Thursday, December 4, 2014


November, 2014, wasn’t a month of great joy in this house. Well, the dogs remained happy and contented all month long, but I lost two very dear friends in November, and I resent it like fire.

Yes, I know that once you’re here, there’s only one way out, and we’re all going to die one day. However, when my dear friend, Sara Hoge, died in the early part of the month, her passing hurt. Heck, I even made a flying trip (literally) to California in order to attend her memorial service at the glorious Neighborhood Church in Pasadena. Sara’s last remaining brother was there, and so were her three daughters and all of their children (they’re all grown-ups. Funny how that happens). Anyway, it was great to see everyone, including both of my daughters and my younger grandson Riki. Riki and I pretty much ate our way through Pasadena. I stayed with another great friend, Barbara Masters, and I’d forgotten how much fun we used to have together. So even though the occasion for getting together was solemn, the trip was a huge success. This, in spite of arriving at the Hollywood-Burbank Bob Hope Airport at 9:30 p.m. and having to drive from there in a rental car to Altadena, CA, and Barbara’s house. On the freeway. In the dark.

It’s been sixteen or seventeen years since I’ve driven on an L.A. freeway at night. Trust me when I tell you that FAR more people live in Southern California than live in Southeastern New Mexico. The rental guy talked me into getting a GPS device for the car, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for that, because the GPS lady, Ms. Ratchett (I’d just read a Jeanne Glidewell book in which the GPS lady was Ms. Ratchett, so it came naturally) directed me to Barbara’s house perfectly. I was terrified the whole way there (all those headlights; sheesh!) but she didn’t miss a tip or a turn. Whew!

Later on in the month, a sadder death occurred, mainly because the dead guy, a wonderful man named Steven Dierks, was only sixty years old. He’d recovered from a battle with stomach cancer and he and his wife Kate were blissfully looking for houses to buy so they could get away from the New Jersey town in which they lived. Then, out of the blue, Steve was diagnosed with stage-four renal-cell cancer. Steve and Kate went through four months of hell only to be told on a Friday that he was cancer-free. Then he died Saturday night. Not fair. I don’t approve.

I met Kate and Steve through dog rescue. They were into Sheltie rescue, kind of like I’m into Dachshund rescue. They’d driven through Roswell (which very few people ever do, because Roswell isn’t on the way to anywhere), noticed a scruffy little terrier mix at the Roswell Humane Society, and fell in love with her. They left her there, but kept in touch with the RHS folks. Finally, the little doggie’s time was up. Carole Rogers, the RHS kennel manager, called to ask me if I’d be willing to foster a terrier until transport could be arranged to get the pup to Kate and Steve in New Jersey. What the heck. So I fostered the dog who eventually came to be called Bridey until Steve could make arrangements to fly to the Albuquerque Sun Port to pick her us. My wonderful neighbors, Barry and Ann Lasky, drove Bridey to Steve, and Steve (after trying and failing to put a diaper on Bridey) put her in a little crate, and flew her home to New Jersey under the seat in front of him on the airplane. And now Steve is gone, and Bridey, Kate, and Harper (Bridey’s Sheltie sister) are left to mourn.

There are aspects of life of which I just don’t approve, and this is one of the biggest. Phooey.
I’ll be giving away advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Thanksgiving Angels some time after the first of the year (because I’m going on a planned trip to Southern California for Christmas and won’t be home until after the beginning of 2015). If you’d like to enter, just send me your name and home address at: I’ll drop your name into my winner-picking wiener dog’s special contest doggie dish, and Bam-Bam (my winner-picking wiener dog) will select winners when the time comes.

There’s a bit of good news, though! STRONG SPIRITS, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s very first adventure, is FREE on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook for the time being!

Also, please feel free to visit my web site at and my Facebook page at

Thank you!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

INSPIRATION (and stuff like that)

I sold my very first book, One Bright Morning, in January of 1994. That was a Big Thrill. Unfortunately, even though I’ve had more than fifty books published since then, everything’s gone downhill from there.

Well… maybe not everything. There have been a few bright spots along the way. The first one came shortly after the publication of that first book, One Bright Morning, when a bookstore owner in Nebraska (whose name I’ve managed to forget) wrote to tell me she’d named her newborn palomino colt (or do you call newborn horses foals? Well, never mind) Maggie Bright, after the heroine of the book. Therefore, somewhere in Nebraska there’s now a twenty-year-old palomino horsey named Maggie Bright, and my character was the inspiration for her name. I tell you, that note made me cry. Actually, thinking about it made me teary-eyed for years.

