Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan
MAYHEM AND A WRITER’S LIFE
(The Story of Daisy Gumm Majesty, etc.)
2002 was when I was stricken with the greatest idea of what I laughingly call my writing career: Daisy Gumm Majesty. Daisy was born in my own home city of Pasadena, California, and still lived there with her family. The first book was set in 1920. What’s more, Daisy earned her living as a phony spiritualist, because she could make more money doing that than she could doing any of the other work designated for women at the time, and she had to support her war-injured husband Billy. I wanted the books to be historical cozy mysteries. Amy Garvey, my editor at Kensington, told Linda Kruger, my agent, that she and the late, great Kate Duffy, one of the big muckety-mucks at Kensington, loved the idea for the books but that they thought the books didn’t have enough mystery in them. Therefore, they asked me to remove the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance (because the heroine was already married) and they’d market them as romances. I did, they did, and the books tanked. The books were STRONG SPIRITS (I got a complimentary letter from a copy editor for that book) and FINE SPIRITS.
Kate Duffy actually called to apologize for the poor marketing of my dearly beloved “Spirits” books. I appreciated her phone call but was crushed that I wouldn’t be able to write more Daisy novels. I’d already begun thinking about a series featuring survivors of the Titanic disaster, which I told Kate about during that telephone call. She was enthusiastic, so I worked up proposals for a series of three books. Since the “Spirits” books bombed, the Powers That Be at Kensington asked me to take a new name. It was thus that Anne Robins (my two daughters’ names) was born.
I was in a dreadful funk over the demise of Daisy and had a hard time writing the first Titanic book. Amy Garvey had gone the way of all good editors (she left Kensington and began writing her own books), and I was turned over to Hillary Sares. Hillary was wonderful, and she helped me very much with A PERFECT STRANGER, the first book in the series. After A PERFECT STRANGER the other books come more easily:
A PERFECT ROMANCE (which is my favorite of the series, being in the nature of a romp. Also, the heroine of the piece was rich, a state that was beginning to appeal to me more and more), and
A PERFECT WEDDING
I suggested A PERFECT AFFAIR and A PERFECT DIVORCE, but Hillary didn’t think those would go over well.
About that time a writing buddy, Mimi Riser, asked if I’d be willing to pen a book or two for a new publisher, New Age Dimensions, which had been established by a friend of hers. Feeling abused and mistreated, I penned another historical cozy mystery (a MYSTERY, darn it!) set in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1923. You can see that I’d somehow managed to get myself stuck in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating era, but I’m not quite sure why I like to stick around in it so much. At any rate, PECOS VALLEY DIAMOND was published by NAD in 2005, and I also wrote its sequel, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL. These books starred Annabelle Blue, who worked at her family’s mercantile store in Roswell, and featured Phil Gunderson, Annabelle’s erstwhile boyfriend, whom Annabelle dragged along with her into various adventures. Unfortunately for all of us who were connected with NAD, it was financially crushed by Hurricane Wilma in the great hurricane epidemic of 2005. So there I was, stuck with PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL and no place to put it.
Since I was still mourning the loss of Daisy Gumm Majesty and was really sick of writing sex scenes, I started writing LOST AMONG THE ANGELS, yet another historical cozy mystery, this one set in Los Angeles, CA, in 1926. Mercy Allcutt, the heroine of the book, was kind of a consolation prize for me after the death of Daisy. Again, Kensington didn’t think the mystery a big-enough element in the book. They were probably right, but I was lost again.
And then true tragedy struck when Linda Kruger decided to retire from agenting in order to care for her then two-year-old son Tyler. What, I ask you, kind of priority is that???? I was horribly crushed and didn’t know what to do.
Fortunately, by that time I’d begun editing for Five Star, a publisher that primarily targets libraries. Since I figured what the heck (a recurring theme in my life), I asked if I could submit a book to then. I was told I could, but that just because I edited for them didn’t mean I had any special pull and that my books had to be vetted just like anyone else’s. That was okay with me. By that time, I’d decided I didn’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the reading public and that it didn’t matter that I have a niftier turn of phrase than, say, Dan Brown. Mind you, I respect and admire Dan Brown, and even sort of liked the Da Vinci Code. The point is that he’s rich and I’m not, so that tells you how much writing skills mean in the overall scheme of things.
Luckily for me, the other Five Star editors, those who read my manuscripts, seemed to have liked them, because Five Star has published:
LOST AMONG THE ANGELS,
FALLEN ANGELS, and
And then—glory hallelujah!—Five Star bought the third book in my Daisy Gumm Majesty series, HIGH SPIRITS. Not only that, but they also took on the fourth through the seventh books in the series, HUNGRY SPIRITS, GENTEEL SPIRITS, ANCIENT SPIRITS and SPIRITS REVIVED.
And then, on a whim, I sent Five Star PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, the sole survivor of my New Age Dimensions days, and Five Star decided to publish it! Therefore, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL was published some time in 2011. Since the book is set in Roswell, New Mexico, which pretty much looked in 1923 exactly as it looked in 1883, the twenties didn’t do a whole lot of roaring there, but Roswell’s citizens did their best. After PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL came PECOS VALLEY RAINBOW. I don’t know if I’ll write any further PECOS VALLEY books. I’m getting old and tired, and writing really doesn’t pay for itself. The only good thing so far about my writing life is that I can now supplement my social security income via my editing work for Five Star, which pays ever so much better than writing ever did.
A caveat to that last statement: A couple of year ago, Jeanne Glidewell, whose books I used to edit for Five Star, told me about ePublishing Works, run by the amazing team, Nina and Brian Paules. They’ve taken over my Daisy books, and have since published DARK SPIRITS, SPIRITS ONSTAGE, UNSETTLED SPIRITS, BRUISED SPIRITS, and will publish SPIRITS UNITED if I ever finish writing it. They’ve also repackaged some of my old historical romances and my historical paranormal romances.
By the way, I never wanted to write paranormal books. I was asked to do so by Berkley, and one (if one is me) doesn’t argue with one’s publisher.
Also, bless their hearts, ePW is taking over my Mercy Allcutt books, although there’s some kerfuffle about the rights to the last Mercy book, THANKSGIVING ANGELS. By the way, FALLEN ANGELS, Mercy’s third book, won the New Mexico/Arizona Book of the Year Award for mystery/suspense. I belong to the George C. Scott school of contest-dom and don’t generally hold with writing contests. That’s because I honestly don’t think you can successfully judge all books in the same manner as you can, say, oranges or lemon-meringue pie or Girl Scout cookies or whatever. I prefer Samoas. Other folks love Thin Mints, you know? Every writer has his or her own voice. Some folks like a particular author’s voice and stories, and some people don’t, and there’s no accounting for taste.
And that, as you’re probably pleased to know, is it for this month’s blog. Whew! That was long.
If you’d like to enter my September contest, during which I’ll let you pick whatever book you want if I have it (that I’ve written, of course), send me an email at email@example.com. Also, please visit my web page at http://aliceduncan.net/ and my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925
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