BLOG POST – Survive or Die
About the Book
Encircle Publications, LLC
Paperback: 346 pages
February 28, 2019, $16.99
Also available for Kindle
You think you’re gonna Survive, but you’re gonna Die. Die. Die.
The owner of a dysfunctional company arranges a mandatory team-building exercise at the Survive or Die survivalist camp, once the setting for a defunct reality TV show. When he receives a death threat, what surprises employees is not that someone wants their lecherous, hard-drinking boss dead. The surprise is that he’s not the first casualty.
The unexpected demise of a coworker’s husband barely causes a ripple. The annoying photographer’s death is attributed to natural causes. The excitement comes when the boss announces the winner of the week-long game will receive a raise, and the loser will be fired. Most employees dig in with grim determination. A few have other agendas.
Timid junior accountant and dedicated eco-warrior Sotheara Sok searches for evidence that toxic waste is being dumped illegally on the ranch. Aubrey Sommers plans to rekindle romance with her husband, despite her resentment at being stuck in the shabby camp. Factory laborer Jeremiah Jones stalks his coworkers in search of a woman with wide child-bearing hips to share his mountain man dream.
Their plans become derailed when unlikely accidents plague the camp. Tours of Going Batty Days and the Cannibal of Carver Pass Museum in nearby Lodgepole provide pieces to a disturbing puzzle. The three join forces with an old lady version of Chuck Norris, and a city-girl computer geek, as the week deteriorates from mock survival games to a fight for survival in the Colorado wilderness.
Interview With the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I grew up in a family of readers. When we moved to a new town, one of the first things we did was find the library and get our cards. My siblings and I would write ridiculous plays to perform for our great aunts, who were aided in their appreciation of our artistry by scheduling them during happy hour. I thought reading and writing were things everyone wanted to do.
What genres do you write in?
I write mystery. Specifically, I write amateur sleuth and cozy. The difference is in the intensity and the subject matter. Cozies tend to be lighter despite a murder or two. Think Agatha Christie. The murder happens off scene. Descriptions are not too gory. In an amateur sleuth, the language and murder descriptions can be a bit more graphic, although typically still not as intense as in a thriller. Think Sue Grafton. I like to laugh, so I try to add a touch of humor to my stories.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
I prefer to read – and write – fiction that takes me away from the problems of the world. Cozy and amateur sleuth mystery may travel briefly to dark places, but there is a solution at the end. Justice is served. In a world where there is so much genuine evil, I want to believe in happy endings.
How did you break into the field?
I dabbled at writing fiction my entire life. I thought I was a serious writer. Then I took a few graduate school courses, and experienced an epiphany – I didn’t apply nearly the level of effort to my fiction as I did to a term paper. From that moment on, I approached my fiction with a professional attitude, revising until I came as close to perfection as I could manage. In 2012, I became fiercely dedicated to getting published. After many rejections, I finally sold my first short story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, followed later that year by my first novel sale, Stone Cold Dead.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I’m a fiction author. I write to entertain. My hope is that reading my stories might distract a reader from their real-life problems for a few hours. If readers learn something new about an occupation, issue, or location by reading my stories, that’s a nice bonus.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Creating my own world where I can attempt to make sense out of life.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
The non-creative side – publishing and promotion, tracking the business end of things, and trying to get reviews.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
One: Don’t hurry. Your best work won’t be created in a rush. Sure, there are anecdotes about people writing bestsellers in a weekend, but take those stories with a large grain of salt. My best work took time.
Two: After you’ve written “the end,” set your work aside. In this instant world, it may be tempting to push your baby swiftly into publication. Whether you self-publish or go the traditional route, take the time to let it sit for as long as you can. Take a break from your story, maybe to work on some other project for a week or more. When you come back to it, you’ll see your writing with fresh eyes.
Three: Don’t quit the day job. When I first became published, I dreamed of quitting my job and writing full time. The economic reality hit hard. Most folks I know who write full time are retired, or supported by a spouse. I joked that I’d probably be able to earn my living from writing on the day I retired. That may not be far from the truth. See this article for the economic realities of fiction writing: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2017/03/while-were-at-it.html
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Mostly lighter mystery, such as cozy and amateur sleuth. I also read the occasional true crime set in the American West such as Killdozer by Patrick Brower, mystery that borders on literary such as Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, and classics such as Edgar Allen Poe. I also read lots of short fiction.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I work in the corporate world as an environmental regulatory compliance specialist. Many of the environmental themes and subplots in my stories are inspired by real world issues. I also enjoy hiking, running, and fishing. Given the time and opportunity, I can be a true homebody, gardening, doing arts and crafts, and puttering around the house. One of my hobbies is painting rocks.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
My Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Dilts/e/B00FCLD62Q
Excerpt From the Book
Aubrey shot a withering look Grant’s way that was completely wasted. He was too busy closing the door on a gray Camry someone had carelessly left open. That was Grant, Pinon Pine troop leader. Always helping people in need. People other than his wife.