Plod forward twenty years, and there have been some ups along the writing road, but not a whole slew of them. This may partly be because I’m the George C. Scott of writing contests and don’t believe you can truly judge the worth of one book over another unless you’re talking grammar and punctuation, word usage and imagery, and stuff like that. Besides, I write funny stuff. It’s usually dark stuff that wins awards.

Very well. Confession time here. The main reason I never enter contests is ’cause I’m poor as a church mouse and have a whole bunch of dogs to feed. One tiny bright spot in an otherwise colorless career was winning the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award (for mystery/suspense) in 2012 for Mercy Allcutt’s rousing adventure, Fallen Angels. The glow fades slightly when I admit I entered the contest because the mere thought of New Mexico as a literary state makes me chortle inside. And sometimes even outside. That, and the fact I had a few extra bucks lying around that the dogs didn’t consume in one way or another.
However, in recent months, something really quite nice happened as a direct result of my books. A woman named Julie Turjoman e-mailed me a while back to ask if I’d mind if she used a character from one of my cozy historical mystery series as a model for a hat in the book she was then writing, A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders. Her book would feature knitted creations appropriate for the Roaring Twenties, when the books are set. Would I mind? Was she kidding me? Naturally, I gave her my wholehearted permission.

And you know what? She actually did it! A Head for Trouble: What to Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders is now in print, and she used Mercedes "Mercy" Louise Allcutt (from my "Angels" books, including the aforementioned Fallen Angels) as a model for the following stunning creations:

Julie was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, and it’s truly wonderful. I recommend everyone who knits (or even those who, like me, don’t) go out and buy one or two (or three or four, because, after all, we all have relatives and friends) copies. Here’s a link:

Of course, you can find my books on-line, too, if you’re interested. They’re all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and/or Smashwords (if you have a Nook, Kobi, or whatever). In fact, here’s the cover art for my next Mercy book, Thanksgiving Angels, which will be published in April of 2015.
I’ll be giving away advanced reading copies (ARCs) of Thanksgiving Angels at the end of November. If you’d like to enter, just send me your name and home address at: I’ll drop your name into my winner-picking wiener dog’s special contest doggie dish, and Bam-Bam (my winner-picking wiener dog) will select winners at month’s end.

Also, please feel free to visit my web site at and my Facebook page at

Thank you!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

FINE SPIRITS, The Audiobook!

When Amazon created its Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) site, I was thrilled to think that maybe some of *my* books might end up as audiobooks, mainly because I love and adore audiobooks. So I stuck a lot of my books up there, and waited. And waited. And waited. And slowly but surely, folks began to audition. I regret to say that I jumped a little too fast on the first audition, because she really wasn’t right for the book, but I learned.
I needed someone special for my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, because Daisy’s my favorite character of all time. Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Denice Stradling one day a couple of years ago, asking if I’d mind if she auditioned for some of my books. Would I MIND????? No, I would not. Denice and I had met donkeys’ years ago at the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I think I’d already moved to Roswell by that time, but I’d gone back to RWA/OCC for a visit.
Well . . . let’s just say that I consider Denice’s contacting me about auditioning for some of my books one of the majorly fortuitous events of my life. Denice started with ONE BRIGHT MORNING, my very first published book, and she was great (click here to listen to a sample): And she is PERFECT for Daisy. So, in this month’s blog, we (actually Denice) thought it would be a good idea to interview each other about FINE SPIRITS, Daisy’s second adventure, and recently released via ACX on (click here to listen to a sample)
So . . . here we go. We'll go back and forth, sort of (and one of my questions of Denice isn’t about FINE SPIRITS because . . . well, just because):
Alice: Why the heck did it occur to you to get in touch with me in the first place?
Denice: First of all, thank you for this opportunity, Alice, to share your blog with you this month about something we both love. Having said that, I have to agree that contacting you through ACX was something I was SO GLAD I did ... connecting with you and the 'Daisy' books has been such a joy!  

