Mystery Readers Only

CSI in Space: A Futuristic Mystery

Into the Black By Beth Barany


Coming Soon…

by Beth Barany


I love writing about adventure and about strong women having adventures. A few years ago, I decided to write mysteries set on a space station hotel casino because I thought it would be an exotic location, especially if I set my story in the future and especially if I wrote it from the point of view of my detective, Janey McCallister.


Janey is very concerned about justice and righting wrongs. She also needs her job at the hotel-casino to help her mom who is sick with an incurable disease. Yes, they have those in the future.


She had a tragedy in her past that changed her from a hopeful young woman who wanted to work as a scientist on a space station around Saturn, to a serious person who just wanted to leave the company town she grew up in to make a better life for herself a few thousand miles away.


When she got there, she thought she had it made: a boyfriend, a great job, and all her needs met. Then tragedy struck. Her best friend went missing. Then she turned up dead, and Janey was the one to discover the body.


The cops shut her out of the investigation, but she couldn’t go back to the way things were. Janey returned home, lived with her mom again, and then got a job in Space Wing Command. She soon found herself in Investigative Services traveling to the military and civilian space stations around planet Earth. Four years later when her commission was up, Janey was faced with a decision: re-up with Space Wing or get a better paying job to help pay for her mom’s expensive experimental medication.


That’s when Janey applied for and got the job as Lead Investigator at Bijoux de L’Étoile, the world’s trendiest and most expensive getaway, a fabulous hotel-casino in high earth orbit where a night’s stay could pay for a whole town’s food for a year.


After a five day journey in StarEl, the space elevator like a train, Janey and a few dozen other station workers arrived at the Jewel in the Sky.


Our story opens… excerpt from Into The Black (A Janey McCallister Mystery, Book 1):


Her implant flagged a quick movement in the crowd. Out of place, a shadow shifted. She clicked on her video. She’d get irrefutable evidence this time. Hope and determination fluttered in her chest.


A short, grey-haired man wove his way through the crowd, shoulders hunched, barely jostling people. Her implant flashed an ID: Mortimer Xang. His hotel record showed he’d arrived via space jet a week ago and he had a room in the mid-priced level. No others in his party. He was leaving on the next transport Earthside in a few hours. Payee: Xang Enterprises.


One minute left.


He looked innocent enough, except for how one corner of his mouth quirked up in a faint smirk even though his gaze was downcast. And how his arms seemed pasted to the side of his body. He took tiny steps, as if to make himself even smaller.


Classic moves of a thief. Suspicious, though not evidence.


Her vid was recording, but all the other thefts had happened under the casino cameras and not been detected.


She’d always trusted her intuition and her ability to read body cues before. But since she’d come to the station, she’d gotten it wrong twice. Should she wait for another sign that Xang was guilty? No, her gut told her he was up to something. She trusted that.


Pre-Order Into The Black (A Janey McCallister Mystery, Book 1) here:



She wanted to make her mark. How hard could it be?


In 2130, at Bijoux de L’Étoile, a high-end casino orbiting Earth, you can get anything you desire.


Newly-hired as an investigator, Janey McCallister wants to solve her first big case—the theft of a priceless gem.


When her case of theft escalates to murder and points to the seedy underbelly of world affairs, Janey has to rely on her new team and trust the mysterious insurance investigator, Orlando Valdez—before the killer escapes into the black.



Award winning author, Beth Barany writes in several genres including young adult adventure fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mysteries. Inspired by living abroad in France and Quebec, she loves creating magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.


For fun, Beth enjoys walking her neighborhood, gardening on her patio, watching movies and traveling with her husband, author Ezra Barany. They live in Oakland, California with a piano and over 1,000 books.


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Beth Barany
Writer's Notes

What the Heck is a Beta Reader, Anyway?

What the heck is a Beta Reader?

I’m taking a break. Mostly, because it took so long to get this story down, I struggled with the last half. Eventually, the beginning became a problem, too.

The first half was easy to write because I had a clear picture of what I wanted to happen with Nick and Meredith. The storyline was less important. Then, as you may have read months ago, I connected (on Facebook) with Mike Brown. Mike and I worked together at Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO). Although my tenure was three short years (1991-1993), I remembered Mike Brown’s reputation as an experienced, educated and common sense-supervisor. When I asked him to take a look at my outline for authenticity, he was enthusiastic and helpful.

