Category Archives: new book

A Killing Truth

FINALLY. A Killing Truth, the Leine Basso thriller prequel I’ve been working on, is DONE FINISHED, edited, and has a nifty new cover! 

cover for A Killing Truth

I especially like that the designer used an image of Amsterdam for the background, but also that he nailed the characters: Leine (before she was Leine Basso) is in her mid-twenties and working as an assassin for the Agency. The model is definitely younger than the one used in the other four covers, and I think does a good job of representing her at that age. The guy on the cover is The Frenchman, a ruthless arms dealer mentioned in Serial Date and The Body Market, and the reason she now hates tattoos. And yes, I explain why in the book 🙂

Another character who makes an appearance is her lover and fellow assassin, Carlos. If you read Serial Date, you know what happened to that relationship, but I go into quite a bit more detail in A Killing Truth. Her daughter, April, makes an appearance, as does Leine’s scumbag of a boss, Eric. There are a couple of revelations that I didn’t mention in the other books, which explains their long-running animosity toward each other.

You’ll just have to read it to find out 😀

If you’re new to the series, A Killing Truth is a great place to start, and if you’ve already been introduced to the characters I mention above, then you’re in for a helluva ride. Even if you think you know what’s going to happen…

A Killing Truth is available for preorder for $0.99* on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available everywhere on March 24. I’m also going to be running a GoodReads giveaway for signed print copies soon, and will post here as soon as that happens.

If you’d like to be the first to find out about new books and special offers, why not hop over and join my Readers’ List? The response to my last newsletter broke my email yesterday 😛 , but I believe it’s all cleared up now, LOL.

Here’s the description:

A deadly assassin. A perpetual target. A double-cross she never saw coming…

They say the truth will set you free, but what if it kills you first?

Before serial killers and drug cartels, Leine faced the ultimate betrayal…

Leine eliminates terrorists for a living. After a routine assassination almost gets her killed, she chalks it up to a fluke. Her lover and fellow assassin, Carlos, has another idea altogether. He thinks their boss is setting them up for a fall.

When Carlos goes missing and a bombing thwarts another mission, Leine suspects the stakes are far higher than she could ever imagine, and wonders if the man in charge might have it in for her after all.

A Killing Truth is the prequel to the award-winning Leine Basso thriller series of crime novels. If you like no-nonsense heroines, page-turning plots, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love D.V. Berkom’s tension-filled series

 

*Price good through Sunday, April 3, when it will increase to $3.99.

 


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…

 

 


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 😀


And…We Have Lift-off!

The Body Market_wbrdrenhancedEXCITEMENTE! 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 dvb@dvberkom.com 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 🙂

Amazon: http://bit.ly/bodymkt

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/bodymktBN

iBooks:   http://bit.ly/thebodymktiBooks

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/bodymktSW

KOBO:   http://bit.ly/bodymktKOBO

Have a GREAT weekend!

 

 


The Body Market: Prepare to Launch

Cover for The Body Market

I’m ecstatic to announce that The Body Market is now available for pre-order on Amazon at the SPECIAL PRE-ORDER price of $ .99 (iBooks, BN, KOBO coming soon) After release day (January 8) the price goes up to $3.99, so get yours today 😀

You’re welcome.

Holy crap is getting a book ready for publication a LOT of work. Like anything painful, you forget in the interim how much hard work each book takes. Fun, yes, but a helluva lot of details. Not only do you have to keep track of the twisty plot and sub-plots, and all those pesky character details, but once all the writing’s done, there’s an effing checklist you have to go over (and over) in order to get your ducks in a row to publish.

Especially when you’re attempting a pre-order. As we all pretty well know by now, I am NOT a patient woman. Waiting for much of anything drives me to drink (short drive) and I will do anything, ANYTHING to keep from having to do so. The microwave is my best friend and I’m known for finishing dinner waaaay before anyone else at the table. (Okay, that may be a holdover from when I worked in the restaurant industry. There’s only so much time to take a break so you can stuff food into your mouth during a busy shift.) So why the hell did I decide to do a pre-order?

I have no idea. It sounded like fun at the time.

Ah, the halcyon days when I thought all I had to do to when I wrote The End was to make sure the book was edited, dream up a description and a suitable cover, format it so it would work in Smashword’s meatgrinder, do a couple of blog posts, and voila! Published book!

Now? Not so much. As they say, the more you know, the more you know.

Ack.

