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 🙂
Category Archives: Leine Basso
*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.
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?
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.
Come on out and say hello. March 6th, I’ll be signing books at the Boatshed in Manette, Washington from 5-8pm. It’s First Friday ArtWalk and always a fun evening. I thought it fitting that I’ll be sequestered in the bar, signing and sampling their wines-by-the-glass…
AND, if you’re going to be anywhere near Portland, Oregon March 12-15th, I’d love to see you at Left Coast Crime – Crimelandia. LCC is a reader-writer extravaganza of a conference, held this year at the Doubletree by Hilton, and promises to be BIG fun. And if that wasn’t alluring enough, I’m banding together with three other suspense authors for Criminal Cocktails with the Women of Suspense on Thursday, March 12 from 5-6pm. I’ll be yakking it up with Donnell Bell, Christine Finlayson, and Cathy Perkins and 8 guests in the hotel bar (hurry, only 2 spots left!). The first round’s on us and I hear there’ll be some swag or books or inebriated writers or something…
If you’re going to attend the actual conference, I’ll be in some stellar company as part of a panel Thursday afternoon and lying about how to keep a series from growing stale.
And there you have it. I’ve been enamored of late with the slow-blog movement (read: haven’t had the time or brain cells to post more often), and am about halfway through the latest draft of #4 in the Leine Basso series, so if you don’t hear from me until sometime in March, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a case of crazy-writer syndrome and I’m sure I’ll be back in form in no time.
I thought since I hadn’t posted in a while (I’ve been concentrating on researching and writing the next Leine Basso book) I’d give an update on how things are going after the launch of The Body Market. The book’s been selling well and a couple of authors have contacted me privately to ask what I did differently, and whether I think those strategies worked. Since I love to analyze (not in any real scientific way, mind you) I sorted through all the things I did differently and those I didn’t and came to the same conclusion:
I have no effing idea which strategy worked the best.
Now, before you give me a ration of crap in the comments, let me clarify: if someone tells you that yes, this one thing they did caused Amazon’s bots to get behind their book, I’d have to call bullshit. Only Amazon knows how their site works, no matter what someone says. We can all try to guess what works until the moon explodes, but NO ONE REALLY KNOWS (and if anyone reading this does, in fact, know please leave a comment 🙂 )
Personally, I think it boils down to a combination of things: pre-launch hype, backlist, cover, genre, description (including using SEO keywords, and tags.), early reviews, press releases, advertising, social media posts, et al. You’ll notice I didn’t list pre-order, per se. That’s because while I expected Amazon’s pre-order option to work similarly to traditional pre-orders, e.g., all pre-order purchases rank on release day and give the book a bump of some kind hopefully onto a list or two, this did not happen with The Body Market. In fact, after all the work I did pushing pre-orders, the day after launch book sales on the ‘Zon dropped 70%.
Blech. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I’d never had that happen on a launch before and I was pissed.
And I didn’t know who or what to be pissed at, except myself. Somehow, somewhere, I’d messed up, but I didn’t have a clue what I’d done wrong. I dropped the price of Serial Date, the first book in the series, to 99 cents and advertised the hell out of it the week of the launch (AwesomeGang, EreaderNewsToday, FB, etc.). The Body Market’s pre-order price was 99 cents, which I also advertised with both free and paid options, although not too expensively (in other words, no BookBub ads).
There was one bright, shiny moment on launch day: when a handful of advance readers who had agreed to read and review the book posted their reviews. They were all fantastic and I’m so incredibly grateful for their support. If not for them, I think I would have crawled into a corner, assumed the fetal position, and sobbed uncontrollably into a glass of wine.
I had one more ad coming out the Saturday after launch, a new release post with Free Kindle Books and Tips. I usually see a good rate of downloads whenever I run an ad with this site (not NYT bestseller numbers by any means, but enough to push the book onto some lists). This time, though, something was wrong. I clicked over to the page where the book was listed and realized I’d toggled the wrong genre. Instead of thriller/suspense, I’d somehow chosen history. I sent a message to the owner of the site, but by this time the email had gone out to subscribers and that first flush of purchasers, if they didn’t read the description and figure out the book wasn’t even remotely history-related, had more than likely skimmed past the book.
