Genre: Paranormal Romance
Cover art by Ash Arceneaux
From the Cover:
THE HUMAN REALM, HIS BATTLEFIELD.
Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.
DEADLY SECRETS BETTER LEFT UNEARTHED.
Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess' undead army unleashing hell on earth. But Lilly has a secret—one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.
“Only the strongest love can unlock the souls of the Underworld.”
Bio: Jean Murray was born and raised in a small town on the east coast. In her pursuit of a nursing degree, she aspired to see the world and joined the Navy. One of the benefits of her membership in the Armed Forces, she has had the opportunity to travel and live in different parts of the world and the United States. Her travels abroad have given her the opportunity to experience different cultures. It inspired her to delve into Ancient Egyptian myths and legends for her debut novel, Soul Reborn, book 1 in the Key to the Cursed series from Crescent Moon Press, now available.
Since I won Ms. Murray's most excellent book during the Crescent Moon Press's Memorial Day Blog Bash (which was a blast by the way with some very nifty prizes), I decided I would love to interview Ms. Murray... see if I could figure out there these great stories were coming from.
Me: Why don't you start by telling my readers a little bit about yourself?
JM: I’ve been a Navy nurse for the last 20 years and I’m finally going to retire this fall. My family is looking forward to settling down after moving every three years. To stay in one place longer than that, I’m not sure what I will do with myself. Maybe actually unpack the boxes I’ve been dragging around for the last few moves. LOL. My military friends ask what I want to do when I grow up (ie retire). I want to focus on my family and my writing career. Yes, I will still need a day job to keep my sanity, but I really want to take that next step to foster my authorship. This fall will be my first conference (Authors After Dark) where I will be sitting on the other side of the table, signing books and participating in panel discussion. I can’t wait.
Me: How cool! Congrats on your first active member conference!
Me: What drew you to the craft of writing?
JM: I’m still in a bit of shock and disbelief that I am an author. I was drawn to writing just three years ago and it was so unexpected. An internal calling of sorts. It started with a story bouncing around in my head that demanded to be written and continued with the encouragement of my husband. He made me realize my stories were good enough to share with others. I’m drawn to it because it allows me an outlet to express emotion, both positive and negative. No matter how bad the world or life events become, love and family are our constants. And as my stories reflect, it doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice.
Me: Are you a pantser or plotter?
JM: Definitely a pantser. My subconscious rules when I write. Strange, because as a nurse I am very type-A. But when it comes to writing, the stories just play out in my head. I solve all my plot issues daydreaming. I never write them down. I tried to plot. Once! I tried to stick with it, but my characters had a mind of their own and took the storyline down a very different path. I’m thankful for my characters’ revolt, as the story came out much better than I had planned. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and my characters. In the end it is they who tell the story and touch the reader.
Me: When do you like to write? Mornings, Afternoons, Middle of the Night, or somewhere in between?
JM: There is a category “Any chance I get” that you forgot to add to your list In reality I grab a second here, 30 minutes there. Whatever I can get between working full-time, raising 3 young boys, and a husband who deserves some attention. It’s craziness, I tell you. It is why the clean laundry from last week is still sitting in the basket. But, we are women and it’s just another facet of our lives that we multi-task. Writing is my outlet and I greedily take my rations.
Me: I should have included an "Any chance I get" category...I seem to hear this more and more...We all have such busy schedules.
Me: Do you have some favorite music that inspires your writing?
JM: The Key to the Curse series is a dark paranormal line. So when I sat down to write Soul Reborn and even now writing Soul Awakened, I listen to some dark gritty music. There is one album that I swear was written for my characters. Skillet- Awaken. There are three songs that I repeat over and over. Hero, Beast and Awake & Alive. These three songs reflect the journey my Egyptian gods have to wade to their salvation. If I could sum up the Key to the Cursed series it would be exactly this: We all have a Beast hidden in that deep dark place. There is a point in our lives that we decide to take control of our destiny (Awake & Alive) and release the hold that sin has on our soul and become the Hero that we need to be.
Me: When you're not writing, do you have a favorite author or genre you enjoy?
JM: Anything dark. I really enjoy JR Ward and Lara Adrian. I’m always looking for that next great “dark” series. I would love suggestions.