So now, in addition to stuff like work with my (awesome) editor, create a cover, write the description and tagline, and format the eBook, I get to:

  1. update the back matter in all of my other books with links to the new title–on Amazon, Smashwords, BN, etc.;
  2. re-format my other books because I’m doing things a little differently now, and want to be consistent (which I’m beginning to think is HIGHLY overrated);
  3. change covers in the series to more effectively ‘brand’ them (don’t you just hate the word brand? These are not steers, for crying out loud);
  4. get my newsletter ready and generate coupons, write copy, etc. (you too can participate in coupon therapy: join my newsletter and I’ll send you exclusive subscriber stuff, too! The next one’s due out Saturday…)
  5. work on blog posts and contact virtual book tour companies to set up something because, you know, I’m actually ahead of the game this time. Sort of… ;
  6. contact reviewers and send out Advance Reader Copies (ARC) for release day reviews. **Note: If you’re interested in reading and reviewing The Body Market by January 8 and will post your review on Amazon and/or any of the other sites on that same day, shoot me an email at dvb (at) dvberkom (dot) com and I’d be more than happy to send you an ARC in any e-format you’d like 🙂 ;
  7. create a print cover and interior files so the print version will be available around the release date;
  8. Do a GoodReads giveaway;
  9. update my website, blog, and a bunch of other places where I’ve listed my books;
  10. develop an advertising plan of attack–which I should have done last summer, apparently.File:Cinderella - Project Gutenberg etext 19993.jpg

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something incredibly important, but there’s the gist of it. I knew when I went indie that I’d be responsible for everything–in fact, that’s why I  became an indie. I love the whole hands-on aspect of self-publishing and I find the challenge invigorating.  But, there are days I wish my fairy godmother would come down out of the ether, whisk me away to some Zen-like retreat, and hand me a glass of wine as she murmurs in my ear, “There, there, Dear. Don’t you worry your little head. Leave the details to me…

If you’d like to pre-order The Body Market (Leine Basso Thriller #3), click here. I’d be ever so grateful. The description is below:

A retired assassin is called in when a celebration south of the border turns into a nightmare.

Former assassin Leine Basso is hired by a wealthy Beverly Hills power couple to find their missing daughter, Elise, who was last seen partying with her boyfriend at a club in Tijuana. At first, police believe the two teenagers are the victims of a carjacking. But when Leine finds their missing vehicle with the boyfriend’s mutilated body stuffed inside the trunk, and is then warned away by the local cartel, she knows if Elise isn’t already dead, she will be soon, or worse.

In the dangerous world of organized crime, there’s always a worse.

As time runs out, Leine races to uncover the real reason behind Elise Bennett’s disappearance and learns powerful interests are willing to go to great lengths to keep her from the truth.

***The Body Market is the 3rd book in the Leine Basso Thriller series, but can be read as a stand alone.

 

 

 

 

 


Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel

Editions of FrankensteinAs some of you may know, I’ve been finishing up the latest Leine Basso Thriller. Well, I have great news–THE BODY MARKET, Leine Basso Thriller #3 is fini ! Once it’s in my editor’s capable hands, I’ll be gearing up for the launch–right now it’s looking like a January 1st release. The book will be available for pre-order, so check back here or, hey! Why not join my mailing list for updates, sneak peeks, and other free stuff 🙂 ?

As I was nearing The End, normal activity just kind of fell by the wayside…you know, like showering, cleaning, cooking, answering the phone, emails…all that frivolous stuff…and I realized it happened at the end of each book with alarming regularity. I asked some author friends if they experienced anything similar and every one of them concurred. So, to prepare for the next inevitable episode of reckless disregard for personal care and housekeeping that ensues every time you’re close to finishing a book, here are the

