Locating the Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

Spenser has all of Boston to roam through, solving mysteries with Hawk at his side and meeting Susan later for dinner at Locke-Ober. Wallander has Sweden’s fog and gloom to wander, his melancholy matching the mist.  Arkady Renko contends with Moscow; taking us through the city’s shift from unsmiling Communist monolith to mafia-run knife-in-the-back dark streets. Guido Brunetti walks Venice’s rivas, his trusty ispettore in tow, a gourmet Italian meal awaiting him at home.

Detective Emilia Cruz has all of Mexico to play with. Her job as Acapulco’s first and only female police detective makes that city and Mexico’s Pacific coast major elements in the mystery series.

But like the other series featuring international mystery series crime fighters, the locations give the books a vibe and a tone that is unique. So I’ve been giving some thought to the unique Mexican locations featured in the books.

800px-FlowerStallJamaicaMarketDFMexico’s markets

Markets in Mexico are some of my favorite places. They brim with colors, smells, and textures that can’t help but awaken your creativity:

There was more than one entrance into the market and she’d ended up by the food section. Vendors showcased their offerings by stringing up scrawny red carcasses that could be cats or jackrabbits or odd cuts of beef between the uprights of the booths. A bloody board invariably waited for the vendor to chop off as much meat as the customer could afford. The rest of the carcass would be put back on display and some unlucky late shopper would be left with just the head or feet.

Emilia stifled a retch as she plowed through, often having to turn sideways to pass through the narrow aisles full of dawdling shoppers and aggressive vendors. The meat section gave way to the fruit and vegetable stalls where the attar of rotting fruit was as cloying as the butcher smells.

She kept going, turning into a section devoted to containers: woven palm baskets, plastic tubs and buckets, melamine bowls and cups. In the aisle, two old ladies argued over plastic tumblers decorated with cat cartoons and Emilia had to practically shout “Permiso!” before they let her get by. The baby section was next, booths full of disposable diapers in clear plastic-wrapped bundles of 10 or 20 stacked next to cans of baby formula, cloth bibs, and boxes filled with assorted jars of baby food.

Dogs and cats in cages dominated the next aisle, along with bags of dry pet food. Emilia passed flowers and a shoe repair stand, a few men selling picture frames, and then she was in an aisle with candles on both sides, pillars of wax decorated with pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Juan Diego, and San Miguel el Arcángel. There were plain wax candles besides the religious ones, candles that smelled like apples or melon, candles that had strings and plastic coins wrapped around them to bring luck and wealth.

A turn down the next aisle and Emilia was in junk heaven. The booths were larger, each a second-hand store. Many had garish signs advertising their wares. A pig advertised Everything For The Home, while a pirate pointed to Hidden Treasures. The best sign incorporated a half-naked hula girl whose grass shirt spelled out Chatarra. Junk.

From DIABLO NIGHTS

Acapulco skylineBeaches

For most of us, Mexico conjurs up a great all-includive resort, with endless margeritas, scuba excursions, and a romance that we might not otherwise have had:

He kicked off his shoes and waited for Emilia to do the same. Together they stepped off the lower terrace and onto the hard-packed sand. They walked across the beach to the water’s edge and Kurt turned right to keep them parallel to the softly lapping surf. The sun was nearly below the horizon, just the rim of a fiery orange ball visible as it sank into the dark ocean, the kaleidoscope reduced to flickering stripes woven through the water.

They kept walking, holding hands, leaving the hotel further and further behind. Emilia let her sandals dangle from her free hand, trying not to think about Belize or the future or how the sunset reminded her of smoke and fire. 

The hotel’s lights and music receded; the sand became more coarse and the ocean more angry and violent. The waves surged onto the beach and sucked at the sand, reaching higher each time, thirsty for something hidden underneath and angry when dragged away before the treasure was found.

