Inside my CIA Career: Parting Words

Inside my CIA Career: Parting Words

I had a retirement photo opportunity with then-CIA Director John Brennan. He greeted me with a CIA keepsake coin and a firm handshake. We posed for the photographer and chatted for a minute about favorite assignments over my 30 year career.   He asked me what I...

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Inside my CIA Career: The Point of It All

Inside my CIA Career: The Point of It All

Before retiring, I took a seminar about transitioning to the private sector. All the students were fellow CIA intelligence officers. At one point, somebody raised a hand and said what everybody was thinking: “I’ve been an intelligence officer my entire professional...

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Inside my CIA Career: Variety and the Spice of Life

Inside my CIA Career: Variety and the Spice of Life

What did I do? Whenever I’m asked, “What did you do in the CIA?” I’m a bit stuck. There’s no good snappy answer. I did a variety of things, many of which can't be defined in layman's terms. One of the reasons for such a varied career was that I was balancing work and...

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Inside my CIA Career: Encounter with a Spyplane

Inside my CIA Career: Encounter with a Spyplane

FLYING Several years ago, my husband got his private pilot’s license and we owned a small Piper aircraft. Our son was in kindergarten and promptly fell in love with all things aviation. This rubbed off on me. Our family was soon immersed in flying stories, books about...

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Inside my CIA Career: Media Matters

Inside my CIA Career: Media Matters

What the heck is OSINT My resume includes this line:  OSINT Analyst/Editor, Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Wrote, edited, and briefed analytical conclusions and OSINT reporting content to all levels of inter-and intra-agency audiences. OSINT is shorthand for...

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Inside my CIA Career: Secrets of Great Dialogue

Inside my CIA Career: Secrets of Great Dialogue

Competing Motivations As happened so many times over the course of a 30-year CIA career, I was either a participant or an observer in a dialogue. Not the conversation that happens when you are both talking about the same thing or want the same thing, but a...

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Inside my CIA Career: Make it “Actionable”

Inside my CIA Career: Make it “Actionable”

CIA career During my 30-year CIA career, it was always impressed upon me that we were stewards of the taxpayer’s money. With that in mind, there was effort to make sure the CIA and sister agencies got value for the money when it came to intelligence collection....

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Inside my CIA Career: The Moving Picture Show

Inside my CIA Career: The Moving Picture Show

Thanks to my CIA Career If you’ve read the last few books in the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco, you may have noticed that video plays an important role in providing clues and solving the mystery. In 43 MISSING, the footage from police interviews...

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Inside my CIA Career: the Coup Kit

Inside my CIA Career: the Coup Kit

Coups My official resume says this about the 5 years during my CIA career when I was an all-source analyst: Performed all source analysis of geographic topics of intelligence interest in support of US national security, including National Intelligence Estimates Action...

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Inside my CIA Career: The Analytic Puzzle

Inside my CIA Career: The Analytic Puzzle

First Job My first position with the Central Intelligence Agency was as a political analyst. The official CIA website describes analysis jobs as: “Collaborative. Problem-solvers. Critical thinkers. These are the qualities needed for CIA analytic positions. The ability...

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What I did in the CIA: Glutinous but not Unflavorful

What I did in the CIA: Glutinous but not Unflavorful

Blame it on the Swedish meatballs Early in my CIA career, I was having lunch in the cafeteria of the Original Headquarters Building (back when it was the only Headquarters building.) My friend Willa was apparently feeling daring that day. She ordered the Swedish...

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Book Review: SNOW by John Banville

Book Review: SNOW by John Banville

SNOW by John Banville got a hearty endorsement from several hard-core mystery reader friends and it lived up to expectations in every way except one. It’s a freezing, snowy winter in 1957. Ireland is still a new country. Detective St. John (pronounced Sinjun as he...

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The Big Pivot of 2021

The Big Pivot of 2021

The Big Pivot Do you remember the sofa moving scene in Friends? They guys are doing their best, but it’s too big to get up the stairs. Ross keeps yelling “Pivot, pivot” to no avail. That’s 2020. In 2021 we'll turn the corner. Pivot Ross GIF from Pivot GIFs My personal...

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The Face that Launched 1000 Words

The Face that Launched 1000 Words

Some authors look for visual cues to help create setting and characters. Most call it research. I call it antiques hunting. THE FACE OF THE GALLIANO CLUB To build the Galliano Club series, I have my grandfather’s account books from when he was City Marshall, as well...

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Fiction author asks: Why do we fall in love?

Fiction author asks: Why do we fall in love?

True Story I met my husband at a Memorial Day picnic. After burgers and hot dogs, our host hauled out Trivial Pursuit. Teams were assembled and a fierce no-holds-barred game ensued. To my chagrin, his team won. Nonetheless, when he called a few weeks later, we made a...

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Book Review: THUNDERSTRUCK by Erik Larson

Book Review: THUNDERSTRUCK by Erik Larson

Non-fiction author Erik Larsen (DEAD WAKE, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE, etc.) writes true crime with the sweep, suspense, and vocabulary of the best fiction authors. THUNDERSTRUCK may not be his best known book but it is the incredible saga...

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Book Review: GRAY GHOST MURDERS by Keith McCafferty

Book Review: GRAY GHOST MURDERS by Keith McCafferty

I know nothing about fly fishing and have never been to Montana. Nevertheless, the Sean Stranahan mystery series by Keith McCafferty has me hooked. (Sorry, could not resist.) The series has elements of both the Longmire and Mike Bowditch series, but with a gentle...