Me: One of my favorite series is Jocelynn Drake's Dark Days Series... vampire hunter meets his prey... and it's all good!
Me: What advice would you give to others in the journey to becoming published?
JM: Know the craft. I initially wrote as a hobbie, so the “rules” did not apply to me, but when I decided to pursue publication I crossed that line. Being new, I needed to know what the rules were, so I went to conferences, attended workshops, and joined professional writing organizations. I kept writing and editing. Reading published authors I wanted to emulate in my writing. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know it all, so the learning never stops. Find a critique partner that understands your writing. Heck, I’m still looking for one. I think I would be a lot farther if I had someone to provide constructive criticism. Give yourself time to grow. Send out your manuscript to a few contests that have published authors. Practice pitching and pitch to a real editor to test the waters.
Especially as a new author with a debut novel, I can’t stress enough— listen and learn. I was so lucky to have an editor that was willing to teach and mentor me along the way. She taught me so much in the first 60 days that made conferences and workshops pale in comparison. Don’t take the recommendations personally, they are there to help and hone your novel to perfection. I don’t think you ever stop learning.
Me: Excellent advice! Writing is give and take as is being published. No one wants to hear their baby isn't perfect, but without criticism, how can you grow?
Me: Did you have a long line of submissions before you “got the call”?
JM: I have been very fortunate in my writing career. I started to write in the fall of 2008. Went to my first National Conference in 2009. I volunteered at the conference and signed up for a pitch session. I followed that experience with joining the FF&P chapter of RWA and started taking workshops. I received two full manuscript requests in the fall of 2010. My current publisher was one of those. Twenty-four hours after I submitted my manuscript I got “the call” from Crescent Moon Press with an offer of a contract. Ironically, the same week I got my first rejection letter for Soul Reborn. I have both letters framed side by side as a reminder—never lose sight of your goal.
Me: Is there any other advice/recommendations you'd like to share?
JM: The work doesn’t stop when your book is released. Promotion takes a lot of hard work and time, but will open more opportunities. Develop a social network of friends. I say friends, as it could be a fellow writer, reader, or reviewer. I’ve meet some fabulous people along the way. Don’t just think about yourself and your book, promote others as well. Pay it forward. This is a great community of people.
Me: Where can we find you and your books?
My blog: www.wickedromance.wordpress.com
"LIKE" me on facebook here
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing Director: Marlene Castricato email@example.com ;
Amazon Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble Purchase Links: Print & Nook:
Me: What are your future plans for your series? Are you cooking up a new one?
JM: I’m working on the next books in the Key to the Cursed series:
Soul Awakened. Kendra must awaken Bakari from his death-like sleep. Only he can kill the goddess who has plotted war against the Pantheon. The god that awakens after five years of torture is not the man she envisioned. Friend, lover or enemy? Only Bomani stands in Bakari’s way, preventing him from taking what they both want~ Kendra innocence.
Soul Unleashed. Kit wants nothing to do with her demi-god powers nor the god that has been commissioned to protect her from their enemies. She does everything to ditch her unwanted babysitter, but Kamen has had enough of Kit’s antics and takes matters into his own hands. There is a war to be won and a woman to conquer, whether she is ready or not.
I have another complete series that I’m waiting to release. Everyone knows of the Book of Revelations, heralding the end of the world at God’s hands. But, there is another written. One for the other side to wage war at the end of days. The Devil has a plan, and her name is Alexa.
Some fun stuff:
Me: Coffee, Tea, or Something Harder?
JM: In my 20’s it would have been something harder, but now? That would be coffee and anything else with caffeine. Did I mention I write when my boys are in bed? Needless to say they get up very early in the morning. Yawn. More coffee please.
Me: If you were stranded on a desert island... would you hope that Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, or Gerard Butler was stranded with you (if hubby/boyfriend decided to stay home while you cruised)?
JM: Oh, Gerard Butler hands down, especially after the making of the movie, 300. He has the ruff rugged look and who doesn’t love that accent. He just needs to make sure to bring enough sunscreen and maybe a nice ice cold margarita.
Me: Cake or Ice Cream (or both)? JM: I don’t mind dabbling in both. I prefer chocolate most of all.
Me: Favorite all-time read? Movie?