Okay, so at that point Mark pretty much had to talk me off the ledge (which, in retrospect, wasn’t hard to do since we live in a one-story house). I decided then and there that whatever happened to the book was just meant to be and that I had done everything I could short of dancing naked in the middle of Pike Place Market holding up a cardboard cutout of the book cover and offering free booze to passersby.
Hmmm…maybe…um, nah. Seattle’s too damn cold.
Then, a miracle happened. Somewhere, somehow, something clicked and downloads started to do a kind of a crazy zig-zag on the report page. One day, sales tripled, the next day they sank back to post launch. The next day sales tripled again, but then the weekend hit and sales tanked. By this time, I was feeling all zen about the launch and I figured, hey, sales were sales and I should concentrate on the next book, forget about it all, immerse myself in the world of Leine once again, do what makes me happy. Basically, I adopted a fuck it attitude and let it go (cue song from Frozen)
The following Monday sales increased seven-fold and have been growing ever since. As I write this, the whole series is selling well. I rooted around to see if The Body Market somehow made it onto any big lists on the ‘Zon, but I couldn’t find it anywhere other than the usual suspects like Mystery, Thriller & Suspense>Crime and Thrillers>Assassinations, so I’m stymied. Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe the rate of downloads will last, but I’m supremely happy knowing the series is reaching more readers than ever and can’t wait to see how far the 4th book in the series will go. I wish I could point to one thing I did right, or even a few things, but hell if I know. I’ll probably do a lot of the same stuff for the next launch, but don’t expect it to follow the same patterns. The timing will be different, for one thing, so who knows what’ll happen?
I think that whole unknown is what intrigues me about this business. Predictable, it’s not.
So how about you guys? What are your launch strategies? Are you doing anything different? If so, what’s working and what isn’t?
EXCITEMENTE! Frabjous joy! and all that 🙂 THE BODY MARKET is LIVE! A HUGE thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy and an extra-special shout out to the Advance Reader Team–you guys ROCK! (want to be a member? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll hook you up :-D).
It’s been pretty cool to watch the book hit etailers around the world–pre-orders are a great way to launch (yeah, even when you’re patience-challenged like myself 🙂 ) The book has sold way better in a bunch more countries than is usual for one of my launches, and I have to give the credit to pre-order availability. It’s definitely a keeper.
Anywho, if you missed the super-special low-price offer on the pre-order, don’t despair! There’s still time to download your copy before the price increases! (although, admittedly, not a LOT of time…) There’s even a bonus short story at the end featuring a character from the book. Prepare to be surprised…
Here are the links–feel free to bandy them about with abandon on any social media sites you might frequent. And, as always, an honest review is greatly appreciated 🙂
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/bodymktBN
Have a GREAT weekend!
Wow! The Body Market just got its first ever advance review and it’s GREAT! Thanks, Charlie 🙂
When the daughter of a high powered Beverly Hills couple goes missing after a party in Tijuana, the family hires former assassin Leine Basso to find her. When the girl’s boyfriend is find murdered and mutilated in his car, and a local cartel threatens Leine if she doesn’t back off the investigation, she realizes that she’s dealing with more than a simple carjacking gone awry.
In The Body Market, D.V. Berkom takes Leine and the reader into the dark, dangerous world of human trafficking. I’ve read several of the Leine Basso thrillers, but this one sets the standard for adventure thrillers, and is in my humble view, the best yet. Biting dialogue and gritty descriptions are hallmarks of Berkom’s fiction, and she writes action scenes that are as brilliant as freshly spilt blood.
Leine Basso is one tough cookie, capable of inflicting pain or withstanding it, but in The…
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After the rousing discussion yesterday about tough women characters in thrillers, I was inspired to finish the book trailer for The Body Market. Using the pre-order capability actually got me to prepare ahead of time for the launch–usually I publish as soon as the book’s ready and then end up playing catchup with everything else. Which works in its own way, I guess.
And no, I’m not the most organized (or patient) individual. Thanks for asking 😀
Anyway, here’s the trailer (an excerpt from the book is below):
LEINE BASSO CROUCHED in the shadows next to the hulking metal shipping container. The odor of oil mixed with hydraulic fluid and diesel clashed with the briny sea air. Bright spotlights pierced the darkness casting a harsh yellow hue over the container yard. Leine checked her watch: eleven o’clock. Only three hours before the China Blue Star was scheduled to leave port for Hong Kong.
