Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Win 30 Crime Novels! Via Sue Coletta

Readers! Don't miss this one...

Marred author Sue Coletta has initiated a Rafflecopter to win 30 crime novels... among them The Death Row Complex!

Sign up here for 30 freebies from award-winning and best-selling crime fiction novelists.




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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Field: San Diego's Best Irish Pub as Featured in a Deleted Scene

The Field, San Diego
As they crossed the street, three blond, inebriated young women were crossing in the other direction while singing, each in a key totally unmatched with the other two.
  “What do you do with a drunken sailor?  What do you do with a drunken sailor?  What do you do with a drunken sailor?  Early in the MORNING!!”
The girls burst into fits of laughter as they passed, losing the ability to sing at all.  Katrina and McMullan exchanged a highly amused glance as the same tune met them again, this time being played by a legitimate band.
“Shave his belly with a rusty razor, shave his belly with a rusty razor, shave his belly with a rusty razor, earl-eye in the MORNING!”
“Kick ass!” said McMullan as they neared “The Field,” San Diego’s boasted most authentic Irish pub.



“I can only assume you’re Irish?” Katrina said.
“Sean Patrick McMullan…what do you think!?”
Katrina held out her hand.
“Formerly Katrina McGuire.  My grandfather was affectionately known as “The East Texas Leprachaun.”
The two shook hands dramatically.
     Sean pretended not to have already known his companion’s maiden name.  The nickname for her grandfather was, indeed, news to him, and he realized that not everything within this woman’s world had been revealed to the FBI.
     “This place is the real deal,” Katrina said.  “Literally - even the wood used to build it was imported from Ireland.  They’ve got all the good stuff on tap, and if you’re into traditional Irish food, you’re in for something.”
As she said it, she realized that she had not eaten dinner and was totally famished.  Without further discussion, they stepped toward the door.  As they did, they could overhear the driver of a passing pedi-cab saying to his fare, “…and that’s ‘The Field’.  It’s an actual Irish bar; they brought it here from Ireland piece by piece.”
Katrina turned to McMullan and said with a smile, “Told you.”

        An outside patio was enclosed by an iron railing that broke in the middle, allowing access to the front door from the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue.  Beneath the railing was a thick wooden ledge holding ashtrays.  Chunky wooden stools in front of the ledge were occupied by small groups of smokers, feeding their collective vice while glancing at passers-by.  

        The inside of the pub, like all establishments in San Diego for many years, was smoke free.  Nonetheless, a discerning nose could easily pick up the scent of ancient tobacco, embedded forever into the dark wood that built the tables, chairs, stools, bar and rafters.  The imposing character of the thick wood created a dark environment that was warmed by the glow of a large fireplace opposite the bar.  To the left of the bar, a small, raised stage held the three piece band still singing about a drunken sailor.
         Small nooks held deep booths with padded benches and chairs; Katrina and McMullan settled into one, both sitting at the bench against the wall so as to observe the action in the room.

“Whot ken I gait fair yeh, Love?” a waitress asked.
“Two Guinesses and two menus, please,” Katrina shouted over the band, and winked at McMullan.  As the bartender skipped off to pour the beers, Katrina leaned in to her companion, her mouth almost touching his ear as she spoke.
“Oh yeah, the staff is imported as well,” she said.

The above is a deleted scene from best-selling thriller The Death Row Complex by Kristen Elise.  

From the author:
The Irish pub in which Katrina and McMullan had dinner in the novel is based heavily on The Field. In the interest of not being sued, I had originally changed the name of the pub before deciding that the scene detracted a bit from the action that was going on at the time and removing it altogether... but now, here is the original scene, including the authentic background of the pub, for readers who would like to know a little bit more about this fun little slice of San Diego.

The Field really is San Diego's best Irish pub (in my opinion) and it really did come piece by piece from Ireland. It's a favorite haunt of mine. What Katrina and McMullan encounter there is typical of a Friday or Saturday evening downtown. If you visit my neck of the woods and you like Irish food, it's my #1 recommendation. Slainte!

