Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alice Duncan Doing What She Always Wanted to Do


Award-winning author Alice Duncan lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue) in Roswell, New Mexico. She's not a UFO enthusiast; she's in Roswell because her mother's family settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed. Since her two daughters live in California, where Alice was born, she aims to return there as soon as possible. Alice would love to hear from you at alice@aliceduncan.net. And be sure to visit her website at http://aliceduncan.net/




Doing What I Always Wanted to Do

by Alice Duncan


First of all, the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life was write novels. When I was a little girl and someone would ask me what I wanted to “be” when I grew up, I’d say, “an author.” Mind you, the question itself seems stupid to me now. What a child will be when he or she grows up is an adult human being, a condition that comes with its own limitations. Puppies grow up to be dogs, just like kittens grow up to be cats. Personally, I prefer puppies to kittens and dogs to cats, but that’s bias on my part. Both dogs and cats are easier to get along with than your average adult human being. I think, although I’m not sure, that we’re each born with certain talents. I wish I’d been born with a gift for making money, which sounds a whole lot more useful than being born possessed of a way with words.

Anyhow, it took me a very long time to begin writing books. For one thing I was a single mother to two little girls to support and rear. We never got goodies like child support or alimony, so I supported the kids via my work as a secretary, which I hated very, very, much, thank you. Writing takes lots and lots of time, and I didn’t have any.

However, after my children grew up, I had a little extra time with which to do fun stuff. I took a couple of night classes in creative writing, but I still couldn’t imagine tackling anything as complicated as a book. Not only that,
but I couldn’t for the life of me decide what to write, and sustaining 400 manuscript pages about nothing, while it has been done, didn’t appeal to me, literary fiction not being my cup of tea. At any rate, for several years, I expressed my creative side by singing and dancing with several different Eastern European folk-dancing and singing groups (you can see pictures and even hear a couple of songs on my website, on the “Biography” page).




The groups to which I added my modest talents were Avaz, Gypsy and Zhena (the chorus). I’d always secretly harbored a wish to sing grand opera, but female tenors aren’t in great demand in opera. Fortunately for me, they were in demand in Bulgarian choruses; ergo, my stint with Zhena. Anyway, singing and dancing were fun, but neither produced any books. And then my feet went south on me (traumatic arthritic, which has now spread into a sort of universal bodily arthritis), and I had no outlet for my creative side. I took up compulsive baking for a while and then compulsive eating, but that only made me fat.

Oddly enough, it was in October of 1993 when, as my daughter Robin and I were in New Mexico on vacation and were driving to Fort Sumner to see Billy the Kid’s grave, that I wrote a description of the landscape. I wrote it in a little notebook snatched from my purse and hastily stuffed back into it and didn’t tell Robin or anyone else what I’d done, because I didn’t know what to do with it. I did, however, begin writing little blurbs in my notebook from time to time.

Around that time, a friend of mine, Linda Hart, a folk dancing-and-singing buddy, persuaded me to read a modern-day romance novel. I’d always eschewed (geshundheit) romance novels because of the sleazy covers. But I read a couple and discovered that’s what I wanted to write, astonishingly enough. In spite of my overall rough life and a hideous predilection to choose the absolute worst men in the world, I wanted to believe in everlasting romance. Go figure. Anyhow, I started writing books.

After I’d written a couple of more-or-less novels, I took a class called “Writing for Publication,” taught by a wonderful woman named Meredith Brucker, at San Marino High School in San Marino, CA. The class met on Tuesday nights, which were also folk-dance nights, but I attended the class anyway. Meredith taught us exactly how to create and present proposals for novels and send them to agents and editors. So I did. By that time I’d become thoroughly obsessed with writing and selling novels. I was 49 years old, and had all but given up on my life’s dream. Anyway, I went a little wild, became positively single-minded in my pursuit of publication and wrote constantly (when I wasn’t at my cursed day job, and sometimes even then. Don’t tell anybody).