I've been writing and acting -- either one or both -- for most of my adult life.  When we met at that long-ago Romance Writers of America meeting, I remember how active and helpful (and funny!) you were on their website ... and so when you were a guest speaker at their Orange County Meeting, I went to hear you, and that's how we met.  I did a little voice acting in the late 90's and really loved it, but my acting career just seemed to go in different directions then -- mostly theatre.  But when I first became aware of audiobook narration in the early 2000's, I got absolutely passionate about it.  As a writer, an actor, and a fanatical reader, it was my perfect fit.  I took classes, got a little work, built a home studio, and then ACX was created, and I got some work there.  Then, one day I was researching some audition opportunities -- and there you were!  I was thrilled when you chose me to narrate ONE BRIGHT MORNING.  And we just keep moving forward, don't we?
Alice: Indeed we do, and I hope we continue doing so!
Denice: How do you segue from one book to the next … for instance, Flossie was a minor character in FINE SPIRITS, but then became a major one in HIGH SPIRITS … did you get that idea while you were writing FINE SPIRITS , or …??
Alice: Um... I dunno. That is to say, I guess I felt sorry for Flossie. I mean, another character in the books, Stacy Kincaid, is rotten to the core and has been from birth. Poor Flossie just seemed to be a victim of her circumstances, and she ended up with a rotten gangster. So I wanted to make life easier for her. Therefore, she got a bigger role in the book after FINE SPIRITS. FINE SPIRITS sort of grew from STRONG SPIRITS, and I *really* wanted to use Mrs. Bissel’s house, because it’s the house my aunt owned and I used to live in! So, here's another question for you:
You do such a great job with the characters in FINE SPIRITS. dId you find any of them particularly difficult (or easy) to create in audio?
Denice: I actually found them easy -- your characters are quite well defined and I can hear them in my head when I first read through the book.  My biggest prayer is that you'll hear them the same way I do!  You have a lot of humor in your books, and sometimes there's a tendency to go over the top with a character because of that, do you know?  I really work on NOT doing that ... I don't want the characterization to get in the way of the story. 
I'm in the middle of recording HIGH SPIRITS right now ... having an absolute ball with the gangsters and floozies ... a bit harder not to go all out ... but I think, creating a bit of a back story and motivations for them keeps me from doing that. But you'll let me know, woncha?? 
Alice: Oh, yeah. I'll let you know :-)
Denice: With the advent of audiobooks, has your writing changed in any way?  Now that your characters have ‘voices’ – and not just your Daisy Gumm Majesty books, but all of them -- do you find that  it affects what you write.  Do you think your choices of narrators have informed your characters at all?
Alice: Oh, my, yes. With the advent of audiobooks, I no longer name people weird names. For instance, in one of my other series, I have a guy named Franchot. I STILL don’t know how to pronounce that name, so the reader and I just chose a pronunciation and went with it. I also realized that I have a pretty large vocabulary (nothing to brag about. Words just stick to me, kind of like dachshunds do) and I’m more conscious of using words that maybe the whole world doesn’t know just because they pop into my fuddled brain. I have learned to ask the audio readers of my books to please ask me before they assume they know how to pronounce certain words. For example, in another of my books, the woman’s a dancer, and the narrator mispronounced one of the dances and took exception to my correction. She corrected it anyway. That has nothing to do with FINE SPIRITS, so please forgive the diversion.
Denice:  What I love about Daisy, is that she is so willing to call herself out when she realizes she’s being too judgmental or making assumptions without having all the facts.  And I find this to be even more of the case with each book!  This adds humor, as well as being a little ‘life lesson’!  Is this something you planned, or did it just kind of evolve as her character evolved?
Alice: To tell the absolute truth, Daisy is me, only with a supportive birth family, none of my crippling neuroses, and with an infinitely more outgoing personality than I have. I love Daisy because she’s from my own home town and she and her family live in one of the houses I used to own. She travels to all the places and sees all the stuff I saw when I lived in Pasadena. Daisy is bold and daring. I’m definitely NOT. But in spite of that, I still think Daisy is the character closer to my heart than any other who’s popped up in my brain. In an upcoming book, Daisy will take Spike, the dachshund she earns in FINE SPIRITS, to the Pasanita Obedience Club’s obedience classes held in Brookside Park. I took my very first dachshund to Pasanita’s obedience classes in Brookside Park. Mind you the Pasanita Obedience Club started in 1940, and Daisy takes Spike there in 1922 or thereabouts, but I got permission from the Pasanita folks, so it’s okay. I used to buy fabric at Maxime’s, I shopped at Nash’s, and I haunted the Pasadena Public Library (although it was in a different place in the early twenties). I took my kids to see Dr. Benjamin. I mean, Daisy and her gang mean the world to me. And, yeah, she does get down on herself, but nowhere near as much as I get down on myself. It was difficult to write about Daisy’s hatred of Germans, but face it, Kaiser Bill tried to take over the world back then, and the entire USA (and most of the rest of the world) held a grudge against Germans. Besides, Germans ruined her poor husband, Billy. Not the soldiers’ fault, but there you go. Some folks even went so far as to call dachshunds liberty hounds and sauerkraut liberty cabbage!
And so, here's my last question for you: My part in the ordeal of getting FINE SPIRITS into the public’s hands was over a long, long time ago, so all the scratches and wounds incurred in the writing of it are healed. How long does it take you to get, say, an hour of audio prepared for folks to listen to (did that make sense?) Another friend of mine who read a couple of my books for audio said he wouldn’t do any more of them because it takes hours and hours and hours of work for one listen-able hour of a book to be ready. I think he was already mad at me over something totally not involved with audiobook production, but it sounds like a laborious process. Is it?
Denice: It is VERY laborious and time-consuming, but again, that's where the passion comes into play. When I work in my home studio, as I am doing for your books, for every hour of finished audio, I average approximately 3-8 hours of work -- with editing, cleaning up the sound, and mastering. Sometimes it can be longer -- if I don't like how something sounds and decide to do it over. It is definitely a labor of love! I've done a few books in other audiobook producers' studios -- with directors, engineers, etc. -- I have to say, that is heaven! But I also feel like with each book I do in my home studio, I get better in all aspects, including the narration. And narrators having home studios is almost mandatory at this point as the field keeps growing, so it is vital that I stay on top of my game!
Alice: Okay, now I feel guilty. But not guilty enough to stop giving you my Daisy books to narrate!
I'll be giving away copies of the audiobook copy of FINE SPIRITS in October, so if you'd like to enter, just send me an email to, and I'll throw your name into Bam-Bam's special contest doggie dish!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Suckiest Month of the Year So Far

