Life is funny that way, don't you think? Sometimes it throws you lemons, but other times it gifts you miracles! I'm going for the miracles. You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while, well, that's because I've been busy. Busy falling in love with Mexico all over again...

It was NanoWriMo 2023, and I was madly cranking out the rough draft of my latest WIP (work in progress) to "win" the 50,000-words-in-November contest (I won). The book, Kickback, wasn't coming easily; I had a lot of research to do on Mexican politics, Mexico City, and Mexican culture on the cusp of COVID. I hadn't visited in years, and after publishing Saints and Skeletons in June, I'd started letting go of memories. The memoir had helped me forgive all the difficult events and relive the wonderful adventure; I'd let the skeletons out of my closet. But I'd come across a good story, and I needed to write it, even if I was forgetting the smell of the air, the taste of street tacos, or the love I'd held for this magical country in all its virtues and errors.

And that's when the miracle manifested. Mexico wasn't letting ME go! First, I received an email from my old boyfriend, Fernando (read all about him in Saints and Skeletons). Thirty years later! And he wanted to make amends for everything that happened. How often does that happen?

Fernando and me in California 6/1992

We started talking: hashing out the memories, the joy—and the pain—catching up on a lifetime. (Still all in Spanish—another miracle, I'm learning it.) He'd googled me, discovered Saints and Skeletons, and reached out because he has written a book and wants to write more—supenso, thrillers. But he isn't a novelist by his own admission. Three months later, we're working on outlines for three thrillers, with a new idea brewing. Over WhatsApp we talk and brainstorm—just what we did so well through all those hours of traveling the back roads of Mexico in the 90s. We'll outline together. He'll research; I'll write. Suddenly I'm re-emmersed in Mexico—and it feels like coming home.

We don't know exactly how this will turn out, but I'm excited to have a new writing partner. If you like Mexico and crime, look for the first book sometime next year. In the meantime, don't miss the latest JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure Book 5, Backlash Venom and Vengeance from 'Nam. It was short-listed for the Chanticleer CIBA 2023 Clue Award and won Gold Book from Literary Titan.

Your past will always find you. And it’s going to take everything you  love away. Including your life.

Jackman Quint spent years in prison for his crimes during his tour in Vietnam. He’s made a new life: reunited with his daughter JadeAnne, expanded his investigations, and dipped his toe into the dating pool. Life is going his way until Nader shows up in Mexico City. Now, when he has someone to lose, his past finds him. And Nader is out for blood.

You can learn more on March 9th. Join us at Barns and Noble, El Cerrito Plaza from 2:00-4:00. It'll be a crime if you miss it!

"Ana Manwaring does an outstanding job of crafting a story that both stands alone on its psychological and thriller components. Prior readers will appreciate the plot while newcomers won't need an introduction to past relationships to appreciate the characters and actions that represent international relationships and survival efforts.

The tension is nicely built, premises are logical and embedded into the story's action-packed scenarios, and readers receive a high-octane action work well steeped in Mexican affairs.

Libraries and readers seeking thrillers that center around attacks that challenge individual and national interests will find Backlash: Venom and Vengeance from 'Nam seamless in its action and characters and hard to put down." Diane Donovan, Editor, California Bookwatch; Donovan's Literary Recommended Reading

Don't miss Smashwords Read an eBook Week, March 3-9. All my books are Free!

And if you want to get started now the Kindle version of Book 1, Set Up, is currently on discount at Amazon.

The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures Books 1-4

Here's a little something to sip while you catch up with JadeAnne and Pepper



1 cup milk, soy milk, almond milk, or water                                                         

1 package/disc Taza Chocolate Discs (any flavor)

Salt to taste


1. Roughly chop or grate one disc of any flavor  and set aside.

2. Heat one cup of milk or water in a small saucepan over medium heat to just below a simmer.

3. Remove the milk from heat and add a pinch of salt.

4. Slowly mix in the chocolate, stirring frequently until dissolved.

5. When the chocolate is dissolved, return the mixture to the stove and re-warm over low heat.

6. While the chocolate is warming, use a whisk or molinillo to froth the chocolate.

7. When the chocolate is hot and frothy, remove from heat and serve.

Thanks for reading! Find me and my books through and my website,

Salt Island

Fantasy Island in time for summer! Or is it? From the first paragraph through the relentless twists and turns to the last—I couldn't put Salt Island down.