Then I began sending off proposals like a fanatical fiend. I started with agents, some of whom were kind, but none of whom was willing to take a chance on me. I continued to write. I finally penned (or computered) a book I really thought might have a chance. I called it BRIGHT ANGEL. In a frenzy of activity right before Christmas in 1993, I sent off seven proposals to seven different publishers, foregoing the agent thing since agent-seeking didn’t seem to be panning out for me.

On Monday, January 17, 1994, the date of the massive Northridge earthquake, I got a call at work from a woman named Abigail Kamen, who claimed she was an editor and telephoning from Harper Collins. I very nearly fainted, but didn’t, which was a good thing since she went on to ask if my book, BRIGHT ANGEL, was complete. I said (rather breathlessly) that it was. She asked me to send the whole manuscript. I was in a state the likes of which I can’t even describe when that phone call ended.

Almost at once after that, my boss called from Boston and asked about the quake. I said we were having awful aftershocks (true), dust and plaster kept falling from the ceiling (true), and it was scary to be in the building (not quite so true, but I was working on another agenda at the time). So he told me to go home. I did. While there (after discovering that my dog Weenie had eaten an entire box of oatmeal that had fallen from a shelf after the quake. Fortunately, she didn’t burst) I printed out my precious manuscript and sent it off FedEx to Abigail Kamen at Harper Collins. On the Friday of that very same week, January 21, Abigail Kamen called to tell me Harper wanted to publish my book. I was at work and couldn’t scream, but I called everyone I knew and told them I’d succeeded at last in selling a book. The feeling was indescribable, so I won’t try to describe it. Anyhow, it didn’t last.

At that time in what I laughingly call my writing career I belonged to the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I’d joined at Meredith Brucker's suggestion and had been attending for a couple of months before my first book sold. This was another fortunate circumstance for me, because RWA/OCC had (still has, actually) a plethora of published writers, most of whom were willing and even eager to help a newbie like me seek representation from a reputable agent. Maureen Child said I should query Linda Kruger, an agent who worked with Evan Fogelman in Dallas, TX, so I did. Linda took me on. By gum, I then not only had a publisher, but I also had an agent! I was on top of the world. That didn’t last, either.

One day shortly thereafter, Abigail Kamen called and told me that I had to change the title of my book. Evidently angels were big at the time in the publishing world, and she didn’t want the buying public to think my romance novel had anything to do with the current angel craze (which, she gave me to understand, included guardian angels, etc.). So I wracked my brain (which hurt) and called my critique partner, Monica Stoner. Monica, not being stifled with my creative block, came up with a dozen or so apt titles, which I dutifully scratched down. Then, right before I sent the list to Abigail, I bethought myself of one of the songs we used to sing during the “American” part of Avaz’s typical performance routine, “I’ll Fly Away.” Oddly enough, Abigail liked ONE BRIGHT MORNING instead of any of Monica’s titles, so my first published opus became ONE BRIGHT MORNING.

By the way, when I told Marilyn Brucker that Harper had bought my book, she was ecstatic. Not only that, she told me I was the best writer she’d ever had in any of her classes. That made me very happy. What made me a little less happy was that she and asked me to read from ONE BRIGHT MORNING at the South Pasadena Public Library. Mind you, I adored libraries and I adored Meredith (still do). But I was a little shy. My shyness abated somewhat, although my bafflement soared, when I read the first sentence of ONE BRIGHT MORNING (“Maggie had the blasphemous thought that God was seriously at fault when He created women”) and the audience laughed. I was flummoxed, since the line wasn’t supposed to be funny.

It didn’t dawn on me until several books after that first one that I couldn’t help myself. Even when I don’t think I’m doing it, I tend to write funny. I figure it’s because I grew up in a very difficult family and resorted to humor to keep myself safe. So sue me.

