Friday, May 8, 2015

Author Alice Duncan Gives Readers Inside Info

Award-winning author Alice Duncan lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue). She’s not a UFO enthusiast--her mother’s family settled in Roswell fifty years before the aliens crashed.

Alice is not only an accomplished author with a unique literary voice and countless novels to her credit but an outstanding editor as well—and I do know that from personal experience. She’s edited six of my Five Star/Gale/Cengage novels.

It’s our great pleasure to welcome Alice as our guest blogger on Author Expressions today. 

 Alice has two new novels out which would make great Mother’s Day gifts.


Before I get into Thanksgiving Angels, the book, it might be a good idea to recount how the Mercy Allcutt historical cozy mystery series began.

You see, I love the 1920s as a decade. The ‘twenties were such a time of grief, astonishment, PTSD, change, outraged sensibilities, and befuddlement, the era is, in a word, fascinating. The War to End all Wars had ended to be followed by an influenza pandemic that wiped out nearly a quarter of the earth’s population. This, following a war that killed almost an entire generation of young men. Small wonder people were wandering around confounded and wondering what the heck was going on, you know?

Well, I decided I’d write a series of historical cozy mysteries set in a place I knew well (Southern California, where I was born and grew up) in an era that had me mesmerized, the 1920s. First of all, during that decade you had parents who’d seen their sons die only to then see their daughters begin to do things that were unheard of in the parents’ younger days: wearing short skirts, smoking (!), going out with boys alone and in automobiles (!), necking, refusing to follow their parents’ rules, drinking alcohol (and this, in spite of Prohibition, for the love of heaven!), enthralled by motion pictures and the “stars” thereof, and generally behaving as if there were no tomorrow. There was a good reason for that. After the Great War and the influenza pandemic, lots of people decided there truly was no tomorrow, and they might as well live it up while the earth still stood.

So Daisy Gumm Majesty appeared in my head, pretty much fully formed, as a fake spiritualist-medium (spiritualism was all the rage because of the ravages of war and illness) with a war-injured husband to support. I wrote the first two Daisy books (Strong Spirits and Fine Spirits) thinking they’d be my historical cozy mystery series set in the 1920s.

Boy, was I wrong. Kensington, my publisher at the time, told me there wasn’t enough mystery in the books (probably true) and that I should take out the dead bodies, add a subsidiary romance (because Daisy was already married) and they’d publish them as romance novels, which they weren’t. Naturally, they tanked. Also naturally, I was devastated. Daisy was me, with a few notable differences. For one thing, Daisy had a supportive birth family, and for another, she had none of my crippling neuroses. But Daisy, as nearly as I could tell, was lying dead, belly-up in the goldfish bowl of publishing. The late, great Kate Duffy actually called and apologized to me for mis-marketing Daisy’s books, but that didn’t appease my grief. I had to take yet another pseudonym and write a series of historical romances set in the days after the Titanic disaster. So I did, but I hated every moment of the first book. The second and third books in the series weren’t so difficult to write, but I still missed Daisy.

So, what the heck, thought I: what was wrong with Los Angeles in the 1920s? Not a darned thing. So Mercedes Louise “Mercy” Allcutt was born. Mercy is the product of a staid, sober, stuffy, intolerant, overbearing couple of Boston Brahmins. Mercy, a modern young lass, although far from being a “flapper,” looks at her parents’ lives and the lives of the rest of the folks in the world, decides there’s too great a disparity between the rich and the poor (sound familiar? It should, since the same thing’s going on today), and determines to become a part of the vast worker proletariat, those people who struggle to survive on their own resources in a world geared to keep them downtrodden. Therefore, Mercy, at her sister Chloe’s invitation, moves to Los Angeles, California, and actually searches for a job! No female in Mercy’s entire family has ever actually worked for a living. Her parents are appalled. Chloe is tolerant. Mercy is delighted, both for putting a couple of thousand miles between herself and her parents, and for beginning to achieve her life’s ambition: writing gritty, true stories, about life on the streets of a big city.

Of course, Mercy knows nothing about the gritty side of life, but she’s game. She’s thrilled to be hired by a jaded ex-cop, P.I. Ernie Templeton, who takes one look at Mercy and pegs her for a rich girl. Mercy doesn’t understand how he did that, but she can’t deny the truth. However, she vows to be the best secretary she can be, and she’s thrilled to have a job with an honest-to-God private investigator. As luck would have it, her employment, which starts out depressingly boring, takes an upturn when murders crop up. In spite of Ernie’s best efforts, Mercy gets involved in the solutions to the various crimes, and her career as a private investigator’s assistant—oops. She means P.I.’s secretary, begin to thrive.

