Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Every Author has Something Unique to Say, By Kathryne Kennedy

I have been clearing out some room by reading my husband’s books—even those that involve battles and political intrigue, which aren’t my usual cup of tea, but which my DH adores. If I don’t do this periodically, my house would be covered in books…literally. I only keep those books that I plan to read over and over again. But all books are treasures, of course, so I don’t throw any of them away: they go into a box to donate to my local library. And regardless of the genre, a book won’t leave my home until I have a chance to read it.

So in the last few months I have read over a dozen fantasy and science fiction books, most of them with just a little romance tossed in as a minor subplot (which is one reason why I started writing fantasy romance). Often, there’s lots of agony, blood, guts and the political intrigue, and I focus on the romance more in my head than what’s written on the page. Regardless, I find most of the books fantastic, and many just darn good. I have yet to find a book that I haven’t learned something from, or isn’t praise-worthy in some way.

And so I came across a book of the type of fantasy I love. (Her Majesty’s Wizard by Christopher Stasheff) A hero from our modern world travels back in time and can do magic. He rescues a princess, and is attracted to her. He meets a dragon who doesn’t fit in with his own kind, and they become friends. They meet a dark enchantress, who lures men into her castle for pleasures of the flesh, and our hero defeats her magic, and she loses her powers…and is taken to a priest to be shriven. And said priest turns out to be a werewolf, and has passions of the human flesh, so he has evil in his soul.

And then it starts to get all about religion, as our hero has a long dream about hell and the devil and the evil in his own heart. He must overcome this evil, overcome his ‘lust’ for the princess. Now, my books are all about lust, and how it leads to love. So this black and white thinking now has me puzzled. So I read the bio in the back of the book.

The author realized that many fantasies are medieval, and in medieval times, people saw God in everything—and the devil waiting to pounce at the first hint of sin. And so he set about writing a ‘realistic’ fantasy. Hence, writing a story that delved into the author’s own questions about faith.

This was the author’s own quest, in a way. No one else could have written this book quite the way he did. And although the hero does ask the princess to marry him in the end, it’s in a rather (unique) way. Sort of like an argument between the two of them.
My point is, no matter how many thousands of books are printed each year, no matter that they carry similar concepts (for fantasy, we usually have dragons, trolls, and the ultimate evil are demons), every author tells their story in a different way, from their own perspective. With perhaps similar themes, but never exactly the same.

It doesn’t matter whether critics, awards, or bestselling status lauds a book. Each is a work of art, unique in the hand of the author who writes his story with broad strokes of a brush. And in my humble opinion, there is no book that is published that doesn’t deserve the honor of that praise.

My Magical Best,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

To all my Readers, Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! From Kathryne Kennedy

In a couple of days, we can stuff ourselves and not feel guilty. Only happens once a year, so I hope you all enjoy. I am especially grateful to my dedicated readers who have let me know how much they loved THE ASSASSIN'S LOVER. Now that some family situations have been resolved, I hope to get back to writing shortly. I have brainstormed the story in THE ELVEN LORDS series about the theft of the lavender scepter, which takes place in Stonehame, the same geographical area in England within THE ASSASSIN'S LOVER. This is Samson's and Jocelyn's love story, which also has a great deal to do with the dragon, Midaz, and the dominatrix elven lady, La'laylia. I just recently received the inspiration for her character, and why she is as cruel to her subjects as she is to her lovers, and although Samson has escaped the dire 'pleasures' of her bed, his mental scars will be harder to heal than his physical ones. But this is a story of redemption, a realization of the true meaning of love, as always. When I have the first three chapters written, and the cover design, I will then post it for pre-order. I will announce it here and have the pre-order links on my website, so stay tuned!
Again, Happy Thanksgiving!
My Magical Best,

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Contest Alert!

Chance to win a $25 Amazon card! Just sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win - www.booksbytina.com. If you already signed up you are still eligible. You can receive an extra chance to win by "Liking" my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/authorTinaMcCright and leaving me a comment letting me know you did so.

A random drawing will be held on December 19th. The gift card will be delivered by email.

Good luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Introducing Euphoria Lane

How far will one person go to stop the HOA?
Andi Stevenson knew her life would never be same after purchasing her new condo on Euphoria Lane. On day one, she finds the body of the Homeowners Association president. Day two, she discovers the property manager is her former fiancé. Day three, the new president begins his campaign of violation letters to force her to move. Day four, her sister, the owner of a detective agency, needs her help with the investigation of the murder. And day five, a full scale neighborhood war!

Available on Amazon.


Facebook Author Page

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Booklist names TWO of Kathryne Kennedy's books as Best Romance Novels of the last Ten Years!

If you haven't already seen the list, two books in THE ELVEN LORDS series, THE LADY OF THE STORM and THE LORD OF ILLUSION, were included in Booklist's 101 Best Romance Novels of the Last Ten Years.

