Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

The End BookToday I’m participating in the Writing Process Blog Hop, where you’re tagged by a fellow writer to answer some questions. In turn, you then profile 2-3 other writers to do the same.  The person who tagged me is the inimitable and always classy Charlie Ray (http://redroom.com/member/charles-a-ray). I interviewed Charlie a while back on Awesome Authors. You can blame him for what you’re about to read 😀

Question 1: What am I working on?
Currently I’m brainstorming scenes for the third as-yet-untitled Leine Basso thriller. It’s like old home week as I figure out which direction Leine and Santiago’s relationship is going to go, how to integrate Leine’s new line of work into the story, and re-introduce characters from previous books (if you liked Yuri’s uncle, you’ll enjoy this installment), all while keeping the suspense and action building throughout the book. Beginning a novel is all deliciousness and unicorns and mimics the first blush of infatuation: everything’s awesome and the possibilities are endless. Yes, I know that will wear off at the first hint of trouble, but as long as I blow something up I should be okay 😀

CFD_Cvr_2_200x300I’m also working with two different audiobook narrators: I’m excited to report that Melissa Moran has finished CRUISING FOR DEATH and the book is now in ACX’s capable hands.  Melissa also recorded the KATE JONES THRILLER SERIES boxed set and has been a lot of fun to work with–she has Kate’s idiosyncrasies down pat. Look for it in the next few weeks.

Kristi Alsip is in the process of recording BAD TRAFFICK, and I can’t say enough good things about her work. When I first heard her voice I KNEW she would make a great Leine Basso and, from what she’s done so far, she’s nailed it. Once the audiobook’s completed it will go to ACX’s sound engineers for approval and should be available next month.Night traffic

Question 2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write thrillers, and there’s an expectation on the part of thriller readers that the books will be fast-paced and have a lot of action. Of course, I LOVE writing action scenes, so that’s no problem. What I think I do a bit differently is incorporate suspense and action and a likeable, kick-ass-but-flawed heroine with humor. One reviewer put it this way: “The humor serves as good balance to the fear and anxiety that [the character] freely expresses in the face of her predicament, providing a sharp and refreshing contrast to the typical stoic, grim-faced male hero of the thriller genre.”   Another difference: my female characters aren’t superheroes–in fact they are all too human–but they aren’t helpless women who need a man to save them, which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Why would I want to read about a woman who doesn’t know how to get herself out of trouble and who waits for the alpha-male to “save her”?  Yes, I have strong men in my stories, and yes, they help the heroine out occasionally, but I try hard to write female characters who are plenty capable themselves and know their way around a weapon. And explosives.

Question 3: Why do I write what I do?
DVBerkom_YucatanDead_200Growing up, I loved reading spy novels and watching James Bond movies, but always yearned for books and movies that had a female equivalent in the lead. When I caught the novel-writing bug I thought why not write what I’d want to read? My first female character, Kate Jones, went through several incarnations, moving from a smart ass Jeep tour guide in a humorous mystery to the current thrillers where Kate grows into a capable and dangerous enemy. She’s still a smart ass, though.

As for the Leine Basso novels, SERIAL DATE was in response to a twisted dream I had about serial killers and reality shows, and I needed to find a character to write who could go toe-to-toe with one of them. An assassin seemed perfect: they both killed people. The dynamics of having one of the characters (Leine) question her motivation for being a hired assassin and whether that made her different from a serial killer intrigued me. The second novel, BAD TRAFFICK, was in response to watching a documentary on child sex trafficking and I knew I had to write Leine into the story. I was torn though, as SERIAL DATE has quite a bit of dark humor and satire, and I wanted to try to keep the tone consistent in each series (okay, it didn’t work with Kate, but at least I tried). There’s nothing humorous or satirical about human trafficking, so the tone in that book ended up being more of a straight thriller. There’s still some humor, but only in Leine’s smart ass reactions to specific characters. Hmm. Do I detect a theme here?SDBookCover170x260_3_11_13

