Friday, June 20, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Shrouded In Blackness by Norma Jeanne Karlsson

Welcome to the Official Blog Tour for Shrouded in Blackness, the third installment of The Blackness Series, by Norma Jeanne Karlsson!

Adult Dark Romance
The Blackness Series
Publish Date:
June 15, 2014
It's Publishing

Only loyalty can truly win his heart...

Gangs, organized crime and underground bare-knuckle fighting make up the world that Kieran Delaney thrives within. His reputation is built on the talent of his fists, as much as his ability to get information about any and everything. Never one to be caught by surprise or bested, Kieran knows what you're going to do before you do it...until Darcy Quinlan enters his life. She introduces herself with a knife to his throat and a promise of unbridled pain. Darcy's life has been destroyed by betrayal and false promises of safety. Living on the streets for the last eight years, she has been a ghost. Never in one place long enough to be seen because you can't catch what isn't there. Now Kieran sees her and can't erase her image from his mind.

Kieran and Darcy must now battle to keep her alive and by his side. As her past enters her life from every angle, Kieran makes certain her safety is no longer a concern, annihilating her demons at every corner. He'll fight, he'll maim, he'll torture and he'll murder to keep Darcy protected. If Kieran can win, her life will no longer be shrouded in blackness...loyalty will lift the veil.


