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.

You may also like

CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Book Review:  The Witch of Napoli

Book Review: The Witch of Napoli

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker is an unexpected trip to 1890’s Italy, when Garibaldi’s unification of the country was still tenuous and Italy’s city-states retained their strong regional rivalries and flavors. At the same time, the study of the occult was all the rage. The reality and authenticity of the spirit world–and those who could access it–was hotly contested. Fame and fortunes were at stake in this historic time of debate about the afterlife.

The book is narrated by a young man, Tomas, who will rise to journalistic fame on the coattails of a medium. Alessandra is a beautiful woman with an explosive temper, seamy past, and abusive common-law husband, but her apparent psychic powers are mighty. Both she and Tomas are from Naples, where the action starts, and together they navigate treacherous waters as the Italian, and then European, cognoscenti try to prove if Alessandra’s remarkable power to connect with the spirits of the dead, including medieval monk and heretic Savonarola, are for real.

Schmicker is adroit in his handling of the central question—is Alessandra for real?—as Tomas describes her séances. Alessandra is a marvelous character, true to her rough upbringing and the culture of old Naples. She is by turns conflicted, fiery, confident, sick, in love, desperate—yet always remains true to herself as she hides both a secret anguish and the source of her psychic abilities. Tomas is also well drawn. He’s a young man ready for life’s adventures, half in love with Alessandra, and increasingly protective of her even when he knows she has made a bad choice.

Related: Learn how to write a book review that matters

The Witch of Napoli, beyond its absorbing premise, is an excellently crafted book. Alessandra’s nemesis, a haughty Englishman bent on proving her a fraud, is introduced with just the perfect amount of suspense. Chapters end on cliffhangers. Secondary characters are as well written as the principals, with deft descriptions. The sense of time and place is exceptional as Alessandra’s skills as a medium are “tested” in many European capitals. London proves her undoing . . . until she’s back in her native land.

The discussion of the occult is never mawkish nor amateurish, yet neither is this a book about spiritual secrets. At its heart, the Witch of Napoli is about a woman with secrets and the wave of political and academic curiosity that tried to wash those secrets out of her. In a note at the end, Schmicker lets us know that the book was inspired by a real woman and provides research material.

I love reading mysteries and thrillers, as well as writing them, and this book contained all the elements I crave: a fresh premise, characters that intrigue, and both elegant and exceptional dialogue and construction. Bravissimo!

Highly recommended.

Love reading reviews but worried that writing them is hard? Unleash your power as a reviewer with my simple cheatsheet for writing a Review that Matters.

Friday Fiesta: Focus, Book Discoverability, and a Discount

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

You may also like

CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

5 Life Lessons from a Month of Writing Dangerously

5 Life Lessons from a Month of Writing Dangerously

NaNoWriMo can be described as a cult phenomenon, a virtual writers gathering, a very strange hobby or God’s gift to global coffee sales. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It’s a tough thing to do—not tough as in survive cancer or send a rocket into space sorts of tough—but it truly tests your self-discipline, imagination, and relationships with others.

If you do it right, NaNoWriMo becomes a month-long learning experience. Here are a few universal lessons I took away from it this year:

 A goal is different from a plan

Writing 50,000 words is a goal. The plan to get that done defines the steps to take to achieve the goal. The more detailed the plan, the better the chances of achieving the goal. In this case, outline + schedule = plan. In my case, both the outline and the schedule changed but the initial planning helped me stay on track.

Use the Deadline, Grasshopper

A deadline is an overlooked luxury. It defines the project and allows you to work backwards from the hard line. This is a variation on Covey’s excellent axiom: Begin With the End in Mind.

You Can Have it all, not just all at the same time

Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane to Johnny Weismuller’s Tarzan) said this in response to why she quit acting to have a family. By taking on a big project like NaNoWriMo, something else had to come off my plate. We stared at splotchy yellow dining room walls the whole month; your truly finished the paint job on 3 December.

Learn to Prioritize or Learn to Fail

My mother always said all you have to do is want it. Two things are implicit in her words: that her kids would be able to A. prioritize and B. not slack off. If we want something that bad, the actions to achieve it will consistently and consciously be at the top of the daily to-do list. I wrote about 1700 words each day, with a couple of spurts so I could skip a day here and there. A writing buddy friend who had to juggle exams in November wrote in bigger and fewer spurts but did nothing else those days.

