The Exploding Envelope Series: An introduction

I’ve been lucky enough to have had three spy novels published in the six years since I’ve been a professional writer. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m going to start sharing some of what I’ve learned with all of you in honor of the impending release of Take the Bai Road (Book 2 of the Bai Hsu series) on July 3, 2017 (woo hoo!).

Every Tuesday for the month of June, I’m publishing a blog post that pulls the curtain back on some aspects of the shadowy world of espionage in a series I’m calling The Exploding Envelope Series.

Why an exploding envelope? Well, I watched a lot of Mission Impossible in my youth and I’ve always loved how dramatic it was when the hero received his orders and then the ominous voice said, “This message will self-destruct in three, two, one…” BOOM!

So for now, this is just a heads-up that there will be some fun content coming up around here starting next week.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read those blog posts, learn cool new stuff about the spy trade, and then order and read a copy of Bai Tide if you haven’t already so that you’re ready when Take the Bai Road comes out in July.

Good luck!

A Quick Birthday Break

By the gracious generosity of Wes’s parents, Wes and I were able to escape our children this weekend so that we could embark on a series of capers in celebration of my upcoming 32nd birthday. Examples of said capers?

  • Bowling (I scored two strikes in a row my first two frames, then began missing the pins entirely for the rest of the game. No, I don’t know why.)
  • Arcade games (There’s an arcade near the bowling alley that has a Terminator game for two in it and Wes and I freaking DOMINATE that game together. We have a system and everything. To my lukewarm annoyance, however, Wes was still a more accurate shot than me even with a broken gun. {Although I did score more points at the basketball dunking game, which made me happy.})
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (Which we freaking LOVED! Even though it made me cry big fat tears at the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching that movie. Go see it.)
  • Shooting range (We rented a 9mm 1911 {but we can’t remember what brand} and emptied two boxes into a big green target. It was loads of fun! Wes is a MUCH better shot than I am {again. Duh.} but I think I did okay. Here’s a picture of the target after my first round of shots:Not too shabby, right?
  • Clothes shopping (for Wes, who has lost a bunch of weight and is now in desperate need of a pair of jeans that actually fits his smaller body. We didn’t end up finding anything {boo} but we did see Michael Bennett {a Seahawk} at Old Navy. He was very polite, and he was with a friend who may or may not also have been a football player. I actually ran into a rack of clothes in front of said friend, who smiled and said, “Better you than me,” to which I couldn’t come up with a reply because, outside of the context of him being a professional athlete, why better him than me? When Wes explained that he was likely a football player, too, I felt less confused but more embarrassed, because, you know, clumsiness.)

The weekend went by in a blink, and before we knew it we had to go pick up our kids again. What a fun break, though!

Are You Ready to Take the Bai Road?

It hit me the other day that Take the Bai Road (book #2 of the Bai Hsu series) is coming out in less than two months. July is going to be an absolutely insane month for me, schedule-wise, thanks to the release of both Take the Bai Road and Close to the Bones, a writers conference in NYC (Thrillerfest! Woo!), and an appearance at the Eagle Harbor Book Company out on Bainbridge Island, so of course it’s right about now that I’m starting to get a bit worried about having bitten off way more than I can chew.

But listen to me, wah wah over here with my first world author problems. What I should be focusing on is that I have a new book coming out soon! It’ll be available for pre-order soon, so here’s a Q&A to fill you in on what you need to know about it:

  1. Do I need to have read Bai Tide first to enjoy Take the Bai Road? Noooooooope. You can dive right into the series with this one, and if you like it you’re welcome to circle back for Bai Tide when you’re done with taking the Bai road.
  2. What’s this one about? Bai Hsu is a CIA case officer (read: spy) who’s been stationed at Headquarters after the events of Bai Tide. He’s bored and itching to return to the field when a dangerous assignment gets dropped into his lap: His mission is to shadow a crate that’s being smuggled into Mexico along cartel trade routes by a mysterious organization that may or may not already have hooks in the U.S. government. Operating without official cover and on his own in every way, Bai must survive cartel wars, conspiracies, and chaos in order to stop corruption that reaches into the highest echelons of American power.
  3. Is Bai still a smart-ass in this one? Duh.
  4. Will I like this one? I don’t know. You’d probably better buy it and find out.
  5. Will there be more books? Yes! I’m actually in rewrites for Bai Treason (book #3 of the Bai Hsu series) as we speak. Well, right now I’m writing a blog post, but when I’m done with this post I’ll dive back into rewrites.
  6. What’s your favorite part of Take the Bai Road? The road trip with the racist truck driver, which was actually my friend Matt’s idea (he’s the King of the Beta Readers, all hail the king).
  7. Is there violence and strong language in this one? Ummm, yes. It takes place in an incredibly dangerous place with some horribly dangerous people, so yes. There’s quite a lot of violence and some profanity (though most of the profanity is in Spanish). I’d like to think the violence stays on the tasteful side of gory, though. There’s no sexual content, however, because I’m a prude.
  8. Does anyone besides you think it’s a good book? Thankfully, yes! Like this: “Mitchell’s winning tale…is constantly in motion, taking Bai from one perilous predicament to the next…Fast-paced, invigorating, and entertaining.” —Kirkus Reviews

    And this: “What makes this series so pleasurable to read is Bai himself, his somewhat snarky attitude and self doubt make him more than the mere superhero jumping into the chaos to save the day.” — Jeff Ayers for Suspense Magazine

    And this!: “Take the Bai Road is chock full of danger and suspense.  Starting with a slow burn in the power corridors of Washington, D.C., the story erupts into violence in Mexico and slams to an exciting finish in Seattle.  Bai Hsu’s search for the elusive Ghost Cartel will enthrall you.”   — Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of The Assassins

Pre-orders are coming soon, and I’m SO unbelievably eager to share this one with all of you because it’s my most ambitious story to date with twists, turns, and conflicts that absolutely rip apart everything Bai holds dear (like all good conflicts should).

