If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited or own a physical Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership (that is, you qualify for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), you can read both books for free. If not, they cost $2.99, unless or until I decide to run a promotion on them. If you buy the print edition, which should become available next week sometime, the price for the e-book drops to $0.99. As mentioned in “Kindle Unleashed,” I decided to publish these two books, Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades, in this way to test the impact of publishing solely with Amazon.com. Stay tuned for future posts where I report the results of the experiment.
It’s been a long journey. I wrote the first version of these books in 1994, rewrote them from scratch at least three times (not counting numerous interim revisions), then set them aside around the year 2000. Even more than The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel, these were my “learn to write fiction” books. What I didn’t realize then—and was surprised to discover a month ago, when I went back to them—was how close the books had come to being publishable. Much closer than I believed when I put them aside for other projects. I set out to revise them, and here they are—not perfect, perhaps, but now on a par with my later novels. Meanwhile, I have spent a wonderful month in this world that I once inhabited every day, like returning to a beloved home not seen in a decade.
I hope you have fun with them, if you decide to read them. And to help you decide if anything in the Tarkei Chronicles is likely to appeal to you, here are the opening paragraphs of Desert Flower.
Warning: You need not know much about ballet to enjoy the books, but it occupies a large enough part of both stories that liking ballet is probably essential.
Fabric gleamed in the flickering candle flame. Shadows danced on the cave walls. Blush pink ribbons slid through her fingers—soft and smooth. Once, before her mother died, she had stroked a m’retta with fur like this.
“What are these?” Entranced, Choli held out her find to the man who sat cross-legged in the corner, who had watched without speaking while she rummaged through his few possessions. Tall and slender, dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned, austere in his charcoal robe, he looked like the men of her world. But no man of her world would have tolerated her presence, never mind giving her free run of his home. This one sat, still as the rocks at his back, hands folded like a scholar or a priest. Or so they said, the people of the caves.
Choli wondered how they knew. Scholars were rare among the Kazrati. In her thirteen years, she had not met a single one. Priests were not so rare, but they were intimidating. Danion, of course, was not Kazrati, although he appeared to be.
His deep, cool voice answered the question she had almost forgotten asking. “They are shoes.”
A lock of straight dark hair fell into Choli’s eyes as she squinted at the shoes. Restless hands pressed them, prodded them. The uppers were soft, the soles like blocks of wood in her palms. “They’re so hard. Who wears shoes like that? Are they yours?”
“Not mine.” The man before her did not smile; he seldom smiled. Still, a note of something that might have been amusement tinged his voice. “Ballerinas wear them, so they can stand on their toes, like this.” He took one shoe from her and stood it on its toe, balancing it with a long slim finger, then handed it back. “As you see, that one is not new.”
Examining it more closely, Choli saw he was right. Someone had scraped satin off the toe, scored the sole with a knife, sprayed the front with varnish. The ballerina, she assumed. Whatever that might be.
Cover images purchased from Shutterstock.com and ThinkStock.com.