There 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Then I had an idea for a novella that would tie the first 2 Evidence books to the 2 unpublished manuscripts, creating a stronger link across the series.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.
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.” Read the rest of this entry
First I want to thank the CRIMES OF PASSION authors for participating in the Inside the Actors Studio quiz! If you didn’t catch the interview, you can read the post here.
The winner of CONCRETE EVIDENCE in audio CD is:
Quantum, to claim your prize, contact us with your mailing address within ten days!
WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE, the third book in my series of romantic thrillers that explores the intersection of archaeology, politics, and war, released late last week. I had a blast writing this short novel. I loved finding Trina’s voice and Keith’s… well, I pretty much love everything about Keith.
Like all books in this series, this story can stand alone, but the characters from the previous books are present in WE, and I really enjoyed writing the friendship between Trina, Mara, and Erica, as they all work together at Naval History and Heritage Command. Years ago my husband worked for NHHC’s underwater archaeology branch making writing about the organization especially fun.
Today I’m excited to share with our Kiss and Thrill readers the first scene of Withholding Evidence.
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Trina Sorensen stiffened her spine and rang the town house doorbell. She couldn’t hear a chime, so after a moment of hesitation, she followed up with a knock. Seconds ticked by without any sound of movement on the other side. She rang the bell again, and then repeated the knock for good measure. The front door was on the ground floor, next to the garage. Glancing upward, she checked out the windows of the two upper floors. No lights on, but at nine in the morning on a hot August day in Falls Church, that didn’t tell her anything. If the man she hoped to meet was home, he’d have to descend at least one flight of stairs, possibly two.
She was about to ring the bell again when the door whipped open, startling her. She stepped back, then remembered she needed to project poise and straightened to meet her target’s gaze.
Keith Hatcher was even more handsome in person than in his official navy photo, but she couldn’t let that fluster her. It just meant he’d been blessed with good genes, a rather superficial measure of a person, really.
She took a deep breath and held out her hand. “Mr. Hatcher, Trina Sorensen, historian with Naval History and Heritage Command. I’d like to ask you a few questions about Somalia.” She cringed as she said the last part. Too perky. Too eager. That was not how to approach a former navy SEAL when asking about a mission.
Sporting tousled dark hair that suggested he may have just gotten out of bed, and wearing low-rise jeans and nothing else, the man leaned an impressive bare bicep against the doorframe and raised a quizzical thick eyebrow. “Trina? Cute name.” He smiled. “It fits.” He reached out and touched the top of her head. “But I think you should go back to the day care center you escaped from and leave me alone.” He stepped back, and the door slammed shut.
She jolted back a step. He did not just pat her on the head and slam the door in her face.
Except that was exactly what Senior Chief Petty Officer Keith Hatcher had done.
She was aware she looked young, but dammit, she was thirty-one freaking years old—the same age as Hatcher. She squared her shoulders and rang the bell again. Seconds ticked by. Then minutes. She pounded with the side of her fist.
Finally the door opened. “Yes?” He leaned against the doorjamb again, this time stretching out an arm to touch the hinged side of the opening. His body language conveyed amusement mixed with annoyance.
“Senior Chief, I’m Dr. Trina Sorensen”—she never referred to herself with the pretentious title of doctor, but figured his crack about day care warranted it—“and I’m researching your SEAL team’s work in Somalia five years ago for Naval History and Heritage Command and the Pentagon. You must answer my questions.”
“Dollface, it’s Sunday morning. The only thing I must do today is jack off.”
She crossed her arms. “Fine. I can wait. It’ll be what, one, maybe two minutes?”
The man tilted his head back and laughed. She saw her opportunity and ducked under his arm, entering, as she’d suspected, an enclosed staircase. The door to the left could only go to the garage. She went straight for the stairs, heading up to his home. Her heart beat rapidly at her own audacity, but she was never going to get the information she needed to do her job from the SEAL without taking risks.
