Open Letter to 2019

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019,

With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.  

Love, Carmen

From 2018, with love

Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions, I choose a theme for my year. This year it’s “Simplify.”

Last year was a year of big change for me. New state, new house, new community. New challenges trying to transform a house with mud brown walls into a loveable, livable, and light-filled farmhouse while also writing a book, this blog, and growing the Mystery Ahead newsletter all at the same time. Oh, and trying to keep up with social media. And marketing. And book reviewing. 

Things got messy.

Basically, I was doing FAR too many things and spending FAR too much time in the weeds doing time consuming things that didn’t take me where I wanted to go as an author. Too much time was going down the rabbit hole instead of being used for what I wanted to do–write compelling books about the things that intrigue me.

In short, I have always been susceptible to the alluring yet deadly disease called Shiny Object Syndrome. In 2018 this translated into an epic time management fail:

  • I over processed simple tasks, creating more work than necessary.
  • I chased after activities that weren’t aligned with my priorities.
  • I left opportunities on the table.
  • RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7 simply wasn’t getting finished.

Theme for 2019: “Simplify”

After a hard look at where my energies were going, and some hard questions to myself, I knew I needed to simplify, streamline, and get back to my top priorities.

Here is how that will look:

Simpler newsletter: Each edition of Mystery Ahead will have my latest #booknews, exclusive #excerpts, and a mystery #review of a book I think you’ll love. This eliminates the author interviews (simply too time consuming to continue) and the protips (not relevant to my readership). Bonus for me–by sharing excerpts, I’ll be motivated to finish works in progress.

Simpler website: I firmly believe that every professional author needs a professional website. It is the hub of your platform. Social media platforms, book sales pages, etc. are the spokes. That being said, I was still learning the all-powerful Divi theme for WordPress last year and experimented with many of its features. (A particularly virulent case of Shiny Object Syndrome) As a result, blog posts looked uneven and the navigation got unwieldy. After a week of updates, the site is refreshed and easier to navigate. All my books are listed on one page and there is a sub-menu so anyone who wants to know everything about the Detective Emilia Cruz series can find it. Coming soon: better opt-in pages.

Which brings us to social media. A free way to introduce readers to a new author vs an echoing, time-eating cavern with occasional toxic sinkholes. Facebook will be my primary social media outlet in 2019, followed closely by Pinterest. I created a cheatsheet so posting is fun, not a chore. Twitter is off the radar. 

What’s ahead in 2019

The word Simplify has allowed me to clear my head, assess priorities, and make an GREAT action list that doesn’t include the kitchen sink. Here’s the plan:

New books: RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7 and NARCO NOIR, Book 8, plus updated book descriptions across sales platforms.

Boxed sets: Detective Emilia Cruz Greatest Hits: Vol 1 (CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, DIABLO NIGHTS) and Vol 2 (KING PESO, PACIFIC REAPER, 43 MISSING).

Articles: Guest post collaboration with Jeanine Kitchel, exploring issues from the viewpoint of two female thriller authors.

New project: Preliminary research into the mystery series I’ll start in 2020, which takes place in Norway during WWII.

Outreach: Collaborations to promote the Mystery Ahead newsletter. 

AND a secret project I hope to be able to share mid-year. (Mystery Ahead subscribers will get the news first so sign up now).

What’s your theme for 2019?

Let’s help each other do great things in 2019!

What’s your one word theme for the year?

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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The mystery of the disappearing home office

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition.

We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of creative energy and a friendly community.

Related: Saga of the koi pond

In the 6.5 years since my first book was published, we’ve moved 4 times. Each house offered different places for me to write and I found that environment shaped my writing routine.

This house is no different, but it has taken me longer to figure that out.

Where she writes, take 1

When we moved into the Dream House with an open concept blueprint, we switched up how the rooms were used. The cavernous family room would be our Banquet Hall. The previous owner’s formal dining room–essentially an extension of the front hallway–would become my combo work and home office.

In our previous house, my writing desk was in the former living room. For as long as we lived there, I swore my next office would have a door.

But being a bear of very little brain . . .

I took out the chair rail, slathered the mud-brown walls with Benjamin Moore’s Heaven, hung buffalo plaid curtains, and replaced the chandelier with a sputnik fixture from Sazerac Stitches in New Orleans. Gorgeous.

Rainbox chandelier Sazerac Stitches

I plunked down a bed for the dog, tacked up my outline for Detective Emilia Cruz #7, and got to work.

Sort of.

The open concept guaranteed interruption. No, let me rephrase that.

Fostered interruption.

Front door, television, kitchen, laundry room. Everything within reach and making noise. Family members talking to me because, hey, I’m basically sitting in the middle of a hallway everyone passes through on the way to everywhere else.

