When I sold the first book in my K-9 Alaska series, K-9 DEFENSE, I had no idea that it would turn into a series. But by the time I finished writing the story, I knew I wanted to write more. More stories set in my fictional remote northern interior Alaskan town, and definitely more books featuring furry companions.
K-9 DEFENSE (which re-releases in the duo VALIANT TRACKER, along with Elle James’s SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, also featuring a military K-9) features German Shepherd- Malinois mix Rebel. She’s a Combat Tracker Dog, a special type of K-9 who can track back from the scene of an explosion to the person who set it.
When my editor first asked if I wanted to write a K-9 book, I was instantly interested – I grew up with a menagerie and love animals. But I also knew I wanted to do something different, hopefully showcase a type of K-9 that hasn’t been seen before in fiction. When I read about the Combat Tracker Dogs who work for the Marines (specifically their Military Police), I knew I had part of my story.
When K-9 DEFENSE opens, both my hero ex-Marine Colter Hayes and his K-9 are hiding out in Desparre, Alaska, recovering from injuries that ended their military careers. But like her partner (who holds a rank one lower than hers, because the military trains their K-9 handlers to respect their K-9 counterparts), being out of the military doesn’t mean she can just turn off her training. So when Kensie Morgan comes to town, looking for her long-lost sister and certain that Colter and Rebel can help, the pair are reluctantly drawn into the mystery – and back into the world.
After I finished writing K-9 DEFENSE, I took a break to create a book in a different series, but I pitched several more K-9 Alaska series stories to my editor. I wanted each book to showcase a different type of dog – different breeds, different specialties, different personalities.
Next up was the K-9 star of ALASKA MOUNTAIN RESCUE (coming in January 2021). A St. Bernard who was once a rescue puppy who barely survived, now Chance works as a therapy dog at a nonprofit for victims of violent crimes. But when he goes to Alaska with his owner, he discovers a natural talent for snow rescue. As someone who grew up with St. Bernards, it was a lot of fun to show Chance playing in the snow like my own dogs did, and then demonstrate their amazing skill at finding people who are buried in an avalanche. I also loved showing his connection with the heroine and the way the two of them were willing to put their lives on the line for each other. And, of course, Chance and his owner are also in Alaska chasing down a mystery – in this case, a kidnapper.
After that, I wrote K-9 COLD CASE (coming in April 2021). In that book, I created Labrador Retriever Patches (named for her unique mix of black and brown coloring). Patches is an FBI K-9 and she works with her handler as part of the FBI’s Victim Assistance Program. Within that program, using dogs is relatively new, but it’s rapidly growing because of the success the dogs have with helping victims and families of crime, both at the scenes of mass casualty events and also while they navigate the criminal justice program. In real life, these dogs have helped family members at the site of mass shootings and they’ve sat beside children who’ve had to testify about violence in the courtroom. In K-9 COLD CASE, Patches and her handler go to the scene of a bombing – and pretty soon, both are also embedded in a cold case that the Desparre police chief never expected to be solved.
Finally, I’m working on the fourth book in the series now. It’s not yet titled, but will release in July 2021. The story features the first K-9 for the Desparre police department. Throughout many of the earlier books, one of the officers has been requesting to start a K-9 unit. He was always turned down, because of budgeting concerns. But finally, he gets his wish and Alaskan Malamute Sitka starts work as a dual-purpose dog. That means she’s trained in both patrol work and tracking. Like my heroine jokes in the story, patrol work doesn’t mean she’s writing tickets with her big paws. Instead, she can help provide security, or “bark and detain” a suspect until her partner can slap on the handcuffs, or clear a building. Many departments – including Desparre – don’t have the money for crucial supplies for their K-9s. In the real world, there are nonprofit groups that help supply these K-9s with special stab- and bullet-proof vests; in my story, my hero shells out the money to protect his partner. And it may come in handy when the two of them take on a determined stalker. (Quick spoiler: all the dogs in my books survive the stories! I consider them as crucial to a “happily ever after” as having my hero and heroine connect!)
Will this fourth book in the series be the end of my K-9s? Probably not. In fact, as I write this book, I already have an idea for a fifth story, involving a Search and Rescue dog (and luckily, I’ve already done some hands-on training with this type of K-9)…