Question 4: How does my writing process work?
First, I clean my house. Really. My husband loves this stage, since I’m woefully challenged in the domestic arts. Then I sit down with a notepad and paper and draw a timeline across the top of the page, putting little hash marks at the beginning, 1/4 point, midpoint, 3/4 point, and two near the end, labeling them: inciting incident, 1st turning point, midpoint, 2nd turning point, black moment, resolution. Then, I set to work brainstorming scenes, moving them around on the timeline to see where they fit. If I have trouble coming up with enough scenes to start writing, either I trash the idea, or I ask my husband and writer friends to help come up with scenes. Once I’ve got a good sense where the story’s going, I sit down to write (I use a computer and MS Word). I’m pretty linear, so I go from chapter to chapter, editing a bit as I go, until I reach the end. During this first draft stage, every two weeks I send sections to my critique group for their suggestions. Then I do a read through before sending it out to a dozen or so beta readers. While I’m waiting for their responses, I catch up on all the stuff I ignored while writing. Once the betas get back to me, I do one more read through incorporating many of the suggestions, and then send it off to my editor. At that point I usually have the title, so I work on the book’s description and then send that info off to my cover designer. Once I get the edits back I incorporate them, do another read through and publish.

Now that I’ve bored the bejeezus out of you all, it’s time to give a shout out to the writers I picked to continue the blog hop. All three are in my writing group and all are published in some form of romance (I’m the token heathen who doesn’t write in that particular genre). We’ve been friends for years and yes, I know where the bodies are buried. We’ll leave it at that…

Darlene Panzera writes sweet, fun-loving romance and is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True Contest” sponsored by Avon Books, which led her novella, THE BET, to be published with Debbie Macomber’s FAMILY AFFAIR. The full length novel, re-titled, BET YOU’LL MARRY ME, released December 2012 and her bestselling series, THE CUPCAKE DIARIES, released its first installment in May 2013. Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene is now a resident of the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her family and her two horses, and loves camping, hiking, photography, and lazy days at the lake.

Jennifer Conner  is a bestselling Northwest author who has published over forty works. She writes Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, and Erotica, and has been ranked in the top 50 authors on Amazon. Her romantic suspense novel, SHOT IN THE DARK, was a finalist in the Emerald City Opener, Cleveland, and Toronto RWA contests. She lives in western Washington in a hundred year-old house, blows glass beads with a blow torch (“which relieves a lot of stress and people don’t bother you…”) and is a huge fan of musicals.

Chris Karlsen is a retired police detective who writes time travel romances populated with 14th century knights, and thrillers featuring a nautical archaeologist and Turkish agent. She spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. The daughter of a history professor and a voracious reader, she grew up with a love for history and books. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and Northern Africa satisfying her passion for seeing the places she’s read about. A Chicago native, Chris has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and now resides with her husband and five rescue dogs in the Pacific Northwest.

If you have a minute, please stop by and visit their blogs–they’ll be posting their own answers to the above questions next Monday. Have a great week!


Social Media Numbers and What They Mean

Facebook iconGREAT post by Anne R. Allen on social media numbers.

Just this morning I was telling Mark that I needed to reduce the time I spend on social media…


Awesome Authors–Carol Wyer

author photoToday on Awesome Authors I get to treat you all to an interview with the lovely and talented Carol Wyer. Carol and I met during my stint at the venerable death-star of an indie blog, Indies Unlimited, and I’ve been a fan ever since. She’s sweet, funny, and always finds a way to inject humor into her writing, whether she’s penning fiction or non-fiction. Best known for her Grumpy Series (How Not to Murder Your Grumpy and Grumpy Old Menopause) Carol is a veritable powerhouse of a publicity-generator, and if she ever gives a class on promotion, consider me there. She currently lives in the UK with her very own Grumpy. And now for the interview:

Bio (from the author): Carol E. Wyer is an award-winning author whose humorous novels take a lighthearted look at getting older and encourage others to age disgracefully.