"Imagine hearing nothing but seagulls and rolling surf for hours at a time. No talking, dogs barking, TVs, cars,empty enough to hold a thought in your head, idle enough to inspire daydreams. And when the shudder of fear shakes you back to earth, you’re still in your proverbial hammock, drinking in the countenance of paradise with the same hungry, cynical eyes. Could it be real, this place? Was it actually as safe as it seemed? Yes but for the ephemeral shadow in my heart, warning me that nothing was as it seemed, asking what the hell I was doing here."  

I was lucky enough to attend Lisa Towles's book launch at a local B & N recently and hear her talk about writing the E & A Investigations series. Previously Towles wrote standalone thrillers, but these characters, Mari Ellwyn and Derek Abernathy had more to investigate. Mari is a fine arts gallery owner and moonlights as an investigator. Derek is a former investigator and police detective who she asks for help in book 1. It's not perfect to start, but the characters develop pitch perfect chemistry, "I liked the feel of his weight nudging the right side of my body right now, as some kind of tacit assurance that the strands of my life, one of them anyway, was still at least partially intact", as they come to trust and rely on each other to get the job done. “We share a deep love of the same two things. Puzzles and justice.”

They are close, but not every secret is revealed. Mari, especially, carries a dark secret, something she's compelled to uncover. Their investigation into corporate espionage and eco terrorism twists seamlessly through Mari's personal investigation into her past. And throughout both, the surprises and suspense will keep you reading into the wee hours—or a sunburn at the beach! Wear your dark glasses and use plenty of SPF 50+—you're in for a hot, exhilarating ride.

Author Lisa Towles at B & N

Book Synopsis:

Having established their new official partnership, the private investigation team of Mari Ellwyn and Derek Abernathy are tested to the extreme with two new cases involving high-stakes corporate espionage and eco-terrorism. Someone is trying to sabotage billionaire CEO Jack Darcy’s IPO deal and reputation, and now his glamorous wife – media darling and entrepreneur, has gone missing. Thryve, Darcy’s high-profile environmental startup, is lauded by investors as one of the best innovators of the decade. But a journalist has learned Darcy’s dirty little secret and is hell-bent on exposing it to investors and the world at large.

Pulled from their Southern California headquarters, Derek heads to the Central Valley to investigate two suspicious deaths from an explosion on a local farm. The deeper he digs, the more questions emerge about what the murdered farm workers may have witnessed – toxic chemical dumping linked to an oil and gas company. A shadow witness is gathering evidence but disappears before Derek can get to her. As Mari considers her next move in a much broader conspiracy of corporate corruption and environmental abuse, her partner’s gone undercover to find the missing witness, and now he’s off-grid.

Mari must reckon with powerful ghosts from her past – her missing father and the truth about his double identity and secret agenda. She embarks on her own investigation to the British Virgin Islands, one of her father’s secret haunts during his time as an active CIA operative, and uncovers details too painful to bear – about her father, herself, and her future.

Secrets can’t say buried forever, but now Mari is alone, exposed, and time is running out.  

The follow up to Towles’s Hot House is already receiving a plethora of accolades. Check out what the reviewers are saying:

The Reviews Are In!

“Towles is a master when it comes to parallel story lines. Readers will love the quick pace and snappy dialogue of this thriller, and Mari is a character who jumps off the page and into your heart.”Literary Titan

“Likeable, interesting characters and a confident narrative keep the pages turning of this crime thriller, in a series that harkens Evanovich, Grafton, and Millhone.”RECOMMENDED, The US Review of Books

If you haven't read any of Lisa Towles's thrillers before, try one! I've read them all. Read my review of Hot House and an interview with author Lisa Towles here.

Meet the author:

No spoiler, but keep on the lookout for Towles' November standalone release—Terror Bay. It's going to be another hit!

On Pre-order now!

This action-packed memoir/travelogue formed the real-life backdrop to what later became the successful JadeAnne Stone thriller series. Starting in the summer of 1991, Saints and Skeletons takes you through the back roads of Mexico, Belize, and the Peten region of northern Guatemala, where author, teacher and former journalist Manwaring camped out in ruins, sampled exotic foods, smoked loco weed  atop pyramids, drank mescal out of the still, skinny dipped in Zipolite, found lost cities, and learned to make a killer margarita. In the process, she also experienced love, betrayal and loneliness. As doors opened and walls crumbled in her heart, skeletons tumbled out and, occasionally, saints appeared just when Manwaring needed them most.

