Another Enjoyable Read

BlueprintsBlueprints by Barbara Delinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delinsky takes on the world of remodeling homes and gardens as a background for this novel. Mother is a carpenter and her daughter is an architect for the family firm. There are forces bent on splitting up this dynamic duo. During the course of this story, their close relationship will be tested. Careers will shift, a hunky contractor and a handsome school teacher become important to these women. As always Delinsky gives us some tension, life changes, romance, and surprises. I do enjoy her books.

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Meet Alice Duncan, a Delightful Author & Editor

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.

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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

Thank you!

Author Biography:

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.

 

Where have you been?

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.

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“Your Every Move” is coming soon.

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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.

Nathan Hill, Author of THE NIX

By now you’ve heard about THE NIX, Nathan Hill’s debut literary novel that has set the world on fire. Not only did I enjoy his book, but I love the man, who just happens to be my son’s best friend and I consider my second son. I’m very proud of him and his work.

Let me see if I can think of some other words with which to express my awe and joy in this work. The novel is epic, folks. The prose is amazing. I highly recommend it and although it is long, take your time and don’t miss a single word.

Nate will be at Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, October 25th, 6PM,  and my husband and I will be there. Come and join us, won’t you?

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Writers are Readers, too.

You’ve no doubt heard this one before, good writers – READ.  It’s true!  I write mainly women’s fiction, so I do a lot of reading in that genre.  I also read chick lit, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance and much more.  Check out my Goodreads.com books and you’ll see that I am a diverse reader. If there’s a book review in the paper or a magazine I have to read it and if the story sounds good, then it goes on my list of things to read.

 

man_looking_thru_binocularsWhen I find a particular author I enjoy I tend to read everything they’ve ever written, but reading debut novels is enjoyable.  Sharing any new found book treasures is a must.  Many of my friends and family like to book swap, and if we’ve gotten the book from the library we make sure and email the title and author around the group.

Occasionally films will come out about the lives of authors or based on one of my favorite books.  It’s fun to get a group of writers together to see a matinee and then get coffee and hold a discussion.  We writers have such an interesting way of viewing things.

There are lots of book clubs out there that get together and discuss their favorite stories. reading books(But, you have to read them first.)  Kansas has a statewide reading event each year that is fun to participate in.  You will overhear book conversations in the grocery store and all around town.  It is like being a part of a really BIG book club.

Many of us have a library of unread books that we have collected from friends, book sales at the library, yard sales, and those bought with coupons from the local bookstores.    When I’m finished reading and sharing a book, I donate it to the library so others can partake of its pages.  The bottom line is – you can never read too many books.  And reading good books will help you become a better writer – I PROMISE!

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HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS TO WRITE

“You first dreamed of becoming a writer to create a deep connection. You wanted another person to know how you felt. You wanted to change someone’s life.” excerpt from Joe Bunting article on Writing Practice, Medium Daily

He writing wineis so RIGHT. Good books move me on so many levels. I want to write those kinds of books. It is my wish for readers and a dream for me. Thank you, Joe, for putting it so succinctly.

 

Excerpt from Earl Divine

In 1949, Earl Divine and his family moved onto Miller’s old farm five miles south of the Viola Baptist church on my tenth birthday. He was a tall, good-looking boy of eleven, with a shock of dark blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. His crooked smile and easy laughter won the hearts of all the girls in our Kansas county, but most especially mine. For the first time in my life I wanted to look nice and make a boy notice me. The fellows liked him, too, enjoying his joking ways. This included my little brother, Tom.

I was a serious girl, doing all of the things Momma taught me – like canning, cooking from scratch, and gardening. I even plucked chickens, which everybody knows are God’s dumbest creatures. Tall and naturally thin, my crowning glory was thick and shiny red hair. I never cared much for freckles, but there’s not much I can do about mine.     Papa said, “Them are God’s little beauty marks, Hannah.”

Personally, I think God’s got a leaky pen, and it splatters some when he draws our likeness.

By the time I turned fifteen, by shear determination I wore him down and Earl Divine and I became a “couple,” much to Momma and the other girls’ dismay. For three years we courted, going to dances, ice cream socials, potluck dinners at the church, and supper at my folks’ on Sunday.

In those days boys were polite about the fact that they wanted to kiss and touch. I’d been raised to keep my legs together, but it didn’t stop the warmth like hot maple syrup from sliding from one end of my insides to the other. That boy made me want to be bad, but neither one of us could bring ourselves to do the deed before marriage. We came as close as we could without breaking the rules, admiring all the parts of each other that weren’t expressly forbidden, often breaking out in a storm of sweat from the fight with our upbringing. Lord, what a beautiful body he had. The curly hair on his torso scratched and made me giggle.

Lord, forgive these raging hormones.

They taught us all about the crazy time we were going through and warned us not to succumb. The preacher made out like sex was evil, but if that was so there wouldn’t be so many big families in the county.

One evening we lay on the hood of Earls’ 1939 Buick gazing at the stars that peaked through the grove behind my papa’s barn. The night sky over the southern Kansas farm country was black as ink, but the stars were bright enough we could almost feel their warmth. Our breathing had finally slowed from a recent bout of heavy kissing. My body felt like cooked noodles and my brain had turned to oatmeal. I broke the silence. “I love the fresh smell of new mown hay,” I said, and filled my nostrils with the glory of the evening.

What a goofy thing to say, I must be crazy.

Earl snorted, but he didn’t make fun of my awkwardness. I think it was then that I truly fell in love with my fair haired beau.

(Excerpt from short story, Earl Divine, available on Amazon.com)

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How to be a Great Writer

I don’t profess to be a GREAT writer YET, but I’m getting better at it every day. Back in September I read an interview with Stephen King about the 22 lessons he recommends to be a great writer. THANK YOU STEPHEN KING. The article in the Business Insider stimulated my imagination to the point that I wrote the following (it was kind of like a test of what I retained from the content):

G – Grammar is only for understanding

R – Read as much as possible

E – Endeavor to write every day

A – Avoid adverbs, passive voice and run on sentences

T – Tell stories about people

W – Write for yourself and don’t worry about what others think

R – Retreat from the world when you write

I – Imagination can help you create and describe clearly and vividly

T – Temper your writing with only what is necessary, info dribbles not info dumps

E – Edit, edit, edit “Kill your darlings” is what Stephen said, be balanced not egocentric about your writing

R – Resist twenty-dollar words with a dollar-word will do, don’t be pretentious

King inspires me. He writes so well, having been successful for many years. I aspire to that as well. Wish I had a first reader like his wife, Tabitha King (also an author), but I do okay with my critique group. They are a great bunch of writers with vivid imaginations, huge hearts, and good advice.

Enjoy the journey, fellow scribes!

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Life Ventures Rocks!

Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire? There’s a great program called Life Ventures that has groups on the East and West sides of town. They’re learning programs for all ages and I had the pleasure of speaking to the East side group Oct. 28th. What a delightful group of folks came to listen and ask questions about writing family stories and my books in particular. Some came to hear me speak just because they had read my books and others were curious. I had a great time and hope they did also. East Heights United Methodist Church has a wonderful facility and I’m honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful program. Thanks again!

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