First Cup of Coffee – August 19, 2022

Musings on the amount of romance in fantasy romance and romantic fantasy – and how I seem to want more lush romance feels than many books in the genre deliver. Also squees on reading a Lisa Kleypas historical.




Transcript
00:00.90
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I am here with my first cup of coffee.

00:12.88
jeffekennedy
Excellent.

00:18.71
jeffekennedy
Ah, today is say it with me Friday! August 19 beginning of a long weekend for me flying to Tucson tonight celebrate birthdays with the family.

00:38.44
jeffekennedy
Ought to be fun. Um, writer coffee yesterday was a lot of fun. Ah, it turns out that one of my writer coffee peeps the fabulous J Barton Mitchell – Jack – um, who’s got the wonderful podcast. Should pimp his podcast hang on yeah that said it’s called Derelict um, during the second season of Derelict I interviewed him on here a while back. Um, and it’s doing amazing. He was telling us yesterday that they just sold the french. Translation rights for the podcast. So go Jack so anyway, it turns out that Jack’s birthday is on Sunday the twenty first as is the fabulous Darynda Jones she is on Sunday and then I’m on Monday so we’re our little cluster of ah. Leo writer babies. Although I am on the cusp Leo Virgo so I have been described as a meticulous volcano and I mentioned that when. Jack was thinking are you on the cusp of… and I said yes I’m a meticulous volcano and they were both like that’s actually tracks like thanks guys.

02:04.90
jeffekennedy
I guess there are worse things right? Grapes grapes are falling my grapevine kind of came unraveled too. That’s why it’s sort of dangling in screen if you’re on video I need to wind it up again. But it’s not going to happen till I get back. We should harvest grapes too. But I eat them occasionally. They’re quite delicious. Sweet so sweet. So anyway, writer coffee was lovely. We had a great conversation. Jim Sorenson had just gotten back from a Transformers conference. In England where he was a headliner and so he was telling us about that and so he was pretty high on that It’s always fun when you get to be treated like ah a fancy person I did come out here early this morning and like the mosquito candle. But it’s. Cooler today. In fact, I was wondering excuse my hand you all pause. Yeah, it’s only ° we had kind of um, cold air come in last night so there’s a definite definite autumnal feel this morning. Um, oh. Um, might sneeze there. We go ah longtime listeners at least from last year may remember the debate about autumnal.

03:34.67
jeffekennedy
And a tu no feel to the air. Ah so yeah, it’s um, cooler and so there are not nearly so many mosquitoes this morning. In fact, I haven’t seen any even though I came out and lit the candle early to try to create a. Dispersing my asthma cause it was very funny yesterday if you’re on video you saw me constantly batting them away and Youtube when I upload the video they pick 3 Stills to be like the cover image and I can choose between those 3 but. Otherwise I can upload an unrelated image. But if I want an image of me sitting here yapping then it has to be 1 of the 3 that they pick and they tend to pick things that are movement. They they like things that are bigger. Movements. So I have to remember to like not. Mess with my hair because otherwise that are all 3 b me raking my hair back from my forehead which my characters do all the time for a reason people because it’s clearly one of my personal ticks. But yesterday’s were all me. Waving mosquitoes away. Um sorry to pick the least absurdly waving of mosquitoes image. Yeah, so it goes right? Ah so yeah, let’s see what else i.

05:02.64
jeffekennedy
Did get my 2000 words yesterday I’m at something like 62000 on the book I’m enjoying writing this book. That’s always nice and but it took me a little while since I was at writer coffee for a couple of hours and. Then I um I reader did not go to yoga I know I ended up canceling I just got hit with the don’t want us. Um I have to get back in that habit. But it’s so much a thing that by. Yoga class the one that I like to go to on Thursday afternoons is at 4 and by the time it starts rolling around to three o’clock and I have to cancel an hour ahead. So I have to make a decision by like around two forty five and at that point I’m just feeling like all I want to do. Is not have some fun until the sun goes down on Santa Monica Boulevard because that’s all the way over in California but what I really want to do is like sit with my book. Um and relax and so that’s what I ended up doing ah. Bad yoga person but I it was a nice evening and I and I hit tired yesterday afternoon. That’s the other thing is like by Thursday afternoon I’m hitting tired so my other options are to go um in the morning.

