Saturday, April 21, 2018

Author Interview: Mystery Writer C.A. Asbrey

Today I spotlighting a mystery writer, C.A. Asbrey.  

She has experience as a young police officer in Scotland who learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions was a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. She also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. 

She has a new mystery that has just been released:

Here is an interview with this writer:

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’ plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet.   
What is your writing Kryptonite
Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work, and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?  
That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 
Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 
Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up used as disguises in the book began to flourish right around the period the books are set in as lighting improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
As I write 19TH century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
That would be either the Pope of the Queen – on a protection duty. When the Pope visited Scotland I was the police officer at the bottom of the aircraft steps. We then moved with him into the city. As a fun aside, the glass-covered vehicle he used was nicknamed the Pope Mobile by the press. The crowds were all still there when we returned to the airport in the Pope mobile without him. We stood in full uniform waving flowers out the top to cheering crowds as we drove the full length of Prince’s Street in Edinburgh (the big main street in Scotland’s capital city). The crowd cheered us and waved flags as we passed. Only a Scottish crowd could hail a car full of police officers like that. Great fun.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 
Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up, used as disguises in the book, began to flourish right around the period the books are set in. Lighting had improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been playing with the characters for about ten years, but work and life got in the way. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.
What inspires you?
Often fact is stranger than fiction, so I’ll start with real crime or criminals. I‘ll then change it to ensure that even people familiar with that particular crime can’t guess whodunit. The stories are inspired by real crimes and people but they are not a memoir. They are stories where everything is historically possible. It either happened or could have happened.   
How did you come to write The Innocents?
My grasp on the methodologies used by law enforcement, when applied the law in day to day enquiries in the days before technology was available, as well as historic weaknesses and blind spots in the both the legal and court systems, make for an authentic backdrop to the characters.    
I was always a voracious reader, my mother teaching me with flashcards at the age of two, and graduating to the adult section of the library about the age of ten. I easily finished three books a week for years and was lost without one. Mysteries were a real love and I consumed the works of writers old and new constantly. The one thing I always wanted to do was to write but never had the confidence or time to do more than dream about it.
As a child I loved to run lines with my actor father when he rehearsed, and peeked in on the parties full of creative people singing, dancing, telling jokes, performing and discussing the issues of the day. Childhood taught me that creativity was something you do, not something you passively watch. That carried over to a love of singing, professionally and with choirs, as well as playing some dodgy fiddle music, alongside far better musicians who either made me sound okay or drowned me out entirely. Either way I managed to carry it off for a bit and even bagged a musician husband.  
I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police in Scotland. History has always held a draw and the colorful stories of the older officers piqued my interest, making her look even further back.
The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’. Now there’s another story which needs to be told!
The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. This was a skill set my childhood had prepared her to understand.  
These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.”
I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well. They do say you should write what you know.    
My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA and visiting the places where these women worked deepened my  passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police and Home Office experts allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately.   
The topic for ‘The Innocents Mystery Series’ simmered in the background for years, and all the time I was researching more and more deeply into the period. I love the rapid pace of innovation and invention in the 19th century. Nothing pleases me more than finding spy gadgets available at the time which were invented far earlier than most people would think possible.

Work and life got in the way of the books being anything more than an idea until I was suddenly grounded by a serious accident. The enforced leisure time of recuperation focused my mind and the old dream of writing resurfaced. It started as a short story which took on a life of its own when it grew and grew—then grew some more.

Eventually, ‘The Innocents Mysteries’ evolved and I found the perfect home for it at Prairie Rose. This is my first foray into fiction. I have produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. I was Media Trained by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC's One Show and Watchdog. I have also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

I run a blog which explores all things strange, mysterious, and unexpected about the 19th century. It was a huge compliment to be told that another writer finds it a great resource. The link can be found below.
I live with my husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. Another move is on the cards in 2108 to the beautiful city of York.

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period
Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A New Orleans Mystery

After two years, my husband and I have finally finished writing this mystery which takes place in New Orleans. We hope you will like it! Here's what it is about:

In this intriguing New Orleans mystery, two murder investigations take center stage in the Crescent City. First, a young woman is gunned down during a wedding at St. Louis Cathedral; then 13 bodies are found in a shipping container on the docks. Could these two seemingly unrelated cases be connected? Discover the seamy underworld of human trafficking as two homicide detectives search for answers.

Available in both print and eBook formats at Amazon:

Also available at the following retailers:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Have You Seen the Neon Museum in Las Vegas?

