Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sweet Justice Is Coming

By Jordan Dane

The Kill Zone Blog welcomes Jordan Dane for today's Sunday guest post.

dane-jordan1 Imagine the horror of going to your teenager’s bedroom one morning only to find her missing. Her bed hadn’t been slept in and her clothes are gone.

In 2000, that’s what one mother in Florida faced. Her only child had conspired against her and ran away. And worse, she later discovered that her daughter had left the country—without having a passport. From the moment I read this news story, I was hooked and had to know more about how such an atrocity could happen. The teen’s trail might have gone ice cold, but her mother pushed authorities in a direction.

She knew where to start looking.

Only six months earlier, the girl had received a computer for a gift—a thoughtful present from a mother who wanted the best for her child. But this gift soon brought a virtual menace into their home. A charming and anonymous stranger lured the 14-year old girl to Greece—a man she’d met in a teen chat room. We’ve all heard stories like this. But after researching the facts behind this case, I was amazed at the audacity of this Internet predator.

And I wanted to shed light on the shrewd tactics of online predators in my upcoming book—Evil Without A Face (Feb 2009, Avon, $7.99)—the first book in my Sweet Justice series.

evil-face The online predator not only manipulated the teenager in Florida, but he also convinced law-abiding adults to cooperate with his schemes. These people thought they were helping an abused kid, but they didn’t know the facts, check with her family or contact local law enforcement. This stranger duped an employee of the local phone company into arranging for a private cell phone to talk to the girl directly. His slick manipulation scored him a purchased airline ticket (without a direct connection to him) and a clandestine ride for the girl to the airport. But after he bribed a child pornographer to acquire an illegal passport for her to leave the United States, the girl was out of the country before her mother knew she was gone.

And the chase to save the girl was on—a mother’s worst fear.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. This happened in 2000, before the added airport security measures were implemented after 9/11 in 2001. The girl would never have been allowed on a plane without proper ID. But after contacting a source in the airline industry, I was shocked to learn how many children travel unaccompanied and without a valid ID on domestic flights these days. So this extraordinary Florida case became the framework for my novel, Evil Without A Face. And I chose to set part of the story in the unique venue of Alaska where I had lived for ten years.

My novels have the feel of being ripped from today's headlines because real crime inspires me. Who says crime doesn't pay? Violence is like the ripple effect on the surface of still water. The wake radiates out from the victim and touches many people. In my books, I give a voice to the many victims of crime.

In Evil Without A Face, an illusive web of imposters on the Internet lures a deluded teen from her Alaskan home and launches a chain reaction collision course with an unlikely tangle of heroes. A new kind of criminal organization becomes the faceless enemy behind an insidious global conspiracy. And the life of one young girl and countless others hang in the balance. This is the initial driver to my new series. With an international setting, these thrillers will focus on the lives and loves of three women—a bounty hunter operating outside the law, an ambitious vice cop, and a former international operative with a mysterious past. These women give Lady Justice a whole new reason to wear blinders.

And their brand of justice is anything but sweet.

After researching the case in Florida, I became more concerned for naïve kids socializing in cyberspace—young people like my nieces and nephews. Savvy online criminals lurk in anonymity and carry on without fear of repercussion. I’m an active member of MySpace and Facebook and know how they operate. But these social networks aren’t the problem—the criminals are. And as you’ve seen in the headlines and on TV, the online community has become a real hunting ground for predators.

Why not? It’s easy pickings.

For the most part, the Internet is an invaluable tool. And it breaks down the barriers between countries, allowing many of us to have international friends. But the anonymity of cyberspace attracts all sorts of users with criminal intent. Terrorists have found new high-tech ways to recruit online and they have duped some Internet users into funding their activities or have resorted to outright stealing through subterfuge. And since crimes that cross over jurisdictions and international borders are harder to prosecute, offenders often get away with their schemes. That's why I wanted to write Evil Without A Face and dole out my brand justice. After all, who couldn’t use a liberal dose of ‘Sweet Justice’ when reality becomes stranger than fiction?