Rewards R Good

A reward was in order because I’d set out a tough thing for myself and got it done. Yay me. When challenges are quiet and don’t get a lot of external attention, it doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy, they’re just quiet. A reward is still in order. It’ll help muster enthusiasm for the next challenge. (I bought a fish-shaped talavera jug. Don’t judge, it is waaay cool.)

So, yes, I “won” my NaNoWriMo challenge this year with a 50,303-word draft manuscript tentatively entitled SUN GOD. Over the next year, I’ll add another 20,000 words and rewrite a bunch of it and eventually, maybe, just maybe, it will become the 3rd EMILIA CRUZ mystery novel. It was great to spend the month in Acapulco with Emilia and Kurt . . . but let me tell you, it’s hot down there . . . 

2016 Update

SUN GOD got pushed to the side. DIABLO NIGHTS (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 3) and KING PESO (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 4) needed to be told first. SUN GOD was renamed PACIFIC REAPER and will be the 5th book in the Emilia Cruz series, slated for release in February 2017.

You may also like

CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

The Friday Fiesta: Travel, Time and Not Enough Sparkly Wine

As a fiction author I love to weave  unique cultural gems into the plot. Most of the time I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America.

In these Friday Fiesta posts I highlight cultural stories worth celebrating.The unique, the odd, the thought-provoking. Enjoy and share to make the world a little smaller today.

Are You This Kind of Traveler?

The online Sydney Morning Herald reported on a Skyscanner survey of flight attendants that revealed the top 10 most annoying things that air travelers do. Snapping fingers at flight attendants is number 1, not a big surprise. Trying to get out of the plane before the light goes off and stuffing too much into the overhead bin are numbers 2 and 3.

I read the list with great smugness until I came to number 7: leaving trash in the seat pocket. Er, um, yes, the used tissues, empty sugar packets, and crumpled newspaper from seat 7B were gifts from me.

For more tips on how to be a bad traveler read my list of 25 Ways to Be the Worst Traveler in the World.

Not All Time is Equal

I’m often struck by cultural differences in time management. For example, in one country the gardener wanted to come every 15 days, rather than every other Wednesday (but mostly he never showed up at all) while in another place the cable TV bill was not always for the same duration, making each a surprise. The website yourlanguageplace.com had a thought-provoking article entitled “How Language Can Shape the Perception of Time” that is worth a read. It is an excellent discussion of how different cultures have different perceptions of time and how language feeds into that. This issue is a small but meaningful part of interacting with people from different cultures on a daily basis. Related to this is my post on cultural differences regarding money.

Changes in Latitude

The codesign website brings us a gallery of photos from 70 degrees north latitude. I clicked through the photos, riveted by the simple images that represent a photographic line through the United States. From N 40° 00’ 00” W 97° 00’ 00” Hollenberg, Kansas, 2007, to N 40° 00’ 00” W 109° 00’ 00” Rangely, Colorado, 2000 and so many other locations, this imagery collection is a significant achievement in terms of research, photography, and curation.  What I didn’t expect to find but did: a view into the culture of rural America. Added cool thing: website scrolling is horizontal, mimicking the concept of latitude. Check it out. Just lovely.

The Coming Champagne Crisis

The Huffingpost Post reports that hail storms and fungus due to overly wet weather will reduce France’s champagne grape harvest by 40%. Champagne takes at least 15 months to ferment, meaning that champagne prices for the summer of 2014 could be higher despite a reserve built up by lowered demand in previous years due to recession in the US and Europe. But demand is on the rebound at least in the US. So what’s a discriminating consumer to think?  Spoiler alert for weddings, graduation parties and book launch events.

The Friday Fiesta: A Ride, A Book, Olives and Remembrance

Party tootsAs a fiction author I love to weave unique cultural gems into the plot. Most of the time I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America.

In these Friday Fiesta posts I highlight cultural stories worth celebrating. The unique, the odd, the thought-provoking. Enjoy and share to make the world a little smaller today.

Would You Ride?

The world’s longest and highest cable car service will reopen early next year in Merida, Venezuela, according to a BBC report. The cable system is more than 7 miles long, rising to more than 15,330 feet above sea level at the summit of Pico Espejo — one of the highest peaks in Venezuela’s Andean mountains. Originally built in 1960, the trip of around 2 hours takes intrepid travelers from Merida to the magnificent scenery of the Andes. From the report: “On a clear day, the craggy outcrop of Pico Espejo — where the resident Virgin Mary statue is sometimes covered in ice — provides panoramic views of the surrounding range, as well as a bird’s-eye view of Merida in the distant valley below.” Equal parts amazing and scary.