Yes, the past decade! Did your favorite author make the list? You can view it here:

Why did Booklist call THE ELVEN LORDS series 'superb'? You can try out this amazing magical world for just 99 Cents with the latest short novelette THE ASSASSIN'S LOVER, available at your favorite on-line retailer:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Experience With Kindle Scout

Phase Two – The Campaign  (If you haven't read the first post, you can scroll down to find it.)

When I clicked on the link to my campaign, I spotted my cover with the blurb next to it. Below was an excerpt of the book, plus my photo, bio, and social media links. There was a button for readers to nominate the book. They could also go to the main page of Kindle Scout to search for other books to nominate. I don’t believe I received many more followers to my social media sites during the campaign, but others may find different results.

I wish I had read a blog like this one before I began promoting my campaign. I believe I rushed out of the gate too fast. My husband I both spread the word on our Facebook pages the first day. I posted on my writers’ loops, as well as on Twitter. I was excited to see my book cover on the Hot and Trending section of Kindle Scout’s main page, along with the mystery and romance sections. I stayed in Hot and Trending for about a week and then, to my dismay, fell off. That hurt.

I reached out to one of my bigger Romance Writers of America loops called Pro and I was soon back in Hot and Trending. Then I fell off again. Sigh. I had never posted on Facebook groups before and decided to do so. I had already been placed in over a dozen groups and I joined more. I believe I am member of about 33 groups now. I read their rules carefully and began posting. I made sure to focus on the reader’s chance to earn a free book if they nominated my book and it is published. Free always catches my attention. I continued to do the same on Twitter, which feeds into my Facebook. I posted in Twitter about every other day unless I fell out of Hot and Trending, then I increased to daily. I may have posted twice on the same day once.

I was in and out of Hot and Trending until near the end. I started posting on Twitter/Facebook/Facebook groups the number of days left in my campaign to vote and possibly receive a free book. I posted in about 6-10 Facebook groups a day to make sure I didn’t repost in the same group for another three days. I stayed in Hot and Trending near the end of my campaign.

Looking back, I would have staggered out my original postings to increase my chance of staying in Hot and Trending. For example, my husband’s Facebook friends were wonderful. Many of them voted/nominated my book. If we had posted in his account later the first week, I might have stayed in Hot and Trending the second week.

Yesterday, I received an email from Kindle Scout that says they now track the number of hours in Hot and Trending for you, along with where your votes are coming from. You can read those when you log into your Amazon account and click on My Campaign. Even though my campaign was over, I could still see my results. I was in Hot and Trending 460 of the 720 hours of my campaign. I could see where voters came from my blog and Facebook posts. I couldn’t tell when they came from Twitter, but I know at least a couple did because they told me. According to one of their graphs, many votes came from readers who were on the site nominating books. One graph tells you the number of votes received each day. The days I received zero votes were the ones I didn’t promote due to other commitments.

The scariest part of the campaign was the moment I realized everyone who nominated my book would receive an email telling them whether or not Amazon chose to publish my book. I kept telling myself it was in their best interest to publish Euphoria Lane since I had been in Hot and Trending for so many hours. I didn’t want to face the embarrassment if they chose not to publish my book.

During this time, I discovered I could call Euphoria Lane a cozy mystery. I have the nice ladies on Goodreads for that information. I wasn’t sure before because the story is also a romance and in two points of view. I also decided during this campaign that I was going to write romantic cozy mysteries from now on. This is a combination of two genres I love. Romantic Cozy Mysteries is not a genre recognized by publishing companies, but I have read the title once online and decided I can self-publish my books so it doesn’t matter what publishers recognize. I feel good about my decision and can thank this campaign for allowing me to find my way.

The end of my campaign was a comedy of errors. I was exhausted from returning back to teaching and thought my campaign ended Saturday night. I stopped promoting after Saturday morning. It turned out, it ended Sunday night. I was still in Hot and Trending. I checked my email before going to bed. No news. I hoped to hear from Amazon the next day. Minutes after the campaign ended EST on Sunday evening, I received an email telling me the readers had voted and my book was selected for publication. At almost the same time, everyone who had nominated the book received the email with my thank you note. My daughter read her email and called to wake me up. Many friends knew the book was chosen before I did. The congratulations were rolling in.

My email notified me that the thank you notes were being emailed and that the terms of the contract were in effect. They gave me thirty days to update the cover, manuscript, and book details if I wanted. I chose to make the title larger. I soon received an email saying the changes were approved and my manuscript was going to their editor. They asked me to respond with my name and address. I opened a bank account for my writing and soon received their email to open my Payee Account in their secure website. They needed my name, address, phone number, email, bank account number, routing number, and social security number. I then filled out a W-9 online. The account is on hold until the IRS verifies my information.

I have been impressed with how organized this campaign has been. Also with the timeliness of each step.
No more than a few days passes before I hear from them again. They also give you a contact for asking questions and they are quick to reply.

What now? I am waiting to hear back from the editor. Once we make the changes needed, they will email the people who nominated the book to let them know the book is ready for them to read and review. During this time, my book will be available for preorders. They want to give readers time to review the book. They will also give me a publication date.