JM: My all-time favorite read would be Jacquelyn Frank’s Noah from Night Walker series. It was my first paranormal romance novel. I was so taken by the genre, I never looked back. Movies? The original Star Wars trilogy is top on my list followed by the Lord of the Rings.
Me: Favorite paranormal creature.....mine are vampires, lol, yum..!
JM: I will forever love vampires, but I’m leaning toward demons these days. There is something about a man that has made mistakes, paid for them with his soul, and is finding his way back to salvation. Okay, that just sounds like my Egyptian gods. LOL.
Me: If you were going to pick a book/movie character to become...who would it be?
JM: I would love to be my heroine, Lilly. Yes, I’m biased. Lilly has strength, beauty and a vulnerability that makes her so real to me. She puts her family first above all else. I would love to have her supernatural abilities to heal. As a nurse those would come in real handy. Not to mention her sexy and dark hero, Asar. I love complicated men.
Me: Secret desires??? (We'll never tell...)
JM: This question gave me pause. I’ve gotten so caught up in life I’ve forgotten to keep a list of my secret desires. Or maybe I just haven’t had time to even think about it. I guess I would want to jump on an airplane to a private island resort with good-looking man servants. No cooking, cleaning or doing laundry. A day of sun, sand, food and spa luxuries. I’d be in heaven.
Thanks for being here today Jean!!
And here's an excerpt from Soul Reborn, Keys to the Cursed, Book 1:
Lilly walked slowly across the great expanse of the front entrance to the stairs. The smallest sound of her metal weapons hitting the curve of her hips resonated in the large room like the distant sound of wind chimes. Her eyes locked immediately on the dark shape as he watched her ascend the steps to the Egyptian exhibit where Kendra conducted her work. He never moved, even as she lost sight of him around the corner. Only then did she turn and join her sisters.
With books strewn everywhere, Lilly had to step carefully to avoid tripping or falling. Kendra, lying on her stomach in the middle floor, looked like she was reading a book at the beach. Lilly shook her head at the complete vulnerability of her sister‘s position. Kendra couldn‘t defend herself from that pose.
Another chill rippled down her back. The other hulking deity stood like a statue in one of the darker corners of the exhibit. Larger than Asar, the god had thick black hair that fell past his shoulders and a perpetual five o‘clock shadow. Asar addressed him as Kamen. With his arms clasped in front of his chest, he looked as if he belonged here among all the antiquities. His stoicism did not match the wildness in his eyes. His stare would wilt even the strongest resolve.
“Where do you need us, Kend?” Lilly asked, looking around.
Kendra bounced up to hand Kit a book and brought her notes over to Lilly. “I need you to go into the archive and find a picture of the goddess marked with these symbols. I think I know who our key thief is and where she might be heading to next, but I need a picture to see the writings inscribed on her sarcophagus.”
Lilly headed down to the basement.
When she pulled out a drawer of the cataloging system, a plume of dust exploded into the air. Apparently, the drawers hadn‘t been opened in a very long time. She waved her hand in front of her face, but it didn‘t stop her from sneezing. Memories of climbing through old dig sites with her father surfaced in her mind, followed by another series of sneezes. “God, I hate this stuff,” she mumbled to herself, rubbing her nose with the back of her hand. She shivered and immediately looked to her left.
“Your sister seems to enjoy it.”
“Well, it’s her thing.”
Asar stepped closer. “What is your thing, Lilly?”
His question actually made her laugh. “My thing? Yeah, well. I guess that would be killing revens.” She scratched the back of her neck, where it burned just under the skin. “Seems I‘ve run into a cold spell.”
“I cannot very well let you die. And you made me vow to keep your sisters from harm. Letting you fight revens would seem a contradiction to our agreement.”
With her choice of expletives threatening to break free, she bit and held her tongue tightly. How was she going to explain this to Mother? All of a sudden her best hunters had no kills. She rubbed her neck again and twisted her head a few times to stretch the muscles. Finally, she turned back to what she had been doing and tried to ignore the fact a deity loomed over her shoulder. Not to mention her neck hurt like hell where the snake‘s fangs leaked venom into her muscles.
An occupational hazard for the Nehebkau.