Compounding the mistake, I created a mashup of office purposes. Now, if you have ever moved to a new place and had to get a new driver’s license, car registration, accounts for gas, electric, water, etc, you know how it goes. Moreover, after nearly 3 decades of blissful ignorance, we found that our marriage certificate was incorrect!

Bottom line, lots of distractions. Minimal progress on the novel, despite a knockout outline and complete mental mastery of the entwining plot lines.

(Yes. Mental mastery. Having a good day.)

Aaaand, take 2

Fast forward a few months. I’ve declared defeat at the hands of the open concept house and commandeered an upstairs bedroom for my new writing lair. Home office stuff stays downstairs.

It’s a bare bones situation so far, but I’m already feeling more productive. (Witness “mental mastery” line above.)

A few overdue lessons learned, too, which might be helpful to fellow creatives:

  1. If I can’t see it, I won’t do it. This applies to outlines, social media updates, etc. Things need to go up on the wall and be visual reminders.
  2. I need to assign specific tasks to different days of the week. For years, I have paid bills on Mondays. The newsletter goes out every other Sunday. I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to social media and blogging, but these need to be scheduled.
  3. If I write down 3 goals for the next day every night, I won’t waste time idly surfing Pinterest the next day.

So now here I am, with a secluded but bland beige new work space. Time to tape up the outline  and the big map of Acapulco, and get to work on RUSSIAN MOJITO, Emilia #7.

novel outline

Office décor suggestions much appreciated.

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

read more

 

Subscribe

FYI: Carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

Welcome to the opioid crisis

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of employees in multiple locations across Western Hemisphere.”

Hidden in those phrases are the risks, relationships, and experiences that I have funneled into the Detective Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco. Every day, Emilia faces down violent cartels and official corruption stemming from drug money.

But for all my work, and the work of thousands of others in the intelligence and law enforcement communities, the drug war rages on.

Right in my back yard.

Hello, I’m Marnie and I’m here to introduce you to the opioid crisis

She was our waitress at a national burger restaurant. My daughter and I were exploring our new neighborhood in Tennessee and had stopped there for lunch.

Marnie was a slender brunette in her early twenties in jeans and a tee shirt and plenty of restaurant-provided flair. She bounced over to our booth, tray in hand, and without preamble began telling us how busy she’d been that morning and hoped we didn’t mind the rain and the sweet potato fries were her favorite and did we want some sweet tea and was there anything else she could get for us.

As she spoke, she lowered herself until her elbows were on our table, putting her head on the same level as my shoulder, so that she had to look up at us. With her butt in the air, she hooked one foot around the other ankle, bent her knees, and jiggled up and down as she finally took our order.

I thought at first that she was nervous, then that she had to pee.

Marnie brought our meal in fits and starts, forgot the sweet potato fries, but refilled our tea, once again adopting her curious jiggling bent-over pose.

When she smiled, I saw that her teeth had eroded into small brown stalagmites.

The distinctive rot of a habitual user.

More like Marnie

In contrast to other places I’ve lived, the drug crisis is very much in evidence here. Every day, I see people with the same tell-tale look: twitchy, vaguely confused, thin to the point of skeletal.

There’s both a sadness and an unpredictability about them that is unsettling.

According to the World Economic Forum, “A sharp increase in prescribed opioid-based painkillers and the rise of illegal fentanyl – which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin – has unleashed the worst public health crisis in American history . . . In 2017, there were over 11 million “opioid misusers” in the United States. To put that number in perspective, that’s equivalent to the entire population of Ohio.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/the-numbers-behind-america-s-opioid-epidemic

Closer to home, the governor’s office of Tennessee has this to say: “Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from an opioid-related overdose, which is more than the number of daily traffic fatalities.” The electronic billboard over Route 40 told me yesterday that 832 had died so far in traffic accidents in the state. https://www.tn.gov/governor/2018-legislative-priorities/tn-together.html

The state’s opioid website gave these statistics for 2017:

  • Overdose deaths: 1772
  • Nonfatal overdose outpatient visits: 15,001
  • Painkiller prescriptions: 6,879,698

The population of the state is 6.17 million.

Do the math. More painkiller prescriptions than people.

Elections and the opioid crisis

The Tennessee matchup between Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen is one of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races. Marsha is a popular member of Congress. Phil is a popular former governor.

Control of the Senate is at stake, with all that implies. But as the saying goes, all politics are local. And for Tennessee, that means the opioid crisis.

We’ve been treated to a barrage of radio and television ads blaming both candidates for the opioid crisis.

If Phil is to be believed, Marsha singlehandedly prevented the DEA from cracking down on opioid exports into the US and is a paid creature of Big Pharma.

If Marsha is to be believed, Phil is heavily invested in Big Pharma and as governor did nothing to prevent opioids from ruining Tennessee lives.

