This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Carmen Amato will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Share five things we’d probably never guess about you. Fun, interesting, edifying or even embarrassing.
First, thanks for having me! Second, thanks for such a novel interview approach!
Many readers know that I’m a mystery author who drinks too much coffee, is a voracious news junkie, and loves to travel. But here’s what you might not know!
1. Inspiration for the Detective Emilia Cruz series: I began the Detective Emilia Cruz series after being confronted with an armed drug addict on Christmas Eve a few years ago. My family lived in Mexico City and we were attending the midnight Mass in our Catholic church when the ceremony was disrupted by a man who came in shouting incoherently and waving a gun. We were all shocked to see him make his way up the center aisle and accost our pastor, Father Richard.
Without skipping a beat, Father Richard found a few pesos and gave them to the man, who settled down. Parishioners came forward, took away the gun, and escorted the addict out of the church. Mass went on.
The incident made me realize how close Mexico’s drug war was to all of us and I wanted to show what is going on but also to offer hope for better times. That’s how the first female police detective in Acapulco came to be. Emilia Cruz is taking on murder, mayhem, and Mexico’s culture of machismo in one of the most beautiful and deadly places in the world.
2. Murder runs in the family: My maternal great grandfather perpetrated the first homicide in the state of Connecticut with an automatic handgun. In 1912, he murdered both a neighbor and his own wife. He escaped, despite the biggest manhunt in the state’s history up to that time, leaving five children behind. Our family has never been able to find out what happened to him.
3. My blood-red pen: I write many first drafts longhand in spiral notebooks, usually a chapter at a time. Once a chapter is typed up, I’ll print and edit it with a red pen. I’m a ruthless editor, usually repeating the process 4 or 5 times before I’m satisfied. Yes, that means a lot of typed words and blood and tears on the page in the form of red, red ink.
4. The long way to a thriller: My romantic thriller The Hidden Light of Mexico City took me 10 years to write. Well, to be more precise, it took me 2 years to write and 8 years to edit (see red pen drama above).
I first wrote it entirely from the point of view of Luz de Maria, the female protagonist, which meant too much repetition as people explained things to her that had happened “off camera.” The book really came together when I broke up the initial 800 page (!) draft and rewrote key scenes from the point of view of Eduardo Cortez Castillo, the ex-cop and federal attorney who breaks a drug smuggling ring.
My writer’s critique group liked the chapters and the book came together as a thrilling Cinderella story set against the backdrop of Mexico’s drug wars and presidential elections. People have told me that compared to the recent US presidential elections, the political slogans and sex scenes in The Hidden Light of Mexico City are much better.
5. Exclusive mystery ahead: Readers often wonder how Emilia Cruz came to be the first female police detective in Acapulco. The only place to find that out is in “The Beast,” the short story that I wrote in response to all the requests. It’s part of the Made in Acapulco story collection available on Amazon OR you can get it for free here as part of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. You’ll also get my monthly email newsletter, Mystery Ahead.
In addition to “The Beast, the Starter Library includes “The Angler,” a story based on the true-life murder of my pastor, Father Richard, in Mexico City. The drug addict who disrupted Christmas Eve didn’t kill him; in fact his murderer has never been caught. But in “The Angler,” Detective Emilia Cruz will bring the killer to justice.
Thanks for having me and happy reading! All the best, Carmen
Three cops are murdered, execution style. Emilia worked with them all.
Her partner’s wife is killed in a home invasion. Was he the real target?
Is Emilia the next?
She hopes to be assigned to a task force to investigate the killings, but is instead directed to a new police unit championed by Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and overseen by a shady union strongman. But when Emilia stumbles upon a falsified report, she will conduct a private investigation, even as another murder victim carries a stark message for her.
Home is no refuge for Emilia; hotel manager Kurt Rucker has a shocking secret that could tear their relationship apart.
Unexpected help comes from a frightened attorney and a famous movie star, but each new clue to the murders unravels the one before. Meanwhile, Emilia’s ongoing hunt for a missing girl, a continuing series subplot, leads to the infamous El Pharaoh casino, a place she knows only too well.
What do a casino and a cop killer have in common? Emilia bets on her partner, but his gamble could cost both their lives.
Read an excerpt:
“Are you here to play roulette, Detective Cruz?” Duarte Ochoa asked. “You don’t have any chips.”
“No,” Emilia said. “Just the slots.”
Obregon licked his lips. “Detective Cruz is always a player,” he said. “Whether she admits it or not.”
Duarte Ochoa laughed and snapped his fingers. Out of nowhere, a young man in a King Tut costume appeared. He opened a small wooden box and offered it to the casino owner. Duarte Ochoa took out a blue chip embossed with the golden logo of the casino. Five thousand pesos. Nearly a month’s salary for Emilia. Double that for Natividad.
Emilia’s gaze travelled from the chip to King Tut. Despite the costume, which included a jeweled headdress covering his forehead, she recognized Felipe Garcia. The long hair flowed over his bare shoulders and the high cheekbones were on full display.
The sporting goods store wasn’t doing so well after all. It was too bad that Felipe had to moonlight at the El Pharaoh.
She flashed him a smile of recognition but he didn’t acknowledge her. Emilia wasn’t offended; Felipe probably had to stay in character. Duarte Ochoa dismissed him with a wave and the costumed King Tut went back to his pyramid. The casino owner held the chip between his second and third fingers as if toying with it. “Red or black, Detective Cruz?”
She certainly wasn’t picking Obregon’s favorite color. “Red,” she said.
Duarte Ochoa put the chip on the felted table. The croupier announced that bets were closed and spun the wheel. The clatter of the ball bouncing inside the wheel was louder than the grinding pop music.
“Red wins,” the croupier announced.
Duarte Ochoa smiled broadly as the croupier raked a combination of colored chips to his designated spot on the table. “Do we let it ride, Detective?” he asked Emilia.
Obregon lounged against the table, watching her with that hawkish expression on his face that always made her so nervous. If he suddenly sprouted wings and talons, Emilia would not be surprised.
“It’s your money,” she said.
Duarte Ochoa let it ride.
“Red wins,” the croupier announced again.
Another bet was placed, the wheel spun, and Duarte Ochoa won a third time. The pile in front of him grew. Emilia counted at least a dozen blue chips and an equal amount of red and yellow. A year’s salary.
“If we win on red again, we’ll share it four ways,” Duarte Ochoa said. “With champagne.”
Natividad dug her fingers into Emilia’s arm.
The wheel spun again, the ball bouncing and clattering until finally settling into a numbered slot.
“Black wins,” the croupier announced.
“Que lastima,” Duarte Ochoa said as the croupier raked away all his chips. “When you are a gambler you know that tomorrow the odds will be better. I hope you ladies are not disappointed.”
Obregon let his gaze linger on Emilia. “Don’t worry about Detective Cruz, Duarte. She knows that sometimes you win.” He licked his lips. “And sometimes you lose.”
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