Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 5

Thorn sat on one of the plush couches in the office, Kenneth next to him. The light of the magelights in the room was homier than usual, sending out a yellower color than the white glow Thorn was used to seeing from magi. It was more like the artificial shine from a lightbulb, actually, and it helped relax him as he listened to Maibell speak. 

The warm presence of Kenneth by his side helped even more.

“Now,” she said, her robes swishing as she sat across from the two men. “Lifemates are typically those who’s magic is identical—they are identical in power, so to speak. The resonance creates an increase in power when they are near, giving each person increased control over the aether.”

Kenneth nodded, clearly bored. Thorn leaned forward. The idea of resonance, at least, made sense. He had explored the concept often enough in his studies.

“New lifemates can have an array of side effects, of course. Increased control over the aether can sometimes have the paradoxical effect of a mage being intoxicated by it. Is that how you feel, Kenneth?”

“I…” Kenneth’s face reddened, blue eyes sliding over to Thorn’s face, and then up and down his body. “Not quite.”

“I see.” The doctor nodded, and Kenneth shifted on the couch. Thorn almost laughed. At least he wasn’t getting drunk off some invisible force. “Well, how do you feel, then, when Thorn is near?”

“I…” Kenneth spread his hands, his face red. “I feel amorous.” He cleared his throat as though lessening the embarrassing nature of his words. “I desire him. Physically. And when I do, and we…act on it, that’s when I begin to lose control to an embarrassing extent.”

Thorn realized she had a clock somewhere in the room when the silence made its ticking obvious. “I see,” she said finally. “I suppose in that case, a demonstration would be unwise.” Kenneth’s face was as red as a cherry, and the doctor laughed, the tension broken. “Do not worry, Lord Victeni. What you experience is common. In fact, it’s usually the easiest affliction to treat. Of course,” she held up a hand, and her gaze fell on Thorn. “Typically when it happens, both lifemates feel it. Do you, Thorn?”

“No,” he said, and regretted his tone when Kenneth’s face fell. “I mean, I am attracted to him, of course,” he added hurriedly, “but I don’t feel this…aether thing. I just feel the same.” Kenneth frowned, and it made Thorn’s stomach flip. Had he said something wrong? He was no mage, damnit! What was he supposed to feel?

“Well, I can tell you, Lord Victeni, that though you say your control fails during those times you are physically with your lover, your control at the moment is not as fine as you think,” Maibell said. “Even now, its fluctuating, testing and re-testing the aether.” Kenneth muttered something, his gaze distant. “This is very common in lifemates. You are simply not used to the level of power you now experience. But luckily for you, the cure for this is the same cure for your other little complication.”

“And…what would that be?” Thorn asked.

“You two simply must stay near each other at all times for a duration,” Maibell said. “Most likely, about a week or two. That will be enough time for you to re-establish control, Lord Victeni, and learn to deal with, ah, the distraction Thorn here presents you with.”

Thorn froze, blinking with surprise. On the one hand, he loved spending time with Kenneth. His mage was sexy, gorgeous, and kind.

But spending all of his time with a mage? At the magi collegium? Tension flowed through his body.

“Thorn?” Kenneth said. His brow was furrowed, his blue eyes full of concern. “I suppose we should talk about this, shouldn’t we?” he sounded disappointed.

Damnit, his reticence was hurting Kenneth, but he couldn’t think of a way to make it better. “Yes,” he said. “I…we should talk.”

“However you wish to organize it, give it a week,” the doctor said. “Then return if the solution does not work. I would be interesting to see if any unusual complications occur due to the…unique nature of your relationship.” She stared at Thorn, muttering something once more, then shook her head. “A talentless lifemate,” she said. “This could be revolutionary.”

The air outside the infirmary was cold, and Thorn pulled his cloak tighter. He enjoyed the open air, at least. The less he saw of the infirmary, where he had lain after Alder attacked him, the better. He flexed his metal hand, wishing he could hurry up and replace it with the new one he had designed.

“So, we stay together, for a week,” Kenneth said. “I…do you not want to do that?”

