How do you top a North Korean Firing Squad?

IE-frontCover-Final-r2-72dpiThere is an ailment that afflicts some authors, popularly known as “Second Book Syndrome” in which an author struggles to write the next book after publication of their first novel (sometimes it strikes after a novel is viewed as a critical and/or financial success). I didn’t face this syndrome in the typical manner—it hit me as I began writing my 4th novel. At the time, none of my books were published, so there was no measure of success to trigger it, just my own neuroses.

For me, the syndrome surfaced because I’d just completed Body of Evidence and whenever I sat down to write, the vicious little voice in my head would say, “How do you top a book that starts with a North Korean firing squad?” And I couldn’t let go of the idea that I had to top it. In my head, the 3rd Evidence Series novel had to be more dynamic than the last.

But still, in spite of these doubts, I wrote. I finished the first draft, and I liked it. There were parts I even loved. But I knew it needed work, so I set it aside and started another book, which I planned to make the 4th book in the series. But still, that fear lingered even as I finished the first draft of the next book.

Then I had an idea for a novella that would tie the first 2 Evidence books to the 2 unpublished manuscripts, creating a stronger link across the series. That novella (which ended up being a short novel) is the 3rd book in the Evidence Series, Withholding Evidence.

Writing Withholding is what finally cured me of Second Book Syndrome, because I approached the work differently. Instead of trying to top a firing squad, I aimed for a funny and sexy opening to set the tone for that particular book. While some books require firing squads, others require a cocky half-naked SEAL confronting a curious historian, or a heroine on a quest for justice finding an injured former Army Ranger deep in the Alaskan wilderness.

With this clarity, I finally returned to that book I’d drafted while struggling with the Syndrome. I went to Alaska to research the setting, and started from scratch with the story, so the doubts that hampered me wouldn’t find their way into the new draft. In an instant, the vision of Isabel hiking through woods and finding Alec came to me, and I knew I had my opening. Does it top the firing squad? I have no idea, but that no longer matters to me. What matters is I was eager to find out what happens next, which is all we can ask from any first scene.


Incriminating Evidence released today, and after reading about my struggle with the Syndrome, you can probably imagine my joy when one of the first reviews opened with: “I absolutely loved this book. It is the fourth book in this series, and in my opinion, it is the best.”

You can read on for an excerpt of Incriminating, or visit an online vendor to download a longer sample.

Amazon | iBooks | KoboBarnes & Noble

This evening (Tues, March 24th) from 7 – 10 p.m. EDT, my critique partner, Darcy Burke, and I are having a party to celebrate the release of Incriminating Evidence and Darcy’s fabulous book, Yours to Hold, on Facebook. Stop by to chat with our great lineup of guest authors and enter giveaways to win lots of fun prizes (including several items that play a role in Incriminating Evidence)!



 Incriminating Evidence Excerpt:

There was only one solution. Well, two. Either give him her blanket, or share it with him. The smart thing would be to share it. They’d both be warm. They’d both get the rest they needed to face the hike to her truck tomorrow.

But sharing a blanket, getting up close and personal with Alec Ravissant, definitely didn’t feel like the right thing. The right thing would be to give him the blanket and get the hell out of the cabin, head back to her truck alone. When she arrived home, she could call Raptor and tell them where they could find their boss.

“If you’re trying to decide if you should give me your blanket,” Alec said softly, “forget it. I won’t take it from you. I can handle a little chill.”

Crap. He was awake, meaning the right thing wasn’t an option. If she tried to leave, he’d follow, and he was in no condition to traipse six miles through the woods. “No, I was debating sharing it with you.”

His mouth curved in a slow smile. “You wanna get close to my body, Jenna?”

Isabel rolled her eyes at his tone even as she stiffened at the fake name. He was going to be so pissed when he found out who she really was. “No, but I don’t want you to die after I worked so hard to save your ungrateful life.” She grabbed the Mylar tent. “It’s not a regular emergency blanket, it’s the tent kind—a long tube. We’ll have to shimmy into it.”

“No problem,” he said.

Yeah, no problem for one person, but a little awkward for two, especially when she didn’t want to touch him. He was a big man, with wide, muscular shoulders. No matter how much she tried to avoid him, her body brushed against his.

“I’m not contagious, Jenna.”

“I know, but I’m not in the mood to be strangled again.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice sincere. He reached for her, and she stiffened, but his fingers gently probed her neck, caressing the skin he’d bruised. A strange, fluttery feeling started low in her belly. A sensation she didn’t like at all. Not when Alec Ravissant was the person who caused it.

She rolled over, presenting her back to him and maintaining as much distance as the tube tent would allow. His arm snaked around her waist and pulled her back against his chest. He tucked his knees behind hers and her butt pressed snugly against his crotch. “We’ll be warmer if we spoon. One of those things you learn in survival training.”

She snorted. “Yeah, I bet you Rangers all snuggled up tight.”

“If it were a matter of survival, we would.” His breath tickled her ear, causing more unwelcome flutters in her belly. “Do you have a husband or boyfriend, Jenna?”

She stiffened. Was he going to hit on her now?

“Relax. I’m just asking because I want to know if anyone is going to hear about this and demand an explanation.”

“No. No boyfriend. No husband.” No brother. No family. “Just me,” she added.

“Well then, maybe to thank you for saving my life, you’ll let me take you out to dinner.”

She knew he expected a teasing rejoinder. Something about getting off cheap if all she got was a lousy meal, but her throat had gone dry. Dinner with Alec Ravissant? Not just no, but hell no. And if he knew who she was, he’d feel the exact same way.

Amazon | iBooks | KoboBarnes & Noble

About Rachel Grant

Archaeologist Rachel Grant writes romantic suspense where archaeology, politics, and war collide.

Posted on March 24, 2015, in New Release, Rachel Grant and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I am loving IE so far and I am looking forward to the FB party tonight with you and Darcy. So happy for you that you were able to overcome SBS!

  2. Congratulations on the new book, Rachel. I loved the post, too. Thanks for sharing your story.


  3. Thanks so much, Sharon and Diana!!

  4. Happy book birthday, Rachel. I loved IE! So original and exciting to read 🙂

  5. Happy release day, Rachel! You didn’t need to top the firing squad. The opening for IE was perfect for the book and totally sucked me right in. See you on FB tonight! 🙂

  6. Happy release day to you!!!! Is your red dress ready??

  7. Yay Rachel! Congratulations on this release and on defeating the Syndrome! Love that story.

  8. WITHHOLDING beginning for sure topped the firing squad for me! There was no doubt that my heart was in my throat during the pronouncement of the North Korean death sentence, but the half naked SEAL’s outrageous (hot!) behavior almost made me fall out of my chair. I remember emailing friends going: you are not going to BELIEVE Rachel’s first chapter!

    So, so sorry to show up this late. Writing against deadlines is on par with teeth drilling.
    Off to join your FB party!

  9. Shimmy into it? I’m down with that! Congrats, Rachel!!!

  10. Hi Rachel

    I hadn’t heard of ‘second book syndrome’ before … it sounds quite scary. Perhaps you should have spent a little time on Carey Balwin’s professional couch!

    “What matters is I was eager to find out what happens next”
    Absolutely right. Using physics talk, you have to create a black hole with the first chapter, ensuring that readers cannot escape.

    I’ve read the first two ‘Evidence’ books and rated both in the 5-star category. I’m now going to download the last two and have no doubt at all that you won’t let me down! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Quantum! I hope you enjoy Withholding and Incriminating!!

      Believe me, Carey has provided tons of mental health support over the years. I’d be a wreck without her.

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