Chapter 1
Do you want to know what heaven feels like? It’s this right here. Standing under a steaming hot shower head, dousing my grime-covered body in droplets of freshness. After a week and a half of being out there with nothing more than a wet wipe to do a basic rubdown in a public bathroom, this is pure ecstasy. My muscles are releasing tension as each second ticks by. My skin is breathing deeply through each pore as the water drags away the filth. My lungs are being cleansed by the steam mixed with the scent of some cheap generic soap that may as well be the most high dollar body cleanser the world has ever seen. I never thought soap could mean so much to me, but at this point in my life I live for soap.
I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here, but my fingers are pruney to the point of pain. Time to move this along. I stick my hand under the pump attached to the wall and fill it with an industrial, green-colored shampoo-conditioner-body wash combination that has a manly fragrance. I don’t care. I scrub my inky raven hair into a sudsy pile on top of my head. A feat really, considering it reaches my waist at this point. That happens when you don’t cut your hair for eight years.
I brace my hands against the cracked, grey, used-to-be-white-twenty-years-ago tile and let the fluffy mound on my head set while the water scalds my back. I’m covered in goosebumps from the sting and I relish it. I use the pump combo soap again to scour my body clean. I buff so deeply that it’s red and welted. Clean. I won’t be able to come back for another week and a half so I’m making it count. Now that I’m covered in foam from head to toe I step back in the searing heat and rinse myself slowly.
I hear something and halt my movement instantly. I’ve become hyper aware of every sound in the last eight years. I can hear a rat take a shit I’m so highly tuned in. I wait for thirty paced breaths. I’ve found in that amount of time if something’s actually making a sound it’ll make another in that space of time. The breaths come and go without another peep so I return to rinsing. I shave everything with the cheap one-blade BIC Ian gives me every week while I’m here. He leaves me the razor and a towel without fail, and the soap pump is always full as well as the lotion pump out in the changing area.
Ian Brogan is the closest relationship I have in this world. Seven years ago, he came upon me and decided to insert himself into my life. I fought and bitched like crazy until I realized he didn’t care what my opinion was on the matter. So, the then-sixty-two year-old with the body of a man twenty years his junior and a face always masked in some form of pissed off became…my everything. He watches out for me, feeds me when I allow it (or so I tell myself), and lets me come here whenever I want to clean up.
Ian owns and operates a gym of sorts. It’s really an old warehouse that he converted into a training center for fighters in the 1970s. Not boxers: fighters are what he and his crew train. Fighters that are vicious, lethal men who no one wants to cross in the dark of night or even on a bright sunshine-filled day. Some of the men he’s trained have gone on to fight professionally, but most stick to the underground bare-knuckle fights that have been going on for centuries. I met Ian after one of the fights he hosted here. I was out back in an alleyway when some guy, who had bet on one of the fights and lost and then got rip-roaring drunk, decided he wanted to make my acquaintance. It didn’t take long for the guy to realize that my five-foot-nothing, barely hundred-pound frame was not in the mood to be acquainted with him or his “skin flute,” I believe is what he called it. Instead, I introduced him to a swift knee to his musical instrument.
Ian had been watching the guy because, well, that’s what Ian does. As I unmanned the prick, Ian watched from afar before approaching me cautiously. He complimented me on my skills and tried to start up a conversation which I quickly shut down and disappeared into the night. I didn’t see Ian again for months but when I did, I was in a worse situation and Ian didn’t watch from afar. Needless to say, after our second encounter I was more willing to talk to Ian Brogan.
After shaving and rewashing myself, I cut off my heavenly shower and wrap myself in a towel. The only problem with using a men’s gym is that I have to use men’s towels. I flip my hair over and wrap it up turban-style with one towel before I dry my body and then wrap the other tiny one around my waist man-style. Walking into the changing area, I slather lotion anywhere and everywhere. It’s another industrial product that smells manly and, again, I don’t give a shit. It feels silky with a bite on my raw skin that I welcome.
The dryer isn’t done with my clothes yet so I sit on the bench and wait. I dig through my worn and holey backpack to find a book I’ve been reading. There’s a lady at one of the shelters I hop around that gives me books. I think she runs a program to educate homeless people. I don’t pay her much mind other than to collect books when I see her and then take off. I never stay anywhere more than a few hours. Moving makes me invisible. You can’t catch something that isn’t there. Life lesson learned early.
I hear a noise out in the gym and begin counting my breaths. Ten breaths in and I hear the noise again, louder. I slide my hand into my bag and grasp my knife. Ian gave me his Yarborough knife after our second encounter. He taught me how to use it and I perfected my craft over the last several years. Oddly, in my life I haven’t had to use my knife skills all that often. I wish I could claim I have a steely disposition and feel no fear but right now, I feel sick to my stomach and my hand has the slightest tremor as I prepare myself for whatever I’m about to meet.
