I thought my plate was full. I was wrong.
I found a tiny empty spot and decided to do something with it.
As those of you who follow me know, I am a split personality writer. Part of my time is spent concocting mysteries; the balance goes to covering food safety issues for my eFoodAlert blog and for Food Safety News, an on-line news outlet.
More than a decade ago, I wrote – and ASM Press published – a textbook, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives. To my great delight, that book is still in active use today.
Last week, I had an epiphany.
Why not write a companion book on pet food safety issues?
As ‘Momsy’ to an Australian Cobberdog, I know first-hand the angst involved in deciding what to feed our furry family members. Kibble or canned? Cooked or raw? Do-it-yourself or rely on a commercial source?
I have already started jotting down some ideas. If there is anything you would like to see included in this book, please drop a comment or email me.
As for the mystery side of my personality, fear not. I shan’t abandon Damien and Millie. There is a fifth Damien Dickens Mystery in my future.
Now, if I can just figure out what to make for dinner…
I am shining my Gone Writing spotlight today on my friend and local author buddy, Alison Henderson, whose new book, UNDERCOVER NANNY, has just been released.
Alison wasn’t always a writer, but she has always embraced creativity and relished new experiences. Seeking to expand her horizons beyond Kansas City, she chose a college in upstate New York. By the time Alison was twenty-one, she had traveled the world from Tunisia to Japan. Little did she suspect she was collecting material for future characters and stories along the way.
Alison began writing when her daughter entered preschool (she’s now a full-fledged adult), and she became addicted to the challenge of translating the living, breathing images in her mind into words. She writes romance because that’s what she like to read. The world provides more than enough drama and tragedy, Alison believes, and she prefers to give her readers the happily-ever-after we all crave.
She has been married to her personal hero for more than thirty years. After decades of living in the Midwest, Alison and her husband heeded the siren call of sun and sea and moved to the most breathtakingly beautiful place imaginable – the gorgeous central coast of California. She looks forward to the new stories this place inspires
Alison and I get together for a weekly C&C (that’s caffeine and conversation), and she has told me a lot about how UNDERCOVER NANNY came together. I was especially interested in the origins of Balthazar, the Capuchin monkey, who is featured on the cover of the new book.
GW: What is a monkey doing on the cover of UNDERCOVER NANNY?
Alison: The inspiration for Balthazar came from a most unexpected source. My husband is a big fan of early rock ‘n roll, and one of his favorite songs is a number by the Coasters called “Run Red Run.” After hearing him sing this for years, I knew I had to add a monkey to one of my books.
GW: What role does Balthazar play in the story?
Alison: Balthazar, a white-faced Capuchin, likes to play dress-up and steal every shiny object he can lay his hands on. He thwarts a would-be kidnapper in UNDERCOVER NANNY.
GW: You’ve told me that you like to insert humor into your novels to break the suspense. Can you give us some examples?
Alison: Yes, I love to add humor to my stories, even the most action-packed suspense or mystery. An unexpected laugh can give the reader the perfect release from relentless tension. Each book in my Phoenix, Ltd. female bodyguard series features a specific humorous element. In UNWRITTEN RULES, a pair of meddling grandmothers stirred things up for my hero and heroine. BOILING POINT included a cooking robot named GRAMPA who attacked the villain with a kitchen torch at the opportune moment.
GW: And Balthazar fills that role in UNDERCOVER NANNY?
Alison: That’s correct. Given the lyrics of “Run Red Run,” Balthazar has a lot to live up to, but I think he rises to the occasion admirably.
GW: Having been privileged to read an early draft of UNDERCOVER NANNY, I have to agree that Balthazar is a very special character.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with “Run Red Run,” here are the lyrics to the first couple of verses:
“Oh, Red went and bought himself a monkey
Got him from a pawn shop broker
Taught that monkey how to guzzle beer
And he taught him out to play stud poker
Last night when they were gambling in the kitchen
The monkey he was taking a beating
The monkey said Red, “I’m going to shoot you dead
Because I know that well, you been a cheating.”
Well, run Red run, because he’s got your gun
And he’s aiming it at your head
Run Red run, because he’s got your gun
And he’s aiming it at your head
You better get up and wail
You better move your tail before he fills it full of lead.”
Alison was kind enough to share a sample of UNDERCOVER NANNY with us.
Kidnapping. Extortion. Antiquities smuggling. Add one light-fingered, bad-tempered monkey, and it’s all in a day’s work for novice bodyguard Casey Callahan when she’s hired to protect the five-year-old niece of a handsome archaeology professor.
