say: Busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kickin contest; if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they hopped. Her mom liked to say: He don't have the brains of a piss ant; she don't know shit from apple butter; and you’d better straighten up and fly right.
Gina Gilmore offered the following: S/he don’t know shit from Shinola; and s/he looks like s/he’s been rode hard and hung up wet.
Susan Eggers grew up with these: Enough blue sky to make a Dutchman’s pants; it looked like the itch (if something looked really bad). I’m extremely partial to the second one (another editorial comment).

Ann Watson Smith’s kids used to say nip-nops for flip-flops and pasghetti for spaghetti. My own kids said the last one (editor again).
Julia Anderson grew up with: Mad as a wet hen; I have so much wind, if I could finger it just right, I could play “God Bless America.” The latter was generally said after a meal containing beans, which “Stretch a meal and also cause gas.”
Debra Iverson recalls people looking as if they’d been drug through a knothole backwards.
Jeanell Buida Bolton recalls hearing Hells bells and little fishes.
Johannah E. Zimmerman (and I, too, actually) recalled people being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Susie Lonsinger remembers, when someone was getting uppity, s/he’d be told to get down off your high horse.
Lea Hood’s dad used to say she and her friends were a bunch of “wild Bohemians” when they were having fun (maybe too much fun).
Tabitha Hall and I remember calling a refrigerator the ice box. Becky Muth recalls the refrigerator always being the Kelvinator.
Thanks, everyone, for your input! I came away from this particular Facebook experiment with a whole bunch of new (to me) colorful expressions to use when life is dull.

If you’d like to enter June’s contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Yay for May!

 
Okey-dokey, so my neighbors and I were chatting about stuff a couple of evenings ago. I recommended they watch The Knick, which was a Cinemax series starring Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, a sort of early-days House, if you’ve ever seen that series. House starred Hugh Laurie, whom I still think of as Bertie Wooster, but that’s not his fault. Anyway, my neighbor began watching The Knick and is enjoying it. He doesn’t mind gore as much as I do.

All this contemplation of early medical practices and cures got me to thinking about why I write historical novels. The reason, I concluded, is that I like to think of the 1920s as somehow nicer than the 2000s. I’m wrong, of course, and one only needs to think about what was and wasn’t around back then to realize it.

For instance my mother, who was born in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1913, remembered cholera epidemics, flu epidemics, dysentery problems and all sorts of other conditions we hardly consider these days. So I started Googling (Google wasn’t around in the 1920s either, natch). By the early 1900s people routinely got vaccinated for smallpox, thanks to Edward Jenner. Jenner noticed that people who contracted cowpox didn’t come down with smallpox, and the realization prompted him to invent a vaccination for smallpox. But other than that, there was no penicillin, no other antibiotics, and the only pain reliever people knew about until the mid-1880s was either laudanum or morphine, both derived from the opium poppy. Unless, of course, you wanted to go out and find the right kind of willow tree and gnaw on the bark thereof. Not too many people knew about the pain-killing properties of willow bark, however.

By the way, my mother’s father, William Jones Wilson, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, died two days after my mother was born in November of 1913. The family’s regular doctor was away from Roswell, and the substitute thought my grandfather was suffering from sympathetic labor pains. He wasn’t. He had a ruptured appendix. But that’s a story for another day.

Here’s a fun semi-medical fact: Dr. Pepper was originally touted as a “brain tonic” (I could use one of those, but I don’t care for Dr. Pepper). The drink was first bottled and distributed at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1904. From 1889-1914, its advertising slogan was the “King of Beverages”. And people still drink it today. Well, except for me, since I don’t like it. However, I don’t believe it ever contained any actual medicinal properties.

 
A guy named General John Pemberton, a former Confederate surgeon, invented Coca-Cola after the Civil War (actually, he’d probably have called it the War of Northern Aggression) in the 1870s or 1880s as a cure for his own morphine addiction. He formulated the original product in his Eagle Drug and Chemical House in Columbus, Georgia. Coca-Cola originally contained a combination of caffeine and cocaine. Coca-Cola was intended to be a patent medicine, but folks found other uses for it. It still has the caffeine, bless its heart, but somewhere along the way the cocaine was dumped. Probably disappointed a whole lot of people, as it undoubtedly gave folks a happy lift. Don’t have a clue if it helped cure Dr. Pemberton of his morphine addiction. Oh, by the way, my mom said her mother used to give her Coke syrup when she had an upset stomach!