06:33.95
jeffekennedy
Um, there are some like 10 am classes I could go to which means I would have to like interrupt the writing for something other than writer coffee. But maybe I’ll do that I don’t know.

06:52.16
jeffekennedy
Ah, what was me I know I’m such a a ritualized person here’s my that’s the meticulous part of meticulous volcano. Ah you know I Just don’t like my schedule to be interrupted and now that that’s no longer part of my schedule.

07:10.67
jeffekennedy
Yeah, So anyway, um, the other thing I’ve been doing interestingly enough I I find it interesting. Do you guys? Do you all ever worry about this like I read this thing a long time ago that people who. Think that they are interesting conversationalists um are not whereas people who think that they are not interesting conversationists actually are most of the time I think I’m not that interesting, but every time I say that I. That something is interesting then I then I worry it’s like oh is it actually not but it’s a way to really freak yourself out. There’s hummingbird behind me oh over here. She’s getting the ah.

08:08.30
jeffekennedy
Get that naturally made nectar. So Oh and now have I forgotten the thing that’s it. Oh okay, so it’s probably not interesting but I’m going to tell you anyway. So after several reads that. Ah, ones that I enjoyed for the most part one? Um, ah I read book one and really loved book one and went on to work book 2 and ah I I hated book 2 Um. The characters seem to have like the original. The main characters from the first book. The POV characters ah seem to have like totally changed into different people and doing things that didn’t feel like they were part of their character motivations and the. People who had taken over the pov I didn’t care about them and and I got part way into it and I thought it was feeling like a slog you know and and I read it for pleasure I don’t read when I’m not having fun and so I went and looked at the reviews just to see. Like if it was going to get better if it was just me and there were a lot of reviews saying exactly the way I felt about it and and then complaining about that. The ending was so disappointing and I thought okay I’m bailing So I bailed on that book and the first book.

09:41.75
jeffekennedy
Part of the recent was disappointing was I had liked a whole lot of stuff about this first book. But then it had not really paid off on the romance in the way that I want um and I know that I’m probably different this way because I did come up out of romance. But 1 thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of fantasy romance. Romantic fantasy um YA fantasy even when there’s romance in it. It tends to be pretty romance lite and I want to spell that l I t e ah. It is um, does it dig into the romance feels and I think that maybe a lot of writers writing fantasy hesitate to dig deep into the the really lush parts of romance. There’s sex sometimes. These books did not have sex but I thought that book 2 would then like take me further into that romantic arc and give me the feels both physical and emotional and so it was feeling very um.

10:55.48
jeffekennedy
Emotionless interrupt us as it were that I had not gotten the the full I don’t know I didn’t get my climax people I did not get my romance climax and so I was in Las Vegas hanging out at the cabana with Megan and wanting something to read I picked up another one that was in my tbr I was very good I cleared out my tbr and read that book because it did give me some nice sexy thrills. But again. Not the full out romance and there are more books in that series and I was not feeling compelled to go on. Yeah so I thought well what I need to do is I need to read ah a romance romance capital r and so I had had Lisa Kleypas on my Kindle for a long time in my tbr. So I am being dutiful clearing that out and she um it was called Then came you and I had read the second book in this It’s just a 2 book series the gamblers so I had read the second one with Derek Craven which is called well let’s find out – Dreaming of You I love – I mean how much you guys love that I can.

12:28.80
jeffekennedy
Googled the character name I googled Derek Craven and it came right up as dreaming of you Lisa Kleypas um my agent and I were arguing about how to pronounce her name because when I had lunch with Sara at Apollycon.

12:45.21
jeffekennedy
Sarah said I think she referred to us Lisa Clypus and I said is that how you say her name I mean it wasn’t really an argument and she said well I think it is and I said I’ve always said clypus. It could be that I think that’s how the argument went because I have it my head that’s claypus and she said well I guess I don’t know. But but so correct me if I’m wrong. We could look I’m doing a lot of pausing and looking today. So I was right? It’s CLAYpuss It’s funny when I googled her one of the things that im automatically filled in I’m always entertained by those things was um, what happened to Lisa Kleypas?