“Grant didn’t explain to me we’d be camping.”
“I know,” Madison said. “He made me keep it a secret. How romantic is that? I hope we can be on the same team.”
“Team?” Aubrey asked.
“Yes. We’ll be competing to win treasure chest keys, just like on the old show.”
Sotheara Sok stepped into their circle before Aubrey could explode. The short Cambodian woman was almost unrecognizable without her powersuit and heels. She clutched the straps of a pink backpack that draped over her shoulders. Dressed in summer clothes, her bare feet dusty, Sotheara didn’t look much older than Aubrey’s teenage daughter.
“Hi, everyone. Which way is camp?”
“I’d guess that way.” Madison pointed.
Aubrey turned to see Frank Hardy march under the Survive or Die banner. Grant ran to him and pumped his hand like he was attempting to draw water from a well.
“Glad you finally made it.” Frank could have modeled for an outfitter’s catalog with his close-cropped salt and pepper hair, tanned and craggy face, and woodsy camouflage vest covered with bulging pockets. “Any other stragglers?” He scanned the parking lot. “We’re ready to start.”
“Start what?” Grant asked.
“Strategizing. Ted jumped the gun on us. He’s already formed a team of all the runners in the company.”
“Hang on a second.” Grant loped back to Aubrey. “How about it, honey?” He kept his voice low. “Are we leaving?”
Madison clutched Aubrey’s arm. “You’ve got to stay,” she whispered. “I need an ally. These people will eat me alive.”
“They’re never bringing Survive or Die back to television,” Sotheara said. “This is our only chance to play.”
So it wasn’t the comfy marriage retreat Aubrey had hoped for. Still, a week away from the kids had been a bear to arrange. Surely they could hit the romantic reset button on their fragile marriage as easily at a rugged camp as at their honeymoon B&B.
And then there was Madison, over a decade younger than Aubrey. She couldn’t imagine how the computer geek city-girl had been convinced to go camping, but Madison was right. She needed an ally.
Aubrey sighed with more drama than necessary, letting her shoulders slump. “Okay. I’ll stay. But if it’s as terrible as I think—”
They didn’t wait for her to finish. Frank grimaced as they unloaded luggage.
“I hope you packed the right gear. This isn’t a leisurely weekend at the country club.”
“Had I known,” Aubrey said, “I would have packed differently.” Speaking just loud enough for Grant to hear, she added, “I would have left the silk lingerie at home.”
“Time’s wasting.” Frank studied his elaborate wristwatch, no doubt waterproof, shock proof, and bear proof. “We’re on a schedule here.”
“Hold on.” Grant dropped a suitcase in the dirt. “There’s something on Mr. Bender’s windshield.” He stretched to snatch a scrap of paper from under the Humvee’s windshield wiper.
“What is it?” Frank asked.
“A flier.” Grant studied the paper. “This entire week is Going Batty Days in Lodgepole.”
“How fitting,” Aubrey muttered.
“It’s a fundraiser for bat habitats,” he continued. “Sounds fun.”
Sotheara clapped her hands together. “Bats!” A delighted smile lit up her face.
“Ew.” Madison grimaced as she scanned the afternoon sky, clutching the goofy orange sunbonnet tight over her curly brown hair.
“There’s no flier on my truck,” Frank said. “Edna and I arrived before Bender.”
“There’s something on the back,” Madison said.
Grant flipped the paper over. His green eyes opened wide. Aubrey looked over his arm at the hand-written note.
“Somebody’s not happy.” He handed the note to Frank.
“Bender,” Frank read aloud, “you think you’re gonna Survive, but you’re gonna Die. Die. Die.”
Birdsong and the sigh of the breeze through the pines punctuated the silence as the group huddled around Frank, staring at the scribbled threat. Frank handed it back to Grant.
“Let the games begin,” he muttered.
Madison smiled. “I knew this was going to be fun.”
About the Author
Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim.
With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in Survive Or Die, when a manufacturing company holds a team building exercise in the wilderness. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/