The Water Diaries: My Chat With Matt Damon

The Water Diaries: My Chat With Matt Damon

“Every 21 seconds a child under the age of 5 dies because he or she doesn’t have access to clean water,” Matt Damon told me.

“I know,” I replied, simpering a bit and feeling like an advertisement for my mystery series. “That’s why a dollar from every Kindle book I sell in 2014 goes to water.org.”

Matt Damon didn’t say anything else, probably because I was reading his interview about water.org in the February 2014 edition of InStyle magazine, and he was in Hollywood having a beer with Ben Affleck by the pool. But still, I felt a connection.

I’d decided in May 2012 when I published my first book, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, that when I was able to tote up any book sales at all, I’d donate part of my earnings to water.org, the charity Matt Damon co-founded. I like water.org’s approach. They work with local communities and give microloans with a program called WaterCredit to communities so they can “meet specific drinking and sanitation needs.” This means they don’t pursue a one size fits all solution but support what is right for a community, based on that community’s situation. I surfed through their website and YouTube channel and knew that this was the right opportunity to give back.

Related post: How to Turn Books Into Water

Water is fundamental; without it there is no education, no forward progress, no ability to break away from poverty and disease.

January: how did we do?

join the water.org teamJanuary 2014 marked the first month of my effort. Here’s the link to the fundraiser. I was joined by authors Sharon Lee Johnson and Melissa Mayberry. We didn’t have any particular sales target but simply cross promoted each other on social media. I also set up a page on my website to explain what I was doing and another to invite other authors to join in.

Bottom line:  combined with my donation from December 2013 sales, we raised enough to supply three people with clean water for life. A slow start, in all honesty, but accompanied by some very positive developments and some lessons learned.

1. I overestimated the amount I’d raise. January saw my lowest Kindle sales in 6 months (post-holiday slump? too little advertising? IDK). In future I’m going to limit the amount of the monthly target goal; I’d rather overshoot than be depressed at a goal that doesn’t get met month after month. 

2. Fellow author Sharon Lee Johnson, who will showcase a different short story for water.org each month, has an amazing work ethic and deep well of optimism. When we traded notes at the end of January, instead of being bummed that we hadn’t raised more money, she was already looking ahead to the next step.  Her sense of purpose and will to succeed are contagious!

3. Having a project hashtag is cool. I created the hashtag #WritingforWater and will use it all year. People on Twitter have been awesome, retweeting my notices about supporting water.org every day. One day @Water gave me a RT, really making me feel like part of the family. 

4. Norm Hamilton, author of FROM THINE OWN WELL, a really absorbing novel set in a dystopian Canada where the country’s water supply has been destroyed by fracking, has pledged to join the Writing for Water Team in March. His book fits so well into the theme of clean water! Incidentally, if it ever becomes a movie, I’m voting for Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Taylor Lautner and Emma Stone to star. (Matt Damon has already starred in an anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, so I’m not going to nag him about this one.)

5. Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne Mystery Series, will join as well this spring. Jerry’s a live wire on social media, not to mention a fellow dog lover and mystery writer, and his participation will really help out.

Need Your Ideas

I know I could be letting more people know what we are doing, beyond Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Not ever having done something like this before, I’m not sure how to go about letting folks know and getting more authors to join the #WritingforWater Team. If you have an idea or would like to help, please get in touch:  carmen@carmenamato.net.

It’s not all about selling books. As my buddy Matt said, “When you bring water to people in need, the response is always the same: elation and joy.”

I couldn’t agree more. How about you?

How to Turn Books Into Water

How to Turn Books Into Water

As a mystery author, I’ve drawn inspiration from years living in Mexico and Central America, as well as my travels in East Africa and the South Pacific. I’ve met amazing people, learned about different cultures . . . and seen too many communities without running water or decent sanitation. And let me tell you, I hope to never use an open pit latrine again.

Size Matters

Lack of running water forces someone’s life to shrink in ways you don’t think about when water is freely available. You can’t cook something that requires much water, for example, and the size and type of container used to transport water becomes very important. It can’t be too big, because then you can’t carry it, and the mouth can’t be too narrow because then it’s too hard to fill. And what if it originally held gasoline? How big of risk do you take to get water to your family?

Throughout 2014, I’m teaming with other authors to contribute part of our earnings to water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean water and decent sanitation to communities around the world. I’ll be tracking our progress in The Water Diaries, a monthly blog series beginning the end of January.

Help Us Turn Books Into Water

We’ve all experienced some literary success and want to use it to make a difference in a fundamental way. That’s why we’re asking you to buy a book, not only because you’ll be entertained, but because it will help us help others.

Please support the effort to bring clean water and decent sanitation to those who need it by buying one of these books this month. All titles available at Amazon.com:

Carmen Amato

THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, a political thriller

the Emilia Cruz mystery series featuring the first and only female detective in Acapulco: CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, MADE IN ACAPULCO

Sharon Lee Johnson

WELCOME TO ZOMBIE ZOO, a collection of fun and addictive zombie tales by the mistress of all things zombie

Melissa Mayberry

The gripping YA coming-of-age saga, MELLIFICA: DEVASTATING FIRST LOVE and MELLIFICA: WAIT FOR ME

No time to read? Support us in reaching our monthly goals by making a donation by clicking HERE. Thank you very much.