Kurt slowed his steps, then stopped. Emilia looked behind them. In the distance, the hotel glittered down the whole length of the cliff. She could see the curve of the bay and the hotel’s private marina. Lights hung in the sky, and she knew it was the even more distant Costa Esmeralda apartment building. The dark night had swallowed up cement and stone, and only the lights were left to compete with the stars.

From HAT DANCE

Acapulco cliff diverPacific cliffs

Mexico’s Pacific coast is Acapulco’s dramatic backdrop. The city’s 50’s Hollywood glamour has faded but the cliffs and the bay still make for the most fantastic views anywhere: 

It was at least a dozen miles to Punta Diamante, the picturesque spit of land where the rich and famous played. Along the way, la Costera became the coastal highway called the Carretera Escénica, winding high up the side of the mountain that guarded the most scenic bay in the world. It was a ribbon of tarmac carved from the face of the cliff, lanes without guardrails or a safety net. Far below, on Rucker’s side, the bay twinkled and shimmered under the night sky. A few cars passed heading toward Acapulco but for the most part they were alone on the road with nothing to spoil the dramatic scene of mountain curves and glittering ocean . . .

The headlights in her mirror zoomed in. As the Suburban passed the deserted privada gate a salvo of gunfire tore the night and something hit the back end with a dull thud. The heavy vehicle shuddered and slewed to the right.

Emilia broke out into a cold sweat as she fought the wheel, trying to keep the vehicle on the high mountain road. The tires on the right side lost traction along the cliff edge. Time stopped for a day and a year before the lethargic vehicle responded and rumbled toward the center of the road and then the rear window exploded, spraying shattered glass inward. Emilia and Rucker both instinctively ducked as shards rained down. Somehow Emilia kept the accelerator pressed to the floor.

The Suburban lurched around a slight bend. The glare in her rearview was refracted for a moment and Emilia clearly saw the vehicle behind them. It was a small pickup, with at least four men braced in the bed. They all carried long guns.

“They’ll take us out here,” Rucker said. “There’s nowhere to hide and we can’t outrun them.”

“I know.”

“Brake and turn it.”

“Madre de Dios.” Before she gave herself time to think, Emilia hit the parking brake and swung the wheel to the left.

The small truck shot by as the Suburban screamed into the oncoming lane, tires chewing the tarmac, engine protesting. The mountainside loomed out of the inky darkness so fast Emilia felt the vehicle start to claw its way upwards. But momentum and gravity won out and the vehicle continued to spin.

The landscape was lost in a dizzying blur. Like a hand racing too fast around a clock face, they were pointed toward Acapulco in the right lane, then at the center of the road, then at the other lane, then straight at the cliff edge. Far below, white lines of waves rolled gently toward the sand, hypnotic and teasing.

From CLIFF DIVER  

March for the Missing in Acapulco

The road has disappeared under a wave of sorrow and anger. In a case of weather mimicking emotions, it is raining and thousands are unintentionally decorated with multicolored umbrellas. The raingear doesn’t hide the posters with faces of the missing. Rather, the umbrellas become a symbol of the lengths to which people will go to get answers.

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez: Protest marchers in Acapulco, Oct 2014

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez: Protest marchers in Acapulco, Oct 2014

Rally for answers

I wish the scene was one out of the Emilia Cruz mystery series. Indeed, in MADE IN ACAPULCO, a rally takes place in the exact same place to raise awareness of the plight of those missing in Mexico’s drug war and Emilia must confront her own failure as a cop to stem the tide.

But the rally I’m talking about here is real and took place last week in Acapulco. Thousands turned out for a peaceful protest in the rain that shut down Acapulco’s main boulevard, the Costura Miguel Aleman, in an effort to get answers as to the fate of 43 teaching college students who were taken away by local police in the nearby town of Iguala.

Photo courtesy AP/Eduardo Verdugo: Protest marchers show faces of the missing, Acapulco, Oct 2014

Photo courtesy AP/Eduardo Verdugo: Protest marchers show faces of the missing, Acapulco, Oct 2014

On 26 September 2014, sparked by a protest over supposed bias against teachers from rural areas, the now-missing students clashed with police and masked men. Reuters reports that “Authorities say many of the missing students were abducted by police.”

