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, 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

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


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 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’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

$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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