How has your use of the Internet changed over the years? Have you become more suspicious of certain behaviors from online strangers? And if you have children who use online resources, can you share some tips on how you keep them safer?

Avon/Harpercollins launched Jordan Dane’s debut suspense novels in a back to back publishing event in Spring 2008 after the 3-book series sold in auction. Ripped from the headlines, Jordan's gritty plots weave a tapestry of vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense pacing to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag—romantic suspense that “crosses over into plain thriller country”. Pursuing publication since 2003, this national best selling and critically acclaimed author received awards in 33 national writing competitions. And recently, her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008 and Romantic Times Magazine nominated NO ONE LIVES FOREVER as Best Intrigue Novel of 2008. Formerly an energy sales manager in the oil and gas industry, she now is following her passion to write full time. Jordan and her husband share their residence with two cats of highborn lineage and the sweet memory of an impossible to forget canine.

For more, visit www.jordandane.com.

Current Titles:

NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM (Apr 08)

NO ONE LEFT TO TELL (May 08)

NO ONE LIVES FOREVER (Jun 08)

EVIL WITHOUT A FACE (Feb 09)

THE WRONG SIDE OF DEAD (Nov 09)

Awards/Recognitions:

· Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008 – Mass Market (NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM)

· Romantic Times Magazine Nominee Best Romantic Intrigue Novel of 2008 (NO ONE LIVES FOREVER)

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CALENDAR OF UPCOMING GUESTS

Mark your calendar for the following guest bloggers at the Kill Zone:

Michael Palmer, February 22
Mario Acevedo, March 1
Cara Black, March 8
Robert Gregory Browne, March 15
Neil Plakcy, March 22
Liz Jasper, March 29

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for joining us today, Jordan! Funny, the plot of my latest book also kicks off with a teenage girl being lured off via an internet stranger, but for a very different reason. Scary that they aren't more careful about kids traveling alone showing ID- although it occurred to me when I read that, I've traveled extensively with my toddler, and have yet to produce any proof that I am her parent.

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  2. I think we assume so much when it comes to a kid's safety. I guess because none of us want to live in a world where this type of crime occurs on a frequent basis--and we tend to look at others as if they are an extension of our world view and trustworthy. It's hard to fathom otherwise.

    And even though it makes for a tough subject matter in a book, our natural instinct to protect a child also stirs our worst fears. I can see why we'd write about it. It allows us to find justice in fiction when in reality, that's not always possible.

    Can't wait to read your book.

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  3. Thanks for joing us Jordan and for scarying me:) As a mother of twins preschoolers i can easily imagine the horror and like Michelle no one has ever asked me to prove I was the parent and we have traveled internationally as well as domestically. You hear of so many instances when one parent absconds that you'd think they'd at least check...

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  4. Hey there Clare--It's pretty spooky, but your comment made me think of more plot ideas. Yikes.

    I'm trying not to think about what that says about me.

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  5. Jordan, thanks for joining us. Best of luck with EVIL WITHOUT A TRACE. Hope to see you at ThrillerFest.

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  6. So I have to know... on the real life case you cited, did the girl get returned home? Did they catch the guy???

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  7. Thanks, Joe. I appreciate you taking the time from your writing to stop by. And thanks for the good wishes on EVIL.

    Hey Robin--Great to virtually see you here. This case was amazing. The FBI intervened right as she was about to meet this predator in Greece. But from what I've read, the girl's been very traumatized by the event. It would be one of those stories where there would be some sort of redemption, just not the same world as where the book started. This girl was lucky. It could have been much worse, but I wanted to shed light on Internet safety with this book.

    Best wishes to all of you with your writing. And I hope to see you on the conference circuit in 2009.

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  8. Oh and Robin--They did catch the guy but he served very little time. My point in the book is that this girl and others like her receive a life's sentence or death for one teenaged mistake. And these predators get virtually no punishment and are doing it again--because the odds are with them.

    Really scary.

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  9. Geez, this is such a frustrating issue. Makes me want to ASSIST justice along a little. :-D If I was a mom of one of these kids, it would be incredibly hard for me not to inflict my own brand of justice on someone like this that was getting by with it...over and over again. **shudder* Thanks for addressing this issue, Jordan.