13:23.38
jeffekennedy
I believe she’s still publishing books. So anyway, for whatever reason I don’t remember why it was like in fall of twenty twenty I had read dreaming of you really liked it and then I had bought book one then came you because those characters appear in the second book and I thought oh. Like to read that one and then I never did so I just read it. Um, finished it last night and now I’m doing a reread of dreaming of you and it ah it gave me all those romantic feels that I was dying for It was great and then I was just really noticing. What an excellent author Lisa Kleypas is I mean she’s just such a polished author and I really don’t read a lot of historical romance anymore I think I got glutted on it. Um regency england.

14:22.11
jeffekennedy
Yeah, but wow she is just um, she gave me exactly the ride I wanted she it was delightful. Absolutely delightful. So I all know. Will I go on a Lisa Kleypas binge? hard to say but I I wish that I could have more fantasy romance that has more dense romance in it like this. So as a result. Well I think dark wizard. Was this way I think all 3 bonds of magic books are a whole lot about Nic and Gabriel’s relationship tell me if you disagree but ah shadow wizard. There’s a lot of Jadren and Selly and.

15:18.25
jeffekennedy
I think um, some of that lushness and passion from Lisa Kleypas are leaking into it and I feel like this can only be a good thing. So um. Probably I will not do podcasts on Monday and Tuesday ah maybe I will but whenever I say maybe I will it turns into no ah so probably a little bit more vacation. Um, and then. Otherwise I’ll have I’ll be here Wednesday Thursday Friday next week probably just blogging on Wednesday Bubonicon the following weekend if you’re local to New Mexico which I know most of you are not and then the following weekend labor day weekend. How is it labor day weekend already or will be in Chicago for WorldCon. Doing a bunch of programming. Um, so I should probably post my schedule at some point I always wonder about that you know like when you post your conference schedule I see people putting on social media. But it’s like um, does anyone really care because the people who are going to the conference. Are going to look up the program right? and do people who are not going to the conference who would see it on social media and not in the conference program or are all like okay so why post it the social media I don’t know but I am giving a workshop.

16:49.79
jeffekennedy
Worldcon if you are going. Um I’m teaching ah world building from a character driven perspective so that should be fun and participating in several panels doing a reading and a assigning so I might like pimp the reading. Just so that more than 2 people show up. It’s always the danger with readings at big conferences like that you know if you’re up against someone else like at Bubonicon they do these things that are like 50 minutes with which is essentially reading but you could also like answer questions and stuff. But I’m up against um, 50 minutes with Walter John Williams and then also ah a panel with during the jones and Connie Willis and some others talking about humor. So it’s like um.

17:47.53
jeffekennedy
Just keep saying that for the 1 or 2 people that come to my 50 minutes with I’m just gonna say how about we go over to the humor panel. We’ll have more fun. We’ll see what happens. so um so yeah busy day for me today. So I’m going to go get to it. I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend I hope you get to have some fun. Um, let me know those of you who read? Romantic fantasy fantasy romance. Are there ones that have really blushed dense romance in them or. Maybe it’s just not something that most people in their genre. Want now. Um, ones I haven’t read. Yeah I know you don’t necessarily know who they are but um, yeah, all right? You all have wonderful weekend. And I will talk to you later take care bye-bye.

When It’s Time to Put New Covers on a Series

This week at the SFF Seven we’re discussing Cover Trends. We’re asking “What was, is, and will be “hot” in cover art/style for your sub-genre? If you have a say in your covers, will you chase the trend or will you stick with the image in your mind?”