State Senator Ferrell Haile, a Blackburn supporter, nonetheless hit the nail on the head when he recently wrote in The Tennessean: “Finger pointing and name calling will not solve the opioid epidemic, and every minute spent politicizing it is a minute wasted.” https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2018/09/29/marsha-blackburn-helping-fight-opioid-epidemic/1440487002/

Recent Posts

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

read more

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Warriors, souls, and the making of AWAKENING MACBETH

Warriors, souls, and the making of AWAKENING MACBETH

My great-uncle Nicky was the second-to-the-youngest of my grandfather’s five brothers. He was missing most of his right index finger.

During WWII, while my grandfather turned out copper ship hulls as a foreman at the Revere Copper and Brass rolling mill, Nicky and four other brothers were GIs. I think Nicky was the only one to see combat.

“Uncle Nicky was at Anzio,” my mother confided. “And the South Pacific.”

As a child, I had no real idea what she was talking about, although Anzio was a cool and somehow romantic word. I used to say it to myself as I waited to fall asleep. Anzio, Anzio. I pictured Uncle Nicky as a fierce soldier dressed like my cousin’s GI Joe action figure, with a gun that blew up, taking his trigger finger with it.

It was only much later that I found Anzio on a map and learned about the bloody and pivotal battle that took place there in the first six months of 1944. Uncle Nicky saw hell in Italy, then was sent to help mop up the Japanese. As if this wasn’t enough for a young man to handle, Nicky’s young wife died shortly after the war.

Despite his experiences, when I knew him, Uncle Nicky was a lively, wiry, and good-natured man who occasionally visited my grandparents. It was many years later that I learned that he hadn’t been wounded in the war but lost his finger as a youth in a kitchen accident.

Uncle Nicky may have encouraged my love of history and geography but many veterans have impacted my life. My father was an Air Force meteorologist at a Strategic Air Command base when my parents met. A good friend parachuted into the first Iraq War and served as an awesome role model teaching my son how to be an altar server. A close friend’s husband served in Afghanistan. He survived multiple IED attacks only to face an indifferent and inefficient VA system.

The courage and strength of our vets have moved me, especially when I see wounded warriors rebuild their lives and go beyond what most of us could do. If like me, you are a fan of Dancing With The Stars, you saw double amputee Noah Galloway compete a few seasons ago. His resilience and determination resonated with millions.

I paid tribute to our veterans in the character of Joe Birnam in the thriller AWAKENING MACBETH. In the story, Joe is a Marine Corps vet who lost a leg in Iraq. When we meet him, he has retired from the military and rebuilt his life. Not to give the plot of AWAKENING MACBETH away, but a centuries old game is being played every night as we sleep in which the devil steals souls that wander in search of answers.

Awakening Macbeth

Get it on Amazon. Free for Kindle Unlimited readers.

In history professor Brodie Macbeth’s nightmares, Joe’s soul is the prize.

Why this particular soul? The would-be thief—call him evil or a demon or what you will—provides the answer.

“After all, the soul of a warrior is the biggest prize in the game. Warriors’ souls get insulated by pride and patriotism and discipline. Dedication to duty.

“They’re hard to come by.”

 

Recent Posts

 

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

read more

 

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The Ayotzinapa tragedy 4 years later

The Ayotzinapa tragedy 4 years later

My most recent book, 43 MISSING: Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6, was inspired by the events of September 2014 when 43 students from a teacher’s college in the town of Ayotzinapa, near Acapulco in Mexico’s state of Guerrero, disappeared in the nearby town of Iguala. The book was a finalist for the Silver Falchion award for Best Procedural of 2017 from the Killer Nashville International Mystery Writer’s Conference.

43 MIssing
To mark the 4 year anniversary of the Ayotzinapa tragedy, I will donate $1.00 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for every review posted on the book’s Amazon site during September-October 2018.

In addition, the Kindle edition of the book will be on sale 21-30 September; just $0.99 for Kindle.

Four years ago this month, the crowd of students from Ayotzinapa were looking to commandeer buses to take them to an annual student rally in Mexico City which commemorates a deadly student-police clash there in 1968. The young men were probably loud and rowdy as they begged on the streets for tuition and gas money.

They found some buses and headed out of town, but the buses were attacked by local police. The students were seized. Some ran away and were hunted down. Very few escaped.

Forty-three of those students were never seen again.

Related: The real story behind 43 MISSING

Over the past four years, arrests have been made, so-called confessions obtained, and multiple motives have been offered. One of the most believable explanations is that the police were working with a regional drug gang. The students had unknowingly taken the buses used to transport drugs. 43 MISSING veers toward this answer, but takes it a step further.

Many now believe that the police handed the students to a notorious drug gang which killed all the young men, chopped up their bodies, burned the parts, then threw the remains into a remote gully.