Her best-selling debut novel, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, won five awards for humour. Surfing in Stilettos, which follows the further adventures of Amanda Wilson as she attempts to inject some fun into her life, won a gold award for Romance at Readers Favorite. How Not to Murder Your Grumpy, the first of three non-fiction books in a ‘Grumpy’ series, is a finalist for the People’s Book Prize Award 2013-14.

Carol has featured on numerous shows discussing ‘Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’. She has had articles published in national magazines such as Woman’s Weekly’ and on-line magazines. She writes regularly for The Huffington Post and author website Indies Unlimited. She is a signed author with ThornBerry Publishing and Safkhet Publishing.

DV: Welcome to Awesome Authors, Carol! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?

CW: Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m rather excited to be here. So, about me? Well, I started writing decades ago when I was in my twenties and lived in Morocco where I was a teacher/translator. I wrote for pleasure and it wasn’t until my thirties that I wrote with a view to being published. My first stories were written for children and taught them basic French. They were used in schools. There was even a tape of songs to go with them (Mercifully I didn’t sing the songs.)

I didn’t write full-time until my son left home. It was about then I decided I wanted to fulfill my ambition to become a well-known writer (given my desire to be a well-known comedienne was unlikely).

cover for mini skirts and laughter linesI wrote my first novel that year, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, got a stack of media attention and contracts with two small publishing houses, and since then it’s been all go. I am currently writing my seventh book and am enjoying myself thoroughly.

DV: Since you write both non-fiction and fiction, do you find that you need to do something different (time off from writing, virgin sacrifice, different kind of laundry detergent, etc.) to switch between genres? Or is it an easy change for you?

CW: It’s no problem at all for me. Fiction allows me to spend hours in the bizarre fantasy world that is my brain, while the non-fiction books are more logical in format and fun to write. I derive a lot of pleasure from researching them too. I collect stupid facts and jokes all the time so now I have stacks of useless information that would make me an excellent contestant at a pub quiz. How Not to Murder Your Grumpy and Grumpy Old Menopause are both related to getting older and ageing disgracefully, themes that are to be found in my novels. Even my own precious grumpy old man enjoyed the trivia and jokes in the first.

DV: In late November, BBC Breakfast featured you and your most recent non-fiction book, Grumpy Old Menopause. What was it like being on television? Would you do it again? How did it all come about?cover for grumpy old menopause

CW: It was a superb experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The television production team are extremely welcoming and enthusiastic people, so it’s very easy to get carried along with it all. I barely had a minute to think, from the moment I arrived at the hotel the day before and was interviewed by a researcher, to the end of the interview. I wrote about the day on my blog, so rather than bore you all here, you can find out what it’s like to be a star for the day by clicking the link Dreams Are Made of This

DV: Tell us about your latest release.

cover for love hurtsCW: My latest book, Love Hurts, is a departure from my usual humorous stuff and should surprise all readers. It’s a collection of five stories on the theme of love but not at all conventional. Each story aims to evoke an emotion from the reader. Each is different and may tease, torment, surprise and/or delight.

DV: How long did it take to go from inception of the book to completion?

CW: This book has taken a year. All my books seem to take about the same time. They start as nuggets of ideas in my head. I then scribble some sort of essay plan down and, because I suffer from insomnia spend night after night going through possible twists, characters, endings and plots. Once I’m satisfied the story is a goer, I’ll start typing. That can take three months of hard effort. The rest is the laborious process of going through edits, sending to beta readers, editing again and again. Then I send it to an editor, where it goes through several edits and then on for formatting, proofreading and publishing. I was extremely fortunate to have excellent beta readers on this project who worked very quickly to return the stories to me, I had a top editor, Cathy Speight, and a formatter who worked faster than Superman–Indies Unlimited’s very own Rich Meyer. They all worked so hard to get the stories ready before Valentine’s Day and I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.

DV: Great choice of people! It’s so important to have a good team. Short stories take a different skill set than writing novels. What do you like most about the form? Least?

