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Gathering Incriminating Evidence in the Land of the Midnight Sun

MidnightSun-frontcover-final-r1-72This month I have two books out, Midnight Sun (a re-release after being published in the Twelve Shades of Midnight anthology, which is no longer available) released on March 1st, and Incriminating Evidence (Evidence Series #4), which will release on March 24th. By sheer coincidence, both books are set in Alaska. It may sound strange to say it’s a coincidence, but it is. I’ve had versions of Incriminating Evidence in my head and on on my computer since 2010 – and it was always set in Alaska. It was the perfect setting for Alec and Isabel’s story. The inspiration behind Midnight Sun was completely different.

A little over a year ago, the fabulous Robin Perini approached me and asked if I wanted to participate in a paranormal romance anthology with her and ten other authors. Because the story would be paranormal, it couldn’t be connected to my existing books, and I began considering what my contribution to the anthology would be. My first inspiration was a story set in Hawaii, about an archaeologist who comes face-to-face with Night Marchers. The story excited me and I was ready to move forward with it, as we as a group were discussing via email potential titles and themes for the anthology. We settled on the name Twelve Shades of Midnight relatively quickly, and all agreed that something important in each of our stories had to happen at midnight. My Night Marchers story was perfect. I lived in Hawaii for three years — I know the setting well, and my husband worked as an archaeologist there, so the research would be a snap, and the story would be fun to write.

View of Denali National Park

Then one morning, I woke up with the kernel of the plot for Midnight Sun in my mind. Maybe I was inspired by the word “midnight” — I really don’t know — but in the space of five minutes I went from planning to write a novella set in Hawaii to one set in Alaska. Once the idea grabbed me, I couldn’t let it go. I’d only ever visited and conducted archaeological survey in Sitka, Alaska, but fortunately, my husband had worked in Barrow, and he knew other archaeologists who’d worked for a length of time in the Arctic Circle who were willing to answer even the most ridiculous questions (yes, I do need to know what the airport terminal in Kotzebue looks like, and if the vegetation is primarily muskeg…). And so Midnight Sun the story of Sienna and Rhys and an ancient Iñupiat mask, was born. The Hawaii story will be the second in the series, featuring Sienna’s sister, Larkspur (look for it in late 2015).

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As I mentioned above, I’ve had the story for Incriminating Evidence in the works since 2010. It was supposed to be the 3rd book in the Evidence Series (and I finished a draft of it in 2012, long before I wrote Withholding Evidence), but one problem I had with the execution of the story was the setting. It was clear to me that I needed to visit central Alaska if I wanted to get it right, so last summer, before tackling a major rewrite, my family and I visited Alaska and explored the area where the story is set.

One of the things I wanted to see while I was there was the forest at night–I knew in the summer it wouldn’t really get dark, but I wanted to see the phenomenon first hand. This photo was taken at midnight in mid-July in Fairbanks – without a flash.

Fairbanks forest at midnight

We were in Alaska for eight days and drove from Anchorage to Fairbanks in a loop, exploring Denali National Park on the drive north (we saw lots of animals including bears, caribou, moose, and a wolf!), and went east for the drive south, where we passed through the setting for Incriminating Evidence.

Denali National Park

En route, we saw salmon spawning, went whitewater rafting–necessary because a glacial silt-laden river plays an important role in the story–panned for gold, and hiked on a glacier.

Matanuska Glacier

I came home from the trip buzzing with ideas. There is no way to see something as magnificent as Alaska in just a week, but we tried.

The final story of Incriminating Evidence is very different from that first idea I plotted in 2010, but it is so much richer, so much better, for having visited the setting which plays a central role in the story. Also, even though there wasn’t supposed to be a connection between my paranormal romance and my 4th Evidence Series book, because they were both set in Alaska (even though hundreds of miles apart) I couldn’t resist slipping one thing in. I can’t wait to hear from readers who catch the connection…

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Midnight Sun

A woman on the edge…

Museum collections specialist Sienna Aubrey is desperate. A prehistoric Iñupiat mask in her client’s collection is haunted, and it wants her to return it to Alaska…now. Tormented to her breaking point, she steals it. But when she arrives in the remote Alaskan village, the tribal representative refuses to take the troublesome mask off her hands. Even worse, the manipulative artifact pulls the infuriating man into her dream, during which she indulges in her most secret fantasies with him.

A man in search of the truth…

Assistant US Attorney Rhys Vaughan came to the Arctic Circle to prove someone tried to murder his cousin. When Sienna shows up at his cousin’s office with the local tribe’s most sacred artifact, she becomes his prime suspect. Then the mask delivers him into Sienna’s hot, fantasy-laden dream, and his desire to investigate her takes an entirely different turn.

An artifact seeking justice…

But the mask has an agenda, and it’s not to play matchmaker. If Sienna doesn’t do what the artifact wants, she may pay the ultimate price, and only Rhys can save her.

