Phyllis Entis

Award-winning mystery writer and food safety microbiologist


I hate housekeeping!

Pardon my rant, but I really do hate housekeeping.

I’m not referring to the usual stuff: washing dishes, making the bed, dusting the furniture. I mean all the bits and pieces involved in keeping my book listings current and correct.

And that means dealing with Amazon.

TGDC Cover image 6 x 9 cropYou may know that I recently published the fourth book in my Damien Dickens Mystery series. I uploaded the cover image and the contents files in early April, and scheduled the launch for April 16th, to coincide with my late father’s birthday.

Everything went smoothly, much to my delight. Even the paperback edition appeared like magic on the correct day.

I waited for Amazon to add the fourth title to the Damien Dickens book series page, something that happened automatically for the first three books. After several days, I contacted Amazon’s Author Central (yes, there is such a thing) and asked them (politely) to get off their collective posteriors.

As of this morning, The Gold Dragon Caper is listed as Book 4 in a 3-book series and The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper has disappeared from the book series page altogether. I am now waiting for the crew at Amazon Author Central to respond to my request to fix their error.

And, that’s not all.

A few days ago, following the suggestion of several fellow independent authors, I requested (again through Amazon Author Central) that my browse categories be adjusted for all four books. These categories are important, as they help prospective new readers to find my work.

The update was relatively painless for the US site, but it hasn’t translated well elsewhere. Indeed, my books are now listed under non-fiction in the UK! Time for another message to Amazon Author Central.

And so, the housekeeping saga continues.




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Introducing Author C. A. Asbrey

The Gone Writing spotlight is shining full-force today on C. A. Asbrey, author of the newly released novel, The Innocents.

C. A. Asbrey has traveled all over the world – a fine background for a writer. A voracious reader who graduated to the Adult section of her local library at the age of ten, Asbrey always dreamed of writing.

She has produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website, was Media Trained by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. Asbrey also has been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public. The Innocents is her first foray into fiction.

For the moment, C. A. Asbrey lives with her husband and (her words) two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England. Another move is on the cards in 2108 to the beautiful city of York.

I asked C. A. how the concept for The Innocents came to her:

C. A.: 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 me 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!

GW: I hope that someday you will tell it. What else can you share about the early days of women in law enforcement?

C. A.: 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 me 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.”

GW: I can understand this piquing your interest, but researching and writing a novel set in a different era is a demanding – some would say, daunting – task. What was it about the story that compelled you to take it on?

C. A.: 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.

GW: I’m always fascinated by the stories behind the stories. Did the first draft leap from your pen immediately you began the project, or was it a drawn out affair?

C. A.: 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.

GW: I’m very glad you persevered, and am looking forward to reading your first novel. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.


The Innocents

Pinkerton Detective Abigail MacKay is a master of disguises—and of new crime-solving technology! But she’ll have to move fast to stay a step ahead of Nat Quinn and Jake Conroy.

Nat and Jake are the ringleaders of The Innocents, a western gang that specializes in holding up trains carrying payrolls—and Nat is pretty savvy when it comes to using the new sciences of 1868 in committing his crimes.

Charismatic Nat and handsome Jake are on the run, and they’ve always gotten away before—before Abi. But when Abi is caught by another band of outlaws during the chase, there’s no other choice for Nat and Jake but to save her life. Abi owes them, and she agrees to help them bring in the murderer of a family friend.

The web of criminal activity grows more entangled with each passing day, but Nat, Jake, and Abi are united in their efforts to find the murderer. Once that happens, all bets are off, and Abi will be turning Nat and Jake over to the law. But can she do it? She finds herself falling for Nat, but is that growing attraction real? Or is he just using her to learn more about the Pinkertons’ methods? Abi always gets her man—but she may have met her match in her “best enemies”—THE INNOCENTS.


C. A. was kind enough to share this excerpt from The Innocents

“Out of bed?” Nat appeared at the door, the light highlighting his tawny hair. “Looking for something?”