“What the hell?” he sputtered, then added, “Who do you think you are, barging into my home?”
“I told you. I’m Dr. Trina Sorensen from NHHC,” she answered as she reached the landing that ended in the most spotless mudroom she’d ever seen. She crossed the room and stepped into his kitchen. She leaned against a counter as he paused in his own kitchen doorway. His mouth twitched, but his jaw was firm, making her think he couldn’t decide if he was annoyed or amused.
“I’ll wait here while you masturbate. We can start the interview when you’re done.”
Amusement won, and a corner of his mouth kicked up. He took a step toward her. “It’ll go faster if you help me.”
Her heart thumped in a slow, heavy beat. Barging into his home might’ve been a mistake. She frowned. Of course it was a mistake. “I’m good to go. Already took care of business this morning in the shower. You go ahead without me.”
He barked a sharp laugh, then shook his head. “What do you want, Dr. Sorensen?”
“As I said already, I’m here to ask you questions about Somalia.” She pulled her digital recorder from her satchel. “Do you mind if I record our conversation?”
His brown eyes narrowed. “Hell, yes, I mind. More importantly, we aren’t having a conversation. You are leaving. Now. Before I call the police.”
“Please don’t be difficult. I’m just doing my job.”
“SEAL ops are classified.” All hint of amusement left his voice, leaving only hard edges.
She sighed in frustration. Hadn’t he bothered to read any of her e-mails? “I sent you what you need to verify my security clearance in my e-mail. And my orders came directly from the Pentagon.”
“I don’t give a crap if the pope sent you on orders from the president. I’m not telling you shit about a place I’ve never been.”
He expected her to accept that and walk away? She’d never have gotten anywhere as a military historian if she allowed the men in her field to brush her off. “Oh, you’ve been to Somalia all right. You were there on a reconnaissance mission, gathering data about a rising al Qaeda leader who was taking advantage of a power vacuum created by ongoing interclan violence.”
He crossed his arms and spoke softly. “I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
The man had a solid poker face; no hint that she’d surprised him with the paltry facts she knew. So he was handsome and big and had the most gorgeous sculpted pecs and abs she’d ever seen, and he was sharp to boot. “I’m researching various SEAL actions in Somalia over the last two decades, starting with Operation Gothic Serpent and ending with yours.”
“The work I did when I was in the navy is classified. Not only do I not have to tell you about an op I was never on in a country I’ve never visited, but I could also get in serious trouble if I did tell you a damn thing about the places I have been.”
She handed him her card. “But you do have to answer me. The Pentagon wants this report. Your input is necessary.” This project was her big break. Future naval operations could depend on her findings, and the biggest of the brass were eager for this account. She was already having visions of moving out of the cubicle next to cantankerous Walt. She could have walls. And a door.
“But, you see there, dollface, that’s the problem. I’m not in the navy anymore. I don’t take orders from the Pentagon. I don’t have to follow commands from anyone, least of all a five-foot-nothing librarian who invaded my kitchen without my permission.”
She straightened her spine and threw back her shoulders, determined to reach her full height. “I’m five foot three. And I’m an historian.” Her glasses slipped, and she nudged them back to the bridge of her nose.
He chuckled, and she flushed. She’d have been better off if she hadn’t corrected him on the librarian label as she adjusted her glasses.
“Whatever, doll. Listen, you have one minute to get out of my house, or I’m going to assume you’ve decided to watch me jerk off after all.”
She couldn’t look away from the brown eyes that held hers in a tense gaze. Just her luck that he was so frigging gorgeous. Attractive men made her self-conscious. Especially ripped, half-naked ones. “I’m not playing games, Senior Chief. I’m just here to do my job.”
He smiled slowly and reached for his fly.
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Today I’m giving away a signed print copy of WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE. To enter the drawing, tell me: are you are willing to read books in a series out of order, or do you always start with book one?
