New Travel Book! The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico

New Travel Book! The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico

THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO was released this week on Amazon, Nook, Scribid, Playster, Inkterra, and Kobo. It is already #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for the Mexico Travel category!

It’s a unique collection of stories, essays, and photographs that you won’t find anywhere else. I was delighted to edit the collection.

The book started life last year as a project of the Mexico Writers group on Facebook. Contributors could print and use it as they liked–hand out in shops, giveaways to readers, etc.

Contributions grew and so did our audience. It was time to publish!

In THE INSIDE’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO, 42 writers, artists, educators, travelers, business owners and others share their experiences. Art, Beaches, History, Literature, Special Places and Experiences are some of the categories. Most of those who contributed stories are expatriates who have found opportunity and inspiration in Mexico.

These insider stories are neither formal guidebook, social commentary, nor a substitute for unbiased news. They are an effort to share a landscape and lifestyle that have found a place in the hearts of so many.

My fiction often dwells in the dark places of Mexico. But like anywhere else, Mexico has both both sunlight and shadow. THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO celebrates the light. Whether you are contemplating your next vacation, retirement, work-related move to Mexico, or are simply an armchair traveler, please enjoy these unique insider stories.

Contributors: Carmen Amato, Ellie Balderrama, Tony Burton, Ellie Cusack, Anne Damon. Joel R. Dennstedt, Kathryn Ferguson, Aileen Friedman, D. Grant Fitter, Kelly Hayes-Raitt , Karen Z. Hendin, Michael Hogan, David & Veronica James, Susan Penelope James, Jim Johnston, William B. Kaliher, Cynthia Katz, Jeanine Kitchel, Michael Landfair, Lindy Laing, Lawrie Lock, Lynda L. Lock, Mely Martinez, Dean & Shari Miller, Mikel Miller, Katie O’Grady, Guillermo Paxton, Kim Peto, Jennifer Silva Redmond, Robert Richter, Susannah Rigg, Fabiola Rodriguez, Dianne Hofner Saphiere, John Scherber, Kristine Scherber, Jinx Schwartz, David Steelman, Sara Sutter, Leigh Ann Thelmadatter, Joseph Toone, Sam Warren, and Kerry Watson.

Open Letter to Readers About Sex

Open Letter to Readers About Sex

My first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, contains two sex scenes. The first catches Luz de Maria and Eddo as they fall in love with an emotional depth new to both of them. The second is when they reunite after each separately survives violence at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The sex scenes illustrate the raw emotion of their relationship and both characters’ weaknesses, all of which are important plot elements.

 

The book is not a casual romance novel but a political and romantic thriller. Get it here: https://amzn.to/2CCL19H

As I wrote, I looked to some great thriller genre role models. Martin Cruz Smith’s ROSE, as well as several of his Arkady Renko novels, contains sex scenes that expose an unexpected physical relationship that is integral to the plot. In the Renko books, Arkady’s life is punctuated by doomed love affairs. In one of fiction’s most memorable sex scenes, he takes an unfaithful lover on the floor so forcefully that her head thumps rhythmically against the wood.

By the same token, the sex scenes in Ken Follett’s TRIPLE created a bond between characters and led to confessions about the main character’s secretive background and emotional turmoil.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I can honestly say I read TRIPLE many times and aimed to have HIDDEN LIGHT’s sex scenes advance the story in the same way. Given the Amazon reviews (4.8 out of 5 stars and proud of it), I think readers got the point.

Related: Read The Hidden Light of Mexico City, Chapters 1-2

That’s the reason to add a sex scene. To advance the plot, show emotional development, and dramatize a relationship with greater heft than a dinner date. It works best when the sex scene lives within a strong fictional framework and storyline.

When HIDDEN LIGHT was published, some family members were upset over those sex scenes. Asked if the scenes were the fault of a publisher out to woo readers. Added in later by someone else to spice up the book. Won’t buy it. Can’t read it. Certainly won’t review.

I was surprised at the level of controversy but not offended. Books with sex aren’t for everyone. My mystery and suspense novels are full of intense relationships, however, and there will be more sex scenes.

In my latest suspense novel, AWAKENING MACBETH, their physical relationship moves history professor Brodie Macbeth and Iraq War vet Joe Birnam along a trajectory of trust and loyalty that is pivotal to their very survival. Get it here: https://amzn.to/2Sp3CvB

In the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, sex is a bit more off-screen. But Emilia Cruz and hotel manager Kurt Rucker are both very dynamic people and the reader is aware of the sexual attraction between them.

