As his past comes back, peeling away the layers of protection he’s constructed to restart his life, investigative reporter Luc Actar becomes ensnared in a web of consequences stemming from malpractice within the mental health system of Los Angeles.
Luc returns for his second starring role in Garcia’s (Falling Angels, 2006, etc.) latest page-turner. Born into poverty and raised by an abusive, alcoholic father, Luc learned early on how to fend for himself on the streets of LA. After several run-ins with the law and a career as a car thief, he blossomed into a star journalist for Crime Reporter,with a specialty in uncovering police corruption in Southern California. Now, he’s living with Mattie Hardwin, ex-wife of his best friend, in her Malibu home, he drives a Porsche of questionable provenance and has determinedly been putting his past behind him. But when the police come to tell him that his estranged father has died, Luc becomes inexorably drawn into the investigation of mental health records stolen by the elder Actar, and he soon finds himself in the center of a string of murders that threaten everyone and everything that’s important to him. Garcia is a skillful novelist, and she makes good use of Luc’s first-person narrative to plumb the depths of the fears and self-deprecation that lie beneath his combative, trouble-prone exterior. Readers get only glimpses into the character development of the large supporting cast—even Mattie, the pivotal motivator in Luc’s life, is a bit of a cipher—but this is Luc’s story, after all, and readers will find themselves hoping he can skirt the edges of what seems like an inevitable decline into an abyss of self-destruction. Some interesting plot twists liven up the story, and the appearance of Chris Actar, a young teenager who may or may not be Luc’s half brother, adds even more complexity to a man still trying to define himself.
An engaging sequel that will leave readers hoping Luc returns yet again.
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”—Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I have great news. The first (very rough) draft of NEXT OF KIN is done. At 52,000 words, the second novel in the Death Valley Mystery series is now entering the re-write phase. This is, of course, the hardest phase for me. Now I need to tie in the themes that bubbled to the surface during the writing phase. I need to clean up the plot and the character traits and I need to add in the descriptions that tie the place and people to the plot and theme. This will increase my word count before the novel goes into the editing phase, where it will be sliced and diced to rid the novel of unneeded or lengthy scenes and passages.
I will also be working on some early cover design ideas. More to come. If you haven’t read STRANGER, the first novel in the Death Valley Mystery series, it is available in e-book for only $2.99.
Since we love books as much as we love movies around here, adaptations are sometimes what we look forward to the most. In 2014, we’ll see lots of beloved books get the big screen treatment like Mockingjay, The Fault in Our Stars, and Divergent,
To celebrate the start of 2014, I am offering a free autographed copy of STRANGER: A DEATH VALLEY MYSTERY to all my followers. If you would like a personally signed paperback copy mailed to you, please send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy New Year and Happy Reading!
Please note your information will NOT be sold or given out to anyone. Offer expires 1/31/14.
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”—How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.”—A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
On October 6, 2013 Kianna Jackson, 20 went missing. Her loved ones say she would never have left on her own. The reported her missing to the Santa Ana police on October 15.
Two weeks after Jackson went missing, Josephine Monique Vargas, 34 vanished.
In November, Martha Anaya, 28 also disappeared. Anaya disappeared from the area of First Street and Grand Avenue. Anaya left her residence without her belongings and has not contacted her family, or minor child in over a month.
On November 23, and Andrea Nichole Palma, 29 was reported missing.
All three women were from Santa Ana, California. There was about two weeks between each disappearance. Their families are extremely worried and desperately looking for information. Detectives are looking into every possible scenario. The only connection the women have is all four have had past problems with drug abuse and prostitution.
The coincidence is too strange to ignore. One thought is all four women could be victims of the same person, possibly a serial killer stalking women in the neighborhood. But so far, no bodies have been discovered and police have no indication of foul play. Some of the families believe the women could have been victims of human trafficking.
Anyone with information about the missing women are asked to call investigators at (714) 245-8393 or police dispatch operators at (714) 834-4211.
I am hoping the Santa Ana Police can find these women and reunite them with their families before the holidays.