I traveled through Las Vegas many times when I was growing up and my Dad drove us to see family in Colorado from our home in Southern California, but it wasn't until recently that I spent the night in Vegas and visited for the Neon Museum for the first time.  I've always loved Neon and the beautiful look of Art Deco buildings in South Beach Florida and the Route 66 landmarks such as The Blue Swallow Motel.  My husband and I traveled to Las Vegas so I could do some research for the cozy mystery I was writing which took place at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas.  The climax of the book happens at the Neon Museum; so here's an excerpt from my story The Salacious Scribes Mystery:

I returned to the Bellagio and met my husband for dinner and a bit of sight-seeing. After we ate a very expensive but delicious meal in the hotel, he drove us to the “poor side of town”—the Fremont District—the Real Downtown Las Vegas—as the locals insist—as opposed to The Strip. We wanted to see the Neon Museum, home to some of the most treasured and world-famous signs of Las Vegas.  It is an outdoor museum that houses discarded neon signs ranging from the 1930s to the present day. When I think of neon—I think of Las Vegas and some of the neon signs from Vegas’s yesteryears were impressive and beautiful in their own kitschy way. The neon museum looked like a weird junkyard; but at night, it was a wonderland for any fan of glowing neon signs and Googie architecture, a style that thrived in the 1950s and early 1960s that is also known as Coffee Shop Modern or Space Age. Some of the buildings in this style remind me of the cartoon series The Jetsons: especially the space age structure at LAX.  Many of Vegas’s old hotels and businesses were designed in this style and the La Concha Hotel was a prime example. Before being torn down, the shell of its lobby was saved and transported to a new location, which was now the welcome center for the Neon Museum.  
My husband and I entered the reception area and were told to wait either in the gift shop or patio area until our tour began.  I was dying to find out what the “neon boneyard” as they called it looked like after seeing the postcards in the museum’s gift shop, but a low rod iron fence reigned us in until the tour guide was ready.  Finally, it was our turn and we were herded into a larger group and made our way towards the outdoor museum.
The “boneyard” as the guide called it, was strewn with large signs lying on their sides.  Lit neon arrows now pointed nowhere. Our guide, who looked about 35, brought us over to the neon sign for the former Stardust Hotel and said, “I’ve lived in Vegas all my life and the Stardust sign was always my favorite.”

He continued, “Until the Stardust was torn down to make way for the glitzier hotels on the Strip, this was always my favorite sign. For a little kid, it was magical: Aladdin’s lamp used to be lit and the smoke and mist coming out of the lamp meant that the genie was about to appear.”  
Next, he took us to a large statue of a man playing pool that had rust streaks, making it look like he was dripping blood and could be a character in a Zombie Apocalypse movie. My favorite neon sign was the one for the Sahara Hotel.  It showed a scene from a desert oasis, complete with roaming camels, palm trees, and a domed building.  I really felt the vibe for Vegas’s Rat Pack days of the fifties and early sixties.  What was once thought kitschy is now considered art.
After my husband and I returned to our hotel, he pulled out a half bottle of wine from the minibar, and we sat down in two chairs. We clinked our wine glasses together in a toast and looked out the window of our room on the 26th floor. We watched the dancing fountains with the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the background. It was magical. 
After such a glorious night, romance was in the air; so, we gave each other a massage and unpacked our silver bullet vibrator.
In the afterglow, I was feeling so warm and high that, completely naked, I plopped myself down in front of our window to watch more of the dancing water show. “I don’t care if anyone sees me naked,” I told my husband, throwing caution to the wind.
He laughed; then grabbed a chair and sat down beside me.  “Life is good,” he told me and reached over for another kiss.

Would you like to read my cozy mystery that took place here?  It's available for only $1.99 at the following eBookstores:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Armchair Traveling

Readers and Writers, Welcome to 2018.  Are you ready to do some armchair traveling?  Where would you like to go on vacation this year?

If you've always dreamed of going on a literary tour of England, you may want to check out this essay entitled "England in the Footsteps of Its Literary Giants."  This travelogue explores the literary landmarks of England by visiting the birthplaces and environs of some of the best writers of the English language. In it, you will find the worlds of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, James Herriot, Thomas Hardy and William Shakespeare, to name but a few. One need not be an English Major to enjoy this book. All one needs is a yen to travel. It's worth a visit. Here's what one reader said in a FIVE STAR REVIEW: "Charming and delightful, both photographically and descriptively. What a wonderful story of living your dreams!"

Planning a vacation? Why not New Orleans? It's one of my favorite cities in the world and I've returned to it many times over the years. I wrote this travelogue/romance novel entitled "Honeymoon in New Orleans" about my favorite places to visit, dine, and stay overnight in The Crescent City and Louisiana. My travelogue also includes helpful websites to consider before planning your next vacation.

