Writing About Counterfeit Money Without Getting Arrested

Have you seen the new US 100 dollar bill? Compared it to the old bill of the same denomination?

Money and Mystery

CliffDiver_by_CarmenAmatoThe changes in the $100 bill drive the plot of “The Cliff,” a short story from MADE IN ACAPULCO: The Emilia Cruz Stories. “The Cliff” later became the beginning of the full length Emilia Cruz novel, CLIFF DIVER.

In the story, Emilia meets Kurt Rucker and together they discover that a vehicle seized by the Acapulco police for a traffic infraction is loaded to the hubcaps with counterfeit money.

    Three hours later they were staring at six million green Estados Unidos dollars piled on the floor in her uncle Raul’s auto repair shop. The rear body panels of the Suburban were off, exposing the ingenious system welded into the car frame to accommodate brick-sized packages. Even the four-wheel drive mechanism had been cannibalized to create more hidden hauling capacity.

   “Money in, cocaine out,” Emilia said. “The Hudsons are mules.”

   Rucker fingered one of the dollar bills, his forehead furrowed with thought. The hotel manager had worked side-by-side with Tío Raul as if he repaired cars in a greasy garage every day. His beautifully starched shirt had been cast aside, revealing a white singlet undershirt and muscular arms. Both the white undershirt and khaki pants were now as dirty and oil-spotted as Tío Raul’s coveralls.

   “These are brand new bills,” he said.

   “So?” Emilia got him a glass of water from the big jug of Electropura purified water. Tío Raul had gone to the one-bedroom apartment over the shop to tell Tía Lourdes to make them all some breakfast.

   “A couple of years ago they changed the design of American money.” Rucker spread several bills on the tool bench. “Made the image bigger. Added a tint. New watermarks.” He took a swallow of water. “But these are the old design.”

   Emilia ran her finger over the crisp paper. “You think it’s counterfeit?”

Comparing

But I have a confession to make: I wrote the story before I ever held both an old and new $100 bill in my very own hands. This week, however, I was finally able to compare them side-by-side. I actually scanned two bills in order to create a featured image for this post, only to get a SERIOUS warning from Photoshop about altering scanned images of currency. Yikes. Hence the “Specimen” images from newmoney.gov, the website set up to tell the public about the changes to US currency.

Old US bill

US $100 bill, issued 1996 – 2013

The new bill, which entered circulation October 2013, “incorporates new security features to deter counterfeiters and help businesses and consumers tell whether a note is genuine,” according to the newmoney.gov website. According to a newmoney.gov press release, “The redesigned $100 note includes two new security features: a blue 3-D security ribbon with images of bells and 100s, and a color-changing bell in an inkwell” to help Washington “stay ahead of counterfeiting threats.”

new bill

New US $100 bill, issued Oct 2013

The US Secret Service has a great page on detecting counterfeit money, which you can read here. You can also read more about the changes in the US $100 bill in this 2010 USAToday article.

It worked in the story

But not the way you’d expect.

Of course not, because the story is set in Emilia Cruz’s Acapulco. It’s the Acapulco that tourists know; the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific, candlelit nights on the beach, and luxury hi-rises. But it is 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. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.

But there is one thing Emilia can always count on when she is investigating: money is involved.

In other news

Last week I reported that the Writing for Water team has now provided 10 people with clean water for life so far in 2014 with donations to Water.org based on book sales. Our goal is 25 for the year.

All this is made possible by readers like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you are an author who would like to join us, we want to hear from you! Read more here and please contact me via email: carmen@carmenamato.net.

Also, on Thursday, subscribers to my monthly updates will get the the entire first chapter of the next Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS, delivered straight to their inbox. Get on the list and don’t miss it!

All the best, Carmen

P.S. Almost forgot–CLIFF DIVER is on SALE for $0.99 (Kindle only) for a limited time to celebrate the sneak peek at DIABLO NIGHTS! It is currently rated 4.7 out of 5 stars with 56 reviews.

Friday Fiesta: Focus, Book Discoverability, and a Discount

The Friday Fiesta is stuff worth celebrating from the past week. This week it’s how to focus on a goal, the quest for discoverability, and a book sale in defiance of the trolls. The margaritas are on me.

Focus

What with one thing and another, I’m having some trouble finishing the last big scene in the next Emilia Cruz mystery, DIABLO NIGHTS. Stuff that is less hard keeps getting in the way, like designing the new Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel blog. (more on this in a few weeks) My writing buddy has been missing his deadlines as well, so it is easy to laugh it off.

But books don’t write themselves. This coming week I need to renew my focus and “git ‘er done,” as Larry the Cable Guy says. I found this list of 8 Daily Practices for improving focus from The Culture-ist and thought others might benefit from it as well. 

