This is my first Amy Stewart read. It was fascinating to find myself in the 1914-15 era in NJ/NY, a time when our nation was growing in industry (with mills, factories, Black Hand gangs) and people who could – took advantage and bullied others. (Not all that different now.) Constance Kopp is tall for a woman, strong and smart. She watches over her sisters and stands up for them and others against all odds. When she has a run in (literally) with the local bully (crook, criminal, well-to-do bully) it starts a chain of events and torments that force her and her sisters to learn to defend themselves. With the help of the local sheriff, Constance and her sisters bravely gather proof that the man who is tormenting her family is responsible for even more, possibly deadly mischief. The pace of the book fits well with the time period. These women are full of sass and I enjoyed the story.
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.
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.
Nothing is working out like she planned. Amanda Cook doesn’t know who is following her or why. She is just a simple college student planning out her future, working at the neighborhood taco shop and living with her great aunt. When her best friend’s cousin, Mitch, arrives in town he immediately steals her heart, but someone else wants it more. Her paranoia grows when she spots the same car at odd places around town and starts getting strange letters in the mail. One night after class, a man tackles Amanda and wrestles her to the ground. As she fights for her life, she has the heartbreaking realization that her stalker could possibly be someone she knows.
Last year was challenging for many, but there were lots of good parts, too. Family. Friends. Good Memories. Good conversations. Good books. Good food. See, it’s not all been bad.
We have a new year upon us. How is it going so far?
With ignited enthusiasm, I’m writing and editing like crazy. Hopefully, that will translate to a new book out soon. I tried the agent search method the past six months with nibbles but no bites. So, again I will adjust my path back to the smaller, independent publishers out there. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m going through “Every Move You Make” and doing what I hope are final edits, after sharing it with my critique group and other writing buddies, whose opinions I respect.
For those of you readers who are looking for another book in the feisty family series, I will resume working on it next. I have a good start beginning five years after “Patchwork Family” ends. The kids are growing up, Peggy has her own cafe business with Tom in the kitchen and Tillie supplying the desserts. Tad is in college and Megan is in high school and thinking college might not be what she wants. But we all know she is the most book-smart of the kids and Peggy is concerned her little sister is going on the wrong track. Oh, and did I mention Megan may be in the midst of her first crush?
That is all for later.
Let me tell you a little about “Every Move You Make, I’ll Be Watching.” Just like the song Sting sang in the 80’s, someone is watching Amanda Cook – at work, at home, at school, everywhere she goes. At eighteen she’s a bit oblivious since she has her own inner struggles with the departure of her parents, the relationships with her best friends Sarah and Andrew, as well as her first love, Mitch Roman. Even though Amanda has the adorable Great Aunt Faye to live with she feels lonely and afraid of the future. I’d better stop before I spoil the surprises in store for readers and Amanda in this New/Young Adult novel.
Sorry, I haven’t blogged much the past year. (I’ve been really busy editing and looking for an agent.) You can find writers advice from me and other talented authors on Author Expressions blog. I post there once a month. It’s a good place for writers to hang out and find support.
Readers, I hope you enjoyed the two feisty family novels I’ve published so far and will be patient while I make my next stories even better.
Good luck to us all in 2017.
Frowning at her friend, Regina said, “Tillie, what’s wrong? For several weeks now you’ve been more lethargic and surly than that silly cat.”
Ms. Pickles gave a defiant lift of her head and step-hopped over to rub against Tillie’s shin.
“Damnable feline,” Regina said. “I still can’t believe I let you talk me into keeping that filthy flea bag.”
“She’s a sweet kitty.” Tillie gave the cat an affectionate scratch. “The only one with sand in her knickers around here is you.”
“Quit avoiding the question. Since Annabelle’s been here you’ve been sleeping more and more, and your skin is the color of oatmeal. And if you get sick, I’ll be stuck with my useless cousin and that idiotic fur ball for companionship.”
She tossed off the covers and stretched her stiff back. Time to check out the garden. It would be good to smell the fragrant earth again. She missed the early days with her husband David on her daddy’s farm. Time before he had shown her the power of his fist. Annabelle buttoned up a blue cotton house dress while she pushed her thoughts away from those images.
“Tillie’s right. I’m a Morgan, too,” she said aloud. Exiting the room, Annabelle passed the farm painting over the stairs. She sighed. Regina got the house, the paintings, the car, and the diamond earrings, while all she’d gotten were Grandma’s string of pearls and bruises. Proof again just how low on the food chain she lived.
When I started writing seriously back in 1999 I was driven. I wrote daily and submitted a work of fiction to contests and literary journals on a monthly basis. The rejection folder grew and grew, but so did my writing skills. In 2001 one of my short stories, Crossroads won an award and was published in the Sheridan Edwards Review. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.
Meanwhile I was working on a couple of novels, one of which is Feisty Family Values, which comes out in February 2010. I started it in 2000 while I was finishing up my Bachelor of Arts degree at WSU. One of my instructors, Carol Konek, had encouraged me to write and was the physical inspiration for Regina in FFV.
I had trouble in 1999 calling myself a writer. I felt more like an obsessed dabbler. But I attended a writer’s retreat at Ghost Ranch with Emily Hanlon and realized that’s exactly what I had become. Some of us wrote fiction, some non-fiction, memoirs, children’s stories, poetry, journaling and essays. The key here is we were all “writers”.
So, if you doubt you are what you are, think about it in terms of what you do with your time. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, what matters is that you write.
You read that right…it’s Writing in the Mood…not in the mood to write. I find that sometimes when I’m in “a mood” is helps to write. The muse can relate to my emotional state better than I can at those times. We all get down once in awhile, work might be really stressing you out, or you’re having trouble with the spouse or kids, whatever the cause – we all go there from time to time. So why not use it?
Writing is a passionate, emotional, visceral experience, at least it can be. Tap into that. Use it to create depth in your characters, life in your dialog, and tension in your story. Let it fuel the scene. Make it work and let the words flow from the gut. It’ll make the story real.
Go for it, my writing friends.
If you’ve never read the Evanovich Stephanie Plum series you are missing a great time. They are funny, fast paced, irreverant, sexy, and are packed with quirky characters.
I picked up a copy of Janet’s book on “How I Write” and enjoyed it as well. For the beginning writer she has good insights and encouragement. She has tips for writers who are “emerging” into the publishing world. And gives excerpts from her books as examples. She talks about the creative process, her writing process, the publishing industry, marketing and promotion and gives good resource references.
Her recommended resource list is similar to mine in that it contains Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, so it makes me feel like I’m on the right track as a writer. I’m adding this one to my list of “writers should read” as well. I suggest you writer buddies of mine check it out.
Oh, and she throws a little humor in, which is a trademark of Evanovich in my opinion. She not only cares about her readers, but she cares about us writers, too.
See you along the road,