War and Remembrance

TheWorldisWaiting.com blog gave us a unique take on war museums this week, including some little known museums that capture events and places that are all too easily forgotten. I’ve been to three museums on the list: the Imperial War Museum and the HMS Belfast, both in the UK, and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin and recommend them all. But of special note is the JEATH Museum, Kachanburi, Thailand. “JEATH stands for Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland, which represent the nationalities of the prisoners of war forced to work on the construction of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.” It wasn’t just a movie.

In the same vein, here’s my blog post on resistance museums.

The Olive Harvest

Did you know how olives are gathered to make olive oil? Check out the blog post by @ItalianNotes for beautiful photographs and a video on how “In our part of Puglia the old contardini swears by the scopetta. With an old organic broom they sweep a circle around every single olive tree making the red earth hard, smooth and clean, so that olives can easily be gathered, when they are ripe and ready to fall off the tree.” The post is lovely—a simple snapshot of a an industry that reminds us of the value of tradition and the calm that comes from living close to the earth.

The First Book and it’s Not the Bible. 

John Wainwright, a computer specialist, ordered the first book from amazon.com in 1995. Do you remember amazon’s radio ads from that time? They were in an interview format, with the interviewee claiming amazon had enough books to fill an aircraft carrier and other huge spaces.But I digress.

According to The Atlantic online magazine, which has a photo of the book and the original packing slip, the book Wainwright ordered was Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought. A bit of light reading. But that first book illustrates that amazon has been so successful (the website sells my books so of course it is successful!) because it carries something for every interest.

Book cover The Hidden Light of Mexico City“Romantic and suspenseful! A great mix!”

Get THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY on amazon.com today.

What McDonald’s Taught Me And It’s Not About The Food

What McDonald’s Taught Me And It’s Not About The Food

In my quest to find connections across cultures I’ve been thinking about how different cultures influence what we eat (salsa, anyone?) But if we turn that around to look at how a food influenced different cultures we come to one inescapable word: McDonald’s

Yep. The fast food giant has had its share of cultural impact.

After all, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved less than 2 years after McDonald’s opened in Moscow in early 1990. Maybe it was just a coincidence but maybe not . . .

So not to be outdone by the end of the Cold War, here are my top culture-meets-McDonald’s moments:

Vienna

In the weeks after Romanian Communist dictator Nikolai Ceausescu was overthrown, Romanians came by the busload to Vienna, the closest big Western city, to see how the rest of the world lived. They all looked as if they’d suddenly got out of prison. Their clothes were drab, they were all thin, and they looked fearful and excited at the same time.

My husband and I were in Vienna’s two-story McDonald’s. We each tucked into a substantial fast food meal; Big Macs, fries, the works. A Romanian couple our age was in the booth across the aisle, sharing the equivalent of a hamburger Happy Meal. They each took small bites, savoring the strange food, still in their coats as if they expected to be chased out at any moment.

Mexico City

It was my housekeeper’s anniversary and I took her to the big mall in Santa Fe to pick out a king sized bed for her and her husband. After arranging to have it delivered to their house, we went to the food court. She said she wanted to eat at McDonald’s but would not say what she wanted to order.

After a strange and frustrating exchange about the menu she finally said she’d have whatever I had. It turned out that she’d never eaten at a McDonald’s before.

She was 28.

Wellington

New Zealand’s capital is a bit more lively these days but when I was there 20 years ago it was a sleepy town, especially on the weekend. There was shopping and a city tour on Saturday but most things were closed on Sunday. Except the one McDonald’s a couple of miles from my hotel. I walked there for lunch, then went to the movies, then walked back to McDonald’s for dinner.

Without McD’s I would have starved. Or had the hotel’s cold mutton buffet for all 3 meals.

Athens

The Olympic stadium in Athens housed the biggest McDonald’s we’d ever seen and my kids were as fascinated by the restaurant as by the Olympic events. No mix-and-match fast food here, you could only order from a short list of preset meals, including the first salad any of us had ever eaten at a McD’s. We sat in the middle of the huge space listening to the babble of  languages and watching the array of national costumes.

My kids got it then–the fact that not everybody is like them. Meeting people who aren’t is exciting. The Frenchman in the skinny white capri pants and Puma flats is still remembered fondly.

You may also like

CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

Find the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series on Amazon

Pin It on Pinterest