Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, May 8, 2015

a chance of a lifetime - Expedition Indigo (Riley Cooper #1) by Stacy Allen

Archaeologist Riley Cooper is offered the chance of a lifetime: a chance to find the Crux Fidelis, the coronation cross of Charlemagne. Under Water Sea Adventures members believe they have found the remains of the Indigo, a heavily laden cargo ship commissioned by Charlemagne and presumed lost on its maiden voyage off the coast of southern Italy in the early 800s.

Cover Artist: Jess Small

Archaeologist Riley Cooper is offered the chance of a lifetime: a chance to find the Crux Fidelis, the coronation cross of Charlemagne. Under Water Sea Adventures members believe they have found the remains of the Indigo, a heavily laden cargo ship commissioned by Charlemagne and presumed lost on its maiden voyage off the coast of southern Italy in the early 800s. If Riley can find the cross, it will prove Charlemagne’s coronation as the First Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day had not been a spontaneous act, but rather a desperate political maneuver by a Pope in need of protection. 

When Riley joins UWSA off the coast of Sorrento, Italy, tensions and tempers fly as a competing team arrives in search of the treasure and an approaching hurricane gains strength and heads straight toward the dive site. And when one of the crew is murdered, Riley must find the strength to fight back and keep the treasure out of the other team’s hands.


When I set out to write this series, I knew I wanted to focus on a character that inspires me. I have always loved history and archaeology. I have traveled the world, and though I have loved all the journeys I have taken, Italy is far and away my favorite. I also knew I needed to tap into a subject that means a great deal to me, and that is SCUBA diving and shipwrecks. 

I became a SCUBA diver to overcome my fear of drowning, and of deep water. I drowned as a young girl. I remember distinctly every detail. It was in the mid-afternoon, on a hot, sunny day. We were swimming in the river behind our house. I dived in, and I hit the shale ledge, a ledge I had missed hundreds of dives before. I had been in and out of that river every summer, but on this day, fate had a surprise in store. I floated down – on my back – looking up through the water. Fingers of sunlight undulated, sparkling rays of light with silt floating through, and I think I hit the bottom, and I remember floating somewhere away. My brother Kevin was there, and he came in for me, and saved my life.

I tried through the years-unsuccessfully-to take swimming lessons, to let go of the side of the pool and make my way to the center, to go back in the river. I panicked. Over and over again.

Many, many years later, on a vacation in the Caribbean, I decided it was time I got over my fear of water. I signed up for an introductory SCUBA course. My first dive was an open water dive, on a wreck, in the open ocean, in water deeper than I had ever experienced. Though I was terrified, and hyperventilated as soon as I hit the water, I survived. 

Here I am, many years later, an Advanced Open Water Diver. I went to the Keys to get a NITROX certification. I have done night dives, shipwreck dives, cave dives. I realized one day, I am so much stronger than I thought I was! And the universal truth is: we are all stronger than we think we are! We don’t give ourselves proper credit. We minimize our worth. So I decided I want to write a book about a character that was stronger than she imagined. 

So I knew my premise was, and I woke up one day with the title of EXPEDITION INDIGO in my head. I had no idea what to do with that title, but once I had it, it wouldn’t let me go. Bit by bit, the story came to me, and I imagined my protagonist to be an archaeologist, a Boston academic, who has no idea what she is truly capable of, until situations present themselves and she must make choices, and do things, she had never imagined. 

I wanted her strong, but not invincible. I wanted her to be smart, but not brilliant and infallible. I needed her to be human. And I didn’t want to weigh the book down with too much detail or description. I believe writers write half the book, and the readers write the other half in their minds. We must engage the reader cerebrally, and not spoon feed them every last detail. It bores the reader, because there is nothing for them to do, and their minds will begin to wander, and eventually they will let the book slip from their hands and they will wander away from the story, never to return. 

I created Dr. Riley Cooper, a smart archaeology, raised from the age of 14 by her maternal grandmother. She is disciplined, obsessive-compulsive, and believes a lot of things about herself that aren’t true.

