Behind the Story

The Apache Protectors Series

When I began learning about the Apache people, I started with my historical books. Not surprising since I have written so many Western historicals for Harlequin. But this is a romantic suspense, my first, for Harlequin Intrigue so I quickly turned to current events and scoured everything I could find on the Apache in the news, at the tribal websites, YouTube, etc.

I quickly discovered how important the SUNRISE CEREMONY is in the Apache culture. This is a coming of age celebration that has religious, educational, celebratory and endurance components. It is the most unique coming of age ceremony I have ever come across. In brief, a young girl of thirteen is instructed in what is involved in becoming a woman, she dances through an entire night and in the morning she will run before all her family and friends to prove she is strong enough to be an Apache woman. There is food, dance, music and a performance by the crown dancers, who represent important deities in Apache culture. It was my exploration of this ceremony that gave me the idea.

I knew I would have four brothers, each with a unique skill and a unique weakness. What I did not know at first was that they also had a younger sister, believed to be dead and only recently discovered to be alive. The story that weaves throughout the series is the brother's search for her. Their mother was killed in a car accident and the boys were raised by their grandmother who wants her granddaughter home in time for the sunrise ceremony. But their little sister has been gone for nine years and has no idea that she is Apache or that she has another family who wants her to come home. With only a little over a year before her ceremony is due to take place, the quest for Jovanna begins in book one with each brother contributing to the search. You'll have to ride along to see what happens, but  who better to send after a missing person than an Apache tracker?


Apache Protectors 1
December 2015
Harlequin Intrigue

Did you know that there is a Native American only unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

Neither did I until I came across an article about the trouble we are having with drug traffickers on the Mexican-American border. Because of heightened security, the traffickers have abandoned the early tactics of sending truckloads of drugs over the Texas border. Instead they are sending smaller loads across the Arizona border and through the Sonora desert, often in the summer heat. Carrying loads up to 100 pounds on their backs, Migrants are dying in the heat. If they fall behind they are abandoned by their guides. This is creating a crisis on the border and many individuals and aid organizations are setting up water stations to preserve human life.

These illegal immigrants represent the minnows that are slipping through the US forces net. The cartels have decided it is less risky to lose a few minnows in the form of a train of six to twelve backpacks of drugs than to lose a whale in the form of a tractor trailer full of narcotics. The immigrants who do not have the money cover their passage opt to carry the drugs. On the ICE team are the Shadow Wolves.

The Shadow Wolves are sixteen Indian men with special skills in "cutting sign" which means tracking the backpackers. They are far more successful at finding the trains of illegal immigrants. These Indian customs agents were the inspiration for my first hero, Kino Cosen and his story is appropriately titled, SHADOW WOLF.

His heroine is an aid worker assisting the very people Kino hunts which places them on opposite sides of a very complicated and difficult issue. They both have secrets and wounds that add to their troubles. As the summer heats up, so does my debut romantic suspense.


Apache Protectors 2
January 2016
Harlequin Intrigue

Dangerous Research

I could just feel the FBI looking over my shoulder as I did various searches to complete necessary research for this story.  Part of my paranoia, or reasonable concern, came from my attendance of a talk given by FBI agents.   Last June, I joined a special outing organized by the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America in Midtown Manhattan.  One of the authors asked one of the field agents what happens when they see a US citizen looking up things like poisons that leave no trace in autopsy or how to make a pipe bomb.

The answer was chilling.  "Yes," said the young agent.  "We would definitely look into such activity.  But a simple check would show you are a writer and that would be that."  He went on to say that if they did feel the need to come and speak to you, we should just answer their questions.  Oh, boy! 

So you can imagine that when I was looking up the signs and symptoms for poisoning from the byproduct of the production of crystal amphetamine and how to perform an autopsy on a cow (necropsy they call it.)  I was concerned that someone would come knocking on my door.

There are different levels of dangerous.  Using drugs is one.  Making drugs is another.  Researching both is yet another.  Interesting but terrifying.  Equally terrifying is what phosphine can do to every major organ in your body.  This is really deadly stuff.  The detail about the acute effects of phosphine poisoning including turning the tongue (sputum) fluorescent green, for example, found its way into my story.  How could I resist? 

As of this writing, the FBI has not yet knocked on my door.  But if they do I will just answer their questions.


Apache Protectors 3
May 2016
Harlequin Intrigue

Creating a Police Force

One of my more interesting challenges in this story was creating a very small tribal police force. I had to decide what they're uniforms looked like, create officers, detectives and their chief of police. Then I built a squad room and chose what vehicles they would drive. Once I had that down, I began the story but found myself halting often to try and figure out police procedure. For example, would a tribal police force do all their own crime scene processing? If not, who would process the scene. This lead me to investigating what small police forces in Arizona do in such cases. They often call on a state CSI unit that will analyze the evidence that is collected. Another stopping point came when I needed to learn about the radio codes used by police to quickly alert dispatch on what they are dealing with. Here are a few of my favorites courtesy of

Police Scanner Codes

Code 8 Restroom break Hey, when you gotta go....
604 Throwing missiles Really? This makes my job seem so lame
10-55 Coroner case Found a body--Not good
11-58 Radio Monitored, Use Phone If the police are monitored what chance have I got?
10-12 Visitor Present Translation: Watch your language
10-17 Request for Gasoline Oops! Had to make that call once myself


Condition of patient

Bad day for patient


Apache Protectors 4
June 2016
Harlequin Intrigue

Crown Dancers & Changing Woman

I found the research of the crown dancers and changing woman so fascinating and had to hold back to keep from adding too many details in the story. I also tried very hard to get it right. As an outsider, or what some would call an Anglo, my personal experience with the Apache people is limited to everything I could read. I visited the websites of ever tribe. Searched newspaper articles, read congressional transcripts, personal journals and blog posts, books on Apache culture, lore and mythology. For HUNTER MOON, I read the rules and regulations for the cattle association of one of Arizona's Apache tribes. My favorite resource for the sunrise ceremony was the Youtube videos that folks have posted. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I was awed with the amount of preparation and expense involved with holding a sunrise ceremony. It really does take up to a year to organize. The regalia must be made. Sacred objects created and blessed. A medicine man needs to be hired. A sponsor secured and then there are the gifts that the girl will deliver to the attendees. Preparations also include the creation of a sweat lodge for the male members of the family to purify and prepare themselves and the sacred objects. The men also make a wickiup for some parts of the rites. The girl undergoes extensive instruction and physical training so that she can complete the ceremony. And because of the expense, it is not uncommon for two or three families to pool resources and have their girls share the proceedings.

Here are two videos from YouTube that show some of the four day long ceremony and give a flavor of the Apache sunriseceremony.

» Apache Sunrise Ceremony White River Arizona posted on the apachecreations page

» Apache Paining Ceremony on May 25, 2014 posted by donnarenne71


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More Behind the Story

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