Authorities have been using sniffer dogs, patrols on horseback and have been sifting lakes in the state of Guerrero, where Iguala and Acapulco are located, to determine the wherabouts of the students. According to the online edition of The Guardian newspaper, 19 mass graves have been found and 28 bodies so far exhumed. None of the bodies so far found have been matched to any of the missing students.

Photo courtesy Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez: Acapulco protest rally, Oct 2014

Photo courtesy Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez: Acapulco protest rally, Oct 2014

An arrest

According to ABC News, “Mexican officials announced the arrest of Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, the purported leader of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang suspected of acting with local police in taking away the students. He was detained Thursday on a highway leaving Mexico City, federal prosecutor Tomas Zeron said.

“Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said he hoped the arrest will bring new leads in the case.

“The government is combing the hills of southern Guerrero state with horseback patrols and has divers looking in lakes and reservoirs behind dams, but has not found the youths missing since a confrontation with police Sept. 26 in the city of Iguala. Officers are suspected of turning the students over to the gang.

“Authorities have arrested 36 police officers along with 17 alleged members of the gang. Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, are being sought for their presumed involvement in the disappearances, Murillo Karam said.”

Related post: Author Dilemma: When the News Writes Mystery for You

Endless road?

The end of this story is still ahead of us, but the circumstances that sparked it–police corruption, drug cartel influence, the endless money to be made from the drug and violence business–have no end in sight. The Emilia Cruz mystery series is fiction, but also a way of making folks aware of what is going on in Mexico.

Related post: Be Angry and Pray Hard

As the first and only female police detective in Acapulco, Emilia Cruz walks a fine line between the corrupt and the dead of her department. Her personal crusade to find out what happened to women who have gone missing in Acapulco is less fiction, however, than it is fact.

Made in Acapulco_June2014_120pxEmilia Cruz is the last honest cop in Mexico . . . most of the time. Get the Emilia Cruz stories today.

How to Make an Informed Reading Choice

With so many books out there, how do you make an informed reading choice? From the author’s point of view, it’s all about “book discoverability.’ But I read more than I write and from the reader’s perspective, it’s all about knowing the book won’t disappoint.

How to choose

There are alot of Goodreads discussons about how readers choose a book. Cover? Synopsis? Word-of-mouth? Book of the month chosen by others?

Here’s a different answer: the book itself.

Sample Size

When the Emilia Cruz short story, The Beast, was featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase, sales of the first two Emilia Cruz books, CLIFF DIVER and HAT DANCE, went through the roof. Readers got to meet Emilia, the first female detective on the Acapulco police force, and see what a fighter she is.

The lesson was the best way to help a reader make an informed choice with an excerpt that sets up a conflict, introduces characters to love, or otherwise intrigues. We want to make sure it won’t disappoint.

Reader Zone

That’s why I’ve added a Reader Zone to this website. You’ll get access to the first chapters of all my books, plus several short stories, some of which are exclusive to this site.

Not only that; I’ll also send you a copy of The Beast, just in case you missed it on The Huffington Post last year. Free of charge.

Character Bios

In addition to the Reader Zone, in response to a reader suggestion, I’ve also added bios of the main characters in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. The bios were previously only available on Shelfari.

It is a real look behind the scenes. For example, you can find out what real life union jefe inspired the character of Victor Obregon or what Emilia Cruz and an Olumpic boxer have in common.

Writing for Water

Choose a book that gives back. During 2014 I’m donating $1 to Water.org for every Kindle book sold. Several other authors are joining me and together we’re the Writing for Water team. Each month I tally up how many peope we have been able to give clean water for life through our donations to Water.org.

We met our annual goal in August but we are still working hard. How much more can we do in the last 3 months of the year?  Help us out by buying books from Writing for Water authors.