As a reader, my favorite kind of book is a thriller that features a strong, smart professional woman whose work opens the door to adventure, mystery, and sometimes romance, so it is with great excitement that I share with our Kiss and Thrill readers that CONCRETE EVIDENCE is part of a book bundle with just these types of books. It’s a thrill to see my title included with these great books by fabulous authors!
Available only for a limited time, you can get WORKING GIRLS which includes 6 complete novels for just $0.99!
When stakes are at their highest, these working girls draw on the tools of their trades to kick butt, take names and make a difference.
IRREPARABLE HARM – Melissa F Miller
Someone’s using a smartphone app to bring down commercial airliners and only attorney Sasha McCandless and the federal air marshal she’s teamed with can prevent more disasters. When the madman’s killing spree takes a personal turn, Sasha will need both her legal skills and her Krav Maga training to stop him.
GUARANTEED JUSTICE – M A Comley
Retired Detective Inspector Lorne Simpkins is happy running her new animal rescue centre with her husband. But when sisters Linda and Fiona Carter come to her desperate to adopt a guard dog, Lorne takes up the mantle of Private Investigator when she learns the reason. Linda was brutally raped by a serial rapist — who’s named Fiona his next victim.
BLACK DIAMOND DEATH – Cheryl Bradshaw
On the slopes of Park City, Utah’s newest ski resort a woman is found dead. Accident — or murder? Private Investigator Sloane Monroe is on the case when a second dead body is found. Now the killer is tracking Sloane’s every move, and her life depends on uncovering the truth before he strikes again.
CONCRETE EVIDENCE – Rachel Grant
Accused of stealing artifacts from a shipwreck, underwater archaeologist Erica Kesling is determined to clear her name. An undercover job with the buyer of the missing antiquities puts her close to her goal. Until a sexy, charismatic intern with secrets of his own shows up, placing her heart — and her life — in jeopardy.
BADWATER – Toni Dwiggins
A terrorist has stolen radioactive material, leading forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and Walter Shaws on a perilous hunt through Death Valley. The unstable atom — in the hands of an unstable man — is governed by Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will. And when it does, field skills won’t be enough to save them.
SECTOR C – Phoenix Sullivan
A pair of seemingly unrelated outbreaks — a rise in human stroke-like cases and a rapidly spreading animal disease — lead a CDC analyst and a veterinarian to a shocking discovery at a big-game compound. But even if they can escape with the secret of Sector C, it may already be too late.
In the WORKING GIRLS book bundle, the heroines are: an attorney, two private investigators, an archaeologist, a forensic geologist, and a veterinarian. Today’s question for our readers: what is your fantasy adventure career?
One commenter will win a print copy of BODY OF EVIDENCE and an ebook by one of the other WORKING GIRLS authors – winners choice!
More often than not, when you’re reading about Washington DC, you’re likely to find words like dysfunctional, partisan, nuclear option, filibuster, and gridlock. But politics aside, there’s still plenty to love about this town, especially if you’re a fiction writer or a reader. Recognizing that DC is the go-to setting for tons of books from super serious to high octane entertainment, two DC librarians recently started a clever crowdsourcing project to encourage the exploration of the town’s social and geographic history by populating a database of excerpts from novels with DC scenes and mapping them:
DC BY THE BOOK.
I love to read books set in my town so I couldn’t wait to explore the DC By The Book website. Once there, I found out that you can join the project as a contributor by recommending novels with DC settings. Or you can help the librarians map the books that are already listed on the site by finding the excerpts set in the Washington DC neighborhoods, parks, government buildings, museums and so on. There’s also a cool map that shows you the locations where scenes from the books take place.
I couldn’t resist adding a couple of books with scenes set in some of my favorite places in DC to the website.
