A story about the ordinary life of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn. You meet Marie on the front steps of their apartment building with her glasses. We follow her through her first job as “comforting angel” at the local funeral parlor. Her first broken heart. Her marriage and children. McDermott brings us everyday life of this Irish family with all its pain and joys, loves and trials. It’s a quiet book that all of us can relate to. A story of a family.
I met Alice Duncan ten years ago when she edited my first novel for Five Star Publishing. Not only is she a great editor but she writes wonderful cozy mysteries. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview below, Thanks Alice!
What parts of you and your background feed your imagination? Particularly in my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, my entire life, especially my childhood, feeds my imagination. The books are set in Pasadena, CA, in the 1920s. I wasn’t around in the 1920s, but I love Pasadena, and I love history, so this is a match made in … well, maybe not heaven, but you know what I mean.
Tell us a little about the very first story you remember writing? The first story I remember writing was something about dinosaurs. Even then I wanted to be funny. I pointed out to my mother that I used the word “clodhoppers” in the story in order to make people laugh. Clearly, my sense of humor hadn’t developed to any kind of pinnacle, but heck, I was only six or seven. Oh, and I also used to write illustrated newspapers when I was a kid. All I remember is a line my mother had to correct: “Team finely wins a game,” or something like that. My mother told me the word I wanted was “finally” unless I meant the team did a spectacular job in winning the game.
Creative people are often creative in other ways. Besides writing, what else does the muse encourage you to do? I used to dance and sing a lot. I was a member of two professional folk-dance companies. I know that sounds kind of like professional basket-weaving, but it’s not, really. I still love to sing. In California, I belonged to a Balkan women’s chorus. When I moved to Roswell, Balkan women’s choruses were thin on the ground, so I started singing in the choir of the Methodist Church my mother attended. I also participate in other music venues in town (the annual Concert of American Music and the St. Mark’s Advent chorus spring to mind). Oh, and I belong to a dachshund rescue group (http://newmexicodachshundrescue.org/). That’s not necessarily creative. It’s mostly because I’m an idiot.
What genre(s) do you like to write? Whatever genre I write in (romance, western, mystery), it absolutely has to be historical. I don’t get along well with the world the way it is. I prefer to pretend life was better in the olden days. In truth, if I’d been born in an age without antibiotics, I’d have died when I was 22, and then whatever would my daughters have done?
Tell us a little about your novel, its plot and the main character(s). UNSETTLED SPIRITS is the 12th (actually, it’s the 13th, but that’s not my fault) book in my series of cozy historical mysteries featuring Daisy Gumm Majesty, a fake spiritualist-medium in Pasadena, CA, in the 1920s; and her family and friends. In this present book, Daisy and her fiancé, Detective Sam Rotondo (who used to be her worst enemy), are in Altadena’s Mountain View Cemetery. Daisy wants them to receive a blessing from their deceased spouses before she and Sam marry. She wants to ensure this happens by visiting their late spouses’ graves. Sam thinks she’s nuts, but he goes along with her. Rather than a blessing, what she gets is her late husband’s dachshund, Spike, bringing her a shoe. Unfortunately, the shoe contains a foot, and thus the action begins.
Are any of the characters like you and if so in what way? Daisy is actually me, only she has a supportive birth family and none of my crippling neuroses. She also goes to a lot of the places I used to frequent in Altadena and Pasadena, and she lives in a house I used to own. What’s more, she goes to the doctor to whom I used to take my daughters when they were little. She also likes to dine in a Mexican restaurant called Mijare’s. Mijare’s was opened in 1920, and it’s still going strong! It has great food. I recommend it to anyone visiting Pasadena. In my Daisy books, one of Daisy’s clients, Mrs. Bissel, lives in the house my aunt used to own in Altadena. I kind of grew up in that house, and I love it.
What genre(s) or author(s) do you like to read? History is my passion. I love to read about specific periods in time, or books that explain historical eras or phenomena. For instance, I recently read a great book called GET WELL SOON, by Jennifer Wright, which documents the world’s worse plagues. Fascinating reading. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in stuff like that. I enjoy historical mysteries, too. Lately I’ve discovered T.E. Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle books. The only problem with them is that he doesn’t write them fast enough. I’m also a huge fan of Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series.
Where and when do you find the best ideas or inspiration for your stories? Honestly? I dunno. They pop up here and there. An old dancing and singing buddy of mine, Stephanie Cowans, is the person who gave me the beginning of SPIRITS UNEARTHED. We were e-mailing each other, and she suggested Daisy and Sam go to the cemetery to seek the blessings of their late spouses before their upcoming marriage. So I took that idea and ran with it. Well, that is to say, I sort of stumbled along with it, before hitting my stride.