CW: My writing career began with short stories and I wrote them because I only had time to write in short bursts. Short stories are much easier to write because you have to hold so much information in your head all the time when you write a novel. You need to be careful not to repeat yourself and ensure timelines are correct. The continuity can often be a problem.

cover for How Not To Murder Your GrumpyIf I’m honest though, I now prefer to write lengthier novels where I can get into characters’ minds and give them substance. However, these stories allowed me to test out a side of my writing personality that I usually hide. I’m known for my humour and lighthearted approach to life but my mind can be a scary place and I often have horrific dreams (when I sleep). Even my husband wonders where the ideas come from when I tell him what I’ve dreamt. These stories allowed me to free some of those ideas. It’s my intention to develop this further and I’m going to be writing a psychological thriller next year.

DV: Oooh–sounds right up my alley. Seriously can’t wait to read that. Do you plan your books prior to writing them or just get on with it?

CW: Plan, plan, plan and plan. It comes from my years at university where I studied French and English. I had to write essay plans before I could write the essay. I have notebooks filled with scribbled notes, arrows and plans for each novel. I never sit down and start typing. I always write chapter layouts, character traits and some of the story out longhand.

DV: You use humor extensively in your work. Comedy is a hard thing to pull off, but you do it well. How do you inject humor into your work, or is it second nature?

CW: Sadly, I am one of life’s irritatingly cheerful people who injects humour into everything. I must be a nightmare to love with. There is a very long story as to why I’m this way. Maybe a look at this article will give you an idea. http://clinicalposters.com/news/2013/0206-laugh-at-unfunny-life.html

“I never sit down and start typing. I always write chapter layouts, character traits and some of the story out longhand.”

DV: You’re one of the hardest working authors I know in regard to publicity and promotion. What have you found works best for you when you’re launching a new book?

CW: Wine! No, seriously, it’s got easier the more books I launch because I now have a contact list and can send out press releases.

I spend every morning sending emails. I usually start with local press and target any magazines whose readership best suits my book. I know quite a few radio presenters, so I always stay in touch with them and let them know if I have a new release. The best thing to do though, is to write around your subject. I make sure I have a Google alert out on my book title or a subject related to my book. If a news item appears that is relevant, I write a piece about it and send to the press.

“I usually start with local press and target any magazines whose readership best suits my book.”

DV: Great ideas. Especially the wine…In light of the huge changes in publishing we’ve all seen, what do you predict for the industry over the next few years? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

cover for surfing in stilettosCW: I really don’t know where this is all going. The increasing number of authors who are able to self-publish along with the role of the internet, is surely going to have a bearing on the industry. It seems to me that it’s getting harder and harder to become noticed and unless you’re prepared to stick at it and turn out books every year, you’ll only have a limited time as a successful writer. It seems to be a good idea to try and find other writing projects or projects related to your writing. I write for several websites, online magazines, and national magazines now. I’m even branching out and doing stand-up comedy this year. I also appear on BBC radio every month in a slot as a ‘loud mouth’. You need to do as much as possible to stay in the limelight. In five years? I’ll still be writing, and telling jokes and being an irritating nuisance.

“I’m known for my humour and lighthearted approach to life but my mind can be a scary place and I often have horrific dreams…”

DV: What advice would you give to a writer who is just starting out?

CW: Be patient. One of the biggest mistakes new writers make, time after time, is to rush to get published. Make sure your work is the best it could possibly be before you even consider sending it to an agent, a publisher or publish it yourself. You must make sure it is correctly edited and presented. If it takes three years then so what?

DV: Completely off-topic question: If you could time travel (either backward or forward) where would you like to go and why?

cover for just add spiceCW: I’m a complete Francophile. I speak pretty good French and used to live and work in Paris. If I could time travel, I’d love to go to Paris for the 1889 World’s Fair. I would like to join all the thousands of people who walked up the 1,710 steps for the first time then experience the wonder of the whole Exposition.