Three hours to find one shipping container in a massive sea of identical containers.
Lou paid off the security guard, which gave Leine only a short window to find the container before he released the dogs.
She adjusted the fit of the pack, tightening the straps so it molded to her body. She’d pared down the equipment as much as she could, but it was never enough.
C’mon, Lou. Give me some good news.
She closed her eyes and imagined the young face in the photograph. A lead from the trafficker’s hard drive had led her to a seaport currently run by cartel thugs on the west coast of Mexico. She hoped she wasn’t too late.
“Leine.” Lou’s voice came over the wireless earpiece.
“I’m here,” she replied.
“Left, three aisles, number fourteen-thirty-four-twelve.”
“Got it.” Gun drawn and keeping to the shadows, Leine moved along first one aisle, then another, searching for shipping container 143412.
There it is.
Stacked three high, the 40 foot-long steel boxes loomed above her. The one she was looking for was stacked 40 feet in the air on top of two other boxes. She moved to the end of the bottom container and reached for a handhold. Before she could grab the next one, someone seized her pack and yanked her off, slamming her back-first into the pavement. Her nine millimeter skittered across the asphalt, disappearing in the darkness between two containers. The impact took her breath away, the pain from a recent rib injury spiking through her like a spear.
Leine rolled, narrowly missing a kick to the face. She grabbed her attacker’s foot and gave it a vicious twist. The assailant corkscrewed and landed on his side with a grunt.
Ignoring the deep ache in her side and with adrenaline fueling her, she sprang to her feet and kicked the gun from his hand.
The weapon pinged off the side of the container and bounced into the shadows, out of sight. Before she could get clear, he scissored his legs and caught her at the knees. She sprawled forward.
This time she couldn’t ignore the pain.
Winded, she slid a knife free from the sheath attached to her leg. She pushed off the ground, rolling to a crouch as her opponent climbed to his feet, a knife in his hand. He lunged forward. Leine parried with a thrust to his throat. At the last second, he ducked.
They circled each other like roosters in a cockfight, both acutely aware of the weapon in their opponent’s grip. Leine feinted left and rushed forward, scoring a direct hit on the man’s shoulder, slicing through the black fabric of his shirt and drawing blood. He pivoted and came at her from the side but she rotated her torso, narrowly missing a slash to her kidney. She turned to face him as he came at her again. At the last second she stepped wide, allowing him to slip past her. Using his own momentum, she shoved him forward. He stumbled a few steps, recovered, and spun to face her.
Leine swept her arm forward in an arc and released the knife. The blade buried itself in his eye socket, a scream dying in his throat as his hand flew reflexively to his face. He collapsed to the ground as he exhaled his last breath.
“Leine. What’s going on? Are you okay?” Usually unflappable, the sharpness in Lou’s voice betrayed his concern, even over the radio.
“I’m fine.” Her hand supporting her now-throbbing rib, she leaned over the body with a grimace and extracted the knife, wiping the blade on the dead man’s shirt. The tattoos on his forearm suggested cartel affiliation. Leine doubted he was working alone. “Just some unexpected company.”
“Did you find the container?”
Leine scanned the metal boxes above her.
“I don’t have to tell you to be careful, right?”
“No, but it’s nice to know you care.”
Leine grabbed the man’s legs and gritted her teeth as she dragged the body into the dark gap between containers. She removed his transmitter, turned off the voice activation, and slid on the earpiece. She didn’t want the next gunman to come along and sound the alarm before she had a chance to subdue him. After she retrieved the weapons she checked to see that the body couldn’t be observed from the aisle. Satisfied, she walked back to container 143412.
With a quick glance to be sure the fight hadn’t attracted company, she latched onto a vertical handle at the end of the first container, wedged her toe onto a hinge, and began to climb.
As she was preparing to hoist herself up and over the top of the container, she heard movement below her and froze.
“Where are you?” the voice muttered in Spanish, clear enough for Leine to hear through the transmitter.
She craned her neck, trying to catch a glimpse of the man below her. Compact in bearing and dressed in black like the man she’d just killed, instead of a knife he carried a modified sub machine gun.
