Category Archives: readers want to know

KLAW TV Interview

Hey there! Just a quick post to let you know that my interview with Kitsap Literary Artists and Writers for local access TV station BKAT is live on YouTube. You can watch it here:

Looks like I’m about to strangle the interviewer, doesn’t it? Well, you should watch it to find out if I do 🙂  Interviewer Mark Miller went a tad off script, which made things interesting, and I had a blast (even though I was fighting an epic case of allergies that day…)

 


New Interview

I’m being interviewed on mystery author Carmen Amato’s stellar blog. Stop by and leave a comment–I’d love to see you there. And here’s a big plus, if you enjoy strong female characters, try her Emilia Cruz police procedural series set in Acapulco, Mexico–I have a feeling you’ll end up with a new favorite author!

http://carmenamato.net/mystery-author-dv-berkom/

Happy weekend!


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.

 


60 Minutes: Real Reporting?

Here’s a blog post by author/reporter Sam Quinones regarding the 60 minutes piece about heroin use in Ohio that aired last Sunday evening. As an author, what 60 Minutes did infuriates me and should do the same to anyone who values in-depth reporting. What happened to honesty and citing your sources? 60 Minutes used to be one of my favorite shows on television. Not any more.

http://samquinones.com/reporters-blog/2015/11/02/sad-for-60-minutes/


Writing and the Unsung Heroes: Enter the Expert

BBC creditsHow many times have you watched a movie in a theater and actually stayed through the credits? You know, when stuff like “Best Boy Grip” or “Assistant to Mega Star” or “Star Stalker Head Buster” is listed on-screen? With all the films adding extra scenes at the end these days, it’s almost mandatory.

The sheer number of people required to make a movie always amazes me. The idea’s hard to wrap your head around, right? What? They need that many assistants for what’s his face because he rocks his inner diva better than a Kardashian?

Well, it got me thinking (be afraid) about what goes into writing a novel. Novelism (okay, not a word, but it should be) does not always involve the solitary wordsmith slaving away in a garret in Paris with only a flagon of wine and five-year-old cheese to sustain her. Oh, contraire, mes amis (and yes, that is the extent of my French, except for maître d’. And champagne.)

May I present the idea that it may take a village to raise a kid, but it takes many, many patient and Cargo 3Dhelpful people to finish a novel. For instance, in the latest Leine Basso, Cargo (Shameless Plug: available right now, today! Links to your upper right 🙂 ) I was unsure how many containers I could stack on a container ship, and how big of a ship I was going to need for some pivotal scenes. I began my search online, of course, but if you’ve ever looked for something on the interwebz, you know it can leave a LOT to be desired. Mainly, is the source valid? Can I believe what I’m reading? Are there extenuating circumstances I need to be aware of?

First level of twistlocks on a containership deckEnter The Expert. For this particular subject I was able to check in with my brother-in-law, Brian, who spent many years as a merchant marine aboard container ships sailing to points hither and yon. He steered me toward the perfect sized ship and corrected several of my assumptions about safety and security on board. Of course, actually knowing the expert is a plus, but I could have also called or emailed a shipping company and asked to speak with someone who would be willing to answer my questions. Most folks are happy to talk about their work, and some even enjoy helping an author out.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, writing Cargo was a huge stretch for me (as was A One Way Ticket to Dead—more about that later) but the perfect expert uncannily appeared at every stage of the book. The story deals with trafficking—human, ivory, endangered species, you name it—and sheds light on the dark, disturbing underbelly of the criminal world. Since I’ve written about the subject before, I have a crap-load (scientific term) of information on human trafficking, but when it came to smuggling, ivory poaching, Thailand, Africa, snipers, etc. I needed to turn to far more knowledgeable people.

Okay, confession time here. I set Cargo in Tanzania instead of Kenya or Democratic Republic of the Congo or New Jersey because I have a good friend who lives there. Mike has been an invaluable resource and has given me a resident’s perspective, ramping up the believability factor. The insider angle combined with hours of research has hopefully made the sections of the book set in Africa much more realistic than I could have ever done on my own. I mean, did you know that when a hyena crunches through bones it sounds similar to someone eating popcorn?Hyene amneville

Yeah. You don’t hear that every day.

Another challenge to writing this novel (and the Leine Basso series in general) is that I have not been trained as an assassin, nor have I ever killed anyone.

I know. Shocking.

In yet another spooky cool, writer-geek moment, I reconnected with an earlier contact that had served in Special Forces and now trains Special Ops. The first time I worked with him was on Yucatán Dead (I’ll refer to him as Special Forces Dude, or SFD). I’d decided to create an ex-SF operative who was helping vigilante groups fight the Mexican drug cartels, except I didn’t have a contact in that arena.

