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 read your books. I had no idea you lived here.”

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather, as the saying goes. Some time ago, she discovered the Detective Emilia Cruz books through a BookBub deal for a free book. Read the free book and bought two more.

It was a vote of much-needed confidence.

Far and near

I worried when we moved to the US heartland that I was far from my sources of inspiration. Would I lose touch with Mexico and the culture that so inspired me to write the Detective Emilia Cruz series and thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY? I had been immersed in the colors, food, the language, the religious traditions that formed the calendar of life in Mexico City. I’m far from Acapulco, palm trees, and cliff divers.

But on the other hand, there’s no escaping drug cartel crime. Mexico’s homicide rates are going up in lockstep (see https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/death-toll-put-at-20-for-mexico-cartel-attack-near-us-border/2019/12/01/edd68fd2-149c-11ea-80d6-d0ca7007273f_story.html) with the US death rate from drug use. (see https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates). In my own corner of the world, the opioid crisis is painfully in evidence.

Related: Welcome to the Opioid Crisis

The Mexican cartels are inside the US. The biggest jefe is known as El Mencho. He’s got a 10 million dollar price on his head. CBS news has a great video report on his organization’s presence: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/el-mencho-mexican-cartel-boss-behind-one-third-of-drugs-in-the-us-2019-09-26/, even mentioning that he was behind the shooting down of a Mexican government helicopter, which I referenced in 43 MISSING, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6. (FYI: Free for Kindle Unlimited right now)

Rolling Stone warned us about El Mencho two years ago, calling him “Mexico’s next generation narco.” https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/the-brutal-rise-of-el-mencho-196980/

Mirror, mirror

Facebook keeps me in touch with friends in Mexico but there are surprising sources of inspiration here at home.

Bittersweet

This vine called bittersweet wraps around trees here. A strangling parasite or a plant that sustains and supports the tree? It seems to me to be the essential question as I write the relationship between Emilia Cruz and her mother, the ever child-like Sophia.

Virgin

My small Catholic church has a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe in a niche to the left of the main altar. When I saw that, my Mexico memories felt tangible again. Not as far away as they were a moment ago.

Validation via work boot

We don’t hear Spanish spoken here very often, but my husband fell into conversation with two native speakers while buying work boots. The men were surprised to hear a tall gringo speak fluent Spanish.

Both were from the Mexican state of Guerrero. Near Acapulco, one added, assuming my husband wouldn’t know where that was.

My husband said that he was very familiar with Mexico. In fact, his wife wrote books about a female police detective in Acapulco.

He got some hard stares. “There are no female police detectives in Acapulco,” the other man said.

Some things never change.

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CARMEN AMATO

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

 

Living With a Thief

Living With a Thief

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Teddy Roosevelt

I mentioned to someone recently that my goal for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is to eventually be as well known as the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny.

And got a not-so-subtle eye roll in response.

Thief in the night

Before I knew it, the comparison and the self-doubt train was rolling. I mentally cataloged all the reasons why Emilia Cruz was never going to rub bookshelf shoulders with Armand Gamache.

Related: The free Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library

Yep, I sat there like I’d been hit by a sock full of wet sand and turned on the stupid comparison machine. My joy was gone, stolen by an involuntary expression of someone who’d never read any of my books.

Stopping the locomotive

But why shouldn’t that be a worthy goal?

After all, the books enjoy the same mystery loving audience. Readers who imagine themselves at Olivier’s Bistro sipping hot choolate will also enjoy a starry night in the Pasodoble Bar with a mojito.

Related: Why Acapulco is an unforgettable setting

Usually, I’m excited that I’m on the right track with the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I love the Gamache books and see that series, as well as the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith, as my role models.

Role models are great.

But comparison is a waste of time.

The case of Agnes and Martha

James Clear recently wrote about a famous case of self doubt. Agnes de Mille, the dancer and choreographer, told mentor Martha Graham: “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.” Martha’s response was: “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.”

Mr. Clear’s article has a really valuable message: “It is not your place to compare it to others . . . Instead, your responsibility is to create. Your job is to share what you have to offer from where you are right now.”

Where the joy is

For me, the joy has always been in the creative process. I love making up intricate plots peppered with my own experiences. I love wordsmithing and tracking down that elusive perfect word in the thesaurus. I love the process of dialogue, acting out both parts to the dog as Emilia and Silvio have another knock-down-drag-out argument. Dutch has no idea what’s going on, but it’s attention so all good.

Teddy was right. Comparison is the thief of joy.

The thief is always lurking around the corner, waiting to be invited in by a random eye roll or thoughtless remark.

But if the joy is in the creative process, the thief has nothing to steal.

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CARMEN AMATO

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

 

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