Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

I’m sure everyone’s heard that authors are always asked where their ideas come from. Actually, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me that question, but that’s probably because so few people read my books (not that I’m whining or anything).

However, something rather magical actually occurred several years before I began writing novels, and I used the experience in my “Spirits” books, starring Daisy Gumm Majesty, spiritualist extraordinaire, who supports her husband and herself in Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s, the fourth of which, HUNGRY SPIRITS, will be published in June of this very year. You can read all about it here:

A long, long time ago (well, maybe twenty years or so), my daughter Robin and her then-boyfriend went to a yard sale in Pasadena, CA, where they found an old, beat-up Ouija board. They decided to pay the fifty cents the yard-sale person was asking for it. When they did so, the person said, “Be careful of that thing.” Naturally, Robin and Otto (the boyfriend in question) thought she was joking.

So they took the Ouija board back to Robin’s apartment and started playing with it. The board came with the usual triangular planchette, and Robin and Otto sat across from each other and placed their fingers lightly on the planchette. Instantly the planchette moved to the letters painted in a double crescent above the numbers on the board. In astonishment, Robin and Otto watched as the planchette spelled out, “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.” Nothing else. Just “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.”

A little freaked, Robin brought the board to my house. Not that she thought the board was asking for me. She just thought maybe if she used the board in another location, it might be more informative. So we sat in my living room, the Ouija board on a table between us, settled our fingers lightly on the planchette and asked if there was a spirit in the room. The planchette zoomed to the word “Yes” in the upper left corner. Robin and I stared at each other for a second, then we both shrugged and asked if the board’s spirit could enlighten us about the curious incident of the “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom” thing.

The spirit seemed to have a little trouble communicating, but it could answer yes-or-no questions. Eventually, Robin and I learned that a troubled young man used to live in Robin’s apartment building. We never did learn who the young man was, but he clearly had a mother problem. We’d already kind of figured that out. Then, because we were still curious, we asked the spirit his name. Very slowly, the planchette spelled out “Rolly.” Rolly? Strange name. So we asked it some more questions.

Honest to God, it turned out (if you believe in these things) that Rolly has been with me all my life. According to him, we were married in the eleventh century in Scotland where Rolly was a soldier. We had five sons together. Sounds ghastly to me, but Rolly claimed we were soul mates, and he’d be with me forever. Both Robin and I agreed that, if you have to be haunted by a spirit, it’s kind of nice if it’s one that adores you. In my personal case, given my history with men in this life, it’s also probably a good thing that he’s been dead for a thousand years.

Anyhow, because I was puzzled by Rolly’s inability to spell well, I asked him about this deficit in his education (trying to be very polite about it). Turned out Rolly was a soldier, and in Scotland back then, soldiers didn’t need no schooling. They needed to be able to be really, really strong and kill people. So. Okay. Not only did I have a soul mate following me through my life (or my many lives, if you believe those things), but I, who write books for a living (well, all right, I don’t. But I’ve had a bunch of books published, and if there was any fairness in the world I’d be earning a living at it), have an illiterate forever lover. Gotta love it.

Anyhow, when Daisy Gumm Majesty appeared in my cluttered brain in 2002 or thereabouts and told me she was a phony spiritualist in Pasadena, California, in 1921, I decided to give her Rolly. What the heck, y’know? Why should I have all the fun?

By the way, I want to let everyone know that Daisy, my winner-picking wiener dog, who lost the use of her back legs on January 2, is actually doing pretty well! She spent seven (count ‘em) days at the vet’s office (thank God he’s allowing me to make payments), and she can walk! It doesn’t look as if she’ll ever be 100 percent better, but at least she won’t have to run around on one of those little wheelie things. Every now and then things go right, and I appreciate everyone’s concern SO MUCH!


  1. Aliterate/Writer - puts balacne in the universe


  2. Alice,

    What a clever, clever blog. You "oughta be" the new Erma Bombeck -- have you ever considered that?

    Am so glad that Daisy the Dog is better. My "pound puppy" Girl-Friend and I kept Daisy in our prayers.

    Keep up the good work!

    Mz Betty

  3. Thanks, Miz Betty! It's the truth, too, what's more. In fact, I think in future blogs I'll relate other real, honest-to-God things that happened in real life and ended up in my books.

  4. Alice,
    I love this blog topic and it gave me chills.

  5. It gave my daughter and her boyfriend chills, too, believe me!!!

  6. Glad to hear about Daisy's improvement. She's a tough little dog!

    And I really enjoyed your story about the real Rolly. I figure, back a thousand years ago, your former self was probably illiterate too as they didn't think women needed much book-learning. ;-) So you were probably a perfect couple!