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  10. Scary stuff Jordan. I have a four-year old granddaughter who is already playing around with the computer and wonder what the future holds for her. Look at how technology has progressed since I got into computers in 1982--I built my first computer from parts I ordered mail order--the watch on my wrist is more powerful than that computer. I wonder what the Internet and how we interact with it will change in the next ten years. With great power, comes great responsibilities and many children don't understand that they can do almost anything via the internet, that they even should...

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  11. Hye Di--Yeah, I think that was why I wanted to write this series. In a fictional world, we can write justice as we see it. Very liberating.

    And Joe--Thanks for showing up, buddy. I didn't realize you had a grandbaby. And yes, it's scary kids that young are already on the computer. It's one thing to use a computer as a tool for some benefit, but too many kids use it to communicate with--insta-messaging, chatrooms, & social networks. I think we'll be seeing the aftermath of this for years to come. And I know you appreciate this kind of discussion more than most. Thanks for stopping by. I know how busy your day is. Take care.

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  12. Jordan, I did make it, although I wonder if I would.

    There are too many ways to "get to" kids. When one of my niece's was kidnapped from the parking lot filled with parents and kids leaving after the game, she was kicking and screaming and trying to get away. When questioned later, adult after adult said he/she thought some parent was having trouble with a bratty kid. I'm nosy enough I would have walked up and asked if there were a problem.

    The next morning her nude body was found broken and thrown away in a ditch. Someday, maybe I'll be able to write about it.

    I don't know how to keep our kids safe without being considered over protective. But I'd rather be called names and have them safe.

    Sorry, end of sermon.

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  13. Oh, Vivian--I'm so sorry about your niece. And it takes guts to share your horrifying experience. I owe you a hug when we meet next time.

    I had a friend who shared the murder of her sister and I never forgot her words. She's one of the inspirations behind my debut book.

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  14. Wow...coming in late but coming nonetheless.

    As an IT professional and former computer forensics tech I can corroborate what Jordan is pointing out. Watch what your kids do on the web, boys and girls alike. The web is mostly safe, but kids need a body guard out there. I too have experienced having someone close to me end up in a potentially very dangerous situation because she was too naive to see the danger of the web friend she had made. I've also had the satisfaction of putting away child-pornagraphers, only to wish there was more we could legally do to them.

    By the way Jordan, interesting that you should write from an Alaskan perspective. I am Alaskan. And recently read your first novel, No One Heard Her Scream (good job on that one by the way).

    At any rate never let your kids have a computer in their bedroom, and never let them get online except in a totally accessable area of the home. 'Cause I don't have the time to sit guard duty at your house to protect your kids from the punks out there.

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  15. Hey Basil---Thanks for joining us. I lived in Anchorage for 10 years and have been to Talkeetna many times--winter and summer. Great cross-country skiing in winter and we had friends who played on a softball team competing in their summer tourney. We slept on the floor of the Roadhouse when they ran out of beds. $5/night. LOL

    I have a Story behind the Story of EVIL (& SCREAM) if you drill down into the book menus on my website. The pics I have of AK locales I used might be familiar to you. I was up at Bouchercon in 2007 and took more pics & visited with friends. And I drove some of my crazy thriller author friends around AK too. We had a blast.

    And thanks for your comment on kid's safety too. Writing can come from a very personal place and this subject is important to me. The discussions I've had on Internet safety with this book has been enlightening...for me too.

    I'm glad you liked my book. Thanks for sharing that.

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  16. I'm late too(second draft was due)--hi Jordan! I remember the only time I ever had to get "permission" to travel with my daughter was when I took her on a trip to Africa--I had to provide proof to the African government issuing the visa that it was okay with her father for her to leave the United States. Now that I look back on it, maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. Maybe they've had situations where one parent (or other adult) has simply taken a child. Yikes.

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  17. That was a good thing, Kathryn--and something I wouldn't have expected from Africa. More countries should do that.

    And best wishes with that new book too.

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