Thorn sighed, dropping his gaze away from Kenneth’s beautiful blue eyes. “It’s not that I don’t want to be with you,” he said. “It’s just…” he stared up at the collegium, at its imposing stone walls and towers. The knowledge of the wealth and luxury magi had, that he never would, sent a cold shiver down his spine. “It’s just that I don’t belong here,” he said. “Staying with you in the collegium…”

He’d be an oddity. The talentless lifemate, a power source to a mage. Just like he would as an Enforcer.

That was his fear, but he didn’t want to admit it to Kenneth. He would say it wasn’t true. And Thorn knew Kenneth believed that.

But he didn’t know if he did.

“Who says you have to stay here?” Kenneth asked. Thorn looked up with a blink.

“I’m the one with the problem,” Kenneth said with a faint smile. “And I’m the one who can more easily claim a week off for illness of this sort. What if I stayed at the inventor’s college with you?”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Enforcers Book 5 is in progress!

Hello everyone,

I just figured I'd let you all know that Enforcers book 5 is in the works! It's 20k words and building!

I apologize for the delay--I finished up Freshmen Blues, I have begun a Fantasy M/M with vampires, and I've been working on the latest Enforcer's book all at the same time! Not to mention I finally got through graduate school and defended my dissertation! I'm a doctor now!

Book 5 will be finished as soon as possible! If you want more of Kenneth and Thorn in the meantime, check out my Wednesday Briefs posts every Wednesday! The story takes place back when they were in their respective colleges. It's a deeper look at the idea of lifemates! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Food for Thought

I got this email from Amazon today:

Dear KDP Author,
Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. 

They finished up with a request to email Hachette.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

Not sure what to make of all this, but figured it was interesting.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention, part 4

“You clearly needed that,” Thorn said after their lovemaking session, lying next to his lover. His heart began to slow, his body hot but satisfied. “You always seem so desperate, especially lately.”

Kenneth nodded, his face red, and he took a few moments to catch his breath before speaking. “It’s…it’s the magic, sort of,” he said, and Thorn’s worries resurfaced. “The desperation, I mean. I’ve told you before, but when you’re around, and my magic increases…it’s intoxicating. Like being drunk, of sorts.” He stroked a hand down Thorn’s arm. “I’m not used to it. And…” he swallowed. “It makes me lustful. That doesn’t always happen with lifemates, but it does with you. Because I already want you.” 

That eased Thorn’s concerns more than he wanted to admit. “Oh? What else happens with lifemates?”

“Actually,” Kenneth said. “That’s something we can find out together.”

“So…her name is Doctor Maibell?” Thorn asked. He peered up at the gold-gilded ceiling of the hall in the magi collegium, where swirled colors had been painted. He wondered if that was supposed to be a representation of the aether or something.

“Yes. She is a lifemate expert. Don’t worry, Thorn. She’ll help us both.”

“I don’t need help,” Thorn said. “Er…” that wasn’t entirely true. “I just want to understand this, is all.”

“Me too, really.” Kenneth gave Thorn a bashful smile. “Once we’re Enforcers, I can’t exactly go around losing control of my magic. Or, uh, being constantly distracted.” His face reddened.

Thorn stifled a grin, and reached over to give Kenneth’s shoulders a light squeeze as they entered a rotunda, where a woman in blue waited. He had spent some time in the medical wing of this building, but at the time he had been so worried about Alder and Kenneth that he hadn’t had time to focus. And once he was recovered, he just wanted to get out.

It certainly made the tiny infirmary at the inventor’s college look pathetic. Thorn frowned at the thought.

“Greetings, Lord Victeni.” The woman beckoned to Kenneth. “And this, I take it, is your lifemate?” Her statement grew less certain as she stared at him.

These things would probably go better if he wore robes like a mage. But he was no mage, and he wasn’t going to pretend to be one. “I’m Thorn,” he said, holding out a hand. She didn’t shake it.

“I…will take you both to Doctor Maibell.” She looked between Thorn and Kenneth for a moment, clearly confused, before turning and heading down one of the doors that lined the rotunda.

Thorn walked next to Kenneth, wishing he didn’t feel quite so out of place. If his friend Saul were here, he would be fleeing down the hallway in fear. Thorn wasn’t afraid, of course, not exactly. But he certainly didn’t feel at ease, either.

The halls were lit with glowing orbs that hung in place, not with electric lighting, and when the woman stopped outside a heavy wooden door, the orbs to either side flared, nearly blinding Thorn.