 
Laudanum, an opiate, was routinely sold over the counter for people who suffered from any kind of pain. I know for a certified fact that if I’d been around in the early 1900s (providing I could afford to buy the stuff) I’d have been a laudanum addict because I’ve had so much trouble with various painful conditions for most of my life. That’s kind of a lowering reflection, but it’s true. People could also obtain morphine OTC for many years. In the series House, Dr. House was addicted to Percocet or Vicodin (can’t remember which). In The Knick, Dr. Thackery is addicted to morphine and cocaine. Some things never change, I reckon. Anyhow, Dr. Thackery is delighted to discover heroin because he believes it will be a cure for his addiction. After all, since heroin is sold by the Bayer Company, it has to be safe, right? Well… Maybe not.



Then there’s cocaine, which was used for lots of medical problems. Nobody thought anything about it. After all, it was medicine, right? Again, maybe not. I found this ad when I was browsing:

 
 
Oh! We definitely shouldn’t forget acetylsalicylic acid. In 1899 the Bayer Company made pills out of the ingredients and began marketing it to the general public as a product called Aspirin. Prior to the Bayer Company’s naming and marketing of the drug, one could buy salicylic powders, dump some into a glass of water or another beverage, and drink the resulting concoction. It must have tasted vile, but it was a heck of a lot less dangerous than morphine or heroin. However, by the time aspirin came along, people like me would have been laudanum or morphine addicts for decades. Or dead. I’d certainly have been dead because when I was twenty-two or -three, I got hellishly sick, was headed toward encephalitis or meningitis, and was only saved from extinction by the administration of antibiotics. Which, by the way, were prescribed for me by Dr. Benjamin, who is a frequent visitor in the Daisy Gumm Majesty books.


 
If I’d had that illness before the accidental discovery of penicillin by a Scottish gent, Sir Alex Fleming, in 1928, I’d have been a goner. Penicillin wasn’t available for general consumption until the mid to late 1940s. Luckily for me I got sick in the 1970s. Back in the olden days (1970s and before), you got a shot of penicillin, took two aspirin tablets, and called the doctor in a day or two. These days, antibiotics are generally prescribed in pill or tablet form. Times have unquestionably changed.

Then there were the so-called “operating theaters." In The Knick’s days, the operating theater really was a theater!

And we’d better not forget X-rays. Invented in 1895 by German (well, really, he was a Prussian, but there’s no Prussia any longer) mechanical engineer and physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, X-rays revolutionized medicine. Doctors could see inside a human body using Röntgen rays (or X-rays). Back then no one knew that a person needed to be extremely cautious when using these electromagnetic wavelength rays. Sometimes things went wrong and patients (and sometimes technicians) suffered severe burns or even death. Gotta be careful with that stuff.
At any rate, times have definitely changed since the early 1900s. Because I have such honestly terrible back pain, I’m kind of sorry one can’t just waltz into a pharmacy and buy a bottle of heroin anymore, but I’m sure I’m wrong to think that way. Probably. Or perhaps not. Phooey. Don’t suppose it matters. I’m sure not going to hang out on street corners and pray a drug dealer strolls past.

By the way, I'm not in any way attempting to trivialize the current epidemic of opioid overdoses plaguing the country. However, I had a lumbar-spine operation in September of 2012. Recovery was the most painful experience I've ever been through (well, except maybe labor, but labor didn't last as long). I was given, I think, morphine and Percocet. I took the meds as prescribed. No more. No less. When the drugs ran out, I went through withdrawals!!!! Not bad withdrawals, but I felt like a wilted lettuce leaf for a week or two and was sweaty and shaky. That's no joke. Opioids have their place, but it isn't in our kids! Okay, off the soapbox now.

Anyhow, I’ll be in touch with the winners of April’s giveaway book, UNSETTLED SPIRITS, individually. At the end of May, Bam-Bam, my winner-picking wiener dog, will select winners of SPIRITS REVIVED. SPIRITS REVIVED is Daisy Gumm Majesty’s seventh adventure, but since I can’t get the rights back from the original publisher, it’s sort of languishing out there in publishing limbo and there’s a hole in the Daisy series. Maybe one of these days all of the books can reunite and Daisy will throw a big party. Or maybe not.