Was what August, 2014, was for me (and many people I know).

I don’t mean to whine, but I had to have a dog put down, my cousin’s daughter committed suicide, two dear, dear friends are battling cancer, and my plumbing stopped up twice on two consecutive weekends. Okay, so that last one isn’t as bad as suicide or cancer; it was a pain in the patoot and extremely expensive. And Robin Williams killed himself. What’s up with that???

Very well, so life is life, and you never know when it will hit you upside the head with a brick, but this August seemed particularly cruel to many of the people I know and love. I don’t like it.

About the only good thing to happen all month was the release in audio format of A PERFECT STRANGER, the first book in my post-Titanic historical romance series. A PERFECT STRANGER tells the story of Isabel Golightly, a young single mother from Yorkshire (actually she came from Upper Poppleton); her six-year-old genius daughter, Eunice; and the hero of the piece, horticulturist Somerset Fitzroy. Ha! And you didn’t think horticulturists were hero material. Well, he is. The book takes place in San Francisco, California, in 1912 (cuz that’s when Titanic sank). The narrator, Lisa Baarns, did a lovely job reading the book, and Melissa Alvarez created a fabulous cover for the audiobook. The couple on the cover are Isabel and her dance partner at the Fairfield Hotel, Jorje Luis Savedra. Jorje is definitely not hero material. But he sure can dance.

I’m holding a contest for audio copies of A PERFECT STRANGER (originally published under my pseudonym Anne Robins, in case you missed it in print form). I’ll get in touch with the folks who won paperback copies of DARK SPIRITS as soon as I can.

Here’s hoping September will be better to all of us. Oy. I just remembered that September 11, a date that will live in infamy thanks to Osama bin Ladin, is also the second anniversary of my lumbar surgery. Gah. Maybe September will suck, too. I sure hope not.

Please visit my web site ( and my Facebook page ( Thanks!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Termites Ate My Blog
Oh . . . very well, termites didn’t eat my blog. But they ate my bathroom floor, and I had to have a new one put in, and the disruption in the household turned me into a basket case, and I didn't write a July blog. I regret to admit that I'm easily upset. I think it's because I’m old and set in my ways and like things to stay the way they are. Just the wieners and me in this dumpy little house, editing, writing, eating, and walking (well we all do the last two. I do the first two by myself).

Shoot. I honestly didn't realize what a slave to routine I was until termites ate my bathroom floor. But everything’s better now, including the bathroom. Good thing it’s a small one, or the termites might have eaten the whole house (the issue being money):


Not only that, but a new Daisy Gumm Majesty book, DARK SPIRITS, was released in July, and I darned near missed it! I’ll be giving away copies of DARK SPIRITS this month. If you’d like to enter to win a copy, send me your name and home address at


I’ll be in touch with the folks who won copies of RESTLESS SPIRITS individually. Sorry I’m so late.

Things are back to normal now. I have too much work to do, too many dogs to care for, and still live in the Middle of Nowhere. But at least I have a new bathroom. And a new book out! And, to add to the excitement, I’m in a running battle with the local newspaper (which is really, really bad, but it’s the only game in town). It’s odd how a good fight can perk a person up J
Please visit my web site ( and my Facebook page ( Thanks!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doing New Things

Years ago (decades, actually) I discovered that, while I like to know how to do new things, I hate learning how to do them. I want to know now how to do what I want to do. I don’t want to endure a frustrating learning curve in order to master a new skill.

The reason I mention my quirk at this minute, is ‘cause it’s Saturday, May 31, 2014, and I was supposed to have learned how to use a thing called Mail Chimp to send out my monthly blog and any other newsworthy things I choose to send in order to plug my books. But I haven’t learned how to use Mail Chimp, so I’m stuck doing it the old way.

