Monthly Archives: October 2012

Thanks for reading and reviewing!

Hi friends,

I promise I’ll get back to my regular blog writing before long, but at the moment I’m all caught up in the book, reading the reviews, trying to find ways to get it out there, etc.

So grateful to everyone who is reading it and giving me feedback, and I’m especially thankful for the great reviews on Amazon! Keep ’em comin’!

A few people have asked me if there will be a paperback. It depends to some degree on how well the e-book does, but I would really like to get a paperback out before too long, yes.

A tip for those of you who are now reading the book or thinking of reading it: the photos that go along with the story are in the Appendix at the end of the book. Just click on the link and it will take you to Flickr, where the photos are in chronological order.

Once again, here’s the info about how to get the book:


Link for the Kindle apps:





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First review is in!

Here is the first review of my book, “Getting Down to Brass Tacks – My adventures in jazz, Rio, and beyond”  – Five stars!



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Some first comments about my book…

Too soon for reviews, but a few friends made some nice comments about my book:

Facebook friend Rhonda Key Youngblood:

Off with a bang! That interview with Miles rocked! I’m having an amazing experience reading this book. I don’t want to ruin it for anybody, but the book starts off with a quote from Grace Jones! You know it’s good! I’m only 6 percent in, and it’s gripping!

Facebook friend Venia Hill:

The book is extremely authentic and rich. Your openness is to be admired. I am at the point where you are leaving for Brazil. I am an avid reader and have read over 5000 books so the fact that yours is keeping me interested should be a high compliment to you, Amy.


Facebook friend Laura Moliter:

I am in the middle of your book now and LOVING it! Amy. You are a wonderful narrator and an irresistible heroine! Your honesty is our blessing. I am setting up special times that I look forward to in order to read another section. Kind of hard to stop, even when duty or whatever else calls me away. It’s really a wonderful, wonderful book, Amy. I knew it would be, but it just draws you in. Wish I had time to finish it in one sitting, honestly!

Facebook friend Jess Lidsky:

Facebook friend Jess Lidskey:

I have to ration your book—it draws me in too well—I am afraid I will finish it too soon.

Chip Deffaa, author, jazz critic, playwright, songwriter and director:

“Big congrats to jazz musician/bandleader/writer Amy Duncan on the publication of her autobiography: Getting Down to Brass Tacks… Amy’s life has intersected with all sorts of people: Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, James Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie. And I’ve known she’s an excellent writer since the years when she was covering music regularly for The Christian Science Monitor. I also got to read one chapter of this book in advance, when she submitted it in a competition and was a winner. I wish her all the best with this book!”

From Facebook friend, Venia Hill:

“Amy I am truly fascinated with your remembrance of so many details of your childhood, my hat is off to you. Your writing is excellent in the sense that it flows, is very easy to follow and entertaining.”

And this from a Brazilian photographer friend who read the book for six straight hours, and finished it in eight!

“I finished!!! It’s really great…what a life full of comings and goings…I loved the book, the way you write…so much so that I took the afternoon off to read it. It made me feel as if I were right in front of you listening to you. I could imagine every scene, maybe because I was emotionally linked to some of them, but even so…”

This friend, Robert Serbinenko, appears in the book, and also took the photo for the cover. Here’s his website:


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My book is now on Amazon!

Yay! Finally my book is for sale at Amazon. Here’s the link:

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download an app for free and read the book on your computer:

Here’s the link to my Amazon author page:

Hope you enjoy the book, and feel free to leave feedback or questions here, and also to write a review on Amazon, if you’re inclined!

Time for a nap now!


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Do you really need this kind of “help?”

Have you ever gone through a period of indecision or uncertainty in your life where some person—perhaps a close friend, a family member, or even a teacher or mentor—has given you strong support, offered suggestions, and tried to help you in every way?

And then after some time, have you begun to feel uneasy about this person, and perhaps wanted to step back a bit from their interest in helping you in your situation, despite their seemingly good intentions? Has their help gradually started to feel somewhat oppressive? But then have you stopped and thought, no, this person is really helping me, and I don’t want to be ungrateful?