When she is called upon to go to Italy on adventure to find and salvage a shipwreck from the 800s, the little girl that loved excitement, travel, discovery, and conquering odds re-emerges. She finds out she is capable of strength and courage she never knew she had.

I think that mirrors nearly everyone I know in this life. We all think we can’t handle certain things, but life comes at us in pieces, and somehow we find a way. We muddle through, we excel sometimes, and scrape by at other times. All of us have been given things to deal with we would rather have run from, but all of us are still standing. 

I knew it was a high fence to climb. I was an avid reader, and loved all the Dirk Pitt (Clive Cussler’s iconic hero) novels, and of course I love the series featuring Amelia Peabody (a wonderful series character created by Elizabeth Peters), so I knew I wanted a SCUBA diving archaeologist. Publishers always say “Write something that has never been done before.” They mean well. I was asked by more than one to consider changing Riley’s gender to male. I felt it was important that Riley remain a woman. Although I am open to hearing feedback, and making innumerable editorial changes to manuscripts, that was one place I held my ground. Thankfully, I have a fantastic literary agent who believed in me, my character, and the vision I had for the series. It took a very long time to sell EXPEDITION INDIGO. Years, in fact. In that time, I kept making changes based on feedback from Beta Readers, and suggestions from editors who turned the book down, but gave valuable commentary in their rejections. 

In the first book (Pub date, August 18, 2014, by Fiery Seas Publishing), Riley is in Italy. I have five more books planned. I am nearly done with the second in the series, and have the story arcs and working titles already planned. Riley is in Cyprus in book 2, Egypt in book 3, Iceland in book 4, Italy (again!) in book 5, and Austria in book 6. I am tossing some additional ideas around for the next books after the first 6, including a few adventures in the United States. 

A student of languages all my life, I also wanted my character to be fluent in Italian, French, Latin, and a spattering of other languages as the need arises. 

I am very grateful for the reviews I have received. Getting reviews is one of the most difficult jobs for a debut author, so I appreciate each one. I am also thankful that the book is available in e-formats and print. And last November I received an audio deal from ListenUp Audiobooks, and the audio of EXPEDITION INDIGO came out April 1. My narrator did an amazing job at creating all the distinctive characters. (Thank you, Kristin Kalbli, and ListenUp Audiobooks!). 

Thank you, so much, for hosting my blog post today! I so appreciate!