She paused, guilty eyes dropping along with the hand trailing along the shelf. “Yes. Something to read.”

“A book?” his eyes scanned the room, checking to see if anything which could be used as a weapon had gone missing. “You should’ve said.”

“All I can find are a few science books. Whose cabin is this? A doctor’s?”

“The owner was a prospector. Those books are mine.”

Her brows arched in surprise, and she turned and picked one up. “‘Carl Friederich Peschel’s Textbook of Physics.’” She continued along the spines. “‘Ganot’s Elementary Treatise on Experimental And Applied Physics’, ‘Balfour Stewart, An Elementary Treatise On Heat.’”

“So?” Nat’s jaw firmed in challenge. “Have you got anything against a man who wants to improve his mind?”

“Physics? You?”

His brow furrowed. “I’m supposed to believe you’re a Pinkerton and you can’t believe I’m interested in science? I like to learn all kinds of things. Something wrong with that?”

“But you?” She stared at him incredulously. “You’re a common criminal.”

His brows met. “Really, Miss MacKay? There’s nothing common about me. I’m particular about being about as uncommon a criminal as you’ll ever meet. I’ve got a Dickens if you want something simpler, but no women’s stuff. I prefer my heaving bosoms to be tangible.”


“Of course. Who wants imaginary bosoms?”

She huffed in exasperation. “Can we forget about the bosoms?”

His dark eyes twinkled with devilment. “I wish I could, but men are kinda made that way.”

“Science books?” Abigail changed the subject. “Are you trying to give up crime?”

“Nope, just trying to be more efficient at it. I’m a modern man. You have to move with the times, you know.” Nat’s cheeks dimpled. “But look who I’m talking to. You’re a veritable pioneer for females. You know how it is. I bet you’ve got all kinds of modern detective tricks. I’m looking forward to seeing those. When do they start? Are you doing it now?”

Abigail sighed. “I’m sorry I asked. Never mind. You have a Dickens? Which one?”

“Charles.” Nat’s eyes warmed as he relented at her exasperated glare. “Sorry, just having a bit of fun, but you’re too tired for it. You’re getting bored. I understand. I’ll dig out the book for you. Oh, and I found you a brush. It’s Jake’s, but I’ve cleaned it real well. I even soaked it in carbolic.”

Her eyes lit up surprised by his thoughtfulness, only to be quickly dampened by suspicion. “Thank you. My hair is getting knotted.”

He walked in, holding it behind his back. “I’ll help. You’ve got an arm injury and your hair’s real tangled.” His cheeks dimpled and his beguiling eyes danced with charm to ward off the objections about to tumble from her mouth. “Come on. Let me sort that out for you.” She paused and the dimple deepened. “You’re not fit to travel yet, but there’s no need for us to be enemies. Truce?”

She sighed. “Fine. A truce.” She sat, gathering her limited clothing about her. “It is a mess. You won’t tug at it, will you?”

“I have brushed hair before. I’m not a savage.”

She sat. “Women’s hair?”

He pulled over a chair to sit behind her, running his long ingers through the mad dark curls. “Do I look like I go around offering to brush men’s hair? Jees, your hair is thick.”

“Yes, it’s like my mother’s, but hers is red.”

She relaxed, enjoying the pleasurable sensation of his hands in her tresses, loosening the strands and identifying knots and tangles before working on them.“You were a mess when we found you.” He finished attending to an obstinate knot. “There.”

He ran the brush through her hair from root to tip marveling at the length as the ringlets unraveled and stretched. “Beautiful, just beautiful. As long as you are tall.”

She sat, luxuriating in the hypnotic strokes and the gentle caress of the brush as it travelled through her hair over and over again, reminding her of her childhood, and how much she missed her late husband’s soothing, sensual touch. Her heart broke yet again, just as it had a million times before. She was used to piecing it back together. Nobody touched her anymore. Nobody cherished her. Nobody cared.