Visit The Field at 544 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA, 92101

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 5

Maria Carolina of Austria

Excavations at Herculaneum were forcibly halted in favor of ongoing efforts at Pompeii, and so the secrets contained within the Villa would once again be forced to wait. Charles’ mother Elisabetta, the woman who had first initiated the work, died...

Part 4 of this series continues the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the Novel Travelist mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here we continue this story.

*****

Despite the recent lack of interest in Herculaneum, one man remained enthusiastic about the papyrus scrolls recovered from the ash. Vatican calligrapher priest Padre Piaggio was the first to attempt unwinding the scrolls from the Villa dei Papiri without destroying them.

Piaggio's device, Naples Archeological Museum
Piaggio’s infinite patience and sense of innovation produced a mechanical device, now located in the Naples Archeological Museum, that could at long last unwind the scrolls, at a rate of one half-inch per day. It is this device that first appeared in Part 1 of this series.

Slowly and painstakingly, Padre Piaggio eventually succeeded in being the first to unroll one papyrus document from beneath the ruins of Herculaneum. This single act took four years.

Piaggio continued unrolling additional scrolls and he set to diligently copying their text. The former Vatican calligrapher produced remarkably faithful reproductions of the text despite its condition, and also despite the fact that he neither spoke nor read modern, let alone ancient, Greek.

Translation of the content was equally difficult. The papyrus was in such terrible condition, and so many pieces had been lost, that much of the author information and content was either missing or misunderstood. Indeed, several entire scrolls were literally translated backward in their entirety, and it was only many, many years later that this mistake was even recognized as such.

Flattened papyrus scroll from Herculaneum
King Charles III's son Ferdinand came of age in 1767 and became the arrogant, ignorant boy-king of Naples - an event that would no doubt have represented the final nail in the coffin of Herculaneum and the Villa dei Papiri had it not been for one unlikely variable.

Her name was Maria Carolina, and she would become Ferdinand’s queen despite her loudly voiced opinion on the matter: “You might as well cast me into the sea.” Maria Carolina was the elder sister of a girl who would become known to history as Marie Antoinette, and whose notorious fate would only intensify Maria Carolina’s hatred of all things French.

Maria Carolina became a close friend of Padre Piaggio. She safeguarded the papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum throughout the extensive fallout in Naples from the French Revolution, and she successfully kept them from the hands of the pillaging Napoleon Bonaparte – for a while.

To be continued in Part 6 of The Buried Books of Herculaneum


This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a new novel by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon.

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California. 


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 4


Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero and friend of King Charles, became the first to attempt opening the papyrus scrolls as they emerged from within the villa. A self-proclaimed "gifted" and "extraordinary" alchemist, di Sangro used mercury in an effort to soften the charred, brittle papyrus. The mercury dissolved the scrolls, and many of them were lost...

Part 3 of this series continues the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here we continue this story.

*****

Maria Amalia of Saxony, Public Domain
Four years after Charles succeeded to the throne, he married.  His father, King Philip V, had sought a French bride for his first born in a feeble effort to cling to the French throne. Queen Elisabetta’s wishes prevailed, however, and Charles married Prussian Princess Maria Amalia, who had grown up in the very Austrian palace containing the first statues excavated from Herculaneum - the three veiled females and the statue of Cleopatra.

Meanwhile, the second factor involved in bringing Herculaneum to light was the Enlightenment itself. The Grand Tour was in full swing, and the aristocratic travelers known to Italians as “milordi” – “my lords” – came from far and wide throughout Europe. Rome was a quintessential stopping point, and then Naples as well.

As rumors of the ancient treasures began making their way across Europe, increasing numbers of Grand Tourists became determined to see the ruins for themselves, as well as to purchase the multiple replicas of Herculaneum booty that were suddenly all the rage. Artists who could faithfully reproduce these coveted artifacts found abundant work in Naples.