I would recommend this program to anyone who can reach a large number of possible voters and won’t mind the heavy promoting for that month. Also, to anyone who can handle the possibility that their book might not be published after you have put it out there to the world. I would have cried, but I would have survived. I call this my exciting adventure.

I will update you again after my book receives its first set of royalties.


Tina Swayzee McCright

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Musical Journey through THE ASSASSIN’S LOVER, By Kathryne Kennedy

When I first started writing THE ASSASSIN’S LOVER I knew I had a difficult task. The world of THE ELVEN LORDS is a magical land, and because of this my characters find themselves in an unusual situation, but the feelings had to be real. The heart and soul of my two characters had to be exposed in just one night, and the blossoming of love had to be felt.

In just one night.
In most of my books love grows over time, through a sharing of thoughts and actions; that tell my two characters they are meant for each other. But this story was different…I had to somehow take my characters through situations that could reveal their hearts and souls enough to fall in love in just one night.

I have written several blog posts where I go on a musical journey, by finding songs that portray scenes from my books, and so I go to Youtube and search for lyrics with the key words I am looking for, and to my surprise (although I guess I shouldn’t have been) I found many songs that talk about falling in love in just one night. Or at least, the blossoming of true love.

These songs cover many genres (much like my reading habits) and I hope you find one you enjoy, especially one that captures the feelings evoked in you by reading THE ASSASSIN’S LOVER.

I think both my hero and heroine would feel this song in each of their hearts. 

It’s what I tried to capture in THE ASSASSIN’S LOVER.

This song I think would apply more to how my bemused hero was feeling.

First time I’ve heard this song, and its theme fits my story so well!

This one gave me goosebumps, and I think reflects more on how my heroine would be feeling in my story. He sings opera-style…and check out his cravat!

This is one of my favorite songs, his voice is whiskey soft, and his loneliness echoes in this contemporary setting.

There are many more songs along the theme of falling in love in just one night, but I will have to limit it to these six, as it would take forever to post them all! But you’re welcome to mention any that you feel may also capture the heart-rending story of THE ASSASSIN’S LOVER.






Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths Chapter WriteNow! 2015 Writers Conference





“LOCKED AND LOADED: Set Your Sights on Writing Success”

August 14
5:00-10:00 pm
Gala Cocktail Reception
(*must be 21 to attend)
August 15
8:00 am – 5:00 pm
(registration opens at 7:30 am)



Sarah Paretsky




Hilary Davidson
Simon Wood-WN 2015






Christina Cox - Cropped
Deb Headshot-Cropped


Carol Test-Preferred Photo-DS  2015


SPECIAL APPEARANCE BY: award winning author JENNY MILCHMAN  and NY Times bestselling author MICHAEL KORYTA

Jenny is the author of Cover of Snow, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her novel, As Night Falls, was released in June. Michael  is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 suspense novels. His recent thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead was named the summer’s best thriller by Amazon.

SARA PARETSKY is the author of twenty books, including the renowned V. I. Warshawski novels. She was named 2011 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and is also the recipient of the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement given by the British Crime Writers’ Association. Not only has Paretsky’s own work broken barriers, she has also helped open doors for other women. In 1986 she created Sisters in Crime, a worldwide organization to support women crime writers, which earned her Ms. Magazine’s 1987 Woman of the Year award. More accolades followed: Blacklist won the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers for best novel of 2004; her 2007 memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence, was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and she has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from several different universities. The actress Kathleen Turner played V. I. Warshawski in the movie of that name and Paretsky’s work is celebrated in Pamela Beere Briggs’s documentary, Women of Mystery. Today, Sara Paretsky’s books are published in 30 countries. SaraParetsky.com

SIMON WOOD is a California transplant from England. He’s a former racecar driver, a pilot, an endurance cyclist and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie, and way too many pets and livestock. He’s the Anthony Award winning author of over a dozen books. His titles include Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated, the Aidy Westlake series. His latest thriller is THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. He also writes horror under the pseudonym of Simon Janus. SimonWood.net

HILARY DAVIDSON has won the Anthony Award, the Derringer Award, the Crimespree Award, and two Ellery Queen Reader’s Choice Awards. Her life of crime started in 2007, when she published her first short story in Thuglit. Toronto-born and NYC-based, Hilary uses her background as a travel journalist in her Lily Moore mystery series, setting stories in places such as Peru and Mexico. Her latest book is the hardboiled BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, her first non-series novel. She is also the author of 18 nonfiction books. HilaryDavidson.com

TERRI BISCHOFF joined Midnight Ink as Acquiring Editor in October 2009. She leads all editorial directions and creates the seasonal lists. She has dramatically increased the number of titles per season, publishing 36 titles per year, as well as expanded the type of multiple Award-Winning and Award-Nominated crime fiction Midnight Ink has published. MidnightInkBooks.com

Screenwriter and Producer, CHRISTINA COX, is best known as the star of Blood Ties for Lifetime, and Defying Gravity for ABC. Internationally recognized for her guest-starring roles on Arrow, Dexter, NCIS, 24, NCIS: LA, 24, and numerous other appearances, Christina also appears in The Chronicles of Riddick and Better Than Chocolate. As Lead Producer for Roving Spoke Productions and Fancypants Pictures, she is currently involved in developing feature films for her original screenplays.