Be careful what you ask for.

FBI Profiles of Evil

Tactfully, Brown told me the story premise was all wrong. WITH MALICE AFORETHOUGHT (WMA)is set in northern Sonoma County, California. It’s a rural, sometimes remote region patrolled by the county sheriff. As a veteran of SCSO Violent Crimes Investigations (VCI) sergeant, Brown had responded to these hills for a homicide investigation just as my hero in this story, Nick Reyes, does.

So when Mike Brown said my story couldn’t happen, I listened. Enter the readers “suspension of disbelief.” To put it succinctly, a fiction author writes a situation that cannot happen in a way that makes the reader think, “This could happen.”

Lincoln 9“Suspension of disbelief” is very different from authenticity. Suspension refers mainly to situations, where authenticity is the real deal procedurally. For instance: CSI, the TV series, has frustrated so many law enforcement professionals because of their unbelievable situations.

The premise of my story just didn’t work. So I swallowed my pride, tossed the first third and set about re-structuring the story. It meant giving up carefully crafted scenes that any reader with a background in law enforcement would know weren’t the real deal. Knowing early enough to do a re-write was a blessing in disguise. WMA turned out better than I could have hoped. Still in need of polishing for authenticity, I’ve turned to my peers for their expert advice.

Above is a dramatic example of what Beta Readers can do for a story. I have chosen five retired law enforcement professionals to read my book for realism. Three were authors I met through Public Safety Writers Association—Pete Klismet, retired FBI Profiler and author of FBI DIARY-Portrait of Evil; Dave Freedland, retired Deputy Chief of Irvine Police Department and author of LINCOLN 9, and John Schembra, retired sergeant with Pleasant Hill Police Department and author of RETRIBUTION. All three men have something to offer both as writers and cops.


My last two Beta Readers are not authors. Tim Miller, retired CHP Air Operations sergeant from Napa is reading for helicopter veracity and finally but not least, Mike Brown.

I’m on pins and needles until I hear from them.

For the next month, I’m not writing although I have already plotted out the next story in my mind. I’m catching up on closet organization, yard work and other things I’ve let lapse for writing.

When I get the first manuscript back from one of the Beta Readers, you can bet I’ll drop my trowel and get to work making changes.



Ramblings by Hal

Tricks of the Trade, part two

By Hal Collier

fingerprint cardI’m amazed when I watch TV and see the CSI shows where they ID a suspect or dead body with a portable fingerprint machine. It’s tells them within minutes who the person is and what he’s been arrested for. I really marvel when they get DNA results on the same day and I don’t know if they even have face recognition systems. These are sure not available on the street cops’ level. I had to resort to different tactics to ID my suspects. Wanted people seldom carried any kind of ID and if they did, it was false.

As I said earlier, you arrest someone and then fill out a (FI) field Interview Card. You get as much information as possible so you can positively know who you’re dealing with. Nothing stings worse than booking a guy for a misdemeanor and watching him released the next day only to find out he was wanted in another state for killing a cop.

I thought I was pretty good but no one was better than Don Bleier. Don could find out the entire criminal history of anyone including politicians. By the way, never run a politician or movie star unless you have them in custody. It sends a red flag to government agencies. Run the President of the United States for warrants and you’ll be introduced to a whole new set of police officers who have lots of questions, maybe on a U.S. base in Cuba.

Anyway, Don could do wonders with the computer in identifying a crook. How many non-cop’s know that your Social Security Number shows what state you signed up for a SS # or now days where you were born. If a suspect gives you a SS# from a state he’s claims he’s never been in, it’s a clue he’s lying.

imagesSE4FARGHI resorted to tricks when I hit a dead end. I had a suspect who I knew was lying but I just couldn’t ID him. I’d go into the burn box (shredder box) in records and pull out five feet of old printouts. I’d open the holding tank door and let the five feet of connected print out fall and say, “Well.” I’d tell my suspect that he had one last chance to come clean or I’d add lying to a police officer to his charges. Believe it or not, two out of three suspects would give me their true name and DOB. Remember I wasn’t dealing with the top of the food chain. After a while, I became known as the “Well” officer at Hollywood.

