Category Archives: human trafficking

Absolution is Here!

ABSOLUTION, the latest Leine Basso thriller, is finally here! It’s been a long process to publication, and yes, I’m stoked. Early reviews have been off-the-charts–a ginormous thank you to everyone who read and reviewed an early copy! (See below for special pricing on the Leine Basso thriller series.)

cover for Absolution

This novel has been such fun to write. I’m hugely attached to Leine and the characters in her life, and can’t think of a better crew to work with. I get emails from readers almost daily telling me how much they’d love to meet/have a drink/hang out with her. Me, too 🙂 This installment pits Leine against her alter-ego, Salome, from The Last Deception and Dark Return. I wanted both the protagonist and the main antagonist to be women, which was unsurprisingly easy to do 😉 

Absolution is the eighth novel in the Leine Basso world, and my intention is to continue the series as long as readers like it. I’m not a fast writer, but promise to give everything I’ve got to each book. Some of the stories came together quickly, like A Killing Truth. Some practically wrote themselves (I’m looking at you, Serial Date). I agonized over Cargo, hoping like hell to get daily life in Africa right, and bring to light the horrors of ivory poaching and canned hunts.

We all know I love to travel. With Kate Jones, I had a blast writing Yucatán Dead after visiting that region. Ditto for A One Way Ticket to DeadCruising for Death, Death Rites, and Dead of Winter. (Absolution, Dark Return, and The Last Deception too.)

cover for Yucatan Deadcover for A One Way Ticket to Dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The biggest influence on my writing, though, is a burning desire for justice–the devastation wrought by greed,. crime, and ignorance knows no bounds, and I aim to do my admittedly small part in bringing awareness. Bad Traffick and The Body Market were my first forays into the hell that is human trafficking, and set the tone for the series.

cover for Bad Traffickcover for The Body Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started writing, my initial aim was to show people how strong they could be. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard women talk about how powerless they felt in different situations (men, too, but the majority have been women–and this was long before #metoo). I was brought up to believe in myself and to defend who and what I hold dear. It was eye opening to realize how many people felt as though they couldn’t or shouldn’t fight back. As a writer, I did the only thing I could think of and wrote about it, trying to understand the dynamics of fear, of feeling “less than,” and then turn the tables and rewrite the narrative.  The Leine Basso series is my way of righting wrongs and exacting justice–she’s good at what she does and isn’t afraid to kick ass when the situation demands it. 

That being said, I do my best to avoid preachy, soap-box-y diatribes–just try to provide well-researched information so readers can make up their own minds. Nothing turns me off faster than someone shoving their views down my throat when I’m reading for entertainment. 

And ultimately that’s what we thriller writers produce: entertainment. The day writing becomes less than entertaining for either the reader or myself is the day I find something else to do with my time.

Links to ABSOLUTION (on sale for $3.99 for a limited time):

Amazon

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble

KOBO

Smashwords

 

SPECIAL PRICING:  

*Serial Date is on sale through February for 99c. Bad Traffick, The Body Market, and The Last Deception are on sale for $3.99 during February. Absolution is $3.99 for a limited time.

 


Vigilante Dead is Live! (And other news)

cover for Vigilante Dead

 

I’m thrilled to announce that VIGILANTE DEAD is now live! You can get it for the super special launch price of 99c (ends 12/11). Here are the links:

KOBO

iBooks

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

And here’s the description:

Death. Lies. Revenge.

After years of running, Kate Jones is finally putting her past behind her. Between restoring ties with her younger sister, moving in with Sam, a cop-turned PI, and working as a PI herself, she’s learning to live life without looking over her shoulder.

Then Kate lands a case that changes everything: a young college student with no history of drug abuse dies of an overdose, and the parents come to Kate demanding answers. Soon, Seattle is reeling from dozens more deaths, all with the same chemical markers. At first, police assume that the victims are closet junkies who got hold of a bad combination, but after someone close to her becomes a victim, Kate believes something far more sinister is going on.

The deeper Kate digs, the more she uncovers about the deadly drug’s origins, forcing her to choose between doing what’s right…

…and getting revenge.