As all of the above was going on, I kept writing. For my option book to ONE BRIGHT MORNING, I sent Harper (through Linda Kruger, bless her) TEXAS LONESOME, featuring Emily von Plotz, who supported her eccentric aunt and uncle by writing an advice column in a newspaper. Her uncle Ludwig bred dachshunds. His first breeding pair, from which he expected great things, were Hilda and Gustav. By that time I’d joined a critique group, and one of the ladies in it was named Hilda. Hilda objected violently to having a dog named after her, so I changed Hilda’s name to Helga. By the way, Harper published a beefcake calendar the year TEXAS LONESOME was published (1995), and Will Tate, the hero from the book, was Mr. August.

Another thing about TEXAS LONESOME: I was pleased that I got to include in the novel my second passion, dachshunds, for which I’ve harbored an inexplicable fondness ever since I saw my very first one at the age of six or thereabouts. I thought it was the funniest-looking dog I’d ever seen and am in love with the breed to this day. I even belong to New Mexico Dachshund Rescue, which kind of gives me an excuse for accumulating wiener dogs. Fortunately for my home and my sanity, most of the wieners who come to me are foster dogs and are adopted by other people. Eventually. I do, however, have a herd of five dachshunds and a ringer, who I think is sort of a combination miniature pinscher and Chihuahua. I called him a pinchihuahua until I learned that the first part of that name is a very naughty word in Spanish. I still maintain the title fits him, but that’s neither here nor there.

While all of the above was happening, Linda was dutifully sending more work to Harper and, since I was possessed by demons and writing at a blinding clip, other publishers. Then Harper dumped me. I was crushed. Defeated. Heartbroken.

Then, a few months later, Harper dumped almost all their romance writers. Turned out they’d expanded too fast and were cutting back on their romance line. Naturally, they didn’t tell me that, so I thought my being let go was all my fault and that I was a terrible writer (which isn’t true and never has been, by golly). I’ve come to understand that we bottom-feeder authors are seldom told anything even resembling the truth from publishers, but at the time I was totally humiliated.

In the meantime Linda had approached Berkley with SWEET CHARITY, a novel aimed at Berkley’s family-oriented line called “Homespun;” Dorchester (Leisure Books), with a sweet book called CHRISTMAS PIE; and Dell, with CHRISTMAS PIE, a book I had titled PRINCE CHARLEY and my two published books.

Joanna Cagan at Leisure shortly thereafter called Linda and said Leisure wanted to buy CHRISTMAS PIE, which had been plotted at a weekend getaway with my critique group.

Linda then called Laura Cifelli at Dell to tell her about this. Laura asked Linda to wait a minute because at that very moment, she was reading TEXAS LONESOME, loved it, and she told Linda that Dell wanted me but didn’t know which book they wanted yet. However they did want the name Alice Duncan to be associated solely with Dell.

So Linda and I decided I should be Emma Craig (that’s what my maternal grandmother thought her maiden name was. She was wrong, but that’s another story) for Leisure and Alice Duncan for Dell. Linda also told me that Leisure was creating a new line of books called “It’s a Dog’s Life.” Well, that, as they say, was right up my alley, me being a dog person and all. So I began writing ROSAMUNDA’S REVENGE, a historical romance novel featuring Rosamunda, a most superior Yorkshire terrier. I think I like the beginning of ROSAMUNDA’S REVENGE better than most of the openings of my other books (“Rosamunda took one look at the tall man striding across the lobby floor and knew him for a man who favored big dogs. Hunting dogs. Dogs with thick fur and lots of fleas. Dogs with bone heads. Dogs with little brains, big feet, no social graces, huge rumbling barks and bad breath. So she bit him on the ankle. She would have kneecapped him, but she couldn’t reach.”) The book was set in New Mexico Territory in the 1890s, and “to kneecap” didn’t become a legitimate verb until the 1920s, but I figured that if you begin a book in a Yorkshire terrier’s point of view, nothing much matters a whole lot in the way of verisimilitude.