Sex in fiction can be a controversial subject. Are you for or against?

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New Release! PACIFIC REAPER, the New Detective Emilia Cruz Novel

New release!

Detective Emilia Cruz goes up against the cult of Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death in PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th novel in the series set in Acapulco.

Without giving anything away, early reviews say REAPER is the most powerful Emilia Cruz mystery yet. But you be the judge. Get REAPER on Amazon and please remember to leave a review.

In case you missed the run-up to REAPER, check out some background on the cult of Santa Muerte and read Chapter 1 for free:

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

Background to PACIFIC REAPER

PACIFIC REAPER, Chapter 1

Thanks to great readers like you, PACIFIC REAPER debuted on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for the International Mystery and Crime category next to some of the genre’s heaviest hitters. Matt Chase’s stellar cover art held its own next to the likes of Jo Nesbo’s THE THIRST.

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

When Detective Emilia Cruz Meets Santa Muerte

Every Detective Emilia Cruz novel uses unique aspects of Mexican culture to create crimes and situations that would not be possible anywhere else.

In PACIFIC REAPER, Emilia confronts the cult of Santa Muerte, the saint of death embraced by drug cartels. Someone is killing gang members and leaving altars to Santa Muerte next to the victims. Emilia doesn’t believe in the power of the Skeleton Saint, as some call her, but when something bad happens to everyone who is important to Emilia, she jumps at the chance to go undercover as a worshipper.

Related post: Coming soon! PACIFIC REAPER

Who or what is Santa Muerte?

Condemned by the Catholic Church, the popularity of Santa Muerte continues to grow. She’s the personification of death but wears many hats: angel of death, miracle worker, love doctor, supernatural healer, protector of believers.

In 2013, as US law enforcement saw more evidence of Santa Muerte associated with narco crimes in the US, the FBI published a 3 part report on Santa Muerte, with the warning that  “Law enforcement professionals who encounter Santa Muerte artifacts and related narcotics cult paraphernalia at crime scenes should not dismiss them hastily.”

Read the whole report. Intended for law enforcement officials, it is a bit dry but fascinating reading nonetheless.

Santa Muerte gallery

The cult of Santa Muerte is rich in visual drama. The saint is usually depicted as a skeleton holding a sythe in one hand and a globe in the other and wearing a hooded robe akin to the West’s Grim Reaper figure.

Photo credit FBI — A white Santa Muerte statue surrounded by candles and liquor

Photo credit AP Photo/Guillermo Arias — Santa Muerte charm found along with a weapons haul from a cartel-related crime scene

Colors have different meanings in the Santa Muerte universe. In PACIFIC REAPER, Emilia first encounters a black altar, which is intended for power against enemies. Later, undercover as a worshipper, she carries a yellow robed Santa Muerte statue to a ritual event. Emilia’s cover is that she is there to ask for her mother to be healed.

Related post: Book Review: Devoted to Death

Business insider had a great gallery of Santa Muerte photos when it reported on Pope Francis’s trip to Mexico.

Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut’s website has a blog on the home page with the street view of Santa Muerte, including this post about a shrine in the state of Michoacan.

Photo credit: Reuters/Claudia Daut — Tequila is poured over a white (for purity) Santa Muerte statue carried in a young girl’s pink backpack.

Emilia’s undercover adventure as a Santa Muerte worshipper is part evangelical happening, part criminal mastermind at work. The result is shocking, to say the least and a milestone for both reader and writer . . .

Coming Soon! PACIFIC REAPER: A Detective Emilia Cruz #Mystery

Coming Soon! PACIFIC REAPER: A Detective Emilia Cruz #Mystery

PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th book in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series will be released for Kindle on 28 March, with the paperback version coming the following week. Detective Emilia Cruz discovers an altar to Santa Muerte at a crime scene and the case will impact her as no other.

Related: Get the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library

Emilia meets Santa Muerte

A gang war is terrorizing Acapulco.

Murder victims are sacrificed to Santa Muerte, Mexico’s forbidden saint of death.

Will you investigate? Or be cursed?

Detective Emilia Cruz confronts her worst fears in PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th book in the sensational police procedural series set in today’s Acapulco. Emilia and her partner Franco Silvio respond to murder in the remote Coyuca Lagoon reserve and find an elaborate altar to Santa Muerte next to the body of a known gang member. Even hardened cops are frightened by the bloody scene’s warning to the enemies of Santa Muerte.

