Tag Archives: Kate Jones

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.

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New Interview!

Today, the tables are turned and the inimitable Lucy Pireel interviews me on her blog. I’d love it if you’d stop by and leave a comment 🙂

And here’s her great review of Yucatan Dead…

 


NOR Names Yucatan Dead a Top Pick

Link to NOR review for Yucatan DeadThis morning when I checked my email I found out that Night Owl Reviews named Yucatan Dead a Top Pick! Talk about a great way to start the weekend 😀 Thank you, Josie!

http://suspense.nightowlreviews.com/V5/Reviews/Josie-reviews-Yucatan-Dead-by-DV-Berkom


Interview on A Book and a Chat with Barry Eva

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


Fantastic Review for Yucatan Dead

Fireworks designOkay, so here’s something that happened yesterday that was extra super cool: I got word that the MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW gave YUCATAN DEAD a really great review. Talk about awesome. Up until now I’d never received a book review that had the words “very highly recommended” and “block-buster” in the same sentence 🙂

MBR is a well-respected book reviewer that supports small presses and self-published writers. In their words, “Midwest Book Review is an organization committed to promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.” And, they don’t charge for reviews (unless you want to send them an e-copy).

Reviews are important to writers. They can make or break a book, believe me. So, if you have a favorite author whose books you love, go ahead and leave a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Goodreads, or Shelfari, wherever you have an account. And, if you’re at a loss as to what to write, just say that you liked/loved the book. I guarantee the author will be glad you did.

Here’s the review (the link is below):

“A smoothly woven story of suspense, “Yucatan Dead” clearly demonstrates author D. V. Berkom’s mastery of her literary craft in creating memorable characters and an unrelenting thriller of a tension filled novel. “Yucatan Dead” is the stuff of which block-buster movies are made and a very highly recommended, entertaining addition to personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”

Link to Midwest Book Review’s review of Yucatan Dead  (The review for YD is the fourth one down)


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


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