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Incriminating Evidence

From enemies to allies…

When archaeologist Isabel Dawson stumbles upon an unconscious man deep in the Alaskan wilderness, her survival skills are put to the test. She tends his wounds and drags him to shelter, only to discover she’s saved the life of Raptor CEO Alec Ravissant—the man who may have covered up her brother’s murder to save his senatorial campaign.

With no memory of the assault that landed him five miles deep in the forest, Alec doesn’t know what to believe when he wakes in the clutches of the beautiful redhead who blames him for her brother’s death, but he quickly realizes he needs her help to uncover the truth about his lost hours.

Isabel never imagined she’d find herself allied with Alec, and he’s the last man she ever expected to find attractive. But the former Army Ranger-turned-politician proves seductively charming, and he’s determined to win much more than her vote. When their quest for answers puts Isabel in the crosshairs, Alec must risk everything—his company, his campaign, and his life—to protect her.

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Behind the “scenes”: reading for research

I’m not a serial killer (good to know, right?), special ops warrior, veteran suffering from PTSD, DEA agent, drug lord, or hacker, and I don’t have a service dog. (Just a lazy one.)

If I only wrote what I know, my books wouldn’t be romantic suspense, they’d be a cure for insomnia.

So, often a little research is in order. Magazine articles, blogs, and howstuffworks.com are great, but sometimes I need to go deeper. That’s where books come in.

Even if you don’t need to do research, you might enjoy some of the books that I’ve read over the last few years. Here’s a selection of my favorites.

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker

I think every woman (and man) should read this book. The author is a security specialist who not only makes excellent points about trusting your instincts, but talks about common strategies people use to get us to let down our guard. If you’re into psychology, you’ll also enjoy his section on stalkers and killers, and how to fire someone to avoid workplace violence.

Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq by Steve Fainaru

I’ve read several books about private security contractors in the Middle East, including Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater, but this was my favorite. Not only was it an incredibly compelling read, but the author brings you into the minds and hearts of the men he’s embedded with.

His agenda is to understand them, not to demonize them. I have several heroes who are or were mercenaries, and this book really helped me bring them to life.

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan

This memoir about a wounded soldier with PTSD and the service dog who turned his life around is a great read. While there are some who dispute the author’s version of events in the Middle East, there’s no disputing the change Tuesday made in his life.

Hot Shots and Heavy Hits: Tales of an Undercover Drug Agent by Paul E. Doyle

I love the TV show DEA for insight on strategies and techniques for drug busts, but for a more personal inside look, check out this book. The author shares stories from his long career as an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and its predecessor, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick is a famous hacker turned consultant. This book details how hackers use social engineering to bypass traditional network security measures. Often they don’t need to spend days trying to break into a computer system. They take shortcuts by convincing people to hand them the keys to the network. Often people just give them the information they’re looking for. Another fascinating read that I found both interesting and scary.

The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel by Robert Mazur

Robert Mazur spent five years undercover as a wealthy mover and shaker with mob connections to bring down the bankers that laundered money for drug lords like Pablo Escobar of the Medellin Cartel, and General Manuel Noriega. This fast-paced book reads like fiction. Hard to put down.

None Braver: U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen in the Afghanistan War by Michael Hirsh

A look inside the lives of USAF Pararescuemen, some of the most elite special operators in the military. The author is a reporter who spent five weeks living among the PJs in Afghanistan. The book contains amazing stories, details that bring these guys to life, and a bit of historical perspective on these men whose motto is “These things we do that others may live.” I went through a whole stack of sticky flags with this one.

Those are a few of my favorites. Got any recommendations to share?

Brenda Novak Struck by Lightning

Brenda Novak was struck by lightning — but don’t worry she’s okay.  It’s the kind of lightning that wins Rita awards, not the kind that puts you in the hospital!  Her new book, When Lightning Strikes, is coming out in one week, August 28th.  To celebrate, she is here, via video interview, to tell us about it, how she researches her books, and her fantastic work raising money for diabetes.

Even better, two — yes that is right TWO — readers who comment below will win prizes.  The first prize is a Brenda Novak tote with an autographed copy of When Lightning Strikes inside, AND the second prize for another lucky reader is an audio version of the same brand new book!

So don’t be shy, let us know what you think, a great prize may be waiting just for you!

And on Thursday, August 23rd, not only will we be announcing the winners, but posting a fourth video in which Brenda tells us about some of her most embarrassing moments and whether she’s wearing anything under her skirt.  <G>

First up, Brenda tells us about her new book and what success means to her.

Brenda discusses her research method including a trip to a very scary prison cell

Diabetes Research is extremely important to Brenda.  Here, she talks about how she raised over 1.6 million dollars and the son who inspired her to do it. (Click here if you’d like to find out more, and  here if you’d like to make a donation.)

Please leave a comment below to join in the conversation and automatically enter the prize drawing.  Just click on the link that says “Leave a Comment” (below, next to the tags).   Stop by on Thursday to see if you’re one of our two lucky winners  and to find out just what Brenda is wearing under her skirt!  (Winners are chosen randomly and must live in the U.S.  Chances of winning depend upon numbers of entrants.)

See you there!  

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