There’s a lot to be said on this topic, too much for even a week of blog posts. When I’m asked for advice on covers, which is a frequent request, I tell authors to keep in mind that a cover has two jobs: to attract positive attention and convey genre. This has to be emphasized because authors – both in trad and in self-publishing – tend to get caught up in wanting the cover to adhere to the story. One first-time author who was very upset with the cover her publisher gave her and came to me for advice said “but the cover doesn’t illuminate the story.” I had to tell her that the story’s job is to illuminate the story. The cover does different work: attract the eye and convey genre.
It’s that second that’s most relevant for this week’s discussion. Because trends change and a cover that accurately conveyed genre six years ago may find itself conveying something else entirely to a current audience.
Case in point: I love the covers for my six-book Sorcerous Moons series.

These were among the first book covers I ever commissioned and I particularly adore the cover for book one, LONEN’S WAR. It does come straight from a scene in the book – a pivotal scene that was, in part, the genesis image for the story – and the artist (Louisa Gallie) exactly nailed what I had in mind.

I will always be grateful for Louisa’s gorgeous art and I will always love this cover.

But, recently, people have been pointing out that these covers no longer convey what kind of story these books tell. The fantasy romance genre has moved on. If I want to tell readers that this IS the kind of thing they’re looking for, then I should consider updating to match current trends.

So I did!

Behold: The new cover for LONEN’S WAR!

I contracted with BZN Studio Designs to design new covers for all six books. Right now the series isn’t available, but once I have all six covers, I’ll re-launch the series with some fanfare. I’m super excited to see how they do with the new covers. I’ve heard some people (including my own assistant!) say scathingly that these look like all the other covers out there in this subgenre, and there’s truth to that.

AND THAT’S THE POINT.

The content is what makes the stories unique. The covers are doing the job they’re supposed to do. Caught your eye, did it? I hope so! And I’m hoping you also know exactly what kind of story you’ll get.

FIRE OF THE FROST Fantasy Holiday Romance Yumminess

This week at the SFF Seven we’re doing a little winter holiday self-promo! Many of you know we had to push back the release of FIRE OF THE FROST, but it’s coming soooooon! We are on target to release on December 22. So if you are someone who celebrates Christmas, this should hit your eReader just in time to relax and enjoy some holiday downtime. 

And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s lots of midwinter, romantic holiday goodness for you, too! Only Amanda’s story is literally Christmas. Everyone else’s is a fantasy midwinter holiday. Mine includes a magical sleigh race and elemental festive lights. It’s a story that takes place in the Bonds of Magic world, roughly after DARK WIZARD and semi-concurrent with BRIGHT FAMILIAR. It takes place at Convocation Academy and you just miiiiigght see some of the characters in GREY MAGIC.

The delay means you have just that much longer to preorder the anthology for the special preorder price, before it goes up on release day.

Here’s the official (still in progress) blurb:

A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

From Darynda Jones, a standalone novella set in a world where vampyres are hunted for sport. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is Winter, a warrior bred to save them from extinction. Forbidden to fall in love, Winter cares only about her oaths… until she meets the devilish prince of the underworld.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Kingmaker Chronicles meets modern-day New York City! Piers, an exiled warrior from Thalyria, finds himself in the Big Apple just before the holidays. The world and everything in it might be utterly foreign to him, but that won’t stop Piers from helping to complete a vital mission for Athena and protect Sophie, a French teacher from Connecticut who’s suddenly knee-deep in inexplicable phenomena, danger, and henchmen after an Olympian treasure that should never have ended up in her hands—or remained on Earth after the Greek gods abandoned it.

The King of Hel by Grace Draven

A novella-length expansion of a stand-alone short story in which a cursed mage-king from a frozen kingdom is obligated to marry a woman of high-ranking nobility but meets his soulmate in a lowly scribe.

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy

It’s holiday time at Convocation Academy, but best friends Han and Iliana are finding it hard to celebrate. As a familiar, Iliana is facing her assignment to a life of servitude to a wizard, very soon. And Han… despite being tested by the oracle daily, he is still uncategorized. As Iliana and Han face being separated forever, they at last find the courage—or desperation—to break the rules and acknowledge their deeper feelings for each other. But it will take more than true love to save them from the laws of the Convocation…

 And here’s a little snippet from my story, Familiar Winter Magic:

Once the races finished, Iliana let Han talk her into more dancing. With the excellent whiskey warming her blood, not to mention the heady glow of Han’s undivided attention, she could hardly resist. She loved him so much and he was right: this was their last Founding Festival together. Rather than try to hold him at arm’s length, in anticipation of their imminent parting, she decided to enjoy his company while she could.