Diablo Nights

“Carmen Amato manages to write colorfully about Mexican culture while maintaining the pacing and suspense of a top notch thriller. This is a marvelous read.”

 “It is one of the two or three best books in this genre I have read this summer.”

 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon

Writing for Water: How to Cure Ebola by Reading

Throughout 2014, for every Kindle book I sell, $1 is donated to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean and safe water to communities worldwide. Other independent authors have joined in and every month I tally up how many people have been given access to clean water because readers like you bought our books.

September’s Statistics

September sales flagged for me, after some fairly good Kindle sales months during the summer. But the mistress of zombie tales, Sharon Lee Johnson has promised a check so we managed to bump the ticker upwards by two.

This brings to 29 the total number of persons who will gain access to clean water from the Writing for Water team’s efforts so far in 2014. Given that we started with a goal of 25 for the year, this is pretty good.

chart of Writing for Water stats

The Great Balancing Act

But if we put all the people who read on one side of the equation and all the people who need access to clean water on the other side, we could be doing alot better.

Writing for water balance

According to the UN’s world population calculator, by 2015 there will be 1,132.5 million people living in high-literacy areas of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. But there are 345 million without access to clean water, according to Water.org. And that has serious consequences.

This means that in very rough terms, for every 3 people who live in a fairly nice place and can read, there is 1 person who doesn’t have access to clean water. (Thanks to water.org for the graphic)

Would the Ebola epidemic be happening if more people had access to clean water in west Africa? Most reports point to lack of basic sanitation as the reason why it has spread so quickly.

water.org provided dataCure Ebola by Reading

As we head into the last 3 months of 2014, the Writing for Water campaign is going to get aggressive. I’m going to talk about this until I’m blue in the face. Tweet about it, sing it on Facebook, pin every water-related image I can find on Pinterest. And ask readers to do the same. Alot.

If you are an author, please make a contribution to the fundraiser and then email me at carmen@caremenamato.net. In return I’ll tweet, sing, and post about your books to my 2000+ Facebook fans and 4000+ Twitter peeps.

Here is the link: http://give.water.org/fundraiser/2154/

Remember, it’s a simple equation: Cure ebolaYou can check out all the Writing for Water books here. Buy one, read it (leave a review, please) and know that you helped bring clean water to communities that need it most. Maybe you aren’t ready to put on a Hazmat suit and head to Africa, but you can make a difference!

Not ready to buy?

Check out this free story first. Emilia Cruz wants to be the first female police detective in Acapulco. But will they break her before she gets to the squadroom? Read THE BEAST first. Then check out CLIFF DIVER, the first novel in the Emilia Cruz series and the one that Kirkus Reviews called “consistently exciting.”

Where’s a Cheerleader When You Need One?

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was part of my high school’s cheer team. I was also a member of the band, playing—yes, you read it here—the cymbals. Those cymbals were red hot when we New Yorkers played the Wisconsin fight song. Alas, we could only play the song before or after a game. The trombone player was also the captain of the football team.

It was a very small school.

The school team was the Red Wings and the cheer team was called the Wingettes, although we were also called Dingettes for unknown reasons. We wore red skirts and red and white vests and had a great time dancing to Journey tunes and rocking the crowds at half time.

Where’d the cheer all go?

But lately, as adult issues crowd in, cheer can be hard to find. That shouting, dancing, it’s-okay-to-be-the-center-of-attention kind of zest can often be replaced by fatigue, overwork, and feeling  overcome by change and responsibility and stress. Too much stuff we don’t want. Not enough of what we used to have.

Without energy, goals seem unreachable or too lofty. We slog in place, consumed by the day-to-day.

I’m tired just writing this.

Related post: Sweeten Life with 4 Jars of Happiness

Note to self

For several years, I carried a Blackberry with a couple of documents on it. Letters from me to me wherein I was my own cheerleader. These little notes reminded me of my goals, pointed out that I had what it took to achieve them, and exhorted my true self not to get distracted or pay attention to naysayers (“A book where all the characters are Mexican? Naaah.”)