What are you waiting for? You could be reading this book right now  🙂

In other news…

cover for Thriller13‘Tis the season…I’ve joined forces with 12 bestselling thriller authors to bring you THRILLER 13, a set of 13 thriller novellas and short stories, just in time for the holidays. I consider it an honor to be a part of Thriller 13not only because of the fabulous writers who are involved but because we’re donating 100% of profits to fight the exploitation and human trafficking of children.

As most of you know, human trafficking (especially children) has figured heavily in the Leine Basso series, and is one of the main reasons I wrote Bad Traffick, The Body Market, and Cargo. All of the authors in this set are committed to fighting human trafficking, and I’m stoked to have been asked to participate. For a limited time, you can pick up the set on most retail sites for 99c (once this set is gone, it’s gone). Here are the links:

Amazon

iBooks

Barnes & Noble

KOBO

And, last but not least…

15 free thrillers banner

(*Edited link–it should work now!) How about some FREE ebooks? In another awesome collaboration, I’ve joined 14 other fantastic authors and Instafreebie to bring you 15 free thrillers. NYT & USA Today bestsellers, Amazon bestsellers, you name it, they’re in here. Download 1 or all 15–they’re all free (just click on the image above). You’ll be asked to enter your email address so Instafreebie can send you the free books. The address is then given to the author, which will allow them to send you infrequent notices about new releases and such. A fair exchange for hours of free reading, I think, and a risk-free way to try new authors 🙂

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll be back on Friday with another post and a chance to win something. Until then, have a fabulous week!

DV

 


Celebrate with a Book

So today I’m being featured along with CARGO on this cool site called Celebrate With A Book. The blog owner asks the same question of all her author guests: “What makes you write what you write?” Click here for my answer and to find out  which genre I chose for my first-ever book (hint: it’s sort of like fantasy…)

Cover for Cargo


Fun New Audio Interview on CrimeFiction.FM

Had a GREAT time chatting it up with Stephen Campbell about Leine Basso on CrimeFiction.FM… Tune in to find out how much of the material I include in the books is actually autobiographical 🙂

http://crimefiction.fm/d-v-berkom/


Where Did Summer Go: Part 1?

Holy cow! Where did August go? That’s the first time an entire month whooshed by so fast I was caught unprepared for the next. When I finally lifted my head up and realized it was September, I decided to take stock of the month to see why I was stumbling around in a daze with my coffee cup held out as I blinked from the blinding sunlight. (I’ve now switched to straight espresso and wear sunglasses…hasn’t helped.)

Cargo 3DAugust 1st saw the release of CARGO, the 4th Leine Basso thriller. Book launches always seem to consume more time and energy than I remember from the last one, and CARGO was no different. Add to that putting the finishing touches on the new website, signing off on new covers for the series, and making SERIAL DATE permafree, not to mention my parents being here for an extended visit, and the first week barely registered.

The second week of August had me scrambling to get everything into place before the big promotional push for SERIAL DATE, which was August 11th. I was lucky enough to score an ad with both Bookbub and EreaderNewsToday and can I just say, WOW.  The amount of downloads was stunning, with sales of the second, third, and fourth books shifting at a brisk pace (including print, eBook, and audiobook). Peripherally, the Kate Jones series also picked up several new readers. I’d decided to make the first in the series permafree across all platforms, and would do it again in a heartbeat. Sales continue on all of the sites, as do new reviews.cover for Serial Date

Which brings me to the one caveat I have in doing this kind of promotion for a free book: you’re opening said book up to a LOT of people who will download and read it, even if it’s not in their preferred genre, which is great and all, but keep in mind that book is, in all probability, going to start racking up some not so great reviews. As of this writing, the book has garnered a few 1- and 2-star reviews from folks who, in no uncertain terms, REALLY did not like the book. I’m absolutely fine with that, since SERIAL DATE has a boatload of profanity and some seriously twisted scenes. Unfortunately, I can’t control what people think (except in my books 🙂 ) and always expect differences of opinion, most obviously with this book. But, be prepared–especially if you’ve written something that isn’t exactly all kumbaya…

Next, I took a break from August 14-16 to drive up to Mount Rainier with my family, where we stayed at Paradise Inn for two nights. We all had a fabulous time: the food was great,

dining room at Paradise Inn

photo of Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainierthe weather was phenomenally clear (we saw the mountain all three days, which is unheard of–she makes her own weather and her peak is generally obscured by clouds),

photo of Mt Rainier

and the hiking sublime.