If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


March Came In Like A… Caterpillar?

 
Kind of creepy and crawly, if you know what I mean.

For one thing, I made a quick trip to California, primarily to visit one of my dearest friends who is mortally ill. I figured I’d rather see her in person one last time than go to her funeral. The month didn’t get much better from there, as it was fraught with my own health issues, veterinarian bills and plumbing problems. Grumble.

Therefore, since I’m sick of it all, this month’s blog isn’t going to be about any of that bad stuff. It’s going to be about the kinds of research a person who writes historical novels has to do. Because I write books set in the 1920s, I need to know a lot of stuff about the area in which the books are set. In the case of my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, that means I get to learn about Pasadena and Altadena history. Sometimes this information isn’t as easy to come by as figuring out what people did and ate in ancient Rome. The twenties are historical, but they’re recent enough that some things aren’t well documented.

For instance, I had to find out what law-enforcement agency took care of crime in Altadena, California, in 1924. Altadena is a smallish (well, it used to be smallish anyway) community just north of Pasadena. Unincorporated, it’s part of Los Angeles County, but it’s not officially part of Pasadena. So, I looked on-line and couldn’t find out. Then I decided what the heck and called the Altadena Historical Society. Darned if my question wasn’t answered by a woman with whom I went all through school! I mean, we met years ago. Plus, we evidently looked so much alike when we were kids, our parents often tried to pick up me when they wanted her and vice-versa. However, Kathy found out for me that the Altadena area was served by the Los Angeles County Marshal’s Office, and that their headquarters were pretty much on Lake Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. Mind you, Foothill Boulevard, where Mrs. Bissel in my Daisy books lives (in the house my aunt used to own), was renamed Altadena Drive in the 1950s or 1960s, but it’s still there. The marshal’s office was just down the road and across the street a bit from Mrs. Bissel’s house.

Then there’s food. Daisy’s Aunt Vi is one of the better cooks in the universe. In fact, if she were a man at the time the books are set, she’d have been called a chef and made boocoo bucks. Boocoo, by the way, is an expression from the 1920s. Anyhow, from time to time, I also have to find out what people ate back then. It’s fun research to do, because I love food. But cooking was a heck of a lot harder back then than it is now. No blenders. No food processors. No Instant Pots (although folks used pressure cookers). No automatic dish washers. No electric mixers. No plastic or aluminum wrap, although they did have waxed paper. No store-bought bread, for Pete’s sake! Fortunately for Daisy and her family, Vi makes the best bread in town.

And today I had to look up meatloaf. Meatloaf? Yes, by golly, meatloaf. Good thing for me one of my dear Facebook friends, Andie Paysinger (http://www.asenjigalblogs.com), is a genius at cooking history. She and my niece Sara Krafft (also a research maven) both showed me to a great web site for researching food history (http://www.foodtimeline.org). Meatloaf for most of us is a pretty easy meal to prepare, and I personally love it.

However, life was different in the 1920s. For one thing, in order to make a meatloaf, Aunt Vi had to grind her own beef, pork, veal, chicken, and/or whatever other kinds of meat she wanted in her loaf. Not a problem, because Vi had one of these handy-dandy tools:

 
Oddly enough, my mother had one (and I still have it) that looks precisely like that. It probably dates from the same era, too.

Then, of course, we return to the problem of bread. It wasn’t pre-sliced or store-bought in those days. You had to knead your flour, yeast, water, milk, butter and/or whatever, form it into loaves, and then bake it in your own oven. Fortunately for Aunt Vi, both her employer (Mrs. Pinkerton) and her family have self-regulating gas stoves. However, after you bake your bread, you then have to cut it. Both Daisy and I suffer a deficit in the bread-cutting area. We can’t cut a straight piece of bread from a loaf to save ourselves. Fortunately, Daisy has other people in her life who can cut bread for her. I’m stuck all by myself with odd-looking slices of bread. What the heck. There are worse problems to have. Here’s a picture of a lovely stove Aunt Vi might have cooked on at the family’s residence. Needless to say, Mrs. Pinkerton, who is rich as Croesus, has an even bigger and fancier one in her mansion.

Oh, and no chopped nuts! You had to crack your own nuts and chop them if you wanted to use nuts in something. Wow. Life must have been hard indeed. But you could still use your self-regulating gas range once you prepared your nut loaf.

