Heading to Killer Nashville

Heading to Killer Nashville

I’m heading to the Killer Nashville mystery writer’s conference, where 43 MISSING, the 6th Detective Emilia Cruz novel, is a finalist for the Silver Falchion award for Best Procedural. The award has multiple categories and many of the finalists are very well known authors so I’m amazed to be in such august company.

You can see all the finalists for all Silver Falchion categories here: https://killernashville.com/awards/silver-falchion-award/

BTW, 43 MISSING is based on a true crime in rural Mexico, which nearly 4 years later is still unsolved. Does the word “Ayotzinapa” ring a bell?

43 MIssing

Related: The true story behind 43 MISSING

43 MISSING is also in contention for the conference’s Reader’s Choice award for Best Procedural, as is PACIFIC REAPER, Detective Emilia Cruz #5. I’ve been asking friends on Facebook to vote for PACIFIC REAPER. https://killernashville.com/awards/killer-nashville-readers-choice-award/

Killer Nashville

I’m armed with new business cards, too!  This is the first time I’ve gone to a writer’s conference in my (so-far) 6-year-old writing career and I’m probably a bit too excited. No matter the outcome, I’m amazed and honored to have had both books recognized this way.

Maybe I’m on the right track after all . . .


Not my CIA

Not my CIA

I rarely discuss hot potato topics, but this week it became painfully clear that the CIA I joined in 1985 is not the CIA of today. the nonpartisan rule I entered on duty the day after Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration. At that time, it was made crystal clear to me...

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Havana Syndrome Spy Thriller

Havana Syndrome Spy Thriller

You saw it here first. I'm finally writing a spy thriller. Well, part of one. Spy-sourced thriller I've been invited to contribute a chapter to a spy thriller that tackles Havana Syndrome. Different chapters will be written by former CIA officers, many of whom like me...

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FYI: Carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

The Mexican Scatter Plot Diagram

Blood spatterDedicated news junkies like myself can generally identify trends. But this week the news about Mexico has some of everything—the good, the bad, the hopeful and the bleak. If I was an infographic specialist and did a scatter plot diagram of Mexican news stories, the result would be either a blood spatter or a constellation, depending on your point of view.

What to make of it?

A. Possible changing Mexican narrative: economy vice drugs

B. Dead women in the news get more attention than dead men

C. I’ll never run out of grist for the Emilia Cruz mystery series.

Here are some of the stories in the news this week:

Port-mortem on death of Maria Santos Gorrostieta

The UK’s Daily Mail online edition carried the most comprehensive story I found. CNN had a video story and Fox News Latino carried some of the same pictures as the Daily Mail. BTW, I wrote a blog post when the news of her death broke last week.

Drug deaths and debate

Miss Sinaloa is killed: Fox News Latino reported that the local beauty queen had a gun in her hands at the time of her shooting.

Mass graves in Chihuahua: Fox News Latino story

Noted law professor on drug war tactics in The Daily Beast

Jailed cartel leader La Barbie accuses top officials with bribes/corruption

Mexican police deny La Barbie charges, reported by CNN

Pres-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto Goes to Washington

Peña Nieto met with President Obama and lawmakers with a message of expanding economic ties. Here are stories by ABC/Univision and the BBC which often has an interesting perspective on Mexico.



And for fun: Senator John McCain’s picture of EPN and new friends: https://twitter.com/SenJohnMcCain/status/273812798759378945/photo/1

The Economist on the US-Mexican relationship

The Coming Presidential Transition

LA Times on How Times and Ties have changed

Noted author Alan Riding on the shift in the NY Times

The Washington Post: Mexico “subdued” ahead of ceremony

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon

Calderon will take a 1 year fellowship to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where according to Reuters he will “meet with students, collaborate with scholars and researchers and help develop case studies on policy challenges.”

Defending His Record, from CNN

Mexico Through the Lens of a Survey

Management consulting firm Vianovo, together with national marketing communications and advertising company GSD&M, conducted a survey on US views of Mexico. Upshot: 50% unfavorable rating, only 2 points below Saudi Arabia, Osama Bin Laden’s birthplace.

At the Table

Calvin Trillin writes enticingly about food in Oaxaca in this week’s New Yorker

23 Chicago-area Mexican restaurants to receive awards


ABC/Univision profiles a designer in Oaxaca


Mexican start-ups seeks social change

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.

A 9/11 Story

A 9/11 Story

I was sitting in a small auditorium at the Colegio Americano in Mexico City waiting for the meeting to start. The room was full of women and the occasion was the annual meeting of Mexico’s Secretariat of Education with the school’s parents. I knew I wouldn’t understand most of it; my Spanish listening skills were still feeble although I’d temporarily mastered numbers. But the school administration had sent home shrill notes insisting that parents attend, claiming a correlation between continued accreditation/funding with the number of parents that showed up.

9/11We were new at the school that year. I didn’t see anyone I knew from my vantage point near the rear exit. The murmurs around me were all in Spanish.

