Ninja turtle costumes and now PJ Mask outfits for pre-schoolers mark the deep dive into autumn and Halloween, but don’t forget Dia de Los Muertos — Day of the Dead — celebrations, a perfect time for a thriller novel, Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.
About Day of the Dead Celebrations
Like Halloween with families headed into the streets and shopping malls to collect candy, Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd is an extremely social holiday as described in this article from the National Geographic, Top 10 Things to Know About Day of the Dead.
indigenous cultures that preceded the Spanish didn’t want to just mourn the dead. They saw it as a natural phase in life’s journey. Today’s celebrations in Mexico and cities like Los Angeles mix the ancient rituals and beliefs with Catholic traditions.
An excellent website for finding out more about the cultural traditions is available through award-winning author Mary Andrade, Day of the Dead.com. She reveals how celebrations have subtle differences from one part of Mexico to another.
The Maya celebrate Day of the Dead with Hanal Pixán which “means ‘soul’ who gives life to the body. We will relive a millenary tradition with new eyes: ‘We will see that, as you see, I was, as I see, I see!’
Everything starts on October 31st. This day is dedicated to the little ones, the children. An altar must be prepared with a white tablecloth, fruit, traditional candies, desserts, and toys.
The next day is for the adults with tequila and beer while water and salt is used to purify the altar.
Drugs, violence, women all play a part and with Halloween fast approaching things are starting to get messy. Book review by Jill Burkinshaw
This is a fast paced page turner with suspense that starts at the beginning and keeps building right to the end. Action all the way through it is a great read.
We don’t adhere to specific Day of the Dead traditions but one of the passages in the novel that was so much fun to write was this — as the story was reaching its climax on the Santa Monica pier:
Along the pier’s right railing, a street musician crooned into a microphone while passersby tossed coins and dollar bills in to a guitar case. A Mexican flag flapped in the breeze above a vendor’s cart. An older woman draped in wrinkled skin sold sugar candy skulls surrounded by decorative skeletons wearing sombreros. Boys and girls adorned in traditional Mexican clothing prepared to perform their Ballet Folklorico. Day of the Dead was in full bloom. The Santa Monica pier was totally packed, worse than West Hollywood.
Stone moved slowly along the shops while Lightfoot covered the middle and Jake took the railing side with the beach spreading below. Suddenly, a rustle came from a T-shirt vendor at his cart. “Hey!”
Angelino knocked over a postcard rack and darted across the pier like a rat fleeing from a trap.
“Over there.” shouted Jake.
Confusion struck the crowd with gasps and people clutching children. Stone saw Angelino run toward the rides and push through lines. The hot, sugary smell of churros wafted across the deck and filled Stone’s lungs as he ran. Angelino headed toward the rides, passing the rotating Ferris wheel. He looked back quickly and then leaped over a short security fence surrounding the roller coaster.
For us, writing Day of the Dead is also about a new beginning. It’s our first complete storyline in the Tom Stone Detective novels and a new short story, A Deadly Path.
But also, the “bad guy” in the story line that begins in Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, has some things to teach Detective Tom Stone as we see in the final chapter of Day of the Dead.
Nothing wrong with a hike that you want to take with your son … especially when you’re not expecting it to become a short story thriller, joining our growing list of stories you’ll find on our crime books page.
But, alas, that’s what happens when Detective Jake Sharpe pulls his son Darrell away from his video games and takes him on a hike into the foothills above Los Angeles. Along come Tom Stone and Andrew on the jaunt to see a waterfall.
The boys get into some tussles and after Stone leads Andrew on up the path Jake tells Darrell that he knows a shortcut and they can beat Stone and Andrew to the waterfall.
What happens next is what you don’t want to miss in this story inspired by the trails that weave their way into the shadows of the San Gabriel Mountains, where the crevices are perfect for hiding all sorts of surprises.
We’ll be releasing A Deadly Path in a couple of weeks and we wanted you to have the opportunity to enjoy it for free, by signing up for the Tom Stone Detective stories newsletter. Click here on this link and you’ll see a page that looks like this:
We’ll reveal the cover soon. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:
Darrell was a good kid. He did his homework, hung out with friends at the mall, and didn’t take drugs. He just had that I-know-everything-and-I-don’t-care attitude, making the gap between Jake and his son about ten times wider than the canyon walls surrounding them.
