Monday, November 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

Boy, talk about mayhem and magic, October was full of both in the Duncan-Dachshund household.

First off, a magical happenstance: After nearly being permanently crippled by lower back pain, my doctor finally gave me a prescription for physical therapy. I didn’t know doctors could just write prescriptions for PT, but evidently they do it all the time. Wish mine had done so earlier, because not only has it worked a miracle on my back, but my physical therapist looks like Prince William! You don’t find too many gorgeous guys in Roswell, and this one moved here on purpose, which is hard to imagine but there you go. Weird things happen all the time, I reckon.

Naturally, since I can never experience a magical event without some kind of mayhem interfering, while exercising (I was hoping for a magic wand, but turns out I actually have to do exercises in order to pull apart the facets in the discs squishing the nerves in my spine) I managed to strain an adductor muscle in my right thigh. So now my back’s at least 80 percent better, but my thigh muscle hurts like mad. My handsome prince has a cure for that, too, though, and we’re working through getting the muscle unknotted now. This involves rolling the back of my thigh against a hard rubber ball and then putting ice on the muscle. It’s very strange (if you don’t believe me, try it yourself), but I think the muscle doesn’t hurt quite as much as it used to. Not quite sure yet, but I’ll keep working on it. Oddly enough, although I used to belong to the “no pain, no gain” circle of exercise fanatics (which is how I got to be in the shape I’m in now), all of the back exercises are very gentle and stretchy. Also, and even better, they seem to be working.

On the writing front, it’s been a mixed bag featuring both mayhem and magic. First came the mayhem. Kirkus, which is quite the prestigious periodical even though nobody subscribes to it, totally trashed my upcoming January 2011 release, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL. Generally, even if a reviewer disses your book, you can pull out a sentence or two to use for publicity’s sake. Not this one. Here it is in all its glory:

“Rosedale, N.M., 1923: The excitement of the annual rodeo is surpassed only by the preaching of a visiting evangelist, and of course by homicide. About the only people in town who have no interest in the gospel as spewed out by the Rev. Strickland, an itinerant preacher, are Annabelle Blue and her bratty younger brother Jack. Annabelle is consumed with hopes of at least one great adventure before settling down with Phil Gunderson. Jack just wants to swing a bat like his hero Babe Ruth. Unfortunately for Annabelle, her beau not only comes in second to cowboy Kenny Sawyer at the rodeo challenges, he seems bedazzled by the preacher’s angelically perfect sister Esther. Despite being engaged, Kenny has never met a married woman he didn’t want to canoodle with, so when he’s poisoned, no one is much surprised. It’s more of a sensation when town gossip Hazel Fish, who’s been spreading rumors about Annabelle’s brother-in-law and another man’s wife, is found dead outside the revivalist tent. Unfortunately for Jack, her face has been bashed in with his baseball bat. Imagine that! Two murders in tiny Rosedale! Will there be more? Will the townsfolk share barbecue and s’mores? Will Annabelle get her man back? After much dithering, all will be resolved. Repetitious and inanely plotted. Unless you’ve a hankering to join Annabelle in dusting the shelves of Blue’s Dry Goods, give this debut a miss.”

Rather off-putting, eh? And debut? I don’t think so. Heck, I’ve had nearly 50 books published, not that you’d know it since nobody reads them after they’re published (except the occasional reviewer). Strangely, while bad reviews used to send me screaming to a corner where I’d fold up and cry for several days, this one was so universally snotty that it didn’t bother me. In fact, I posted about it on my Facebook page, thereby producing a whole flood of chatter. Then, two or three days after the Kirkus review, my Five Star editor sent me a notice from Booklist, in which PECOS VALLEY DIAMOND received a starred review:

“Didn’t Esther Strickland know it was rodeo week in Rosedale, not shameless-hussy week? It would seem that the revivalist preacher’s beautiful sister is not clear on this, since she outrageously flirts with every available cowboy in town, including Annabelle Blue’s friend and almost-certain-to-be-future-husband Phil Gunderson. Esther isn’t happy with just ruining Annabelle’s life, though, since she also has her romantic hooks into Kenny Sawyer. But no one else in town, including Annabelle’s best friend, Myrtle Howell, seems to recognize sweet, charming Esther for the Jezebel she really is. However, when Kenny is poisoned during the rodeo celebrations, Annabelle has more worries than just keeping track of her man, Phil; she now has to find a killer! When it comes to writing laughter-laced love stories, Duncan truly is the queen of the literary rodeo, and she infuses Pecos Valley Revival with an irresistibly sharp wit. A cleverly plotted mystery, a sweetly charming romance, and an intriguing 1920s New Mexico setting all come together splendidly in this genre-crossing treat.”