“So,” a voice said, and Thorn blinked through the pain in his eyes to see another woman, silhouetted from even more light in the room behind her. “Lord Victeni. I see you weren’t exaggerating.”

“I apologize.” The light died away, Kenneth’s face red. “I thought I was keeping more control than—“

“Relax. I put those lights there with a certain aether magic, to see if there are magi nearby who have poor control. Clearly, you do, and I can tell your enhanced magic is in turmoil with your lifemate here.” The woman smirked, then looked to Thorn. “And you…”

She paused, then her eyes widened. “Why…you either have the most exquisite control of your magic I have ever seen, or…”

Thorn took a breath, stifling a surge of nervousness. “I’m Kenneth’s lifemate,” he said. “And I’m talentless.”

The hall was silent, Thorn and Kenneth exchanging glances. Their escort’s eyes were wide.

“Well then,” Doctor Maibell said, her eyes narrowed. “Leilan, go on. You two—come inside.”

The door shut behind them, Thorn looking over the benches and couches that lined the room. What sort of doctor’s office was this?”

“Alright then,” Doctor Maibell said. “First of all, what sort of relationship do you two have?” she was speaking to Kenneth, he realized, not him. “Is he your servant?”

Anger kindled in his stomach, but Kenneth spoke before he could. “He is my lover,” Kenneth said, his eyes flashing.

Doctor Maibell held up her hands. “Peace, Lord Victeni. I’m sorry.” She finally turned her gaze to Thorn. “I was just assuming, based on the most…common relationship between a noble mage and a talentless.”

Thorn nodded, his jaw tight. He knew that all too well.

“A mage without my specific training would assume you both were lying. In fact, I’m sure Leilan probably thinks you’re insane.” Doctor Maibell muttered something, a phrase, then shook her head. “But its true. Your power is twice that of what it was when you saw me before. I wouldn’t have thought this possible.”

“What is it?” Thorn finally spoke up, frustration making his voice louder than he intended. “Someone explain to me what’s going on in a way I can understand. I know lifemates make each other more powerful, and I know I am Kenneth’s lifemate, but how it is supposed to work?” Privately, he feared every mage they met would react the way she would. Thorn, a talentless lifemate. A power source, a servant, to Kenneth, nothing more.

He had agreed to become an Enforcer. But if that’s what it meant, then that was not what he wanted.

“Take a seat, Thorn, Kenneth,” Doctor Maibell said. “I’ll explain things to you both. And we can figure this little mystery out, I hope, together.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

New Blog feature-Labels!

Hello everyone,

You'll notice a new feature on the blog today--now you can search for blog posts via labels on the side of the blog! If you want to check out some of the free reads on my blog, catch up on Wednesday Briefs, or look up mentions of a particular series, now you can!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Aesthetics of Invention part 3

Thorn paused outside the gates of the magi collegium, the air biting with the memory of winter frost. The light of the moon overhead, which had illuminated his way through the forest, seemed dim now in the face of the glowing orbs that marked the presence of magi.

He loved Kenneth. He would be an Enforcer, even if he wasn’t entirely clear on what that meant. But sometimes, like now, he still felt very out of place.

He kept his hat pulled low and his gloves on as he entered the building, finding his way through the now-familiar halls to Kenneth’s room. The carpet was plush and the building full of warmth, which had had to admit he appreciated after a cold winter at the inventor’s college. Heaters did a lot, but magical warmth always felt so luxurious, as though winter had never really begun.

Thankfully, no one stopped him, and he knocked on Kenneth’s door, a smile creeping over his face when it opened immediately. Kenneth stared at him with heavy-lidded eyes, the blue of his irises swallowed up by pupils wide with lust. The robes hid it well, but Thorn could tell by now from the way Kenneth stood, and the way he had adjusted them, that he was already hard.

“I take it you sensed I was here?” Thorn asked. He stepped inside, Kenneth closing the door behind them. He was already breathing quickly.

In Kenneth’s luxurious room, complete with a hearth, warm carpeting, and a bed large enough to fit five people, Thorn’s worries melted away. He may not belong at the magi collegium, not as a talentless. But he certainly belonged here.