Lilly leafed through the parchments carefully laid on top of one another. She finally found the one she was looking for and carefully pulled it out of the stack. Rolling it up, she turned to leave, but his black body blocked her egress.
“Excuse me.” She didn’t bother hiding the annoyance in her voice.
He turned to the side. She tried to pass without touching him. She needed to stay focused on the task and not his body, but he didn’t budge an inch to accommodate her. The burning in her neck only added to her acrid mood. Finally, she pushed past, but not before her breasts brushed against his cold broad chest. Her nipples instantly tightened into small peaks underneath her vest. Of all things she didn‘t want to happen.
Why the hell did he have to be so cold?
Over the table, she spread the parchment containing sketches of the hieroglyphics matching Kendra‘s picture. Her stalker stood in the corner watching her. His ass could stay there for all she cared. She leaned over the small table and rested on her elbows, which brought her sleek blonde hair forward over her shoulders to block her view of him.
“When was your conversion?”
She stiffened as the serpent shifted under her skin. He moved just behind her, never making a sound. She glanced over her shoulder. He was nearly five feet away, yet her skin rose up in goose bumps. She rubbed the big knot of muscle running from her neck to her shoulder. “Five years ago.”
He stepped closer. “It is a very painful transformation, relative to the species of snake.”
She caught his gratuitous glance down her back to her ass. No doubt a hint of her pink lace panties peeked out from beneath the waist band.
As if she didn‘t already know it was painful. She lived through the damn thing. Her current level of discomfort was a constant reminder of that moment. If she had known how agonizing it would be in the beginning, she‘d have never agreed to it. Straightening up off the table, she refocused her attention back to the parchment.
Every muscle in her body tightened to fight when his ice cold fingers pressed against the base of her neck across the snake‘s head. She didn‘t like having her back turned to a potential enemy. Well, not so much an enemy, as an unwanted business partner.
A partner with hands of magic.
“An Egyptian asp is a very deadly snake. Used for the execution of criminals, it signifies the power over life and death.”
Her shoulders melted as the pain dissolved under his touch. The cold chill against her skin ceased when he pulled his hand away. She turned around to face him. With her arms crossed over her chest, she leaned her bottom against the table.
“Appropriate, seeing as I kill revens for a living, and we just added a convicted goddess to the list.”
“Fate, perhaps.” Asar touched his pectoral necklaces hidden under his tunic.
Lilly followed the motion to his chest.
“May I see them?” she asked. Surprise fluctuated in his eyes, but then he untied the tunic in the front and pulled back the edges. Honed out of well chiseled muscle his chest spanned above a six pack abdomen. His dark skin entirely smooth and devoid of hair held tautly against the bulk of muscle. The locations she had come in contact were lighter in color. His linen pants hung dangerously low against his hips, just above his pubic bone. Lilly glanced away when heat flushed her face. It took all her strength to refocus on the necklaces.
The three gold ropes lay at the broadest part of his chest. She recognized the lion and the moon pendent. The second, a ram‘s head. The third, a crown with a crook and flail. With her lower lip pulled between her teeth she slowly extended her fingertips to touch the three medallions.
She searched his expression for any displeasure, but it remained placid. He at least wasn’t offended by her curiosity and touch. She withdrew her hand, and saw a cast of disappointment in his eyes despite his emotionless face.
“You left it there for me to find,” she said, astounded. “Did you know it would bring you here?”
“Your youngest sister has not been initiated into the Nehebkau. Why?”
His blatant disregard of her question, only confirmed her suspicions. Damn if she didn‘t walk right into his plans. “I wouldn’t let her. It’s much too dangerous.”
“But you let your other sister.”
“Kit can handle herself,” she quipped.
“Do you know what they say about Nehebkau?” Asar asked, as he walked around the table.
“He was the God of Protection,” Lilly said, tracking him with her eyes. He circled her like a predator testing his prey.
“He is the God of Protection, both in life and in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians depicted him in the form of a snake with a human body. He joins the Ka, the soul, to the body.”
“Well, then Mother picked the right god to represent us. I just hope the revens we kill eventually find peace.”
Asar narrowed his eyes on her. “Mother? Your mother?”