In Thanksgiving Angels, Mercy is depressed as all get-out because her Boston parents have bought a second home in Pasadena, California, a lovely community about twenty miles away from Los Angeles. Although she wishes he wouldn’t, Ernie gives Mercy Thanksgiving week off to visit her parents. Mercy’s stuck. Her mother has demanded her presence in the family’s new home for Thanksgiving, and Ernie refuses to cooperate with her own desires, and lets her have the week off.

The only bright spot Mercy can think of in this week of familial torture is that her sister and brother-in-law, Chloe and Harvey Nash (Harvey’s a bigwig in the motion industry), will be there, too. Mercy also brings along her dog, her adorable miniature poodle, Buttercup, so named because she’s apricottish in color. Her parents are disgusted. Mercy doesn’t care.

And then, lo and behold, Daisy Gumm Majesty shows up to perform a séance in the Allcutt’s Pasadena mansion. Mercy can hardly believe this, since her mother, Mrs. Albert Monteith Allcutt, known to her friends as Honoria and to her children as the Wrath of God, has never shown the slightest interest in spiritualist matters before. Mercy can only shake her head, take Buttercup for walks, and talk to her sister, who understands Mercy’s plight even though she can’t quite understand why Mercy wants to work for a living.

And then, after the séance, a woman is murdered, shoved from the ornate upper hallway’s banister railing to fall, splat, on the parquet flooring below.

Mercy is thunderstricken when her mother demands Mercy call her employer, Ernie Templeton, to investigate the crime. However, she does as asked, and she and Ernie join Daisy Majesty and Detective Sam Rotondo, from the Pasadena Police Department, and help solve the crime. In doing so, Mercy herself if almost done to death, but she survives to tell the story.

What’s even better, she slithers out of her parents’ grasp and actually spends a delightful Thanksgiving Day at Daisy’s home in Pasadena. Her parents are livid. Mercy is happy as a lark.

Please visit my web page at and my Facebook page at


Note: Comments and questions for Alice are welcome here!


Elizabeth Delisi said...

Mercy is a wonderful heroine and I enjoyed reading her first adventure. But I confess my favorite heroine is Daisy Gumm Majesty. She's everything I'd want to be...fearless, determined, forthright, yet kind and warmhearted. And I love her seances! She's the best best "fake spiritualist" around.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Liz. Actually, Daisy's my fave, too. There's a whole lot of my and my hometown in those books. Daisy, however, isn't crippled by my own personal neuroses, etc. :-)

Susan Oleksiw said...

Your blog post is the perfect match for your books--a breathless romp that's loads of fun. I can't wait to read the next book.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Susan! And thanks, Jacquie, for forcing me to do this blog. I don't know why, but blogging scares me more than writing books. Probably because of those neuroses, huh?

Jacqueline Seewald said...


You do a great blog!

Allan J. Emerson said...

Love the idea of crossovers between the heroines of two series! Haven't read Mercy yet, but will now, just to see how she and Daisy interact.

And I agree with Jacqueline: you write a great blog. Your posts always make me laugh.

mothermayiam said...

I too love how Daisy and Mercy have met. It was something I had hoped would happen when I would switch of from one series to the other. I enjoy hearing about the 20's as I know very little about the era, and oh my yes it was a crazy time. I sense a bit of envy in Mercy's mother and her choices to live "her life her way" with a job and all. I so enjoy your writing.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks so much, everyone! I'm hoping I'll be able to continue both series, but there's only so much time in the world, and (unfortunately) I have to make a living. Oh, well. I'll do my best.

Norah Wilson said...

Alice, I *love* that Daisy and Mercy's paths cross! I love them both!

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Norah! And thanks for stopping by :-)

Maris said...

Oh, my, Alice, you have tempted me. Thanksgiving Angels sounds like a fun read. Just what I need, another book on my TBR pile.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Maris! It is definitely a romp. I don't do depressing :-)

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's always fun to hear how authors choose setting and where characters come from. Thanks for sharing, Alice.

And thanks again to you, Jacqueline, for giving space to Five Star authors on this blog.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks, Patricia! Yes, and thanks to Jacquie, too. I appreciate the opportunity.

Carole Price said...

I love Daisy Gumm Majesty, her seances, her determination, and her spirit. Your blogs are always entertaining and your humor evident in each one. Thanks for creating Daisy.

Alana White said...

I enjoyed your post, Alice....:)

Alice Duncan said...

Thank you very much, Carole and Alana. Waiting for your next books. Ahem. :-)

Caroline Clemmons said...

You know I love your books. To have Mercy and Daisy in the same book will be heavenly. I will order ASAP,

Bonnie D Tharp said...

Great blog and glimpse into the stories of Alice Duncan (who also edited my first novel - THANKS ALICE). I'm in the mood for a cozy mystery and yours are on my list. Thanks for sharing your stories.