Nat worked through the shock of hair with a soothing, reviving pressure. Somehow, his relaxing light-hearted chatter made this abnormal situation seem less stressful. She dropped her guard and allowed herself to unwind, settling into a luscious melting frame of mind, sinking further and further into indolent compliance. The long fingers swept her neck with a feather-like touch as he gathered her hair and her lips parted at the exhilaration which rushed through her. Did he know the nape was one of her most sensitive areas? She arched against the deep strokes of the brush and the delicate touch across her neck and shoulders. Stresses and strains melted away, and she lived in the delicious, delectable moment. The growing warmth deep below reminded her of her forgotten primal need for intimacy, growing until she suppressed the growing moan.

“There, that should do it,” he murmured in her ear as though under the same yielding spell of surrender. He pulled his chair alongside hers and brushed a few wisps from her face. “You are exquisite.” Crooked fingers pulled her around to face him with a gentle tug. He leaned in, touching her lips with his own, a velvet caress which released an exhilarating rush. The hand slipped into her newly-brushed hair, gathering a handful in a gesture which promised power but delivered tender restraint. His teeth caught on her lip, tasting her, before pushing on into a full hungry kiss.

He pulled back, looking into her eyes. “This is so difficult. I don’t even know who you really are. You might have a husband or lover.”

“I told you who I am.”

“No lovers? No men?”

Her eyes narrowed and she shook herself back to reality.

“What was I thinking? This is just another ploy isn’t it? You worm your way in and try to seduce information from me when I’m at my weakest?”

“I’d never—”

“No?” she snorted. “You don’t want to know about me, just men I’m connected to?” She stood. “Well, I’ll tell you once more. I am a Pinkerton Detective, and the only man I’m connected to is Alan Pinkerton. You can question me as much as you want. It’s all you’re going to get. Sooner or later, you’ll have to accept it and let me go.” 

“I wasn’t—”

“Oh, save it. You were dismissive earlier, now this?”

Her eyes widened as they fell on the brush on the table behind him. “Is that a horse brush? You used an animal brush on me.”

He fought the smile tugging at his lips. “I washed it.”

“A horse brush! You were so desperate to soften me up with this tactic you used a horse brush? You’re unbelievable.” She scratched at her scalp like a mad thing. “I’ve probably got fleas.”

“Hey! We look after our horses.”

“Look after?” Nat ran for the door as she grabbed the brush.

“I’ll show you looked after.”

Jake sat on the porch, his eyes lighting with amusement as the door opened. His nephew ran out. Nat turned, pointing a finger and opened his mouth to say something in the face of the tirade of impenetrable gibberish filling the air behind him. He ducked. A missile flew, right where his head had just been, and the brush clattered to the ground. Nat squared his shoulders, his voice hardening. “That’s enough. Put that down—” His eyes widened and he slammed the door, just in time for Jake to hear the metallic clatter of something against the other side.

“So, your seduction technique didn’t work, huh?” Jake swung back on his chair. “It’s good to know her throwin’ arm’s good and healthy, though.”

“What the hell language is that?”

Jake shrugged. “She’s Scottish, so it’s probably Gaelic. It ain’t quite the same as the Irish my grandpa taught me, but I think she just doubted your parentage.”

Nat propped his hands on his hips and scowled. “She insulted my mother?”

Jake’s smile stretched into a full grin. “Your ma was my sister. If anyone had used an animal brush on her hair you’d have heard all about it. I think you got off real light.”

“So what now?”

Jake shook his head. “Keep me out of it. You’re the criminal genius. I’m only the muscle. You’ll just have to try somethin’ else.”


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This one’s for Lou

Louis Lutsky was a reader.

Newspapers, mystery novels, general fiction, whatever. My Dad read them.

