Monday, December 26, 2022

Canine Christmas Eve

Man’s – and woman’s – best friend is a dog. And whenever family and friends are invited for dinner, their dogs are too. This year as usual, we all got together to celebrate on Christmas Eve.

Prior to the holidays, I bought a bunch of dog toys as a diversionary tactic for dinner time. I put the toys on the patio coffee table, and one by one, the dogs chose a new toy. My youngster, Jake – half Border collie / half hound – was so excited, he jumped on top of the table to choose his toy. While we ate dinner inside, the dogs played happily in the backyard in the warm and dry SoCal evening.

During dessert, the dogs rejoined us inside, and the gift giving began. My grand-dog, Finn, distributed presents. My son gave Finn small packages and told him who to take them to. (There was only one incident when the wrapping was so exciting that Finn opened it instead of delivering it.)

I received the perfect gift for a writer. When I’m working on a manuscript, ideas materialize spontaneously. Often in the shower. My present was a notebook with “all-weather writing paper that sheds water” ( Now I’ll be able to capture those fleeting thoughts at previously inopportune moments.

Wishing you and yours Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Perception & Other Fine Lines

Half full or half empty?
Perception is uniquely individual and can be shaped by past experiences.

In the 1980s, smoking was allowed at the rear of airplanes. Being a non-smoker, I always sat in front. But on one business trip, I joined a co-worker sitting behind the wings. The flight was uneventful until the landing. Who knew the cowling would rotate off the top of the engine to act as an air brake? Who wouldn’t scream if they thought the engine was breaking apart? But it was an every-flight occurrence for the smokers.

Everyone perceives what they read differently.

I submitted the first several chapters of a cozy mystery I’m writing for critique. I received feedback ranging from “love it” to “hate it.” I reflected on the feedback and realized I’d written a toxic work environment. It was a stellar setting for my detective series, but it bombed out with cozy readers.

I revised the atmosphere of the work setting and resubmitted my chapters to the same readers. Most readers preferred the supportive work environment. Several, though, preferred the darker, conflict-infused version.

I found the mixed responses intriguing and wondered if the opinions split along the cozy / non-cozy divide. Readers have expectations based on the book’s genre, and I’d stumbled across the line in my initial attempt at creating this art form.

Understanding reader expectation is important for writing successful genre books. But best-selling author status isn’t why I write. It will be interesting to see if this book ‘conforms’ or morphs into a Frankenstein-ian fusion of genres.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Omnifete 2022

The first annual Omnifete exploded onto the creativity scene Sunday, November 13. The physical location of the arts fair was Southern California, but artisans from the around the country displayed their wares.

The day began with a late morning book launch party (at Pamela’s Tea Room in Garden Grove) for Omni’s sixth anthology, Fabulae ex Elementis. The book includes original and tweaked fairy tales ‘with an elemental twist.’

The afternoon arts fair (hosted by Whimsicalidocious Arts, the philanthropy arm of the Omni Ocademy) emphasized literacy advocacy and cultural connectivity. From books to baking to painting to hand crafting to jewelry to massage therapy and music, I browsed, enjoyed, tasted, and purchased.

I admit I spent more than I brought in selling my books, but no complaints here!

One of the highlights of the day was the talented group of SoCal acoustic musicians pickin’ bluegrass. I look forward to hearing them again.

Photo by Nevine

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Literary Threat

This morning while I was online, I was literally threatened. Or would that be literarily?

The main character in the cozy mystery I’m writing revealed to my online chat friend (who had inspired another story character) what she’d seen the friend’s character do. Then my friend’s character threatened the main character.

And just like that, the subplot became more interesting.

The main character will receive an anonymous threatening note. But she leaves fingerprints all over it when she tries to correct the punctuation, causing the police to think she sent it to herself.

I know how the main character felt – about the punctuation.

I came home from work one day decades ago, and found an anonymous note taped to my front gate. I had the urge to get a red pen and mark up all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. I wanted to write ‘Please correct and re-submit’ on the top and tape it back on my gate. I didn’t though.

A week later, a neighbor knocked on my door to complain about my barking dog. As she spoke, my dog trotted up and sat quietly beside me. All the while, some other neighbor’s dog continued to bark. Her apology was truly one of the little joys in life.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Professional Crastinator’s Tip of the Day

My publisher asked me to do a ‘column’ of audio “Tips of the Day” that focus on my expertise as a professional crastinator.

(I’m not sure, but this might have something to do with being a year overdue for submitting my third Detective Scott McGregor mystery for publication.)