As I leafed through my Filofax, a soft exclamation in English sounded from the front row. A blonde women turned to someone behind her as she waved a cell phone. “A plane hit the Twin Towers in New York,” she whispered loud enough for me to hear.

A small plane. A Cessna, I thought. A private pilot must have had a heart attack and veered off course. The plane would have splintered into pieces against the skyscraper. How sad.

With great ceremony, some school officials and a large man in a glen plaid suit mounted the stage and crossed to the podium. There were introductory remarks. The glen plaid suit started speaking on behalf of the Secretariat.

The warm air in the auditorium thickened with a mixture of boredom and expensive perfume. The speaker’s face was moist above the microphone. I had no idea what he was saying.

Whispers again rippled out from the front row in a language I could understand. A second plane had struck the Twin Towers.

No one left. The sweaty Secretariat man droned on for another 30 minutes until finally the school officials thanked him and dismissed the meeting. Maybe he took questions. I don’t remember.

I drove home and turned on the television. It was 11:30 am. At 11:32 I realized the world had fundamentally changed.

And that’s my 9/11 story.

Click here for the 9/11 digital archive. The Archive contains more than 150,000 digital items, a tally that includes more than 40,000 emails and other electronic communications, more than 40,000 first-hand stories, and more than 15,000 digital images.

Click here for the 9/11 memorial website.

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



Celebrate Greek Culture Now More Than Ever

Celebrate Greek Culture Now More Than Ever

Greece has overspent itself to the brink of destruction and angry citizens are showing their contempt for further austerity measures by firebombing downtown Athens.  Talk continues of defaults and the downfall of a country and the entire eurozone as well.

But even if the country’s national institutions wobble, Greek culture will survive the current unpleasantness in Athens. Here are some reasons why:

1.  The Mediterranean Diet   The heart-healthy Greek menu emphasizes fish, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables and a splash of wine for good measure.  According to the Mayo Clinic “most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.” Read the full article about the benefits of eating Greek here.

2.  Kiosks   There’s a tiny outdoor convenience store every few blocks in Athens where you can buy snacks,  newspapers, bus tickets, an emergency bottle of olive oil, etc.  The kids can be sent down the street with a few euros to buy an ice cream bar and Dad can stop for a small bottle of whiskey to soothe a bad day at the office.  Friends can meet for a quick chat, read the headlines and get a sports drink when the heat roasts marble buildings to a sparkling white and all the fresh oranges and eggplants you bought at the neighborhood laiki open air market start getting heavy on the walk home.  Maybe now isn’t the time to open that designer dress shop in Kolonaki but the kiosks will still be a central part of life this time next year, too.

3.  The lemonade at the base of the Acropolis   You came to see the famous Parthenon, step in Socrates’s footsteps at the Pnyx, imagine the chariot races and salute Hadrian’s arch.  But how did democracy thrive in this heat! The antidote is the amazingly crisp, fresh lemonade sold at the ordinary-looking concession stand at the base of the Acropolis. Buy one–at whatever today’s cost–after your trek up to the Parthenon. And be careful on the way down. There aren’t safety rails and Greece probably doesn’t have the money to install them now.

4.  Storytellers  Writing and storytelling are quintessential aspects of Greek culture. This proud heritage is being carried on by the Aegean Arts Circle. Writer, sculptor and all-around Renaissance woman Amalia Melis runs the Circle which hosts an annual writer’s workshop series on the island of Andros.  Workshops are led by notable authors who help both experienced and novice writers polish fiction manuscripts. This summer’s workshop will be led by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler whose “. . . workshop will focus on the fundamentals of the creative process for any fiction writers, beginning or advanced, who aspire to create enduring literature.”

5.  The Greek alphabet   Fraternities, sororities, astronomers, interior designers, and the electronics industry (Coming Soon! The beta version!) are among the notables who all embrace the timeless quality of the Greek alphabet.

6.  This. Is. Sparta.  Okay, okay. Yes, it’s an internet meme and King Leonidas kept slipping in an accent that suggested he’d been thrown out of his fair share of pubs, but Hollywood loves Greek history. Think Troy.  Alexander the Great.  Beautiful scenery, low budget costumes and pre-written plots.  And then there is the fabulously genuine Nia Vardarlos who singlehandedly brought Greek traditions of family, food, and loud arguments to the silver screen.  And made us laugh.

7.  Ohi Day  There is a Greek resilience best illustrated by a unique holiday which celebrates the day in 1940 that Greek Prime Minister Metaxas refused to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations.” The ultimatum was delivered by the Italian ambassador on behalf of Germany and urban legend has it that Metaxas answered with just the word “ohi,” or “no” in Greek. The Axis forces invaded shortly thereafter. Forced to the brink of starvation, Greece barely survived the rest of World War II and its chaotic political aftermath, best captured in My Brother Michael by Leon Uris.

So tonight, I’m celebrating with My Life In Ruins, and some feta and olives. I’ll watch the news tomorrow.

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Greek culture


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


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