I read the notes over and over again, particularily when it felt like my books weren’t gaining traction or finding a readership. But as with all Blackberry products, so it would seem, mine suffered a demise. My letters to self were lost.

Related post: What Happens When All the People are Mexican

Virtual cheerleading

I could perpetually mourn the loss of my Wingette uniform, my Blackberry notes, and my goals. Or this can be an opportunity to rewrite my letters to self. Make them more articulate, more focused on the kind of success I’m willing to work for.

So can you! Set it out there. Write that letter to self. Cheerlead for you. After all, if you won’t, who will?

No pom-poms required.

Book Review: Hotel Pastis by Peter Mayle

Up for a trip to southern France, where mirth, mayhem, and Champagne rule? C’est vraiment drole! Translation: keep reading.

I not only write mysteries but I love reading them, too. My favorites are the ones that take me to new places and this week it’s a trip to France, all expenses paid by advertising magnate Simon Shaw.

In this week’s book review, Peter Mayle, the UK writer best known for his non-fiction memoir A YEAR IN PROVENCE, checks us into HOTEL PASTIS. It’s a mystery with a light touch and Gallic flavor, along with a generous helping of humor. The novel is perfectly plotted and beautifully choreographed with descriptions and dialogue that match up to both location and characters.

As the novel opens, Simon Shaw is getting divorced (#2) from shrewish gold digger Caroline. His London house is empty–she’s taken everything. But Simon is mega-rich and has the support of his long-time driver/butler/event manager/best friend Ernest who convinces him to take a vacation to France. A small car accident maroons Simon in a small town in Provence, where he meets the lovely French businesswoman Nicole.

Back in London, Simon knows the trip to france has demonstrated just how much he’s fallen out of love with the megawatt advertising world, his US business partner, and the staff at the ad agency Simon built. When Nicole proposes that he buy a half-finished building in Provence and turn it into a hotel, the idea first sounds absurd. But eventually Simon–and Ernest–jump off the corporate ship, bid adieu to London, and build the Hotel Pastis in Provence. (FYI: pastis is the licorice flavor liquor that turnes cloudy when mixed with water. Surprisingly refreshing, it ubiquitous in the south of France. Pernod is one of the most popular brands.)

Interspersed with the Simon/Ernest/Nicole story line is the subplot of a group of locals who were once in prison together and are now plotting to rob a bank which has foolishly installed a new vault over a riverbank storm drain. The big robbery will take place on a festival day and the thieves will make their getaway by cycling away, hiding in plain sight amid the thousands of cyclistes there for the festivities.

Will the thieves succeed? Will their path cross Simon’s? What about Enrico, the Mafiaoso who threatens Simon and from whom the thieves must buy their false passports?

I can’t give any more away, except that this book draws you in with just the right amount of French lingo. You’ll want to go buy Champagne and foie gras and have a picnic in the sun. There is amusement on every page–Mayle’s writing style is light and deft, with a few laugh-out-loud moments, and just enough suspense to keep the action fresh and brisk. The characters, especially Simon and Ernest, are very well drawn. Not a traditional mystery, but high quality writing, supreme entertainment, and a joy to read from start to finish

Simon’s not the only one who gets to escape in HOTEL PASTIS.

Diablo NightsIn DIABLO NIGHTS, Acapulco has never been hotter . . . and Detective Emilia Cruz has never been in more danger as a religious relic leads her into a maze of drug smuggling and revenge killings. Get DIABLO NIGHTS today.

Writing for Water: August’s Big Wave

It’s almost a tidal wave.

As of 30 August, the Writing for Water team of authors exceeded the 2014 goal of providing 25 people with clean water for life, via donations to Water.org. Author donations are based on book sales.

