Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 26

Kenneth didn’t want to go back to the magi collegium, but he needed to give Thorn time.

The air outside the inventor’s college was warm and full of the gritty, smoky scents of the nearby slums. He had learned a lot about the twisting roads that led between the buildings, and knew enough to not lost or stumble into an area where a rich-looking mage on a fancy horse would get his pocket picked.

But there was no area in the slums where a mage like him would actually belong, save for by Thorn’s side.

Kenneth tried not to worry. He loved Thorn. Thorn loved him. If Saul was right, it would work out.

He clucked his tongue as he led Jade from the stables, pleased at her glossy coat and finely kept mane. Clearly the students who worked the stables to earn their keep at the inventor’s college took their work seriously. The stables themselves were cleaner than the ones at the collegium, Kenneth had to admit.

Jade swished her tail, and when they set off she pulled at the reins in the direction of the collegium, eager to run in the rolling hills that surrounded it. Kenneth clucked his tongue, pulling her back toward the slums. He supposed she felt out of place too.

Kenneth rode Jade away from the inventor’s college, his mind full of hope for his time with Thorn and with curiosity. He had learned a lot from Thorn, had heard the stories about talentless, but knew so little. He rode further, away from the places he knew, disregarding every bit of advice his father had given him when he had first begun to attend the collegium with the knowledge of the slums that lay beyond its grounds.

Wagons pulled by bony horses strolled past on the potted road, and smoke belched from a contraption that was attached to a house. More smoke poured from chimneys, from homes too poor to afford the engineer made heaters for hot water or for furnaces. Few people walked by, the homes boarded up or surrounded by shoddily constructed wooden fences. Noise, voices and arguments, streamed from the larger buildings, where cracked windows offered glimpses into families that were packed into tiny rooms.

Despite it all, a cheery tune played on a violin wound down the street, one Kenneth didn’t recognize, and the sun illuminated the city. Someone had painted on a wall, a drawing of a tree and some sort of flying contraption, or perhaps just a poorly drawn bird.

Kenneth’s father’s voice echoed in his mind. How could the talentless be happy living like this?

But no matter. They had their own lives, and could be happy despite what had happened during the war. The music continued, the violin joined by a flute and a drum, and Kenneth found the source in a small inn called J’s. J for Jaquin, certainly.

He didn’t go inside. It wasn’t his place to be.

Thorn could be happy without him, Kenneth knew. He didn’t want to believe it, of course. But the talentless didn’t need mages, and Thorn didn’t need Kenneth. In fact, Kenneth needed Thorn more than Thorn could ever need Kenneth.

He twisted the reins in his hand, the sun suddenly too bright and too hot. He had been foolish. He was convinced he had everything to offer Thorn, that his power and influence and money was enough, that his willingness to learn about talentless was enough.

But he had to offer Thorn more than just that. It was Thorn’s choice, of course. But fires, Kenneth cared about him. He loved him, and he had to show Thorn that. Kenneth wasn’t going to just give up without a fight.

Putting his back to the music, Kenneth headed back toward the inventor’s college.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cover for Freshmen Blues!

Hello everyone,

I got the cover in for my upcoming release, Freshmen Blues!

When Chris is invited to prestigious Creekville University, he discovers he is part of an experiment by the mysterious Professor Faran. There’s no other way a C student like him would have been accepted into a college where academic mastery results in unique powers like levitation or empathy. But if Faran is right, even below-average students can get special abilities and a good job after graduation. Chris just has to work hard.

Chris isn’t the only one, either. Frederick has worked for Faran for years, and Chris is intrigued by the aloof and sexy older student. But Frederick is too terrified of life after graduation to pursue romance. As they work together, Chris tries to help Frederick out of his depression, all while juggling friendship, classwork, dating, and trying to carve out a place he can belong.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention: Part 25

Part 25

“I know why,” one of George’s friends spoke up from his place on the couch.

George whirled, his eyes narrow and dangerous. His friend crossed his arms, tilting his head.

“What? I like you, George, but you’re in the wrong on this one, it sounds like. I know Thorn. He’s a good man, and a talented inventor. Whatever he’s doing with a mage, it’s not your business.”

“It’s everyone’s business when a talentless lies on her back and gives it up to a mage,” George shot back. “Why do you think they disrespect us? Why do they keep putting us down? Because we put up with it.” He shot a glare back to Thorn. “We serve them constantly, in every way, as though we’re happy to be second class citizens, and the blasted mages are content with it. We need to make their lives hard, to punish them, not let them think we can ever be happy this way!”