Rae Monet designed a gorgeous new web site for me ( and gave me the Mail Chimp URL. She even uploaded all the addresses of my contact list so that I didn’t have to do it myself. But did I go to Mail Chimp and figure out how to use it? Noooooo. I did not. Perhaps this is because I’m an idiot. Perhaps it’s because I was really, really busy in May. Perhaps it’s because my younger daughter, Robin, came to visit last weekend, and I used up two working days playing with her.
But the fact of the matter is that I just didn’t want to strain my brain learning how to do something new.

So now I feel guilty. Will I reform my lazy ways and learn how to use Mail Chimp before next month’s blog is due? Probably, but only because I hate feeling as though I’ve totally failed at something. Not that failure is necessarily a bad thing, oddly enough. I mean, we all fail from time to time, but generally we get back up, dust ourselves off, and try again. The real failure is in not trying at all, which is what I did with regard to Mail Chimp.

Bah. I hate learning how to do new things!

Oh, my goodness, I just realized Rae altered my blog site page, too, so her gorgeous heading is now up there. Now I feel doubly guilty.

But that’s not the point of writing a blog, either, at least for me. The point of writing a blog is to plug my books. So here’s this month’s plug: RESTLESS SPIRITS (originally published by Jove Haunting Hearts under my Rachel Wilson pseudonym) is now available in audio format. Read by my extremely old friend, Jim Hull (actually I’m older than he is, but who’s counting?) this is the story of how Harry Potter, Penelope Potter’s brother (unfortunately this isn’t the one made up by J.K. Rowling, or I’d be rich) swallowed the soul of a bad guy named Chester Pease, who was shot dead after trying to cheat John Wesley Harding in a card game in Cimarron, New Mexico Territory. It’s a fun book. If you don’t mind listening to books by people who have failed to master Mail Chimp, click on title beneath the book cover, and it will take you to RESTLESS SPIRITS’ Audible link.


I’ll be giving away audio copies of RESTLESS SPIRITS in June’s contest, so if you’d like to enter (although it would be nicer if you’d buy it, but I understand how people don’t like to purchase books by people who haven’t learned how to use Mail Chimp), send me an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to

Thank you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Cost of Doing Business

Writing for a living is different from having a day job. Believe me. I’ve had lots and lots of day jobs. Hated every one of them.

But that’s not the point. The point is that if you’re an author and want to sell more than a book or two, you have to invest in yourself. For some of us, that’s hard to do. For one thing, a lot of us don’t have a bunch of money to fling at our careers, and for another, some of us aren’t accustomed to tooting our own horns and feel mighty uncomfortable doing so. For instance, it nearly kills me to write this blog, even though I only do it once a month. Go figure.

However, in today’s world, an author either invests in herself (or himself) or nobody’ll ever know who s/he is and that s/he writes books. The world of publishing has changed drastically since I sold my first book a little over twenty years ago. Back then, you either got published by a big New York house, or you published your own novel using what people sneeringly called a "vanity press". Vanity presses were considered beneath contempt, or very nearly so.

Nowadays, though, there are lots and lots of venues available for an author, some of which cost a good deal of money. For instance, I’ve recently delivered my most precious creation, Daisy Gumm Majesty, over to a newish publishing house called ePublishing Works. They make me pay for the privilege. So far, even though they’re costing me, they’ve been worth every penny, and I’ve earned several dollars for each one of those pennies. So bless their hearts (and I don’t mean that in the snidely Southern way, either. I DO appreciate them).

There are also venues available for authors to have their books rendered into audiobooks. If you’re a wildly successful author (think Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovich), you’ll have audio publishers banging on your door to publish your books in audio format. If you’re me or someone like me, whom very few people have ever heard of, you can now go to Audible/Amazon’s ACX site and offer your book for narrators to read, if they’re of a mind to. ACX itself doesn’t cost money. However, you need a cover for your audiobook, because the one that originally covered the book isn’t yours for the taking. It belongs to the original publisher and/or cover artist. Therefore, you have to find someone to do the cover art for you. So far, I’ve been lucky. Melissa Alvarez (at has made me some gorgeous covers. And Aaron Heath Thompson ( has done some wonderful ones for me, too. His wife, Heather, moreover, is narrating several of my books (PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL and PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW among them). Another friend of mine (Jim Hull) has just finished reading RESTLESS SPIRITS for me, and Aaron also created the cover for that, which is here in all its glory:


Oh, yeah. This brings up another point about authors having more control over their careers these days than they ever had before. When RESTLESS SPIRITS was first published by Jove Haunting Hearts a billion years or so ago, I didn’t want to call it that. I wanted to call it THE SOUL OF CHESTER PEASE, because it’s the soul of Chester Pease (who, in life, was a Very Bad Man) that causes all the trouble in the book. However, Berkley (Jove’s mommy) used only two-word titles. What’s more, they gave the book a blood-red, sinister cover, but it’s really quite a jolly book if you forget the fact that poor Penelope Potter’s brother Harry (yes, I had Harry Potter first, dang it) has been invaded by the soul of Chester Pease. You can see Chester in the glass of corn whiskey Harry imbibes if you look hard at the glass.