I write scripts for the tips, then record the content. My publisher edits the recording then uploads it to the “Gooder Sense and Guidance” playlist  of the Omni Ocademy’s YouTube channel. My video titles begin with “Professional Crastinator DJ Piper talks…”

The audio tip column might have been intended as a ‘punishment’ or a ‘wake-up call,’ but if so, it backfired. The tips are a blast to write and record. And don’t tell my publisher, but it’s another great way to procrastinate editing and revising my book.

Listen to my first “Professional Crastinator’s Tip of the Day.”

My second tip features a very special guest.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Good, the Bad, and Texas

The moment I hit Texas, my friend of over fifty years whisked me off for barbeque, cole slaw, fried okra, and iced tea. Friends, family, and food draw me back “home” regardless of the exact geographic location.

My friend is one of my muses. She helped spur ideas for a plot I’m writing as a short story. During the visit, she read the story’s draft and gave incredible feedback. Nothing beats a beta-reading muse.

I reaped the benefits of having a beta reader who matched the demographics of a major character in the story. I did my best to imagine how an octogenarian character would think and react but missed the mark. My friend hit the bullseye.

In addition to visiting friends, my two-week cultural and culinary vacation included Houston’s Museum District, afternoon tea, lots of good Southern eatin’, and local distilleries and breweries.

But Texas temperatures flirted with either side of one hundred degrees the entire time I was there. And the mosquitoes … the Texas mosquitoes have such hardy appetites they should be blood donors afterwards. (Hmm … Could a slapped mosquito deposit an innocent person’s blood and DNA at a crime scene?)

I got lots of inspiration on my trip and added characters and plot points for a cozy mystery featuring a volunteer worker at a Victorian house museum.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Unexpected Benefits

Before writing, my network of friends and family included one fiction author. She encouraged me to write, and I met a couple of online friends in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) community.

I joined local and national writers’ associations and met more writerly people.

I took online classes offered by the National Sisters in Crime Guppy Chapter. The classes are filled with writers in all stages of their career—from beginning writers to published authors.

But it’s through the in-person and Zoom meetings that friendships bloomed with other writers.

Developing a network of writing friends was an unexpected benefit of writing. Now when I browse mysteries in physical or virtual bookstores, I personally know some of the authors.

I met Karen Sue Walker through a local writers’ organization. I enjoy her three series—the Bridal Shop mysteries, the Haunted Tearoom mysteries, and the Arrow Investigations action-adventure mysteries. Because I know her, I feel a special connection to her characters and stories.

I often read at tea, and one of Karen’s Haunted Tearoom mysteries is the perfect companion.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fan Club

My fan club has doubled in size recently. From 1 to 2.

One of my daughter’s friends was visiting her and saw “Murder Goes on Vacation,” the second Detective Scott McGregor mystery, lying on her table. He was reading it after another friend had shared the book with him. My daughter told him her mother wrote it, but he didn’t believe her — until she showed him the dedication and my picture on the website.

The anecdote gave me a warm feeling of accomplishment. Readers beyond my social network of family and friends felt the book was worth sharing.

(And for the sake of honesty, the other club member is really a fan of the children’s book illustrator, Deborah Anne. Isn’t she cute?)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Dreams Come True

My publisher, Founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Whimsicalidocious Arts, the nonprofit overseen by the Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences, should be catwalking Cloud Nine. In July, two of her decade-long dreams finally came to fruition.

Whimsicalidocious Arts “cultivate(s) and nurture(s) performing and culinary artists, fine artists, handwork crafters, authors, musicians, and other creatives with an emphasis on literacy advocacy and cultural connectivity.”

The Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences (aka, Omni, the Ocademy – “where you’re always in your element”) "offers a whimsical interactive approach to education, entertainment, and enrichment.”

Early in the month, the first annual pirate-themed Shared Treasure Hunt (STH) launched at a beachside park in SoCal. “Shared Treasure Hunt is the Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences' kids-helping-kids program designed to aid homeless and impoverished children while teaching more fortunate youths the value and joy of philanthropy.”

Later in the month, she hosted a Patron Appreciation ParTea to launch and celebrate the Academy of Omniosophical Arts & Sciences with element-based dining tables, during which a few participants recreated a tea scene from her Peyton Drake fantasy series with a skit.

Through Omni’s social group, the Tea Travellers Societea, I have attended numerous themed events and traveled the West Coast from San Diego to Vancouver Island, Canada.

Omni’s in-house publishing arm, E. Gads Hill Press, publishes my books and anthology contributions.

I first met my publisher at a mystery-themed tea event at Pamela’s Tea Room. We meet there often for tea, and last month I asked how she describes her work. She said she runs a “creativity academy with an emphasis on philanthropy.” That sums it up nicely.