One such artist was Camillo Paderni, who was both fascinated by the flawlessly frozen cross-sections of ancient Roman life and appalled that these cross-sections were being so brutally destroyed. As he toured the excavation sites, Paderni produced image upon image of the world formerly unbeknownst to the public. He also began writing letters of complaint about excavation leader Alcubierre.

Winckelmann, Public Domain
Another of Alcubierre’s critics was Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Antiquarian and well-respected writer, Winckelmann’s scathing commentaries brought the methods of Alcubierre into the light and into posterity, observing that Alcubierre knew “as much of antiquities as the moon knows of crabs.”

In 1750, Alcubierre was pulled to a different post and replaced by Karl Weber, who produced the first true maps of the Villa dei Papiri and its surroundings as well as the many tunnels now leading through the area. Approximately 1100 additional scrolls were found under Weber, and King Charles himself was fascinated with them, until the inevitable fate of monarchy politics intervened.

King Charles’ father Philip, the King of Spain and of the two Sicilies, had died in 1754. By 1759, Charles could no longer shirk his responsibility to the kingdom, and he reluctantly left for Spain. Governing in Naples in his stead was a temporary stand-in until Charles’ spoiled, eight-year-old son Ferdinand could come of age.  Excavations at Herculaneum were forcibly halted in favor of ongoing efforts at Pompeii, and so the secrets contained within the Villa would once again be forced to wait.

Charles’ mother Elisabetta, the woman who had first initiated the work, died.

Continued in Part 5 of The Buried Books of Herculaneum


This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a novel by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon.

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Newsletter: The Murder, USA "Anthology"

September 9,2015

Hello!

I have an awesome project to announce! I've been cooking this thing up for a while, along with a fantastic group of talented, fascinating authors, and it is now officially past the point of no return. So here it is: The Murder, USA anthology. Except is not a true anthology. Let me explain:

In contrast to a true anthology, which implies a collection of short stories, I am collating a collection of excerpts from somewhere between 20 and 30 full-length, published novels. Each of these novels falls somewhere in some form of crime fiction/mystery/thriller genre - from legal thriller, to cozy mystery, to action thriller, to romantic mystery, to paranormal thriller. There is something in here for everyone. It will be FREE, and as a subscriber to this mailing list, you'll be one of the first to get it. 

In addition to the common theme of genre, there is another common thread: Murder, USA is a travelogue. Each of these excerpts is set somewhere in the United States, and the setting plays a bit of a role in the story. My vision for this project is that the finished product is "a murder tour of the nation." I have now read many of the excerpts, and let me tell you... it's going to be awesome. We've got quite a diverse collection of talented authors and ... again... there is something in here for everyone. Find your next favorite author!

The table of contents will be organized by location and it will list the novel, author, location, and subgenre (cozy mystery, international thriller...,) so there are many ways for a reader to glance through the table of contents and pick out the excerpts of interest to him/her. And there will be links to the full-length novel for purchase at the end of each excerpt, so you'll have easy access to the rest of the story! 

Stay tuned as well for Murder, International - the international version. This one is a bit "behind" in terms of production, and the USA version will definitely be available first.

Last, but not least, I'd like to let my readers know that there's a promotion coming up for The Vesuvius Isotope. The ebook will be discounted to $0.99 from October 1-15. Please feel free to spread the word if you've got friends who might like the novel and be interested picking up a copy at a discount. Or, as always, they can just subscribe to this newsletter and get it for free!
If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, I'll send you a free e-copy of The Vesuvius Isotope.

Happy hunting,
Sincerely,
Kris
 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Enigma of Cleopatra: Everything You Know of Her is Wrong

Photo Credit: The Death of Cleopatra, by Guido Cagnacci 1658 Public Domain

A recent post on www.history.com details lesser-known or poorly understood facts about Cleopatra VII, a strong theme detailed in historical thriller The Vesuvius Isotope. From the blog post...

1. Cleopatra was not Egyptian.While Cleopatra was born in Egypt, she traced her family origins to Macedonian Greece and Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Ptolemy took the reigns of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., and he launched a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers that lasted for nearly three centuries. Despite not being ethnically Egyptian, Cleopatra embraced many of her country’s ancient customs and was the first member of the Ptolemaic line to learn the Egyptian language.
Read the rest at www.history.com



This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.


Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lighthouse of Alexandria to be Rebuilt!

If you're me, this is a dream come true!! If you've read The Vesuvius Isotope, you've read my hypothesis about the lighthouse, the library, and the Caesarium, and you understand how the proximity of those three monuments played into the story. How wonderful to see the lighthouse rebuilt in its original form. See the article from Archeology magazine below.

http://archaeology.org/news/3265-150505-alexandria-lighthouse-replica

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Best Secret Passageway You've Never Sailed Through

Photo used with permission: www.tunnelborbonico.info
When was your last underground archeological tour that entailed ziplining and sailing? 

It's well known today that Il Passetto of Rome was constructed as a secret passageway for Popes. But how do you escape in times of siege if you're the king?

In Naples lies an underground passageway that stretches from the Royal Palace all the way to... huh?

It ends in a parking lot.

But let's back up.

The Tunnel Borbonico was built by Bourbon King "The Bomb" Ferdinand II--son of "Big Nose" Ferdinand I, and equally unpopular among his subjects. The younger king ordered the tunnel constructed as an escape route in times of revolution, which pretty much meant Ferdinand's entire reign.

Photo used with permission: www.tunnelborbonico.info
The passageway was planned to extend into Piazza Vittoria, which housed a military barracks. But it was never quite finished.

Today, the main entrance to Il Tunnel Borbonico can be accessed near Piazza Plebiscito, the large, central piazza of Naples in which the Royal Palace resides. A giant parking structure sits on top at the other end of the tunnel.

Visiting Il Tunnel Borbonico is not your average walking tour through an underground chamber. While the "Standard Tour" is what one might expect--a walk through the tunnels, exploring the artifacts--the adventurous might want to try the "Adventure Tour." This one leads through still-flooded passageways and entails a raft ride beneath the city. And for those who would rather be in the sky beneath Naples (yes, you read that right), don your lighted helmet and follow the "Speleo Tour", where you get to zipline up a cistern.

A planning tip: although you can enter the tour from either end of the tunnel, BOTH tours end on the "parking lot" downhill side. Ask me how I know this. It involves an unplanned mad dash to catch a plane...

For more information, visit the Tunnel Borbonico website.

Photo used with permission: www.tunnelborbonico.info
This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in the third Katrina Stone novel, in progress by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel, in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.



Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California. 



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 3


When the booty was gone, they filled in the holes, and with no interests whatsoever in art, no such field as archeology and no apparent concept of historical preservation, there were no real records of the find.  The story might have stopped right there, had it not been for a succession of women as ambitious as Cleopatra herself...

Part 2 of this series begins the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here we continue this story.

*****

Twenty-five years after d’Elboeuf abandoned the site, two factors converged to revive the excavations of Herculaneum.  The first was the ascension of a new reigning king of Naples – or rather, the true monarch - his mother.

King Philip V of Spain, public domain
In 1734, Naples fell under control of the “Spanish” royal dynasty controlling the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, of which neither king nor queen was actually Spanish or Sicilian.  Philip V was the French grandson of Louis XIV and was raised at the court of Versailles with aspirations of the French crown.  Instead, he was granted the lesser Spanish one.  Throughout his nominal reign, Philip suffered from a severe depression that left him categorically incapacitated most of the time.  And so his kingdom was managed by the queen.

Philip’s wife Queen Elisabetta was an Italian princess descended from the Medici dukes of Florence and the Farnese dukes of Lombardy.  On the day she rode into Madrid to marry Philip, she was greeted by Philip’s official mistress, whom Elisabetta ordered arrested and deported on the spot.  This set the tone for their marriage.
Queen Elisabetta Farnese, public domain

Elisabetta instated the first born son from her marriage with Philip upon the throne of Naples as the new King of Campania.  The prince was eighteen-year-old Charles.  While Charles nominally ruled the kingdom, it was his mother, Italian-born Medici Queen Elisabetta who became determined to convert the run-down, poverty- and disease-infested cesspool that was Naples into “the Florence of the South.”  And this she did, funding her ambitious endeavors by taxing the Catholic Church on its land.  As the Church was the largest landholder in Campania, tax revenues tripled.