I’m also paying someone (Rae Monet) to re-create a web site for me, since the one I’ve been maintaining for myself for lo, these many years, is ungainly and difficult to manage. So there’s more money gone. With luck it won’t be money down the drain, but it’s still money, you know? Piffle. Maybe I should just go get another day job.

Naw . . .

Monday, March 31, 2014

It’s April
Having said that, I don’t have anything else to add.

Not really. But the end of the month kind of crept up on me, and I never even thought about a blog until today, March 31. However, I do have a few things worth mentioning (I hope).

The first is that I finished writing a book in March. Titled DARK SPIRITS, it’s book #8 for Daisy Gumm Majesty, Sam Rotondo, and Daisy’s family and dog, Spike. The Ku Klux Klan features large in this book. Let me tell you, it’s not all that easy to write a basically funny book about the Klan, because the Klan is so not funny. Also, I was shocked and surprised to learn that the Klan actually gained a foothold in my beloved City of Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s. Well, 1923 was the precise year I wanted. So I got in touch with Rosalie Jaquez, librarian at the (equally beloved by me) Pasadena Public Library, and she sent me a whole bundle of information about the Klan and the geography of Pasadena in 1923, which isn’t as easy to find as one might think (the geography, I mean). But Rosalie was a champ, and she helped me heaps.

So did Mimi Riser, friend and fellow author, who suggested I get the book AN UNDERGROUND EDUCATION, by Richard Zacks. I tell you, if you ever want to know the hidden history of anything, check out this book. I not only learned that the Klan had an uptick in membership in the early 1920s primarily because a sheet-maker in Atlanta wanted to make money, but also that the price of Klan membership in early twenties was $10.00. The price of a Klan sheet (with the pointy head covering) was $6.50.

Mimi’s participation in my book-writing process is nothing new. In fact, if it weren’t for Mimi Riser, I’d have quit writing anything at all several years ago. She’s the inspiration behind my newest published Daisy book (SPIRITS REVIVED). Well, she and the image I got in my brain of Daisy holding up a bad guy with a pair of chopsticks, but that wasn’t as important to the writing of my past several books as Mimi’s been. In fact, there would be no PECOS VALLEY books at all if it weren’t for Mimi. Too long a story to detail here, but trust me on this.

Then there are my beta readers, who include former RWA Librarian of the Year Lynne Welch; Michigan schoolteacher Sue Krekeler; and a new cyber friend who lived for years in Pasadena and Altadena, Andie Paysinger. Without them . . . well, there wouldn’t be a book without input from Lynne. There might have been a book without Andie and Sue, but it wouldn’t have been a very good one.

Who said writing is a lonely profession? I swear. And I’ve never even met Mimi, Rosalie, Lynne, Sue, or Andie, except via the Internet. Of course, if I didn’t live in the outer reaches of the universe (Roswell, New Mexico) maybe I’d get out more, but it’s hard to get anywhere from here. You can trust me on this, too.

Um . . . what else? Oh, yeah. I signed up to attend the mystery conference Bouchercon in November. It’s being held in Long Beach, CA, so I’ll get to visit friends and relations after it’s over.

I’ll be giving away copies of PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW in April. If you’d like to enter my contest, send me an email with your name and address to At the end of the month, Bam-Bam, my latest winner-picking wiener dog, will select two or three wieners. I mean winners.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pasadena, California; Daisy Gumm Majesty; and Me


SPIRITS REVIVED, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s seventh adventure, is being published this month, which makes me very happy. As I’m sure I’ve said before, Daisy Gumm Majesty is my all-time favorite character of those who have showed up in my brain. What’s more, she lives in Pasadena, California, where I was born in the Pasadena Women’s Hospital (Mrs. Pinkerton dithers on the hospital’s board of directors). Shortly after I was born there, the place burned down. I had nothing to do with it, being too young for arson at the time. My parents then moved to Maine, where I spent my first four or so years. The only thing I remember about Maine is my mother telling me never to eat yellow snow. But Pasadena and Altadena (where I spent my childhood) have always been special to me. In fact, I’ve used a lot of my own personal . . . what? Not experiences. Places, I guess, and even people, in my Daisy books.