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Book Review: Dublin Trilogy by Caimh McDonnell

Book Review: Dublin Trilogy by Caimh McDonnell

Author Vee James gifted me this book and a tip of the hat to him. THE MAN WITH ONE OF THOSE FACES is the first book in McDonnell’s Dublin Trilogy about the very funny, yet seriously intriguing misadventures of Paul Mulchrone, Brigit Conroy, and Garda detective Bernard...

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How to be an Armchair Traveler

How to be an Armchair Traveler

I keep waiting for coronavirus to call a time out but, uh, so far . . . no. It's turning me into an armchair traveler. You, too? I have missed museums. Not that I'm a rabid art hound, but museums are a great reason to get up and go somewhere new to refuel my creative...

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Mini Masterclass: How to Write a Mystery Series

Mini Masterclass: How to Write a Mystery Series

Did you ever want to write a mystery series? Have an idea for a character but nothing else? Maybe you need a blueprint for finally getting that mystery series written. True Story When I worked for the CIA, diving into real-life mysteries, I loved reading mysteries...

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For Celine, With Love

For Celine, With Love

TRUE STORY On 11 May 1968, when I was 8 years old, I made my First Communion at St. Paul’s Church in Rome NY. My first cousin Celine was next to me, wearing an identical outfit of starched white linen shift and a lace mantilla secured with a satin ribbon tied under...

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Mexico, Women, Femicide, Fiction

Mexico, Women, Femicide, Fiction

“Women and glass are always in danger.” – Mexican proverb Imagine if Portland, Maine, or Greenville, South Carolina went missing, simply ebbing away like shadows in sunlight over the course of 14 years. The official count of people missing in Mexico since 2006 is...

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Countdown to NARCO NOIR

Countdown to NARCO NOIR

NARCO NOIR, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 8 will be released on 16 April! Emilia goes undercover as a taxi driver to catch a killer, but a dangerous detour takes her to a movie set and the choice that will change her life forever. Cover reveal Once again, artist Matt...

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Author to Author with Bruce Robert Coffin

Author to Author with Bruce Robert Coffin

I met fellow police procedural author Bruce Coffin at the 2019 Killer Nashville conference, where we both won Silver Falchion awards, and have become an avid fan of his John Byron series. His new book WITHIN PLAIN SIGHT comes out this week. Bruce took a minute to...

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Book review: Denise Mina’s Still Midnight

Book review: Denise Mina’s Still Midnight

STILL MIDNIGHT by Denise Mina is the first book in the Alex Morrow detective series set in Glasgow and it’s a stunner. It’s a superb mix of Ian Rankin’s seedy Scotland from the John Rebus novels, Tana French’s angry female protagonist from THE TRESPASSER, and powerful...

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This is Day One

This is Day One

Day One is a digital marketing agency. “This is Day One” is written in neon letters on the wall of their New York City office. I love the double entendre. This is Day One is both a “we're here” announcement and a creative mantra. Day One implies a fresh start. A new...

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Things in the Mirror are Closer than they Appear

Things in the Mirror are Closer than they Appear

It was a first and I’m still recovering. I live in a fairly friendly town. So when there was a shoutout for women who work from home to meet for coffee, I went. About 20 gals showed up, none of whom I knew. As we were introducing ourselves, one of them said. “I’ve...

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Book review: Finland’s Maria Kallio police series

Book review: Finland’s Maria Kallio police series

Detective Maria Kallio is the first female police detective in the Violent Crime and Repeat Offender unit in Espoo, Finland. She is Finland's answer to Detective Emilia Cruz and I love her. SNOW WOMAN is the fourth book in the Maria Kallio 12-book crime fiction series...

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9 Mystery and Thriller Authors Tell All

9 Mystery and Thriller Authors Tell All

These 9 friends are all at the top of their game when it comes to fast-paced mystery and thrillers that veer toward the dark side.Check out their original interview link, and what they’ve been up to since appearing on this blog and/or in the Mystery Ahead...

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The road between the storms

The road between the storms

Storm vs lull = success The storm called RUSSIAN MOJITO has ended. The lull has arrived, allowing me to catch my breath and attend to all the housekeeping chores that built up while my brain was whirling with MOJITO. The modern do-it-yourself author has a...

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Writing a mystery: 3 essential questions

Writing a mystery: 3 essential questions

RUSSIAN MOJITO, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 7, will be released on 6 June. It is undoubtedly the most complex mystery I've ever written. Emilia's whole future is on the line. Mystery writing: the big start Every Emilia Cruz novel has multiple plot lines. My...

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Book review: AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS

Book review: AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS

AUNTIE POLDI AND THE SICILIAN LIONS by Mario Giordino is a delicious whodunit, yet for this book review, it defies easy categorization. It’s one part Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri and one part Don Camillo series by Giovanni...

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Book Review: le Carre’s A LEGACY OF SPIES

Book Review: le Carre’s A LEGACY OF SPIES

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

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

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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Book review: Sherlock Holmes, twice as nice

Book review: Sherlock Holmes, twice as nice

A KNIFE IN THE FOG and DUST AND SHADOW are both sensational thrillers. The two books have a few things in common, including exceptional historical research, an investigative trio, and a satisfying conclusion, yet each offers an original take on Victorian...

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Open Letter to 2019

Open Letter to 2019

Dear 2019, With the benefit of having lived through your younger brother known as 2018, you will find me a bit changed. Older, wiser, and a bit more cunning.   Love, Carmen From 2018, with love Every year, instead of a list of easily-forgotten resolutions,...

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The mystery of the disappearing home office

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

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