“Aren’t we there yet?” moaned Darrell. “How much farther?”
“Not too far. Just enjoy it.” Jake undid his pack and pulled out a bag of trail mix. “Want some?”
“No thanks.” Darrell reached in his and grabbed an apple.
“I didn’t bring you here to torture you,” Jake sighed. “I thought we might have a nice time together.”
“Yeah, I know, Dad.” Darrell looked around.
“You guys begged to come here when you were little.” That was another world and another era.
Jake put on his pack. “Glad to hear.”
“It’ll be cool to see the falls,” mumbled Darrell.
Suddenly, Jake had an idea. “Want to have some fun?”
“We can beat them to the falls,” said Jake, smiling.
“How? They’re already ahead of us.”
“I know a short cut. It has some steep parts but it’ll save a lot of time.”
“Can you imagine their faces,” laughed Jake, “when they show up, we’re already sitting there?”
“Yeah, that’d be fun. Let’s do it.”
“Hopefully Andy won’t want to look for his stupid gold,” said Darrell.
“Be easy on the kid.”
“He’s just so, you know, retarded.” Darrell wrinkled his face in disgust.
“That’s not nice.” Jake headed up a clearing to his right, squeezing between boulders and on to a little used path.
“I know. He’s just too goofy.” Darrell followed along trying not to scrape against the rocks.
“So were you at his age.”
“He’s doing so much better. Just a couple of years ago he wouldn’t even go to a park.” Jake hurried his pace. “It’s partly his age. It’s partly what happened to him when he was little. But he’s growing up and doing better. Mostly.”
Andrew was a puzzle, one of the many thousands of kids who grew up with abusive families and were then put into foster care group homes. But Stone met him during a Christmas toy drive and decided he’d give him as much exposure to a family as possible.
“You and mom talked about that, huh?”
“Taking in a kid like Andrew.”
“We did. We’ve wanted to help where we can, but our house is full with you guys. I know you can’t understand how good you got it, Darrell.”
They climbed up a steep grade. It was just a few more bends to the falls and Darrell got excited about getting there first and surprising Stone and Andrew. They went down to where the canyon widened into a clearing and several tall trees were clumped together like an oasis.
“Hey, didn’t we go this way when I was a kid?”
Jake agreed. “We actually did. And we all played hide and seek.”
Pop, pop, zing. The sound of a bullet that Jake knew all too well whistled off a rock behind them. “Down.”
“What the—?” Darrell panicked.
Another shot rang out and dust rose just a couple of feet away. Jake scrambled behind a boulder and pulled Darrell with him.
And, in the meantime, we’ve had some fun reviews for our latest novel Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, available on Amazon.
This is a fast paced page turner with suspense that starts at the beginning and keeps building right to the end. Action all the way through it is a great read.
Tom is the main character and is a dedicated detective determined to get the bad guys and he works well with Jake. He is a friendly man and has a good relationship with his ex wife.
Angel is the opposite but there is something about him that is likeable even though he is someone that definitely shouldn’t be liked.
So what we have here is a fast paced, action packed thriller with well defined complex characters. It is well written and a very gripping read. Highly recommended for readers of Crime Fiction.
The characters are believable ( and I loved his portrayal of Tom Stone, a cop who is divorced but without all the drama you often find in crime books) and the situations are easy to see in your head as you read them. I felt as though a movie was playing and all I had to do was watch! I would recommend this book to all who enjoy crime fiction.
As I took such a shine to Detective Stone, I just had to read on and on to find out what fate had in store for Stone and if he managed to solve the case. The more I got into the story, the more I read and the quicker the pages turned.
I like that the story was realistic, bringing about the relevant drug issues and social inequalities that come with it. … I echo Tom Stone’s concern of his daughter having anything to do with drugs. I can relate much there. As a parent myself that is one of my greatest fears – that my daughter will be introduced to drugs. I like that he is very human in that aspect.