For one thing, I grew up in Mrs. Bissel’s house. Honest. It belonged to my aunt (my mother’s older sister) Maren Fulton, and it still sits today on the corner of Altadena Drive (in Daisy’s day, it was Foothill Boulevard) and Maiden Lane. Wrennie (my aunt) used to own all the property from Maiden Lane to Lake Avenue on the west, and from Foothill Blvd. to Rubio Street on the north. Her children, my cousins, had horses that lived in the meadow to the west of the huge house. I loved that house. I loved my aunt. But it’s the house that still haunts my dreams. I’d always thought people were supposed to haunt houses, but in my case the situation is reversed. An artist and his consultant wife live there now, and they’ve restored the house to pristine condition. Alan Cate, younger brother of my friend Dr. Mary Ray Cate, tunes their piano before the big parties they often host. Go figure. The house was built in 1904 by a fashion designer named, believe it or not, Duncan (not a relation). The breakfast room in that house is where the séance in SPIRITS REVIVED takes place. Wrennie gradually sold all the extraneous property. I remember when Homepark Avenue was built. Shoot, I’m old. My aunt and my favorite cousin, Joan, are buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, where Daisy buried Billy, only I call it Morningside Cemetery in the books.

Also, Daisy and her family live in a house in which I used to live myself. It’s a bungalow in what’s now known as Bungalow Heaven, only my house was on Michigan Avenue and not Marengo. The kitchen in that house is gigantic, and it was a sore trial to fix Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in it, because I’d have to walk for miles in order to prepare anything. The woman who lived there after I moved out had the good sense to stick a table in the middle of the room to make her life easier. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh, well.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to take me shopping at Nash’s Department Store on the corner of Fair Oaks Ave. and Colorado Blvd. At that time, stores were only open until 6:00 p.m. except on Fridays, when they stayed open until 9:00 p.m. It was a big deal to go shopping on Friday nights!

During my sewing days, I bought many, many yards of material at Maxime’s Fabrics on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Miyako’s was the very first Japanese Restaurant I’d ever heard of. I ate there several times, although it’s since closed its doors. I call it Miyaki’s in SPIRITS REVIVED. Mijare’s Mexican Restaurant (which opened in 1920) is still there, and still serves fabulous Mexican food. The Crown Chop Suey Parlor was gone when I came along, but it was there on Fair Oaks in Daisy’s day. The Crown Theater was still around when I was a kid. My friend Lauren Fiedler and I used to go to the movies there all the time when we were teenagers.

When my kids were very young (actually, Robin hadn’t come along yet) I worked at the Lamanda Park Branch of the Pasadena Public Library. At that time, the Lamanda Park library was an old, old building. In fact, it used to be the Pasadena Public Library’s Children’s Library and was moved to Lamanda Park in some long-ago year. It’s since been torn down and replaced by a modern building. By the way, the entrance to the old library, where Daisy spent many happy hours, is still there, although the rest of the building is gone, on the corner of Raymond Ave. and Walnut Street. I visited it once before its ultimate demise. It was just an old abandoned place then, but it was still interesting.

The First Methodist-Episcopal Church Daisy and her family attended is no longer extant; however, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Altadena, which is directly across the street from Mrs. Bissel’s house, is. My family used to attend church there when we lived with my aunt.

Then there are the people. Across the street from my aunt lived Dr. Doehring and his family (I called him Dr. Dearing in one of the books). Keiji, who shows up in this present book, was the name of my late son-in-law, who died far, far too young. Riki (the name of my younger grandson) will show up in THANKSGIVING ANGELS (a Mercy Allcutt book in which Daisy appears to, natch, conduct a séance). Marshall Armistead, who is a character in the Daisy book I’m writing right now, was a dear friend of mine in high school. He was a photographer when we were in high school, and he went on to become a photographer for the L.A. Times. Alas Marshall, too, is now deceased. It’s downright depressing when youngish people die, isn’t it?

And, of course, there’s Dr. Benjamin. I took my daughters to Dr. Benjamin when they were little. He didn’t make appointments. You showed up in his office and it was first come, first served. Dr. Benjamin was a great friend of my aunt’s and came to many Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. He smoked like a chimney and was a very kind man. His office still survives, although he’s long gone. It’s there on Beverly Drive and Lake Avenue in Altadena.