Another time I tried ‘Well” and my suspect didn’t flinch. I told him that it didn’t matter that he was going to be extradited to Texas on a murder warrant. I mentioned that Texas not only has a death penalty but they actually use it. Surprise, he gave up his real name faster than I could write it down.

handcuffed manI once had a suspect who gave me his name, DOB, prison ID (CDC) number. Everything checked out and when I printed out his rap sheet, I read the last entry. It said, “Deceased in Prison!” He looked pretty good for a dead person. My suspect admitted that he had memorized his former cellmate’s information. He confessed and gave me his true name; he was wanted for a parole violation. Another trick was to run the home address of your suspect for warrants. That will show you all the warrants filed at that address. Hint: never run 226 S. Main St LA. That’s the Union Rescue Mission downtown and will kick out warrants for hours on your computer. Most homeless people use that address when arrested or given a ticket.

One last story, I had a suspect who I couldn’t ID. I was about to release him when another officer walked in the back door of the police station and said hi to my suspect by a name I wasn’t familiar with. That officer knew my suspect very well and gave me all his names and that he was wanted! Luck also pays off.

Matching wits with the criminal element was easy for the most part but every once on a while you lose. It was many of the games cops and robbers play to find the truth.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: A True Chain Saw Story

Here is the link that goes to LA Times news article from Nov. 24, 1987. The “George Collier” is our own “Hal”.


Murder Suspect Says He Used Saw to Cut Up Dog

The following story is true. I haven’t changed the names this time because they are a matter of public record.  On August 28, 1987, I was working a radio car on Day Watch in Hollywood Division.  I had about 17 years on the job and was working with a probationer.

We received a radio call, “Go to Jack’s Rents on Santa Monica Blvd”.  See the manager, possible blood on a rented chain saw.  Ok, people always say, “I’ll bet you’ve seen everything”, but I tell them if you work Hollywood long enough you’ll realize you’ll never see everything.

I told my probationer that an old partner raised cattle and today’s rustlers use chain saws to cut up the beef and sell it. Now there aren’t a lot of cows in Hollywood but we do have a large deer population in the Hollywood hills.  I also told him don’t believe everything you’re told.  It might not be blood at all.

We arrive at Jack’s Rents and speak to the manager.  He says that a man rented a chain saw last week and returned it a day later.  An employee put the saw under a work bench until he could clean it up.  A few days later, he took out the saw and noticed that the saw was covered in blood and flesh.  The manager said after conferring with the company attorney, they called the police.

Now, I have seen a lot of dried blood in my career, but I’m not a forensic expert or a technical adviser on any of the CSI TV shows.   I looked at the saw, and damn, it looks like blood and flesh to me.  My probationer gave me that you’re the senior officer look when I asked his opinion.  The manager showed me the rental slip.  The saw was rented to a Max B. Franc of West Hollywood.  The phone number that he gave was local.

I’ve been through three Hollywood scandals and know better than to kiss off anything that might come back to bite me.  I called the head detective of Hollywood Homicide, Russ Custer.  I explained what I have and he said, “Well Hal, call the guy and see what he used the saw for.”

I call Max Franc and asked him, ” Did you rent the chain saw and why does it look like there’s blood on it”?  Max tells me he did rent the saw and used it to cut up a dead dog.  I asked who’s dog and he said he didn’t know.  How did the dog die, I inquire.

Max, (See? We’re on a first name basis) said he hit it in Beverly Hills and wanted to get rid of it.  It was too big to throw in the trash can so he cut it up.  I asked where is the dog now and he said he buried it off the 5 Freeway north of L.A.  When I questioned Max about why he cut up someone else’s dog he became vague.  I told Max to hold on a minute and I talked to Detective Custer.  I told Custer, this guys story is crazy, even for Hollywood.  When I returned to Max he had hung up.

Custer and I discussed Max’s odd behavior and answers.  Custer didn’t want to get bit either and said,  “Let’s play it safe. Take the saw to SID (Scientific Investigation Division),”  our CSI. They tested it and confirmed it was blood, but would have to do more tests to determine if it was human.