DV: Wouldn’t that be cool? Thanks so much for being here, Carol. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you. If you’d like to find out more about Carol and her work, you’ll find links at the end of this post. But first, here’s a teaser from her latest release, Love Hurts:

Description:

Love does not always result in ‘happy ever after’. It is a powerful emotion that, in the hands of a damaged soul, can be all-consuming, dangerous and even lethal.

In this collection of short stories—some dark, some lighthearted—written by award-winning author Carol E. Wyer, we discover what happens when love takes over.

Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions.

EXCERPT:

Blind Love

Estelle grabbed the inside of her soft, upper, left arm, pinched it firmly and swore quietly. She breathed in deeply and checked her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Her corkscrew curls tumbled in all directions. Her hair had a renewed lustre. It looked distinctly coppery in this light, with soft highlights of blonde. It had never looked so good. Her eyes sported grubby, smudged, mascara circles, but not even these could detract from the glow emanating from her.  A smile stretched her slightly swollen lips and stretched further as she recalled how they had become swollen. No, she wasn’t dreaming. She had just spent the best night of her life with a young stallion, who, in spite of his age, had shown and taught her things about sex she had never before dreamed of.

Behaving in the most wanton and sluttish way, fueled by the bottle of Bollinger beside the bed and encouraged by the sexy wild stud, who was at least fifteen years her junior, made Estelle feel twenty years younger. Her skin prickled in anticipation of experiencing it all again. She stared more closely at the woman in the mirror. She would leave the mascara. It exemplified the wild, carefree person she had recently become, or had that person always been there, hiding? Maybe she had lost sight of her true identity, having masked her desires and feelings for so long.

She moved away from the mirror to the bathtub. She sat on the side and idly watched water pour in from the waterfall tap, swirling bath salts in with one hand. Had it only been three months?

Her thoughts wandered back to that first March morning when she had rolled up at the Belside Country Club in her white Mercedes SL. She strolled into reception, where she handed in the voucher she had been given. The receptionist phoned the Golf Pro office. She asked Estelle to wait for a moment while they sent up the instructor to escort her to the golf range. Estelle was examining the wall adorned with photographs of various celebrities clutching golf trophies when she heard her name spoken. She spun around and found herself staring into the most arresting midnight-blue eyes.

“Delighted to meet you, Mrs Chambers. My name is Ricardo. I know, I don’t sound Italian. My mother is Italian. People usually call me Rick or Richard. Would you prefer me to call you Mrs Chambers, or may I call you Estelle?” he said in a lilting gentle Irish brogue, making her name sound seductive. He held out his hand.

She offered her hand but couldn’t reply instantly. She was too busy taking in his muscular shoulders, his smile and staring at the designer stubble, which made him look like a movie star. She tried to think of whom he resembled.

“Mrs Chambers?”

“Oh, sorry, yes. Please, call me Estelle,” she stammered, suddenly noticing the warmth passing between them and realising he was still holding her hand. She pulled it away hurriedly. He smiled an easy smile.

END EXCERPT

Links to find out more about Carol:

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Google 

https://plus.google.com/u/0/117914391843880994511/posts

Huffington Post

Purchase links:

Amazon UK Author Page

Amazon US Author Page

Smashwords

LOVE HURTS

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords


Which Country Reads the Most?

2006 NYC 96724309I recently ran across an article on eBookBargainsUK that identified the top 30 countries that spend the most time reading. Are you ready for this? The US came in at #22. The UK is at #26. I don’t know about you guys, but I was surprised. Everyone I know reads–a lot. Of course, I do live in the Pacific Northwet. There’s nothing better than curling up with a great book when it’s raining and gray and all nasty outside. But still…

Here’s the list (click on this link for the rest of the article):

Average time spent reading each week.