“No. It’s a term we, Nehebkau, use for our leader. She believed in the curse, and used Nehebkau’s spell to create hunters to combat the revens. Mother believes we can find a talisman to cure those afflicted.”
Lilly looked directly at the pectoral necklace, the very one she placed around his neck.
“What of your natural mother?”
Lilly glanced away and shrugged. “It‘s always been our father and us. She left when we were very young.”
Despite her efforts, she couldn’t keep the pain out of her voice, which made her feel even more vulnerable—a sensation that never sat well with her. Her pain turned to bitterness. “I don’t see the relevance to this discussion. Does it really matter what kind of snake I have implanted in my body? It gives me the strength to protect what I love. Why are you even interested in my family?”
He moved closer, and placed his hands on the table on either side of her hips. With no means of escape, she leaned back, but he closed the space.
“Your reasons for joining the Nehebkau reveal the character of your soul. It is no coincidence the asp was chosen for you. It was chosen for you by the gods. As you said, we want the same thing. To protect what we love. The gods have decided to cross our paths, our fates. It is important we succeed. You are not the only one that has family at stake.”
She straightened closing the distance between them as far as she dared without touching him. “Yes, this is personal for me. The curse destroyed my family‘s life. I’ll do everything in my power to stop it. And, if you are asking whether I‘d betray your trust? No. No, I wouldn’t.”
He narrowed his eyes slightly before he pulled away, though his hands remained on the table close to her hips. She let out a heavy breath.
Lilly saw the hunger in his eyes. Hunger she had seen several times before when he stared at her. She squirmed under his gaze. With very little room to move, her hip brushed his arm. The fire in his eyes intensified with the slight contact. A stark contrast to the coldness of his skin.
Finally, she couldn’t take it. “Do you have to look at me that way?”
“What look would that be, Lilly?”
Another chill ran down her spine when he said her name. She lifted her chin. “The one that looks as if you are going to take a bite out of me. It’s very disconcerting. I’ve enough problems with revens trying to make me a meal.”
He blinked, then suddenly his eyes darkened. He leaned in closer so that his lips almost touched hers. “You mean this look.”
She inhaled sharply. Her heart clashed against her chest. “Yes.”
“And what if I wanted to take a little nibble?”
The words sent an instant rush of heat through her body, tingling in all the right places. She closed her eyes, and gripped the table. The wood creaked under the stress.
“Open your eyes,” he commanded.
She complied and found him staring into her soul. Her connection to him was so strong. Everything about him pulled her in. The more she struggled to stop it, the stronger it became. Her body trembled, feeling the cold press of his lips against hers. Coldness spread over her face, cool and delicious. Like, an ice cold drink on a sweltering day, quenching an unknown thirst. His strong cold hands grasped tightly around her biceps and pulled her in tighter to his mouth. Her reluctance got lost somewhere in the taste of him. Desperation overcame her as he aggressively sought out her tongue with his own. A moan escaped her lips with the onslaught of pleasure. He answered her with a growl which resonated in his chest, spurring her to slip her hands under his tunic and up his tight muscular back.
The deep growl of arousal propelled to a deafening roar. He reared back and retreated several feet into the darkness.
She gasped. To stabilize herself, she gripped the table and leaned over to catch her breath. Her warm fingertips pressed against her burning lips.
“Whoa,” she muttered under her breath. She didn’t know what to do with herself. Stay? Go? Run? She just kissed an Egyptian god—the God of the Underworld, no less. Her body throbbed from a simple kiss.
Who was she kidding? There was nothing simple about it.
Now, that's one hawt excerpt!! I hope everyone will give Soul Reborn a chance. You won't be sorry, it was a great read!!
So, to top off a great interview and a great read, I'm giving a way a $10.00 Amazon gift card. If you'd like to enter, leave a comment for Jean or myself. Sign up for Jean's newsletter @ Wicked Romance, that's another entry. Follow here on my blog or facebook, that's another entry. And if by some chance, you've already purchased Soul Reborn, email me a copy of the receipt (firstname.lastname@example.org), and that's an extra entry too. For all extra entries, make sure you let me know in the comment section, and if an email isn't associated with your name, please leave an email address so I can contact the winner. This contest will run for one week, Thursday morning on 21st, I'll draw a winner.
Thanks everyone for stopping by!!