DV hiking

The first night we went to to a presentation by a couple of visiting astronomers and it was clear enough to see the Milky Way and several different constellations–we were at the tail end of the Perseid meteor showers, too, and saw a plethora of shooting stars. The next day Mark & I hiked the Skyline Trail and got up close and personal to Nisqually Glacier. As an Eagle Scout Mark had hiked the trail many times with his troop, and hadn’t seen the glacier for several years. He was shocked by how much it has receded. Still and all, it was an amazing visit.photo of Mark on Skyline Trail

A day after we got back from Rainier, I flew to Appleton, Wisconsin to attend the fabulous Writers’ Police Academy. Stay tuned for Where Did Summer Go: Part 2 tomorrow…

 

 


Researching Cargo, or Why I Can’t Sleep Anymore

*Note: I wrote this post about a week ago, before the huge outcry on Facebook regarding the dentist in Minneapolis who killed/slaughtered a tame lion in Africa named Cecil. This is for Cecil.

So I’m researching the latest Leine Basso thriller, Cargo, which has to do with human trafficking, ivory poaching, and various other dark things, when I come across something called canned hunting. For those who have never heard of this practice, canned hunting involves charging apparently crappy hunters upwards of $35-50k for a chance to shoot a real, live African lion.

Now, I’m sure any hunters out there who are reading this are saying, so? You pays your money, you takes your chances, right? The lion has a fair chance of eluding the hunter. Fair’s fair.
Male lion African lion
Um, no.

A “real” lion hunt costs twice that. One where the hunter actually goes into the wilds of Tanzania, tracks the lion with a guide, and then attempts a kill. And no, the hunter is not guaranteed a trophy. (And yes, I know that some prefer to hunt from a helicopter, which I’m pretty sure takes away any advantage a wild creature might have over any hunter. This still makes me shudder, as I’m partial to big, LIVE felines. But I digress.) Besides using lions that have been raised from birth by humans, a canned hunt puts more than one customer with a gun inside a fenced enclosure with a lion.

The emphasis is not because hey, these guys are fenced in with a lion and are in danger, but because there are men with rifles who paid $35,000 each waiting for the lion to move in this contained area so they can kill it. 1 lion + 3-5 hunters with rifles = unbelievably shitty odds for the lion.

Being the inquisitive (okay, maybe the word’s stupid? Naive?) writer that I am, I click on an amateur video recording of one of these hunts in South Africa. It has to be a somewhat humane practice or it wouldn’t be legal, right?

Riiiiight.

As soon as the lion moved, giving up its location, five men armed with high-powered hunting rifles fired every last round in its general direction.

They didn’t hit it. Not once. It was a miracle they didn’t shoot each other in the process.

The big cat exploded out of the grass and headed straight for the closest hunter, lunged at the slow moving, out of shape idiot and wrapped itself around his torso. Even though I knew the end result I felt I owed it to the lion to watch the rest of the video, cheering on the fierce but ultimately doomed feline. In the end, a company employee fired on the cat, killing it instantly. The man it attacked was scratched up and shaken, but alive. You could hear the four other “hunters” guffawing nervously in the background, freaked out that they’d managed to live through such an “ordeal.”

Then they slapped each other on the back for a job well done.

I can’t tell you how furious I was after watching that video (matched only by the anger I felt after watching a documentary on child sex trafficking). The further I researched, the worse the story became. Not only do these companies use human-habituated animals, but the suppliers raise them in so-called petting zoos where tourists pay money to get inside a cage with the cubs in order to play with them.

Yeah. That’s fair.

After writing this, I find that the rage is still there, simmering just beneath the surface, coiled tight and seething. It’s a good thing I wasn’t anywhere near that “hunt,” because I don’t know that I would have been able to stop myself from doing something irrevocable to the assholes who paid $35k for the “privilege” of killing a human-habituated lion, and I’d prefer not to go to prison.

I write about the practice in Cargo, but I didn’t go into this kind of detail, as the book isn’t just about canned hunts. I figured I’d pointed out enough darkness in those pages and needed some balance. People will get the idea.

Like I’ve said before, I gotta write through this shit or it tears me apart.