In her grandmother’s world, behavior was clear and concise. There was no room for tantrums, self-pity, or melancholy. Period. Grandmother wasn’t interested in hearing reasons or excuses. The reasons were unimportant. Grandmother believed there was never a reasonable excuse for cursing.
She had come home from school one day and was running up the stairs to her room, angrily stomping and talking to herself. Without realizing her grandmother was within earshot, she vented her frustration about losing a competition to another piano student. Grandmother had heard the cursing and called her to task before Riley even made it up the stairs.
“Riley Cooper, you come down here at once. I will not tolerate that language. You have no excuse for expressing yourself with words that are coarse or vulgar. I am not sending you to the best school in Boston to learn how to curse. Ladies do not act that way.”
Riley snapped to attention and turned on the stairs to look down at her grandmother, who was standing in the foyer, glaring up at her. She stood for a moment, trying to think of a better way to express her feelings, since it was clear Grandmother was waiting to hear one. Riley slowly descended the stairs.
The woman had a frightening ability to stare for an unending period of time, with not as much as even one blink. Her eyes were like a double-barrel shotgun. Riley felt like a trapped fawn seconds away from certain death.  Her grandmother walked into the parlor and Riley, though frightened, followed.
Riley found her wits and began again, this time in the most controlled tone of voice she could muster. “I apologize, Grandmother. I meant to say… I meant to say that I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed and frustrated. Dawn Beechum won the competition. It’s just because her father is on the board of trustees of the school. It isn’t fair.
Grandmother’s pencil-thin eyebrows flickered. “Miss Beechum is very talented. You can hear it in her performance. She interacts with her audience. You completely disregard everyone, not even making eye contact or smiling out into the crowd. You play the piano as if you are alone in a faraway tower in some imaginary world. You should have picked a piece that audiences recognize and can relate to, but instead you insisted on choosing an obscure overture, written by an obscure German composer. Your audience does not recognize the piece, so they cannot hum along in their heads. They have no idea where the piece is going or how long you are going to play. They just sit there, waiting for you to finish, enduring the notes without feeling anything.”
Riley seethed inside but knew to keep silent. Since when was Georg Philipp Telemann obscure?
“I will pick out the appropriate piece for you to learn. You will spend this next year perfecting your performance. You will know the piece without even trying. Next year, when the tryouts are held again, you will shine. You will win the audition and you will represent the school. I have to think about what piece would be appropriate. Until then, you will run your scales and work on your other exercises for at least two hours each day.”
“Grandmother, Telemann is—was a magnificent composer.
“Riley, you will play what I tell you to play.”
And, just like that, it was done. Riley turned to leave the parlor.
“I am not done with you, young lady,” her grandmother snapped.
Riley froze mid-step, then turned back to face her sentence.
“Now, as to your cursing. It is obvious that you are involved with the wrong crowd down at that community center. First you began to use slang and speaking in contractions constantly, which you know I find appalling. Now you are picking up their coarse language. You will resign from that swim team immediately.”
“Resign? Grandmother, please. I can’t resign from the team, especially now. What about Saturday? It’s the regional finals.”
“You will not continue swimming. You will not take even one day off from piano practice until you are chosen next year to represent the school.”
“Grandmother, the team won’t win without me. I have to go Saturday. I’m… I mean, I am the only one who can swim the eight hundred meter fast enough.”
“As of this moment, you are no longer swimming. Saturday or any other day from now on. Your focus is to be on school work and on your piano lessons. You will practice every single day until next year’s try outs.”
“We’re nearly to the final meet of the season, Grandmother. Please let me swim one more time. They need me.”
Her grandmother stood rigid, then took Riley by the shoulders and held her firmly. “I have tolerated this all I am going to. I let you go swimming when you first came here because I thought it could be helpful for you to have a distraction from dealing with Elizabeth’s death, but it has been a year now, and you need to snap out of whatever it is you are going through. Your mother and father are dead. Life is full of disappointment and pain. It is high time you realized that you are living under my roof and by my rules.”
“I know you don’t approve of them, but they are my friends. I can’t let them down,” Riley whispered softly, tears swelling in her blue-gray eyes.
Her grandmother released Riley’s shoulders. “Those young women come from questionable families. I realize it is not their fault that they have not been given adequate supervision. They have never been taught how to behave, but it does not change the fact that their behavior is unacceptable, and now you bring home this type of language? Riley, these friends of yours go to public school. There is no telling what kind of environment they are exposed to there, but their bad influence is rubbing off on you, and I will not tolerate it anymore.” Grandmother waved a bejeweled hand to indicate Riley was dismissed.
There was no point in arguing. Riley retreated, making a conscious effort to walk softly up the stairs. Tears stung the corner of her eyes before she opened her bedroom door, and she sobbed softly as she buried her head in the numerous decorative pillows that covered the top half of her bed.
She wondered what piece of music Grandmother would choose. Something excruciatingly common, no doubt. The level of difficulty wouldn’t intimidate her. It was the idea that Grandmother’s selection would be the same piece that at least half the other contestants would play at their auditions. Riley couldn’t stand to be ordinary.

About the author:
Stacy’s passion for adventure has taken her to five continents to explore over fifty countries. Stacy also plays guitar and sings, when she isn’t traveling around the world in search of new locales and new stories. 

Stacy served on the Board of Trustees of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, the Pacific Northwest Mystery Writers of America chapter, and currently serves as Vice President of the Southeast Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) chapter. She is represented by Jill Marr of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a very large house cat named Valentino.

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Mar Preston said...

I love this line!

"I believe writers write half the book, and the readers write the other half in their minds."

There's such a temptation to dogpile everything you know on the page because dammitall, it took you effort to learn it.

You tell just enough in your books to tease me to want to know more and read more.

Stacy Allen said...

Thank you, Mar! Hope you win!!