I also love to cook. This is a peculiarity I don’t share with Daisy, who can burn water. In order to make up for Daisy’s deficiencies in the kitchen arts, I gave her an Aunt Vi (actually, my Aunt Wrennie, who owned Mrs. Bissel’s house) who is a fabulous cook. SPIRITS UNEARTHED features a recipe from Aunt Vi’s repertory: smothered Swedish-style chicken. In order to create this dish, you’ll first have to haul out your Scotch kettle. I puzzled that one over for a minute or two, then did some research and discovered a Scotch kettle is a Dutch oven! See?
If there was a message you could share with other writers what would it be? Never give up. There’s no assurance you’ll ever be published by anyone other than yourself—unless you give up. Giving up is a sure-fire guarantee you’ll remain unpublished. There’s also a quotation by Henry Van Dyke (he wrote THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISE MAN, which is definitely worth a read) I love it a lot: “Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work? 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
In an effort to avoid what she knew she should be doing, Alice folk-danced professionally until her writing muse finally had its way. Now a resident of Roswell, New Mexico, Alice enjoys saying no to smog, no to crowds, and yes to loving her herd of wild dachshunds.
Alice has written historical cozy mysteries under the names Alice Duncan, historical and paranormal romances under the names Emma Craig and Rachel Wilson, the Titanic series as Anne Robins, and western adventures as Jon Sharpe.
A prolific author, Alice has been praised for the Mercy Allcutt Mystery series, a cozy series called “a silly madcap romp” and “great fun.”
Her thirteen-book series, The Daisy Gumm Majesty Mysteries, are set in the roaring twenties in Pasadena, and are “absolutely endearing and linguistically spot on” with a “funny, spunky heroine” who works as a spiritualist and medium. “There is pluck, and then there is Daisy.”
She’s also known for The Dream Maker series, Meet Me at the Fair series, the Pecos Valley Diamond series, and many others. Visit Alice at www.aliceduncan.net.
Writer’s need to write, but for some stupid reason we procrastinate and avoid the page.
What if what I write is garbage? The first draft probably will be, but that’s what editing is all about. We are mining for the jewels in the trash.
What if no one wants to read what I’ve written? We want to share what we’re writing and have it resonate with someone else out there. Preferably, LOTS of someone elses. But, it should be okay to write for one’s self. To explore and express and not have to share it with the masses – RIGHT? Theoretically, yes.
Should I keep writing if no one buys my books? I guess it depends on why you’re writing. Every author wants to make money writing, but it’s not usually the case. So, why not take up ceramics or painting instead? Writer’s want to tell stories, and most of us would make ceramics or paintings if we had the time or inclination.
I think that we all want to excel in everything we do. That is the kicker. No one wants to write a bad story. No one wants to write a book that others don’t care to read. We’re a world of dreamers that don’t always realize our dreams.
Artists of all kinds (writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, etc.) dream of creating beautiful things that others will want for themselves. We can’t help it. We get so much joy creating our art that we want to share it. We long to be loved for our work. Oh my. Where did that come from? Could that be the flaw in our creative dreams?
Whenever I sit down to a blank page, I want to create something lovely, and it doesn’t happen every time. But the act of putting words down does allow for the creative flow to happen, the muse comes to visit and the story unfolds. The key – sitting down to the blank page and not letting it scare you off. Right. Note to self. Nothing will happen unless I do it. The story will not write itself. DUH.
What if you have so many stories and characters crowding your mind you can’t settle on one and finish it? That is a problem. Bottom line – pick one. Finish the first draft. Then you can move on to flesh it out more, editing as you, or put it aside and start on the next idea that won’t leave you alone. I know. I’ve been there. Done that. And continue to…
First of all, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season. I hope that it will be a joyous and healthy time. Pay special attention to the stories being told over the dinner table; stories are our lifeblood. Listen with your feelings as well as your ears. And be present, get out of your head and be present!
Thinking back on 2017 it was quite eventful, although I didn’t always realize it. I started the year editing like a fiend on my first romantic suspense novel, “Your Every Move.” It was fun writing about college days in the 80’s, but having a stalker causes serious trust issues. “Your Every Move” was published in e-book in June and in print in July. It’s available in e-book everywhere and print via Amazon, Watermark Books & Cafe, and my closet.
In case you were wondering why I didn’t blog much this year, well, there were lots of reasons. Life, mostly. You can always find me on the Author Expressions Blog the third Friday each month, however, so I hope you’ll pop over and see what this great group of authors have to say.
Sometimes we creative types have to expand our arena and dabble elsewhere. I like painting and had a blast visiting the Carriage Gallery in Newton with my friend Karen to paint Sunflowers in January. What a wonderful place to express yourselves and enjoy the artworks on display. They have classes for all ages and all levels of skill.