With the public waning on additional gun control legislature and the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting approaching, it’s time to remind everyone that we can make a difference today.
It’s a rather simple idea that the best way to prevent gun violence is to ensure that our guns do not fall into the wrong hands, specifically our children, the mentally ill, and the criminals in our neighborhoods.
So we’ll start with the first one. It’s the easiest to do and the one everyone will agree with.
Let’s keep our firearms secure and away from our children.
Too many children are killed or injured due to gun violence in this country. Every day, children and young adults find guns in their own homes (or a friend’s home) and become victims of gun violence.
Young children are intrigued by guns and can accidentally shoot themselves, a friend, or family member. But don’t forget - not all gun deaths are accidental. Some children seek out a gun to commit suicide or to bully fellow students.
If you own a gun, protect it. Ensure your children and others cannot access it. If you do not have a gun, remind your children if they ever see a gun to call an adult immediately.
(By the way, I’m not against children handling a gun in a controlled setting, as it is important for gun owners to teach their children the proper use and safety rules when handling a firearm. But any access to a firearm should be under strict supervision.)
Remember, if you want to protect your gun rights, you first must protect your guns.
[editor addition] For information on Firearm Safety, there are numerous web sites found on the internet including Firearm Safety, or find a safety instructor in your neighborhood. I will be attending one myself next month.
For some additional information on gun violence and children visit MomsDemandAction
After a panicked call from his best friend, Mattie Hardwin, Luc Actar must return to Los Angeles and the life he fled three years earlier. Mattie’s husband, a prestigious lawyer named Spencer Hardwin, has mysteriously disappeared. Desperate for assistance, Luc enlists the help of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in his search to find Spencer, despite his better judgment. But he soon learns that the detectives have their own reasons for locating Spencer—the lawyer has become the prime suspect in a drug dealer’s brutal murder.
As he hunts for the man he thought he knew, Luc’s history with Mattie haunts his dreams and drives him to the depths of the misery he once escaped. Back on the streets of Los Angeles, Luc employs old friends and encounters childhood rivals to take on the sheriff’s department, while a slew of lawyers impede his every move to save those closest to him from an unknown killer.
The thirty days of November have passed quickly. National Novel Writing Month has come to an end. My experiment to start a novel on November 1st and finish on November 30th is over and I am pleased to tell everyone I have succeeded for the second time.
I finished the novel, titled ASSASSIN’S REVENGE this morning with 50,012 words and validated my word count on the NaNoWriMo.org web site. I am officially a winner.
It was a tough final week. I actually completed the novel two days earlier and short of almost 4,000 words. So I stressed those final two days, as I went through the novel to figure out if I rushed any of the scenes. Luckily I was able to come up with the additional word count and round out my novel.
I know it’s not great, but the idea was to finish in time. As the saying go, no one gets it right the first time, except for God. I had some good hopes for the novel in the first half, but a lost a little focus towards the middle and had to struggle to get the novel back on track. As of right now, I don’t think it’s good enough to ever see the light of day, but you never what time will bring.
For me, it’s time to turn away from fun writing challenges and back to work. I will be focusing on finishing my current novel, NEXT OF KIN, the sequel to STRANGER. I am still hoping to have this novel published by the end of 2014.
Thank you to all those that followed and cheered me on Twitter with my daily writing updates. Now that the holiday season has begun, I can now focus on spending some time with the family. I will bring news next year on NEXT OF KIN.
It’s been two weeks since I started my novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’ve reached over 27,000 words. It’s been a struggle to get writing in everyday, since many days I am busy with my day job. Fortunately, since the daily word count only needs to be 1,667 words I am finding it goes quickly.
The process of writing everyday and not spending any time thinking about theme, plot, back story etc has freed up my editorial side. I know what I’m writing isn’t great. In fact, I’ve found that my characters have done a lot of talking but there isn’t that much action so far. But I continue to write.