I really liked the character of Tom Stone, a veteran LAPD Detective. Flawed but real, he’s trying to learn how to balance life and a career fighting the seedier side of life. With his faith, Tom’s partner Jake Starke, is better balanced, but less driven. Together they make a good team.
The books are also available in paperback.
And, guess what? We’re writing a 4th — a short story — what happens when Jake Sharpe and Tom Stone take their boys hiking? Plenty.
Stay tuned here or sign up for our enewsletter — get in on good deals and special previews!
Check Amazon U.K. for those who live in the land of British mysteries and crime dramas!
The evidence was clear to this crime fiction author, taking a break instead of working to write another amazing piece. I had finally sat at my laptop after a day of constant interruptions and decided, before I finally started in on my piece, that I should check the toothpaste.
What I noticed shook me to my core. The tube was squeezed in the middle and not neatly rolled up from the end. Damn. Who could have done this? I stared at it, searching my memory bank for who could have walked into the bathroom and then–
“Aren’t you supposed to be writing?”
The wife. Dang. Always the wife. Or the dogs barking at the mailman. Or the kids yelling at each other or plumbers working on the neighbors line to the water supply next door or the coyotes howling in the middle of the night.
“What are you doing?” She sauntered in, grabbed the tube and–squeezed from the bottom.
“I see.” She brushed her teeth and left.
So I decided that now was the time to return to the laptop and upload an excerpt from our latest crime thriller novel Tom Stone: Day of the Dead on Amazon. Read below the cover image.
EXCERPT CHAPTER FIVE
Sara brushed a hand through her hair. “It’s getting scary out there. The soccer store. The bowling alley. It’s all over the news. Who’s next?”
The question sent chills through Angel. Where he and Sara lived was no secret. “Maybe you should stay with your uncle Robert and Leonna for a while.”
“And put them in danger? No way. If Amman wanted me dead, I’d be dead already.”
“Quiet down.” Angel carefully glanced from one side to the other, making sure they had at least minimal privacy. “Kiss me, all right? Act like you love me.” He ran a hand along her back.
Sara kissed him on the lips. “It’s not an act. Of course, I love you. You know I got to take word back to Amman, right?”
“You’re a good little messenger, aren’t you?”
“Angel, I’m scared, but I’m just doing what I have to do. Trying to protect you.”
He pulled away from her and strolled toward the doorway.
Sara rolled her eyes. “Damn it, Angel, I don’t want to be caught up in this mess. Stop playing games.”
“You telling me not to play games? They strong-arm me into working with them. Try to rip me apart and ruin my life. What I know is none of Amman’s business or whoever the hell his boss is. Mister Goldchains.”
“Angel, you ripped them off. It’s all on you so just give it back. I’m sick of this. Tell him—
“Who the hell’s side are you on? Why don’t you believe in me?”
“I do believe in you, but just tell them where the coke is,” pleaded Sara. “Then he leaves you alone and we’re free.”
“Free to do what? They won’t give me a cent. And even if I do get out, they’ll never leave me alone. No matter where I go, they’ll hunt me down. It’s me or them.”
“Don’t say that.”
Angel grabbed her hands and looked her in the eye. “I don’t want you talking to Amman.”
“Really? Like I got a choice?”
“I’ll make a deal with him, but only on my terms.”
He motioned for her to be quiet. They stepped inside the commissary, surrounded by bags of snacks and sodas. “You want a root beer or 7-Up?”
“Dr. Pepper. You know that.”
A bag of chips and a packet of muffins rounded out the purchase. He wanted to take her, right there, pulling her into his arms and forgetting about the prison fights and lockdowns. But they could only step outside and find an empty bench to sit on.
“How are your classes going?”
“Good. I’m going to be a LVN real soon, like I told you. And then a RN.”
“That’s good, Sara.” He opened his soda, and Sara opened hers.
“Guess what?” She smiled.
“I was driving up Figueroa Avenue the other day and I just got this urge to turn left. The street went up a hill and there was a little house for sale.”
Angel sipped his soda and looked across the prison yard. “How little?”
“Two bedrooms. One bath. Had cute front and back yards. It got me thinking again, Babe.”
“About kids?” Angel sounded less than enthusiastic.
“And I’m sure the place was a real bargain for just under six-hundred thousand.”