Screenwriter and Producer, DEBORAH J LEDFORD, is the award-winning author of the Inola Walela/Steven Hawk suspense series, including: CAUSING CHAOS, STACCATO, and the Hillerman Sky Award Finalist and NM-AZ Book Awards Finalist, SNARE. Book three of her series, CRESCENDO, is the Anthony Award Nominee for Best Audiobook. Narrated by Christina Cox, the recording is presented by Deborah’s production company, IOF Productions Ltd. She is also a Lead Producer for Fancypants Pictures. DeborahJLedford.com

*Professional Content Editor, CAROL TEST, is an award-winning short story writer and former editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and taught fiction workshops at the college level for a decade. She currently empowers authors to get works-in-progress publication-ready. WritingCycle.com

YOUTH PROGRAM – SinC Desert Sleuths is implementing a Youth Program designed to encourage and develop tomorrow’s top writers and devoted readers. Those participating in the Youth Program will attend the conference, Saturday, August 15th at a discounted price. Youth program attendees must be 14 to 20 years of age and provide verification of student status. [Youth Program does not include attendance at August 14th cocktail reception.]

The event will be held at the iconic Hotel Valley Ho ~ 6850 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ
Photo_RmSpa_02      Photo_Aerial_01                                                                         



REGISTER FOR CONTENT EDITING SESSION WITH CAROL TEST [*full registration payment required be to receive this opportunity. One session per attendee]

REQUIRED Form for Individual DS Member Book Sales

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kick Back, Grab a Snack, and Enjoy the first few pages of THE ASSASSIN'S LOVER


The link between the world of man and Elfhame had sundered long ago, the elven people and their magic fading to legend. Tall beings of extraordinary beauty, the fae preferred a world of peace. But seven elves--considered mad by their own people--longed for power and war. They stole sacred magical scepters, created their dragon-steeds, and opened the gate to the realm of man again and flew through.

Each elf carved a sovereign land within England, replacing the baronies that had so recently been formed by William the Conqueror. They acquired willing and unwilling slaves to serve in their palaces and till their lands. And fight their wars. Like mythical gods they set armies of humans against each other, battling for the right to win the king, who’d become nothing more than a trophy. They bred with their human slaves, producing children to become champions of their war games.

The elven lords maintained a unified pact, using the scepters in a united will to place a barrier around England, with only a few guarded borders open to commerce. Elven magic provided unique goods and the world turned a blind eye to the plight of the people, persuaded by greed to leave England to its own, as long as the elven did not seek to expand their rule into neighboring lands.

But many of the English people formed a secret rebellion to fight their oppressors. Some of the elven’s children considered themselves human despite their foreign blood and joined the cause. And over the centuries these half-breeds became their only hope.

Appleby, England, 1730

Jak crouched behind a bush beneath his mark’s window, his toes curled into a ball for warmth, trying to stop his teeth from chattering. His job required stealth above all else, and he would be the shame of the Rebellion’s Order of Assassins if he fumbled this hit because his chattering teeth alerted the guards.

Or the sleeping woman inside the mansion.

Jak had never been assigned a woman before, although the mark wasn’t supposed to matter. Only the job. In most cases, it was get in, do your duty, then get out. Sometimes the hit was a warning, and he’d leave a bloody mess. But usually he was instructed to leave a clean hit, making their enemies guess whether it was assassination or a natural death.

He had been trained to ultimately kill an Elven Lord. Many of the children saved from the trials were groomed for that task. But few held enough talent or magic to accomplish the feat. So in the meantime, the Rebellion removed smaller players: those half-breeds who sided with the Elven Lords in their war games. One death of a key strategist could save thousands of human lives.

Jak had seen the results of this time and again, so he never questioned his orders. The winner of the elven games kept the king--and the leader of the Rebellion--within the sovereignty of Firehame, the strongest bastion for the Rebellion, since a half-breed had stolen the black scepter and now reigned unbeknownst to the rest of the elven invaders.

But a woman…

And why send him to the sovereignty of Stonehame, where it was cold enough to freeze the bollocks off a man? He was used to the flaming palace of Firehame, to the pockets of fire dotting the countryside, a reflection of the Elven Lord’s magic. A reflection of his own magic…although he had only inherited the smaller gifts. Why not send an assassin with an affinity for the land of Stonehame?

Jak called the gray flame, feeling the magic uncoiling within his very blood. And answered his own question.