Incidentally, the police chief of Iguala went into hiding and was arrested two years after the crime. He was found–where else–in Iguala.

As the countryside around Iguala was searched over and over for the bodies of the 43 students, over 200 unidentified bodies were found, relics of Mexico’s drug cartel violence. They did not belong to any of the 43 missing students.

The Ayotzinapa tragedy might not be the worst thing that has ever happened in Mexico. But as a writer and a mother I can’t let it go.

The uncertainty of being a parent and not knowing what happened to your child eats at my heart. I think about the horrible images going through the parents’ minds as information dribbles out about what might have happened. The dawning realization that their children died in pain and fear and that their bodies were brutally desecrated. Official blundering and obfustication to the point that little the government says about the tragedy is credible. For these parents, there is little recourse besides prayers, rallies, and protest marches. What influence does a poor rural family have when even the Organization of American States threw up its hands?

Researching the Ayotzinapa tragedy as I wrote 43 MISSING led me to the plight of other families dealing with a missing child. This fundraiser for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children aims to use the power of one small book to help.

Please write a short review of 43 MISSING. Remember, I will donate $1.00 for every review posted through 31 October. Let’s help find the missing.

I will be announcing the result to readers of Mystery Ahead newsletter on 11 November. If you would like to subscribe to Mystery Ahead, you can do so here: http://carmenamato.net/mystery-ahead/

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

read more

 

Subscribe

FYI: Carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I’m author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

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7 Life-changing books to read right now

7 Life-changing books to read right now

Fall is here. Our New Year’s resolutions petered out long ago and the holidays, with overspending and family drama, loom on the horizon.

In this season between what-might-have-been and what-will-overwhelm-us-soon, dive into one of these life-changing books. You’ll get a dose of creativity, a box of life tools, and a new mantra.

Let’s face it. We all need a new mantra.

 

Carmen's must-read books

 

THE CREATIVE HABIT by Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp is one of America’s best known choreographers, lauded for her collaborations with Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Joffrey Ballet, and ballet theaters across the world. She offers up essays and exercises designed to sharpen and apply your creativity. Tharp uses dance to illustrate her points in an amazingly effective way. I plan to re-read this book at least yearly

 
Takeaway: Keep honing your expertise, don’t let it get stale. Keep scratching at a concept until it is ready for production. Any creative endeavor has to have a central “spine”—the thing that keeps it from being ad hoc bundle of ideas.

 

FAIL UNTIL YOU DON’T by Bobby Bones

If you are not a fan of country music you might not know that Bobby Bones—whose real name is Bobby Estell– is host of a hugely popular syndicated morning radio show in the US. From a difficult childhood in rural Arkansas, Bobby rose to become one of the most powerful people in radio broadcasting. The book is organized around his mantra of “Fight. Grind. Repeat.” He is definitely compulsive about many aspects of his life and driven by an unrelenting fear of poverty, but his perspective on achievement felt like a wake-up call.

 

Takeaway: Are you fighting for big goals? Are you grinding it out day to day? There’s no time to sulk over failure. There’s no need to waste time. Don’t stop. Just Fight. Grind. Repeat.

 

THE 10x RULE by Grant Cardone

Grant Cardone is a salesman and he coaches salesmen, but this book is for everybody. If Bobby Bones gives us the mantra, Cardone teaches about level of effort. Basically, the “fight” is probably going to take 10x the effort that you estimated. According to Cardone, most people don’t fail, they simply give up too soon. The book is occasionally pithy, but that’s okay; Cardone is in coach mode and there are a ton of ideas and worksheets. Also, there is a chapter entitled “There is No Shortage of Success” that is like a Super Bowl pep talk.

 

Takeaway: This is how you hustle, this is why you hustle, this is how you outhustle whatever you need to outhustle. Get a paperback and highlight the heck out of it.

 

SUBMERGENCY by Scott Kimbro

This slim volume by Scott Kimbro, a finance executive and network marketing professional, identifies three types of urgencies in our lives: the obvious, the optional, and the hidden. If you go through life only addressing the urgent, then you are basically living in reaction mode with someone else in the driver’s seat. Optional urgencies are opportunities we can choose to take or not, while submerged or hidden urgencies (hence the title) are the opportunities we should seek out in order to live and die without regret. Kimbro illustrates his message in a conversational manner with song lyrics, personal anecdotes, and meaningful quotes.

 

Takeaway: There is a very personal Christian dedication, but the book’s main message is universal. Wake up, smell the coffee, and seek out opportunities to live fully.

 

TOOLS OF TITANS by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss has a hugely popular interview podcast. This 705-page book (get a hardcopy, please) offers the best bits from these interviews, grouping them into 3 categories–Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. You can read the morning routine of Jocko Willink, former SEAL unit commander, then skip to director Robert Rodriguez’s thoughts on failure (“not durable”) and then learn what quote changed the life of professor Brené Brown. It is all absolutely fascinating stuff, punctuated with self-help tips like how to sleep better, soundtracks for success, and other golden nuggets culled from the minds of high achievers.