 

One thing Pasadena had in the 1920s is still alive and functioning: Mijares Mexican Restaurant. While I was in Pasadena to visit my friend, I also saw my younger daughter, Robin, and my younger grandson, Riki, quite often. Riki and I had lunch at Mijares, by gum! Great place. Always was. Still is.
 
But enough of that. I’ll be in touch with the winners of March’s giveaway book, FALLEN ANGELS, individually. I might even get the books mailed out in April, too! At the end of April, I’ll be giving away a few copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS, Daisy’s tenth (actually, it’s her eleventh) adventure. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

 

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Hmmm….

Writing is a strange business. I mean, it’s fun to tell stories but sometimes I become plotless, and that’s not a good thing.

For instance, I know who the victim is in the next Daisy Gumm Majesty book (Spirits Unearthed) and I know who dunnit. It’s those pesky 300+ pages in the middle I have to figure out. I expect Daisy to do more spiritualist stuff, which is fun and should take up several pages. And maybe Sam’s Voodoo juju will pester him again (it did in the forthcoming Daisy book, Spirits United).

As a fake spiritualist-medium in the 1920s, Daisy has a built great business for herself and her family. True, she lies to people for a living, but she justifies her line of work by reminding herself she helps grieving family members and friends by reassuring them the dear departed is happy on the other side of life. Above all else, Daisy doesn’t want anyone to commit suicide because they want to rejoin their late beloved. I guess that’s a sound answer to people, including her fiancé, Sam Rotondo, who tell her they think it’s rotten of her to fool people. Of course, Daisy generally reminds him that the people she fools want to be fooled. Fair enough for government work, as folks used to say. Not sure they say that anymore—or that it’s true—but what the heck.

As a plotless Daisy story whirls in my head, I’m also getting ready to visit my own and Daisy’s old stomping grounds, Pasadena, California. The reason for this sudden trip is lousy, but I expect to see some of my old favorite sites. That should be nice.

In the meantime, as I was trying to clean up stuff, work-wise, before my trip, I decided the book I’ve wanted to finish for more than a decade now will never get written if I don’t have a deadline. I haven’t written to a deadline in… well, a whole bunch of years. So I decided what the heck and sent a query to an editor. Much to my astonishment, the editor emailed me the next day and asked me to send him the full proposal. So I did. With any luck he’ll reject the book, but if he doesn’t, I’ll be in full-blown panic mode as I finish that book and try to figure out the next Daisy plot.

Sometimes I think I’m an absolute idiot. Other times I’m sure of it. Sighhhhhh.

Anyway, I’ll be in touch with the winners GENTEEL SPIRITS, February’s contest book, individually. At the end of March, I’ll give away three copies of the original hardback version of FALLEN ANGELS.

By the way, FALLEN ANGELS won the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award in 2012 for best mystery/thriller (tied with Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s THE AMERICAN CAFÉ). As a rule I don’t enter contests, since I share George C. Scott’s opinion about judging the worth of artistic endeavors. I honestly don’t think you can deduce one book is better than another if you’re comparing, say, COCAINE BLUES by Kerry Greenwood, to GONE GIRL by Jillian Flynn. Personally, I loved the one and detested the other. If all judges of all book contests were like me, GONE GIRL wouldn’t have been the fabulous success it was. I’m probably wrong, but it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it, darn it!

Also (this is silly) the only reason I entered the AZ/NM BOTY contest was because, the state of literacy in New Mexico being what it is (abysmal), the notion tickled me. Sometimes I think I have a black heart.

Anyhow, if you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Sunday, January 29, 2017


The Joys of History

 
1924 is the first year in which Daisy Gumm Majesty will be eligible to vote in the United States of America. Women were granted the vote in 1920, but Daisy wasn’t twenty-one and, therefore, was unable to vote in that election. Now you only have to be eighteen, but even if that were the law back then, she still wouldn’t have been able to vote in 1920, because her birthday came after the election. This is only relevant because she and her father have a political discussion in the book SPIRITS UNITED, to be published sometime this year. I have to finish writing it first, of course. I’ve never taken so long to write a book in my life. Gah. Don’t know what happened, but I suspect having a hip replaced, having cataract surgery, and enduring months of physical therapy disrupted my regular writing schedule.