He had been sent because he was the best. The Rebellion had high hopes for him, that his magic would grow beyond the gray flame. But so far, it had not. In the meantime, he had become the most prolific assassin in the Rebellion’s Order. He made no sound, left no marks. Although he possessed the magic of white fire, it could only provide light. With the yellow, he could have used the warm flame to suffocate a mark. With the gray, which held solidity, he could have done so as well. But to use his magic to kill a mark would call attention to the sovereignty of Firehame, and expose the base of the Rebellion to scrutiny. So Jak preferred the garrote, poison, or his knife.

His fellows mocked him for going barefoot, but he never left an imprint nor made a scuff of sound.

He used the gray fire magic to gain entrance to buildings. Perhaps his magic was another reason he had been sent on this assignment, for the lieutenant’s mansion was smooth crystal, and he needed to create a stairway of gray fire to clamber up the outside walls, which would leave no trace of how he gained entry, which would further confuse the enemy.

With agility from years of practice, he created a ledge of fire, then another, the gray magic blending with the dark stone of the mansion.

He exercised regularly, ate sparingly, to keep his body lean and strong, even though he already possessed attributes of great strength and agility from the elven blood he inherited. But when he fought another half-breed, he wanted to be sure he would win. Jak smiled grimly. So far, his caution had not failed him.

Using his stairway of fire, he reached the second floor of the mansion within minutes, with plenty of time to spare before the sentry below made his next round.

Jak perched on the crystal sill of his mark’s window and glanced out across the town of Appleby, now more of a city, since the Elven Lady La’laylia, one of the seven Elven Lords, had invaded and claimed this land, building her palace of amethyst within Westmorland. The Elven lady ruled with the lavender scepter, her powers over stone a particular gift of magic. She called the stone up from the earth, shaped it to her will, and cast spells within it that could kill or protect.

Although Jak figured she preferred the killing kind. Rumors had it that the lady enjoyed using the sharp edges of her stones on her bedmates, the poor half-breed bastards.

But for all her cruelty, she loved beauty above all, and even at night the palace glowed with a lavender radiance, the color reflected on the homes nearest the place. Crafted of one whole piece of quartz, the castle soared up into the night, with one great tower almost seeming to touch the stars.

The great tower housed the dragon-steed Midaz, who could turn people to stone with his breath, and oddly enough, was rumored to have a fondness for half-breed women. Whether it meant he befriended them or ate them, Jak couldn’t be sure and didn’t particularly want to find out.

His glance skittered away from the palace. Every home within the city had also been crafted of quartz, in an array of colors, but most the natural white. The stone had been diamond-cut, especially the mansions of those who held the magical skill or wealth to craft the stone. Within the daytime, the city sparkled with a brilliance that kept most of the citizens squinting against the glare. Even at night, the homes glowed with an inner radiance from the gemstone and an outer glow from reflected starlight.

Except, of course, the mansion he now stood upon. Made entirely of black jet, it appeared ominous and gloomy against the rest of the city, like a black raven perched among white peacocks. Jak felt sure the lieutenant had crafted his home purposely to intimidate.

But with Jak’s black assassin’s cloak, it made his task all the easier, for he blended with the shadows of the stone. His linen shirt had been died black, and he only wore a black waistcoat over it. His hooded cloak replaced his frock coat, and his black breeches sported black hose that ended at his bare ankles. His cloak hid the pale skin of his face and his half-elven hair.

Unlike the white of the Elven Lords, his hair shone as black as a moonless night, matching the color of his large elven eyes. Unfortunately, he’d inherited the damned sparkle in his hair, and no amount of blacking polish would dim it, so he kept his head covered…but his feet bare, for he’d blackened them with grainy soot. Not only for camouflage, for it also gave him better footing on the smooth gemstone.

Jak also wore a black cravat around his throat, of sturdy fine wool, without a hint of lace. His garrote. His cloak also held a myriad of pockets, each holding a packet of a particular mixture of poison. His scabbard and knife lay strapped around his thigh, within easy reach, but hidden beneath the cloak when he walked the gemstone-cobbled streets.

The black mansion he now plastered his body against belonged to Lieutenant Overon, advisor to the Elven Lady’s champion, and a brilliant strategist. More than once, his battle plans had almost won Lady La’laylia’s army the day. But the king still resided in Firehame, and when Jak had first been given this assignment, he assumed his mark would be the lieutenant himself, to assure that the Fire Lord kept the king within his sovereignty. Although only a trophy to the Elven Lords, the king’s court held principal players in the Rebellion, and Firehame was the only sovereignty where those who tried to bring down the Elven Lords could thrive, due to the imposter on the throne who aided them.

But to his astonishment, the name of the lieutenant’s daughter had been scribbled on the piece of parchment he received. Well, not even her name, actually. Just “Lieutenant Overon’s daughter”. Jak discovered the girl’s name by spying on her.

Minerva. A woman in the flush of youth, with the white hair of the elven and the pointed ears. Only her human-shaped eyes of ocean blue betrayed her human heritage.