Thorn blinked, taking a step back. One thing George had said wasn’t sitting right, and then it hit him.

He had said “her,” not “him.”

“What do you mean, her?” Thorn asked. George paled.

“You’re not the only one, George,” his friend said. “But you’re the only one who’s still bitter about it.”

Thorn looked from George to his friend and back, wishing dearly he could remember the other man’s name. “What?” he said.

“Children of prostitutes,” the man said. “Me, and George here.” George threw him a murderous look. “Women who slept with mages too-They had too, especially during the war. They kept us, their kids, safe, and avoided the worst of the war.” It began to make sense in Thorn’s mind. A boy, his mother constantly at the whims of mages, forced to acknowledge his own powerlessness and that of his mother.

He met George’s eyes. The other man stood, back straight and chin jutted, as if daring Thorn to say something.

Part of him wanted to insult him, but the urge died quickly. “At least you remember your mother,” Thorn said, his voice quiet. The memory of flames and toppling buildings filled his mind for a moment. “At least she had the chance to protect you.”

“She couldn’t, in the end.” George practically spat the words. “She died, of some disease some foul mage had given her. Serving them gets you nothing. That’s the last thing she told me. Better dead than a servant to the ones who will use you and throw you away.”

Thorn shivered at the hate in George’s voice, and how his words spoke to the fear deep inside him.

“That’s enough, George,” George’s friend said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You’ve made your point. Just leave Thorn alone from now on.”

No. George wasn’t right. Thorn couldn’t leave it like this, not without saying his side of things.

“It’s not true,” Thorn said. “I…I’m sorry for what happened to you. And for your mother.” Thorn blinked, buildings burning behind his eyelids, his own memories blinding for a moment. Everyone had their own hardships. “But Kenneth isn’t like that. And I’m not a…” he had to put it delicately, to not insult the memory of his mother. “I’m not doing it for any reason other than I care about him. It is not a business arrangement. I love him.”

“You love him? A mage?” One of George’s friends spoke. “Why?”

Why. As though that could even be answered. Saul had asked the same thing. How can you love a mage?  Confusion and uncertainty had whirled in Thorn’s mind since Kenneth had come here, had stayed with him among his people.

“Because he loves me,” Thorn said. “Because he’s the kind of man who will stay with me, here in the slums, even when he’s from a noble’s mansion. Because he cares for me, and wants to help me, and wants so much to understand my life.” He flexed his metal hand, thinking back to Kenneth staring at his new invention, the replacement for his metal hand that would be completed soon. He had come a long way since calling his hand monstrous. “Because what matters to him is me, not our circumstances.”

Thorn had been the one to let the circumstances in, and ruin things. His throat tightened.

“Mages use us, Thorn,” George said. “You’re a fool if you think otherwise. Don’t turn your back on your people.”

Thorn lifted his chin. “No, you’re the fool,” he snapped. “You’re the one limiting the progress we could make.”

 George stared at him, eyes narrowed, and Thorn wondered how many people like him in the future there would be. People who were forever scarred by the war, by the memories they had, and would never understand.

It would be something he and Kenneth would face, over and over. But at least they could face it together.

He turned and headed back down the hall. He had to find Kenneth.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 24

Part 24

Thorn sat on his bed, the bed he and Kenneth had shared the past few nights, and stared at the broken automaton. The pieces were brittle, the metal not warped even in the bits that weren’t bent out of shape. It wouldn’t have lasted long, which was typical of something bought at the journeyman’s fair.

But it would have been nice to have nonetheless. Kenneth would be nice to have nonetheless.

Thorn’s throat tightened, heat building behind his eyes. Fires, was this it? Their future together, over, because of a broken toy?

But it wasn’t a broken toy. It was everything that had been bubbling in Thorn’s mind since Kenneth had begun to stay here and his friends and peers had looked at Thorn as though he was a stranger. Hearing about the war, and the knowledge of what the magi had done…Was he betraying all of that? Would his own peers, his one time friends, his own people, hate him? Would they hate the man Thorn loved, for what magi had done?

But Kenneth wasn’t like that. He had shown that several times over.

But it didn’t matter if no one realized it.

Thorn cursed, dropping the pieces of the automaton. It should matter. Talentless shouldn’t be like mages, just as shortsighted and prejudiced. There had to be a reason for this, something else, anything.