Until Zumba.

Suffice it to say, a writer friend introduced us (and yes, Zumba was involved), and SFD agreed to read the scenes I was unsure about and give me feedback. The character of Quinn and his group of soldiers is based on his detailed comments, as are the scenes involving them. Needless to say, I think they are some of the best characters and scenes I’ve written.

Then came A One Way Ticket to Dead. Wow—did I have help with that book.

cover for A One Way Ticket to DeadThe novel began as a Kate Jones/DEA/FBI thriller. I reconnected with Gary, a retired DEA supervisor from Texas who had rescued me from making some truly horrible mistakes in Bad Spirits. In the course of discussing several scenes involving my drug lord character, he suggested I use steganography which became a major plot point in the book. I’d also been introduced by a writer friend to another LE adviser for the FBI scenes, so I had that angle covered. Then I ran a gun scene past SFD, and he suggested I bring Quinn back and have Kate help with recon, exponentially upping the stakes.

Well, yeah.

So I learned about HALO jumps, extractions, how to do reconnaissance the SF way, and all sorts of amazingly cool stuff, ripping open my inner warrior—which, relatively speaking, I never knew existed. Being the amazing teacher that he is, SFD uses PowerPoint presentations to explain tricky concepts, ensuring that I understand. The visuals go a long way toward helping me write scenes.military dog w chute

There’s nothing worse than not knowing what the hell I’m writing about. To be honest it keeps me up at night. I want the best possible experience for the reader and getting details wrong prevents that from happening. There is so much I don’t know. Having access to people who do is an amazing resource and reduces the cost of therapy.

In Cargo there’s a scene where Leine reverts to her old ways. Quelle surprise (and you thought I wouldn’t find another place to insert my limited French 😀 ). As it involved taking someone out with a sniper rifle, I wanted authenticity. And yes, I’ve used a rifle, but have never been a sniper. Turns out, SFD had it covered. He also tweaked the big gunfight scene at the end. Surprisingly, I’d gotten a lot of it right.

sniper rifleWell, when you consider all the help I’ve received, maybe it’s not so surprising.

Along with several kick-ass alpha and beta readers (one of whom is turning out to be a fantastic developmental editor), a truly supportive critique group, and a flat-out sterling editor, I’m so grateful to the generous people who have shared their time and knowledge with me. Because of them I’m able to craft exactly the stories I envision, and I can’t thank them enough. As others have said before, writing a novel is not a solitary endeavor.

How about you? Writers, what types of experts have you worked with? Readers, how much does it matter to you that the writer gets the details right?


How to Respond if Someone Holds a Gun to Your Head

P14-45 handgun Since I write novels dealing with guns and criminals, I’m always looking for no-nonsense advice from professionals (law enforcement officers specifically, although interviewing a criminal via email would certainly be interesting).

I just re-read an article with a wealth of information regarding what to do if you’re ever in a situation where someone is holding a gun to your head. Whether you’re writing a scene or are interested in what to do if it really happens, here’s a link to a post by former law enforcement dealing with that specific scenario. I especially enjoyed his snark about wearing stilettos and shrink-wrap clothing…


Readers Want to Know…Yucatan Peninsula

Lately, I’ve gotten emails from readers asking how I came up with some of the scenes in Yucatan Dead and thought it would be fun to post the photographs that inspired them from my latest trip to Mexico. I’ve found actually traveling and researching a specific area and noting the sights, sounds, smells, and general feel of a place works wonders on my imagination and lends more credibility to the scenes.

Ek Balam

At the ruins of Ek’ Balam– a true Indiana Jones moment…

Before I left on the trip I’d been writing what I thought was going to be a mystery with my character, Kate Jones. This trip was supposed to be for researching a future novel. But Mexico changed all that.

And, as I’ve learned, you don’t argue with Mexico.

So, my mystery turned into a full-on thriller about the ruthless drug cartels that have destabilized so much of that country. Since I’m a novelist and basically lie for a living, I made up a group of off the grid commandos working deep in the jungle, fighting the cartels. Little did I know at the time, but groups of locals had steadily begun taking up arms against the cartels. Some of these groups have been backed/trained by the CIA and/or the DEA, as well as the Mexican government. Some continue to operate clandestinely. Many are now being hunted by the cartels, and the number of people from several ‘hot’ areas in Mexico who are requesting asylum in the United States has skyrocketed. Although there are still several places deemed by the State Department as safe to travel in Mexico, obviously, there are some areas you should avoid. Driving through Sonora and Sinaloa in an old jeep in the middle of a scathing hot September would be one of them 🙂

El Castillo

El Castillo at Chichen Itza

Back to the trip: in the book, I gave one of the drug cartels Kate ends up fighting against the name of El Castillo, which is the name of one of the main structures at the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Visitors are no longer allowed to climb the pyramid after someone fell to their death a few years back, but it’s still mighty impressive to look at.