In August, led by strong sales of the third Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS, and Sharon Lee Johnson’s zombie tales, we donated enough to give 3 more people access to clean water for a year-to-date total of 27. That’s two more than the goal for the entire year!

writing for water monthly

But it doesn’t mean the end of the campaign. There are alot more than 25 people in undeveloped parts of the world who need access to clean and safe water.

I’m really curious to see how high we can go. Thirty? Looks like that will be easy. Forty? Maybe. I’m not going to jinx things by setting a new goal, but I hope you’ll watch the numbers with me through the end of the year.

For a little encouragement, here’s a short video by John and Hank Green, aka the Vlog Brothers, talking about Water.org and the worldwide water crisis, complete with child mortality statistics due to lack of clean water. You may recognize John Green as the author of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Thanks again for helping authors contribute to Water.org’s mission. Readers like you are the heart and soul of this effort. When you read, someone gets access to clean water.

You are the ones turning books into water and for that I truly thank you.

In other news

Meet Emilia Cruz in THE BEAST, the short story previously featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase. You can get it free at http://carmenamato.net/get-beast-free-story/

Or check out the newest Emilia Cruz novel, DIABLO NIGHTS. A religious relic leads Emilia into a maze of drug smuggling and revenge killings, even as she trains a rookie who is little too interested in his new mentor. Acapulco has never been hotter . . . and Emilia’s never been in more danger. Diablo Nights

Lighting the Path

“Surround yourself with those who light the way.”

It was just another pithy Pinterest graphic; worth a nod and a smile. Forgotten in the wake of a great chicken recipe or a cat playing the piano.

But I recently had occasion to reflect on the wisdom of “lighting the path” when a friend and I had a long conversation about career decisions. She’s got two opportunities to choose from, both with pros and cons to them. I was wondering if my writing career can expand into a website devoted to time management and productivity for fellow writers, and if the Emilia Cruz series will ever get off the midlist.

Tipping points

As we talked, my friend–a social scientist–unwittingly defined for me what lighting the path means when faced with a decision:

1.How many people will it help? Do we want a life that is self-contained and narrowly focused? Or a life that impacts others for the better? Will the decison help us bring well-being or solve problems for others?

2. Just because an opportunity is available doesn’t mean it is the right one. Will a short-term gain wipe out the chance to fulfill a long-term dream? Yes, this is why Penny quit waitressing at the Cheesecake Factory.

3. It is worth spending time defining and owning your long-term goal. My friend and I discussed our career goals. Where would we each like to be in our 5 years from now.  Once we did that we could apply one of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly successful people: “Begin with the end in mind.”

We didn’t bring peace to the Middle East but the conversation clarified things for both of us. We can both see a better–albeit highly ambitious–path. Now the question is one of courage.

I hope you have a chance now and then to have such conversations with friends who help light your path.

No flashlight? Dead battery? Strike a match and keep going. Brainstorm, weigh options, find your heart’s desire, own a long-term goal. Don’t aim at nothing.

In other news

Get the free short story THE BEAST and see how Acapulco beat cop Emilia Cruz fought her way into the detectives squadroom. THE BEAST is the prequel to the top rated Emilia Cruz mystery series novels, including CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS, all available on Amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle.

The Emilia Cruz police procedural mystery series is a trip to Mexico, with action torn from today’s headlines and a woman who will be hard to forget.

Free for a limited time for Facebook mystery lovers! Get THE BEAST today: http://carmenamato.net/get-beast-free-story/

The Last Narco’s Last Supper

Whatever happened to El Chapo? After his arrest and imprisonment last February, the notorious leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel faded from the headlines.

Not completely.

El Chapo Guzman inspired the character of “El Toro,” the cartel kingpin in political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. Like El Chapo, El Toro was brutal, cunning, and well-connected. But unlike El Chapo, El Toro eluded capture and prison.

