Divers and Dirty Politics: Behind the Scenes of Lovely, Dark, and Deep (#giveaway)

Given the events coming up in the U.S. over the next few days, no matter on which side of the divide we sit, I think one thing we can all agree on is that things are about to change. I have never written about a president of this country or any other, but there is a high-ranking official who plays a key role (okay, yeah, he’s a Bad. Dude.) in LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP.

So it seemed like a fitting thing to feature for my Easter Egg/Trivia day this week! Read on to win a Kindle version of the book.

About LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP: From award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes a heart-pounding romantic thriller that pits a quick-witted scientist and a scarred ex–combat diver against a ruthless billionaire treasure hunter with ties to the White House….When biologist Gillian Campbell makes an offhand comment about a family curse during a TV interview, she has no idea what her words will set in motion. Within days, Gillian finds herself at the mercy of a member of the C7, a secretive international group of power brokers with a dangerous game: competing to find the world’s most elusive treasures, no matter the cost, in money or in lives. To save her family, Gillian teams up with Shane Burke, a former elite diver who’s lost his way, navigating the brutal “death coast” of the North Atlantic to find what the collector seeks: the legendary Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar, stolen by Gillian’s ancestor and lost at sea four hundred years ago.

5 Things You Might Not Know about LDD:

Main-a-Dieu Harbor

* Main-à-Dieu I—Divine Intervention. Many of you who read this blog know that a lot of the character names in the book come from pets past and present, but not the heroine. Gillian Campbell was one of those names that just dropped out of the sky, and I already knew I wanted the main action of the book to occur in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I was waffling on the name Campbell until I was scouring a map of Cape Breton’s east coast and found Campbell’s Cove. Directly south of it was a small town called Main-à-Dieu—hand of God. Well, could I ignore such a sign? I think not. So Gillian stayed a Campbell and Main-à-Dieu became the major setting for the last half of the book.

Ship run aground, Scaterie Island

* Main-à-Dieu II—More Divine Intervention. I didn’t only need a town; I needed a town near a bunch of shipwrecks. Once I’d decided on Main-à-Dieu, more map study led me directly east of the coastal village to Scaterie Island (also sometimes spelled Scatarie, which caused quite a flurry of changes during edits). It’s an uninhabited island now, with a lonely lighthouse often enshrouded by clouds in the stormy North Atlantic. It’s also claimed many a ship over the centuries, and the sea floor lies scattered with their remains. I needed a ship for the story, so…more divine intervention?

Cedar Key (before Hermine)

* Cedar Key, Florida. This is the initial setting of the book, and is one of my favorite spots. It’s a tiny coastal village on the Gulf Coast of Florida east of Gainesville, near manatee country. One of my daydreams is to go there, rent a cottage, and write a book. There are no chain businesses—not even a gas station that I can recall—and it’s what I imagine Florida was like in the 1950s. So it’s the spot I chose for my hero to live, and my heroine lives nearby and works as a biologist at the Cedar Keys Wildlife Refuge and Scrub State Reserve. Sadly, Cedar Key took an almost direct hit from Hurricane Hermine in September 2016, with nine feet of water and massive destruction. It’s rebuilding and—been there, done that—so I know by now they’re probably gearing up for visitors. Oh, and did I mention a certain Captain Jean Lafitte was known to make stops here? Oui.

Rosewood Marker

* Rosewood Baptist Church. This church site is located near Gillian’s trailer off Highway 24, just inland from Cedar Key. This area has an unfortunate history. It was a former town of about 350 residents, mostly black. But in 1923, white men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood citizen after a woman accused him of rape (it was later proven to be domestic abuse). It set off a riot as white men from nearby Sumner (a similarly sized community) invaded Rosewood and burned down the town. The residents fled and never returned—and the town was never rebuilt. In 1994, Florida gave $2 million in compensation to surviving families. There was a book and movie about the incident. The attack is not referenced in my book, but I chose the area near today’s Rosewood Baptist Church as a nod of respect.