When I start a chapter I only have an idea of where it will go. Many times it ends very differently than I expected. I am letting the characters work the novel and have found the characters are seeming more real to me. It’s liberating to let them tell me the story.
I have two weeks left. To put more action in, I wrote a large plot twist last night and I’m looking forward to the devastating effects it will leave on my characters. And I am really looking forward to seeing how this ends.
I am also looking forward to ending NaNoWriMo so I can get back to novel I am currently working on, NEXT OF KIN (the sequel to STRANGER). I am finally excited to finish it. This is what I find so exciting about NaNoWriMo. It reminds me of the pure joy I get from writing a story.
If you want to follow my progress, I am posting daily comments on Twitter.
What is NaNoWriMo and Why I am Participating this Year
National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo, is an annual internet-based writing project that takes place every November. The challenge is to write a 50,000 novel in one month, starting November 1 and finishing on November 30 with a complete novel.
The result is usually crap.But that’s not the point.
The point is to write for word count, for speed. The point is to forget about theme, and symbolism, and foreshadowing and just write for the love of writing a story. The exercise is designed to free up writers from what usually blocks them during the writing process, mainly worrying about the quality of the writing (what many call self-editing).
I participated in NaNoWriMo four years ago after I had published my first workable novel. (I say workable, because the crappy novels I had written before this were beyond saving.) Falling Angels had been published two years earlier and I was trying to finish my second novel, Strangerand I found myself struggling. It was hard to finish chapters because I kept editing while writing. I kept trying to re-write sections instead of completing the novel. I needed a break and with a friend’s advice, I decided to take the month of November to write a different story altogether.
I spent November 2009 writing a story about an assassin. I knew nothing about the topic and didn’t have time for research. It was a story in my head that I knew would never go anywhere. So I wrote it for myself. It was a very interesting story (at least to me) and I recently pulled it out to re-read it. It was very poorly written, but I finished with just over 50,000 words by the end of the month. I was happy I had challenged myself, even though I knew the end-product would go nowhere. I had freed myself from self-editing and understood how important it is to keep the writing phase separate from the re-write phase and both separated from the editing phase. When I try to combine all three phases, I get blocked.
I now have three published novels and am working on two projects simultaneously. Again, I have found myself unable to complete either project due to trying to edit while writing. So I have decided I will participate in NaNoWriMo this year to free myself once again. I am looking forward to the challenge. I might even try to write a sequel to the crappy assassin story I wrote 4 years ago.
The investigative report on the death of Ohio kidnapper and rapist, Ariel Castro was released last week which caused speculation and some anger.
Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison after kidnapping and raping three young women, was found hanging by a sheet in his cell with his pants and underwear down at his ankles. The guards were placed on leave after the incident when it was revealed prison guards falsified logs documenting their observation of Castro, and no checks were done on eight different occasions during the afternoon and evening before he died.
The new report of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections also suggests the death may have been an accident. The report states that Castro may have been engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation and the death may have been suicide.
The coroner stands by her initial ruling of suicide, stating she found no signs of sexual stimulation and is upset with the new report. But with the conflicting findings, a third option has popped up in the media. One that is intriguing to crime writers like me.
Since Castro was found hanging in such a strange manner, congruent to auto-erotic asphyxiation, but not sexually stimulated, could the scene have been staged? There are reports that a bible and photos of his family were also found near his body. Could someone have gained access to Castro, with or without the help of the guards, and murdered Castro as a message to other sexual predators? It is not a secret that sexual predators are at the lowest point in the totem in prison and often targets from other inmates. Did someone in the prison take it upon himself to exact the ultimate justice to Ariel Castro?
The probability is low, but would make a great ending to a crime novel.
October is National Crime Prevention Month. Every October, government agencies, civic groups, schools, businesses, and youth organizations reach out to educate the public on what we can do to prevent crime.
What can you do?
Learn about programs in your community designed to prevent bullying, drug use, gang violence, and identity theft.
Be observant. Pay attention to your neighbors and neighborhood. If you see something unusual, SAY SOMETHING.