 

Takeaway: This is THE bible to grab whenever you need motivation or new ideas. The back of the book says  “Fitness, money, and wisdom—here are the tools.” Yep.

 

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK by Mark Manson

Manson, a NYC-based blogger, has written the ultimate guide to being a mature adult. His clarity of thought and expression allows him to delve deep without being either preachy or academic. The basic theme is that resilience, happiness, and freedom come from knowing what you value, while unhappiness and denial come from taking action based on what you really don’t. But that is just the starting point; this book is loaded with pivotal insights, using Manson’s own experiences, social science findings, and historical research. If you only read 7 non-fiction books this year, let this be one of them. Note–be prepared for lots of the f-word.

 

Takeaway: Social media and hyper-commercialism has led to unrealistic expectations of a trouble-free, entitled, and exceptional life. Real happiness comes from solving problems.

 

LIFE CODE by Dr. Phil McGraw

This book is last on the list for a reason. We’ve learned how to be habitually creative, fight and grind to achieve goals, hustle for success, grab opportunities, understand our values, and use the tools of high achievers. Now Dr. Phil gives us the key to identifying the people who stand in our way and are willing to trip us up AND what to do about it. This book really resonated with me because of an experience I had several years ago; I was far too slow to recognize such a person and the damage they were doing to me and the others around us.

 

Takeaway: Gutsy, honest, and probably the most helpful book when it comes to dealing with people on a day-to-day basis, especially when you are putting forth 10x effort. Be savvy and memorize the danger signs of destructive people.

 

What books are on YOUR life-changing list?

Recent Posts

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

read more

Subscribe

Subscribe to my every-other-Sunday updates and I'll send you my 5-Sentence Book Review Cheatsheet. 

Find out how to write great reviews in half the time.

FYI: Carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

Meet WHEELS UP thriller author Jeanine Kitchel

Meet WHEELS UP thriller author Jeanine Kitchel

 Do opposites attract? Meet Jeanine Kitchel, author of WHEELS UP

1) Carmen Amato: Jeanine, we first met as collaborators putting together THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO and now find ourselves writing two halves of the same story set in Mexico. I write a mystery series from the point of a view of a female cop, while your (highly rated!!) novel WHEELS UP–A Novel of Drugs Cartels and Survival is the start to a new crime fiction series told from the point of view of a female crime boss.

I wonder what would happen if these two fiesty women ever met! Tell us about your background and the inspiration for WHEELS UP.

Jeanine: Hi Carmen, and thanks for the interview. It is amazing that our Latina protagonists are polar opposites. Emilia Cruz is fighting for justice in the Acapulco Police Department while Layla Navarro occupies the top spot in Mexico’s most powerful cartel because of her DNA.

I decided to write fiction, specifically about the cartels, after living in Mexico for 15 years. I fell in love with the Mexican Caribbean coast in the early 80s, long before Cancun became a household word. In 1989 right after  class 5 hurricane, my husband and I bought land and built a house in a fishing village, Puerto Morelos. We rented it out like an Airbnb until 1997 when we escaped our San Francisco jobs, moved south, and founded a bookstore. Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels andSurvival, was inspired as I read about the creeping dominance of the Mexican cartels in local newspapers. Some events in the novel are based on fact.

2) Carmen: Your main character, Layla, inherits the leadership of a drug cartel. How did you make this character relatable? What motivates her and how does she make decisions?

Jeanine: Layla is not only a flawed protagonist, but a woman—basically persona non grata—in macho Mexico, thrown into a position of unbelievable power. She’s smart and resilient, but lacks on the job experience. Her motivation is to prove, both to herself and the cartel world, that a woman can survive in the driver’s seat, though it may be a bumpy ride. Since her uncle never planned on Layla as heir apparent, she must learn on the fly. Her early decisions are emotional, but she’s a quick study and gains her footing as she goes.

3) Carmen: How did your writing style develop and what books or authors inspire you?

Jeanine: With a degree in journalism, I wrote for newspapers and adapted to a crisp style of writing. That changed when I was approached by a publisher in my bookstore who asked me to write first person account travel articles. After publishing a memoir and a book on the Maya calendar, I decided to write fiction. Now that was a learning curve!

Books I’ve been inspired by: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez, Siddhartha by Hesse, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Thompson. Joyce Carol Oates, Jack London and Margaret Atwood among others have been an inspiration.