Elisabetta used the newly acquired funds to build three new palaces, a royal opera house, a prison, hospices, a cemetery and a number of factories.  The palaces were intended for museums as well as for royal residences; she also set the course to transfer a vast number of pieces from the priceless Farnese collection into Naples.

At the same time, she ordered that the neglected Herculaneum excavations be resumed in hopes of finding further additions.
Philip V and Elisabetta, public domain

Under the official direction of Charles and the unofficial direction of Elisabetta, the vast cities of Herculaneum and the recently discovered Pompeii were systematically plundered.  The efforts were led by a Spanish artillery engineer, Captain Rocque Joachim Alcubierre, whose sole mission was to find everything of monetary value and pluck it from the earth.  As he exhausted one source of the buried treasure, he would delve unthinkingly into the next, backfilling each prior section with dirt from the new one.

It was under Alcubierre that the Villa dei Papiri was discovered.

Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero and friend of King Charles, became the first to attempt opening the papyrus scrolls as they emerged from within the villa.  A self-proclaimed "gifted" and "extraordinary" alchemist, di Sangro used mercury in an effort to soften the charred, brittle papyrus.  The mercury dissolved the scrolls, and many of them were lost.

Continued in Part 4 of The Buried Books of Herculaneum

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Death Row Complex - A Thriller Twelve Years in the Making

Tis a happy day for me, as The Death Row Complex has finally arrived! At long last, you may download the Kindle version (discounted this month in honor of the launch!), order a paperback from Amazon, or purchase a signed copy from me. Finally.

Now, I'm sure that the launch of a new book doesn't seem like a big deal to most of you. But it's a big deal for me, because I started writing this book twelve years ago. The Death Row Complex is older than Facebook. Let that sink in for a minute.

There's a story about the genesis of this book, so I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell it...

Twelve years ago, I was a postdoctoral fellow, which is scienctific jargon for overeducated indentured servant. I was working on finding a molecule that could block an anthrax infection (because what's the best thing to give a disgruntled scientist? A biological weapon, of course!) While doing this work, I stumbled upon a molecule that activated anthrax instead of blocking it. This was not too long after 9/11 and the Amerithrax incident, and it made me ponder the possibilities of what could happen if the dangerous technologies of the world fell into the wrong hands. And it also made me realize that that's exactly where those technologies already are.

Right around that same time, twelve years ago, my friend Sara McBride was writing a story. She dared me to do the same. That was reason enough for me.

But then something happened... I started writing, and I really, really liked it! I liked it enough, in fact, that I became rather obsessed with the creation of this story. So much so that I stopped wanting to do anything else with my free time, for a while.

But then something else happened. Writing got hard. I discovered this new phenomenon called "writer's block," which I was pretty sure nobody else had ever experienced prior to myself. So I put the book down... sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks... and worked on it on and off for the next five years.

Then I got the idea for The Vesuvius Isotope, and I decided I wanted to publish Vesuvius first. I wanted Death Row to be released later as a prequel, and so, poor Death Row had to wait, again.

So here, at long last, is my first second thriller, The Death Row Complex. Please feel free to read an excerpt, or purchase the novel at one of the links above. And if you're so inclined, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon when you're done. I'd love it if you did.

There is a third Katrina Stone novel in the works at this time. It is a sequel to The Vesuvius Isotope, and it returns to the historical thriller theme. I promise not to take twelve years to publish it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Interview on Crimefiction.fm: Katrina Stone, San Diego, and Being a Scientist/Author

Do you like to read ‪#‎crimefiction‬? If so, check out crimefiction.fm, an excellent podcast by Stephen Campbell. Steve interviews authors in all kinds of ‪#‎mystery‬‪#‎thriller‬, and ‪#‎suspense‬ genres, including, this morning, me. Give a listen to hear our short discussion about the Katrina Stone novels, the genres in general, and some of the funny things that happen to scientists who write books.



