Happy Wednesday Scribblers. This week we are shaking things up. I’ve invited fellow NineStar Press Author Matt Doyle to drop by and take over my blog for the week. Matt’s going to share about himself, his writing, and his amazing series The Cassie Tam Files. I’ve had the pleasure of starting the series and I can’t wait to see what Matt has to share with us.
Hey everybody. Before we dive into my main post, I wanted to give you all a short introduction to myself and my work. Don’t worry though, I’ll keep it brief. So, my name is Matt Doyle. I was born to an Irish family in England, and that dual nationality status is something that I’ve always liked to embrace. I identify as pansexual and genderfluid, and believe me, it took a long time for me to find the right terms to fit my circumstances.
I’ve done a lot of different things over the years, including performing a duet with my brother at a charity concert and spending ten years working in pretty much every side of the pro wrestling business. I also run a pop culture website, and design T-shirts. Oh, and I created my video game at age fifteen, and intend to eventually get around to working on a new one when time allows.
I’m a published author. While I started out with a four-part self-published series, I also have three books with NineStar Press and (a fourth on the way), and have appeared in multiple anthologies ranging from Queer Sci-Fi’s annual flash fiction collections to Bad Dog Books’ furry series, ROAR.
I’m a lifelong sci-fi fan and so, while I tend to write stories that span multiple genres, there’s almost always a grounding in science fiction. I also tend to write LGBTQ+ characters in almost every story. Growing up, I was less interested in coming out stories, and really wanted to see stories about people like me who’d found their place in the world. So, my characters usually (but not always) are already comfortable in themselves and their orientation just happens to be part of them rather than a focal point of the tale.
So, that’s me in a nutshell. Today though, I want to talk a little about my current series, The Cassie Tam Files. It’s a lesfic mystery series with a sci-fi setting, and is published by the LGBTQ+ publishing house NineStar Press.
The Cassie Tam Files – An Introduction To The Themes And Characters
The World of Cassie Tam And New Hopeland City
The books are, in many ways, reminiscent of the old novels of the noir era, and have had comparisons to the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Marele Day before now. At the same time though, that science fiction influence is still there. The story is set in the near future, and New Hopeland itself was built to be a very technology focused place. What this means is that, through the setting, you get to see some examples of potential places we could be heading with technology. Everything you see in that regard is a natural progression from where we’re at. From VR being used by businesses to tech enhanced theaters, and futuristic fursuits to theoretically plausible vampire gear, everything exists to a degree now. This just ramps it up.
So, expect hardboiled inner monologues and forays into a dingy criminal underworld, all playing alongside cyberpunk-ish science fiction elements and a slow-burn shy FF romance that spans the whole series.
Our protagonist is a PI working in the fictional city of New Hopeland, Utah. She’s a snarky, hardboiled detective that solves cases with a mixture of smarts and toughness, all the while sticking stubbornly to her rigid moral code. It’s that stubbornness that is, in some ways, both her best tool and biggest downfall in the job. Once she decides that a particular outcome is the correct one, she pursues it doggedly, no matter the consequences, which does seem effective, but also lands her in a lot of difficult situations.
Cassie is a lover of horror films. She doesn’t strictly have a preference for style; practical effects or CG, creeping dread or gore, it’s all much the same for her. Despite this love of the genre, they almost always give her nightmares though. This is something that confuses her as she’s encountered plenty of real-life life or death situations and can’t quite figure out why fiction hits her that hard. When not scaring herself silly, she’s a big coffee drinker. I’m not entirely certain that her blood isn’t ninety per cent caffeine at this point.
Despite her confidence in her abilities, and the tough persona she adopts when on a job, Cassie is not the most confident when it comes to social situations, especially romantically. She tends to keep most people at arm’s length until she knows them well, and is prone to bouts of embarrassment with prospective romantic partners. Her previous relationship ended despite neither her nor her then-partner Charlotte doing anything specific wrong, so when she starts to find herself attracted to her client in Addict, she isn’t entirely certain how far to push it. After all, if you can seemingly do everything right and still have things fall apart, that’s got to be a risk going forward too, right?
When it comes to technology, Cassie makes use of what she needs, but has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the various new things that get released. She has a particular issue with Tech Shifters as one of her first major collaborations with the police in New Hopeland was during a spate of brutal murders carried out by people in Tech Shift gear.
Cassie’s client in Addict is a Tech Shifter. This means that she uses a metal suit to roleplay as an animal in her free time, in this case a panther called Ink. The process involves an operation to insert rubber tipped plugs running from the Shifter’s head down to the base of their spine, so it’s not something that people enter lightly. It also means that Lori keeps her head shaved at all times so as to avoid hair getting tangled in the plugs.
For Lori, Tech Shifting is a form of non-sexual kitty-play that she uses to destress from the week, though there are many reasons people do it. She’s well respected in the local Tech Shift community and actually runs a regular meet for those looking to meet like-minded people. Lori works as a photographer for a local news company, and is often called upon to cover some difficult cases. For Lori, that causes some issues because she often feels like she’s not able to do enough to help people. This is something that spills over into other parts of her life too, as she has a tendency to blame herself for things that she can’t control.