Han at his most charming was impossible to refuse. Which would be a major problem when he manifested as a wizard, but she wouldn’t think about that tonight. Since it was a holiday, the thought-seekers gave everyone a break—and were celebrating themselves. The festival was a rare excuse for everyone to loosen up.

A little bit tipsy, the lights and dancing making her feel giddy, she danced with Han until she was so warm she had to shed her cloak. Among his many skills, Han was also an excellent dancer—far better than she, but he was so skilled that he made his partner look good—and they found themselves more than once in a circle of cheering spectators as he whirled her through the vigorous dances.

Then the music slowed, and she fanned herself, blowing out a breath, and headed off the dance floor. Han caught her hand. “Hey, where are you going?” Expertly he twirled her under his arm, then snugged her close, a hand on the small of her back as he led her through the dreamy rhythm.

Iliana braced one hand on Han’s chest, his heart thumping rapidly beneath her fingertips, his blue eyes lambent in the starry light. “We never dance the slow dances,” she breathed.

“A grievous lapse of judgment on my part,” he murmured, gaze traveling over her face. “You feel perfect in my arms, lovely Iliana. I want you here forever.”

She tore her gaze from his heartbreakingly beautiful face, focusing on his throat instead. That wasn’t much help, as his skin begged to be kissed and nibbled. “I don’t understand what’s changed between us, why you’re being so…”

“Seductive?” he suggested in a warm purr. “Devastatingly handsome and charming?”

Snorting, she made a face at him. “Aggressive. And annoyingly persistent.”

 

Jeffe’s One Rule of Character Leveling-Up

This coming Friday, July 30, at 6pm Mountain Time, I’ll be joining these great friends and powerhouse Fantasy Romance authors for an online panel! Tickets are free for this event sponsored by Love’s Sweet Arrow bookstore in Chicago. Join me, Jennifer EstepL. Penelope, and Lexi Ryan for a chat moderated by Jen Prokop. Ask us anything!
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Leveling-Up: Is it necessary for protagonists to continually gain power/ability/expertise as a series progresses?” Come on over to learn my One Rule. 

Cover Reveal for a Brand New Fantasy Romance Series!

Remember how I teased this image from THE GOLDEN GRYPHON AND THE BEAR PRINCE cover the other day?? Well the full cover is being revealed at Fresh Fiction right now! Hie thee on over to see it in all its considerable glory. Then come back here and read a special preview of the Prologue below. Subscribers to my newsletter will get a special deleted chapter in tomorrow’s issue, and you can still sign up now!

This is the first book in a brand new fantasy romance series, Heirs of Magic, and I’m thrilled to see it launching!

You can preorder for the January 25, 2021 release at the usual suspects, including my website store. (Print will be available in another week or two!)

   

~ Prologue ~

 

“Astar—watch this!” Zephyr’s musical shout rang out from the cliff’s edge high above. Shading his eyes against the bright, tropical sun, Astar picked out Zephyr’s slim silhouette perched on tiptoe, precariously clinging to a rock outcropping. Her light silken shift fluttered around her as she raised her arms, the coastal breeze catching the long banner of her glossy black hair. He tried very hard not to notice how the thin material clung to her full breasts and the enticing flare of her hips. A gentleman didn’t stare at women that way, especially not at his friends—and particularly not at Zephyr, who could never be his.

But Astar dutifully looked in her direction and waved, knowing perfectly well she wouldn’t perform whatever trick she had planned until he was watching. Assured she had his attention, she leapt into the air in a perfect swan dive, plummeting to the glittering sea below—a drop far too great for any ordinary human to survive.

Zephyr, however, was anything but ordinary.

Still, his heart climbed into his throat as he counted the endless moments of her fall, mentally begging her to shapeshift already. An instant before she hit the water, she exploded into golden fur and feathers, her wings tightly folded against her back, lion’s body still sleekly aimed toward the waves—and she dove in, disappearing entirely.