Jak loved women. His mentor knew it. Everyone did. Women loved Jak just as much as he did them. Their lace fripperies and mercurial moods and gaiety and giggles. He never truly fell in love with any of them, though. He figured loving someone changed your life, and not a one of the ladies had altered his a whit.

True love was an entirely different matter. One must first possess vulnerability and trust and…a heart. Jak had lost all of those long ago. He had been trained by necessity, chosen by chance. Oddly enough, he became good at his profession because he did not enjoy the kill. He learned not to care, one way or the other. When he was on a mission, his heart turned to stone. And although he counted the lives his kills saved to justify each one, through no conscious intent of his own, he felt his heart becoming more hardened with each kill.

He suddenly realized why the hell his mentor, Lord Bistine, had sent him to kill a woman.

Because, again, Jak was the best. To bungle such a job, perhaps cause the lady any sort of pain, would be unthinkable. His mentor knew Jak would be careful not to do either, and so he hied off to Stonehame.

It took him a fortnight to consider his strategy. To time the position of the guards. The comings and goings of the family. What most people did not realize, and what made an assassin’s job much easier, was that they all had habits. Routines. Things they did nearly the same time and same place day after day.

The lieutenant’s daughter was no different, although she spent much more time in her rooms and private gardens than the average young woman. She mostly drew or painted pictures, and occasionally wrote in a little book, usually facing the same apple tree. Jak often wondered at that. How many different variations of the same tree could one woman draw? But given her father’s reputation for ruthlessness in the games, Jak supposed her hobby might be a means of avoiding the man. Overon might be just as ruthless in his private life.

When Firehame again won another battle because the enemy mysteriously lost a key player in the game, he felt satisfaction and no remorse. Had he been sent to kill the lieutenant, the reason would have been obvious. But why the girl? A young woman who sang like an angel and dallied in her garden, rarely even leaving the mansion. Did the Rebellion think the lieutenant would suffer from the loss of his daughter, and become useless in the games? Or was it just a warning? To the lieutenant, or the Elven Lady?

Jak liked it when the mark was more obvious. It eased his conscience. Unlike most of his fellows, he still seemed to be plagued with one.

Minerva--no, his mark, usually left her window open, even at night. He found her room easily, because when she wasn’t drawing in her garden, she sat staring out her window. He often caught himself wondering what she thought about, for her view certainly never changed. Did she know her father sided with the Elven Lady in the games, killing her fellow countrymen? Did it bother her, as she sat safely in her room of black stone?

Jak suddenly became aware of the warmth of the fire roaring inside her room, saw the flames dancing across the window sill. It felt almost welcoming, the warmth that flared out into the cold night. He wondered again why she left her shutters open in the last few weeks he had been watching her, each successive night colder than the last.

Instead of closing out the frigid air, she built a raging fire to counter it. She appeared to love the outdoors, so perhaps she could not bear being shut in. Or…a frisson of warning suddenly crept up his spine.

He slid his toe toward the window opening, a fraction away from inside the sill, and froze when he didn’t feel the tell-tale tingle of a magical ward of alarm. No one with a lick of sense left their windows open and unwarded. He could not imagine Lieutenant Overon would be so careless of his only daughter, his only heir. But perhaps he relied on his guard, or his daughter neglected to tell him the warding stones needed to be replaced. Perhaps they did not have the magic to renew the spell within the stone and needed to hire someone at the palace to do so.

And perhaps he had been set up. But he trusted Lord Bistine, not only his tutor and mentor, but also a friend. Perhaps a trap set by the Elven Lady then? Could they have a spy in their own Order?

In Firehame Palace, the windows were warded with yellow fire. Any unauthorized entry resulted in the yellow changing to red fire, toasting the intruder within minutes. Each sovereignty created their own magical protection. In Stonehame, it consisted of crystals imbued with spells. Most warding stones set off a series of alarms; the stronger ones pain, and the strongest death. There had been many outside the mansion, but Jak discovered two unprotected areas, just small enough for him to wiggle through.

Had that been no mistake, but on purpose? Had he wandered into the perfect trap?

Jak ever so slowly withdrew his foot away from the sill.

“Please,” said a woman’s voice from within the room. She spoke loud enough to be heard, but gently, as if she feared to frighten him away. “Come in. You must be so cold.”

Devil-take-it. Jak almost fell off the sill. He recognized her voice. Minerva Overon. Awake and waiting for him. Could she be as wily as her father?

“I-I assure you it is safe. I…I am alone.”

Jak never ran from an assignment. This wasn’t the first time a trap had been set for an assassin. Just the first time for him. He knew ways of diffusing a trap. And he had a reputation to uphold. Was his life worth the keeping of it?

He saw her shadow against the firelight as she neared the window, a hand held out beseechingly. “I just want to meet my killer. Do not be afraid.”

Jak…afraid? That did it. Trap or no, he couldn’t run now.