  7. We probably were, Liz. Which beats the heck out of the relationships I've had in this life :)

  8. Hi, Alice,

    That's really fascinating! William Butler Yeats married a woman who worked a ouiji board for him and did automatic writing.
    Lots of people believe in these mystical things. Like Shakespeare said in HAMLET, "There are more things in heaven and earth..."

  9. Oh my gosh, this is brillant!!! I loved how you came up with this character and I'm looking so forward to reading all of your books...Wow!!!!! Wish I had a bookstore nearby...Thank you so much for this wonderful interview!!!! Skye Lindborg

  10. Oh, Alice, great story! I think if I had a Rolly, I'd probably be accused of talking to myself a lot. :-)

    And YAY on Daisy's recovery!

    Norah Wilson

  11. Thanks, guys! Honest to goodness, that's how Rolly came into being! And I don't really . . . not REALLY . . . believe in this stuff. However, it's fun to fool with, and I love writing spiritualist stuff in my books. and you're right, Jacquie, there truly ARE more things, etc. Look at Rolly!

    Thanks, Norah. I'm so glad Daisy's up and about again. I doubt she'll ever regain full use of her back legs, but I'll take this level of recover over euthanasia any day!

  12. I love, love, love the entire idea of your book. I can't wait to read it. Hopefully it won't tip over the already precarious TBR pile going. LOL

  13. Wonderful story, Alice. I can't wait to read about the fictional Rolly and Daisy as well as the real ones. Glad 'real' Daisy is mending. You have to admire the character of those feisty little wiener dogs. Thanks for making me smile on a dreary day! Five sons. Whoa! You must be glad to be in the present.

  14. Thanks, Mare. I know all about TBR Alps, believe me.

    Thanks, Mary Jane. Wiener dogs are amazing, aren't they. And you betcha, I'm glad I don't have five sons in this day and age! The tattoos alone would break me :)

  15. Alice, so glad to hear your dog is better. I am fascinated by your story of Rolly. Did you get a physical description [ancient, not now]? Personally, I am afraid of Oija boards. You never know who will show up! By the way, I agree with whoever said you are as funny as Erma Bombeck, which is a great compliment in my opinion. Keep up the good work.

  16. What an interesting story! Do you believe in reincarnation?

    Your Daisy Gumm Majesty character is awesome! I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

  17. Many thanks to Rolly. He gave us the wonderful Spirits books!

  18. Thanks, Caroline! I didn't get a physical description of the guy, but I kind of figured he was like one of Julie Garwood's early Scots warlords (I hope Rolly doesn't mind).

    As for reincarnation, Mary, I'd just as soon not have to go through this again. In fact, I've told my kids what I want on my gravestone (if they get me one): THANK GOD THAT'S OVER!

    Thanks, Alice. That's how Rolly came into being. I gave him to Daisy, 'cause I didn't really know what to do with him :)

  19. Oh, this is such a great story that I am now adding your books to my TBR (buy at first opportunity) pile! If your blog posts are this awesome to read, the books must be dynamite!

  20. Thank you, Linda! That's very nice of you!

  21. After reading your funny blog I'm revitalized so can go in and finish cleaning the kitchen LOL

    Love Rolly's story. Yes 5 boys and a warrior dh would be enough to do you in

    so glad to hear Daisy is much better. Grandkids have Sophie the wonder wiener.

  22. I love Sophie the wonder wiener, Barbs! A friend of mine calls wiener dogs carpet sharks. Love the image :)

    Gee, I wish my blog would revitalize me to go clean my kitchen. Actually, my whole house is in an uproar at the moment, because my cousin is sanding the floors. Talk about a mess! I'll never get all the dust cleaned up. But the floors will look nice when he's done.

  23. Hi Alice (waving from Ohio),

    I just finished STRONG SPIRITS (I read HIGH SPIRITS first, it musta been a backwards week LOL) and loved it just as much this time. That Daisy, always up to something!

    Thanks for pointing me to this blog entry, I really enjoyed it. And I'm looking forward to purchasing HUNGRY SPIRITS when it's out, to add to my collection!


  24. Thanks, Lynne. I hoped they helped lighten your days during this difficult time. Sigh. You just never know when life will hit you with a brick, do you?

  25. Alice, you never cease to amaze me. I'm scared spitless of Ouija boards thanks to all the reality spook shows I watch. There's always a chance of supposedly opening a window that allows really, really bad non-human beings to come torment you.

    I'm glad that didn't happen with you and I think it's tooooooo cool about Rolly! Wish I could get your books, but in these dratted economic times, no can do.

    Hugs and kisses to Daisy, too. My mini weiner dog has luxating patellas in her hind legs, poor thing. So does my Cairn Terrier. But they are the most lovable and clownish dogs anyone could own, and I wouldn't part with them for anything!

    Carla :)


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