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?”

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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 21



Kenneth frowned when Thorn looked down at his food, letting out a small sigh. “What’s wrong, Thorn?” Kenneth asked. The collection of greens and meat left on his plate didn’t look that disappointing.

A small smile flashed across Thorn’s face, the same sort of smile Kenneth saw on the faces of his fellow students when they were hiding something from the professors. “Nothing.” His gaze flashed to the door again, but other than the stained wood, there was nothing interesting. “Nothing, truly. Just a thought about work. Nothing important.”

Kenneth leaned back in his chair. Whatever it was, Thorn didn’t want to talk about it, and Kenneth wasn’t going to push it, not when the day was going so well. Kenneth muttered a small spell as he picked up his bread, the soft loaf warming in his hands. It was good on its own, but he always preferred his food hot.

“So, I had hoped to introduce you to some of my friends, but apparently they don’t eat here much anymore either,” Thorn said, craning his neck as he peered around the room. “We’re all so busy these days.”

“I met Saul, at least,” Kenneth said. He wasn’t sure if meeting someone who was clearly afraid of him counted. “Who else should we try and find? Do you hang out often with other students?” At the collegium, friendships were based on class and family, most of the time. Kenneth had never been close to his fellow students, and the amount of political wrangling and outright backstabbing when it came to pursuing grades and opportunities had long made him leery of doing more than going out drinking with his peers. He hoped it was different here. The sheer amount of people at the inventor’s college was already different enough from the cloistered halls of the magi collegium.

Thorn’s gaze went distant, and he picked at his bread before answering. “My first year, I was friends with nearly everyone who lived in the same hall as I did. We were all terrified, given an opportunity to study for no pay. Doing our work successfully meant the difference between staying on and going hungry. We all clung together, like puppies in a basket.” He shrugged one shoulder. “A few of them have graduated already, and as we found our niche, we drifted apart. Saul is the closest friend I have now from that group, so I am glad you met him.” Kenneth nodded. “It’s a shame, to think of it, but I guess since I’m graduating soon, I won’t be seeing the old familiar faces. I’ll even miss Professor Varlen.” He gave Kenneth a smirk.

“You’ll meet plenty of new people. I will, too,” Kenneth said.

Thorn nodded, but the pleased smile Kenneth expected didn’t come. “I hope I can stay in touch with people here too,” Thorn said.

A prickle of unease went down Kenneth’s spine. Of course. Thorn, by going with him, would be entering the world of mages, meeting nobles and staying in Kenneth’s mansion. Kenneth had hoped Thorn would be excited.

But Thorn would be losing things too, and Kenneth had to remember that. “We can arrange ways for you to stay in touch with others,” Kenneth said, the words coming fast. “There’s letters, and we can set up a system of message flames or magicked paper to—“

Thorn held up a hand, palm out, shaking his head and laughing. “Relax, Kenneth. I understand. I’m sure I can send letters. It’s just…graduation, is all. Aren’t there people you’ll miss? Experiences you’ll wish you could have again once you move on and become an Enforcer?”

Kenneth tapped the table with a finger. His first year had been spent arguing with his father about pursuing war magic. Alchemy was intriguing, and he had done well, but given his background, his future had never been in doubt. He would return to his parent’s home and run the household, with a focus on maintaining connections to other nobles and the Councilmembers, not with fellow students.

He suddenly wished he had taken the collegium more seriously. His studies had never been important as anything more than just another way to win recognition and gain status. It had never meant the difference between success and starvation, not like Thorn.

He wished he could understand Thorn more. He wanted to stay with him, desperately, but fires, their lives were so different.

“I suppose you’d rather not remember the collegium, judging from your expression,” Thorn said, putting his hand on Kenneth’s.

His touch sent sudden passion through Kenneth, sending the aether reeling as his magic jumped. Fires.

Thorn drew his hand back, shaking it. “Ouch. Static.”

Kenneth closed his fist, willing himself back under control. He had been doing better, but it seemed he hadn’t quite gotten over the effect of Thorn’s nearness, not yet. At least Thorn hadn’t attributed the shock to Kenneth’s magic. “What say we go back to your room?” Kenneth asked. Maybe, if he could be physical with Thorn, he would get himself together. The thought only made things worse, of course, but soon…he swallowed down a surge of lust.

Thorn’s mouth turned up, his gaze going heavy-lidded as he glanced at Kenneth. “I would like that.”

We’re not so different, Kenneth reassured himself as they headed down the hall, Thorn’s hand soft in his. We’ve had different backgrounds, different lives, but we love each other. That’s enough. Love and lust made him squeeze Thorn’s hand, and as they rounded the familiar corner of the dorms he moved to stroke Thorn’s neck.