Rivals retaliate by hanging a murder victim on a billboard. Gang warfare erupts like wildfire, burning a line across Acapulco bay.

Focusing on the Santa Muerte angle, Emilia’s investigation is soon a maze of unholy clues. At the same time, everyone close to her has a brush with death. Bad luck? Or is the Skeleton Saint’s curse coming true?

Undercover as a Santa Muerte worshipper, Emilia’s life will be stripped of everything she holds dear.

Her family.

Her lover.

Her job.

Herself.

Related: Why Acapulco is an Unforgettable Setting for a Mystery Series

Unholy inspiration

PACIFIC REAPER was inspired by the growing cult of Santa Muerte in Mexico, documented in the seminal book DEVOTED TO DEATH by R. Andrew Chesnut. Dr. Chesnut writes that “Santa Muerte is first and foremost an unofficial saint who heals, protects, and delivers devotees to their destinations in the afterlife . . . Whether as a plaster statue or on a votive candle, gold medallion or a prayer card, she is most often depicted as a female Grim Reaper, weilding the same sythe and wearing a shroud similar to her male counterpart.”

Related: Book Review: DEVOTED TO DEATH

The cult of Santa Muerte in Mexico is growing rapidly and has been associated with both cartel violence and law enforcement. Dr. Chesnut notes that “Her appeal to all sides in the drug war testifies to . . . the force of her attraction to those whose line of work gives them an acute sense of their own mortality.” The dark side of Santa Muerte includes ritual killings, altars, tattoos and practices bordering on witchcraft.

The saint has many names: Skeleton Saint, The WhiteSister, The Bony Lady, etc. All of them give me the shivers.

You can check out Dr. Chesnut’s informative website about Santa Muerte: https://skeletonsaint.com/ and read his well-researched posts on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/rachesnut-570

Get ready for REAPER

A few months ago, NPR’s Felix Contreras asked me how many Emilia Cruz books I would write. Five seems like a huge milestone but I have enough ideas and research for 100! That being said, if you haven’t read the first four, get going before REAPER sneaks up on you!

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Cover reveal

Once again, cover artist Matt Chase has nailed it! The cover of PACIFIC REAPER is my new favorite. What do you think?

Pacific Reaper

MORE INSIGHTS

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A LEGACY OF SPIES is the long sought-after backstory of le Carre’s first bestseller, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (henceforth THE SPY), a slim volume that taught many readers how the Cold War was fought. This week's book review is all about connecting...

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Louise Penny’s KINGDOM OF THE BLIND

In Loise Penny's latest Armand Gamache mystery, KINGDOM OF THE BLIND, the Canadian crime fighter has been suspended from his job as head of the Sureté, the top law enforcement agency in Canada’s French-speaking Quebec province. The storyline is a...

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Two awards

The first quarter of 2019 has been an exciting time. Two recognitions have come my way, for which I am both surprised and grateful. CrimeMasters of America The Detective Emilia Cruz series won the Poison Cup award from CrimeMasters. I was quite overwhelmed...

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Romantic Suspense Who’s Who: Brilliant Academic Meets Iraq War Vet

Romantic Suspense Who’s Who: Brilliant Academic Meets Iraq War Vet

AWAKENING MACBETH was recently reviewed by Kirkus Reviews and there was so much emphasis placed on the characters that it read like a Who’s Who guide to romantic suspense. The book’s premise of an academic falling for an Iraq War vet (“Both Brodie and Joe are relatable characters; indeed, he’s so perfectly flawed that many readers may fall in love with him, too”) is one part of the intrigue, plus there is an overlay of the supernatural that complicates each character’s life.

Related: Romantic Suspense’s Newest Hero is a Wounded Warrior

So who are these romantic suspense review-worthy characters?

Brodie Macbeth

Brodie is a mix of small-town girl and international academic. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, as a toddler with her widowed father. She has degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia, where she is now a full professor of history, a best selling non-fiction author, and an in-demand speaker. A former student athlete, she’s tall, blonde, and very physically fit. Reserved by nature, in part because of s strained relationship with the father who raised her, Brodie avoids conflict and emotional scenes. She’s a fan of country music and her German Shepherd dog, Mouse.