“Answer me,” he snapped into his earpiece. When he received no reply, the man stepped over the smear of blood left by his compatriot. It looked like he might continue on when he abruptly stopped. Leine held her breath. If he glanced down, he’d notice the blood. With her left foot wedged onto the barest of toeholds and gripping the top of the container with her left hand, Leine slid her gun out of its holster, ready to fire—something she was loath to do since the sound would bring others.
The man pivoted 180 degrees, scanning the area, his gun in front of him. Leine ignored the muscles screaming in her left hand as the metal cut into her flesh.
He stood still for another moment, observing his surroundings. After a few seconds, he touched his earpiece.
“He’s not here.” The person at the other end acknowledged the transmission. “I’ll keep looking,” the gunman said as he moved out of Leine’s line of sight.
She released her breath in a quiet sigh and slid the gun back into her shoulder holster. With her right hand now free, she grabbed onto the top of the container, relieving her left hand. She waited a couple of beats to make sure the gunman was clear and then pulled herself up and over.
The higher vantage point worked well to monitor the yard. When the other gunman had traveled far enough that he wouldn’t hear her, Leine shrugged out of her pack and set it aside. She stretched flat onto her belly and put her ear to the container. There was no discernible movement inside.
That didn’t mean much.
“I’m on the roof,” she said in a low voice.
“Hear anything?” Lou asked.
Leine unzipped the main compartment of the bag and pulled out a battery pack and a mini plasma cutter and placed them on the roof beside her. Next, she reached into another compartment for a fiber optic night vision camera and a collapsible light hood.
She deployed the hood and marked the area to be cut, then flipped the plasma cutter’s switch to on and adjusted the amps. Angling the tip as she cut, the small hole took only a few minutes. Turning off the cutter, she stowed it back inside the pack along with the hood.
Alert for movement on the ground below her, she activated the camera and fed the probe through the hole, watching the video feed on the small LCD monitor as she did. At first, all she could make out were the metal ribs of the container. She fed the line further into the dark interior and a moment later the camera swept past an object. Leine pulled up on the scope to get a better look. The object moved. Two tiny light circles appeared and blinked off and on.
As she angled the camera for a better view, she realized she was looking at a dark-haired girl huddled in the corner, her eyes glowing dots in the camera’s lens. Leine pulled back for a wider shot. Dozens of bodies came into focus, placed side by side on the floor of the container with no room between them. Most were lying prone—except for the young girl.
“I’ve got something,” Leine said into the mic.
Lou let out a sigh as though he’d been holding his breath.
Another girl, this one with light-colored hair, sat up and looked first at the girl in the corner and then at the camera.
Leine’s heart beat faster. From what she could tell, she matched the picture.
“Is she there?” Lou’s clipped tone gave away his anxiety.
“Yeah. I think so. And she’s not alone.”
Leine relaxed her shoulders, relief flooding through her.
“Let’s get them out of here, Lou.”
And that got me thinking.
I write strong female characters because I can’t/couldn’t find that kind of protagonist in the books I like to read. Yes, I’ve read action-adventure novels with strong female protagonists written by both male and female writers, but of those I’ve read I come away with two main complaints: either the character is some guy’s wet dream (sorry, couldn’t think of a more appropriate description) where, for all intents and purposes, she’s a man in a woman’s body and has the emotional depth of a robot (no offense to any AI fans out there), or she’s tough as nails and self-sufficient until a good-looking man comes along. Then she turns into starry-eyed goo, or worse, lets the guy take over the fighting/sleuthing/whatever. To date, I haven’t read many novels that have a strong female action-adventure protag who kicks people’s asses without apology but also acts like a real human being, with all the inherent flaws. And don’t get me started on the air-brushed babes who can run in heels without falling and who are never without their lipstick. Ugh. Who can identify with that?
Obviously, not me 😀 . (Seriously. You do not want to see me try to run in heels. Or maybe you do–it’s pretty hilarious…the things I do for research.)
Maybe I just haven’t read the right authors. And I’m not talking about brainy female characters who use their smarts to solve a mystery but don’t know how to fight or shoot or kill someone with a piano wire, although those definitely have merit.
My question to you is this: have you read an action thriller with a main female protagonist who doesn’t come off as a man in women’s clothing (which could be a fun genre–Transvestite action-thriller?), or who melts at the sight of a good-looking guy? I’d love to read it.