Um . . . what else? The Huntington Hospital and the Huntington Hotel (now the Huntington Ritz Carlton) are still around, although I named them the Castleton Hospital and Hotel in my Daisy books. And you can take tea at the Huntington Library (where Miss Emmaline Castleton lived when it was a private residence) if you make reservations in plenty of time. And, of course, there’s the Tournament of Roses Parade (we just called it the Rose Parade) and Brookside Park, where both Daisy and I took our very first dachshunds to obedience classes offered by the Pasanita Dog Obedience Club. I cheated in the books, though. Pasanita began in 1940, and I had Daisy take Spike there in the early twenties.

The red cars were defunct by the time I entered this world, although when I was little a trolley line still ran from the top of Altadena to Los Angeles. I rode it once with my cousins. The trolley tracks lasted for decades after the trolleys stopped running and made driving up and down Lake Avenue quite interesting. Oh, and Honeycutt’s Market, where Daisy bought some peanut butter once, was on Foothill Boulevard a little east of Lake Avenue when I was a kid. A fire station was there beside it, and every Halloween the firemen would give us kids candy and let us climb onto the fire trucks.

Vroman’s Books (which I renamed Grenville’s Books for FINE SPIRITS) is still a great bookstore on Colorado Boulevard. And Hull Automotive is still there on Allan Ave. and Villa St. In the 1920s it was called the Hull Motor Works, and Billy had planned to work there after the war. The peacocking Kaiser and his mustard gas put paid to those happy dreams. By the way, a couple of people have mentioned Daisy’s seemingly irrational hatred of Germans. Daisy’s sentiments, however, prevailed pretty much everywhere after the Great War. Heck, people called sauerkraut liberty cabbage, and they even renamed dachshunds liberty hounds! I have a whole herd of liberty hounds right this very minute. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m extremely happy to be able to write Daisy’s stories set in my own hometown, Pasadena, California. In fact, I’ll be giving away copies of SPIRITS REVIVED in my March contest. So if you’d like to enter, please e-mail me ( your name and home address. And don’t forget that all of Daisy’s past adventures are still available (link below). Thanks!

Friday, January 31, 2014

It's Audiobook Month!

Well, technically, it isn’t, but two narrators finished their renditions of two of my novels in January, so I’m calling it my personal audiobook month. Even better, both narrators, Denice Stradling and Heather Thompson, did a great job with the books. Check ‘em out:

I’ve probably mentioned before that I love audiobooks, primarily because they can go with you anywhere, if you have an iPod (which I do, thanks to my daughter Robin) or an MP3 player. I listen to audiobooks as I walk my dogs, as I grocery shop, as I go to the bank (not often), and as I head pretty much anywhere else.

These two books also have a very personal connection for me. In March, when my next Daisy Gumm Majesty book, SPIRITS REVIVED, comes out, I aim to tell everyone about Pasadena, California, and why I love it. STRONG SPIRITS is the very first Daisy Gumm Majesty book, and I’m so happy that these books are being recorded.

Roswell, New Mexico (Rosedale in PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL) is a whole ‘nother story, mainly because I have a love-hate relationship with Roswell. I moved here in 1997, primarily because it’s cheaper to live here than it is to live in Pasadena. But Roswell has no good restaurants. Roswell is isolated. In fact, Roswell is the largest city in the USA to be as isolated as it is, being 200 miles away from any other city larger than it is. It’s true. You can drive for 200 miles in almost any direction and find El Paso, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces or Lubbock. But then you’d be El Paso, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces of Lubbock, you know? I’m from Los Angeles. Gimme a break! However, I do love Albuquerque. Wish I lived there, in fact, although it, too, is more expensive than Roswell.

Anyhow, my mother was born in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1913. Her father died two days after she was born, leaving his widow to support their five children as well as six (I think) children from his first marriage. By herself. As a seamstress. In a three-room house. In Roswell, New Mexico. Gah

My maternal grandmother (who died before I was born, and I don’t blame her) was originally from Switzerland. She moved to the US with her family in 1884. Believe it or not, her ship hit an iceberg. She was so seasick, she hoped the boat would sink, but it didn’t. Anyhow, my grandmother, Emma Craig, not only supplied me with one of my pen names (actually, her last name was Krieg), but she also supplied me with the Mrs. Wilson who shows up along with several of my uncles and my aunt, in PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL. By the way, my grandmother didn’t know her last name was Krieg until she grew up. She thought Christian Ischy, her stepfather, was her father until her mother told her the truth. She never did know who her father was (the only thing her mother ever told her about him was that he was a brilliant musician), but the family settled in Georgetown, Texas. To this day, there are Ischys running around all over Georgetown, Texas. Go figure.

At any rate, I’ll be giving away copies of both STRONG SPIRITS and PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL in audiobook form in February’s contest, so if you’re interest in either book, send me your name and home address at

Also, please visit my web site: where you can read first chapters of about fifty of my books. Sheesh. You’d think I’d be rich by now, huh? Oh, well . . .