My new series, Shadow Warriors, has been five years in the making. Because I held a Secret clearance in the US Navy, I’m more familiar with black ops than most simply because of the area I worked in. I took three years and read every book on SEALs written by SEALs to grasp their mindset. Because there is one and I did not want to stereotype them. Later, I branched out into Rangers, Delta Force and Special Forces. I’m well known for my thorough research and I like my books vetted by someone in the area I’m writing.
I have long been a proponent of women volunteering to go into combat. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, changed all of it in March, 2013. He opened all the doors to combat slots if military women wanted to take that career path. No longer were their any doors closed to women, as they were in my day. I know women who could easily fit into that slot. The downside is that women have weaker upper body strength than a man. As a volunteer firefighter for three years 1980 to 1983, with the West Point Volunteer Fire Department, West Point, Ohio, I was the only woman among twenty male volunteers. I worked out every other day, a lot of my exercises were upper body focused to develop that region of my body. And I did. I did everything any of those men did and did it well. So I know women from personal experience, we can do it all. It just requires a certain mindset, a passion and a woman who is drawn to a combat slot in the military, and she can be successful.
The military knows that women are better marksmen than a man is. Women also have more powerful legs than a man. Their weakness is upper body strength, but that can be corrected through exercise. It took three years of reading black ops books written by the operators themselves, taking notes, collating the psychological patterns that they learn and accrue through constant training, to grasp their mindset.
Later, after I’d written DOWN RANGE, I went in search of a SEAL who would help me with some technical details in the book I simply couldn’t find answers to anywhere else. I read Chief Michael Jaco‘s book, The Intuitive Warrior and decided to email him from his website in April, 2012. I sent it to him, telling him who I was (and yes, I was a romance writer), that I needed some unclassified answers to questions I had. A year passed and no reply, so I figured he didn’t want to deal with me because I’m more or less, media. And black ops types avoid media, reporters and yes, writers, like the Plague. I didn’t take it personally.
In April, 2013, Tracy Jo Jaco, his wife, called me out of the blue. She said, “Let’s get together for lunch.” I agreed. What is funny about this is that they live in Sedona. And I live eight miles south of that town. They were there all that time, under my nose, and I didn’t know it! I prepared a list of 66 questions for Chief Jaco. When we met for lunch, we hit it off right away. We were both Navy. I’m sure the fact I was a military vet swayed his initial opinion of me. Military vets have an unbreakable bond with one another, regardless of gender. I showed him my questions. If he thought I was “fluff,” he learned I was not. My questions were detailed and I knew my business and that it impressed him enough to grant me a four hour interview with him based upon my questions. He answered every single one of them.
I then asked him if he would read DOWN RANGE to vet it, to make sure it was accurate. He said yes. Chief Jaco came back about four days later and said he was very taken by my book. So much so, that he wrote a Dear Reader letter (the Forward) to it and also supplied a back cover quote for it. There has never been a SEAL give a romance book a quote, much less an emotional, heart-felt letter, in any romance genre book that I know of. He found two technical errors in the book (I thought he was going to find a lot more) and I corrected those.
Developing Shadow Warriors books then, is going to be stories involving military men and women in combat situations. Or, it will deal with them outside the military world and instead, be in a security contract work environment. The stories will occur around the world, not just in a particular war zone. The freshness of this approach is that readers are going to get to see how a woman deals with the stresses and pressures of combat and/or life/death situations.
Because a woman’s reactions ARE different than how a man copes and processes traumatic events, there is a story within a story, here. Also, how a male operator deals with a female operator in a combat environment, because that is very different, too. There’s a lot of rich, gritty psychological and emotional ground to plow here: how combat changes a person, their perspective and ultimately, how it changes their lives. These books are first, going to be fierce, powerful love stories, woven in with seat-of-the-pants suspense and action. It’s going to be about the wounds the characters bring from their childhood, the mental, emotional or physical wounds created out of combat situations and how the characters not only cope, but deal with the issues as adults and with one another. These books are going to be an intense emotional ride for the reader.
DANGER CLOSE, HQN, September 16, 2013, is the foundation book for the Shadow Warriors series. It is available in ebook format only. In DOWN RANGE, US Marine Captain Morgan Boland, is the daughter of the hero and heroine of DANGER CLOSE, Corporal Cathy Fremont and US Marine Captain Jim Boland. Morgan comes from a military family, has the confidence, passion and focus to go after what she knows she’s good at. In this case, being one of the first women to go through Marine Corps sniper school and graduated from his vaunted military institution. She’s a role model for women who know they’re good in combat situations, has the balance of personality, leadership skills and courage it takes to do the job and do it right. Many males don’t realize some of the strengths of women in general. One of them being of a team work frame of mind. And in the black ops world, team work is the most important component of a successful team out in the field. I believe readers will find Morgan sympathetic, but also extruding a woman’s internal strength that gives her more to pull from during a crisis than any man.
Lieutenant Jake Ramsey has a damaging childhood. His father was a Navy SEAL, and Jake was left to take care of his ailing mother as he grew up. Jake grew up nearly fatherless because he was always away in combat situations or training most of the time. He became the man of the house as a young child, as a result. When his mother becomes chronically ill when he’s ten years old, Jake’s view on women changes. After being a care giver to his mother who contracted multiple sclerosis and steadily got weaker until she died when he was eighteen, his perspective on women is that they are all weak. He goes to US Naval academy at eighteen knowing women are delicate and fragile in comparison to a man.
But when Jake meets red-headed, fiery Morgan Boland at the Academy, he’s drawn powerfully to her, but he can’t reconcile the fact she’s vibrant, strong and as good or better than the men in just about every way. They start a love-affair there, but things deteriorate over several misunderstandings and they part. Years later, they meet accidentally in Afghanistan and have a torrid three day affair, drawn inexorably to one another. Yet, out of bed, Jake just can’t get rid of his reality that women are frail. And Morgan will have none of that, and they split up once again. The book opens two years after this point. They’re about to be thrown together on a top secret op that pairs them as snipers going after a high value target, an opium drug lord, in Afghanistan. And now, they HAVE to get along. And they have to ignore their combustible sexual chemistry between them in order to get the op completed.
Readers are in for an intense, gritty, action-packed adventure. And throughout it, it is their unrequited love for one another that gives them the added courage to fight against overwhelming odds.
To comment on Lindsay McKenna’s blog please click here.