Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

Perhaps anyone who’s been following the saga of the cover art for PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL (Five Star/Gale, January 2011) will be relieved that the saguaro cactus (saguaros only live on the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico, whereas the Pecos Valley is in southeastern New Mexico) has been replaced by a lovely blooming yucca. Yuccas are the New Mexico state flower, which says more about New Mexico than yuccas, I suppose. Here’s the new cover art, and I think it’s gorgeous:

However, that’s not the point of this blog. The point of this blog was suggested by a quotation my daughter Robin put on her Facebook Page, written (or said) by someone named Josh Billings, whoever he is (I write historical novels for a reason, and that reason is ‘cause I don’t know or understand modern culture): “Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist—it reduces him to his fighting weight.”


Well (or whelp, if you’re into breeding dogs, which I hope you’re not), I’ve been going through my share of adversity lately, due mainly to unrelenting poverty and having to get this house in Roswell, New Mexico, in selling shape whilst trying to earn a living and dealing with a back that keeps telling me I shouldn’t be doing stuff like this. The official medical terminology (I know this, because I wrote it down) is spondylosis of the lumbar region resulting in spinal stenosis and prominent severe facet arthrosis. In other words I, like so many other afflicted human beans, have a really bad back. Ow. I wash the car, and I’m flat on my back with my knees propped on pillows for the rest of the day. I wash the windows (which I did this morning) and I’m flat on my back with my knees propped on pillows for the rest of the day. Well, perhaps not the entire rest of the day . . . but you get the picture.


This moving stuff hurts. Literally. This past week, I packed boxes all week long, and then I couldn’t move them once packed because of my blankety-blank back. So my cousin and his wife kindly came over and helped get them out of the house and into the little room next to the garage. The real-estate agent tour is Tuesday, and I still have to dust the hardwood floors, but I’m leaving that until this evening or tomorrow. Maybe Monday. After that, I aim to finish the book I’m writing (ANCIENT SPIRITS, featuring Daisy Gumm Majesty, spiritualist extraordinaire and unsold at the moment) and if anyone wants to see the house, they can see it through dust. Phooey on ‘em.


However, one more or less good thing happened this month, although I didn’t particularly enjoy it at the time. On a recent Tuesday, I left the house, locking my pack of wild wiener dogs inside (otherwise Louie, who can leap small fences at a single bound; it takes some climbing to get over the six-footers) will escape and try to find me, in order to go to a friend’s house to pick up her mail. She was in Amarillo trying to find a house to live in. In other words, she’s got as many problems as I have, if not more. Well, maybe you’ve never been to Amarillo, but trust me on this. I trotted down the back stairs (I may have a bad back, but I try not to let it show), and there was a Chihuahua in my back yard. She was a little, skinny thing, black-and-tan, and looking very nervous. Her state of nervousness makes sense when you realize somebody had to dump her over a six-foot redwood fence in order to deposit her in my yard.


We stared at each other for a few moments, me trying to think of what to do now, she gazing at me as if she was pretty sure she didn’t belong where she was but hoped I didn’t mind. Sure, I rescue wiener dogs—and I’m even getting another foster child on August 1—but this Chihuahua was a bolt from the blue. Or from the street. And she really wasn’t big enough to be a bolt, I suppose. At any rate, after contemplating taking her into the house and introducing her to the herd, I decided to heck with it (actually, I wasn’t that polite) and took her with me to my friend’s house.


There I encountered our mutual gardener, who was taking a tree out of her yard. For form’s sake, I asked him if he’d ever seen this little girl Chihuahua before, and he said no. Then, in a brilliant stroke of something-or-other, I asked him if he wanted her. He tilted his head, eyed her from end to end, which took approximately an eighth of a second, and said, “Sure. I like Chihuahuas.” So there you have it. While the rest of my life wallows in mayhem and chaos, a little bit of magic took place on a hot Tuesday in July. I saw Raul-the-gardener the other day (he came over to fix my sprinklers. Naturally, it rained buckets the next day) and asked him how the little dog was doing, his face lit up, and he said she’s fine. So I kind of feel like I did something worthwhile in July. Even if my back is breaking and my spirits are low. I guess life isn’t all bad. Some of the time.


By the way, in case you wonder what Louie, the Leaping Wiener, looks like, here he is in rest mode. Do you think he might be the least little bit spoiled?



  1. Love it, Alice! You're so funny. You an your weiners. Where are you moving?

  2. Loved your post, Alice, but that's a bummer about your back. Moving is a major undertaking, emotional as well as physical. I moved from California to Oklahoma 5 years ago and I'm not sure I ever got over it. But then I'm old, and it's harder on old people. (: Good luck in your new home and with your new book.

    Hugs from here where Old Route 66 meets the Old Chisholm Trail,

    Pat Browning

  3. Rosalind GreenbergAugust 5, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Hi Alice,

    You are an angel to rescue all the pups that you do! I really admire you. I'm very sorry, though, to hear about your moving/back problems. I've had some experience with back problems and it was horrible. I hope the rest of your move goes smoothly and painlessly! Hugs, Roz

  4. Hi, Alice,

    You will always be my favorite editor! As back pain goes, I sympathize with you and Roz. I've had back problems for years. My husband yells at me for sitting at the computer for too long. And yes, moving is hell! We did it two years ago, downsizing from a large house to an apartment.
    Good luck with it!

  5. Thanks, everyone! I appreciate the comments and commiseration. Back pain truly sucks. I got a shot for it yesterday (lower back. Ow) and some muscle relaxers, and, while the old lower back still hurts, it's not quite as agonizing. I peeked at my chart, and the doc had written "recurring sciatica." Yup. Blech.

    If this house ever sells (the housing bust finally hit Roswell, which is always about a year behind the times), I'll be moving to Kirksville, Missouri, where my older daughter lives. It'll certainly be a change. And (sigh) the wieners will be coming with me. In fact, when I spoke to a real estate agent in Kirksville, I told her there aren't too many things I truly require: a library, high-speed internet, and some kind of animal rescue group. She laughed and said she was the founder of Field of Dreams Dog Rescue! So at least I'll still be able to rescue dogs still, although I can't help but think I'm an idiot to keep doing this, considering my physical shape. Still, it makes me feel good, and there hasn't been a whole lot of good stuff going on in my life of late. Whiiiiiine!

    And Pat, I'm old, too. Sniffle. I wouldn't mind getting old if it didn't hurt so bloody much.

    Thank you, Jacquie. You're so nice!

  6. Alice, even when you hurt, you're funny. So sorry about the back problems. At least you aren't moving to Armarillo! (See, every cloud has a silver lining. LOL) I grew up in Lubbock. Need I say more? Louie looks so sweet--don't they all when they're asleep? You're a wonderful person to care so much for animals.

    Moving is the pits. The older we get, the more, um..good stuff we've accumulated. After moving frequently for most of my life, my husband and I settled here and now it will take dynamite to move us. Good luck with your move. Take better care of yourself!

  7. Thanks, Caroline! I've rid myself of two entire carloads (front seat, back seat, trunk) of treasures so far. I don't wanna move! Not that I especially like Roswell, which is probably even worse than Lubbock or Amarillo, but because I don't wanna move! I don't blame you about the dynamite thing. If I didn't have to deal with my sister, it would take dynamite to move me, too.

    As for the back . . . well, there's not much I can do about it, although I do the exercises the doc gave me religiously. I personally think drugs would work better, but so far, I haven't found any that kill the pain. Shucks :)

  8. Back pain and moving and you still make your readers laugh with leaping wieners... I loved this article. I just helped carry many large boxes for my son's move, so I sympathize with your back.


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