Top 10 Signs You’re Near the End of Your Novel…

  1. You go into cardiac arrest and frantically hit ‘save’ every time your laptop screen blips
  2. The cat won’t even bother to come into the office because of the stench
  3. There aren’t any dishes in the kitchen—they’re embedded in your desk and the floor in your office and have dried, crusty green things growing on them that you consider having for lunch because you don’t want to take the time to cook
  4. You realize you no longer have a cat because you forgot to feed him and he’s decided to live at the neighbors
  5. You wonder when your spouse/roommate grew a beard and realize your protagonist has to have one because it’s a metaphor and will make the story so much richer whereupon you comb through your manuscript searching for places to insert the new description which changes the story so much you have to re-read the damned thing again and you’re sick sick sick to death of it and then decide to scrap the idea half way through
  6. You’ve forgotten your sister’s name and call her Max
  7. Your spouse/roommate opens the door and peeks  their head in and asks  an innocent question, like where’s the kitty litter, and you jump down their throat because you were in the zone in the middle of a scene and they freaking have no idea how hard it is to get there and now you’ll never ever find that flow again and don’t they know they just ruined the whole entire book because of that one stupid question and then they storm out of the house and don’t come back for a week and you can’t remember why they left because you’re back in the zone and writing again
  8. On Friday afternoon you think you’ve written THE Great American Novel, and PBS, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon will be falling over themselves to secure the rights to make it into a movie/series/extravaganza/orgy-of-fantasticness
  9. On Saturday, after a good night’s sleep, you know it’s the worst dross that has ever been devised by anyone, living or dead, and doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as an ISIL terrorist and seriously, you call yourself a writer? You’re sure your career is over and your readers will think you’ve gone off the deep end and will tell you to just quit, quit now while you still have your dignity—and you consider it.
  10. You’ve been writing in someone else’s point of view for so long you’re surprised to see yourself in the mirror
  11. You go to the bathroom and devise a brilliant way to get your protagonist out of the corner you’ve written them into and try to take notes on toilet paper with a half-empty tube of toothpaste because there’s nothing to write with and you’re sure you’ll forget. Then, when you get back to your desk, you realize the idea won’t work and throw the painstakingly written notes in the trash and realize now there is no more toothpaste but that it doesn’t really matter because you haven’t brushed your teeth in weeks
  12. You can no longer find the living room because of the dust cloud
  13. You can’t remember where the ‘on’ button is for the vacuum, and wonder where the USB port is
  14. You think Personal Hygiene is a suburb of Cincinnati
  15. You get to the end of your Top Ten list and realize you’ve forgotten how to count

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.


Awesome Authors–Ellis Vidler

photo of the authorMy guest today on Awesome Authors is the fabulous mystery-suspense author, Ellis Vidler. I’ve known Ellis since I found the supportive writer’s group, Sisters-in-Crime, and their sub-group, the Guppies. Ellis is an author, editor, and speaker. She grew up in North Alabama, studied English and art at All Saints College for Women, and thoroughly enjoyed studying creative writing under the great Scott Regan. She also taught elements of fiction at a community college. Her home is now the South Carolina Piedmont with her husband and dogs.

(From the author’s bio): As a child in the South, Ellis spent long, hot days imagining herself an Indian or pioneer or musketeer. At night she (and her whole family) read. From Tarzan and D’Artagnan to Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew, she lived them all. No angst in her childhood. So what did she do as an adult? Write fiction, what else? She loves creating characters and making them do what she wants, but mostly they take off on their own and leave her hurrying to catch up.

Hi Ellis! Thanks for joining us 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:

EV: I grew up on everything from Tarzan to Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. My career began with illustrating and morphed into editing and technical writing. Now I write fiction and love it.

DV: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

EV: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer.

DV: What compels you to write?

EV: The characters in my head—they want to have their stories told, even though the stories evolve and shoot off in new directions as I write them.cover for cold comfort

DV: What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?

EV: Suspense is what I aim for, but there’s always an element of romance. Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer. I can’t stick with the required elements long enough for them to be called romances. For example, in Prime Target (coming out late this year) the main characters don’t meet until Chapter 10, a no-no in romance, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s a love story on my terms.

I research everything, trying to get the details right. It’s an obsession, but it’s also a good way to get sidetracked. One interesting fact can lead me down a lengthy detour.

“Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer…”

DV: Sounds familiar 🙂 In the McGuire Women series, your protagonists have psychic abilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your main characters? What were the challenges you faced?

cover for time of deathEV: My grandmother was psychic. I think hers was considered telepathy. She knew when any of her family was ill or injured, no matter where they were. I was there and saw it, so I know it was real. After Haunting Refrain came out, I found out her brother had the same ability. Psychic ability has always fascinated me, in spite of the charlatans. One of my cousins has some of it; however, none of the family “gift” passed to me.

DV: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?

EV: Yes, they do work their way in, but I alter them to fit the story. My main characters tend to like what I like and experience many of the same things. In Cold Comfort, Claire is with Riley in a small plane. The events of the flight and the storm actually happened to me and my husband—proof that ignorance is bliss.

DV: What are you currently working on?

EV: I just approved my first audio book, Time of Death (Note: see link at end of interview) Haunting Refrain will be out next month. I have two terrific narrators and can’t wait for the books to be released. Also, I’m trying hard to wrap up Prime Target and get it to my beta readers. I love it, but the story is different, and I don’t know how it will go over.cover for prime target

DV: That sounds intriguing! I can’t wait… What’s your process when you write? Do you outline or just get an idea and run with it?

