Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

Magic and Mayhem, eh? Well, I suppose there’s something magical about characters popping into one’s head and demanding to be written about. And heaven knows, there’s mayhem aplenty in this world.

My most magical creation so far is the heroine of my “Spirits” books. God alone knows how Daisy Gumm Majesty entered the sphere of my cluttered brain, but suddenly there she was: a phony spiritualist in Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s, trying her very best to support her war-ruined husband, Billy. Poor Billy Majesty had been shot in France and then gassed when he crawled out of his foxhole. To put it mildly, he’s a mess. Daisy is an extremely young woman and carries a ton of burdens, but she’s very matter-of-fact about it all. She does what she has to do and appreciates the good things in her life even as she agonizes over Billy.

Daisy’s books started out being historical cozy mysteries. To my dismay my publisher at the time, Kensington, decided there wasn’t enough mystery in them. Also unfortunately, Daisy was already married, so the books couldn’t be considered romances. Therefore, the wonderful, late Kate Duffy asked me to remove the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance, and they’d market the books as romances. Big mistake. The poor books fell through two cracks (romance and mystery) rather than the one my books generally fall through. Kate called and apologized, which I appreciated greatly, but Kensington published no more Daisy books. I was crushed. This illustrates merely one example of the mayhem rampant in the publishing industry.

Shortly thereafter, a friend of a friend of mine began a publishing company of her own, New Age Dimensions, which published e-books and trade paperbacks. My friend (Mimi Riser, a wonderful author) asked if I’d be willing to pen a book for NAD. I decided what the heck and wrote a historical cozy mystery set in 1923 in Roswell, New Mexico, where I live, and whose heroine is a spunky gal named Annabelle Blue. That book, PECOS VALLEY DIAMOND, came out in 2005. I was pleased to have another twenties’ story alive and being read, even if it didn’t feature Daisy Majesty. So I wrote a second book for NAD, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, which they were all set to publish. Then disaster struck. 2005 was the Great Hurricane Season of the century (so far) and NAD, based in Florida, was wiped out by Hurricane Wilma (Wilma, by the way, was my mother’s name. Somehow, I don’t think this is a coincidence). So there would be no more Annabelle Blue and her friend Phil Gunderson stumbling around solving mysteries in Roswell. Mayhem strikes again.

About then Mercy Louise Allcutt, a Boston Brahmin transplanted to Los Angeles in 1926, showed up. Mercy moves west to live with her sister and brother-in-law, who’s a bigwig in the silent pictures. Mercy actually wants to get a job and earn her own living, a wish that scandalizes her family back east. She ends up working for a jaded P.I., Ernie Templeton, and she’s pleased as punch. Truth to tell, Mercy was a consolation prize when I believed Daisy Majesty had bitten the dust. Lo and behold, Five Star bought the first of Mercy’s books, LOST AMONG THE ANGELS, and I had yet another cozy historical mystery series started, even though it starred someone other than Daisy Majesty or Annabelle Blue. I love writing stories set in the twenties, by the way, because so much was happening then. However, this is another example of magic at work in publishing. Mercy might not be Daisy or Annabelle, but at least she has her own series going for her. ANGEL’S FLIGHT, her second book, actually got a favorable Kirkus review. I stoutly declare that this review had nothing to do with Kirkus’s demise. Really. Honest. Mercy’s stories being bought is magic. Kirkus dying is mayhem. I feel sad that Kirkus won’t be around to review Mercy’s next book, FALLEN ANGELS, which will be published in May of 2011.

Gee, I never realized how often magic and mayhem go hand in hand in the publishing biz until Pamela asked me to write this blog!

At any rate, since I was being published by Five Star, I decided what the heck, and asked if I could continue Daisy Majesty’s travails with them. Lo and behold, I was given the go-ahead by Kensington, Five Star bought HIGH SPIRITS, and I’m getting to finish Daisy’s story! So far Daisy’s lived through four books, and I just turned another one in to my publisher. In order, they are STRONG SPIRITS, FINE SPIRITS, HIGH SPIRITS and HUNGRY SPIRITS, which will be published in June of 2010, and has probably the best cover I’ve ever been blessed with (I have to admit that, if publishing has kicked me around a good deal, the cover gods have generally been kind to me). If Five Star buys GENTEEL SPIRITS (the aforementioned just-turned-in book), Daisy will live to see another book. Magic!

Then it was that I recalled PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, all written and disked and waiting for somebody to do something with, and I thought again of Five Star. By gum, they bought the book! Annabelle Blue’s second book will be published by Five Star in January of 2011. This is another historical cozy mystery, and I, who had thought my stories set in the twenties were totally defunct, now have three (count ‘em) series set in the twenties roaring along. Magic.

I’m sure more mayhem will dog (so to speak) my publishing footsteps, and probably soon, but for the time being, I’m happy.

Speaking of dogs, I belong to a group of dachshund rescuers called New Mexico Dachshund Rescue. I play the role of foster mom to dachshunds needing homes until they can be adopted. On Friday, December 11, I drove to Artesia, New Mexico, approximately 45 miles from Roswell, and picked up FIVE (egad) dogs needing homes. Mind you, my home already possessed six canine inmates.

