Gone Writing

Phyllis Entis


My Not-so-Secret Garden

IMG_1190I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to plant something and watch it grow.

As a child, I planted potatoes. The crop was small, and the new potatoes were kid-sized, but I was delighted with the outcome. My parents were more concerned about the apparent ‘invasion’ of potato bugs that coincided with my first experiment in food production.

img706I suspect that I gravitated toward microbiology as a career due to my predilection for growing things. Bacteria grow quickly, are easier to plant, and can be played with any month of the year – a big advantage in a four-season climate. I spent the better part of forty years growing bacteria, yeasts and molds in the lab.

After retiring from the lab bench in 2001, I returned to more conventional gardening.


I look upon my writing as a form of gardening, too. I take a seed (the idea), prepare the soil with fertilizer and amendments (the plot line and main characters), plant (write the first draft), and mulch the bed (edit). Then I add some TLC in the form of a cover, a blurb and advertising, and watch my project bear fruit (sales and reviews).

As with any other form of gardening, there can be successes, near misses and (gasp!) failures. But the true gardener is intrepid. Dead wood must be discarded, failing plants pruned, and hungry ones fertilized. Thus, I have ventured into both fiction and non-fiction, novels and blogs, news summaries and opinion pieces. When a field ceases to be fruitful, I let it lie fallow for a while and dig in a different garden.

I have high hopes for my new garden. There will be strawberries and blueberries, Santa Rosa plums and Meyer lemons. Hibiscus and bird of paradise will add a semi-tropical flavor, and bougainvillea will line the fence. I look forward to sharing the fruits of my labors with you in the coming months and years.



The Gold Dragon Caper wins coveted 5-star award


JB Richards started my weekend in the best possible way with her review of The Gold Dragon Caper. Follow the “Read more…” link to read her complete review.

A Can’t Miss, 5-Star Read All The Way!

Excitement and danger run high in Phyllis Entis’ masterpiece detective novel, “The Gold Dragon Caper: A Damien Dickens Mystery”, as Detectives Millie and Damien Dickens’ contend with not just one but a series of interconnected cases—including kidnapping, blackmail, and a gold heist—all seemingly tied to their vengeance-seeking arch-nemesis and blast-from-the-past, Real Estate Mogul, Derek Turpin.

Read more…

The Gold Dragon Caper is available on Kindle Unlimited, via Amazon’s 1-click download, and in paperback.

Audiobook edition coming soon!


My Jeopardy Challenge

For the last couple of years, I’ve been taking the on-line Jeopardy! Challenge, hoping to get a chance to try out for the show and fulfill this item on my bucket list. Each time, I am reminded of how little I know (or can remember within the 15-second time limit).

fullsizeoutput_1584The last on-line test was held some three months ago. I had already put the outcome out of my mind when I found an email in my Inbox with the header, “Jeopardy! Contestant Audition in San Francisco on July 11th at 2pm.”

My first reaction was to suspect a hoax – not such an outlandish thought in this era of scams, hacks and phishing. But it was the real thing.

On Tuesday, July 10th, my husband and I loaded our luggage and our Australian Cobberdog into the car for the drive to San Francisco. We booked into The Lodge at the Presidio, a brand, spanking new dog-friendly inn located in what is described as an Urban National Park. Our room looked out on the Golden Gate Bridge.

The next day, I boarded a free PresidiGo shuttle bus, which dropped me a brisk five-minute walk from the audition venue in downtown San Francisco. I had time to kill, and spent most of it strolling up and down Market Street, soaking in the city’s sights, traffic and noise. Quite a change from tranquil Carmel-by-the-Sea! I used the rest of the time to fortify myself with brain food – a Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundae – in advance of the audition.

Upon arriving at the audition venue, I found myself to be one of about 40 hopeful candidates. After the Jeopardy! team took attendance and photographed each one of us, they divided us into two groups of 20 and shepherded us into separate conference rooms, where we were greeted (via a video presentation) by Alex Trebek.

The first phase of the audition was the most nerve-wracking, consisting of a 50-item quiz. Each clue was flashed onto a screen at the front of the room, and we had eight – count ’em, EIGHT – seconds to scribble down each answer. At least we didn’t have to phrase them in the form of a question.

The other part of the audition consisted of a series of mock Jeopardy! games. We were invited to the front of the room in groups of three. We each were given a signalling device and told to ‘ring in’ just as if we were on TV. After we survived the answer-and-question experience, we were each given a couple of minutes to talk about ourselves.

The entire audition lasted more than two hours. It has taken me two days to decompress.

You are probably wondering how I did. Whether I made the cut. The short answer is that I can’t tell you, because I don’t know. I won’t find out whether I made it into the final contestant pool until (unless) I get “THE CALL” – the phone call inviting me to appear on the show.

On the plus side, I walked away with some minor swag – a Jeopardy! ballpoint pen and a set of Jeopardy! ear buds – and a fun story to share with family and friends.




Bruno signs for Book #5

Fans of the Damien Dickens Mysteries will be relieved to learn that Bruno Caravaggio has agreed to appear in Book 5 of the series.
While not a title character, Bruno has been a stalwart supporting player, coming to the aid of Damien and Millie in each of their first four adventures.
Terms of the contract have not been disclosed; however, it is rumored that Bruno insisted his role in Book 5 must be more than simply a cameo appearance. “I have much more to offer than being a bit player,” he explained. “I refuse to be shunted into a minor role.”
When asked what he thought about Damien and Millie’s move to the West Coast, Bruno replied, “Suits me. I always wanted to learn how to surf.”
Stay tuned for more breaking news about the next installment in the Damien Dickens Mysteries.


Room for one more – project, that is

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?

Version 2

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…


Presenting Alison Henderson

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.



Website address: http://www.alisonhenderson.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alisonhendersonauthor/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Alison-Henderson


The Gold Dragon Caper wins Readers’ Favorite 5-star seal

5star-flat-webI 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?

TGDC Cover image 6 x 9 cropTwists 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.