Starting his count over, he waited for her to surface. Though she was still in her mid-teens, Zephyr was already talented and proficient enough to shift into any number of water-breathing forms. She could shapeshift into a fish and stay below the surface for hours—days, even, if it wasn’t inadvisable for the Tala shapeshifters to remain in animal form too long—and she might do exactly that, just to tease him.

Zephyr loved to tease him, and Astar did his best to pretend he wasn’t enthralled by her.

Stretching out on the white sand beach, resting his head on folded arms and enjoying Annfwn’s warm sunshine and cloudless soft blue skies, Astar tried to relax. Though he was supposed to be done growing, his joints still occasionally ached and his mother had declared he had another finger width or two of height left in him. Like he needed to get any taller. Despite the aches and the worrying about Zephyr he couldn’t easily dismiss, he did his best to savor his last day in Annfwn. Tomorrow he’d be back at wintry Castle Ordnung, continuing under High Queen Ursula’s relentless tutelage. As her heir, he would follow in her footsteps and ascend to the high throne of the Thirteen Kingdoms someday. A crushing thought, for so many reasons.

Unable to resist checking on Zephyr, he turned his head to study the turquoise water. What if she had misjudged? The eagle parts of her gryphon form—the gríobhth, in the Tala language—might be equipped for a dive like that, but he didn’t think the lion half would be. Scowling to himself, he sat up. Should he get someone to look for her? He didn’t have an aquatic form, as he was only a partblood shapeshifter, one who only had First Form, and his was a grizzly bear. He could swim well enough as the bear, but not dive underwater for any length of time.

And Zephyr knew that, much as she liked to taunt him about trying for more forms. A frustrated growl rose in him, the bear restless and worried, pushing to be released.

Astar was just getting to his feet when a porpoise burst from the waves, becoming a songbird in mid-leap, and winging to him to become Zephyr in human form—standing before him on the sand, once again in her ocean-blue silk shift, her hair tumbling in gleaming curls, sapphire eyes sparkling as she laughed at him.

Poking him in the chest with a pointed finger, she wrinkled her nose. “I gave up too soon! You were about to come rescue me, weren’t you?”

“Like you needed rescuing,” he growled at her.

Undaunted, she gentled her skewering finger to slide down his midline. “I always need rescuing by you, my bear,” she purred. “And you were coming after me.”

He brushed her finger away—letting Zephyr touch him tested his control too far—and pretended to yawn.

“Nope. I was bored while you were playing fish. I was about to head back to the cliff city.”

“Liar. You could never abandon a damsel in distress. You’re far too noble for that.”

“You were hardly in distress,” he reminded her, which wasn’t a lie, even if he had worried.

“Come swim with me,” she wheedled, taking his hand and tugging him toward the water. “Try for a fish form. Just once. For me.” She batted the lush fringe of her black lashes, pushing her crimson lips into an enticing pout.

He managed to extract his hand from her grip, his fingers burning with the desire to touch her more and more and more. “You know I can’t.”

Punching her fists on her hips, she stood in the ankle-deep surf, eyes flashing with impatience. “You could do more forms when you were a boy. That means you still can.”

“That’s not true,” he countered, packing up their picnic things. They’d have a bit of a walk back to the cliff city and people would be waiting for him. Ursula had drilled into him the importance of being on time. “You know that many Tala explore forms they never take again. I’m happy with my grizzly bear. That’s more than most people in the world have.”

“What are you doing?” she asked, frowning at his actions. “It can’t be time to go back yet.”

“I have to meet with King Rayfe and Queen Andromeda,” he reminded her. “Duty calls,” he added with what he hoped was a charming grin—though it did nothing to alleviate her annoyance.

“Astar, this is your last day in Annfwn. You promised me a picnic.”

He held up the empty basket in demonstration. “And picnic we did. You can stay and play, but I have responsibilities.”

She swooped up to him, too fast for him to dodge, and set her palms flat on his bare chest, her sapphire eyes glittering with irritation. “You always have responsibilities.”