Hidden Light by Carmen Ama

Hardly Hard Time

From the biography by Malcolm Beith, THE LAST NARCO, as well as a few other sources, I knew that El Chapo’s previous stint in prison (1993-2001)  had hardly been rough. A billionaire, he’d bought himself deluxe accommodations in prison. He bribed prison guards–and some say government officials as well–to escape in 2001 via laundry cart.

Cheap Eats

This time, prison is less deluxe for El Chapo.   InSight Crime reported in July that El Chapo and his rival Edgar Valdez Villareal, alias “La Barbie” and former head of the former Beltran Leyva Organization,  organized a hunger strike at the maximum security prison El Altiplano where they are both being held in solitary confinement. The website opines that: “while Chapo may no longer hold the reins of power in prison, the fact that two major drug lords held in solitary confinement have found a way to coordinate a nearly 1,000 man hunger strike is evidence they are still powerful figures in the prison and maintain the capacity to overcome rules and regulations.”

El Chapo arrest photo, Feb 2014

El Chapo arrest photo, Feb 2014

The outcome of the strike is even more telling. Blog del Narco reports that “Authorities quickly conceded on a couple of the demands. Prisoners will be given new shoes and clothing, they will be served more food but it will be the same poor quality, and they will allow prisoners to purchase more goods from the prison store, like toilet paper.

“Strikers will also be allowed to make 3 attempts to make phone calls to their families. Previously if the call was not connected or the line was busy they had to wait 9 days to try the call again.”

Counterpunch

In THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, Mexico’s legal system is up for grabs. Forbes even went so far as to describe it as “a dysfunctional judicial system, marred by corruption, cronyism, incompetence and crime.”

But at the same time that El Chapo was refusing his calories, law enforcement authorities opened an investigation into judge José Luna Altamirano after determining that he had made bank transfers in the millions of dollars. According to Forbes, “In 2008, Luna Altamirano revoked a five-year prison sentence for Guzman’s son, known as El Chapito (little Chapo), saying he had been sentenced based on “subjective, personal assessments and without a legal basis.” Luna Altamirano has not been allowed on the bench since May 2013.”

Fact vs Fiction

It would be great if El Chapo’s influence in prision, despite his solitary confinement, was fiction. It would be even better if Mexico’s legal woes and corrupt judges were fiction, too. The fact that they aren’t means lives are being impacted, bruised, and even lost.

Fiction can’t fix these problems, but it can build awareness in a way that the news often can’t.

So I’ll write a little more.

In other news

Michael Smickeran investigative journalist and nationally-known writer on scientific anomalies and the paranormal, wrote a great review of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. He picked up on many of the issues in this post. Read his review here. 

The latest Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS, has picked up some great reviews. It is currently rated 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon and on the list of Top Rated books for the International Mystery and Crime category. Review comments include:

1. “It is one of the two or three best books in this genre I have read this summer. And as a Vine Voice, I get asked to read quite a few of them. Put this series on the top of your list for airplane and hotel reading or for that ‘reading’ weekend of escapism.”

2. “I’ve just read Diablo Nights and I now have a new cop-mystery writing favorite.”

3. “Emilia Cruz is likely one of the best detectives the reader will ever encounter.”

DIABLO NIGHTS_moon_final_120

An Excellent Liar

Big lies, white, lies, pretty little lies–Acapulco Detective Emilia Cruz is an expert at all of them. But in the Emilia Cruz police procedural mystery series, she hardly ever lies to the people she cares about.

Hardly ever.

Meet the main character blog tour

Emilia’s lying habits are just the tip of a literary iceberg.  I’ve been tagged to describe my main character in a blog tour. Fellow mystery writer Billy Ray Chitwood tagged me in his tour post talking about his Bailey Crane series. I recently reviewed his 6th and last novel in the series A COMMON EVIL, which you can read here.

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: I must answer seven (7) questions about the main character in one of my novels (I choose DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz mystery.) Then, I nominate five (5) authors to answer the same seven (7) questions about the main character in one of their novels. Mention the person who nominated you (Thank you, Billy Ray Chitwood!)