4) Carmen: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

Jeanine: I’d invite Jack London. I’d serve raw oysters on the half shell as a nod to his days as an oyster pirate in San Francisco Bay along with San Francisco sourdough and clam chowder. Alcohol would flow freely. We’d talk about his South Sea adventures on his boat The Snark, his Yukon Trail gold field adventures, riding the rails in his teens that led him to socialism and his stand against social injustice. We’d discuss his love of the land, his Northern California Beauty Ranch, his horses. And how it felt to be the most celebrated author in America after the Saturday Evening Post serialized The Call of the Wild in 1903.

5) Carmen: What is your best protip. Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

Jeanine: I get up early, write a few morning pages, and then pick up from where I left off the day before. It’s not a long writing session. That comes later. I think it’s important for a writer to discover what their best writing time is. Mine is between 2 and 6 pm, but only recently discovered I have fresh thoughts first thing, so try to maximize on that. Also, a favorite quote is: “The muse only shows up if you do.”

More about Jeanine: Jeanine Kitchel’s love of Mexico led her to a fishing village on the Mexican Caribbean coast where she built a house, opened a bookstore, and began writing about Mexico, the Maya and the Yucatan. Her debut novel, Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival, follows a travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya. Visit her website www.jeaninekitchel.com.

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

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I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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10 Lessons from Killer Nashville

10 Lessons from Killer Nashville

The Killer Nashville International Writer’s Conference was the first of its kind I’ve ever attended.  I didn’t know quite what to expect but tried to put my best foot forward:

  • Served on 3 panels (Writing Spies and Espionage, Settings, Witness Reliability),
  • Was a conference sponsor, which put my name on the back of the awards dinner program and a copy of “The Beast” short story in every conference tote, and
  • Wore my lucky red dress on the first day.

At the 4-day event I connected with terrific authors I only knew from Facebook and email, including Mike Faricy (the Dev Haskell series), Jim Nesbitt (the Ed Earl Burch series), Kathryn Lane (the Nikki Garcia series), and Mike Pettit (the Jack Marsh series, the Max Simms series, etc.). I made new friends too, including Dale T. Phillips (the Zack Taylor series), Ross Carley (the Wolf Ruger series), and Margaret Mizushima (the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries).

Me and globetrotter Mike Faricy, author of the inimitable Dev Haskell series. Check out the lucky red dress.

Related: Straight Shooting with mystery author Mike Faricy

Sharing a laugh with Ed Earl Burch creator, Jim Nesbitt.

Related: Hard-core hard-boiled with Jim Nesbitt

The presentations given by experts on DNA, toxicology, and drug smuggling were outstanding. I now have a long list of terms to Google, like “volatiles” and “fracture match.” Guest speakers Jeffrey Deaver, Otto Penzler, J.A. Konrath, and Anne Perry all impressed with their experience and insights.

Major takeaways from Killer Nashville:

1. Consistent, high quality production is the name of the game. The best known authors in the mystery genre have 30 or more books to their name  . . . and a fierce work ethic.

2. Even the best need to be resilient and take the long view. Jeffrey Deaver gave a great talk at Killer Nashville in which the word “escape” figured large. Stories struggling to escape the imagination. Writers struggling to escape the ordinary. Or in Deaver’s case, he wrote to escape being a nerd. Deaver read us entries from journals in which he recorded his epic fails on the way to publishing success. From no one showing up for book signings to technical glitches that destroyed pages, he showed that no author is immune. His bottom line? Be resilient in the face of disasters and persistent when it comes to writing what you love.

3. The divide between traditional publishing and independent publishing was the ghost at the banquet. For many attendees, traditional publishing still represents “validation.” The opportunity to sit down with an agent was the main reason they were there. Yet all four of the agents on the dedicated panel agreed that it takes 3-5 years for an author to get signed and published. The tortoise-like speed of that route would seem to be a serious handicap on the road to a big backlist. See 1, above.

4. Every traditionally published author has a loss-of-control horror story. Publishers putting the wrong title on a printed book. Publishing contracts that buy book rights for the life of the author plus 70 years. Publishers that pay 6% royalty. Publishers running a marketing campaign that targets the wrong audience. Publishers closing down their mystery imprint in the middle of a contracted-for series, leaving the author unable to publish elsewhere. And so on.

5. Discoverability is the golden ticket. Best selling indie author Christopher Greyson spends $100k annually on Amazon advertising. J.A. Konrath has written dozens of short stories to build discoverabiity in addition to his horror thrillers and the Jack Daniels series. Ironically, when legendary mystery editor and publisher Otto Penzler was asked how to get included in one of his popular anthologies, he answered, “Get famous.”

6. An author’s “platform,” or online presence and ability to influence others, is today’s must-have accessory. For those yearning to go the traditional route, it is one of the first things an agent looks at. A platform (read good website)  is critical for an indie author to build an email list (with a newsletter like Mystery Ahead!)

Carmen Amato's Mystery Ahead

Should this be the new Mystery Ahead newsletter header? Wearing a red raincoat in this photo. Not to be confused with red dress.