Related: Travelling My Dreams in AWAKENING MACBETH

Joe Birnam

Joe is a retired Marine and an Iraq War vet who lost a leg in combat. While his memories of the war still haunt him, Joe has built a new and successful career as a contractor and carpenter. He grew up as the son of a diplomat, has travelled the world, and is serious about personal values such as loyalty and honesty. Tall and athletic, Joe enjoys competitive sports. Joe’s family is large and warm; they love each other without reservation and are always happy to host big happy and noisy gatherings. Perhaps because of his upbringing, Joe has an uncanny ability to make friends wherever he goes. Yet his war injuries make him skittish when it comes to serious relationships.

Stanton Sloane

Stanton is a noted professor at the University of Virginia who has parlayed his academic credentials into a concurrent national broadcasting career. He is very focused on appearances, success, and influence. Stanton is always well dressed, mindful of tradition and routine, and not above intimidation and manipulation to get what he wants, which is a television studio at the University. His house is a showplace full of antiques and his clothes are from Brooks Brothers. He approves of Brodie’s academic success and has dubbed the two of them the “power couple of the College of Arts and Sciences.”

Diana Johnson

Like Brodie, Diana is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she was a star student athlete. After a career in the WNBA, she returned to the University to coach the women’s basketball team. Stylish and confident, she is married to one of the football coaches. They have a strong and durable relationship peppered with humor. She is Brodie’s best friend and a honest and steadying force.

Wallace Macbeth

Although the novel starts with his death, Wallace’s presence is felt throughout. From Edinburgh, Scotland, he took his daughter Brodie to Charlottesville, Virginia after the shocking death of his wife. He happily raised his daughter while a professor at the University until she was 12, when without explanation he enrolled her in boarding school and actively distanced himself from her. Their relationhsip was changed forever, despite the fact that they became professional colleagues. His mantra was “Macbeths don’t cry.” Aloof, eccentric, academically curious, and a brilliant scholar and interpreter of British history. His sister believes he never recovered from his wife’s death and killed himself in order to rejoin her.

Awakening Macbeth

“A suspenseful, page-turning paranormal romance” — Kirkus Reviews

Check it out today on Amazon

Travelling in Dreams with AWAKENING MACBETH

Travelling in Dreams with AWAKENING MACBETH

AWAKENING MACBETH, is full of secrets.

My family secrets become my character’s secrets.

Their secrets become a frightening truth.

“A page turning paranormal romance”– KIRKUS REVIEWS. Cue the trailer!

Family secrets

My grandmother used to say never wake a sleeping child too quickly. Their soul wanders in sleep and needs time to return before the child fully awakens.

I never asked her where this strange notion came from. Where does the soul wander? How much “wake-up” time is enough time?

Later I heard someone say that if you die in a dream, you’re dead in real life.

It wasn’t hard to put those two notions together. Add a troubled veteran and a woman coping with her father’s suicide. It’s a recipe full of secrets.

Location, location, location

AWAKENING MACBETH takes place in many of my former haunts:

Charlottesville, Virginia

The novel begins in Charlottesville VA, where history professor Brodie Macbeth plans to give bad news yet ends up getting some instead. I went to the University of Virginia for my Masters degree and taught US Foreign Policy there for a year.

Related: Read Chapter 1 of AWAKENING MACBETH

The University of Virginia campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The heart of the university is The Lawn with the original student rooms still in use. I lived off campus and when I walked to classes early in the morning, I often saw robed students with pails of toiletries on their way to the community bathrooms. (On a day like today, they’d be walking mighty fast)

University of Virginia

University of Virginia, courtesy UVA.edu

Some of my favorite scenes in the book take place at the University, including a cocktail party in one of the gardens enclosed by Jefferson’s serpentine brick walls. The graduation reception for my department was held in one of the gardens and I still remember the air of colonial elegance. Another favorite scene takes place in the University-owned Boar’s Head Inn. One night a bunch of girlfriends and I got dressed up and went there for drinks. We were all on the brink of a shiny new graduate degree and the world was our oyster, as the saying goes.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 15 September 2003. Realesed under GFDL by the author.

Several years ago, we took a family vacation to Edinburgh. Our timing was off, however, and it was hard to find a hotel in the city. We ended up at the Dalmahoy golf resort and were we glad we did! In between tramping the city, touring Holyrood castle, and inspecting Loch Ness for sea serpents, we explored the walking trails and the small church on the Dalmahoy estate.

The Dalmahoy became the inspiration for the Dingerhoy hotel and golf course where Brodie and Joe Birnam have dinner, watch the sheep on the hillsides, and talk about survival, grief, and strength.

