Gathering Incriminating Evidence in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Gathering Incriminating Evidence in the Land of the Midnight Sun

The Kiss and Thrill blog, where this was originally published, will soon be disappearing, and I am republishing my Kiss and Thrill posts here to keep a copy. This one is from March 2015.


.01This 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).


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…


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.

Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


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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Adventures on Dragon’s Tooth

Adventures on Dragon’s Tooth

The Kiss and Thrill blog, where this was originally published, will soon be disappearing, and I am republishing my Kiss and Thrill posts here to keep a copy. This one is from September 25, 2012 – I can’t believe this was 6 years ago!


I’m taking a break from our usual format today at Kiss and Thrill to instead share with you a real life adventure that could one day become fodder for fiction. As an archaeologist, I’ve had plenty of real adventure. Not the Indiana Jones kind, but still, noteworthy moments of finding particularly interesting sites or cool artifacts.

Like the time in Sint Maarten when a land crab surged from the sandy soil beneath my pit-partner’s shovel right after I said the soldiers who died there in the 1630s were going to haunt us. (Totally true, and one of my favorite field memories ever. Scared the heck out of both of us.)

This is a different kind of story, and a different kind of scary. So now, I invite you to join me on my summer vacation, as my family tackled a fearsome class IV river rapid known as Dragon’s Tooth….

[Note: Follow the embedded links to see photos of the rapid, or go to YouTube to see videos.]

This year, for my family’s summer vacation, we did something really special:  four days of whitewater rafting on the Lower Klamath River in Northern California.

I’ve never gone rafting for more than a day trip and so had never experienced rafting on a gear boat. Gear boats are larger, heavier, and have a big metal frame inside, in which our camping supplies were strapped down. Loaded with supplies, the raft held our family of four and our guide, Matt. Another, slightly smaller gear raft held the rest of our supplies and was piloted by Molly, a second guide.

On day two of our trip, we reached the biggest rapid we’d face, Dragon’s Tooth, and Matt—a wonderful man with fifteen years experience—gave us a choice: we could ride the rapid, or hike around.

It was early August and probably 95 degrees out. We’d been sitting by the river for an hour as Matt and Molly scouted the rapid. We hadn’t followed them down the path to see it for ourselves because we’d spotted poison oak along the route. As archaeologists, my husband and I have had poison oak so many times our immune systems go out of whack when we encounter the nasty stuff. So this is the choice that ran through my mind: walk through poison oak, or go over an exciting class IV rapid?

Seems rather obvious when looked at that way, doesn’t it?

Minutes after making our decision, we were back in the raft, wearing our helmets and lifejackets, and for this tricky rapid my husband and I were given paddles—the only time on the entire four day trip we helped paddle the big raft.

We entered the river slowly. We practiced paddling. We were set and paddled toward the slot between boulders.

All was fine, until we missed the opening by inches and stopped on top of a boulder. We were stuck. My husband was seated just above the drop. He tells me the fall, had we been able to slide forward, would have been steep and nasty. I think my nine-year-old son might have yelped in fear at this point, but I’m not sure. From where I sat, I know it didn’t look good.

[Linked photo note: we were stuck on the rock below the surface in the center of the frame.]

Matt had us all move to the right, toward my husband and son’s side of the boat, and we wiggled the raft free. “Paddle forward!” he yelled.

Truth here, this happened so fast, he might have instructed us to paddle backward. This all blurs together. But I do remember being instructed to paddle, getting back in my seat, tucking my foot in the slot and paddling as instructed.

Then we started to slide backward.

Okay. We’re going backward. Over the drop. No problem. There is another slot. We can go through it.

According to my husband, at this point he rolled backward from the raft. I didn’t see it. I was too focused on the river and my paddle. I don’t know if my kids screamed at witnessing their dad’s ejection from the raft. We are talking milliseconds here.

The boat pivoted, then surged into the rapid. But we continued to turn. Sideways, we washed down toward a huge boulder on the left—my side of the boat. The boulder loomed over my shoulder as we raced toward it. I braced for impact, as if we were in a car about to hit a brick wall. But that’s not how it works in a raft. In a raft, the water carries you up. With swift motion we slid up the side of the boulder, completely without impact. Then we arced over.