It was true. Being heir demanded a great deal—and Astar lived in dread of not being up to the job, of disappointing all the people who believed in him. something the enviably carefree Zephyr could never understand. Her nails scratched lightly over his skin and her scent, like tropical flowers blooming in high mountain air, made him want to wrap his arms around her and inhale all she offered. Something else his duties kept him from indulging in.

“Stay and play with me,” she purred invitingly, palms flattening to caress his chest, answering desire thrumming through him. “Just a little longer. You can have all the boring meetings you like… later.”

With a groan, he wrenched himself from her alluring touch, covering it with a laugh. “I can’t,” he told her with determination, sweeping up the last of his things and turning his back firmly to her.

“You mean you won’t,” she called after him, frustration ripe in her voice.

That was also true. Zephyr could never be his, and he could never be hers. As heir to the high throne, he’d have to make a marriage of state with whoever they picked for him—and Her Majesty would never choose a half-wild Tala girl with a First Form most people thought existed only in myth. Far better never to start an affair that would only break him when it ended.

Zephyr, of course, would be fine. She always was, brighter and better than life itself.

“You can run from me, Astar, but I swear that one day I’ll get you to break your stupid rules!” she yelled.

He lifted a hand in farewell, in acknowledgment. If he let Zephyr get him alone again, she’d no doubt wear him down. So he’d have to make sure she didn’t get the opportunity.

“Mark my words,” her taunting voice carried on the ocean breeze. “You will be mine! You already are, you just don’t know it yet.”

The problem was, he knew that all too well. And it didn’t change anything.

   

Follows The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon in the UNDER A WINTER SKY fantasy holiday anthology.

A Legacy of Honor

Crown Prince Astar has only ever wanted to do the right thing: be a credit to his late-father’s legacy, live up to his duties as heir to the High Throne of the Thirteen Kingdoms, and cleave to the principles of honor and integrity that give his life structure–and that contain the ferocious grizzly bear inside. Nowhere in those guiding principles is there room for the fierce-hearted, wildly free-spirited, and dizzyingly beautiful shapeshifter, Zephyr. Still, even though they’ve been friends most of their lives, Astar is able to keep Zephyr safely at arm’s length. He’s already received a list of potential princess brides who will make a suitable queen, and Zephyr is not on it.

A Longtime Obsession

Zeph has wanted the gorgeous, charming, and too-good-for-his-own-good Astar for as long as she can remember. Not that her longing for him–and his perfectly sculpted and muscular body–has stopped her from enjoying any number of lovers. Astar might be honorably (and foolishly) intent on remaining chaste until marriage, but Zeph is Tala and they have no such rules. Still, she loves Astar–as a friend–and she wants him to at least taste life before he chains himself to a wife he didn’t choose. There’s no harm in him having a bit of fun with her. But the man remains stubbornly elusive, staving off all of her advances with infuriatingly noble refusals.

A Quest to Save the World

But things change when a new terror threatens the Thirteen Kingdoms. Following prophecy, Astar and Zeph–along with a mismatched group of shapeshifter, warrior, and sorceress friends–go on a quest to stop a magic rift before it grows beyond anyone’s ability to stop. Thrust together with Zephyr, Astar finds himself increasingly unable to resist her seductive invitations. And, in the face of life and death battles with lethal monsters, he begins to lose sight of why having her, just once, is such a terrible idea. . .

   

Virtual Fantasy Romance Panel!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is to promote our stuff or someone else’s. I can bop two birdies gently on the head (because I’m not a vicious murderer of wildlife) and share this super fun event! If you missed the live event, you can watch the recording here

Saturday, December 12th @ 2pm EST

Romance Panel with Authors Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, Jennifer Estep, and Jeffe Kennedy. Come on over to find out more!

The Best Title That Never Was

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns the reality of having to change names. We’re asking the crew if they’ve ever had to change the name(s) of a character or place in a book after we’d drafted it? Who is the character who will forever go by their “unpublished” name in our minds?

For me, it wasn’t a character. But I will tell you about the title I wish I hadn’t changed.