Entrance to the Dalmahoy golf resort, courtesy of www.dalmahoyhotelandcountryclub.co.uk/golf/

Entrance to the Dalmahoy golf resort, courtesy of www.dalmahoyhotelandcountryclub.co.uk/golf/

Another critical conversation takes place in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Garden, a beautiful bowl-shaped park in central Edinburgh. With all the fantastic architecture, art, and shopping that Edinburgh has to offer, it is easy to forget that the city is very green and offers wonderful spots to take in the city’s history. Right after that conversation, Brodie has her palm read by a knowing Gypsy, at a café in the shadow of the magnificent St Giles Cathedral.

Literary destinations

Throughout AWAKENING MACBETH, Brodie deals with the legacy of her father’s suicide. He ahd left her a library of British history and his will stipulates that she must read them in order. Why, you ask.

That’s another secret.

She dreams of the places she reads about. In her dreams, someone will kill her to learn a secret about her father–that Brodie doesn’t know.

Here is where those nightmares take her:

–Shakespeare’s London and the Globe Theatre from SHAKESPEARE by Peter Ackroyd

–An Antarctic island with a polar expedition from ENDURANCE by Caroline Alexander

–A pub serving British flyers during WWII from FIGHTER BOYS by Patrick Bishop

–The Tower of London during Anne Boleyn’s execution from THE WIVES OF HENRY VII by Antonia Fraser , and

–With Wellington’s army in the Battle of Waterloo from  NAPOLEON AND THE HUNDRED DAYS by Stephen Coote

So if you’d like to travel through British history in Professor Brodie Macbeth’s dreams, AWAKENING MACBETH is the novel for you.

More Macbeth?

When I first wrote AWAKENING MACBETH (with the cringe-worthy title of SOUL MATE, of which there are a dozen or so books already called that) I envisioned a trilogy (AWAKENING MACBETH, HUNTING MACBETH, KILLING MACBETH, you get the idea.) AWAKENING MACBETH ends with unanswered questions, the most compelling of which is what happened to Brodie’s mother’s soul?

I even wrote two chapters of the next book, which answers the question and sets up a new soul-stealing challenge for Brodie and Joe to surmount.

Related: Romance’s Newest Hero is a Wounded Warrior

But I don’t know if I will ever write a second MACBETH book, let alone a trilogy. A writer has just so much time and emotional effort to expend.

Let me know! How many more secrets can you handle?

Romance’s Newest Hero is a Wounded Warrior

Romance’s Newest Hero is a Wounded Warrior

Two weeks ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook page. (You can thank me again later, dearest reader Karen)

WoundedWarrior

The wounded warrior in the picture is Brian Taylor “BT” Urruela, taken by photographer Michael Stokes, and he serves as visual inspiration for the character of Joe Birnam in AWAKENING MACBETH, my romantic thriller with a paranormal twist.

Related: Read Chapter 1 of AWAKENING MACBETH

Like Joe Birnam in AWAKENING MACBETH, BT Urruela was a sergeant in Iraq when his armored vehicle was hit with an IED, resulting in the loss of a leg below the knee. Urruela’s commander was killed and members of his team lost limbs as well. Suffering from PTSD and depression, Urruela turned to his love of sports–notably baseball–to recover. Fictional warrior Joe Birnam used swimming and water polo to do the same.

Urruela started VETSports, a non-profit organization that provides physical, emotional and psychological rehabilitation through adaptive sports as well as helping wounded and combat vets reintegrate into civilian roles. PEOPLE magzine readers in 2016 voted him one of 30 everyday heroes recognized by Major League Baseball s Tribute for Heroes and Urruela was also recognized with Rare Media’s Under 40 award. Beyond his sports rehabilitation organization, today Urruela is a model, student, fitness trainer, and budding fiction author. The video clip below is from a 2014 PBS special about him.

AWAKENING MACBETH was written, and the character of Joe Birnam created, before I ever saw the provocative yet powerful picture of Urruela. Both the real and the fictional wounded warrior have stories that capture the imagination and the heart.

When Brodie discovers the shocking supernatural cause of her nightmares, it imperils not only her relationship with Joe, but both their lives. The author expertly interweaves historical facts, drawn from the books Brodie is reading, into the character’s bad dreams. 

Both Brodie and Joe are relatable characters; indeed, he’s so perfectly flawed that many readers will fall in love with him, too. 

A suspenseful, page-turning paranormal romance — KIRKUS REVIEWS

While I hope readers enjoy AWAKENING MACBETH and its story of love versus evil, my greater hope is that we all support our wounded warriors and salute their sacrifice and service.