Alec Bainbridge has been balancing excavation and teaching duties with single parenthood since the death of his sister. When a stranger attempts to kidnap his niece, he hires a bodyguard to pose as the little girl’s nanny. However, the young woman who shows up is a far cry from the matronly type he was expecting.
Amid break-ins, anonymous threats, and arson, Casey and Alec race to identify the villains before they harm the child or make off with a priceless Egyptian artifact. All the while, their mutual attraction complicates an already volatile situation. With an innocent child’s life at stake, Casey and Alec risk everything to solve the mystery before their growing feelings become the final casualty.
Alec climbed the two flights of stairs to the playroom, where he found Grace and Balthazar playing her current favorite make-believe—Jungle Adventurer. Grace was wearing her pith helmet, while the monkey sported his veiled pink princess hat.
“He’s a giant gorilla who’s rescuing the hippo from the flooded river.” She pointed at her stuffed hippo, who was wrapped in an old blue bath towel.
Alec gave a mental shrug. After the kind of day he’d had, he could see no reason why a heroic giant gorilla shouldn’t wear a conical pink princess hat.
CONNECT WITH ALISON HENDERSON
I don’t post every single review my books receive. This one, however, was special.
Here is the review that greeted me when I logged onto my computer this morning.
Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite
A boy vanishes from a ski slope in Vermont, a father disappears after leaving work, a valuable gold nugget is stolen from a Las Vegas casino, and a private eye must connect the seemingly unrelated events to solve the enigmatic puzzle before someone dies in the exciting sleuth mystery, The Gold Dragon Caper (A Damien Dickens Mystery) by Phyllis Entis. Damien and Millie Dickens are having trouble with their private investigation agency, due to the unscrupulous and destructive devices of their wealthy enemy, Turpin. When the building their office resides in is a casualty of arson, Damien suspects Turpin is at the bottom of it and is considering throwing in the towel. While Millie and Damien sort out their professional future, Artie, the nephew of a close friend, is kidnapped. At the same time, Millie receives a strange phone call about her brother Colin; he and a valuable item simultaneously disappeared from his workplace. Dropping everything, Millie immediately flies to Las Vegas to help Colin, leaving Damien to search for Artie on his own. Frustrated, Damien continues his hunt that spans the continent and is surprised when his clues lead him to Nevada. Is it coincidence or are the two disappearances connected?
Twists and turns abound in the fabulous sleuth mystery novel, The Gold Dragon Caper (A Damien Dickens Mystery) by Phyllis Entis. Damien and Millie Dickens are a dynamic sleuthing team and following their escapades quickly becomes addictive. It is a fantastic series that has a touch of the noir feel that I absolutely adore in sleuth mysteries. From the moment when Dickens’s office is burned, to the dramatic confrontation with their arch-enemy, Turpin, the excitement escalates to a smashing and surprising conclusion; it is an episode you don’t want to miss. With fascinating characters and a thrilling and intricate plot, this book is a riveting read! Even though this the fourth book in the series, it is a great standalone. That being said, I am anxiously awaiting the next Damien and Millie mystery. I highly recommend this novel to whodunit aficionados who enjoy delightfully twisted plots and characters.
Searching for a great beach read, or a book to pass the time while en route to your Memorial Day weekend destination?
You need look no farther.
The Green Pearl Caper, first book in the Damien Dickens series, is the answer to that empty feeling in your Kindle. And, better yet, it is FREE from now through May 25th on Amazon.
Click on the cover image to navigate to the Amazon site, and download my first novel, no strings attached.
If you enjoy Damien and Millie’s first adventure and want to get to know this PI couple in more depth, there are three more Damien Dickens Mysteries available for your reading pleasure. You can find them right here on my website.
There is nothing more daunting to a writer than a blank page that refuses to fill.
For weeks, I have been hiding behind preparing for, then initiating, the April 16th launch of The Gold Dragon Caper, fourth book in the Damien Dickens Mysteries series. Once the book was released, my excuse was the need to promote it. To ‘connect’ on social media, to seek interviews, to solicit reviews, and to spin wheels on Facebook.
This week, I made a decision.
The procrastination must come to an end.
The first blank page, and its followers, must fill up.
Work on the new Damien Dickens Mystery must begin.
As is my wont, I have been jotting down potential plot and sub-plot ideas in a spiral-bound notebook. I’ve also tried out a couple of opening scenes.
The clock is ticking, and work on THE **** **** CAPER. A Damien Dickens Mystery (Book 5) has begun.
I was honored with an invitation to visit today with Amy Reade for an Author Spotlight on Reade and Write. I hope you will drop by and leave a short comment.