By the way, the “It’s a Dog’s Life” books all had a little ribbon imprinted with the dog’s picture name on the covers of the book. Rosamunda didn’t fit on the ribbon. Leisure asked me to change the name. Instead, I changed a plot point, and they managed to fit the “Rosie,” a nickname Rosamunda detested, on the stupid ribbon. Still, it’s a cute book. I even got a note from the copy editor saying how much she enjoyed it. That doesn’t happen often, believe me.

About that same time, Denise Silvestro at Berkley called Linda and said Berkley wanted SWEET CHARITY for their “Homespun” line. Since I was already Alice Duncan and Emma Craig, I became Rachel Wilson (my mother’s middle and maiden names) for Berkley.

Laura Cifelli at Dell decided to buy PRINCE CHARLEY for Dell, but they changed the name to WILD DREAM (the hero’s name is Charley Wilde). I hated the title, but adored the book’s cover, which (at my suggestion, believe it or not) featured a solitary man, the first solo-male cover Dell had ever done. Naturally, they nixed my suggestion that Charley hold a B-flat cornet, an instrument that is actually a big part of the book’s plot, but still, it’s a great cover.

Dell then decided to buy SECRET HEARTS (which I’d called DIME NOVEL, because the heroine writes dime novels featuring Tuscaloosa Tom Pardee, a fellow patterned after the heroine’s employer’s nephew). There’s a story connected with that cover art as well. The cover of SECRET HEARTS also featured a solo male. However, Tuscaloosa Tom Pardee, the dime-novel hero, had a beautiful droopy mustache. The Powers That Be told me to shave poor Tom since mustaches don’t do well on romance-novel covers. So I did. Both Claire (the dime novelist) and I were terribly disappointed. It’s still a nice cover.

While all the rest of this junk was going on, Leisure asked me to participate in some anthologies, which I did. The stories
Jack of Hearts,” McBroom Sweeps Clean” and “Merry Gentlemen” were published in three different anthologies. If you care enough, you can check them out on my website.

Then Linda sent PHOEBE’S VALENTINE to Dell. The staff at Dell went through many confusions and contortions, causing much here-ing and there-ing for all concerned, and Dell dumped me. Naturally, this gave rise to millions of additional self-doubts, but I had so much work to do by then, this dumping didn’t bother me as much as the first one did. I was, however, beginning to get the notion that the books I wrote didn’t exactly fit into the mainstream of the romance population. It was a discouraging notion, since I wanted my books to be liked by readers as well as editors. Editors seemed like my writing, but once my books hit the shelves, nobody seemed to want to buy them.

By that time I’d nearly finished another book for Berkley’s “Homespun” line when Linda called to tell me that “Homespun” was defunct, and Berkley was beginning a line called “Haunting Hearts.” It had never once crossed my mind to write a paranormal romance. In truth, the idea didn’t appeal to me one little bit, either. However, as I rewatched I Married a Witch, on TV one night, the notion of having a bad guy’s soul enter a good guy’s body via a sip of corn liquor took root, and RESTLESS SPIRITS was born. Here, too, I had nothing to do with the title. I’d called my opus THE SOUL OF CHESTER PEASE, which I think is ever so much more evocative than RESTLESS SPIRITS. Besides, Chester Pease’s soul is the one who caused all the trouble. But I didn’t have any say in the matter. By the way, the poor fellow who swallowed Chester Pease’s soul was named Harry Potter, and my book came out first! Unfortunately, my Harry Potter didn’t create the stir J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter did. Story of my life.

However, that’s how I began to write a bunch of books for “Jove Haunting Hearts,” Including the following:

HEAVEN’S PROMISE. This one was set in a reformatted Palmyra, Maine, where my paternal relations came from. There’s a big pointy headstone in the cemetery in Palmyra, under which my paternal grandmother, Afton Homstead (no E after the M) was buried. In order to give the characters a place to sit whilst chatting with the ghost, I flattened the tombstone. By the way, this book was inspired by an old dancing pal of mine. Art Aratin suggested I write a book featuring Danilo the Gypsy King, in honor of our deceased dancing-and-singing colleague Danny Matousek, who was an incredibly talented man. So I did, and this was it. Then came:

BITTERSWEET SUMMER, set in Bittersweet, New York, and SPIRIT OF LOVE, set in New Mexico Territory.