Meet the Cast of AWAKENING MACBETH

See the Sights of AWAKENING MACBETH

#New Release, Take 2

#New Release, Take 2

I could call it New Release, Part 2. Or The Case of the Disappearing Thriller.

Or I could say that romantic suspense novel AWAKENING MACBETH, is FINALLY alive and well and available for your Kindle on Amazon.

Initially published on 9 December, the ebook file became corrupted shortly after release. Not once, but twice.

Related: Read Chapter 1 of AWAKENING MACBETH

New release woes

The corruption apparently stemmed from a merger of different file formats.

You see, I wrote AWAKENING MACBETH several years ago (initially entitled MY SOUL TO KEEP) but decided to publish the Detective Emilia Cruz series first. This was easily 2 computers ago and too many upgrades of Microsoft Word to count.

I worked on AWAKENING MACBETH off and on. After several years of edits and an upgrade to .docx format, the behind-the-scenes formatting got the vapors, which is a technical term for “messed up.”

Smudge sticks, incantations, and various editing dramas happily resulted in a ready-to-read Kindle ebook which you can find here.

To make up for it

Several readers who purchased the book earlier this month reached out to tell me of the corrupted file. Most were able to return the book for a full refund. I have gifted each a new copy.

If you purchased a corrupted copy any time between 9-19 December, I’m happy to send you a free replacement. Email me at carmen@carmenamato.net with MACBETH Release in the subject line and I’ll reply with an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) in .mobi file format. You can use the Send to Kindle app from Amazon to send it to your Kindle device.

It goes without saying that if you receive a free ARC, a review on Amazon would be very much appreciated.

Cover redux, too

The design for the cover of AWAKENING MACBETH got an upgrade, too. Who knew one romantic suspense novel would need 4 cover tries before the vibe of the book was truly captured?

I hope you like the final design!

The tagline reads:

Tomorrow is another day. Unless she dies in his dreams tonight.

All about AWAKENING

Romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, AWAKENING MACBETH is a passionate tale of love versus evil.

From Virginia’s most famous university to the Scottish highlands to a dusty road in Iraq, not even Shakespeare could have predicted the secret that will keep you up tonight.

When Brodie Macbeth meets Joe Birnam, he hardly seems like the man of her dreams.

Brodie is a University of Virginia professor and best-selling author; Joe is a Marine veteran who lost a leg in Iraq. Brodie’s last boyfriend was a famous television commentator; Joe is a carpenter who doesn’t even own a suit.

Differences aside, the timing couldn’t be worse. Brodie is shattered by her father’s suicide and the strange will that requires her to read his collection of British history books and use the license plates from his car before she can inherit a fortune.

No doubt that’s why she’s having terrifying nightmares. Every night in her sleep, a stalker with corroded eyes will kill her unless Brodie reveals her father’s secret.

Of course, there is no secret . . .

Falling in love with Joe Birnam helps Brodie heal. Slow to spark, the attraction between them becomes more than just a steamy romance. Joe is a strong man who has seen combat and knows what it means to lose someone important. He has his own demons to deal with, but Joe won’t accept anything less than Brodie’s full commitment.

But once she gives her heart, Brodie discovers the stunning truth about her nightmares.

They’re a real and deadly game. The prize is Joe Birnam’s immortal soul.

But Brodie doesn’t know how to play, let alone win . . .

Would you?

NEW RELEASE! Romantic Thriller with a #Paranormal Twist

NEW RELEASE! Romantic Thriller with a #Paranormal Twist

AWAKENING MACBETH is out now for kindle readers, with the paperback coming 10 January! It’s a romantic suspense thriller with a paranormal twist set in Charlottesville, Virginia and Edinburgh, Scotland.

Related: Read the first chapter of AWAKENING MACBETH here

All about timing

For those who know me best for the Detective Emilia Cruz police procedural series set in Acapulco, AWAKENING MACBETH is quite a departure. I actually developed the premise after writing romantic thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, but before penning CLIFF DIVER, the first Emilia Cruz novel.

AWAKENING MACBETH sat in a drawer for several years, as I thought the best way to introduce readers to my writing was through a mystery series. After KING PESO, the fourth Emilia Cruz novel, was released last August, I felt the time was right to bring out a second romantic thriller.

The premise of AWAKENING MACBETH is that when brokenhearted, the soul wanders in search of answers. That restlessness takes place in dreams, where evil stalks in search of souls to steal . . .