Because I’m not getting any younger (are any of us) my husband and I attended a retirement workshop this year at WSU. That was eye-opening, too bad we didn’t start saving sooner. We learned new ways to save and make money stretch, that’s always a good thing.
My brother-in-law had a heart attack in February, but he is doing fine, enjoying retirement and learning to cook and count sodium. He is finding that everything has salt and it’s almost as prevalent as sugar. UGH. We are truly blessed that he is going strong.
In March I had the pleasure of speaking to the First Thursday Bookclub about my novel, “Patchwork Family.” What a great bunch and lunch was very healthy as well as tasty. That same month I visited the Kansas Writers Association meeting, and we discussed query, synopsis and agents. That was a lively talk, I must say.
In April the Wichita Public Library at Westlink invited me to read and discuss, “The Log of the Cowboy.” OMG, what a blast. And I learned so much from the discussion. My current work-in-progress, tentative title “Finding Grace” is set in the 1890’s during the Oklahoma land rush, so the story of a trail drive across the Midwest helped to put me in the period.
I was also a part of the Watermark Literary Festival with three other authors during April. One of the folks from the cowboy discussion at the library came, brought a friend, and bought a book. What fun!
May brought another opportunity to talk about cowboys at Covenant Presbyterian Church. And yes, they were kind enough to feed me. I’m having lots of fun learning about the building of the plains area of our country, and it is fascinating.
Did you see the total eclipse in August? We did, and I must say it was an experience I will NEVER forget. In fact, I will probably become an eclipse groupie, there’s supposed to be one in Texas next year so count me in.
This fall one of my favorite aunts passed away. She had the most infectious laugh, and I loved her dearly. She was the sweetest person I know and we will all miss her.
In December a dear friend of mine, Lois Ruby and her son Jeff spoke at Watermark Books. They both have new books out, and it was so much fun to see them and hear about their writing journies. This is Jeff’s first novel “Penelope March is Melting,” and it’s been on the best seller list at Watermark for two weeks now. Go, Jeff! Lois wrote another spooky novel “The Secret Grave,” and I can’t wait to read it.
I hope you all don’t mind the chatty holiday letter and wish you all well. Let’s all read more books next year!
Bonnie (BD) Tharp
Your humble author and friend.
Lately, my book club has been reading memoirs. “The Glass Castle” and “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.” Both stories were so vastly different but interesting. As we enter the later chapters of our lives I wonder if anyone would really care about my family story, except maybe our kids or grandkids. Now that my grandparents are gone and my parents as well, I wonder what stories I missed. Are most lives interesting enough to write about? In their entirety, probably not – but segments of all of our lives are compelling and interesting enough to share. Hence, the popularity of blogging, the proliferation of memoirs and people writing novels loosely based on their lives. All stories can be interesting – depending on how we tell them, of course. Ah, KEY: how well do we tell the story? Another key: the RELATIONSHIP with our readers. Do they care? It’s something to think about.
Researching the Oklahoma land rush of 1893 has been interesting and time-consuming. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I blogged. My apologies, dear readers.
Life tends to interfere in many writer’s plans. Illness. Death. Work. Laundry. Home Repair. Vacation. Truly, life goes on. But creativity cannot be denied. It slips into our days in small ways. The key is to be grateful for every moment.
Make a note. Make a sketch. Leave a voice mail, just don’t forget. Capture the dream. Make note of the smells, sounds, sights and feelings you experience. They are the things that make stories real.
I love to write and learn new things. Please be patient. It takes a long time to write that first draft and edit and make it come to life. Thank you so much for reading my books, sharing your precious time with them, and letting everyone know if you enjoyed them. You inspire me. You make all the hours of work worth while.
Bless you, dear readers and Enjoy the Ride.
Your Every Move took me back to my younger years when my world seemed to change unexpectedly and finding solid footing often seemed beyond my grasp. Alternating between the security of a few trustworthy loved ones and being at the mercy of new relationships was daunting and sometimes dangerous. I enjoyed reading how Amanda faced her challenges and grew to trust herself and her decisions. Thanks for a story with love, suspense and mystery, and the reminder that growth is frequently the result of surviving painful circumstances. ~Janice L.
(Many thanks, Janice.)
Need a beach read? Need a book to read while traveling? Want a nostalgic look at the 80’s and college days? Want a little romance and intrigue? You can have it all in “Your Every Move,” out in print and e-book.
This quiet, magical book reminds us that we write our own stories every day of our lives.
When Aunt Charlotte disappears, Valerie steps in to help at her aunt’s little bookstore. What starts out as a chore turns into a time of discovery, not only of herself, but the power of books to take us into new and wonderful worlds, and finding new friends and their stories. Frankly, the possibilities are endless. I read this book in two days and enjoyed every moment.