Then, after a while, you start to feel certain that something just isn’t right. You can’t explain it, but somewhere deep inside you know that that you’ve been allowing yourself to be unduly influenced, and instead of feeling strengthened by this person’s support, you feel weakened by it.

This kind of thing is much more common that most of us imagine. There are many reasons for it. Sometimes the “helper” is consciously or unconsciously envious of us. Or they may see some quality in us that they think we have in common with them, so they encourage us to develop that quality, even though we feel that we’d rather move in another direction.

This kind of intrusive help can hold us back and even do us a lot of damage if we don’t pick up on it and put a stop to it. One time, many years ago, a woman who was older than I was took an interest in me and befriended me. I was flattered because she seemed so experienced in life and so sure of herself. As time went by, without my realizing it, she started controlling me little by little—telling me how I should dress, how I should wear my makeup, what I should say and not say. Looking back at it now, it’s amazing to me that I didn’t pick up on it immediately, but I was young and impressionable, and I wasn’t aware of what was happening until one day I suddenly felt as if I were being smothered or choked. I cut her off, rather abruptly as I recall, and of course she was angry and devastated. But I was free, and that’s what mattered to me.

The truth is, we never need personal help with our uncertainties and indecision. No one can know what we really need or want but ourselves. We have to let our spiritual intuition guide us to the right answers. Talking too much to others about challenges we’re facing is never helpful. Sure, once in a while we need a shoulder to cry on, but that’s different. I’m talking about the tendency to lean on others and hope, consciously or unconsciously, that they’ll make our decisions for us.

Much time that could have been spent in a better way is lost because of this false kind of influence and dependence. I’ve found it helpful to carefully weigh what people tell me about my life, what direction I should or shouldn’t go in, and so on. But I confess that it took me many years to wake up and stop letting people guide my life according to their wishes. I don’t think it needs to take that long. With more awareness, we can nip it in the bud.


Filed under individuality, spiritual, Uncategorized

Is disease “awareness” a good thing?

breast-cancer-ribbonScientists, philosophers, religionists, psychologists and even the ordinary man on the street seem, these days, to be more and more willing to openly acknowledge the power of thought. “You are what you think” is becoming even more popular than “you are what you eat,” and at least some people are taking the time to consider the possibility that life is more subjective than they thought it was.

People who know nothing at all about quantum physics (like me) are familiar with the now proven fact that phenomena changes according to who is viewing it.  And yet, with all these hints, most people still don’t bother to try to manage their own thinking, or to consider the effect that the thinking of other people might have on them.

One all-pervasive example that comes to mind are the numerous “breast cancer awareness” campaigns. The name alone should alert us, shouldn’t it? What is “awareness,” after all? One dictionary definition says “having knowledge or consciousness.” So, the obvious result of these campaigns is that they make us think more about breast cancer. Is this helpful? I don’t think so. Also, the color pink is always associated with these campaigns, so when we see pink, we think (consciously or not) “cancer.”

Some might argue that this “awareness” brings in more money for cancer research. But there is no proof that the medical establishment is making any progress in finding a cure for cancer, and is all this “awareness” really worth the price we may have to pay?

It is my settled conviction that these and similar campaigns do more harm than good. If something, anything, is repeated again and again to our thought, we end up embracing it and it becomes part of our mindset. How many jokes do you see on Facebook or get in your e-mail about the so-called unavoidable decrepitude of old age? Do you really think this stuff is funny? I love humor and laughing is one of my favorite pastimes, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to laugh about decrepitude and deterioration and turn it into an inevitable in my thinking and experience.

It is proverbial that people who think the least about negative things have a more positive life experience. Countless old people are in great shape and we could hardly say that every woman gets or will get breast cancer. Why is this so? The medical establishment has all kinds of theories about it, but more often than not people’s mental states are shunted off into the vapory realm of “alternative” approaches to well-being and not taken seriously.