[Linked photo note: I believe the boulder to the right of the frame is the one that flipped us.]

As an author, I struggle with character arcs. As a whitewater rafter, I can say that an arc is a soft, graceful sweep along a jagged, fearful face. As we crested the point of no return my most profound thought was, “Oh. So this is how it’s going to go.”

And then I was in the water. This part is as jumbled in my mind as I was. If I were writing this as fiction, I would describe hitting the water, reorienting myself and breaking the surface to gasp for air. But to describe it like that here would be a lie, because I remember none of that.

I remember releasing the boat as we flipped, and I remember surfacing, but I don’t remember the moments I was underwater, I don’t know how I landed, or where. Because none of that mattered in the moment when it happened. The only thing that mattered then was my children, who were being tossed into the Lower Klamath River along with me.

How would they handle it? Where would they land? Would they be okay? Would they remember how to swim out (on their backs, feet first), as we’d practiced the night before?

After I surfaced, I think I knew right away that the raft was behind me. But I wasn’t looking for the raft, I was looking for my babies. As luck would have it, my son popped up right next to me. I was grateful to grip his lifejacket and pull him toward me. To know he was okay. The rush of emotion made me want to cry then, and I could cry even now, as I write this. My son was scared, but okay. I turned him face up and feet first to down the river. He didn’t know I had him and fought me at first. But I kept my grip. Nothing could pry him from my hand.

He shouted that he’d lost a sandal. Stupid Velcro straps. But I didn’t care about the shoe. I had him. And that’s all that mattered.

I instantly spotted my husband up ahead. He tells me that because he’d entered the river first, he’d had no idea the raft flipped until he looked back and saw our son and me in the water.

Husband and son accounted for.

But where is my twelve-year-old daughter?

I turned and looked upriver. There was the upside-down raft. There were other rafts and rafters on the banks, in the river. They’d seen us flip and were shouting instructions and trying to help. But I couldn’t see my daughter.

I screamed for her, asking where she was. I repeated the shouts with increasing urgency. I probably couldn’t hear the answers because I was yelling so loud. My husband yelled too.

Was she under the raft? Had she hit a boulder?

This moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My son called for his sister with the same urgency. My panic had become his. I wish I could have spared him this, but it wasn’t in me to be calm and reassuring just then.

My husband refers to this as his City Slickers moment. You know, the scene in the movie when Billy Crystal’s character comes to the realization of what his one thing is, the thing that gives his life meaning? It’s not like we needed this moment. But still, it happened. Dragon’s Tooth drove the point home.

Where is my daughter?

Of course, she was fine. She was on the other side of the raft. She’d surfaced underneath (as we’d feared), but was by the edge, and slid out from under and gripped the line. She was swimming next to our guide, who had called to us that she was okay, but we couldn’t hear.

She heard us calling out, so she knew we were safe. Of all of us, she had the best time when we flipped. All the excitement and adrenaline, none of the panic. She loved it.

That’s my girl.

Once we heard the shouts that she was fine, we swam to the side. I lifted my son out onto a rock, where he stood with his one barefoot and worried we’d lost all our supplies.  But we hadn’t. Everything was strapped down perfectly by our awesome guides. In the end, the only thing we lost was that one shoe, but we had a second pair of sandals for my son, so the loss didn’t matter.

We were all fine. Shaky, but fine.

With help from other rafters, our heavy, loaded raft was flipped back over. One dry bag, containing the pillows and sleeping pads, had taken in water. But the day was so hot, even the soaked pillow was dry before we went to bed.

That night we slept on a sandy beach by the river. The sky was cloudless and the moon didn’t rise for hours. I lay there, with my family around me, too in awe of the star-filled sky and the intensity of the day to close my eyes and sleep. We saw a few shooting stars.

Guess what I’m reading?

I loved every minute of our river adventure vacation. I’ll admit it was more of an adventure than I expected. We knew, of course, when we booked it that flipping a raft, or being tossed in the river was a possibility. The river is always boss. But knowing that and believing it could really happen are two different things. I honestly never thought we’d flip a gear raft. To put it in perspective, Matt has had only one other gear raft flip in 15 years.