I was off the next day and got a call from Lt. Ed. Hocking, the Officer in Charge of Hollywood Detectives.  He said the blood was human and they were going to conduct a search warrant of Max’s residence.  He asked if I wanted to go, because it was my superior investigative skills that broke the case.  Ok, maybe that’s not quite the truth but that’s they way I want to remember it.  I had to beg off because I was working an off duty job at the Hollywood Bowl. My daughter needed braces.

The search warrant confirmed that someone was cut up with a chain saw in Max’s bathtub.  Coincidentally, a set of arms and legs were found off the 5 Freeway near Magic Mountain and a head and torso were found in a field near Fresno.  Max was arrested the next day by West Hollywood Sheriffs and charged with murder.

Funny, LAPD determined that a crime had occurred and where and we collected evidence.  The LA County Sheriffs took over and took the credit for the arrest and prosecution.

Max was a Public Administration Professor at California State Fresno College and kept an apartment in West Hollywood where he would entertain male homosexual prostitutes.

The victim was shot and then dismembered in Max’s bathtub.  The murder weapon was found in Max’s desk drawer in his office at CaIifornia State Fresno.  I testified in court, (C-Attachment) and Max was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years to life.  In Sept. of 1997 Max suffered a heart attack and died in prison.

Tales from the Barking Muse

Police Academy part 3

This is the last of 3 guest posts from Gerry Goldshine

 More firearms training

I’m really not sure what I was expecting from a relatively small regional academy, but it wasn’t firearms training from someone who split his time between firefighting and police work in the South Bay. I’m not saying he was not a decent instructor; it just was not what I was expecting. While I had qualified “Expert” with an M-16A1 rifle in the Army, I was only shooting just slightly above average with that .357 pistol. It wasn’t until several years later, that a new range-master discovered while right-handed, I was left eye dominant, which had a great effect on my pistol shooting accuracy. In addition to the firing range, we also received training in what was called “Shoot-Don’t Shoot”. The idea was to develop situational awareness and judgment when employing deadly force. Our “state of the art” technology back then for the practical portion of this training consisted of a video projector, a butcher paper screen and a pistol that fired wax bullets. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that felt a bit foolish yelling “Freeze!” at that butcher paper.

Emergency Vehicle operation

Stanford, Ca Police Community Academy 2007

While firearm training was a bit of an ongoing process, emergency vehicle operation training was done over a three day period. All of us were excited because we were going to be the first class to receive training through the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at what would become Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma. Boy, were we disappointed. First of all, the vehicles we were to train with were compact cars, nothing like the big high powered beasts we would be driving with our various departments. None of the vehicles had any emergency equipment installed. There were no flashing lights, no sirens or radios; none of the distractions that would drive our adrenaline sky high under actual emergency conditions. Then there were the instructors; they may have been excellent race car drivers but none had any law enforcement background or experience driving emergency vehicles that they could share with us. I suppose the final frustration was that we were not permitted to drive over 35 miles per hour during any phase of our training. I got very proficient at avoiding cones that day and not much more. Among the first supplemental training that I received upon graduation, was eight hours of training with their driving instructor using retired patrol cars from the Sheriff’s Office. I’m here to tell you there is no quicker learning experience than losing one of those vehicles in turn at 65 miles an hour because you didn’t set up properly entering a corner.  As a result of that training, I had confidence in my driving abilities the night I pursued a suspect who had just committed an assault with a deadly weapon and who had tried to run me off the road, down Highway 101 at over 120 miles per hour, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding the microphone to communicate with dispatch–the siren, radio and scanner blaring away. At the same time, I had to be aware of my location, that of other responding units, other traffic ahead and around me, changing weather and road conditions. I had to constantly evaluate whether any of those variables would make the safety of the public outweigh the need to continue the pursuit. All of that was something the Bondurant experience failed to provide in their block of training.

Tear Gas

St Paul, Mn. tear gas at demonstration Sept. 2008

As the weeks went by, our sponge-like minds tried desperately to absorb still more data in yet additional subject areas. There were classes on how to write police reports, criminalistics (that whole CSI thing) and everyone’s favorite, accident investigation. Then came training in non-lethal defense methods, which meant some form of CN or CS or what is more commonly known as tear gas. Our practical exercise involved a group of us going inside a closed plywood shed accompanied by an instructor where they would expose us to some form of that blessed substance. Unbeknownst to our instructor was the fact that I had been an instructor of essentially the same type of training for many years when I was in the Army. As my group nervously entered the shed, I found a corner, leaned back and steadied my breathing. As the effects of the gas hit them, my fellow recruits hit the door to get out like a stampede of water buffalos. It wasn’t long before it was just the instructor and I staring at each other, him with a very surprised expression. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” he asked after about five minutes had passed and I still hadn’t gone running for the exit. I nodded my head and then explained my background. He asked if I wouldn’t mind leaving before him as it would damage his mystique if I came out after him. Still, for about a day or so, I was quite the sensation having stayed as long as I did.