And, if you're an author, do yourself and your career a huge favor and check out The Author Biz podcast, another podcast run by Steve. In this one, he interviews the biggest and most successful players in the book business, who share their secrets for how they came to be that way. 


Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 2

Map of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum
"The Villa of the Papyri is unfinished business. In consideration of the immense income from Vesuvian sites, excavators have considerable margin of choice. Their priorities could extend to completion of the excavation of the Villa of the Papyri, halted largely due to piranha-like demands for payment for expropropriated lands."


- Judith Harris, Pompeii Awakened

In Part I of the Buried Books of Herculaneum mystery, we presented the following question: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated? The villa is prominently off limits to this day. To answer this mystery, we must travel back in time to the year 1709: the year the Villa dei Papyri was rediscovered after nearly two thousand years beneath the ash.

In 1709, Naples and surrounding regions were under Austrian rule. Like so many of the world’s most amazing discoveries, the lost city of Herculaneum was rediscovered by accident. While digging a well, a feat accomplished in 1709 by leading a heavily yoked ox in a circle, a farmer began unearthing marble.

Map of Herculaneum ruins; Villa dei Papiri is closed off
The farmer began selling the fragments, and one of his earliest prospective customers was Emanuel d’Elboeuf, the French prince commanding the Austrian cavalry. Eager to complete his own summer residence, the task that had brought him to shop for marble in the first place, d’Elboeuf confiscated the poor farmer’s well on behalf of the Austrian government. He began digging in earnest, and three female statues were unearthed. They were quickly followed by a statue of Cleopatra. The statues were claimed as property of the Austrian government and placed in the king’s garden in Vienna.

D’Elboeuf and his workers pillaged the building he had drilled into until it was stripped clean. When the booty was gone, they filled in the holes, and with no interests whatsoever in art, no such field as archeology, and no apparent concept of historical preservation, there were no real records of the find. The story might have stopped right there, had it not been for a succession of women as ambitious as Cleopatra herself.

Continued in Part 3 of The Buried Books of Herculaneum.

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California. 


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Anthrax in the Mail, AGAIN!




I have just a few things to say about this. First of all, I swear, it's not a publicity stunt on my part, although it is eerie how well-timed this is with the imminent launch of The Death Row Complexwhich deals directly with this subject. For the record, I haven't had access to anthrax components in years, and I never had access to the live bug.

Second: I can't believe the nerve of the Army and the CDC as they look the public in the eye and try to say that there was never any danger. To be clear: this is not the fault of Fed Ex. It's the fault of the researchers who should have known better. Yes, shipments of hazardous materials, including infectious materials, happens routinely. Yes, there are regulations in place to ensure safety--or at least to maximize the probability of safety. But to accidentally ship a batch of live anthrax that was improperly irradiated? WHOOPS. Big whoops. I hope someone was fired.

Third: Yes, this is different from the Amerithrax mailings. Those were deliberate. The perpetrator of that particular crime (I'm still not convinced it was Bruce Ivins) wanted to make people die. So he put live spores in the envelope with no secondary containment. In contrast, official shipments of infectious materials from one biomedical researcher to another is done in closed containers with the appropriate secondary containment. So it should be safe.

HOWEVER: The failure to properly irradiate a sample that was supposed to have been dead is an indication of a serious lack of attention to detail on the part of someone in the lab. That person shouldn't be there. His supervisor shouldn't be there either, if he isn't more in tune with what's going on in his laboratory. This is worse than malice; it's just stupidity.

Why does this matter? One: because there could still be live infectious material on the outside of the secondary container. It could be the wrong bug altogether. It could be shipped to the wrong place. And so forth. In short, if someone in a live anthrax lab is asleep at the wheel, we can't be confident that he or she only screws up in a way that isn't a threat to the public. Two: If this kind of stupidity is allowed to slip through the cracks, then who is to say that the malice won't also? All it takes is one disgruntled researcher to "accidentally" forget to tighten the cap on the vial. And then we've got issues.