If you want to know what real mayhem is, try being foster mom to eleven dachshunds and semi-dachshunds for any length of time. I expect to survive, but it’s I must admit to being slightly overwhelmed for the time being.

Please visit my website: http://aliceduncan.net/


  1. OMG! Do you have any idea what you've just done to my TBR and buy lists. LOL. I love the 20's and just knowing that you have these series out there is wonderful. And good luck with the dachshunds, I understand, my dad raised beagles. LOL

  2. Thanks, Mare! I love basset hounds. One day when I was walking my wiener dogs, we heard a HUGE bark coming from somebody's back yard. I investigated, thinking I was about to meet a mastiff, when, lo and behold, it turned out to be a basset hound! They have BIG barks :)

  3. Not to mention big ears and senses of smell. Imagine the world from their point of view...

  4. Alice,
    A terrific blog and I used to own a basset hound named Libby I loved her to pieces. Yep they have big barks.

  5. Alice, I am so pleased that Daisy is given another chance after the June book (which I haven't forgotten....)

    IMHO you are one of the best of the best in "Americana" or "Period" pieces writing today. Guess you need to sell more books to feed all those yappy wiener dogs -- God loves you and so do I (you do know that dog is God spelled backwards)!

  6. Alice - I can certainly sympathize with the one step forward, two steps back nature of this so-called business. Was classy of Kate to call you; that seldom happens, believe me, when things go badly. Congratulations on your stamina and staying power, and hey, this was a great blog; you should do more.

  7. I can't recommend Alice strongly enough for a cozy read. She has a way of drawing you into her time period and bringing you right into the story. I was lucky enough to be there "at the beginning" with One Bright Morning.

  8. Alice- Hello from cold, snowy Ohio. Wouldn't mind being in Roswell right now and neither would Mom. I love your blog. Gotta catch up on my Alice Duncan reading list.
    I also wanted to tell you about my new puppies.
    They are now 7 months old. One is a basset/lab mix and the other is a dachsund/lab mix. Talk about magic and mayhem.

  9. Hi, guys!!!! Monica! Monica and I were critique partners in the bad old days, and she's right. She was there in the very beginning. ONE BRIGHT MORNING, my first book, actually won a HOLT Medallion. That was the end of my award-winning, perhaps because I can't afford to enter contests, but probably because the award-givers prefer gritty stuff, and I live gritty. I don't want to write it.

    Thanks, Rob! Believe me, I know EVERYTHING about the yucky end of the business. I've been bought and dumped by almost every publisher known to man.

    Sherry! Please give your mom a hug for me. We're actually having snow right this very minute in Roswell, so you guys probably aren't missing much. Well, maybe a foot or two of snow :) Ours is only about two inches deep at the moment -- but it's still snowing. I love having a legitimate excuse for not walking my wieners.

    Terri and Pamela, I used to live next door to three and a half basset hounds (the half was half-basset & half-dachshund). I loved those dogs, but then the owners of the dogs moved. Boo-hoo!

    And . . . gulp! . . . I've actually agreed to write a blog once monthly for Mayhem and Magic. God help me. Blogging scares the wits (not that I have many to begin with) out of me.

  10. I am so glad you accepted. And all we ask is that you enjoy yourself when you write them!


  11. Alice,
    You will do just fine and we are honored you accepted. Are you a member of Facebook?


  12. Thanks, Miz Betty! I know you won't forget :) And I appreciate it, too.

  13. I do have a Facebook page. It's . . . um . . . let me look it up. Oh, yeah. Here it is:


    Gee, that looks like a huge link. There's probably a better way to get to it, but darned if I know what it is.

  14. Alice, I love books set in the 1920's and love your sense of humor! Continued success! I'm curious about how much promo you do for your Five Star books? I love writing, hate promo. LOL

  15. Alice,

    I'm really looking forward to reading your novels set in Roswell. All your novels are terrific, but I think these will be even more outstanding.

  16. You and me both, Caroline. I hate promo, which probably explains why I'm so poor. I wish all we had to do was write books, but noooooo. The only people who get publicized by their publishers are the folks who don't need the publicity in the first place! Sigh.

    Thanks, Jacquie! I don't know if there will be more novels set in Roswell, but we'll see. Oddly enough, when I lived in Pasadena, I wanted to write books set in Roswell. Now that I live in Roswell, I want to write books set in Pasadena. I think there's a perverse streak in my nature that needs mending :)

  17. Thank YOU for ever putting us all in HIGH SPIRITS with your gift of the written word!!!

    Ever your fan and friend,


  18. Alice,

    Love your blog! What an interesting circle you've been through with your writing career. Your books are great, and you give so much inspiration to other authors. Great job!

    June Shaw

  19. Dear Alice,

    Thank you for the inspiration... the industry can shoot down characters, ideas and series, but they also can come back to life!

  20. Thank you, Joanne, June and Susan! I'm sorry I didn't see these comments sooner, but I really appreciate them. Susan, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Five Star said I could write more Daisy books. It was probably the happiest time in my writing life!


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