1. Tell us a little about this main character. Is he fictional or a historic person?

Detective Emilia Cruz is an excellent liar, a fast thinker, a determined investigator, and a mean kickboxer. An Acapulco native forced to grow up too fast, she’s been a cop for nearly 12 years and a detective for two; a strong woman in a squadroom that didn’t want her and is still trying to break her. But Emilia isn’t afraid to defend herself and get what she’s rightfully earned. She’s a Latina who knows that many women in Mexico don’t get the chances she’s had. The proof is in a log she tracks of women who have gone missing–Las Perdidas, the Lost Ones.

But she doesn’t know how to handle gringo Kurt Rucker, the manager of a luxury hotel in Acapulco. A former U.S. Marine, he has the confidence and leadership qualities she admires. A triathlete, he’s calm under pressure and knows what he wants. But does Emilia?

2. When and where is the story set?

There’s the Acapulco that tourists know: luxury hi-rises, candlelit nights on the beach, the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific. There’s also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean. Both of these versions of Acapulco claw at each other and force Emilia to survive between them.

3. What should we know about her? 

In DIABLO NIGHTS, Emilia is still trying to sort out her life. She lives with Kurt Rucker on the weekends at the most luxurious hotel in Acapulco. But during the week she’s with her mother in a small concrete box of a house far from the bay and tourists. Her partner, senior detective franco Silvio, is a perpetual pain in the you-know-where. To further complicate matters, Emilia is assigned to train a college boy whose family money has bought him his fantasy job.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Emilia is challenged by Mexico’s drug cartels. Their influence and violnce is pervasive and crippling, extending into the ranks of Acapulco’s police force, union officials, and civil authorities. Anonymity is a cop’s best friend and Emilia does her best to stay off their radar screen.

5. What is her personal goal?

Emilia want to find out what happened to local Acapulco women who have gone missing amid Mexico’s drug violence. She keeps a notebook of missing women, whom she calls Las Perdidas–the Lost Ones. Her hunt for missing teen Lil Jimenez Lata is a continuing subplot throughout the Emilia Cruz novels. Will she ever find Lila?

6. What are the titles of your novels, and where can we read more about them?

The Emilia Cruz series includes:
Cliff Diver (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 1)
Hat Dance (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 2)
Diablo Nights (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 3)
Made in Acapulco: The Emilia Cruz Stories

You can check out all of my books on Amazon (both paperback and ebook formats) or here on this site.

7. When can we expect your next book to be published?

Two more Emilia Cruz novels are in the works for 2015: the first, SHATTERED SIESTA, will be released in late spring.

Nominations:

I’d love to hear more about the main characters created by these fellow thriller and mystery writers:

  • John Scherber, author of the Paul Zacher series
  • Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne mysteries
  • Sandra Nikolai, author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery series
  • Norm Hamilton, author of FROM THINE OWN WELL
  • Brian Benson, author of TWIN KILLING

In other news

The latest edition of Writer’s Digest magazine features an article quoting Frances Caballo. Frances was one of the first people I “met” on Twitter and she interviewed me about my use of social media. She is a social media expert and coach for authors. Check out her website http://socialmediajustforwriters.com/

I was honored to have all the Emilia Cruz novels reviewed on mysterysequels.com in the past few weeks. The reviews on this website are thoughtful and honest and I love that the books were read in order. In fact the entire website is organized so well that it is a pleasure to page through to find great mystery series. Here are the reviews of the Emilia Cruz books:

Besides the review on mysterysequels.com, DIABLO NIGHTS has received some wonderful reviews on Amazon, scoring it a rating of 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon. Vine Voice reviewer James Ellsworth wrote: “It is one of the two or three best books in this genre I have read this summer. And as a Vine Voice, I get asked to read quite a few of them. Put this series on the top of your list for airplane and hotel reading or for that ‘reading’ weekend of escapism.

DIABLO NIGHTS_moon_final_120