With a speed which left the lady gasping, he slid through the window and crouched on the floor, calling to the white fire, sending it skipping about the room, lighting up every nook and cranny, causing a diversion for any who laid in wait for him.

But it appeared she’d told the truth. She stood alone, her white hair loose about her shoulders, tumbling down her back. She wore naught but a thin silk robe tightly clasped with a gem-studded girdle. No stomacher covered the top opening of the robe, and with every breath the silk crept open, revealing the swell of her breasts. Stones studded the silk as well, tiny things throwing golden sparks about the room.

She looked like some radiant angel.

In that moment, he hesitated.

Within a blink of her blue eyes he could be across the room, garrote about her throat, and she would take her last breath, with no more pain than a thorn piercing her finger. But because of her beauty, or mayhap the curious look upon her face, he froze, and in that moment Jak knew he altered the night’s events.

The door to her room showed a locked bolt from the inside.

Her bedding had been turned down; the imprint of her body still lay upon mattress and pillow. A mirror leaning on a small vanity cast his reflection back at him. A small escritoire faced the window, with ink, blotter and parchment. Two cushioned chairs flanked the roaring fire, a tea table standing between them, laid out with a silver service for two. A kettle warmed on the hob. Two small tables, covered in disarrayed parchment, flanked the bed, and a washstand with mirror faced it. A large clothespress took up the remaining space.

Jak took all of this in at a moment’s glance.

He drew his knife and strode across the room, throwing open the door to the wardrobe before the lady could blink, then stabbed his knife repeatedly inside.

“You are destroying good dresses for naught,” she said, speaking in a hushed voice. “Although I suppose I shan’t have need of them after tonight.”

Jak frowned. Not at what she’d said, but the tone of her voice. As if she considered her death a certainty. And she spoke softly, as if she did not wish to wake the household. So, she would not betray him in that way.

He began to press the walls, using his knife now and then to gauge the sound of the blade on the stone. Solid. Thick. He noticed the drawings hanging everywhere, but did not pay them any mind.

“What are you doing?” she quietly asked, having slipped behind him, trying to peer over his shoulder.

He spun, the hood of his cloak catching on the tips of his pointed ears before slipping off his head. She showed no fear in her voice, only curiosity. Her blue eyes reflected that feeling, as did her lovely face. She looked even more beautiful at closer inspection, perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Fool. Beauty abounded among the English, what with the influx of the blood of the Elven. But she was different, somehow. Like calm in a land of chaos. Sanguine in an age of uncertainty.

She lifted a hand and touched a strand of his hair, gently stroking it with her fingers.

He wanted to lean into her touch, so quickly backed away.

“It sparkles,” she said, her voice apologetic, her forehead wrinkled with worry. “Just like the Elven Lady’s. Yet ‘tis black as jet, like tiny stars in a midnight sky. I just wanted to see what it felt like.”

He scowled, keeping his voice as low as hers. “Where’s the door?”

Suddenly her brow cleared. “Ah. You are looking for the secret door? The one in case of siege or fire.” She swept her robes in a turn, the silk whispering on the black granite floor. She reached the wall adjacent to her bed and lifted several pieces of hanging parchment. “As you see, sir, it is bolted from the inside.”

Again, she spoke the truth. The alarm which consumed Jak since he’d discovered the missing warding stones at the window faded, although he still kept his senses honed for the slightest noise beyond either of the entrances to her bedchamber. He went back to the window, looked out. The guard passed below, not bothering to glance up. They usually did not, the fools. But still, he doused his white fire, leaving only the mellow glow from the fireplace to light the room.

He turned and looked at the girl, Minerva, in complete incredulity. “What is going on here?”

She dropped her head and twisted her hands. “I…I just wanted to meet the man…who would take my life. It seems…a very personal thing, does it not? I would just…feel better if I knew you.”

“How do you know I am an assassin and not some robber out to steal your jewels?”

“Are you?”

Jak narrowed his eyes, almost insulted by the question. He, some common purloiner? Not likely.

She sighed, as if sorely tried by his silence. “If you wanted the silver, you would have studied the whereabouts of it, instead of me.”

“Balderdash,” snapped Jak. “How can you know what I have spied?”

She flinched at the word. He supposed a lady of her station had never heard the like. He did not care. There was something odd going on here, and at the moment he cared little for her sensibilities.

“How do you know who I am?” he demanded, this time with an edge of danger to his voice.

She looked up at him through her lashes. Long, pale brown lashes. “I know what you are. You wear the cloak of your Order. And then when I saw you at my window tonight…”

She then knew he had come for her. Not her father. His anger turned to admiration, at the courage on her face.

“I am very good at what I do, lady. Pray tell, how did you see me?”

She took a step toward him. Jak took a step back.

Her lips trembled, the first sign she showed of any inner distress. “May we discuss my magical gift over tea?”

“Ah. You have a gift which allowed you to discover my presence?”

“Yes…but it is more than that.”

Jak rolled his eyes. “And it requires tea to tell me of it?”