Keep your doors locked and protect your valuables. Always be aware of your surroundings. This counts for Internet safety as well.
Call 911 in an emergency, but also keep your local police department’s number handy for those non-emergency situations.
Join the Neighborhood Watch program in your neighborhood. If your area doesn’t have one, start one.
To prevent Identity theft, never give out your social security number or account numbers. Never write down passwords. Make sure no one is watching you at ATMs either.
Ensure your children’s use of the Internet is monitored at all times.
Spread the word. I will be posting web sites throughout the month of October with helpful resources.
Last weekend I attended the Writer’s Police Academy. Every year for the past three years, I had tried to attend but always had scheduling conflicts. This year they moved the dates to the beginning of September and it worked out perfectly. I was so thrilled to attend the event, even if it meant flying across the country to do so.
The weather was perfect the entire time I spent in Greensboro, North Carolina. And I met a lot of writers and law enforcement that made the event well worth attending, even before the classes began! There were hands-on opportunities and Lee Lofland and his staff did an awesome job putting the event together. As a former event coordinator, I know the amount of work behind the scenes and organization required for an event of this size and magnitude. And it went off without any noticeable hiccups.
For a writer, especially a crime writer, these types of events are crucial for background research. But I was surprised to find many romance authors in attendance as well.
I won’t go into detail about every session I attended (as I posted on my Twitter and Facebook feeds), but I did include a few photos below. I found some of the sessions were too general, such as Gangs and Prostitution, which could have been narrowed down to get more detail. In the Gangs session, we discussed the Bloods/Crips and touched on female gangs, but never really got into Prison Gangs or drug cartels and how they fit in the picture. Again, this session was pretty basic and was perfect for an introductory crowd.
Other sessions were taught by very experienced law enforcement and included stories of their professional pursuits. These were great to hear and provided great color to the world they live in. On the flip side, some of the information provided was so geared toward Greensboro, North Carolina that it was not as valuable to someone like me, writing about Los Angeles, California.
The most impressive sessions were the hands-on sessions. I was lucky enough to attend the Building Searches session, which gave us an introduction on how to search a building and the tools needed, and the ability to actual run through several apartments to test our own skills. It was thrilling and eye-opening. And definitely something I will use in future stories.
I was also able to join a select group to tour a local jail. The group was a bit large to get all our questions answered (and heard), but the experience was amazing. I am currently writing a scene that takes place at Twin Towers in Los Angeles, so it was very helpful.
I learned quite a bit at the conference and encourage anyone interested in writing crime to attend future events. In fact, I will try to attend a future event as well. Although, I have a few Citizen Academies to get through first.
Captain Randy Shepherd displaying the tools needed for Building Searches.
Felony Stop Demonstration
Explosive K-9 Reno alerting on backpack in the parking lot.
Explosive Robot inspecting backpack.
Greensboro Hazardous Devices Team suiting up.
Placing a charge to open the bag and “render it safe.”
Assistant Fire Marshall J.E. Coble setting fire to a couch.
"This website is perfect for readers like me, who want to watch their book budget. This website also allows the author to rate some of the content of their book. I want to know before I buy if a book, what is the level of profanity, violence or sex within it. I’m excited that authors can now rate their books for the readers. While we check the price of an eBook when we list it, prices do change quite often. Be sure to check the price before you purchase an eBook."
I’ve read two great articles posted recently on the Marijuana debate. If you haven’t read them, please do so. I’ve posted them below. This is a debate that the country is going to have for the next several years. And it effects you, whether you want to admit it or not.
What is a “Slider”? Sliders are a new type of thief that targets your unlocked vehicle as you pump gas or leave it unattended for just a minute. They take advantage of your distraction and slide into your unlocked car door, steal your belongings, and drive away in their own vehicle. It takes only seconds and often, you have no idea it’s happened until the slider is long gone.
They aren’t looking for confrontation, so they work quickly and quietly. They are similar to smash and grab thieves, but they have no reason to smash anything. Often the victim has left the car unlocked requiring little work for the thief.