I stand up silently and move in the direction of the noise. It sounds like someone is moving something across the mats in the grappling area. Ian left before I got in the shower and won’t be coming back until later. I know it’s not him. He would make himself known before jacking around in the gym. I reach the door to the locker room and wait to hear the sound again. Five breaths and the same dragging noise mumbles through the glass and wood door. I’m wearing a damn towel around my waist. Not my idea of combat clothing, but it’ll have to do. Sometimes fighters come in to train at night, though Ian doesn’t allow it when I’m here. It’s not a fighter out there. The gym is in a rough neighborhood, but Ian Brogan possesses enough of a reputation that no one would think to rob him. It could be someone like me out there, looking for a warm, dry place to sleep for the night. Whoever it is, I’m about to find out.
I push the door open slowly and peer through the crack, seeing the back of a man dragging something from the far end of the gym toward me. I can’t see what he’s dragging or what he looks like. There are only a few running lights on so he’s mostly shadowed. He’s broad in the shoulders and a good foot taller than me. I’ll have to surprise him to maintain the upper hand. When he’s about twenty feet away from me, I step lightly into his path. As he’s about to run into me, I take my opportunity.
“Don’t move,” I warn menacingly as he comes to a halt. Before he can turn around I press the tip of my blade in the center of his spine. He stays stock still at the sensation.
“Down on your knees,” I order. He complies quickly, keeping his hands raised on either side of his head. With him on his knees, he no longer has a size advantage over me. I stay silent for a long moment and then rip his head back with my left hand on his forehead, crushing it into my bare chest and pressing my blade to his fully-exposed neck.
“What are you doin’ here?” I ask in a whisper.
“You could ask nicely without the blade, girly,” he responds in a cocky tone. Yeah, that’s not going to work with me.
“I could just slit your throat and go back to reading.” I press the blade into his skin, drawing the slightest glimmer of blood.
“Okay. I’m here for Ian,” he responds more respectfully, not even wincing at his wound.
“Ian’s not here and fighters aren’t supposed to be here right now, so try again.” I pull his forehead even harder, avoiding his eyes with my hand covering his brow.
“I’m here for Ian,” he repeats in a calm tone. Why is this dude not afraid I’ll kill him?
“We seem to be havin’ a communication issue. Ian’s not fuckin’ here. So why are you?”
“He asked me to come by. I’m here.” He shrugs. He SHRUGS! I’m a little mindfucked right now.
“You can wait outside for Ian if you want. Not in here. I’ll walk you out.” Those words sound nice, but my tone is far from it.
“Ian didn’t want me to wait outside. He asked me to meet him in his office. I’ll go up there,” he says flippantly. Death wish for sure with this guy.
“You’ll stand up. I’ll keep my blade at your spine. You’ll go outside. Ian gets here he can decide what to do with you. Tell me you understand and I’ll let you up.”
“I understand. Do you always walk people outside with your tits out?” I see the corners of his mouth turn up and realize this guy thinks he has the upper hand and is quite possibly some freak who’s turned on by knife play and a half-naked woman. I bet he’s hard right now.
“I don’t have time for this shit. Easier to kill you and let Ian clean up the damn mess. Nice talkin’ to you,” I say in a completely civil tone. I move to drag my blade across his throat.
“QUINN!” Ian screams from the door into the gym. I snap my gaze to him as he runs toward me. I halt my execution based on the crazed look on Ian’s face; he doesn’t want this mess in his gym.
“Quinn, let him go. I asked him here. He’s a little early. Let him up,” Ian orders softly, trying to placate my mood. I hold his gaze a moment longer before releasing my captive. He stands up slowly with his back still to me as I cross my left arm across my boobs so he doesn’t get a free show. I’m covering the essentials but there’s a lot spilling over and under my arm.
“Quinn, you okay?” Ian asks as the other guy turns around. I get a good look at his face now. He is definitely a fighter. There are scars under his eyes, above his brow and one just brushing his top lip. His eyes are a murky blue and there is a bump on his nose from a break at some point. Square jaw and deep lines around his mouth, he’s a lethal killing machine. I’d know that face anywhere. Even his espresso colored hair, that’s not long enough to style with product and not short enough to be buzzed, looks angry and perfectly disheveled.
After studying him, I realize that even though his face is worn and marred he’s gorgeous. Aren’t they all? Not that I give a shit. He could be a Calvin Klein model and I wouldn’t react. A woman in my position can’t…ever.
“I’m fine,” I reply confidently to Ian. I am fine. This is not the first time I’ve been in this situation and this won’t be the last. The life I live on the streets demands that I be this person. I’ve had to become her…I like being her.
“You wanna go get some clothes on?” Ian prompts. I nod and turn on my heel to return to the locker room. Once inside, I check the dryer and my clothes are finally done. I pull on my underwear and bra before covering myself in long underwear, cargo pants, a black thermal, a hoodie and my biker boots. I fold the other two outfits I have, which are much the same, and stuff them in my bag with my book and a few food items I have with me. I slide my blade into its sheath and attach it to the back of my pants. I flip my head under the hand dryer, getting as much moisture out of my hair as possible. After a long while, my hair is almost dry. I check myself in the mirror and see cold, lifeless crystal blue eyes staring back at me. Good to go.