7. Anne Perry gets it. The bestselling author of 85 books gave the keynote on the last day of the conference. According to Anne, the role of a writer is to show lives we will not live. This really resonated with me, especially in terms of writing about Mexico’s disappearances in 43 MISSING. Incidentally, her publishing contract stipulates 3 books per year, 2 of which are around 100,000 pages, and the other is a novella. See 1, above.

Related: The real story behind 43 MISSING

8. Literary reviews are only useful to an author for one reason—the promotional quote. According to Deaver, there are very few credible literary reviewers any more. Reviewers rarely put your work into context. They generally don’t compare it to works within a genre or even the author’s own body of work. So take reviews with a grain of salt and ignore the sour ones.

9. Physical book tours are not worth the time. According to Deaver, hardly anybody shows up and you are better off using the time to write another book. That being said, Greyson has ordered (and paid for) 8000 copies of his independently published bestseller to send to bookstores and I’ll bet some signings go along. Secondary lesson: What you are willing to do re discoverabiity directly relates to how “discovered” you are . . .

10. When a friend reads your work . . . From Linda Sands, author of the Cargo series: Men friends will look for themselves in the worst aspects of male characters, but women friends look for themselves in the best aspects of female characters.

One last thing . . . 43 MISSING, the 6th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, was a finalist in the Best Procedural category for the Silver Falchion award from Killer Nashville. It was a big thrill to hear my name and title read out at the awards banquet. The winner was FOREVER YOUNG by Henry Hack.

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

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As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

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I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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Heading to Killer Nashville

Heading to Killer Nashville

I’m heading to the Killer Nashville mystery writer’s conference, where 43 MISSING, the 6th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is a finalist for the Silver Falchion award for Best Procedural. The award has multiple categories and many of the finalists are very well known authors so I’m amazed to be in such august company.

You can see all the finalists for all Silver Falchion categories here: https://killernashville.com/awards/silver-falchion-award/

BTW, 43 MISSING is based on a true crime in rural Mexico, which nearly 4 years later is still unsolved. Does the word “Ayotzinapa” ring a bell?

43 MIssing

Related: The true story behind 43 MISSING

43 MISSING is also in contention for the conference’s Reader’s Choice award for Best Procedural, as is PACIFIC REAPER, Detective Emilia Cruz #5. I’ve been asking friends on Facebook to vote for PACIFIC REAPER. https://killernashville.com/awards/killer-nashville-readers-choice-award/

I’m armed with new business cards, too!  This is the first time I’ve gone to a writer’s conference in my (so-far) 6-year-old writing career and I’m probably a bit too excited. No matter the outcome, I’m amazed and honored to have had both books recognized this way.

Maybe I’m on the right track after all . . .

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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Department Q and The Keeper of Lost Causes

Department Q and The Keeper of Lost Causes

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, has toppled Jo Nesbo from the top of my Nordic Noir favorites list.

And I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Denmark.

Some series take a few books before all the pieces are properly in place but Department Q comes at us with all elements fully formed: everyman hero with a wry inner voice, an intriguing sidekick, and an investigative style that relies heavily on pulling threads, connecting dots, and spotting liars.

Detective Carl Mørck returns to work in the Copenhagen Police Department’s  homicide unit after being ambushed and shot while investigating a murder victim killed with a nail gun; a backstory that promises to spool out over the life of the series. One of Carl’s close colleagues died in the ambush and another was left a quadriplegic, who together with a silly ex-wife, hippie stepson, and the guy who rents part of Carl’s house, populates Carl’s appealing inner circle.

In short order, Carl is banished to the police station’s basement with a “promotion” to head up Department Q, a political stunt to sooth public concerns over cold cases. Carl plans to use his new lair to nap and play computer solitaire but real work is expected. Carl quickly realizes he’s a staff of one and corners his boss into giving him help. Enter Assad, a Syrian immigrant hired to mop floors.

Out of all the old files heaped on his desk, Carl picks the disappearance five years ago of an up-and-coming Danish politician, Merete Lynggard. The assumption is suicide, but the case was handled sloppily and there are still leads to run down. While hiding his own past, Assad proves to be uncannily observant and resilient, helping Carl piece together clues and get out of tight situations.

Carl’s point of view alternates with that of kidnapping victim Merete. Clues for Carl are deliberately out of sync with Merete’s experiences, creating a tempo that simply rocks throughout what is a fairly long book.

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES is the start of an addictive series. Over the next few books, Carl’s tiny Department Q basement empire grows in fits and starts, his quadriplegic former colleague offers pivotal insights, and investigative techniques hinge on probing questions and seemingly innocuous details. Carl’s often humorous reflections are counterbalanced by the inner voices of both villains and victims. Assad remains an enigma.

