Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gust Blogger - Alice Duncan

The Saga of Daisy Gumm Majesty’s Publication

Before I begin telling you about Daisy’s epic publishing history, here are the wieners of September’s book giveaway (SPIRITS UNEARTHED): Elizabeth Keene, Paula Adams, Jon Ludwig and Linda Ames-Boman. Congrats! I’ll get your books to you… eventually. Truth to tell, I only managed to mail August’s books yesterday. Sigh.

But back to the subject of this month’s newsletter, let me tell you that keeping Daisy published wasn’t easy. Here’s why.

The idea for the Daisy Gumm Majesty series came to me in the early 2000s. The books were supposed to be historical cozy mysteries, and they were supposed to feature as their main protagonist a fake spiritualist-medium named Daisy Gumm Majesty, a young woman married to a crippled veteran of the War to End All Wars (it wasn’t, more’s the pity). Daisy plied her art during the 1920s in Pasadena, California, my old hometown.

In order to achieve publication of this series, I gathered what few wits I had left and sent a proposal for the first two books to my publisher at the time (Kensington). The Powers That Were liked the idea, the characters and the period, but they said there wasn’t enough mystery. That’s undoubtedly true, and it’s also pretty much the story of my life. Their fix, however, was for me to take out the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance (since the heroine was already married) and they’d market the books as romances.

So I did, they did, and STRONG SPIRITS and FINE SPIRITS were published. They tanked. Big-time. Broke my heart. I loved Daisy. More, I loved Pasadena, California, and the era in which Daisy lived. Nevertheless, Daisy and her pals seemed to be floating belly-up in the goldfish bowl of publishing, and there was nothing I could do about it. The late, great Kate Duffy called and apologized for mis-marketing the books, but that didn’t help a whole lot. My heart remained, squashed and pulsing with grief, on the floor at my feet.

Nevertheless, I did as the Kensington goddesses asked, took yet another pseudonym (I think this made six of them), and I wrote a series about survivors of the Titanic disaster. I used a combination of my daughters’ names for my pseudonym and churned out A PERFECT STRANGER, A PERFECT ROMANCE and A PERFECT WEDDING as Anne Robins.

Then, because I was editing books for Five Star-Cengage, I asked if I could submit a book for their consideration. Five Star doesn’t acquire books on proposal, but I already had the third Daisy book written. Therefore, I sent it in, and they acquired it for their women’s fiction line. I was delighted, even if the books still weren’t dead-body-cozy mysteries. And then Five Star closed their women’s fiction line. I managed to get book #6 (ANCIENT SPIRITS) published as a romantic suspense novel, and then I got to turn Daisy’s books into cozy mysteries! Yay!

Five Star published SPIRITS REVIVED, Daisy’s seventh adventure, as a mystery! Wheeee! Then Five Star closed their mystery line.

Um . . . I wasn’t sure what to do after that. However, a lovely woman named Jeanne Glidewell, whose cozy mystery novels I’d edited for Five Star, told me she’d found a great publisher and suggested I get in touch with them about my Daisy books. So I did. ePublishing Works (Brian and Nina Paules) decided to reprint the entire Daisy series, give the books new covers that clearly defined them as cozy mysteries (“branding” is, I think, what this is called), and they even put the series number of each book on the front cover! Wow. You can’t get much better than that. What’s more, ePW actually promotes their authors’ books! This has never happened to me before in my life. I’m actually making money with ePW. Whatta miracle!

The only thing neither ePW nor I can do is get the rights to SPIRITS REVIVED back. Therefore, there’s a hole in the middle of Daisy’s series. However, when the narrator reading the Daisy books for audio (the extremely talented Denice Stradling) got to SPIRITS REVIVED, Nina Paules made a lovely cover for it and numbered it 6 ½. I tell you, those ePW folks are clever.

Anyway, book #12 (actually, it’s #13, but I just explained the reason it’s not numbered as such) was published in July of this year. SPIRITS UNEARTHED begins at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California. It’s not as gruesome as it sounds (to start with, anyway) because Daisy and her fiancé, Sam Rotondo, are there to visit their late spouses’ graves. Daisy’s dachshund, Spike, begins the action by finding a shoe. Unfortunately, the shoe contains a foot. And so the fun begins.

By the way, I grew up and lived in Altadena and Pasadena for most of my life, so it didn’t occur to me that having only one cemetery to serve an entire community was in any way unusual. I’ve since been told by my number-one beta reader, Lynne Welch, librarian extraordinaire, that most cities have little cemeteries dotted all over the place. In Altadena and Pasadena, it’s either Mountain View or an urn on somebody’s mantel, I reckon.

A running theme in the Daisy books is the magnificence of Viola Gumm’s cooking. Vi is Daisy’s aunt-by-marriage and is a genius in the kitchen. That’s a good thing because neither Daisy nor her mother can cook a worth a lick. They all live together in a sweet little bungalow in Pasadena. One of Vi’s recipes appears in SPIRITS UNEARTHED. In order to make Vi’s Swedish-style smothered chicken, you first have to haul out your Scotch kettle. Don’t know what a Scotch kettle is? Neither did I. So I did some research, and it turned out to be a Dutch oven!

Daisy’s 13th (actually, her 14th) adventure is titled SHAKEN SPIRITS, and it will be published in January of 2019. This novel features a character created by another author for his own books. Peter Brandvold (who writes terrific westerns) gave me his very own, personal, made-up character, Lou Prophet, to play with. Mind you, Mean Pete waited to give Lou to me until he was old, weathered, falling apart and one-legged, but Daisy and I had a whole lot of fun with old Lou in spite of his antiquity. Daisy thinks Lou is quaint. Lou, who was once a hard-drinking, violent, womanizing, dangerous and tricky bounty hunter in the wild and wooly Old West, would not be happy with Daisy’s assessment. Being a woman of understanding and compassion, Daisy will never tells Lou she thinks he’s quaint mainly because, if she did, Lou would hobble out of her life as fast as he could. Please pre-order SHAKEN SPIRITS if you feel so inclined.

What the heck, you can get Lou Prophet’s latest story (written about his early career, when he was young, virile, handsome as heck, and not quite as cantankerous as he ultimately became) right now if you want to:

Link for STAGECOACH TO PURGATORY: https://www.amazon.com/Stagecoach-Purgatory-Prophet-Bounty-Hunter-ebook/dp/B077WZ6884/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1538354279&sr=1-1&keywords=stagecoach+to+purgatory

Now I’m writing SCARLET SPIRITS, Daisy’s 14th (actually, her 15th) adventure. Lou Prophet’s in this book too; however, even more fictional Old-West characters show up in SCARLET. I made up all these new guys, though. In fact, a proposal for a western novel no one ever showed interest in publishing (because westerns are supposed to be jam-packed with adventure, and all my characters ever do is sit around chatting with each other. Well, and they eat a lot), is helping me with SCARLET’S plot. Never let a good plot go to waste is my philosophy. In truth, it isn’t, but it sounds good.

I tell you, publishing is a strange and confusing industry.

At the end of October, I’ll be giving away even more copies of SPIRITS UNEARTHED. I seem to have about fifty billion copies of that particular book for some reason. If you’d like to find out more about Daisy and the gang, please visit this page (https://ebookdiscovery.lpages.co/aliceduncandaisygummbook12excerpt/ ), where you can read an excerpt from SPIRITS UNEARTHED and learn more about my Daisy books. That page also contains links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere else if you’d like to buy the book. If you’d like to visit my web page, here’s the link: http://aliceduncan.net/ . And if you’d like to be Facebook friends, please go here: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thank you!

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