There’s a scene where Kate stumbles upon an undiscovered Maya site (of which there are said to be hundreds in Mexico and Guatemala) which had a cenote, or fresh water spring hidden beneath decades of jungle growth.

photo of jungle

It’s a jungle out there…

If you look closely, you’ll see an ancient wall underneath all that vegetation…

photo of hacienda

Hacienda

While inland, I stayed at a historic hacienda built on top of an ancient Maya site by the Spaniards in 1523. These Spaniards went so far as to use the stones of a Maya temple for its walls (the hacienda is now run as an eco-tourism resort managed by Maya). In Yucatan Dead, Kate is kidnapped and taken to a hacienda deep in the jungle to meet her nemesis, Roberto Salazar. The description of the place grew from my experience while at the hacienda, and my jumping off point was the entrance (note the brick wall–these were ancient Maya building materials, most likely from the temple that had stood there centuries before).

Hands-down, my favorite places were the ancient Maya archaeological sites of Ek’ Balam and Coba (Chichen Itza and Tulum were pretty fantastic, too, but sooo crowded, it was hard to get a good feel for them). The showdown between Kate and Salazar takes place at a fictitious Maya site that I based on a combination of them all. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of Ek’ Balam, one of the most recently discovered sites on the peninsula (yes, those are my hiking shoes):

photo of Ek' Balam

The ruins at Ek’ Balam

The next picture is where I got the idea for the entrance to the temple at the top of the pyramid. This is called the Temple of the Jaguar, and is located on the tallest pyramid at the site. You can still climb this structure as well as the rest of the buildings, although I’m not sure how long that will be true. More and more people are discovering the site and the impact of all those tourists on the ancient structures is growing.

Photo of Temple of the Jaguar

Temple of the Jaguar (Ek’ Balam)

Roughly translated, Ek’ Balam means black jaguar, or bright star jaguar, and the big cat figures prominently in Yucatan Dead. In the photo above, the teeth along the bottom form the lower jaw, depicting the open mouth of a jaguar.

photo of carved jaguar

Carving of a jaguar

There are carvings of winged beings, some sculpted with a distinctly smaller arm, allowing for the Maya belief that people born with physical differences had special powers.

picture of winged beings at ek' balam

Nohoc Mul

Nohoc Mul

This picture is of the pyramid at Coba, which you can still climb (as of 2013). It’s the tallest pyramid on the peninsula (138 feet) and when you’re at the top you can see dozens of mounds in the distance that are thought to be undiscovered ancient Maya sites. The view from the top is fantastic, to say the least, and was one of the high points of the trip.

A structure with a small room sits at the top of the pyramid, with a carving on the outside depicting the Descending God, an upside down dude with a helmet. He’s also referred to as the Honey God, since honey was one of Coba’s main trade products. No one really knows who or what he represents, but that’s their best guess.

An interesting tidbit: many of these sites are connected by what are called sacbes, or raised paved roads (usually white since they were/are covered in limestone and stucco). One of them runs from Coba all the way to the coast and many were used as trade routes between communities.

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

Another structure referred to in the showdown scene in Yucatan Dead resembles the Observatory at Chichen Itza, which is thought to have been used by the Maya for studying the cosmos.

And, of course what pictorial essay about Mexico would be complete without the obligatory Caribbean beach shot?

photo of beach at Tulum

Beach at Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula was one of the most intriguing places I’ve been to and I plan to re-visit the area. It’s relatively safe, although you still need to be on the lookout for the ubiquitous gas station pumping scams and slow-moving farm machinery. Cartel violence has been reported just outside of Cancun, but is miniscule compared to other places in Mexico so don’t worry unnecessarily about going. Victims are generally related to the cartels in some way, either by being in the business or knowing someone in the business. Don’t take stupid chances like walking alone at night, or going into a dangerous area alone (just like when you go anywhere new). Otherwise, the Mexican people are warm and welcoming folks, and will treat you well if you treat them the same. Mexico is a fabulous country to visit and has many, many faces. I guarantee if you keep an open mind, you’ll enjoy what it has to offer.

Author sitting next to Hacienda arch


%d bloggers like this: