Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Helen Hanson - Ocean of Fear is featured in the HBS Mystery Reader's Circle today.
Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Suspense, Technology
Website: Helen Hanson
Author's Blog: Google +
Blog: Helen's Original Spotlight Post with Q & A Session
E-Mail: WriteMe [at] HelenHanson [dot] com
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Post with Profile + Q/A: HBS Author's Spotlight
Bestselling Kindle author Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent. Hackers. The CIA. Industry titans. Spammers. Guys on sailboats. Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them against unrelenting forces willing to kill. Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity -- from either end of the trigger.
While Helen writes about the power-hungry, she genuinely mistrusts anyone who wants to rule the world.
Helen directed operations for high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, video games, software, and computers. Her reluctant education behind the Redwood Curtain culminated in a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrated studies in Computer Science. She also learned to play a mean game of hacky sack.
She is a licensed private pilot with a ticket for single-engine aircraft. Helen and her husband spent their first anniversary with their flight instructor studying for the FAA practical. If you were a passenger on a 737 trying to land at SJC, she sends her most sincere apologies. Really.
Born in fly-over country, Helen has lived on both coasts, near both borders, and at several locations in between. She lettered in tennis, worked as a machinist, and saw the Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium sometime in the eighties. She currently lives amid the bricks of Texas with her husband, son, a dog that composes music with squeaky toys, and another dog that's too lazy to bother.
Ocean of Fear
Author: Helen Hanson
Meet Baxter Cruise. Gifted robotics student. Spammer for hire. His cozy world of lattes and free wi-fi explodes when a hippie professor disappears, and Baxter discovers a lady professor’s warm corpse on campus.
With his secretive lifestyle, he hasn’t cultivated any real friends. When a student asks for help with a class assignment, Baxter figures it’ll throttle his funk. But the guy blackmails Baxter into programming narcotics delivery vehicles for a notorious cartel. Working for drug lords rattles the needle on Baxter’s errant moral compass, but it’s better than a bullet in the head.
Beautiful FBI agent Claudia Seagal tracks the professor’s brutal assassin, but every angle of her investigation leads to Baxter. He’s hiding something and in far too deep to cooperate with the law.
Baxter ignores the cartel’s depravity until he watches an innocent woman die. When he wakes up on a plane, it’s too late for remorse. In bed with dangerous allies, the cartel requires Baxter’s talent until the robots are complete. Then, he and thousands of others face certain death unless Baxter can find a way to escape.
By six-thirty a.m., Baxter Cruise lounged at the corner table of Whitney’s coffee bar, wiping away a frothy milk moustache with his sleeve. He swirled the dregs of a Cappuccino in the ceramic mug while a gangly freshman tried to make time with the surfer-girl barista. She was clearly uninterested. The young man’s frustration passed for entertainment while Baxter waited for Professor Sydney Mantis. Syd usually sent their client’s pitch-list via email, but today, he’d sent a text from a new phone demanding face-time.
Instead of wasting a precious morning, Baxter should’ve blasted another 225,000 emails or let his ratware scrape more addresses from the geezer forums. Either action would have netted him enough cash to cover the cost of the java and maybe some additional credits at UC Santa Cruz. Unlike the rest of the losers, he didn’t plan to get stuck with any student loans to repay.
His fingertips hit the tabletop in rhythmic succession. He should have brought his laptop. Where the hell was Sydney? Didn’t he know? Time was money, man. Time was money.
A smiling coed in a UC-logo sweatshirt opened the front door for an elderly couple shuffling at the pace of the old woman’s walker. When Sydney Mantis jockeyed around all three of them to enter first, the young woman’s mouth dropped to a scowl.
Sydney hadn’t even thanked her for holding the door. His usual easy charm seemed under pressure. Wearing a Baja hoodie and aviator sunglasses, he looked like the Unabomber.
“Bax, thank God you’re still here.” Syd withdrew a shaking hand from the pouch pocket and tossed a flash drive onto Baxter’s lap. “I need you to take this to Dr. Bisch. She’ll be in the office by the time you get there. But don’t leave it on her desk.” His gaze ricocheted around the room, his voice lowering to a near whisper. “Make sure you hand it to her personally. I need to leave town for a few days.”
Baxter retrieved the flash drive from the folds around his crotch. “What about our new client?”
But Sydney’s attention fixed outside.
A man in harmony with the ‘60s, he dialed to mellow even if it required herbal assistance. Baxter figured he was one toke over his usual line. “I can’t stay here.” For the first time since arriving, Sydney pulled off his sunglasses to make eye contact. “Will you take care of Gertrude for me?” A thick vein throbbed at his neck, muscles twitched across his face, and his pupils dilated to ripe-olive proportions.
Sydney didn’t look stoned. Simply terrified.
“Trudy?” Baxter always liked Sydney’s Border collie. Sure, I’ll watch her for you.” Baxter didn’t know what else to say.
“Thanks, man.” Sydney wiped an eye. “I’ve got to go.” He put on his sunglasses and returned to the dull gray of the morning fog.
Baxter stared at the front door as if it might open to a parallel universe. The good professor taught computer engineering, not theater arts. And while he tilted dramatic, this performance was worthy of a nomination.
Ever since Baxter joined his gig nearly five years ago, Sydney’s feet routinely got frostbite, especially lately. But he always found something to return him to calm—usually a bong, a warm hippie chick, or both. But something had Syd rattled. Perhaps the pitches for the new email campaign contained sensitive stuff. Sure, they were spammers, but they didn’t run just any email pitch. Baxter maintained strict standards: Viagra. Yes. Online Casinos. Yes. Girls from Russia. No. His girlfriend, Natalie, wouldn’t let him keep one anyway. Their butler robot offered enough contention. Baxter squeezed the flash drive in his fist.
Author: Helen Hanson
Barnes and Noble
Maggie Fender’s law degree remains a daydream as she supports her ex-felon half-brother and their incoherent father. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dad’s rarely lucid, but when he’s accused of murder, only the gorgeous Russian neighbor flickers Maggie’s hope. In the news, disgraced hedge fund manager Patty O’Mara awaits trial for bilking investors out of forty billion dollars. The legendary dark pool wizard offered phenomenal profits. But the SEC discovered O’Mara never made a single legitimate investment. His fund was a total scam. Maggie’s Dad barely functions, but her hacker brother swears Dad is sending them vital messages about O’Mara’s pot of gold. A private investigator hunts for the money and aims to find it before a notorious Russian mobster. When their efforts focus on Maggie’s father, her remaining hope turns to rampant fear. She’s the only adult left in her family, and her weary camel won’t carry a single extra straw. Her teenage brother’s hacking skills landed his ass in prison, but he swears he was framed. No fans of the Fender family, the local police assume Dad ran away when he goes missing. Maggie will never find her father without help. She’s got to trust someone. But who can Maggie trust when everyone’s betrayed her?
Between Bay Area commuter traffic and the frequent need to recycle her coffee, Maggie pulled into their driveway after dusk. Travis jumped out before the car came to a complete stop. He rushed toward the front door.
Maggie watched him disappear behind the overgrown juniper bushes that lined the walkway. Fifteen, and the kid still couldn’t wait to see his father. She loved their father too, but his recent behavior was starting to quantify her patience.
She slumped out of the car and stretched. A long run on the beach would loosen her tight muscles, and enough sunlight remained. Maybe tomorrow. Today she wanted only a hot bath, a quiet bed, and empty dreams.
Travis blasted from the house. “Where is he?”
Disquiet ebbed her fatigue. “Isn’t he watching TV?”
“The place is empty.”
She left Travis standing on the pavement and ran to the Baker’s house a couple of doors down. Only the screen door kept the world at bay. “Ginger?” She banged on the doorframe. “You home?”
A sturdy figure ambled from the shadow. “Maggie?” Ginger’s eyes creased in the dim light.
“I’m looking for Daddy. Have you seen him?”
The Samoan woman was small by island standards. “Not since I gave him his dinner. Did you check the garage?”
“Travis said the place was empty.”
A smile lifted her smooth, brown face. “How is he? How does he look?”
Maggie shook her head. “Stupid. And even more handsome if you can believe it. Just like his mom.” She backed away from the door. “I’ve got to find Dad.”
Travis was gone by the time she returned to the car. She sped around to the beachside of the house and nearly broadsided a bicyclist in the narrow street. Maggie climbed down the berm to the sand.
“Daddy.” The sound of the surf competed with her cry. Dark slipped overhead like a closing lid.
She ran north, up the beach. She could have gone south. It didn’t matter. There was nothing either direction to damper her hammering chest.
A man dropped down from the roadside.
Her lungs wheezed. “Travis. Damn it. Don’t do that!”
“C’mon. I think he’s this way.”
Travis was likely right. He often was in these types of situations. Logic and intuition converged in this kid to form uncannily accurate assessments. He got that from their father.
It was Dad’s only obvious contribution to the kid’s genetic makeup because he could pass for his mother’s male twin. While Maggie seemed to inherit everything from her mother. Cornflower blue eyes, strawberry blonde hair, and a rancid mistrust of the world.
Maggie shoved him forward. “Let’s go.”
While he took the lead, she was fast enough to stay within his draft. The tide had receded over the past hour, leaving a sturdier running surface. They sprinted down the beach as fast as the damp sand allowed.
Maggie heard the screech of a lone shearwater looking to settle somewhere for the night. Then another cry that cooled her blood.
She slammed into Travis’ back and fell to his side. He grabbed her around the waist and helped her regain her footing. He prodded her shoulder. “C’mon.”
They ran another hundred yards down the empty beach and climbed the embankment. The constant on-shore breeze shaped everything here. The coastline, the trees, the waves, and according to Ginger, even the people. Loose dirt and sand fell away beneath their feet. Scrub brush lined the winding path to a beach parking lot.
“Wait.” Travis put his arm out to block her path.
“What is it?” She brushed past her brother to find a man face down on the ground. She rushed to his side and pushed her fingers into his throat.
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Helen Hanson is in the HBS Mystery Book Reader's Circle.
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