The setting

I attended graduate school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. I fell in love with the school’s traditions and ties to Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University. The main character of AWAKENING MACBETH is Dr. Brodie Macbeth, a history professor at the University of Virginia who is a popular academic and author–as well as former college basketball star. She’s successful, but her life has been narrowly defined for many years and she’s very emotionally reserved; the result of a strict upbringing by her father, a noted historian and the head of her department at the university.

Video courtesy WeekendBlitz

The framework of Brodie’s life is blown to smithereens when her father unexpectedly kills himself hours before giving a guest lecture at Harvard. Brodie is left with a very strange inheritance and a million questions. That’s when the nightmares begin. In her sleep, someone with diseased eyes threatens to murder her unless she tells her father’s secret.

There is no secret. But the dreams are so terrifying Brodie is convinced she could die.

On a trip to Scotland to visit her father’s sister, Brodie meets Joe Birnam, a decorated Iraq war vet. I can’t tell you anything more than that, except that their first date takes place at a golf resort outside Edinburgh. We stayed at such a place years ago. The rolling hills and uncoiling mist made for striking memories which I’ve tried to caputre in the book.

St. Andrews golf resort, courtesy of the Travel Channel

St. Andrews golf resort, courtesy of the Travel Channel

Edinburgh itself is a magical place and it is no wonder that J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, makes her home there. The city is full of turrets and tiny alleys, heroes and history. Anyone with an ounce of creativity can’t help but feel the imagination’s tug.

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 15 September 2003. Released under GFDL by the artist.

Key questions

Readers are already asking about the unusual premise for the book:

Where did the idea for this book come from?
My grandmother always said never wake a sleeping child too fast because the soul wanders while we sleep and needs time to return before we’re fully awake. When I combined my grandmother’s words with the saying that the eyes are the windows of the soul, the result gave me chills. I knew it would be a great story.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest thing was the concept of real evil able to threaten the immortal soul. I hate movies like The Exorcist and had to stop writing several times, too shaken to go on. But evil is out there and this is my interpretation of it.
 
What draws you to this genre?
Love and mystery are the perfect combo. Each needs a bit of the other in a book, just like in real life. Romantic thrillers build a relationship, then test it. Can it hold up in a storm? The more exciting the storm, the better.

If you would be so kind

If you love a good romantic suspense tale, or are intrigued by the fight against evil as depicted in the book, I hope you’ll download a copy of AWAKENING MACBETH and stay up all night reading it!

Remember to leave a review on Amazon. You’ll not only help out this author, but help others make intelligence choices about what to read next. Thank you!

Exciting News and Author Views

Exciting News and Author Views

It’s always exciting news when you learn something about yourself.

Recently, I’ve figured out that disappointment doesn’t mean failure. Frustration doesn’t mean giving up. And creativity is a muscle. The more you work it, the more you have.

But first, the bad news

AWAKENING MACBETH is a romantic thriller with a paranormal twist. It’s my first book NOT set in Mexico (that I will publish, that is) and the first thing I’ve ever written that has the word “paranormal” attached to it.

Last October, I submitted AWAKENING MACBETH to the Kindle Scout program, which provides a platform for readers to select books, based on cover, description, and excerpt, that they would like to see published by Kindle Press. This means that while the book would be available to Kindle readers, the same as all my other books, Kindle Press would actively promote the book in return for a 5-year exclusivity contract.

AWAKENING MACBETH was not selected.

Now, the good news.

AWAKENING MACBETH was not selected.

Bear with me. The silver lining here is that the book will be released with no strings attached, which is important as I look at film rights options, foreign language sales, and other ways to reach new audiences.

Alas, the cover

The cover of AWAKENING MACBETH is being troublesome. For those regular readers of this blog, you’ll remember that when I released excerpts of the book as a serial last year, this was the cover image:

Print

Some readers noted that it could be a vampire story, which it is not.

So for Kindle Scout, I went through the excitement of a design competition with 99designs.com, which resulted in this cover:

Awakening Macbeth novel

But the feedback on this is 1. Her hair looks fake (the artist had to change the color from brunette to blonde and it got helmet-esque), and 2. This could be a pirate or bondage story. Ahem, none of the above.

While I am disappointed in the result of the 99designs experience, I’m excited to be confronted with a new design challenge. So stay tuned, a new cover will grace the release of the book later this month.

Of course, Mystery Ahead newsletters are ALWAYS the first to get book release news, so if you haven’t signed up, better do it now.