“Yes,” Kenneth said. He didn’t move, waiting while Thorn removed his gloves and his hat, and finally his coat. His breath hitched when Thorn moved closer and put his hands on Kenneth’s shoulders, feeling the tension of restrained arousal.

“You want me, Kenneth?” Thorn said, his own body heating as he took in the sight and closeness of the mage. At his words, the fire in the hearth flared like a lightning strike. Thorn blinked, then grinned. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Sorry.” Kenneth muttered something, and the fire went out, replaced by three glowing orbs of light, like moonlight. “I’ve been waiting all day.” He put his arms around Thorn, pulling him close enough that Thorn could feel Kenneth’s hardness pressing against him. “Thorn, fires, I need you. I can’t even think.”

Thorn chuckled, then reached around and pulled Kenneth’s head down into a kiss, a kiss that he quickly broke when Kenneth immediately moaned into his mouth. “C’mon, Kenneth. I’m good, but not that good.”

Kenneth just whimpered. “Please, Thorn.”

Thorn smiled and kissed him again, Kenneth pliant when Thorn shoved his tongue into his mouth. His poor lover. Thorn didn’t fully understand what this lifemate stuff meant, but it always effected Kenneth this way.

Somewhere, the cynical part of him still wondered if Kenneth, a powerful, noble mage, only wanted Thorn because of it. Because of the magic, or lust, that it brought out in him. They had gotten close quickly, and Thorn certainly loved Kenneth. Who wouldn’t love such a handsome, intelligent, and kind man? But he still worried.

He was just a talentless, a man who couldn’t use magic. A man with one hand, that had at one time disgusted Kenneth. So what did Kenneth see in him?

Those thoughts receded, though, when Kenneth gasped, breaking the kiss. “Please, Thorn,” he said, his voice a plaintive whine. “Please,” and his face reddened, a feathery blush spreading over his face and down his neck, “please fuck me. I can’t wait anymore.”

Fires, he loved hearing those words. The memory of the time he had first seen Kenneth, a fancy mage on a fancy horse looking down at other talentless as though he didn’t see them, flashed through his mind. And look at him now. Begging for it. He was no noble mage. He was just a man, a man who wanted Thorn.

And Thorn wanted him too.

“Get undressed then,” Thorn said, his voice a whip. And in the few seconds it took Kenneth to mutter something, he was naked, his long erection thick and beaded with precum. More magic, then.

Thorn couldn’t wait any longer, either. “Get on the bed.”

He undressed himself hurriedly while Kenneth obeyed, his fingers fumbling over buttons. Curse his fake hand, he’d have to readjust things when he made his new one. Soon enough, though, he joined Kenneth on the bed, looming over the blond mage. Kenneth had already found lube, and pressed it into Thorn’s hand as the bed creaked beneath them.

“Please hurry,” he said. Light and heat whooshed, and Thorn realized the fire in the hearth was lit again. Kenneth blushed redder.

Thorn slicked himself fast. “Stop thinking, then,” he said. He didn’t know if Kenneth needed to think to use magic, but it made sense to him. “No more magic. Just focus on me.”

“Please!” Kenneth shouted, and Thorn didn’t need to be told twice. He entered Kenneth with two fingers, preparing as fast as he could, and then thrust deep inside. Kenneth bellowed, his back arching and his hands grabbing at Thorn’s shoulders.

“Fast, please,” Kenneth panted, and Thorn listened. Heat built in his body, his worries about Kenneth, and about magi and talentless, vanishing. It was always like this. With Kenneth, he didn’t need to worry. Kenneth wanted him, wanted him desperately, and he wanted Kenneth too. His mage, red faced and panting, his body jolting with each of Thorn’s thrusts.

Kenneth came on his stomach as Thorn watched, arcs of cum streaking his body as he groaned. He hadn’t even needed to touch him. The sight made Thorn gasp, his own pleasure magnified, and Kenneth’s grip tightened on his shoulders as he thrust even harder. “Yes, Thorn,” Kenneth said, his breathing hard in Thorn’s ears.

Kenneth was tight, beautiful, and then Thorn shuddered, deep heat erupting from him inside the mage. He shuddered, his arms shaking and fists curling in the mattress.

“Thorn,” Kenneth said, a moan edging his voice. “That was so good.”