The idea of positive thinking has been around for a long time, but I believe we’re reaching a point in history where not only do we have to be more alert to what we’re thinking and what kinds of thoughts we’re being exposed to, but that it’s time to start thinking of the source of good, healthy, positive thoughts as being universal and spiritual, rather than personal and material.

I propose that we use our awareness to look inward to who we really are and outward to what we really love. Then let’s devote our thought to that instead of wearing pink ribbons that make us think of ourselves and others as perishable and destructible.


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Are you listening?

Or, I guess you could say: Who or what are you listening to?

When you’re making choices and decisions in your life, from the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant ones to the biggest, life-altering ones, how do you do it?

Do you ask your friends or family what to do? Do you make pro and con lists? Do you weigh all the possibilities and probable outcomes? Do you toss a coin or consult the Tarot?

Believe it or not, the best answer doesn’t lie in any of these things, or in anything outside ourselves, for that matter. The best answer is right where we are, in thought. But it’s not in disturbed, worried, anxious thought. It’s in that calm, peaceful thought that we discover to be ours when we get really, really quiet and just listen.

There’s a line in the book of Job in the Bible that I think really nails this state of mind: “…there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” (Job 32:8) This isn’t something outside of us—it’s right here, right now, and is always accessible.

Sometimes when we listen, it seems that nothing comes to us. But it does—we just don’t hear it yet. It may come a little later, but we’ll recognize it because it will give us a sense of peace and confidence about which way to turn, what to do. Other times we’ll get an immediate “aha” feeling and we’ll feel sure that it’s the right solution.

Once in a while we’ll feel sure that we’ve listened to this intuition and have followed it, but things didn’t work out the way we had wished. When this happens—and it happens to all of us—don’t think you’ve made a mistake. Even if what you decided or did feels all wrong, just keep listening. You may be led to turn in a different direction, and when you do you’ll discover that you learned an important lesson from your “mistake” and that without this lesson, your next, better decision wouldn’t have been possible.

It’s all about being receptive to that inner voice, and being persistent in listening to it.


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Breaking out

Have you ever felt that you’re not moving along as quickly as you’d like in some area of your life—that you’re not making the progress you’d hoped for?

I’ve felt this way many times, and I’m sure others have, too. Sometimes there are things in our lives that feel like stumbling blocks, and we just can’t seem to see any way around them. We feel stuck.

When this happens, it’s tempting to think that if we just push harder, or maybe take a big leap forward in spite of our hesitations and fears, that we can make that breakthrough we’re longing for. But often that doesn’t work out, and we end up even more afraid and sometimes so discouraged that we don’t feel like making any more efforts at all.

So what can we do?

I think there’s an example in nature that can help us. It’s been used as a metaphor many times, and I think it’s a very good one when we’re feeling trapped between pushing too hard and doing nothing at all. It’s the baby bird inside the egg. Have you ever seen a baby bird spend his whole life inside his egg? Of course not. But I bet you’ve never seen one just crack open his shell with one blow, either. The baby bird is a perfect example of patience, persistence, and common sense. He pecks at his shell a little at a time—peck, peck, peck. Then maybe he stops for a bit, but soon he’ll start pecking away again. And after a while there’ll be a little hole. He sees a tiny ray of light. So he keeps on pecking. And you know the rest of the story.

Why can’t we be like the little bird? Well, we can, of course. Whatever we’re faced with, we can patiently peck at our own shells until we see that first ray of light, and then finally the full splendor of freedom and accomplishment.


Filed under individuality, spiritual, Uncategorized, work

My book cover

Although I’m still wrestling with final proofing, I thought I’d post the cover of my book here. It proves that there actually IS a book on the way!

All of this wouldn’t be taking so long if I weren’t the world’s worst proofreader. Well, I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it never ceases to amaze me how many times I can read through a document and STILL find mistakes. Anyway, all this will come to an end at some point, and the book will be published. If you find any mistakes in it, please forgive me!

The cover photo is by Robert Serbinenko, taken at the Blue Note jazz club in New York in the 1980s. Here’s his website:

The cover design is by Catherine H. Cole, my editor Vicki Cole’s daughter. She is a student at the Rhode Island School of Design.



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