All The News That’s Fit to Print

Cover for CargoWell, it’s official– CARGO, Leine Basso #4, is available for pre-order! (link is to Amazon–other retailers coming soon.) Here’s the description:

Money—the universal merchant. Anyone can be bought, anyone can be sold.

Anyone.

Haunted by memories of an op gone bad, former assassin Leine Basso travels to Bangkok in search of a missing backpacker. With help from an old contact, she discovers the man responsible for the girl’s disappearance is connected to a violent Hong Kong triad and is the linchpin of an extensive trafficking network—both animal and human.

Making enemies isn’t new for Leine, but making one in the triad is—she soon finds herself a prisoner on board a cargo ship headed for sub-Saharan Africa. To ensure her survival and to continue her hunt for the missing girl, she must join forces with Derek, an ivory poacher who promises to help her.

For a price.

As her involvement intensifies, Leine delves deeper into a disturbing and treacherous criminal underworld where everything has a price.

Click here for an excerpt.

CARGO was pretty far outside my comfort zone (so what’s new, right?), but the perfect contact/information appeared each time I needed it–so often, in fact, that it became downright spooky. The book contains a scene that was one of the hardest I’ve ever written and deals with an issue I feel strongly about. I’ll do a post on that (and other interesting factoids I discovered) in the near future.

I’ve also been working with a designer over at Demented Doctor Design (fitting name, right?) to re-brand the Leine Basso series. Here are the new covers:

Serial Date eBook Cover1563x25001563x2500 eBook Cover Bad TraffickeBook Cover 1563x2500 The Body Market Cover for Cargo

 

 

 

 

I wanted a more cohesive feel as well as something instantly recognizable, and I think they nailed it. I absolutely love the model–she reminds me of Leine: cool and classy, and sexy in a slightly intimidating way… 🙂

Only thing, though. You know when you paint a room a different color and all of a sudden the furniture looks out of place? Yeah. When I embarked on changing the covers, I realized my website was looking a little tired and I did a complete overhaul. You can check it out here. It’s a work in progress, but you’ll get the idea. It is now mobile-friendly and I think easier to navigate. Using WordPress.org was a steep learning curve for me since I’d created the old site with Dreamweaver, but I’ve been able to figure out what I needed to, in no small part to the awesome tutorials at StudioPress.

audio book -the body marketSome GREAT news for all you diehard audiobook fans–the fabulous Kristi Alsip has agreed to continue on as the voice of Leine Basso, and will narrate both The Body Market and Cargo. Look for the new titles on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes in the near future.

One last thing. While completing the final edits for CARGO, I got the exciting news that THE BODY MARKET was chosen as a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. Whee! The medallion is a much-coveted indie award given out by a groupBRAG Medallion of international readers, and I’m pretty stoked. I’ll be doing an interview with one of their affiliates in August and I’m really looking forward to it.

Well, that’s it for now. In the coming weeks I’ll (hopefully) be back to posting more often. I hope y’all stay tuned! Happy summer 😀


A Ranty Waste

Midsummer bonfire closeupI’ve been noticing that more things than usual are pissing me off lately. Most of the time when something pisses me off I write a book. Say, like when I watched a documentary on child sex trafficking and was so appalled I had to set the anger free by writing Bad Traffick. Or when I learned about the escalating violence of drug cartels and how they’re pretty much ruining life for a whole lotta folks in Mexico and beyond and all they really care about are how they look in a selfie on Facebook. And, of course when women perpetuate the whole “I need a man to become complete” myth, or, better yet, when one of us sets feminism back hundreds of years in one fell swoop (Fifty Shades of WTF anyone?).

But lately, there’s just been too much and really people, I can’t fucking write that fast.

Rant #1: Here in the US our politicians can’t figure out how to be politicians, or, you know, grow up and actually govern the country. And, they get paid a lot of money to act like schoolyard dickwads, not to mention enjoying paid-for-by-the-government health care (cue the irony theme). When I look at the leaders for both parties I can’t help but get a mental picture of two spoiled little white boys with snot running down their noses and sucking on their bottom lip in a pout because the other side won’t play by their rules. Waaah.

Rant #2: How celebrities like Miley and Kim and Paula Deen can suck the life out of the headlines when there are people in the Philippines who don’t have any clean drinking water or medical supplies and how hundreds are dying because we can’t get supplies to them fast enough.Or when people are selling their kidneys so they don’t have to live underneath someone else’s squalid shack.