Would you like to take a trip to one of the American South's most beautiful city?  How about this murder/mystery that takes place there?

"In Honeymoon in Savannah: A Detective Santy Mystery," a female detective hopes to spend a quiet honeymoon with her husband in one of America’s most beautiful cities. She and her husband are both big fans of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, so they decide to make a pilgrimage to Savannah to see the sights mentioned in the book. Her time as a tourist is short-lived however when a famous chef is murdered. The chef just happens to be her cousin--so this is personal--and Clarissa can't rest until she finds out whodunit.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Las Vegas Cozy Mystery

I was part of a group of erotic romance writers and my cozy and fun mystery, The Salacious Scribes Mystery, is loosely based on what might have happened when our charismatic leader decided to branch out on his own. The climax of the story occurs at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas where someone shoots him.  Whodunit? Was it one of the writers in his "stable"?  Or was it one of his groupies who discovers him with another woman?  Perhaps it was a business deal gone wrong? 

The story is told by an awkward 63-year-old erotic romance writer whose husband accompanies her to Las Vegas, along with their uncannily human-like black cat who keeps her in line when she finds herself attracted to the investigating detective.  While I was writing this cozy mystery my husband and I went to Las Vegas for inspiration and my descriptions of our room at the Bellagio, the famous Neon Museum, and the Mob Museum add local color to the story.

The view from our room at The Bellagio

Shortly after our visit, the mass shooting at The Mirage happened.  My niece was staying there and she barely made it back home.  Others in my family were missing. It deeply affected me; so much so that I pulled The Salacious Scribes Mystery out of circulation for a while.  It felt like the end of innocence for me; just like I had felt after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Months later, my cozy mystery is back in print and the humorous predicaments that my main character gets herself into will hopefully bring a smile to the faces of those who are kind enough to read it. 

Because of the sexual nature of the story, this book is for those 18 and older.

Here are the buy links:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

James Bond and Nancy Drew

Can you find James Bond on the cover of this eBook?  This is a funny story about a teenage sleuth who goes to London with her father and is delighted when she discovers that Daniel Craig (AKA James Bond) is staying at their hotel.  I was inspired to write this book by my love of Nancy Drew books and my love of London.  On vacation in London a few years back, James Bond actually was staying at the same hotel as my husband and I were.  At the time, the actor who played Bond was Pierce Brosnan.  Just like Nancy Keene in my story of The Stolen Mask, I was settling into our upper bedroom when I looked out the window and saw Agent 007 drinking champagne in the hotel's garden. I was as star-struck as any teenage school girl would be.

In this story, Nancy opens the door of her hotel room to retrieve the morning paper and is shocked when Daniel Craig opens the door next to hers to do the same thing.  He is only wearing a towel around his waist.  He sees her in her flannel nightgown, and self-consciously looks down at his towel to make sure nothing's showing.  When he catches her looking in the same place, he winks at her and goes back inside his room.  Nancy feels her first stirrings of passion and is pleased that she has an opportunity to come to his aid when someone steals his BAFTA award out of his room.

I am a total Anglophile and love all things British--its literature, its music, its history, its art. I love writing about places I've traveled to, so in this story I have Nancy sight-seeing at some of my favorite destinations in and around London.  She goes on a Jane Austen pilgrimage, visits Buckingham Palace, shops at Harrods, and goes to the Sherlock Holmes museum.  Nancy is very precocious and has read a lot, so when she tries to solve the case of the stolen mask, she channels Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Rumpole of the Bailey.

This book is one of my favorite ones I've written and I hope my readers will like it, too.  So, come with Nancy Keene on a trip to London where she meets James Bond and even gets to walk the red carpet with him when she's back home for the Oscars.  A bit of a stretch?  Of course, but a girl can't help but dream.

Buy Links:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mystery Writers' Genres

Attention Mystery Writers: What sub-genres of mysteries does your book fall under?
The mystery genre has developed many sub-genres over the years. Correctly labeling your mystery will determine how discoverable it will be on and other book channels where your books are available.  Here are 13 of the most common sub-genres:

Cozy: When the rich uncle is found poisoned, the kindly lady from across the heath skips her afternoon tea to discover which of the family members committed the dastardly deed.
The cozy, typified by Agatha Christie, contains a bloodless crime and a victim who won't be missed. The solution can be determined using emotional (Miss Marple) or logical (Poirot) reasoning. The Malice Domestic convention celebrates this tradition and produces an annual anthology.