Allison Leotta opens DISCRETION with a young woman, Caroline, dressed like a K Street lobbyist in an “ivory St. John suit, Manolo heels,” entering the Capitol through the Senate-side for a private, evening appointment with a congressman. Except Caroline is not a lobbyist; she is an expensive prostitute. A staffer walks her through the Capitol to his boss’s personal office. On the way, they pass through the magnificent Brumidi Corridors—“the most beautiful corridor Caroline had ever seen.”
Caroline pauses in the Rotunda—“the ceremonial heart of the Capitol”— to admire Brumidi’s masterpiece on the domed ceiling: “The Apotheosis of Washington, a fresco painting of the first President depicted as a god among angels.”
The staffer ushers Caroline past a sign—“No Visitors Beyond This Point”—and up the stairs to the congressman’s personal office in the Capitol building.
Inside the congressman’s office, Caroline admires the view of the National Mall from the balcony.
You’ll have to read the book if you want to find out how Caroline’s night ends. Or visit DC By The Book to see if the excerpt has been posted and mapped.
A lot of the action in CONCRETE EVIDENCE, by our own Rachel Grant, takes place in DC. One of my favorite scenes is a romantic moonlit walk through the presidential memorials along the Tidal Basin:
Holding hands, Erica and Lee “walked in the darkness around the basin. She managed to drop his hand before they reached the Jefferson Memorial, and he could feel her build a barrier between them until it was as solid as the marble columns surrounding the statue of the nation’s third president.”
Be sure to check out this mash-up of literature, history, geography and technology: DC by the Book
But before you go, dear Reader, share your favorite setting for fiction. And K&T authors, tell us about your favorite places to set the novels you write.
Comment for a chance to win
CONCRETE EVIDENCE (Kindle or Nook).
The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday!
BODY OF EVIDENCE is the second book in my series of romantic thrillers that explores the intersection of archaeology, politics, and war, and today I’m excited to share with our Kiss and Thrill readers an excerpt.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
“Rise, Mara Garrett.”
Mara understood only a handful of Korean words, but she’d learned that phrase early in this farce of a trial and was on her feet before the interpreter finished speaking. Tremors radiated from her belly. This is just a formality. I’m one step closer to getting home. Her token lawyer had warned her she would probably be sentenced to ten years’ hard labor; then the real negotiation for her release would begin. With her conviction and harsh sentence, North Korea would be in a stronger bargaining position.
Of course, North Korea, the most secretive and unpredictable regime on earth, wasn’t known for negotiating. They would make demands, and the US would either meet them or not.
She’d traveled the world for her job with the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, conducting excavations to retrieve the remains of American servicemen who’d died in wars fought by the United States in the last century. Her work for JPAC was hazardous. She’d faced down poisonous insects, dug up unexploded ordnance, and suffered third-world diseases. But never, not even in her wildest imagination, did she think her work could lead to being arrested in North Korea.
But that was what happened when she ended up alone on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone.
She looked to her lawyer for some sort of reassurance and caught the glint of a camera lens. Cameras hadn’t been permitted in the courtroom during the trial; the presence of one now filled Mara with a foreboding chill. It seemed the North Koreans expected a dramatic, newsworthy reaction.
She stood straight with her head high so the camera wouldn’t see her clenched hands behind the table. She refused to give them the spectacle they wanted.
The judge spoke. She forgot to breathe while waiting for the translator. Finally, the man said, “Mara Garrett, you have been convicted of spying. The penalty is death by firing squad. The sentence will be carried out in twenty-four hours.”
The room tilted. A shriek built in her throat, while her bones turned to jelly. Sheer will kept her face blank while she battled dizziness. She’d been alone when she was arrested but had spent the last two months worrying her coworkers had been detained as well. For their sake, she needed to take the blame. If they were being tried in another courtroom, her admission of guilt could prevent them from receiving the same sentence. She pressed her nails into her skin and fixed her gaze on the lens. “This is my fault. My JPAC team is blameless.”
The judge spoke again, yelling now, and the translator matched his tone. “You are guilty and have been sentenced!”