Thorn was going nowhere chasing his own thoughts in circles. He knew exactly who had done this. He ripped open the door, the wood splintering again as it hit the wall with a bang. He had told Kenneth not to, but Thorn was no mage. He was going to talk to George.

Anger and nervousness clawed at his chest and neck as Thorn strode down the hall. The sound of conversation flowed through the closed door of the common room of the residence hall, where every person he had asked had said George typically frequented.

When Thorn swung the door open, three other people turned to look at him. George sat one of the wooden chairs, two of his friends who Thorn only recognized from a few engineering classes seated across from him. George raised an eyebrow, and silence pervaded the room for a moment, both men waiting for the other to speak.

Finally Thorn gave in. “George, I need to talk to you,” he said through clenched teeth.

“We can talk here,” George replied, his tone as flat as any Professor who was disappointed with a student. It galled, and Thorn clenched his metal hand. Fine.

“I want to know why you have a problem with me,” Thorn said, his voice rising in volume. “I want to know where you get off on entering my room and destroying my property.” The other two people in the room exchanged glances, shifting on the couch as though they suddenly very much did not want to be there.

George’s eyes narrowed. “That’s quite the accusation. Have any proof?”

“What proof do I need?” Thorn’s fist clenched so hard he felt something bend, and he relaxed it with effort. “Don’t take me for a fool.”

“I don’t know, Thorn,” George said, leaning further back on the couch as though this entire conversation was beneath him. “You do let mages screw you.” The other two in the room grimaced at that. “Perhaps your mage broke it by accident.”

“Kenneth was with me the entire time!” Thorn shouted, his face heating. “You know that’s a lie!”

“Then prove it,” George said with a wave of his hand. “There’s no way you can prove I did anything.”

Thorn took a breath against the roaring fury in his ears. George was being purposefully difficult, and Thorn losing control of his anger would only make things worse. As much as he loved Kenneth, his lover’s quick temper was not something Thorn wanted to mimic.

But two could play the game George was playing.

“All I can guess for the reason you’d destroy something and drive Kenneth away is that you’re scared,” Thorn said, emphasizing the last word. “Is Kenneth truly that frightening to you?” George’s eyes narrowed, and Thorn twisted the knife. “A successful man, ready to graduate, and an expert duelist, but scared of mages like everyone else.” George’s two comrades turned to look at him. Thorn dearly wished they would leave, but perhaps an audience would help drive his point home. 

“Are you threatening me?” George said, and Thorn blinked in surprise.

“Fires, no,” Thorn said. “Are you afraid of me, too?”

“I’m not afraid!” George stood, shoulders and neck taut, and he gestured at the floor as he spoke, venting his emotion with his hands. “I have no reason to be afraid of you or your mage.”

“Then why are you making it your problem?” Thorn hissed, taking a step closer. He wouldn’t let George intimidate him. “Why talk to me at the Journeyman fair? Why break my belongings? I’m not a fool, George, and neither is Kenneth. If you don’t like us, leave us alone, but I want to know why you did it.”

That was the heart of it all, Thorn realized. He had so many theories about people—they were angry, they were afraid, they would think Thorn was betraying them by being with Kenneth, they would hate Thorn and Kenneth both. He wanted to know which was right.

But it wasn’t George who answered.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

WaterLord Trilogy going to Print!

Hello all!

Just a quick announcement today: The first book series to go to print will be The WaterLord Trilogy!

The cover will be the above, with the title change of course. If you wanted to get the entire series in one place, have a copy to read in the bath, or haven't checked it out yet and want to experience it all at once, keep an eye out for the print release! I will let you know when I know the exact release date!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 23

Part 23

Kenneth paused outside the gate to the inventor’s college, the lack of Thorn’s nearness, made more obvious by the reduction in his magic, nearly physical painful. The last thing he wanted was to go to the stables and get Jade and ride back to the collegium. They were going to spend a week together, get his magic under control….things had been going so well.

It was George, Kenneth knew. The look in Thorn’s eyes when Kenneth had said his name was all the proof Kenneth needed. He tightened his fist, swallowing against rising anger and frustration. Without Thorn nearby, at least, there was no uncontrolled answer from the aether.

George had shown Thorn that talentless wouldn’t accept mages. But surely not all talentless were like that.