Leisure also decided to buy more of my books. They, too, had a paranormal line, so I wrote a proposal for a series of books featuring a mighty wizard named Alexander McMurdo, who ran a wagon yard in Rio Hondo, New Mexico Territory. Rio Hondo, by the way, was the first name of Roswell, New Mexico, where I now live. Mind you, I’m not terribly in love with Roswell, but my grandparents settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed, so here I am now. These books included:

ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
A GENTLE MAGIC
A GAMBLER’S MAGIC

Whilst in the throes of writing romances and getting a little jaded therefrom, I decided to try my hand at writing westerns. What the heck, you know? Westerns have a much lower sales rate than romances in general, but my romances seldom broke even anyhow, so I started a couple of westerns, created proposals for them, and Linda, submitted my efforts different publishers. Darned if a Signet editor didn’t ask if I’d be willing to write for their “Trailsman” line. I bought a couple of “Trailsman” books, read them, and figured why not? So I wrote PECOS BELLE BRIGADE and CALIFORNIA CRUSADER. It turned out I didn’t have a handle on the whole male-fantasy thing, which involves women of all ages (but mostly young and ravishing) jumping the bones of our hero Skye Fargo, who has a big beard and wears buckskins (which I figured must have smelled to high heck by the time he got them off). Sigh. At any rate, my western-writing endeavor died an untimely death.

About that time, Berkley decided to bury its “Haunting Hearts” line, and begin an “Irish Eyes” line. You might have noticed that I pretty much stuck close to home in my writing endeavors up to that time. There was a really, really good reason for that. I’m an American and, while I’d love to travel the world one day, I don’t know squat about how life in other countries goes on, except through novels, and I don’t think they’re a good-enough educational source by which to sop up entire cultures. I wracked my brain again (and it hurt again), trying to think of anything I knew about the Irish and Ireland. What I came up with was: potato famine, leprechauns, rampant alcoholism and political upheaval.

Unfortunately, the folks at Berkley didn’t want any of that stuff to show up in the books, so I was stumped. Then I considered sending an American woman to Ireland. I went to the library, checked out every single book I could find about Ireland and wrote, basically, a travelogue. I wasn’t awfully proud of that book, but Berkley bought it anyway. Its title was MY WILD IRISH ROSE and the less said about it, the better.

Leisure, meanwhile, decided they wanted me to write paranormal romances for their fairy-tale line. I again went to the library and this time checked out all sorts of fairy-tale books. I was appalled. Did you know that the Little Mermaid’s boyfriend dies in the story (or maybe it was the Little Mermaid herself who died. I can’t remember)? And that Rapunzel’s lover got his eyes gouged out by thorns? Well . . . suffice it to say I wasn’t enchanted. However, there was one story in which the human beans (as opposed to pintos or limas) seemed to come out on top, and that was the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. So I wrote COOKING UP TROUBLE for Leisure. They gave me a fabulous cover with none other than John Da’Salvo on the it and my name in gilt lettering. I felt good.

And then Berkley told Linda that my books always were in the lowest 34% in sales, and they dumped me. Talk about depressing!

Still, I was under the impression that COOKING UP TROUBLE sold fairly well, so I began to write another book for Leisure, this one called GABRIEL’S FATE. It turned out I was wrong about COOKING UP TROUBLE. Leisure told Linda that my books didn’t sell well enough, and they dumped me. They did publish GABRIEL’S FATE, but they tried to give it the same cover they’d used for A GAMBLER’S MAGIC. I protested. I mean, I understand that publishers recycle covers, but that was too much. So they gave me another recycled cover, but at least it wasn’t one from one of my own books.