Start with THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES and keep going. Department Q needs you.​​​​​​​

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Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

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Author Bernard Schaffer debuts new cop series

Author Bernard Schaffer debuts new cop series

Bernard Schaffer’s new book THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT is the debut of a tension-filled new police procedural series. This interview first appeared in the Mystery Ahead newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

1  Carmen Amato: Bernard, thanks so much for stopping by and congratulations. Your debut mystery, THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT, just came out. A rookie and a jaded detective feature in this start to a tantalizing new police procedural series. Tell us how you came to create this “odd couple.”

Bernard Schaffer: I published multiple books in multiple genres as an indie author from 2011 to 2016, and wanted to take a crack at the mainstream. My writing had reached a level where I felt ready to try something new, so I took all of my experiences as both author and criminal investigator, and put them into a book.

2  CA: Your main character, Carrie Santero, has a fascination for serial killers? What research did you do to make this convincing?

Schaffer: I’m a career police detective for a department in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I’ve been studying criminals, up close and personal, my entire adult life.

3  CA: Fill in the blank for us, please, and tell us why: If readers like books by ________, they will also like the Santero and Rein series.

Schaffer: If readers like books by Thomas Harris, Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, and anyone else who writes gripping thrillers, they will also like the Santero and Rein series.

4  CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

Schaffer: My stock answer would be Hemingway, because I have an imaginary Hemingway who sits off to the side whenever I’m writing and gives me hell, kind of like a boxing coach. But at this point, I probably don’t need to sit down with the real one. I’d say either Alan Moore or Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Both fascinate me and I feel that I could learn from either of them.

5  CA: What is your best protip? Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

Schaffer: A few things. Real authors finish. They don’t work on ten pages of a manuscript for years on end, carting them all over to every writing conference they can find, in hopes of someone finally giving them permission to write the whole thing. If you want to do this, you have to finish your book. That means multiple drafts and rewrites, too. There’s no sitting around in the publishing world. I graduated from the indie game, where you live and die by your ability to produce quality at a rapid pace. That’s served me well at this new level. There’s no time to be lazy or unmotivated when people are relying on you to get your work done, and get it done right.

The Thief of all LightThank you so much for having me, Carmen. THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT cameout in hardcover and audio on 7/31/18 from Kensington Publishing, and I cannot wait to share it with everyone.

More about Bernard: Bernard Schaffer’s law enforcement philosophy book titled WAY OF THE WARRIOR is now taught in multiple police academies, Field Training Programs, and universities across the United States. His fiction collaboration with J.A. Konrath combined concepts and characters from Konrath’s Jack Daniels series with Schaffer’s novel SUPERBIA. Schaffer is the father of two children, still working as a police detective, and still writing. Read more at https://www.bernardschaffer.com/

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

read more

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

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I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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Book Review: FOOLS AND MORTALS by Bernard Cornwell

Book Review: FOOLS AND MORTALS by Bernard Cornwell

FOOLS AND MORTALS by Bernard Cornwell sets the standard for historical fiction with a touch of suspense and a healthy dose of Shakespeare.

But before I gush about how good the book is, let me say that Cornwell is one of my favorite authors. First, in 2014 when I wrote a blog series on bookstores vs ebooks, he took the time to answer my email. Second, he’s the author of the Richard Sharpe series. Apart from being some of the best historical fiction EVER, the Sharpe books were turned into a miniseries starring Sean Bean. We actually have the DVDs (still) and the board game.

The narrator of FOOLS AND MORTALS is Shakespeare, but not the one you’re thinking of. Richard Shakespeare is William’s younger brother, a crafty and likeable neer-do-well who wormed his way into Will’s acting troupe and steals when he can. He’s young and good looking. Typically cast as a woman, given that only men were allowed to be actors in Elizabethan time, he demands that Will cast him as a man and up his salary.

But Will has little time for the wild Richard. The Shakespeares and their royal patron are caught up in a bitter rivalry with another playhouse which similarly enjoys a royal patron. Good plays are the ammunition that fuel the war but they are few and far in between. There is no copyright protection, moreover; whoever has the manuscript puts on the play. Fresh material means big income and Will’s new play, written for a wedding the queen herself may attend, is A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Until the handwritten manuscript is stolen.

Cornwell masterfully uses the political upheaval caused by Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne and resulting purge of Catholicism in England to drive suspense. Not only does he offer the minute details of Elizabethan England such as dress, habit, and food, but London has never been so noisy, so gritty, so perfectly captured.

Maybe I’m partial to the book because A Midsummer Night’s Dream features in a nightmare sequence in my suspense novel AWAKENING MACBETH.

Also, I played Tatiana in a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But that’s only one more reason to enjoy the historical suspense of FOOLS AND MORTALS.

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I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,” and “oversaw work of...

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