Don’t remember the premise for AWAKENING MACBETH? Here you go:

Shattered by her father’s death, history professor Brodie Macbeth has terrifying nightmares. In her sleep, people will kill for a secret Brodie doesn’t know.

Blame it on the grief, everyone says. Brodie tries, but it takes meeting Joe Birnam, an Iraq War vet with his own demons, before she can finally let go of the dreams and learn to love.

Yet when a colleague makes a shocking claim and demands her father’s secret, Brodie realizes that the nightmares are a real and deadly game. The prize? Joe Birnam’s immortal soul.

But Brodie doesn’t know how to play, let alone win.

Friends in high places

Over the last two weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on several bookish websites, talking about KING PESO and sharing some excerpts. KING PESO is the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, in which Emilia tracks down a cop killer even as she is reassigned to an all-female patrol unit.

I also had a chance to talk to Mary Rosenblum, author, teacher, editor, and powerhouse behind The New Writer’s Interface. Mary’s services fill the gap for independent and emerging authors that once upon a time traditional publishers filled: content editing, structural critique, blurb writing, etc. More than that, she’s an astutue publishing insider who knows how authors need to position themselves and their works for success.

We had a great conversation about what got me writing and what advice we have for new authors. Check it out here.

Detective Emilia Cruz’s gambling addiction

Detective Emilia Cruz’s gambling addiction

Detective Emilia Cruz is a gambler. You could even go so far as to say she has a gambling addiction.

The Gambler

As a cop in Acapulco, one of the most deadly cities in the world thanks to Mexico’s drug cartels, Emilia gambles every day that she’ll survive the violence on the city’s streets. She risks coming to the attention of street gangs and cartels that routinely target cops. If you see pictures of Mexican cops at major crime scenes, they are wearing masks for that very reason.

Vegas Style

In KING PESO, the 4th Detective Emilia Cruz mystery, the gambling theme goes big with epic action at the El Pharaoh casino. That’s the place that Emilia and senior detective Franco Silvio closed down on money laundering charges in HAT DANCE. But if you remember the end of HAT DANCE, evidence went missing and the casino reopened.

Two books later, the El Pharaoh is a bigger success than ever.

All due to a steady line of gamblers? Or something else?

Pull the lever, hear the win

Okay, I’ll admit to enjoying a little casino play time now and then. Years ago, my husband and I hit the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I won $700 playing the quarter slot machines. That was back in the day when coins spilled into the hopper with a deafening clatter and you knew you’d WON. Now the light still flashes and the bell rings but all you get is a bigger digital number and a slip of paper when you cash out.

I can see why a gambling addiction can take hold. Whether you play the quarter slots or table games, there is always the breathless anticipation that this could be THE TIME that you hit it big.

My husband and I have a rule when we go to a casino. We play with a fixed amount of money. If we lose it, well, we’ve had a fun day for the same price as a theme park ticket. We usually end up a few bucks up, however, because whenever I win, I pocket the extra and keep playing with the original amount.

Inspiration

The Beau Rivage provided some inspiration for the casino in KING PESO, but the El Pharaoh is more Caesar’s Palace than coastal Mississippi. The El Pharaoh is big and brassy. Imagine it full of kitschy Ancient Egypt décor as interpreted by, say, Taco Bell.

Here is Emilia’s first impression:

“The casino was big, noisy, and crowded. Waiters and waitresses were dressed as ancient Egyptians. Costumes leaned heavily on metallic leather, imitation gold, gladiator sandals, and jeweled collars extending beyond their shoulders. Emilia’s senses were assaulted by blaring pop music, incessant electronic bleeping and ring tones from hundreds of slot machines, and a circus of visuals inputs including blinking lights and wide screen televisions broadcasting Copa America highlights.

Emilia ordered a mojito and looked around. The first and last time she had been in the El Pharaoh casino was with a detective badge around her neck and a warrant in her hand. She remembered telling Kurt that Silvio had walked into the place as if he owned it and had the doors shuttered ten minutes later. Of course, it had all been for nothing.”

Best line

I think Emilia’s gambling addiction extends to her personal life. Every day she gambles on her cranky partner Franco Silvio as well as her roller-coaster love affair with hotel manager Kurt Rucker.

So in KING PESO, Emilia knows what he’s talking about when the owner of the El Pharaoh tells her, “When you are a gambler you know that tomorrow the odds will be better.”

May they ever be in Emilia’s favor.

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