Anyhow, the Gumms and the one remaining Majesty (Daisy) decide to vote for the Republican candidate, Calvin Coolidge, in 1924. Daisy’s favorite president up to and including 1924 was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt, because he was a reformer! No longer could food-processing companies poison the consumers of their foods with impunity, because Teddy Roosevelt put his foot down (not on the food). Roosevelt was also a vigorous conservationist and established the United States Forest Service, allowing the creation of five National Parks. Daisy is all for national parks and for reform, even if she isn’t quite sure what needs to be reformed. Of course, if she had been able to vote in 1920, she’d have voted for Warren G. Harding, who died before everyone discovered he was a rotten crook.

Like most of us, Daisy is more concerned with her day-to-day life than she is about national and international politics. She probably would lift her eyebrows if she read about Coolidge’s immigration law, which restricted immigration to the United States, but she wouldn’t think too much about it because it didn’t affect her personally. She’d be more interested, not to say delighted, that her daily newspaper had begun printing crossword puzzles because she’s a wordsmith, if not a particularly well-educated one.

She’d naturally be horrified by the brutal murder of young Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who wanted to prove their intellectual superiority by committing the “perfect crime.” As Sam Rotondo could have told the two murderers, there’s no such thing as a perfect crime; but sometimes it’s difficult to find evidence pinpointing the perpetrators of whatever crime is under examination. In fact, this is a problem for Daisy in SPIRITS UNITED. As ever, Daisy remains only slightly daunted in her search for the criminal. According to Sam, she’s not supposed to be anywhere near the crime and its suspects, but Daisy persists anyway. She’s such a buttinsky!

Daisy is a good person. Even she feels a little uncomfortable about her animosity toward the entire German people because Germans killed her husband via the Great War. She knows she’s being irrational, but she can’t quite help herself. This is primarily because she and a whole lot of other people blamed the war and everything that happened during it on Kaiser Wilhelm. They’re wrong, of course. The Kaiser was as much of a nitwit as anyone else, but he was far from the only instigator of that ghastly and incredibly stupid war. However, Daisy couldn’t know what we can know, because the war was current news to her. It wasn’t history, as it is today. Did you know, for instance, that many Germans didn’t believe they’d actually lost the war? Well, they didn’t. After all, no battles were lost on German soil.

Daisy’s creator (moi) has read extensively about World War I, however, and it’s easy for me to see Daisy’s prejudice is . . . well, biased, you know? I mean, all prejudices are. The fact that a German Jew invented the gas that eventually drove her husband Billy to his suicide is only ironic to those of us who understand WWI wasn’t, as it was often called, The War to End All Wars. Rather, it was only the beginning of a long, steady decline in German policies that eventually led to Hitler and his cronies murdering millions of Jews, Gypsies, Catholics and other “inferior” people.

All of this is kind of my way of saying, in effect, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For instance, my own two grandsons, Daigoro and Rikiichi, had a Japanese father. Born in Tokyo, by gum. And do you know why Keiji (Dai and Riki’s dad) was born in Tokyo? Because Keiji’s father, who was born and reared in California, was sent to a Japanese detention camp in Poston, Arizona, during WWII. He was so annoyed by his family’s incarceration (and the loss of everything they possessed) that he moved to Japan as soon as he could. Then there occurred a series of other circumstances that led to him moving back to the United States. If not for WWII, Dai and Riki would be Satomuras instead of Oshitas, but I won’t go into the reasons for that here. Let’s just say life is complicated. It’s even more complicated for Dai and Riki when it comes to the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei question. Nevertheless, Riki always attends the Nisei Festival in Los Angeles every year. What the heck, you know?

My son-in-law’s family changed their Italian last name to a non-Italian last name after WWII, by the way. Not that it matters here. I just mention it because it’s interesting, and I wonder if Sam Rotondo’s family would be tempted to do the same thing if they lived long enough to see WWII. Clearly, Daisy’s not the only person in the world to descend to irrational biases. Heck, my other son-in-law is an Armenian from Iran. Mind you, Armenians are culturally Christian but he’s from Iran and, therefore, if he were attempting to get into the United States today, he couldn’t.

Gah. Enough of that.

I’ll be in touch with the winners UNSETTLED SPIRITS, January’s contest book, individually. At the end of February, I do believe I’ll give away three copies of the original hardback version of GENTEEL SPIRITS. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!