She doesn’t have time for the catwalk, but Cloud Nine has definitely become her address.


Monday, August 1, 2022

Adding POV

In my last post, I’d pruned the deadwood from a scene’s rough draft.

Next, I infused the character’s point-of-view into the scene to add interest and draw in the reader.

Saturday morning, August 8


Disneyland Paris gif from
Lynn groaned and reached out to slap off the alarm but hit an empty tabletop. She opened her eyes, and an involuntary smile lit her face. The B-and-B. The spa. She turned off the alarm and jumped out of bed.

She vocalized a triumphant version of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ as she showered. After drying her hair, she browsed her wardrobe choices. The spa package included manicures and pedicures, facials, and massages.

She selected a calf-length sundress suitable for the warm summer day. She laid the dress on the bed and fanned its wide skirt. Large red flowers popped from white fabric. Small green leaves accented the pattern.

Lynn reached into the closet for sandals but, instead, pulled out a short, hot-pink dress. She held it against herself and admired the reflection in the mirror. The color set off her complexion and golden hair, and the style complimented the curves of her figure.

The doorknob rattled, and Roni walked into the room. “Hey, no fair being sexier than the bride.”

Lynn chuckled. “Scott can’t keep his eyes off me when I wear this, but I’ll wear a longer dress for the pedicure. Can’t be modest in a short one.”

Roni grinned as she smoothed her blonde hair into place. “Becca and Delaney are downstairs drinking coffee. Breakfast will be served in ten minutes. See you there.”

Lynn hummed a reprise of ‘Ode to Joy’ as she dressed. The full skirt of the red-and-white floral sundress billowed as she twirled in front of the mirror. Happy with her choice, she opened the door and followed the aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls to join the other bachelorettes for breakfast.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Dressing for the Part

Although authors spend time learning about their characters before writing, most of the backstory shouldn’t show up on the page. Lynn’s dress choice is important later, but my existing scene didn’t advance the story.

While preparing a ‘Deleted Scene’ post, I trimmed the scene (waking up in the hotel room, talking with the bride-to-be, getting ready, and having breakfast) and realized I liked what was left. The scene needed revision, not deletion.

Saturday morning, August 8


Seven o’clock already? Lynn rolled over and slapped off the alarm. After showering and drying her hair, she opened the hotel closet and debated what to wear. The spa package included manicures and pedicures, facials, and massages.

She selected a calf-length sundress suitable for the warm summer day. She laid the dress on the bed and fanned its wide skirt. Large red flowers popped from white fabric. Small green leaves accented the pattern.

Lynn turned back to the closet for sandals but, instead, pulled out a short, hot-pink dress. She held it against herself and admired the reflection in the mirror. The color set off her complexion and golden hair, and the style complimented the curves of her figure.

She chuckled. “Scott can’t keep his eyes off me when I wear this dress.” But, for modesty’s sake, I’ll wear a longer dress for the pedicure.

Lynn dressed quickly. The full skirt of the red-and-white floral sundress billowed as she twirled in front of the mirror before leaving the room to meet the other bachelorettes for breakfast.


Friday, July 1, 2022

Pathway to a Plot

I began planning the third Detective McGregor mystery three months into writing the first in the series.

I started with a conflict premise: a woman attending a bachelorette party is kidnapped. Then I brainstormed ideas for plot, plot twists, characters, and setting.

The brainstormed outline became a living document. I copied the plot points into the manuscript and wrote the scenes in that order. As I wrote and revised, I restructured the original plot. Some of the early plot ideas were eliminated, and others were heavily modified or moved. Many of the characters were cut or combined.

I chose a setting I loved and spent countless hours online researching specific locations and the logistics of the plot. Then I took a research trip to the area to test the logistics and experience the setting so I could describe it realistically.

Now all the scenes have been written, and I’m continuing to revise and refine the rough draft.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Deleted Scenes - Puget Sound Bound

During the book creation process, much of the first draft is revised, moved, or deleted. The following was my original introduction to Scott and Lynn in ‘Forever After,’ the third Detective Scott McGregor mystery. It was deleted during the draft’s revision.

Wednesday afternoon, August 5
Fresno Police Detective Scott McGregor looked forward to attending his friends’ wedding in the Puget Sound, even though it meant he and his girlfriend were members of the wedding party.

He chuckled. How did that happen? Being a groomsman was suggested so skillfully, I was honored to be asked. His girlfriend, Lynn Carter, worked with children, and he suspected she had used her child management skills to persuade him to agree.

The abrupt ringing of his desk phone interrupted his musing. “Detective McGregor.” He listened a few moments, grunted in agreement, and replaced the handset. He picked up his well-worn notebook and headed to the next meeting.