Amateur Sleuth: Even though his business partner's death is declared a suicide, Frank can't shake the feeling that his partner was killed to sabotage the defense contract.
The amateur sleuth tries to solve the murder of someone close. Either the police have tried and failed or misread the murder as an accident/suicide. Both the loss and need for a solution is personal. These are usually single-shot stories and novels since lightning rarely strikes the same person again and again (outside of a television series). [Editor's Note: This is changing, however, and there are a large number of amateur sleuths who are normally engaged in such businesses as selling tea or making quilts, but who manage to stumble across dead bodies on a regular basis.]

Professional Sleuth: Although Swiss banks were world-renowned for discretion and secrecy, Hans knew he needed to explain the dead body in the vault before Monday morning.
The professional sleuth is an amateur sleuth in a professional setting, preferably a setting which is unique and intriguing. Not only is inside information used, but solving the crime returns order to a cloistered environment. Think Dick Frances and the world of horse racing.

Police Procedural: As Lieutenant Dickerman watched the new guy blow too much dust across the glass table top, he reached for the antacids in his pocket. The killer had struck four times now and Dickerman had to depend on clowns fresh out of the academy to gather evidence.
The police procedural emphasizes factual police operations. Law enforcement is a team effort where department politics often plays a large role. If you plan to write one of these, you need to spend time with police officers and research the tiny details which will make your story ring true. Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels describe the workings of a fictional big-city department.

Legal/Medical: The defense lawyer knew that the surgeon was going to be a difficult expert witness.
Lawyers and doctors make effective protagonists since they seem to exist on a plane far above the rest of us. Although popular, these tales are usually penned by actual lawyers and doctors due to the demands of the information presented. To find latest legal/medical mystery look no farther than the bestseller list.

Suspense: Despite the fact Greg hadn't seen the killer flee the scene of the crime, the two attempts on his life convinced him the killer believed otherwise.
Instead of the sleuth pursuing the criminal, in suspense the protagonist is the one being pursued. Here the question is not so much "Who done it?" but "How will the main character stay alive?" These thrillers are often blockbusters.

Romantic Suspense: Despite the fact Vanessa hadn't seen the killer flee the scene of the crime, the two attempts on her life made her wonder if she shouldn't have said anything to Richard.
Add a hefty dose of romance to a suspense and produce a romantic suspense. Not only does justice prevail, but love conquers all. The spectrum runs from Mary Higgins Clark to mystery lines from the paperback romance publishers.

Historical: When Sam Adams turned the Boston Massacre into a call for revolution, he neglected to mention that one of the men killed was shot not by the British but by someone firing from a second story window.
Move your mystery into the past, near or far, and you've entered the realm of the historical mystery. Crime has always been in fashion and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and ability to research. The Historial Mystery Appreciation Society can be found at [Editor's Note: Another interesting resource on historical mysteries is Crime Thru Time, at]

Mixed Genre: As if it wasn't bad enough that a clone had terminated a robot, Inspector Ji suspected the killing had been ordered by the Velusian ambassador.
Move your mystery into the future and you've entered the realm of the mixed-genre mystery. Although mixed-genre isn't confined to SF, science fiction is a healthy market which welcomes the marriage. Isaac Asimov's ROBOT series is one example of a future police detective.

Private Eye: He fingered the retainer in his pocket, tried to remind himself that the client was always right. It didn't wash. She thought she could buy him but he wasn't for sale.
The Private Eye is as much an American icon as the Western gunslinger. From the hardboiled PIs of the 30s and 40s to the politically correct investigators of today, this sub-genre is known for protagonists with a strong code of honor. While Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder is an unofficial PI, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is licensed.

Noir: He fingered the check in his pocket. He knew it would bounce, but so had Mac when he hit the pavement from seven stories up.
While much PI is Noir, Noir also covers stories from the other side of the fence. Noir is a mood: gritty, bleak, and unforgiving. The usual brutality is about as far from Cozy as you can get. Plug "noir" into your favorite search engine to find a wealth of sites offering original and reprinted fiction.

Crime: They had thirty seconds to cut the alarm. Best time during drills had been fifteen. Now, twenty seconds after opening the faceplate, Allison slipped and dropped the pliers inside the wall.

Suspense in the crime story comes from wondering whether the plan will work. We're rooting for the bad guys because they are smart, organized, and daring. The ride will be a bumpy one. This sub-genre works well in film. Consider renting The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3Entrapment, or The Thomas Crowne Affaire.

Caper: The gun had been loaded when he left the house this morning so why wouldn't it shoot now? Gus cursed as he throttled the lump of metal and then glared down the barrel.
A caper is a comic crime story. Instead of suave and calculating, the caper chronicles the efforts of the lovable bungler who either thinks big or ridiculously small. Finally, we get to laugh.