When a reviewer stars a review, it means he thinks the book is super-special. By the way, I know the Booklist reviewer is a “he”, because he signed the review, unlike the reviewer in Kirkus. The ways of writing, publishing, and reviewing are mysterious to me even after all these years, but I appreciate the Booklist review a lot more than I did the Kirkus one. Not that I’m whining or anything. I’m just saying, is all. Oh, and I posted news about the Booklist review on my Facebook page, too, and it didn’t generate a quarter of the chatter that the bad review did. Go figure.

Also, speaking of magic, this last week I finished writing the third of the “Pecos Valley” books, PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW, and sent it off to my editor. There’s something really satisfying about weaving a story out of nothing and ending up with a book at the end. Take that, Kirkus!

On the dachshund front, I have two new foster children, Poki and Giblett (the spelling of his name isn’t my fault. His initial owners named him Giblett, and Giblett he remains). Poki is a ten-year-old female, and Giblett is a five-year-old male. They came to me after a murder/suicide in Albuquerque. Talk about your basic mayhem. You can tell (well, I can tell because, as a friend once said, I have a Ph.D. in Dachsology) that these guys didn’t live a settled life with their former owners, which makes sense when you think about it. I mean, people don’t generally kill their spouses and then themselves if everything in the household is ginger-peachy, y’know? I hope to heck we can find these guys homes, because they deserve them. They also have certain behavioral problems, but Giblett’s getting much better. Poki remains iffy, but one can but do one’s best and hope a lot.

So now I have eight (count ‘em) dogs in the house, and am not having a whole bunch of fun because of it. On the other hand, at least I don’t have to deal with eight carpet sharks whilst in agony from a bad back. On the other other hand, the back of my right thigh gives me fits and tantrums every time I take the packlet for a walk. In truth, I have to split them up and take two walks daily. That’s probably good for me. All except Poki, who bit the halibut out of me when I tried to put a leash on her. See what I mean about the two orphans being a little on the strange side?

But what the heck, October was Halloween month! I guess we should all expect a little more mayhem than usual in October. Especially when it’s mixed with magic, which is what I consider the lessening of my back pain. Now if we can only get rid of the adductor-muscle pain, I’ll be almost happy, by gum! At the moment, in honor of Halloween, I’m listening to Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Great book. Better than the millions of movies based on it. Honest. Trust me 


  1. Booklist is clearly highly intelligent, while Kirkus should go suck a lemon.

    Poki and Giblett are so lucky to have you. Hope they come to appreciate it! Saw a woman walking a dachshund in a costume on Halloween night, and when we said, "Oh, what a cute dachshund," her response was, "Thank you so much for not calling it a hot dog." :-)

  2. That's great news about the PT working for your back pain!

    Have to agree with Elizabeth about Booklist v. Kirkus. :) Congrats on the Booklist review.

    Laughed at "carpet sharks." I hope Poki and Giblett will settle in soon, and will find good (safe!) forever homes.

  3. Kind of comforting to read about your reviews. I feel like I need to know something about a reviewer before I'll trust their judgment (or trust it reflects anything of what my judgment would be). But I keep getting told I should hide my personality when I write reviews.

    Hope those newcomers settle well.

  4. Thanks, guys! I like your take on the Kirkus/Booklist thing, Liz :)

    Thanks, Cynthya. I, too, hope we can find good homes for Poki and Giblett! Not that I don't love them, you understand :)

    Thanks, Sheila. Reviews are so . . . one person's opinion, you know? You can't please everyone, dang it. The problem is that most authors dwell on the negative reviews so much, the negative ones tend to overwhelm the good ones. I think it's a genetic glitch in the writer's DNA or something.

  5. Oh, Alice,I never pay attention to book reviews. In fact, I rarely read them. I usually choose the books I read based on my own interests. But as an author, that Kirkus review was not very nice - nasty reviewer.

    The dog's name (Giblett) reminds me of a turkey. It must be mayhem in your house with eight dogs; I visited a friend's place on Saturday where there were six dogs (3 pugs, 2 poodles, and 1 dustmop (looks like one). That was too much for me; my cats are so peaceful.

    Sorry to hear about your back and am glad that physical therapy is working. The costs should be tax deductible. I have had massage therapy on my neck for about 1.5 years and it works wonders.

  6. Kirkus--hmpf. They can sit on a tack.

  7. Thanks, Charleydog! I think Giblett is a great name. Reminds me of turkey, too :)

    Amen, Star! A sharp tack :)

  8. Alice, phooey on Kirkus. I agree with Booklist, not having read your latest, but having read many of your backlist. Daisy Gumm Majesty is one of my fave characters in fiction. Glad your back is better. Couldn't you get Prince Charming to massage that thigh for you? LOL

  9. Daisy is my favorite character (of those I've created), Caroline. She's kind of like me, only without all the crippling neuroses and with a supportive family :)

  10. It can treat many forms of back pain. If it is a mild back pain can take a break and if desired, take tramadol. If excruciating pain can be relieved by taking hydrocodone.

    Brett Favree


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