She nodded, with a sigh of relief which made him think she’d finally gotten through to a dunderhead. “I have it warming on the hob.”

“Not a chance, m’lady. I am done fencing words with you. I want to know what the hell you want from me.” He needed to know what he had done wrong. He was the greatest assassin in the Order, dammit. He could not continue to be the best if he exposed his presence without him even knowing it. Jak crossed the room in a blink and held his knife to her throat. “Tell me what you really want, or I kill you now.”

If he hoped to shock her into revealing some truths, he succeeded. But he had not expected her to shock him with her answer.

“Please…not yet. There is one other thing…” Her breath came in small pants. The pulse at her neck beat faster. Her gown slipped even more, quite on the verge of displaying the color of her nipples. Jak kept his eyes firmly on her face. Gawd, how he loved a woman’s body. And she had an exceptionally shapely one. But at the moment he loved his life a bit more. And this still felt like some sort of trap.

“Have out with it, lady.”

She finally looked up at him, staring into his eyes, and for a moment, time hung suspended in their contest of wills.

Her chin inched up a fraction, but she did not shy from his knife. “I do not wish to die a virgin.” 


Continue reading for only 99 cents at:

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Kindle Scout and Voting for Euphoria Lane

Please vote for Euphoria Lane!
My romantic mystery, Euphoria Lane, was chosen for Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. It is like American Idol for books, without the TV cameras. Books need votes to win, just like America Idol and Dancing with the Stars. What does the author win? A publishing contract with Kindle Press. Anyone who votes for Euphoria Lane will receive a free Kindle copy if the book makes it to publication.
You can use this link to vote for Euphoria Lane.

What is Kindle Scout?
You can go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com for information on how the program works, books that have been chosen for publication, and the links to submit your book. I will also share my experience here.
The first time I heard about Kindle Scout was when another author asked for votes on Twitter. I voted for her and later received my free copy of her book with an invitation to write a review if I wanted, but I still wasn’t sure what the program was all about. A few months later, Amazon sent me an email about the program because I was purchasing books on self-publishing on my Kindle. Now it all made sense.
Your book needs to be in English, complete, copyedited, never published, and at least 50,000 words typed in a Word document. The genres they publish are Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, and Action Adventure. You must be an adult with a social security number and a valid U.S. bank account to receive payments.
They have Eligibility and Content Guidelines you should read.
You need to have a great cover saved in PNG or JPEG.  They have rules on size and no blood or graphic violence etc. so read those rules over.
You will need to create and type in a book one-liner of 45 characters or less (they give examples), a description of 500 characters or less, and a bio of 500 characters or less. Just like Twitter, they let you know how many characters you have left while you are typing so you can adjust what you enter. It is rather simple to do.

They want you to write a thank you note they will send to people who voted for your book no matter what the outcome. They provide an example. You also have an opportunity to post up to four links to your social media sites. That was easier than I thought. You click on the add button and two boxes show up. One for you to paste the link and the next for you to provide a name for the link. I chose my website, blog, Twitter and Facebook. You can do all of this in fifteen minutes or take your time. I saved mine many times as I completed each step. To finish it, I went back to the Submit Your Book section I saved to my laptop or I found again on Google. Your Campaign shows up at the top for you to click and continue.

They divide the submission into three sections. The first is where you post all of the information about your book. When you are done with that section, you submit it and go onto the next. The second section is where you upload your book, cover, and personal photo. A friend used her digital camera to take pictures of me and that worked. It turned out better than the professional one I took a few years back. Once again, you can save and go back to it later. Once you are finished uploading you click to submit that section and move to the final section. This is where you read and agree to your agreement with them.

  Once you submit, you agree to give them a 45-day exclusivity period. They will decide in 1-2 business days, longer if they have a lot of submissions, to decide if your book meets their submission requirements. I submitted my book Wednesday night after 10:00 PM and they let me know the next morning that my book was approved. At that time they tell you when your voting campaign will begin and the URL to view what the public will see. You can also share that URL with others. My 30-day campaign for scouting votes started the Saturday after I received notice of approval, so I had two days to prepare this blog, posts to copy on Saturday to Twitter and Facebook, plus I copied the URL on clear address labels and placed them on the back of business cards for my husband and I to pass out to friends at work, etc.

If your book is popular, there’s no set number of votes, Kindle Scout will review it and decide if they want to publish it. There is no minimum number of books for them to choose from. The contract with them provides the writer with a $1500 advance and 50% royalties on digital books. They retain the right for digital and audiobooks for five years. The contract will automatically renew for another five years if you do not let them know within six months that you want your rights back. You keep your print rights. You can also choose to print your books on CreateSpace. Royalties are paid monthly but there is a two-month delay. For example, you are paid for your sales made in January I believe you are paid at the end of March. The agreement is easy to read. You click on the bottom that you agree to the terms and submit your book.

Now the nerve-wracking, exciting part, getting the word out.
Please vote for Euphoria Lane!
Thank you!
Tina Swayzee McCright