Felony Vehicle Stops

Suffolk County felony car stop training

As we neared graduation, we were all looking forward towards finally getting instruction on making vehicles stops. Vehicles stops are perhaps the most common, one of the most complex as well as most dangerous activities for a patrol officer. As an officer, you have no idea what the intentions are of the driver of the vehicle you are stopping. Have they just committed a crime? Are they armed with a weapon? Are they intoxicated? Are they going to flee when you turn on your emergency lights? In addition, you have to exercise proper radio procedure in notifying dispatch of your stop. You have to know something as basic as the location where you are making the stop. You have to be aware of traffic around you, how you park your patrol vehicle and how you walk up to the car you’ve stopped. You also have to pick a good spot to stand when you make contact with the driver. While no means the last thing that goes into a traffic stop, how you talk to the driver can calm a tense situation or escalate a calm one. Though I had already made several hundred vehicle stops while in the Military Police, I was painfully aware that what little I knew about vehicle stops came from a class on patrol procedure in college and some on the job instruction I got from one the soldiers who worked for me. Not exactly something to inspire confidence in my abilities.

As was the case with my firearms training, I’m still not sure what my expectations were as to training when it came to vehicle stops, both low risk or “routine” and high risk or “felony” stops. I know I was anticipating more than about twelve hours of both classroom and practical instruction. Many of us felt the scenarios devised by our instructors for the high risk stop exercises were ridiculously complex and bordered on the impossible.

The geekier side of me recalled the Star Trek “Koboyasi Maru” test; for those non-Trekkies, it was a final exam scenario at the Starfleet Academy that was designed to be impossible to survive. I can vaguely recall my own “Koboyashi Maru” test; it was night in a poorly lit area and another recruit and I were to make a car stop on a vehicle that contained four “armed” suspects. As the vehicle came to a stop, all four bailed out of the car and ran off into the darkness. Our “backup” was many minutes away leaving us to decide on a course of action. If both of us went after the suspect, the bad guys would have been lying in wait and “shot” us both. If one stayed and one pursued the suspect, the chase would have ended with either the recruit officer being “shot” or taken hostage. If both officers stayed, then they would be ambushed because the suspects had doubled backed to launch an attack against them as they waited for back-up help to arrive. It was a designed to be a no win scenario.


Academy Graduation Certificate

Finally, the big day arrived; graduation. I had finished fourth out of our graduating class of twenty-four. I walked up to the auditorium stage in my spiffy new uniform literally almost ready to bust my buttons with pride. Alongside my two fellow deputies, we received our graduation certificates from the Sheriff. Unlike Mahoney and his bunch of misfits from the Police Academy movies, we weren’t about to be turned loose upon an unsuspecting public. Ahead of us lay nearly another twelve weeks of training in the field under the watch eyes of our Field Training Officers. This was by no means a complete detailed accounting of not only just the academy I attended but of the many other law enforcement academies throughout the country, both then and now. Each recruit or cadet comes away with their own unique litany of successes, failures, achievements and disappointments and what I have written about are those experiences that I considered still note worthy enough to share after all these years.


Petaluma Police T-36 Gerry Goldshine 1987
photo by Mike Kerns

Gerry Goldshine is the author of this guest post.  Born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California. Upon graduating California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty in 1979, he worked for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement in 1996, he was a patrol officer, traffic officer, gang officer, field training officer and criminal resource officer at Petaluma Police Department. He has received training from Northwestern University Traffic Institute, California Highway Patrol, Institute of Police Technology and Management, Texas A&M Engineering Extension, College of the Redwoods and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Operation Safe Streets. He’s been married to his wife Linda for 33 years, has a daughter and lives in Sonoma County, California.

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