There were so many fabulous moments on our four-day river adventure. Years from now I will remember sleeping under the stars; the bear we spotted on the bank; the fishing bald eagles; enjoying fabulous meals prepared by Matt and Molly; my daughter acing class II rapids in the inflatable kayak; my son’s laugh as we were drenched by rapids; and my husband’s exuberance as he jumped into the waterfall at the end of our morning hike.

I will remember and cherish it all. And I will remember Dragon’s Tooth and my City Slickers moment, and I will cherish that, too.

Update on AP US History Packet

Update on AP US History Packet

Regular followers of my blog know that on Fridays I usually post a weekly recap of bookish things, including sales information, new releases, and the most popular post from my Facebook page or Twitter feed. This week…has been a little different. Fans will find that information in another post to follow later today, because I want to keep my book promotion separate from this issue.

A quick recap for regular blog readers who have no idea what I’m talking about. Wednesday evening I posted a series of Tweets about a 55-page packet my daughter’s AP American History teacher sent home with the students. The response to my Tweets has been powerful. Thank you, everyone, for all of your support. I also must thank my friend, another AP US History mom, who brought the contents of the packet to my attention. I’m not including her name to protect the privacy of her daughter, but I’m very grateful to her for making sure this wasn’t ignored.

A few clarifications and one correction, based on questions I’ve seen in my Twitter mentions.

  • The text I posted was copied from a 55-page packet called US History Special Victims Unit, not a textbook.
  • Students were given the packet at the beginning of the school year and told it was meant to supplement the textbook and was information that could be on the AP exam.
  • The students hadn’t yet been given any assignments based on the material presented in the packet.
  • There are no citations anywhere in the 55-page packet.
  • I do not know who the author of the packet is.
  • The information isn’t presented as discussion points for consideration. It is presented as a summary of US History.
  • The note at the end of 3rd excerpt I posted on Twitter appears to have been written by the teacher.
  • In one of my Tweets I stated he taught my daughter’s AP World History class last year. I was incorrect, he taught her AP European History class. My apologies to her 9th grade AP World History teacher.
  • My daughter attends a public school in Washington state.
  • Much of the information in the packet is basic historic facts (without any citations). The biased parts tend to be in the recent history sections.
  • I will not release the entire document.

Friends have forwarded links to news articles about this. I want to be clear that I haven’t granted any interviews. News articles that appear to be interviews simply broke apart my tweets. One misquoted me, stating that I described the packet as a “non-white male hit list.” I did not say that. Here is the text of my Tweet: “Daughter’s AP American History teacher sent home 55 page packet called “US History Special Victims Unit” (non-white male hist) that is vile.” I abbreviated the word history to hist because it was Twitter and I was out of characters.

The College Board has contacted me, and I have put them in touch with the principal.

I have refrained from naming the school district and school, because I want to give the principal and school district the opportunity to deal with the situation. They are aware that my Tweets went viral and that I’ve received several request for interviews.

This morning another parent and I met with the principal. This is what we learned.

  • The packet was never submitted for approval to be distributed to students as supplemental material.
  • Today the packet was recalled. It is likely that most of the students hadn’t read any portion of it yet (as mentioned above, no assignments had been given).
  • The teacher has apologized to the students and acknowledged the material was unacceptably biased.
  • The principal will be monitoring all materials distributed by the teacher.
  • The principal sent a notice to all teachers last week with a reminder to keep politics out of classroom discussion and materials, except when being used as a lesson in critical thinking/presenting multiple sides.
  • The school district is aware of the contents of the packet. They will be monitoring the situation and the teacher.

It is my hope that the school district will make a statement at some point. Please know they are monitoring the teacher. I have great confidence the principal, school district, and College Board can and will handle the situation and take appropriate action.

My personal goal here is to ensure that all students enrolled in AP US History – or ANY history class – get a solid, unbiased education. Before I became an author, I was an archaeologist, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that history is one of my passions. I am a firm believer that we need to know our history to understand our present and to make the decisions that shape our future. As the principal said to me today, “There is a reason history is a core subject.”

To other parents, I ask that you take the time to review supplemental material teachers send home. It never occurred to me that I needed to do this until this week. Kudos to the student who brought this to her mother’s attention. She showed great critical thinking in recognizing the bias in the materials.

Again, I want to thank everyone for the amazing support. I will continue to update on Twitter if the need arises.