EV: Until now I’ve been a pantser, running with a vague idea, but I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.

DV: I know that feeling 😛 Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?

EV: Study your craft and persevere. My first book, Haunting Refrain, was much more luck than judgment. I had no idea how little I knew. It’s amazing that a publisher actually wanted it. I’ve been both traditionally and self-published. There are pros and cons to each. Writers have to decide which one suits them. Personally, I like the control I have in doing it myself and intend to stick with “indie” publishing.

“…I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?

EV: Ideally, I’d like to have several more books out. Ebooks are becoming more and more popular, but I don’t think print books are going to disappear. With the advent of earbuds and tiny players, audio is gaining too. It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story. That won’t change.

DV: What strategies work best for you when promoting a novel?

EV: Goodness, I’ve tried so many. Twitter, Facebook, freebies (I doubt if I’ll do any more of those), ads on certain reader sites… I have a blog with lots of articles, I but rarely post now.

Luck, timing, and word of mouth are the best, and you have no control over any of those things.

“It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story.”

DV: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go and why?

EV: I wouldn’t give up electricity, hot water, the microwave, or the Internet. I like my creature comforts. 🙂  I’d probably go back to my twenties (a long time ago) and get serious about my writing sooner.

DV: Hmm. Good idea. Now, if I could just figure out where I put that pesky Time Machine… Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ellis! Good luck on your new releases 😀

If you’d like to find out more about Ellis and her work, please check out the links below:

Amazon author page:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Blog

Buy links (Amazon):

Haunting Refrain

Time of Death

Time of Death Audio (NEW!)

Cold Comfort  (On sale for .99!)


Awesome Authors–Donnell Ann Bell

Photo of authorToday on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.

Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀

(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013).  Her website is www.donnellannbell.com

DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂

Donnell: Hi, DV!  Happy to be here!  cover for Betrayed

DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.

Donnell: Thank you.  As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived.  All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver.  I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.

DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?

Donnell:  I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished.  In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder.  This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.

I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps.  These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often.  I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work.  That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed.  As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me.  I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story.  If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.

“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”

DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?

Donnell:  Long 😉  I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft.  I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready.  In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe.  In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart.  Deadly Recall finaled in 2010.  In 2010, my agent and I parted ways.  My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit.  I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query.  She said, “Hey, this sounds good.  Send it.  Send Deadly Recall, too.”  I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.     

DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?

Donnell: Oh, great question.  Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.  And I think our childhood shapes us.  The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques.  I’m not a fan.  I also detest bullies.  The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.

“…everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉

DV:  What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?

Donnell:  I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand.  (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard.  This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3.  I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking.  I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD.  I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.  I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.

DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂  Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

EPIC awardDonnell:  Oh, everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉  I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast.  Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?  

DV:  Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?

Donnell:  Probably as much as you do, given what we write.  Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know.  I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure.  I find that every thread I create leads to more research.  Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project.  I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.

“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”

DV:  In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?

Donnell:  I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing.  I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me. 

I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me.  I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.)  As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.     

DV:  What advice would you give to new writers?

Donnell:  It’s so tempting, but don’t rush.  Learn craft.  Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read.  Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute.  Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel.  If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong.  Every writer develops a process.  Do what works for you.   

DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED.  So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED.  I had a lot of fun writing it.

EXCERPT

Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play.  And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off.  But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble.  He was notorious for lurking in the distance.  He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.

“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.

Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction.  “I wish.”

Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball.  “Work on your dribbling.  Be right back.”

Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill.  This was no high school student she was about to face.  This was an adult male watching her team.  He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.

“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward.  “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”

“What if I’m not interested in the players?  What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.

Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun.  She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking.  “Nate?”

“Hi ya, Kins.”

She gulped in disbelief.  She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”

“I’m working.  Is there something I can help you with?”

He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt.  “Maybe.  I’m here on police business.”

An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest.  Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop.  Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.

Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed.  Not that she’d accepted.  She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.

Men.

Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned.  “Does it concern one of my players?”

“It concerns you, Kins.”  He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space.  There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough.  “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”

END EXCERPT

DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell.  Good luck with your new book!

Donnell: Thanks so much for having me! 

DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!

Check out Donnell’s author page or follow her on Facebook or Twitter  She’s also on Goodreads


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