1. India — 10 hours, 42 minutes
2. Thailand — 9:24
3. China — 8:00
4. Philippines — 7:36
5. Egypt — 7:30
6. Czech Republic — 7:24
7. Russia — 7:06
8. Sweden — 6:54
8. France — 6:54
10. Hungary — 6:48
10. Saudi Arabia — 6:48
12. Hong Kong — 6:42
13. Poland — 6:30
14. Venezuela — 6:24
15. South Africa — 6:18
15. Australia — 6:18
17. Indonesia — 6:00
18. Argentina — 5:54
18. Turkey — 5:54
20. Spain — 5:48
20. Canada — 5:48
22. Germany — 5:42
22. USA — 5:42
24. Italy — 5:36
25. Mexico — 5:30
26. U.K. — 5:18
27. Brazil — 5:12
28. Taiwan — 5:00
29. Japan — 4:06
30. Korea — 3:06

Interesting, huh?


A One Way Ticket to Dead is NOW LIVE

cover for a one way ticket to deadIT’S ALIVE! The latest Kate Jones Thriller, A One Way Ticket to Dead is now LIVE. This book has been a loooong time in coming and I am really stoked.  It will be available March 7th-15th for the special price of $2.99 at all your favorite etailers. (After March 15th, the price changes to $4.99.) Here are the links: Amazon, BN. The Smashwords version will be available either later today or tomorrow (The print version will be available later this month. Look for it at the iBookstore, Diesel, Kobo, et al.) **UPDATE** Here is the Smashwords link.

There’s plenty of action and suspense in A One Way Ticket to Dead, and some of your favorite characters are back: Sam, Cole, Angie, and the commandos from Yucatan Dead all make an appearance in this high-octane, edge of your seat thriller. To celebrate (and because I can’t wait, either) here’s a taste:

Chapter 1

 I NEVER DREAMED I’d come back.

I shouldn’t have.

Even though I told myself things were safer compared to when I’d passed through all those years ago, deep down I knew I was only kidding myself.

The deepening shadows brought scant relief from the blistering heat, although the lower the sun dipped on the horizon the more bearable it became. The sun set early in this part of the world. I took a deep drink from my water bottle and wiped the sweat from my face with the back of my hand.

And waited.

I’d changed my hair for the umpteenth time and wore brown-tinted contacts so I’d blend, but there’s only so much a girl can do to change her appearance short of surgery. Thanks to Quinn and his lies, the men who had tried to kill me thought I was dead. For now. The ruse wouldn’t last long, not if someone from the old days got curious about the new American woman in town.

No sense lingering longer than I had to. Find the stash if it was still there, then get the hell out of Mexico.

The tiny house on the even smaller lot looked like the owner had lost interest and decided to let nature take its course. Dirt-green vines strangled the walls as if they were trying to squeeze the last drop of moisture from the filthy stucco. The cracked and faded flower pots flanking the walkway grew dirt in profusion, their long-dead occupants a distant memory. Two lime trees in the side yard still shaded my target. The ground looked like it hadn’t been disturbed in all the time I’d been gone.

If my luck held.

I’d spent the day and evening before casing the place, watching for signs of life. The house appeared abandoned. How much longer could I stay without arousing suspicion? More time than absolutely necessary in Los Otros made me nervous, and I itched to get the deed done.

My stomach growled as I walked back to the rental. With a loan from Luis, my contact in the Drug Enforcement Administration, I’d chosen an unassuming Nissan Versa with plenty of dings and scratches. I told him I needed to find someone before going back to the States now that Roberto Salazar was dead. At first Luis had argued, asking why I’d even consider staying in Mexico, but finally relented when I told him I owed my life to this person. Nothing he said would change my mind.

Memories of the old man who’d saved me from being gunned down in the street eleven years before flooded my mind. Oggie. Vincent Anaya’s right-hand guy, Frank Lanzarotti, put a bullet in him as we left Oggie’s house. I’d never forgiven him and felt grim satisfaction when Frank had been shot. This final trip through cartel-country wasn’t only about the money.

I got in the car and turned on the air while I ate the now-cold tamale I’d bought earlier. I could have gone back into town and gotten something else, but wanted to keep my visibility to a minimum. Old friends would not be a welcome diversion and I’d already risked discovery by staying the previous evening at a nearby hotel.