 P.S. If you are a fellow author and would like to join the effort to turn books into water, we’ll cross-promote your books on Facebook and Twitter for the duration of your participation. Please contact me Carmen@carmenamato.net.

Carmen Amato short story coverWould you like a FREE sample before you buy? Download THE ANGLER: An Emilia Cruz Story by completing the form in the sidebar. It’s based on the 2007 unsolved murder of Fr. Richard Junius, my former pastor and the role model for a character in one of my books. But this time no murder will go unpunished . . . 

World Malaria Day: Song of the Mosquito

picture of mosquitoI’m tiny, innocuous. Driven by instinct.

I’m tiny, innocuous. I hum as I go.

I’m tiny, innocuous, and I killed over 22,000 foolish Frenchmen who thought they could build a canal in Panama. I gave them malaria and yellow fever and they went away.

I’m tiny, innocuous, and I still roam at will, spreading malaria across the world, debilitating millions, giving them fevers, keeping them from working, killing when I can.

There are people out to get me. More than 100 years ago, an army doctor named Colonel William C. Gorgas showed what it took to keep me away.

As American engineers cut through Panama in a renewed attempt to build a canal, Gorgas galvanized a medical corps. They burned sulfur or pyrethrum, sprayed insect-breeding areas with oil and pesticide, draped mosquito netting over beds and screened windows, and implemented measures to reduce stagnant water where mosquitos breed. Over 5000 still died from disease before the canal opened in 1914 but today Panama is malaria-free and the canal is undergoing a second huge excavation that will more than double the global shipping capacity going through it.

Today is World Malaria Day–or rather anti-malaria day!– and we need to get more communities doing what Gorgas did. Everyone from Shaquille O’Neal to Compassion.com’s Bite Back initiative Bloggers is raising awareness. If we knew how to get rid of malaria over 100 years ago, why does it still exist today?

Check out more about countering malaria on the Huffington Post’s The Big Push page.

Fast-moving plot . . . consistently exciting . . . A clever Mexican detective tale that will leave readers eager for the series’ next installment.–Kirkus Review

Cover of Cliff DiverGet Cliff Diver today on amazon.com

$2.99 Kindle $12.99 paperback

 

Three Lessons from Mrs. Grackle

Can an obscure Nicaraguan bird teach us problem solving skills? Yes, but it depends on how hungry you are.

full profile of grackle as it prepares of flightI have the good fortune to live where it is sunny and warm most of the year. Most days start with a workout in the pool. A swimmer is an object to curiosity to the birds in the backyard, most of which are doves with blue-edged wings and yellow-breasted kiskadees. Or grackles.

Related post: The Evil Eye Twice in One Day

Grackles are the local thugs. The Central American version of Poe’s raven. The males are a glossy greenish-black and the females are darkest brown tinged with black. Both have glittering yellow eyes and bad tempers.

Unfriendly Neighbors

They frequently let me know I’m trespassing on their territory. One morning as I swam to the deep end, a male grackle flew to the shallow end and alighted on the top step. When I changed direction he flew to the deep end and regarded me malevolently from the lip of the pool. I changed direction again and he flew above my head to the opposite side. And so the next five laps wore on.

This particular morning, as I hit the deep end, a female grackle flew to the top step at the shallow end. She had a big yellow seed in her mouth which she let fall into the water just rimming the step. As I watched, she periodically picked up the same seed, worried at it a little, then dropped it back in the water. Mrs. Grackle did this three times until she finally picked up the seed and broke it apart in her beak. She gobbled up several of the pieces, then flew away with the leftovers. Two minutes later she was back with another seed. Again she went through the same drop, wait, check, drop, wait, check routine.

Solutions Come from the Strangest Places

Have you figured it out? She was soaking the seed until it became soft enough to crack and eat.

It was as if she’d just written three simple problem-solving tips:

  • Break a hard task into smaller bites.
  • Look around to see what resources you can leverage that might be hiding in plain sight.
  • Be patient—the success of your plan might take time to develop. Lack of instant gratification does not mean the plan isn’t sound.

Applying the Lesson

I was struggling with a rewrite of my third novel at the time. Plot elements I’d loved when  I originally wrote the book over a year ago now seemed trite and predictable, two characteristics one should seek to avoid in a mystery. The revised outline looked big and daunting.

Related post: The Girl on the Cutting Room Floor

book outlineSo following Mrs. Grackle’s lead I revised the outline yet again and made it into an easy to follow poster. Each scene became a color coded little “bite.” Doing that allowed me to jettison the heavy parts weighing down the action and add plot twists to heighten the suspense. Suddenly I had a roadmap to the novel’s end.

Resources to help were hiding in plain sight—my writing buddy, a timer to keep to my writing schedule, my love of being able to cross things off a checklist, or in this case, an entry on the poster. The new style outline didn’t mean instant success; there was still hard work ahead but I could be patient, knowing the plan was sound.

These days, the grackles and I still eye each other with suspicion. But it is tinged with mutual respect for problem solving skills.

Or will be, just as soon as I wash the bird crap off my car.

“A page-turner with political intrigue, double crossing corrupt officials and real heroes and heroines.”

The Hidden Light of Mexico CityGet it on amazon today!

$3.99 Kindle $13.99 paperback

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