* * *

Lynn Carter, Speech-Language Pathologist, hummed in happy anticipation as she walked through the hallway of the Sierra Children’s Hospital in Fresno. Three hours until my summer vacation begins. She restricted her happy dance to an extra wiggle or two as she headed toward her final meeting.

Plans were in place for therapy sessions with the children currently in her care. The speech clinic would cover her caseload while she was gone, and the other SLPs could assess and treat new patients.

For the first time, the children would not weigh heavily on her mind during her time off.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Shameless Shilling

My brother snapped a photo of me enjoying a murder mystery last week while we were cruising the South Pacific.

The road to paradise (i.e., French Polynesia) is paved with good intentions. Early one morning, I sat on the ship’s observation deck to edit my work-in-progress. I began analyzing each scene, writing down its goal, motivation, and conflict. But the ship’s rocking was most pronounced on the top level, and I became queasy. Good enough reason to stop working and fully enjoy the vacation.

During the five-day National Geographic expedition, we explored islands, atolls, and lagoons. One of the highlights was swimming in the grotto, a freshwater-filled cave on Makatea, a raised coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Other favorite memories include snorkeling in the lagoons and viewing colorful fish, sharks, Moray eels, and an octopus from a glass bottom boat.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Yeah, I’m Revising

In my euphoric last post, I’d finished the rough draft of my work-in-progress. My ‘next-steps list’ included … after a short break, the revision begins in earnest.

I’ve taken the list to heart. I’ve earnestly been enjoying my break. I’ve spent time with family, friends, and dogs.

But I’ve also been thinking about readers, specifically who and why they will enjoy the book.

My brother and sister-in-law will like it because it’s dedicated to them. (Vacationing in – I mean – researching the Puget Sound was hard work.) And I hope my brother’s best friend likes it; his name was used for an illegal tree poacher. (I hope he doesn’t lose his forestry department job.) My daughter will like it because the heroine’s actions are based on a comment my daughter made. My dog-lover friends will like it because a stray dog found a ‘forever home.’ My publisher will love it because she can mark the book’s (long overdue) publication off her To-Do list.

Then we party. Funny how the book’s launch party was planned long before I reached ‘The End.’


Sunday, May 1, 2022


During April, I achieved my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of drafting the remaining scenes of “Forever After.” Now, after a short break, the revision begins in earnest.

I used to think authors who preferred revising over writing the initial draft were crazy. But now, in my euphoric state of being done with the first draft, I can understand. All the basic bones of the scenes are on paper (digitally), although in places the draft is very rough. (I channel Rodney Dangerfield at times like this. ‘My draft is so rough, I got splinters the size of telephone poles.’)

Writing a book is a multi-step process: draft the story; wait to gain a fresh perspective; read it through, making notes on what works and doesn’t work; revise the story; then repeat the read / revise cycle until the story is perfected. The final step is editing to make the prose sing.

Although many people write the entire draft before revising, I prefer to write a bit, then revise and polish what I wrote. And repeat ad nauseum. "Circling the drain" is how I describe my writing style. It works for me, but it’s not the fastest way from start to finish.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo, which occurs in April and July, is a laid-back version of the National Novel Writing Month’s November goal of writing 50k words for a brand-new story. I’ve never won. I’m not dedicated enough to write an average of 1,667 words every day, especially when I have lots of family and social commitments in November. Many writers do, though, and I admire their passion and success.

My writing goal for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo is to finish the draft of my third McGregor mystery. There are only ten scenes left to complete the story. I’m looking forward to April being my National Novel Finishing Month.

After I finish the draft, I’ll need to edit and revise it, tightening up the plot and polishing the prose. Then the story will go to beta readers and comes back to me for another round of revisions.

Sending the draft to beta readers was scary with the first book. Would the readers like the story? Did the plot and its sequence make sense? Did I leave out important details or transitions? Now I know beta reader feedback helps strengthen the story, and I’m thrilled when I reach that step.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The 100 Club

My 100th blog post published on April 1, my writing and retirement anniversary.

I began writing in 2017, and my first blog post hit the big time (i.e., my newly created website) later that year in September. I was so proud seeing that first post. Posts published irregularly at first, then eventually settled into a twice-a-month routine.

My favorite post is Character Rights, which discusses whether literary characters can file complaints for the treatment they receive from an author.

It’s been five years since I began writing. I’m nearly finished writing my third Detective Scott McGregor mystery, and I’ve plotted over a dozen more mysteries. Recently, I decided to write some of those as short stories, some without McGregor, and I’m even playing around with cozy mysteries. In my spare time, I’ve written children’s books, short stories, and various short pieces for anthologies and an online magazine.