Hours later, after I’d moved the car twice and taken a fitful nap, I parked in the dirt-track alley behind the house and cut the lights. From behind, the abandoned house took on a miserable, thoroughly depressive mien. I could almost make out the dark windows and back door, all three of which appeared as though they hadn’t been seen to in years. The backyard where Lana served me dinner so many lives ago was grown over with tenacious vegetation, the kind that could survive drought-ridden, remorseless summers.

What had finally prompted Lana to leave? I tried to imagine her happy, dragging her sadness and the fallout from the choices she’d made to wherever the wave of her life deposited her. All that came to mind were bottles of cheap tequila on a beat-up nightstand and dark, lonely sojourns with men who didn’t care.

Bad choices put me in this backyard of a tiny, run-down two-bedroom casa at the end of an unpaved street in a one-horse Mexican town. I hoped this wasn’t another of those.

Bad choices, I mean.

I popped the trunk and walked around to grab the pickaxe and shovel I’d purchased the day before, along with a large backpack. My idea was to work as quickly as possible until I’d unearthed the stash of gallon-sized plastic bags, backfill the hole and leave. I glanced through the rear window at the glowing clock on the dash: a quarter past three. The post office wouldn’t be open for hours. I’d have a long wait.

I walked along the back of the house to the side yard, picking my way past rampant prickly pear and creosote and paused in the shadows to listen. The wind slid past me, circling my bare legs, churning the dirt at my feet into a dust devil that swirled and crested, and then disintegrated into the night. The breathy hoo of an owl nearby assured me I wouldn’t work alone.

The three other homes on the street remained dark, signifying no one on the block suffered from insomnia, at least not tonight. The houses were far enough apart and on the opposite side of the unlit street from where I’d be working so it was reasonable to assume my efforts would go unnoticed. One of the three boasted a noisy swamp cooler that clanked in protest at the stifling night air, helping to further disguise my activities.

I proceeded to the lime trees and leaned the shovel against the house. The new pickaxe broke through the caliche easier than I remembered and soon the earth resembled a miniature plowed field. Afraid I’d damage the plastic bags or wake up light-sleeping neighbors I reined in my enthusiasm a few inches deep and switched to the spade.

Though not as noisy, the shovel took much longer to dig the remaining depth of the hole. About an hour later, when I still hadn’t hit what I was looking for, worry crept in like a feral cat scrounging for food. What if it’s not here? What if Lana somehow found it, dug it up, and is now living large somewhere in South America?

Well, then I’d have to figure out something else. If it was gone, I’d be shit out of luck. I straightened and took a deep breath, collecting my thoughts. Panicked and wired from dodging death that night so long ago, I thought I’d be back to retrieve the stash long before now. A faulty memory could be the reason I hadn’t found it yet.

Or Lana was dancing the tango in Argentina.

Discarding the tango possibility, I stepped past the freshly dug hole to survey the yard. Closing my eyes, I thought back to that night, the memories resurrecting long-buried emotions. So many years of running, of looking over my shoulder, never being able to live a normal life.

So many friends lost.

Fallout from a bad choice made long ago. Payback, I supposed, for being stupid and young and attracted to shiny things. My fingers curled around the onyx jaguar figurine I wore around my neck. Now that Salazar was dead, I hoped my life could get more or less back to normal.

Then again, what the hell was normal?

I opened my eyes and took in the lime trees, the house, the surrounding vegetation. The yard had looked different back then. Well-tended. Then it hit me.

Unchecked catclaw choked the tree trunks, creating an optical illusion. I’d misjudged the distance of the stash from the base of the tree and had dug too far out. Once again working the pickaxe, I hacked away with new purpose at the base of the overgrown shrub until I cleared a space where I gauged the target should be.

Rinse, repeat. Switch to the shovel.

Focused on digging, I didn’t realize I had company until it was too late.

“Hey,” a voice demanded in slurred Spanish. “What’re you doing?” The rank smell of cheap tequila accompanied the words. Slowly, I turned.