Thank God Linda still believed in me! She’d already sent some of my work to Kensington, and Amy Garvey offered to buy a series of books I had all planned out for their “Ballads” line. This first series of proposals centered around the earliest days of the motion-picture industry in Southern California. A fellow named Martin Tafft appears in all four books (but he only gets the girl in the last one). What’s more, since the name Alice Duncan had been floating belly-up in the goldfish bowl of publishing for a couple of years, I got to use my own name for the books. Kensington and I were both happy about this, and the “Dream Maker Series” was born:

COWBOY FOR HIRE
BEAUTY AND THE BRAIN

THE MINER’S DAUGHTER
HER LEADING MAN


That was a lot of writing to do in one year, so for my next “Ballads” series proposal, this one taking place at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbia Exposition, only contained three books:
COMING UP ROSES, which featured Rose Ellen Gilhooley, bareback rider extraordinaire for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, who ended up with H.L. May, a newspaper reporter;

JUST NORTH OF BLISS, which featured Rowena Belle Monroe, a refined southern lady flung helter-skelter into the wilds of the evil North, and who ended up in the arms of the fair’s chief photographer, Win Asher; and
A BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO, which featured Kate Finney, a girl from the wrong side of Chicago’s tracks. Kate filled in for Little Egypt and worked a fortune-telling venue on the Midway Plaisance. Through no fault of her own, she fell afoul of Alex English, who was one stuffy son of a gun until Kate got through with him.

Along about this time (2002ish), a writer whose books were being published by a print-on-demand publisher called PageFree approached me and asked if I’d be willing to publish a book with PageFree. After looking at the PageFree web site, I told her I’d be darned if I’d pay to have my books published. To me, that seemed the exact wrong way to go about these things. The PageFree publisher then told me she wouldn’t charge for the setting up, so I decide what the heck. Nobody else seemed to want to publisher PHOEBE’S VALENTINE, which is actually one of my favorite books. So I went for it. Now I’m kind of sorry I did, because poor Phoebe probably won’t be picked up by anyone else now that she’s been published once. Not only that, but western historical romances are dead in the water in the romance genre these days. So Phoebe suffered a sad fate, but by this time, one not unexpected by yours truly.

Then it was that I was stricken with the greatest idea of my entire writing life: Daisy Gumm Majesty. Daisy, you see, 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 told Linda that she and Kate Duffy, one of the big muckety-mucks at Kensington, loved the idea for the books but that they’d decided 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. They did, and the books tank. The books were STRONG SPIRITS (I got another complimentary letter from a copy editor for this one) and FINE SPIRITS. As soon as I get my rights back from Kensington, they’re going to be available on Kindle, too, by gum.

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 books. 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 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 too 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 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 two-year-old son Tyler. What, I ask you, kind of priority is that???? I was honestly crushed and didn’t know what to do.

Fortunately, by that time, I’d begun editing for Tekno Books, which is the book packager that buys and edits books 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 Tekno. 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 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 Tekno editors, those who read my manuscripts, seem so far to have liked them, because Five Star has published:

LOST AMONG THE ANGELS,
CACTUS FLOWER,

SIERRA RANSOM,
and
ANGEL’S FLIGHT (sequel to LOST AMONG THE ANGELS)















And then—glory hallelujah!—Five Star bought the third book in my Daisy Gumm Majesty series, HIGH
SPIRITS. Not only that, but they recently bought the fourth book in the series, HUNGRY SPIRITS. I’m hoping like mad that they’ll also buy the Daisy book I’m working on right now, GENTEEL SPIRITS.

And then, on a whim, I sent Tekno PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, the sole survivor of my New Age Dimensions days, and Five Star decided to buy it! Therefore, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL will be 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. 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 what I laughingly call my writing career is that I can now supplement my social security income via my editing work for Tekno, which pays ever so much better than writing ever did.