Thorn had begged him not to make things worse. He wouldn’t. But he wouldn’t just give up so easily, either.

Kenneth turned on his heel and headed back into the college.


He didn’t know the passageways and halls as well as Thorn, and his angry strides made more than a few people jump in surprise when they saw a mage stalking down the hall.

Finally, someone pointed him to where he wanted to go, where the person he wanted to meet would likely be.

He pushed open the door, peering inside. The room could have been spacious, but stacks of shelves filled every corner and edge, and desks laden with labeled bins created a narrow passageway. Wrenches, steel bits, screws, and a plethora of other tools Kenneth had no name for decorated every spare inch of desk space.

“Hello?” Kenneth called. He walked inside, squeezing through a narrow path created by a desk and a bin that was larger than the other desk it lay on. Nothing would ever be so disorganized at the collegium.

Something clattered, and Kenneth saw the man he wanted to see.

Saul stared at him, eyes wide. “Is Thorn here?” was the first thing he said.

Kenneth shook his head, wincing when Saul took a step back. Fires, there was no reason for this man to be afraid! Is this really what talentless thought of him?

Thorn’s words from when they had first started dating echoed in his mind. Talentless were angry, but that anger came from fear. George was angry, and likely afraid. Saul was just afraid.

But if Kenneth was truly going to be with Thorn, he had to learn to deal with that, and let people know there was no reason to fear him.

“I wanted to talk to you,” Kenneth said. “I…would like some advice.” He leaned back against the desk, the sharp corner of a shelf digging into his back. Hopefully Saul would relax.

“Okay…” Saul put down a sharp looking tool, a small wheel settling into place like a spinning coin. He never took his eyes of Kenneth. “What about?”

Kenneth sighed, Thorn’s stricken face, and the sight of his broken gift, coming back to him. He wasn’t sure how to start. “About…Thorn, I suppose,” he said. “I care about him. A lot.” His throat felt tight, the realization and fear coming to him even as he spoke the words. “But…would it be better for him if I left him alone?” The question twisted like a knife.

Saul just stared, the room silent for a moment. A mote of dust drifted past a sunbeam that shone in through a grimy window.

“Why do you ask?” Saul finally said.

Kenneth threw up his hands, then held himself still when Saul flinched. “Because I’m a mage,” Kenneth said, his voice thick with sadness and frustration. “You’re afraid of me. Everyone here is afraid of me. The last thing I want is for Thorn to lose his friends, his background, because of me.”

Tension Kenneth hadn’t noticed before now left Saul’s form. “Why would he lose those things?”

Kenneth stumbled over his words, biting his tongue. He had to find the right thing to say. The protests whirled in his mind—because Thorn would be an Enforcer among mages, because he would follow Kenneth, because his own people hated Kenneth, and thus Thorn. Because of the war. But what came out was “His peers are angry at him because of his relationship with me.”

And that was the reason, boiled down to the hardest truth. Kenneth felt some of the weight lift from his shoulders at the presence of the problem put into words.

Saul leaned forward in his chair, his metal leg thumping on the ground. “I’m not angry at him,” he said quietly.

“Others are,” Kenneth said. “They’ve threatened him.” Not directly, but destroying belongings was enough. Fury boiled in Kenneth’s gut.

Saul raised both eyebrows. “Where is he now?”

“He asked me to leave,” Kenneth said, his throat tightening again. “To give him time to think.”

“Do you care about him?” Saul asked, his voice and gaze suddenly piercing. “Do you love him?”

“Of course!” Kenneth shouted with no hesitation. “Why else would I be here? I just want him to be happy.” And if that meant being without him…Kenneth opened and closed a fist, sorrow trickling down his spine like claws.

Saul leaned back in his chair, his leg thumping again. “I’m not Thorn,” he said, “And I don’t speak for him. But if you truly do care for him…” he sighed, shrugging. “As long as you care about each other, it shouldn’t matter.”

Saul’s words were like a balm on an open wound. “I know,” Kenneth said. “I think so too.” He certainly didn't care what other mages thought of him dating a talentless.

But he wasn’t Thorn either. And it was Thorn’s decision.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 22

Part 22

Thorn’s heart began to pound, his blood buzzing in his ears even as the realization hit him, despair replacing the shock.

George had seen them both at the fair. He had seen them at the mess hall, after Thorn had placed his bag back in his room.