Book 1 & Book 2 of The Blackness Series


*Interview with Norma Jeanne Karlsson*
Hey Jasmine! Thank you for hosting a stop on my blog tour and for taking the time to interview me. I hope you and your readers enjoy Shrouded in Blackness.

  1. Thank you for taking the time for this interview! I thought we could start with the all-too-common question, especially for readers who are new to your books. What inspired you to become a writer? When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
  2. What was the inspiration behind The Blackness Series to write?
The Blackness Series was born primarily from homesickness. I missed Kansas City and the relationships, friendships and family that I left behind when I moved to the UK. I began writing more for catharsis than anything. As I sat down at my computer Blackness Takes Over poured out of me like blood from a severed artery. Before I knew it I had my first novel and about ten more books brewing in my mind. I’m inspired by stories of strong women that don’t need men to survive or find themselves. You’ll never read a book from me with a lost woman that “finds” herself in a man. The relationships that form in my stories fortify and strength the characters, but don’t define them. I also enjoy writing stories that are built around unconventional families and relationships. The world is full of families that are created is strange loving ways and I like to tell those kinds of stories. So basically I’m inspired by home, laughter, perseverance, unconventional relationships and unconditional love.
  1. What was the easiest and hardest part writing this book?
The hardest part writing this book was deciding to do it. I wasn’t sure where to go next after I finished Blackness Awaits. I was planning to take a break to be honest. After a long talk with my editor she convinced me to move ahead with Kieran’s story. Fourteen days after that I had the manuscript complete. So really the entire book was easy. This story unfolded so naturally that I can’t believe I was considering holding off with it. Shrouded in Blackness is here because my editor loved Kieran and wanted more of him. I’m glad she did because he’s one of the easiest characters I’ve written. It’s a satisfying feeling to have a smile on your face the whole time you write because the character you’re writing makes you feel good. Kieran did that for me. I hope he does the same thing for readers.
  1. Do you have a favorite character and/or least favorite character in this series? Why?
I have a favorite character. He’s not in this book, but he’s still my hands down favorite. Aaron Kavanagh (Kavy). He’s the first character I created for the series. It’s his voice and dialogue that I imagined from the beginning. A lot of readers also love him which makes it even better for me!! I love his wit, his strength, his heart, his fury, his attitude…his everything. I tried my damndest to get him in SIB, but it just didn’t work out. He’s still around though, so stay tuned for upcoming releases ;)
  1. What are you currently working on? What can we, readers, expect in the near future after Shrouded in Blackness?
Book four in the series, Into the Blackness, is already complete and with my editor. I’m expecting to release it in August. There’s a preview at the end of SIB. I have two more books in the works right now. I’m actually headed to the States for the summer and planning to use that time to write. Book five should be out in the autumn and book six in the early winter. In total that would be six books published in 2014 for me. Crazy and awesome all at the same time!
  1. I have a lot of friends who are aspiring writers, what advice would you give them?
The best advice that I ever received was that writers need to be readers. I read as much as I can and it’s the best fuel for my writing. I feel inspired and motivated as I read. Writing is a personal journey for most and that makes blanket generalizations about the craft fairly useless. Everyone has an opinion about what makes a great writer. I’m of the belief that passion is a necessity for writers. If you love what you do you’ll work harder at it than anything else. Find what you crave to do and do it. Plug away. Write, write, write and then read and write some more.
Thank you Norma Jeanne for your time for this interview!

**About the Author**
Blackness Takes Over was Norma Jeanne Karlsson's debut novel. What began as an homage to the home town of a homesick Midwestern girl, unfolded a story of love, danger, humor, and trust. Blackness Awaits was the highly anticipated continuation of Blackness Takes Over, leading readers through the twists and turns of the unconventional world in The Blackness Series. Her third novel, Shrouded in Blackness, ventures into a criminal world where violence and vengeance reign supreme. She's currently working on her untitled fourth novel.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Norma Jeanne recently found herself relocating to the United Kingdom. Now living in Belfast, she took hold of the opportunity to kick the 9-5 job for a chance to become an author. The best part: working from her home office, she gets to spend more time with her cast of crazy characters (written and real).

In her free time Norma Jeanne is a voracious reader and consumes books as readily as meals. She is a people watcher by nature and uses her experiences in life, observed or otherwise, to build the worlds and characters that thrive in her books. A believer in the strength of the human spirit, Norma Jeanne writes the stories of people that persevere when all appears to be lost.

Stay connected with Norma Jeanne Karlsson

***The Giveaway***
1 Winner will receive a Swag Pack (Postcards, 4GB Flash Drives, Sticky Notes and Pens,
Tote Bags, Signed Copy of Shrouded in Blackness) by Norma Jeanne Karlsson
6 Winners will receive a Postcard by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.
2 Winners will receive a 4GB Flash Drive by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.
3 Winners will receive Sticky Notes and Pens by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.
1 Winner will receive a Tote Bag by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.
1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of Shrouded in Blackness by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.
5 Winners will receive an E-Copy of Shrouded in Blackness by Norma Jeanne Karlsson.

Giveaway is Open Internationally
Must be 13+ to Enter

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