Discoverability

I’m not the expert in this field, but an online chat this morning with a Facebook friend led me to comment that too many authors neglect their Author page on Amazon, missing an important opportunity. Some don’t even link all their books to their page . But the Amazon author page is like a one-stop-shop for projecting your author image. So a couple of tips in case you are an author:

Capture_amazon

 

  1. Use the same picture for your author page as you do on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  2. Write a bio that gets up front the sort of books you write and who would enjoy them. Amazon lets you write a sizeable bio but only a certain portion shows when folks land on the page and most won’t click to see more.
  3. Make sure all your books are linked to your page. This isn’t automatic, you must add them via the Author Central interface.
  4. Link your blog, using the RSS feed address, via the Author Central interface. Ditto book trailers and related videos.

This week Amazon liked my review of IN THE WOODS by Tana French so much it shows up 3 times on my author page. Tech love.

Discount

Made in Acapulco_final_300pxI recently realized that a troll left a 1 star review for MADE IN ACAPULCO, complaining about a computer program. Obviously this has nothing to do with the book. For those who don’t know, trolls are people who surf Amazon and Goodreads, leaving damaging reviews at random. Often, the same review is given to multiple books.

In defiance of the troll activity, I’m offering MADE IN ACAPULCO for $0.99 this week. MADE IN ACAPULCO is a collection of 5 Emilia Cruz short stories. (Get the first story FREE here.)

MADE IN ACAPULCO takes place before the action in CLIFF DIVER and HAT DANCE. They reveal Emilia’s first troubled first year as the first and only female police detective in Acapulco. Many of the stories are based on true events in Mexico, including poet Javier Sicilia’s rallies to raise awareness of the missing in Mexico.

Nothing to do with some computer program.

So in defiance of trolls, MADE IN ACAPULCO is $0.99 for Kindle this week. If you pick up a copy, please leave a very non-troll review. Thank you!

In Other News

Did you see the March update for water.org? The Writing for Water team has now provided 10 people with clean water for life  because of readers like you. Goal for the year is 25.

Have you gotten your copy of The 3 Minute Guide to Great Book Reviews? It’s free when you subscribe, along with a free copy of THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz Story, plus The Top 10 Most Riveting International Mystery Series.

Thank you! All the best, Carmen

 

Book Review: In the Woods by Tana French

In The Woods coverThis week’s book review is a 5 star read. I love writing mysteries and I love reading them, too. The ones that send me to new places around the world are some of my favorites and The Dublin Murder Squad is quickly becomes a fascination. IN THE WOODS is the first in the series.

French, who is from Dublin and has a background in theater, writes as if she is narrating a play as the character of her main protagonist. In this case it is Adam Ryan, who now goes by Rob and is a detective on the fictional but fabled Dublin police Murder Squad. The reason for the name change is complicated: when Adam was a youngster, he and his two best friends went into the woods near their village outside Dublin. Two of the kids never were seen again, while Adam/Rob was found in shock, covered in blood, shirt torn, no memory of the trauma he’d survived. The case became a national outcry and investigation. To hide it, his family moved, he went to boarding school and college and changed his first name.

But the past catches up in an odd way; a girl is killed in the woods, in the same historic village. Ryan and his partner Cassie investigate without letting on that this is Ryan’s Waterloo.

The entire book is narrated by Ryan; his nightmares of the past, his piecing together of evidence, his relationship with Cassie, his drinking to dull his pain. The voice is deep inside his head, it’s relentless and addictive. The case is similar: relentless yet intangible; too many stray threads, people who are afraid yet manipulative. And then there are those who have been manipulated and they aren’t pretty. The story bogged a bit close to the end, but only for a few pages of complications. Otherwise it was engrossing and well paced. The slang is very Irish, good thing I already knew what a git was.

The undercurrent running throughout the book is what happened to Ryan and his friends when they were children. Why were the two other children never found? So there are really two crimes here, one in the past and one in the present. No spoilers, here, however, just a strong recommendation to read IN THE WOODS if you like your mysteries tall, dark, and Irish.

Related review: THE BAT by Jo Nesbo

Stay Updated

If you have yet to read THE BEAST: An Emilia Cruz Story, you can get it here. it’s the first story in the Emilia Cruz mystery police procedural series set in Acapulco. Beat cop Emilia knows her salary will double if she can make detective. No one wants her to get the job. But Emilia is a fighter. You’ll also get The 3 Minute Guide to Great Books Reviews!

Writing for Water: March Update and Our Global Impact

Can a couple of indie authors make a global impact?

Yes,  and we are doing it.  In March 4 authors were part of the Writing for Water team: Jerry Last, Norm Hamilton and Sharon Lee Johnson joined me in pledging a portion of our book sales to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean and safe water and decent sanitation to communities worldwide.  The composition of the team changes monthly. If you are an author and want to pledge a month, please let me know: carmen@carmenamato.net.

This month’s progress

In 2014 the goal is to provide 25 people with clean and safe water for life. In March we added 5 for a total of 10 so far this year.