Thorn froze, Kenneth nearly bumping into him. The door to Thorn’s room hung open, the wood splintered.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New Release!

Book 5 in the Enforcer's Series is out today!


Having survived a dangerous ordeal, Kenneth is ready to  spend time at home with his partner Thorn, relaxing and  recovering after his brush with death. But Enforcers rarely  have time to themselves, and they must continue  investigating their newfound enemy, the group calling
themselves the Iris.

Kenneth and Thorn organize a meeting of their fellow  Enforcers, with the goal of figuring out their next steps. But when their only lead is found dead, it becomes clear to Kenneth and Thorn that not all Enforcers are their allies—and that they have invited danger into their home.


Grab it over at Extasy Books!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention Part 20



 Part 20

The gift was perfect.

George had put a lot of doubts into Thorn’s mind. He wasn’t betraying his people. He wasn’t selling himself out. Becoming an Enforcer didn’t mean those things, not logically. But when faced with George’s anger, it was hard to remember that.

But the little automata—sure, it wasn’t perfectly made. It was a toy meant for children, an experiment into a steam engine that had clearly not panned out. But it was perfect. Kenneth had meant it as a gift to remember their first meeting, and it was that. But it was more, too.

The talentless had dreams. There were many ways to achieve them, many roads to take. The gift just made Thorn feel more sure about the one he had chosen.

Kenneth may not understand everything about talentless life. But his heart was in the right place, and that was good enough. He was far from the noble mage who had recoiled in fear from the sigh of an artificial hand.

If only others could see it too.

Thorn clenched his jaw. Others would see it. He had been hiding Kenneth, in a way, afraid of what others would think. He had acted like being with Kenneth was something to be ashamed of. That was a mistake.

Kenneth was here to fix his magic, sure, but he was also here to learn about Thorn and his life. It was time to help with that by introducing him to others. George could go to the fires. Thorn wasn’t ashamed.

“Thorn?” Kenneth asked. “You alright?”

“I’m fine,” Thorn said, placing the automata carefully back in the bag. “I’m just fine. Making plans for tonight.” He met his lover’s sky blue eyes. “How would you feel about seeing the mess halls where students typically eat?”

***
Thorn hadn’t been here in a while. Between Kenneth paying for meals and the money he made selling things, he had been able to afford better fare. But plenty of people still ate at the mess, and it had saved him often enough his first few years when he hadn’t a penny to his name and had gotten by washing dishes and forging utensils.

And it was a great way for people to meet Kenneth.

“Does the collegium have a place like this?” Thorn asked as they entered, after having safely stowed his gift in his dorm room. His lover was surveying the mess, which looked smaller than Thorn remembered. Long tables and benches stretched across the room, and the ceiling was low, with beams criss-crossing the corners that would probably force Kenneth to duck if he walked near them. It wasn’t as crowded as Thorn remembered either, with only about a dozen people eating at various locations along the long tables.

“No,” Kenneth said. “Not quite like this.” Someone looked up at his voice, her eyes widening. She turned back to her book.

Thorn sighed. “C’mon, lets grab some food.”

Compared to the near-rotten fare at the orphanage where he had grown up, the meals here had been heaven. Now they were simply bland in comparison to the restaurant fare Thorn usually procured for himself, but still as filling as he remembered. Kenneth, for all his culture, ate heartily.

“I’m surprised,” he said. “This is good.”

Thorn raised an eyebrow. “What, expecting weevils in the grain and mold on the bread?”

Kenneth paused, glancing at his food.

Thorn chuckled. “That was what food was like when I was a child. Not here. We trade with local merchants, fixing their gear and such. We get good ingredients.”

“It’s not so different than quick meals grabbed nearby, you know,” Kenneth said. “I suppose…some people think talentless eat rotten food or dogs or somesuch, but really, its similar. I happen to like plainer things now and then.”

“I do hope you’re not calling me plain,” Thorn said, his voice dry, and he laughed again when Kenneth shook his head. “Food is a fact of life. It unites everyone, rich and poor, talentless and mage.” He leaned back, looking over the few people in the mess. The woman reading a book had left, but others remained. No one made eye contact with him, or looked at Kenneth.

It was fine. He didn’t need them to react. He just wanted to feel safe among his own people with his lover. He wanted to be accepted.

A door banged, and Kenneth looked up from a bite of his bread. The woman who had been reading a book stood in the doorway, along with George.

Thorn’s meal squirmed in his mouth as though there really were weevils in it. He swallowed hard.

He wasn’t going to let George push him around.

“What is it?” Kenneth asked. Thorn tensed, expecting George to come over to them, to begin his abuses again.

Instead, the other man merely met his eyes, then turned away.

Thorn let out a breath, his appetite gone. Somehow, he doubted very much that his leaving meant George had given up.