I do, however, hope that Five Star will buy FALLEN ANGELS, the third in my Mercy Allcutt books, and ANCIENT SPIRITS, which should be the end of the Daisy Gumm Majesty books for a reason that will become abundantly clear if the book is ever published. I have planned a fourth Mercy book, ANGELS OF MERCY, but we’ll just have to see about that.

And there you have the essence of my writing career and why, even though I’ve published forty-five novels and three novellas under five different names, none of which anyone’s ever heard of, I remain dirt poor to this day.

Honest to God, I think writing is a genetic glitch. Perhaps doctors will find a cure for it someday.

Alice Duncan (alice@aliceduncan.net)
http://www.aliceduncan.net
Angel's Flight 07/09
Hungry Spirits 06/10


18 comments:

Mary JanJane Maffini said...

What a history, Alice! It makes great reading. But face it, with all those beautiful dachshunds you have a life rich in cuddles and loves. Puddles too perhaps, but let's not quibble.

Cheers, MJ

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

One thing I've learned over the years...to be a published writer, you must persist! And then persist some more, which you certainly have done.

I, too, always wanted to write, but had to go through a lifetime of another career to get there. But then I had stories galore (from the other career, which was social work).

Alice said...

Thanks, Mary and Laurel-Rain. From where I sit, my life seems to have been incredibly boring. I guess it's all in the perspective. And yes, there are lots of puddles. Sigh. On the other hand, I'd rather live with dachshunds than a husband. Been there, done that. It sucked :)

Vicki Lane said...

Oh my goodness! Yours is an amazing story! You must have the energy of twenty women.

Really, I'm in awe of what you've accomplished.

Alice said...

Thanks, Vicki. Actually, I've always thought I was lazy. Maybe that's just because my mom was hyperactive. There's that perspective thing again, I reckon :)

Kate Gallison said...

Way to go, Alice. Looks to me like an excellent life so far. To paraphrase the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers of hippie underground comix fame, "Words will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no words."

Norah Wilson said...

Alice, very cool to read about the chronology of your publishing journey! I knew bits and pieces of it, but this put it all together. And yeah, seems like you should be rich after all those books! What an affliction to have, indeed!

Alice said...

Those are truly words to live by, Kate! In fact, they make me feel better.

Thanks, Norah! So glad a fellow Reb showed up :)

Patricia said...

Alice, I love the picture of you with the dachshunds all over the couch and your legs. Is Daisy there?

Alice said...

Hi, Patricia! Yes, Daisy's there. She's the brown one on the couch between the two cushions. I know. It's kinda hard to tell, isn't it?

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Wow, Alice. What a lot of writing! I'm aware of some but not all of your books. I especially love Daisy and can't wait to read books three, four...and five, right? If there's any justice in the world, you'll end up rich someday.

Liz

Alice said...

Thanks, Liz. Um . . . High Spirits was #3, so I guess Hungry spirits will be #4. And I'm writing #5. Is it fallish where you live now?

Bonnie Vanak said...

Wow Alice, what an amazing career you've had. I knew you were prolific, but this blog states your amazing tenacity. I love, love, love the photo of you, and the photo of you with your precious pups!

Alice said...

Thanks, Bonnie. I forgot to say, in my writing bio, that a lady read my palm in 1997 or thereabouts and said I'd be a successful writer. I asked if there'd be any money attached to that, and she said, "Um . . ."

She was right, darn it :)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Alice,

Thanks for sharing with us! I feel connected with you, but I always have because you're such a terrific editor that I love working with you. I'm really impressed with your writing background! I hope you get a bestseller! You really deserve it.

Jacquie S.

Alice said...

Thanks, Jacquie. You're very kind to say so!

Kaye Barley said...

Alice - I loved this!

thanks very much!!

Kaye

Alice said...

Thank YOU, Kaye! I appreciate the opportunity, and it didn't hardly hurt at all :)