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/
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