“Just under five-hundred.”
“Only a half-million? In LA? Must have some real problems.” He munched on a snack.
“Come on, Angel. I want to dream with you.”
“Look around you, Babe. I’m living a nightmare and don’t really have time for your kind of dreams right now.”
Sara closed her eyes to block out the frustration. She just wanted him to play along, and maybe things would get better.
“You got to have goals. You’ve told me that so many times. You’re not stuck here forever.”
“Yeah and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
“It’s all good. I want a family. I want us to have a baby.”
“But you’ll be too busy working as a nurse,” Angel sneered and opened a bag of potato chips.
“We can make it happen.” Sara refused to give up. She looked around to see if anyone was near, took a sip of her Dr. Pepper, and ate a few chips. “This is about as alone as we’re going to get. Let’s talk.”
“You want me to talk as much as Amman does.”
“Because I want you home.” She snuggled against him, wrapping her arms around his. “Let him have his coke and his money. Let him get caught and go to jail. We can have a better life. I know we can, but first, we have to get out of here.”
Angel was quiet and scanned his surroundings. “Okay, you want me to talk? I’ll talk. But before we get into that, I want to let you know that I do like your dreams of being together, and raising a family.”
“Angel, that really means a lot.”
He pulled her close for a kiss and then looked in her eyes. “Now, listen up.”
The Burbank police held a meet and greet to get close up with the community. Each officer was easy to chat with—down to earth and pleasant in a very tough job. I was impressed that Chief Scott LaChasse had already spent 32 years (if I remember, correctly) with the LAPD and 8 years with Burbank. Forty years plus in law enforcement.
The department also has an active police foundation that’s volunteer-led.
I’d like to find out how many departments in Southern California have occasional get-togethers. I’m sure it varies a lot. Conversations are helpful to have as we’ve portrayed Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe as quite down-to-earth. In fact, in Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, Jake plans a Halloween party with his church.
It’s important to get away from behind the computer screen and chat, get to know people, and appreciate who they are in order to get past the cliché. Police are appreciated and yet feared and sometimes loathed because they have to enforce the law. Not an easy thing to do.
Jake came back to the bodies and noticed a bloody stub where each man had his little finger cut off. He fought a wave of repulsion as he pictured them not just being shot, but deliberately disfigured.
“I see somebody has a sense of humor.”
The abrupt comment shook Jake from his thoughts. His partner Tom Stone arrived on the scene and pointed to a large poster hanging on the wall that read Ghoooulll! showing a Day of the Dead skeleton dressed as a soccer player scoring a goal.
“Maybe the attacker didn’t like the pun,” said Jake. “Glad to see that you finally made it. I’m on the verge of solving this and was getting ready to take all the credit.”
“I wouldn’t mind if you had it wrapped up.” Stone surveyed the area around the corpses.
“Where you been?”
“Kids. The girls were at my place last night instead of their Mom’s. Of course, Meagan forgot her phone so I had to run it over to her. College freshmen forget everything these days. Traffic seems like it’s getting worse everywhere. Burbank to Studio City used to be a quick run.”
Jake didn’t sound sympathetic. “It could have waited until after school.”
“She needed it. Had to call her mom to arrange a ride or else I’d be playing chauffer this afternoon.”
“You’re becoming soft, Stone.” Jake spoke in a low voice as he knelt alongside the dead men. “Or should I say, domesticated? Speaking of which, how’s Alisha?”
Stone changed the subject. “Maybe we should just talk about this.” He motioned to the corpses. “What happened? And to answer your question, Alisha’s fine. I just wish we could find more time to see each other. Getting more than a quick date with her has been almost impossible.”
“I’ll be glad to offer advice. Being a black man and married, I think I’m an expert on women of color.”
“No man is an expert when it comes to women, regardless of their color. But if I need your advice, I’ll ask.” Stone looked closely at the dead bodies. “Do we know who these guys are?”
“They owned the store. Father and son.”
“Any ideas who didn’t like them?”
Jake wrinkled a brow. “Haven’t gotten that far. The money’s not been touched so the assailant, or assailants, didn’t want cash. And the credit card receipts are neatly tucked away.”