It was Dad who read bedtime stories to me, over and over again, until I was old enough to read them for myself. Truth be told, I had memorized the stories long before I was able to read the words. Dad used to ‘accidentally’ skip a sentence or a page, and would laugh when I corrected him.

It was Dad who drilled me in my weekly spelling homework. His pronunciation was sometimes challenging, resulting in my shedding a few tears as I insisted on spelling ‘study’ the way he pronounced it. At last, exasperated, he corrected me. “Steady,” he said, “S-T-U-D-Y.” I believe he treasured the gold stars I received in my weekly spelling quizzes even more than I did.

It is only fitting, therefore, that I release my new novel on what would have been Dad’s 102nd birthday.



The Gold Dragon Caper is the fourth book in the Damien Dickens Mysteries series, and is set in 1983.

Three years have passed since Damien and Millie outwitted Derek Turpin in The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper, and they have been feeling the effects of his wrath. Turpin has spent the intervening time plotting revenge on the detective duo and their friends, and things are coming to a head as the story opens.

This wasn’t an easy book for me to write. I have come to care deeply about Damien and Millie. I feel their pain, and there is more than the usual amount of that in this novel. But, there is also joy and love.

Here is a small sample from the opening to Chapter Two

The apartment door flew open as I was reaching for my keys. Millie flung her arms around me, drawing me inside. “Dick,” she said, her voice catching as she buried her face in my chest, “thank God you’re safe.”

I reached up, unwound Millie’s arms from around my neck, and tilted her head up to look at her face. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and underscored with dark circles. Damp tear tracks streaked her cheeks. Her shoulder-length blond hair was disheveled and, uncharacteristically, she had wrapped herself in my ratty, old, terrycloth bathrobe. “Of course I’m safe,” I said. “What’s all this about?”

“Haven’t you heard the news?”

I shook my head. “No, I haven’t. I drove down to the Boardwalk, and took a long walk by the Steel Pier to clear my head.” I reached for her hand to lead her to the sofa. “Sit down. We have to talk.”

“You don’t understand.” She stood her ground, gripping my hand hard. “Dick, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through Happy’s window.”


“Around 2:00am, according to the report on the radio. It was bad. A four-alarm fire.”

“Anyone hurt?”

“Not as far as I know. Happy usually closes up by midnight during the week.”

“What about the building?” I was thinking about our offices, which were located directly above Happy’s.

“I believe the fire is out, but I don’t know how bad the damage is,” Millie said. “I thought you might have gone to the office when you left here, so I tried calling. All I got was a ‘circuits busy’ signal.”

I sat down with a thump, pulling Millie onto the sofa beside me. If the fire had reached the second floor, there was no telling how much damage we might have suffered. I was concerned about Happy, of course, but he was insured and could rebuild. If our client records had gone up in flames, it would be the final nail in the coffin for our struggling agency. I didn’t have to spell out the situation to Millie. She knew the score at least as well as I did. We sat next to each other on the sofa as we absorbed the magnitude of the disaster. “Look,” I said, once I trusted myself to speak, “this might be a blessing in disguise.”

“Some disguise,” Millie said with a shaky attempt at a laugh. “Some blessing.”

“I was about to tell you.” I took her hands in mine and looked into her eyes. “I reached a decision this morning. It’s time for us to shut down the agency and accept Susan Sutherland’s invitation to join Sutherland Enterprises full-time.” Millie opened her mouth to protest, but I overrode her. “I know what you’re going to say. But I’m tired of looking over my shoulder for the next threat. The next act of vandalism. I’m tired of the nightmares.” I shrugged. “Turpin has won.”

I hope you will enjoy The Gold Dragon Caper. After you have read it, please consider leaving a short review on Amazon – just a few words – to let others know what you thought of the book.

If you are interested in the rest of the series, you can FIND MY BOOKS on this website or by visiting my Amazon Author Page. You can also follow Damien Dickens on Facebook or sign up to receive my monthly newsletter, Damien Dickens News.