Rant #3: And, the ever present fact that the only thing large corporations are concerned with is the bottom line, e.g. profits, screw being honest or neighborly or even giving a rat’s ass about their customers. Don’t get me started on how most corporations treat the environment, not to mention a whole lotta people who either just don’t get it, or don’t care. One earth–capiche????

And yes, I’ve been a daily meditator for several years now and should be able to relax and be all ohm and shit, but some days I. just. can’t.

The latest thing that set me off was an article about how a percentage of writers in the US avoid using the Internet to research certain subjects because of fears of the NSA spying on them. Seriously? What the hell happened to the proud tradition of writers bucking the system? Of being subversives? Of fighting back? When I read that article it pissed me off to the point that I had to do something, so I went to the pool and swam laps. Hard. I stopped (mostly) self-medicating years ago and swimming is now my go-to release. It took the edge off, but as I sit here at my computer I can still feel a flame of anger flickering in my gut when I wonder, if what these writers were doing was legal and for research, why anyone in the US would remain silent because they were afraid of a government agency watching them?

That’s so unbelievably scary, I can’t tell you. That tells me that Americans are becoming afraid of their government. My first response to the article, other than anger, was to assume these writers were wimps–scaredy pants, namby-pamby (insert wussy word here) milquetoasts who would jump if someone said boo.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my knee-jerk reaction (love the ‘jerk’ part of that saying) of calling these folks whom I don’t know wimps was wrong. I’m a HUGE proponent of fighting back: if you’re being attacked, however that attack is being carried out I believe it’s your responsibility to fight back with all you’ve got. Yes, there are some times when you need to pick your battles, but in general, fight the asshats trying to keep you down.

But this is different. This avoidance of using the interwebz goes deeper than that. Now we all know the NSA has overstepped its bounds, and has done so probably since its inception. But it hasn’t really affected most law-abiding citizens in a quantifiable way. However, when I hear or read that writers in the US are modifying their behavior because of fear of retaliation from the government, that makes me sit up and take notice. Mainly because I consort with a lot of writers, and almost every one of them has a least a modicum of rebelliousness in their bones and will do whatever in hell they want to. Some are nice about it, some aren’t. Some go the passive-aggressive route and act nice but end up doing some seriously un-nice things. But I’ve never heard one of them say they were afraid of what the government would do to them, unless what they were doing was illegal. But here’s the results of a poll of 520 writers where 16% admitted to curtailing their online activities because of fear of the NSA.NSA-square

My friends will tell you that yes, I’m opinionated, but am certainly not given over to hyperbole or conspiracy theories. I understand writers/journalists in China, or Iran, or Mexico being afraid–death or torture is a real possibility in those countries. But the US is supposed to be different. Americans are supposed to be different. It’s a slippery slope to censorship and clamping down on freedom of expression. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but it does give me pause.

I’m really interested in what people think about this. Is this some paranoid delusion rearing its ugly head in response to me killing all those little brain cells so many years ago, or do we need to be a little more vigilant, a little more aware of what’s happening in our world?As the article I mentioned above states, “It’s not the surveillance, treacherous as it is, but that some writers, at least, already appear willing to capitulate.”

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu161337.html#edW4oJ51UtLXA8k3.99
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu161337.html#edW4oJ51UtLXA8k3.99
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu161337.html#edW4oJ51UtLXA8k3.99

Interview on A Book and a Chat with Barry Eva

Old radio.jpgJust finished up another live interview, this time with the charming Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. Barry’s a Brit living in Connecticut who has been hosting authors on his show for a few years now and is one of the best interviewers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. We had to deal with a couple of technical difficulties but all in all, a fun interview! Click here to listen.


Human Trafficking and the Superbowl

Clothespins holding US currency, representing money laundering

Here’s an article I came across on HuffPo about the extent of human trafficking at the Superbowl. It shouldn’t be surprising, but to many Americans it is. People don’t necessarily equate sex trafficking of young girls and boys with the largest sporting event in America, but it’s a HUGE problem. Here’s the post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/03/super-bowl-sex-trafficking_n_2607871.html

What about you? Did you realize how extensive sex trafficking is at events like the SB?


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