What will I produce in the next five years?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Mystery Writer Requirements

I love reading whodunnits, and I try to identify the killer and solve the murder before the amateur or professional sleuth does.

But loving to read mysteries isn’t the only requirement for writing them. In addition to all the imagination, inspiration, plotting, writing, rewriting, editing, and revising, an author also needs ‘guts.’ Guts to imagine horrific crimes and commit them to paper or an electronic document.

I may not be a natural-born mystery writer. At least, not a ‘murder’ mystery writer. Characters have died in the creation of my books, although none of the deaths – so far – have been intentional. (Are murder-less murder mysteries a thing?)

Perhaps murder just takes practice. The plots I’ve developed for future books have become progressively more violent. The plot for the final book in the detective series is so violent, though, I may not write it.

The next mystery (#4) is the first to have a real (i.e., intentional) murder. It’s also the first in which Detective Scott McGregor isn’t the main character. Instead, his girlfriend, Lynn Carter, takes the lead and will have her hands full trying to solve a murder to clear one of their friends.

Good luck, Lynn. You and I will both be learning on the job. You’ll learn how to find clues and follow leads. I’ll (hopefully) learn how to write a cozy mystery.


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book Signing

It’s awkward misspelling a fan’s name but imagine signing a book incorrectly.

A local author of national acclaim wrote her first series under a pen name. She chose a different pen name when she published her second series. She admitted during a book tour she had occasionally written the wrong series author name at signing events.

I guess that’s a side effect of success.

I haven’t misspelled fan names (to my knowledge), but I have misspelled my own. And I must admit, it was my legal name.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Dog Days of Winter

I live in a semi-arid region of SoCal. It doesn’t usually rain, but when it does, my dogs don’t like going out in it. Instead, I play inside games with them to burn off enough excess energy so I can have a somewhat productive writing session.

I have two pups: a sedate and well-trained senior female, and a young adult male who’s full of energy. He’s supposed to be in training under the female as a watchdog, but he’s learned that people who visit fall in love with him, so he welcomes all comers.

My ranch-style house makes a good playground. The thirty-five-foot straight stretch from my tea mug in the kitchen to the end of the hall could be the world’s narrowest bowling alley, but I use it to exercise the dogs. The dogs chase the tennis ball down the hall, catch balls and dog frisbees, and jump through a hula hoop. We also practice tricks and off-leash obedience. Finally, the dogs get to eat breakfast, and I can write for a few undisturbed minutes while they relax at my feet.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Writing Snacks

Sisters-in-Crime recently ran an online poll asking about authors’ favorite writing snacks.

Other than copious amounts of black tea with lots of milk, snacking while writing hadn’t occurred to me. I usually write first thing in the morning when I can easily focus on my story – before I clutter my mind interacting with the world through email and the internet. I don’t eat until later.

This morning I tried an experiment. I had cooked for a small, socially distanced birthday celebration last night (we celebrated everyone who has a birthday this year), and there were a few leftover sausage balls (sausage, cheese, Bisquick). I microwaved a couple of them for fifteen seconds and delighted my taste buds with this Southern comfort food. Then I polished off the rest of the sausage balls.

I have to reject this experiment. I foresee gaining five pounds and getting no further with my writing.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Back to School

To support my writing goals for this year, I signed up for more online classes offered through the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

A few days ago, I watched the second webinar in a four-part series on short stories because I suspected a short story wasn’t the same as an unfinished novella.

I also signed up for next month’s Writing Humor class. I obviously need it.

The subplot class begins in a few weeks. I want to add a subplot to my current work-in-progress to increase the intrigue and conflict, but my efforts so far have been clumsy. I know which characters are involved, the actions that make them look guilty, and the effect it has on the main character, Detective Scott McGregor.

I’ll add the subplot during the draft’s revision phase – after I take the class.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year!

I set writing goals for the New Year rather than the usual personal resolutions (that I ignore).

  • Finish and publish Forever After, the third Detective Scott McGregor mystery
  • Complete and submit a short story for the Sisters in Crime Guppy anthology Hook, Line, and Sinker
  • Complete and submit a short story for the Omni anthology From out of the Shadows
  • Start writing my next book, a “cozy” mystery

A “cozy” mystery is told from the point of view of a character who isn’t a crime solving professional. Lynn Carter, Detective Scott McGregor’s girlfriend, will solve a murder for which Scott’s best friend is accused. Scott can’t work on the case because of a conflict of interest.

Lynn kept hogging the spotlight in Forever After, so I decided she needed to be the main character in a story of her own.

Wishing you the best in 2022.