Surely he wouldn’t. It was petty, stupid, something only the most mean-spirited person would do. A boy at the orphanage had been like that, angry and vengeful to the other children. Thorn had never learned why.

“Thorn, what…” Kenneth moved in front of him, his robes swishing as he stalked toward the door.  The metal hinges creaked as he pushed it open further. George hadn’t completely broken it, at least. It would be an easy fix.

“The little automaton…” Kenneth’s voice wavered.

Of course. Swallowing hard, Thorn entered the room, shutting the now-loose door behind him.

His bag had been dumped open, and Kenneth’s gift lay in pieces on the floor. From the bits of metal that lay strewn, it was clear that George had taken some of it.

“Thorn…” Kenneth’s blue eyes met his, confusion plain. “What happened?”

He wanted to say nothing. But that wouldn’t work anymore. The words hurt to speak. “Do you remember George?”

Kenneth’s eyes narrowed, a flush of anger reddening his cheeks. His hand curled into a fist, and Thorn’s skin prickled with unease. “You mean to tell me he destroyed my gift to you? Why?”

Thorn winced. He wasn’t sure what was worse, the loss of the gift or Kenneth’s anger, and realization, at the fact that there were people that would never accept a relationship between a talentless and a mage.

Thorn imagined what it would be like if it were reversed. If Kenneth’s friends rejected him, or rejected Kenneth due to their relationship.

But no. That wouldn’t happen, or at least not like this. They would reject Thorn, and put him in his place. But Kenneth, a mage, was untouchable. So they took it out on Thorn. No matter what, he would always be the target.

“Thorn?” Kenneth pressed, his teeth clenched. “Why?”

“Why do you think?” Thorn said. He regretted the words, the tone, as soon as they were out of his mouth, but it was too late. Anger at George, and at everyone who couldn’t see past the fact that Kenneth was a mage, and his own anger at himself for even caring about what other people thought at all, twisted in his heart. “Nobody wants a mage here.”

Kenneth’s fist uncurled, his gaze dropping to the floor, where bits of his gift had been crushed upon the wooden boards. “I know, but…but you do, don’t you?”

Thorn glanced at the remains of the gift that had brought him so much happiness for such a fleeting time. Maybe this, and Kenneth, was like that—a dream, something that wouldn’t last. No talentless would accept Kenneth, nor would they accept Thorn. He’d be alone, among mages, his entire life, with all his time at the inventor’s college gone to waste and his back turned on his people.

That was the message George had sent, and it hurt the most because the fear had been buzzing in the back of Thorn’s mind since Kenneth had come here.


Thorn snapped his gaze up, heat gathering in his face behind his eyes. “I…I do want you,” he said, but it sounded weak. “I just…”

“Is someone threatening you?” Kenneth growled, his eyes flashing. The sight of an angry mage always made something in Thorn cringe. “Is George threatening you? Because—“

“No, Kenneth, please.” Thorn held up a hand, his heart heavy. “You’ll only make it worse.”

Kenneth took a step back. “What do you want me to do then? I won’t let someone do this to you!”

As if he could change anything. Or no—the worst part was he could. Kenneth could do whatever he wanted to George. That was the entire problem.

Fires, he couldn’t take this. “Kenneth, please, just…calm down. The last thing I want is for you to make it worse!”

Kenneth’s eyes widened, and once again Thorn regretted his words. “How would I make it worse?”

Of course he didn’t know. He couldn’t understand. It was another reason this could never work, but even the thought hurt. Thorn just shook his head, his throat tight.

Kenneth reached out for Thorn, his hand heavy on Thorn’s shoulders. “Thorn…what do you want me to do? Should…should I go?”

No. Yes. Thorn didn’t know. He hated George, hated this, hated the sight of the gift on the floor. Things had been going so well when no one knew about Kenneth, when he hadn’t thought too hard about what being with Kenneth, and being an Enforcer, really meant.

“I…I just need to think,” Thorn said. The sight on Kenneth’s face was like a knife in his heart. “Please, Kenneth.” He wished he would stop looking at him like that.

The lack of Kenneth’s hand on his shoulder was somehow painful. “Alright,” he said, his voice flat. “I’ll be at the collegium. I…” Thorn waited, knowing Kenneth always finished his sentences. It was part of his mage upbringing. “…Will wait for you, in my room.” His hopeful smile hurt too.

Once Kenneth left, Thorn gathered the pieces of his gift, some of the bits of the wood splintering further when he it up. George had been very thorough.