For a glimpse of what could happen, check out The Death Row Complex when it's released on June 27. And ... if you work with live anthrax, please, pay attention.

Anthrax is one of only six microorganisms classified by the CDC as Category A (High Priority) biological weapons. For more information about the bug, here's a link to their bioterrorism page, a link to their anthrax page, and a link to the specific Category A agents.

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Death Row Complex, the second Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Death Row Complex in print or ebook.

An anonymous warning is sent to the White House, and a genetically engineered biological weapon is released in a California prison. The unpublished data of biologist Katrina Stone may hold the key to harnessing the lethal bacterium--and to its creation within the desperate world from which biotechnology is born.



Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Death Row Complex Cover Reveal

Another creation of Damonza's Awesome Book Covers.

An anonymous warning is sent to the White House, and a genetically engineered biological weapon is released in a California prison. The unpublished data of biologist Katrina Stone may hold the key to harnessing the lethal bacterium--and to its creation within the desperate world from which medicines are born.

Here it is! This is the cover art for The Death Row Complex, which I'm still foolishly optimistic enough to think we might be able to launch on June 6. This might be quite foolish. But it will certainly be available shortly thereafter, if not on that date.

Those of you who live in San Diego might recognize the cover image. I did, however, modify the sculpture just slightly to make it a DNA double helix.

If you've read the historical thriller The Vesuvius Isotope, you'll notice a trend between the cover art for the two novels. In both, protagonist Katrina Stone is on a quest for a medicine that can divert disaster. However, while the cover for The Vesuvius Isotope depicts the ancient world, that for The Death Row Complex depicts the modern one. Death Row is the prequel, taking place eight years before the events in Vesuvius. A sequel, which returns to the theme of a modern-day quest for an ancient medicine, is in the works.


The Death Row Complex will be available for pre-order in the very near future. Purchase The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon or get a signed copy here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 1

Piaggio's Device
In a glass case within the Naples Archaeological Museum is an instrument that resembles an old, battered loom. Long, knotted strands of a charcoal-colored substance hang suspended from it. The cluster looks more like meat curing in a slaughterhouse than what it actually is. It is paper.

This display is dedicated to the Villa dei Papyri, an ancient Roman residence buried and immaculately preserved in the 79AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The villa just happened to be owned by the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.

Inside the Villa dei Papyri was a large library containing approximately two thousand papyrus scrolls. Since their discovery in the 1700s, scientists and historians alike have repeatedly undertaken the unwinding of these precious artifacts. Once unwound, they are still legible.  

A papyrus scroll from the Villa dei Papyri
In addition to the large Greek library already uncovered, it is believed that there was probably an entire section of the library dedicated to works written in Latin, which of course may have included those of Julius Caesar himself. It may also contain the works of Octavian, the great nephew of Caesar and his sole heir, who went on to become the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. And the Villa dei Papyri may contain the writings of Caesar's lover and the mother of his only known son: Cleopatra, the enigmatic, powerful, multilingual, highly educated queen from whom no single writing has ever been discovered.  

But if these works do exist, they are still buried.

The majority of the villa was never fully excavated. Over the centuries, the treasure within has been sought by the likes of King Charles of Campania, Napoleon Bonaparte and Benito Mussolini. Tunnels have been excavated and then back-filled. The villa has been bombed, excavated, and bombed again. But the majority of the library remains intact, beneath meters of hardened ash from Mount Vesuvius.

I pose here the question: why? Why, when the Villa dei Papyri may be one of the most important archeological finds, and resources, in European history? Why, when many other areas of Herculaneum have been fully excavated for centuries? Why, when today's technology can readily bore into the depths of the Earth?  

You are invited to join us in solving this mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Look here for clues:

The Naples Archeological Museum, Naples, Italy
The Getty Villa, Malibu, California
The Greco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, Egypt
Pompeii Awakened, by Judith Harris

We continue this story in The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 2.

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California.