His features semi-distinct in the darkness, the man swayed on his feet, his thick torso and muscled arms reminiscent of a man who worked long hours lifting heavy things. I gave him a half-smile and tightened my grip on the shovel.

“My friend Lana asked me to stop by her house and pick something up for her. I noticed the vines were choking the tree.” I glanced over my shoulder at the offending catclaw. “She’d be very upset if one of her trees died, so I thought I’d clear some of it away before I left.” Not a great story, but the man was obviously drunk, so I didn’t think I’d have to be too convincing.

With a puzzled expression, he swiveled unsteadily on his feet, glancing first down one side of the street, and then back the other way before returning his bleary gaze to me and the shovel. His expression morphed from perplexed to concerned, transitioning to a leer.

“You’re a liar,” he slurred as he lurched toward me. “No one lives here.” He took another step closer. “You do somethin’ nice for me, an’ this’ll jus’ be our lil’ secret, yes?” he stage-whispered, reaching for his fly. I hoisted the shovel over my head. I couldn’t afford to wake the neighbors.

“One more step and you’re going to have one hell of a headache come morning,” I said, my voice low.

“Huh?” He gaped at the shovel in my hands, incomprehension clouding his face. Frowning, he wiped his hands down the front of his shirt, his confusion obvious. He closed his eyes for a moment but lost his balance and stumbled to one side, barely catching himself before taking a header onto the street.

Aye carumba,” he muttered, shaking his head. Obviously unhappy with the way things were turning out, he waved me away, mumbling incoherently to himself as he zigzagged a path down the street.

I lowered the shovel with a sigh. I’d have to work faster, in case he came to his senses and raised an alarm.

Forty-five minutes later the muted clang of metal against dirt changed to a dull thud. I cut in around the spot with the edge of the shovel and then scooped out the rest by hand, revealing a dirt-encrusted bundle. My heart beat faster as I slid the tip of the shovel underneath the plastic bag and pushed down on the handle, leveraging the first package out of its resting place.

Eight gallon-sized bags later, I stopped to take a breath. I leaned the shovel against the tree and knelt down. The outer bags had become stiff from the dry and the dirt and the heat, but remained intact. I grabbed one and opened it, removing the inner bag, which was surprisingly flexible. I flashed on how long it would take for plastic to degrade when it wasn’t subjected to light, like in a landfill. Our civilization would be long gone before that ever happened. For now, I had immense gratitude for the durability of plastic.

I slid open the plastic zipper holding the bag closed and reached inside for a stack of bills. Money in hand, I flipped through the hundreds with my fingers, fanning my face.

Still there. Still intact.

Yes.

Once all eight bags were safely inside the backpack, I zipped it closed and stood, kicking some of the dirt back into the hole to make it look less obvious. Since the house had evidently been abandoned and my visitor had been quite drunk, I doubted anyone would take notice, at least long enough for me to disappear. I picked up my tools and the hefty pack and returned to the car, my heart light. With Salazar dead, even if the home had been on a cartel watch list, it wouldn’t be now. They were tenacious, yes, but that would be too obsessive, even for cartel thugs. Besides, they thought I was dead.

I threw everything in the trunk and climbed into the driver’s seat. One more errand and I’d be long gone.

Goodbye, Mexico. Hello, freedom.


Yucatan Dead nominated for Readers’ Choice Award

Seal of approval from Big Al's Book and PalsThis is very exciting…YUCATAN DEAD has been nominated in the thriller category for a Big Al’s Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Award! For those of you who don’t know Big Al, he and his Pals are professional book reviewers and heavy supporters of the indie publishing movement. Having YD nominated is quite an honor. If you want to get in on the fun, click on this link to Big Al’s blog and scroll down to the Rafflecopter form. Each entry will give you multiple chances to win an Amazon gift certificate and free books ‘n stuff.

If you liked YUCATAN DEAD, I’d love your support (here’s a link to Big Al’s review). There are some excellent books in each genre, so please check them out and consider voting for your favorites. Thanks, and GOOD LUCK 🙂


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