In Addict, she hires Cassie to investigate her brother Eddie’s death. He was a virtual reality junkie, and the police put his death down to an accidental overdose on experience enhancing drugs. Lori doesn’t believe this because, to her knowledge, he never used drugs, and was working towards getting a career in a VR focused company. Though initially going through a whole host of emotions in response to her situation, she grows an attraction to Cassie.
Unlike Cassie, Lori is quite naturally flirty and approaches most social situations with a smile and the occasional joke. She particularly enjoys teasing Cassie when she gets flustered, but never acts in malice. She is willing though to point out when Cassie is doing something silly, like overanalyzing a situation that simply doesn’t require it, and so tends to try to keep Cassie on track rather than encourage some of her potentially negative traits. Lori tends to fall hard and fast in relationships, and is making a conscious effort not to push this too hard with Cassie as she fears scaring her off.
Perhaps the most popular character in the series, Bert is an AI gargoyle that lives with Cassie. Familiar Units were built to act as replacements for flesh and blood pets in New Hopeland. Their durability meant that they wouldn’t get hurt when playing with heavy handed children, but would also be very good in security roles. Most units are built to take on one of these two roles exclusively, known as Family or Protector classes. Bert differs in this regard because he has a hybrid programming of the two.
The reason for this is due to Cassie’s job. She reasoned that Protector class programming would be useful for tough cases but that, as she lived and worked in a small apartment, she couldn’t have a miniature tank running about the place. The result of this hybrid programming is that Bert has a few character quirks. He’s certainly loyal to Cassie, and will rush in to save her if her life is in danger, often in a brutal manner. At the same time though, he enjoys playing and gets bored easily. This often results in him causing mild issues, such as deciding that the bag of sugar on the kitchen worktop may be an intruder that needs to be taken down. Cassie describes him as being akin to a particularly sarcastic house cat that happens to be loyal enough to protect its owner.
Bert can only say, “Caw.” Despite this, he is perfectly capable of showing a range of emotions, often including exasperation.
A regularly appearing and popular side character, Devin is a bit of an enigma in the city. He’s known to be an assassin for hire, but the police won’t touch him. The reason for this is that, when they can’t themselves deal with a criminal that’s committed an atrocious crime, Devin is often called in to clean up. As such, he has become strangely ingrained with the fabric of the city, working with not only law enforcement but the criminal underworld.
Like Cassie, Devin has his own rigid moral code. He understands his job and what it entails, but will not take every job that comes his way. He likes to understand not only his client and target, but the reasons for the hit, and won’t kill someone that he views as relatively innocent.
Though their roles should put them at odds, he and Cassie get along well, with Devin describing her as the closest he gets to a friend in his job. Though she’s never hired him to kill anyone, Cassie has worked with him in a number of different capacities, such as paying for information and for additional protection when Bert isn’t an appropriate option. He seems to know more than most about what’s going on in the city, at least most of the time.
Where Are We Right Now?
The series is set to run to five books in total. Right now, the first three are already available. The details for these are as follows:
Addict – Cassie is hired to investigate the death of a local VR junkie. Though she expects it to be an open and shut case, she soon finds herself drawn into a potential murder investigation that threatens not only her life, but that of her client’s.
The Fox, The Dog, And The King –Cassie finds herself hired to find a missing dog. The case sees her not only hunting for the pooch, but also getting embroiled in a conspiracy that could shake the New Hopeland criminal underworld to its core.
LV48 – When walking home from a night out with Lori, Cassie is attacked, and wakes up at the police station. She expects help, but instead finds herself forced to act as bait to draw out an attacker with a fascination for blood. She wouldn’t mind so much if doing so didn’t mean facing down a tech-suited wannabe vampire.
An untitled fourth book has been signed by NineStar Press and is currently going through the editing process. This book collects two novellas into one. The first is told from Lori’s POV and sees her helping Cassie on a case relating to workplace harassment. The second is back with Cassie as she’s hired to deal with a stalker.
The fifth, final book will bring the previous four together and see Cassie delving into the deep secrets of new Hopeland City. I’m currently busy road mapping the book before I start writing.
Well, that’s about it from me! So, here’s a big thank you to M.D. Neu for hosting me today, and another to everyone who reads my ramblings. Please do feel free to check the books out. You can find them on Goodreads, and all the purchase links are on my site.
There’s plenty more to come from me too. My current plan for what to do after I finish with Cassie is for something that I can only describe as James Bond meets Alien with a genderfluid protagonist. In the meantime, I cover a ton of different things on my site, ranging from diverse books and comics to video games and anime. I also have a webstore, so feel free to check that out too. Thanks again everyone, have a good one!
Thank you Matt for taking the reins today and sharing The Cassie Tam Files with us. I hope everyone rushes out to pick up their copy of book one and diving in on this amazing series. Now, don’t forget if you know someone who might enjoy these novels or anything else you’ve read on my Scribbles Page you can share this post by clicking the ‘share’ button below. Until next time have a great week.