This means dozens of micro-loans through Water.org’s Water Credit program, rolling containers to transport large amounts of water, and toilet facilities instead of open sewers.  Here is the sort of change this means:


Global Impact

Our books and our readers are having a global impact! Still small, but as the March stats show, it is growing and I truly feel that our goal of 25 people is going to happen.

Writing for Water chart

Thanks to our readers

A big salute goes out to our readers, especially to those who bought Jerry Last’s THE DEADLY DOG SHOW, the best selling title for the team in March. Those who love dog shows and/or German Shorthaired Pointers, will find its behind-the-scenes peek into dog shows and dog training fascinating. Of course, it is a detective mystery so be prepared! Jerry will be part of the Writing for Water Team in April as well. Here’s the link to all the books for the March authors.

We need your help

If you are an author and would like to help, please consider joining the Writing for Water team. In exchange for your TAX FREE donation of at least $25, we’ll leverage our social media platforms (3k on Twitter, 2k on Facebook and that’s just me) to promote the heck out of your books for the entire pledge month. When was the last time you got a month’s worth of advertising for $25?? Check out more information here.

In other news

My next newsletter will have the complete first chapter of DIABLO NIGHTS, the next Emilia Cruz mystery. If you have not yet subscribed, you can do so here, and be the first to read a chapter with a VERY twisted end. I guarantee you will not see it coming.

Subscribers also get THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz story, plus THE 3 Minute Guide to Great Book Reviews, and my Top 10 Most Riveting International Mystery Series.

Happy reading! All the best, Carmen

Friday Fiesta: Of Water, Web Design, and Writing

The Friday Fiesta is stuff worth celebrating from the past week. This week it’s water and web design. Plus a bonus courtesy of omnimystery.com.

Water

In March, the Writing for Water Team was comprised of Jerry Last, Norm Hamilton, and Sharon Lee Johnson, plus, yours truly. What a great team! Norm really got the word out on Twitter, Sharon cornered Facebook, and Jerry found a new audience with dog lovers who have really embraced his latest mystery THE DEADLY DOG SHOW as well as his commitment to Water.org. Jerry is rocking on into April, as is Sharon, and he’s setting some pretty high goals.

If you haven’t already, check out Norm Hamilton’s novel of a dystopian Canada created by fracking, Sharon’s addictive zombie tales, and THE DEADLY DOG SHOW—murder goes to the dogs!

I’ll be doing the full Writing for Water Monthly Report next week but it’s looking like March brought another 5 people clean water for life.

If you are an author, please consider joining us with either a fixed pledge or a portion of sales. There is more information on joining the Writing for Water team here.

Oh, and here’s a great video from Water.org. When you see stories like this, you know your money is well spent.

Emilia dives in, too

I’m submitting a story to be included in OF WORDS AND WATER, an annual anthology of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. The purpose of the anthology is to raise awareness of the work done by the international charity WaterAid. It won’t be out until the end of 2014, but I’m excited to be part of the effort.

The story for the anthology is an Emilia Cruz story, but it is unlike anything I’ve done before. Subscribers to my monthly updates will get a free copy of it before the anthology goes to press. Working title: BROKEN MAIN.

Web Design

I spent three precious writing days reworking and updating this website. Over the 2.5 years I’ve had the site, it has experienced about 3 major upgrades. This week, I’ve come to some conclusions:

  1. Catchthemes.com has hands down the best and fastest customer service forum, plus tons of easy to follow instructions for their themes. No, I am not an affiliate, just a happy customer. I only wish they had more themes to choose from.
  2. Sliders take too long to load. I loved the look, but am just going with a large image on the home page for now. Until the next redesign.
  3. The site is like my living room. I’m inviting you in and want you to enjoy the time you spend here. Sure, I hope you sign up for my mailing list and get a free copy of THE BEAST, but I’m not going to put up acid green or sparkly orange forms. Mystery lovers pick apart clues all the time; they can find a tasteful form.

 The Next Great Thing

women and computerTogether with fellow authors John Scherber, Christopher Irvin, Guillermo Paxton, and Jane Rosenthal, I am part of The Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel. We are all authors who write mysteries set in Mexico. From crime fiction to romantic suspense, we cover the genre and make Mexico the ultimate mystery destination.

Our new blog will have posts from all authors and should be live next month. Get ready for mystery with a touch of salsa fresca!

Writing the Ultimate Mystery Setting

I was hosted on Omnimystery.com last week and wrote about how authors can set a mood by describing a mystery setting in a mere 3 sentences. The post used examples to take the reader to Havana, Venice, Riga, Cairo, and of course, Mexico City. Read the post here.

Free Story

If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, THE BEAST, the first story in the MADE IN ACAPULCO collection is available as a free download. If you haven’t met Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz yet, you should. As Jane Rosenthal claims, “Emilia says all the things you wish you could–she calls BS on everything.”

That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend, hopefully with a margarita and a mystery.

All the best, Carmen