Stay tuned, dear readers! The exit for the Bai Road is coming up fast!

Cockles Aglow

There’s nothing that warms the insecure, neurotic little cockles of an author’s heart than positive book reviews. You see, we work for hours upon countless hours alone, just us and the voices in our heads, and then we set these stories loose in the world for other people to read and, usually, we’re never really sure whether the things we thought were funny/scary/intense/emotional/etc. are going to land that way for other people.

And sometimes they don’t. There is not a single book out there that doesn’t have at least one bad review. Taste is subjective, and sometimes your writing just absolutely offends someone or, (worse yet?) does nothing for them. To this you can only shrug and move on. As my dad used to say, “The poop is in the pudding,” which I’ve always assumed meant the damage was done and you might as well keep on rolling.

Anyway, I got a review of Bai Tide that was such a rave, I’ve been aglow all day. It’s from book blogger Sara the Introvert, who had this to say of Bai Tide:

Bai Tide was a welcome and pleasant surprise. I love TV shows like Quantico and Criminal Minds. I’m just a sucker for a good crime or spy story. I’m also a sucker for stories that feature people who aren’t white dudes…I also loved how Mitchell handled writing the section of the book that takes place in North Korea. It’s so easy to make fun of North Korea or to make light of the situation over there, but I think she painted a real picture of it. There was nothing to suggest that she was making fun of the country; on the contrary, it seemed like she was trying to do the country justice.”

You guys, Sara gets it. All the things she pointed out as her favorites are my favorite parts of the story, too. I love that my hero isn’t a white dude with a waxed chest and sculpted jaw. I love that he has to go toe-to-toe with female spies and often gets his ass handed to him. I’m pleased and punch that she felt I did North Korea justice.

That was my goal. That was why I spent so many hours researching North Korea, giving myself nightmares in the process. It’s why I consulted native Korean speakers to get the Korean bits of dialogue correct. It’s why I haunted Google Maps so much I could probably navigate around Pyongyang pretty easily.

North Korea is a human rights travesty and, as easy as it is to make fun of North Korea, the people who are suffering and starving at the mercy of a tyrannical, paranoid despot deserve better.

So anyway, this review made my whole day. You can click here to read the whole thing; it’s a good read.

(By the way {or should I say, Bai the way? Heh heh heh}, Bai Tide is available in print with the kickass new cover, and it’s only $10.95!!! Check it out!)

Happy Cinco de Mayo, my friends! Hoist a margarita for me tonight!

Empty Tubes and Tests for Days

Man, I tell you. Coming back from Santa Barbara was a great, big, freezing cold splash of reality. Wes had to leave on a series of business trips, which is normally the cue for both my kids to get all kinds of peeved about their father’s absence and take it out on me.

They did not disappoint.

Me in my giant scrubs, mere moments before yet another health professional jammed a needle into my poor knee.

Adding to the fun, I did another MRI with contrast to see why my knee continues to be a literal and figurative pain and lo and behold, it wasn’t all in my head (ha?). I have a flap of cartilage that’s collecting edema, and the microfractures I had done a couple years ago healed irregularly, which means things are all kinds of messed up in there.

Before I go in for (yet another) surgery, I’m going to get tested by a rheumatologist to see if it’s possible to determine why the cartilage in my knee is shredding like a nice mozzarella.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m currently undergoing testing from an endocrinologist to see whether he can figure out why I keep gaining weight despite healthy eating and exercise habits.

Just think blood tests. Blood tests for days. All the doctors are holding up empty tubes with my name on them.

It’s all stressful, and at times terrible, but I’m keeping my focus firmly on the things that are going right. Things like:

  • Wes is home from his business trips, and will be home for awhile.
  • I have friends and family who care about me and all my suddenly myriad health issues. My best friend, husband, and mother-in-law all collectively spent hours on the phone with me when I found out about my knee, just letting me feel sorry for myself and assuring me things would turn out ok. I’m inclined to believe them.
  • I’m free of deadlines for now and making progress on revisions for Bai Treason (book 3 of the Bai Hsu series). I love it as much now as I did when I wrote the first draft, which is always a good sign of a worthwhile story.
  • There’s a book blog tour of Bai Tide (book 1 of the Bai Hsu series) that’s happening now and the reviews are uniformly positive so far! Like this one, and this one. I’m always particularly gratified when people who don’t normally read my genre enjoy my books. It shows me I wrote a good story, not just a good spy story.
  • I might be getting LASIK soon because you know what? My knee may be FUBAR but damn it, there’s still hope for my eyes.

That just about brings you up to current. Rest assured, if I’m not blogging it’s probably because I’m hiding from my health woes by writing stories. Given all the feelings around here lately? Bai Treason is going to end up being a goooooooood book. Trust me on that one.