“It was a mistake,” she said, desperation building in her voice. “I was separated from my team by accident.” But that wasn’t true, and she feared they saw through the lie.
Panic threatened as a guard grabbed her arm and tugged her toward the door. He wasn’t taking her to the firing squad. He couldn’t be. Hadn’t they given her twenty-four hours?
They’d almost reached the exit when the door swung open and slammed against the wall. The guard jerked to a stop. Framed in the opening was a portly, highly decorated military man.
A rapid-fire exchange between the judge and the newcomer ensued. Mara twisted in the guard’s grip and watched in horror as the judge angrily ejected the cameraman from the room.
Panic morphed into bone-melting fear. What the hell was happening?
The military official waved a magazine in the air. In a haze, she recognized the Asian edition of TIME magazine from the bold font and familiar red border.
At last the man looked away from the judge and addressed her, causing the translator to jump to his feet and race to her side to voice his words. “Our leader, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to grant you amnesty on one condition.”
Hope flared but was soon tempered with the fear that this interruption was a stress-induced fantasy, like the ones Mara had suffered years ago after her father’s death. Each time the fantasy faded, hope went with it, and she was slapped with grief as fresh and intense as the day he’d died.
Hope would break her, making it her captors’ ally. She knew that better than anyone.
“Our beloved Dear Leader once got your President Clinton to come groveling.”
No. Not again. This wasn’t a pathetic fantasy. It was an all too real nightmare. Cold sweat dripped from her brow. The idea of a rescue mission headed by a former president terrified her. She wasn’t a reporter dipping her toes in the Tumen River. She was the niece of a former vice president of the United States, and as such could be seen as a valuable bargaining chip.
The North Koreans knew exactly who she was. Because of her family connections, it was especially important she downplay her significance. A presidential envoy would open the door to other outrageous demands, and she was horrified by the thought that the unpredictable dictator could gain the upper hand with the US because of her.
Her situation wasn’t helped by the fact that her uncle was facing trial on ridiculous corruption charges. She could only assume her arrest had added to the ongoing media frenzy in the United States, further convincing her captors of her importance. She’d repeatedly begged her interrogators to tap a low-level politician as envoy, but each time her pleas were met with disdain.
“Our leader wants to meet the man on the cover.” The translator pointed to the magazine. “If he comes to P’yŏngyang before your execution, we will allow him to take you home.”
The man stood too far away; she couldn’t see the face on the cover. She had no idea who had been selected. But even more important, was twenty-four hours enough time for an envoy to fly to North Korea?
The official waved the magazine as if it offered hope, but there was no such thing as hope. She was going to die.
Want to know what happens next? I hope so, because I’m excited to announce this book will be published soon! Very soon. I can’t give an exact date, but if you sign up for my new release mailing list at www.Rachel-Grant.net you’ll receive an email the day the book is available and you’ll be entered in my drawing to win a pack of Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program playing cards.
When archaeologist Mara Garrett traveled to North Korea with JPAC, the organization that retrieves the remains of GIs lost in combat, she never imagined she’d be betrayed, convicted of spying, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Her only hope is Curt Dominick, the powerful and ambitious U.S. attorney prosecuting her beloved uncle, a former Vice President of the United States.
With betrayal around every corner, Curt and Mara have little reason to trust each other, but the sparks between them blaze hotter than the Hawaiian sun, and fighting their growing passion tests both their will power and their loyalties.
What starts off as a rescue mission quickly morphs into a race across the Pacific. It’s not just Mara’s safety on the line anymore. They’ve stumbled into a conspiracy that threatens not only their lives, but national security of the United States.
I have a very special prize today to celebrate the coming release of BODY OF EVIDENCE. I’m giving one commenter a print Advance Reader’s Copy. This is your chance to read BoE in print before it’s available online. Check back on Thursday to see if you are the winner. Winner must provide a U.S. mailing address.