It's raining! It's raining so much, it's flooding—the perfect time to stay inside and get cozy with a cup of hot chocolate and an exciting book. Here are my winter thriller picks:

Re-releasing on January 18th by award-winning crime writer, Lisa Towles, Choke won A Big NYC Book Award in 2018 and has been cited as a"compelling story" and "a smoking' good read". I totally agree. It’s a IUPH reprint that was originally published by Rebel Publishers in 2017. I loved it then and again! In typical Towles-style, this fast-paced psychological thriller is a puzzle for the reader to piece together. Through snappy dialog, characters' on-going internal anguish and tightly crafted and complicated plotting, Choke is a thrilling ride guaranteed to keep you awake way too late. I highly recommend Choke—and all of Lisa Towles's thrillers. See the trailer here.

Kerry Stine's life is destroyed when she's blamed for the death of a hospital patient. Not only is she fired, but she's wanted by the police. On top of this, a squatter in her apartment thinks she's hiding a priceless historical treasure—and wants it. Elsewhere, Dr. Adrian Calhoun is a target and a liability to the pharmaceutical industry for the controversial cancer cure he's developed. Kerry's search for the truth about her squatter leads her to a different truth – about a part of her past she’s not ready to face and a precious jewel that can’t possibly be hers. Adrian must protect not only himself but his secret formula and his vulnerable control group, before Pharma gets to them first. The destinies of Adrian and Kerry collide to piecing together stunning revelations that change their lives forever.

Published in 2021, Blood's Echo is the first of three Veranda Cruz police procedurals set in Phoenix, Arizona. Veranda is determined to take down the heir to a ruthless Mexican cartel, but is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to see justice? Not only is Bartolo Villalobos unstable and vicious, but foes on the force stand in her way. Her new homicide team and an arsonist ally are drawn into the danger as the investigation heats up. When Veranda learns information held secret for years, she has no choice but to protect her family . . . and stop Villalobos.

Blood's Echo deservedly won the Mariposa Award for the best First Novel. It's a fast-paced, thrilling procedural dealing with some of the most dangerous police work: fighting the drug cartels. Hank Phillippi Ryan describes it as, "Taut, tense, and relentlessly authentic. Isabella Maldonado-with her unique personal knowledge of the danger, conflict and emotional toll of law enforcement is an important new voice in crime fiction." I picked up my copy before getting on a plane and only put it down when I disembarked three hours later. Everything about Blood's Echo kept me reading. Veranda is smart and strong, but she's also a loving family member. I loved being a fly on the wall observing her big Latin immigrant family. I will read the rest of this series and the touted Nina Guerrera series too. Don't miss this high tension, adrenaline producing thriller by Isabella Maldonado.

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”

- Mortimer J. Adler

All Her Little Secrets is one of the best books I've read. Wanda M. Morris is an accomplished writer; her sentences are beautiful, her language is intelligent, and her ability to drop into various voices is smooth. The book is an edgy, hard look at racism, secrets, the legal system, and family. Morris doesn't mince words. Character Ellice Littlejohn's descriptions of being a powerless poor Black child in Georgia and an invisible Black professional woman in Atlanta are heart wrenching. Ellice's secrets might have held her back, but her strength and determination to protect her family keep her going where a lesser person would give up. What a debut! All Her Little Secrets won the 2022 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel. Congratulations Wanda! I look forward to more of Wanda M. Morris's books.

Ellice Littlejohn has an Ivy League Law degree, a great corporate job in Atlanta and a long-time lover—who is white and her boss. When she finds him on his office floor shot through the head, she walks away. But why? She's afraid her past, her jailbird brother, her impoverished upbringing, must remain secret. The following day she's promoted to her boss's position, but why didn't the top executives go to the funeral? Ellice, the only Black employee, starts to uncover the rot at the core of the corporation. As she gets closer to the company secrets, her own secrets are exposed. It's a moral and ethical nightmare, and a heart-pounding ride!

Okay! Pick a book or three and make the perfect hot chocolate. Here's how:


1 cup milk, soy milk, almond milk, or water 

1 package/disc Taza Chocolate Discs (any flavor)

Salt to taste


1. Roughly chop or grate one disc of any flavor and set aside.

2. Heat one cup of milk or water in a small saucepan over medium heat to just below a simmer.

3. Remove the milk from heat and add a pinch of salt.

4. Slowly mix in the chocolate, stirring frequently until dissolved.

5. When the chocolate is dissolved, return the mixture to the stove and re-warm over low heat.

6. While the chocolate is warming, use a whisk or molinillo to froth the chocolate.

7. When the chocolate is hot and frothy, remove from heat and serve.

Happy Reading! Happy Drought Busting Rain!

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