*Gillian’s pickup. In the book, Gillian drives a five-year-old silver pickup. Originally, I had her driving a jeep until a biologist friend (a real one, not a fictional one) pointed out that she couldn’t haul alligators around in a jeep. Point made. Buh-bye Jeep.

* My original opening scene ended up being Chapter 2. I’d had that scene in my head before I ever wrote a word of the book, before I even sold the book concept to my publisher. It was from the opening lines of “One Good Year” by Slaid Cleaves, and that song became what I used to build the hero’s character. It could have been Shane Burke’s theme song. He started out as one desperate man.


So that’s this week’s trivia. Any surprises here? Leave a comment to be entered for an ebook of LOVELY, DARK, and DEEP (or any other of my books as Susannah Sandlin).









Book Review: TRACKERS by Nicholas Sansbury Smith (and GC #giveaway)

It’s Book Review Tuesday….and might be the last for a while as it morphs into Game of Thrones Tuesday because, yes, I have succumbed to the “Great Bearded Glacier” and his five-volume (so far) epic fantasy. The books are huge, so finishing one a week? Well, we shall see how far I get into book one, Game of Thrones, by next Tuesday.

In the meantime, before cracking open GoT, I had a chance to read a new release, TRACKERS, by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. I was intrigued by the book blurb, being a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. Did it live up to my expectations? Read on.

ABOUT TRACKERS: The end of the world is just the beginning of the hunt…Estes Park Police Chief Marcus Colton and tracker Sam ‘Raven’ Spears have never liked one another, but when a young girl goes missing in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colton hires Spears to help find her. Their search ends after a night of devastating horror. When word reaches Estes that the nation has been hit by a coordinated electromagnetic pulse attack, Colton and Spears are forced to work together again. But they quickly realize they aren’t just tracking a killer–they are tracking a madman. As the United States descends into chaos, the hunters become the hunted. Halfway across the country, Senator Charlize Montgomery awakes to find the nation’s capital has gone dark. Forced to set off on foot, she treks across a city that has woken to a new world, and as the night progresses, she learns the EMP attack was just the beginning…

WHAT I LIKED: The plausibility of the plot is terrifying, especially as we enter a new era of American diplomatic relations this week, however you view that era. I’m not here to talk politics. But the idea of a North Korean preemptive strike in retaliation for some small-scale slight? Not so far-fetched.

The strike, in this case, is an EMP–electromagnetic pulse–caused by a nuclear weapon (or more) detonated at a very high altitude. Radiation might be lessened, but it would essentially wipe out the power grid. (Still got that old 1972 VW in the garage? Hang onto it!) Smith does a great job of switching back and forth between the small tourist town of Estes Park, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., with characters that have crossover to both settings. So we get to see what happens in DC and in a small, relatively isolated mountain town. Oh, and in case things aren’t cray-cray enough, there’s a serial killer on the loose in Estes Park that has to be rounded up.

Somehow, it all works. The language is spare and yet Smith manages to make us care about each one and make each one deeper than the caricatures they could have so easily have become. The book races along, and I was getting ready to complain that it was too short when I realized that, well, it really isn’t that short. I just couldn’t put it down and it’s a fast read.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH: I didn’t realize until I reached the end of this very short, quick read, that there is a second book coming out in June. There appear to be no plans to extend it beyond a duology, but I wish the full resolution had been reached in one standalone novel. This one does have a satisfying conclusion, at least on the Colorado front, so I hope the second doesn’t diminish that,

Still, that’s hair-splitting over a book that I raced through and enjoyed thoroughly (in an unsettling, scary kind of way), so I have to give it a full FIVE GATORS. If you’re looking for romance, this isn’t your book. If you like suspenseful apocalyptic thrillers, it’s definitely a must read.

Want to win a digital copy of TRACKERS or a $5 Amazon gift card? Leave a comment. Do you have a favorite apocalyptic novel, or do you prefer a little more escapism in your reading?