Preorder Now! TWISTED MAGIC (and a Snippet)

I’m working away on TWISTED MAGIC! The preorder links are mostly live. (I use Smashwords to distribute to Apple and Scribd. They flagged the book because I used the keyword “adult,” saying I must categorize it as erotica. Which, it isn’t. I meant adult fantasy as opposed to YA fantasy, but apparently adult means erotic now and I can’t even.) Anyway, you can preorder pretty much everywhere now.

And, because you all have been waiting so patiently, here is a snippet from the book in progress 🙂

Jadren heaved a sigh and rolled his head back, staring at the ceiling. “If I were to hazard a guess, which I apparently am being coerced into doing, I’d say that she means she thinks I ran away only as a bargaining chip. She won’t believe that I don’t truly want, in the charred cinder of my withered heart, to be Lord El-Adrel after her. Katica can’t conceive of anyone not wanting her power. She’s used that to play her heirs against each other all these years.”

“Do you?” Selly asked.

He lifted his head and gazed at her. Blinked, long and slow. “Do I want to be Lord El-Adrel? Dark arts, no! What would possess you to even ask such a question?”

“It’s a reasonable question,” she answered, studying him.

“Not unless you think I’m enough of a monster that I want to become my mother,” he spat back.

“See, that’s not a reasonable answer. You can head your house without becoming your mother.”

“Oh, and I suppose you believe I should follow the example of the sainted Gabriel, Lord of House Phool?” he sneered. “If my choices are to become a tyrannical megalomaniac or an idealistic idiot merrily leading my house to doom, or a passive/aggressive wannabe like Chaim Refoel, then I’ll take option D: none of the above.”

Or,” she retorted, “you could make the role your own. You’re not one of your mother’s automatons, plodding along mindlessly in the footsteps of others. If you became Lord El-Adrel, you could make the house over into what you want it to be.”

He curled a lip. “Why, Seliah—have you been harboring a secret desire to become Lady El-Adrel? Perhaps all that half-feral swamp beast behavior of yours has been a cover for a heart that quietly yearns for the power and glory of a high house.”

“Be nice,” she warned him. “You know I don’t care about heading a high house and, for the record, I don’t care if you are Lord El-Adrel or not. But I think your people deserve better. And,” she added after a moment, “the house deserves better.”

“The house is a house. She doesn’t deserve anything. She can’t, because she’s not a person.”

“Then why do you talk about her like a person instead of an ‘it’?”

“Because she’s a right bitch,” he observed without rancor. “You saw what she did to us.”

“She helped us to escape,” Selly replied remorselessly. “Besides, I think she wants you to be Lord El-Adrel.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not letting an over-magicked dwelling make life choices for me.”


Cover Reveal: TWISTED MAGIC!


I’m a day late posting because yesterday was crazy. Lots going on here, all good. I hope to share with you all soon!

In the meanwhile, the news you’ve all been waiting for, I know: TWISTED MAGIC, Book #3 in Renegades of Magic, has a cover and a release date!!! It will be out October 30, 2023. The preorder links are still going live, but we’ll add them to the website as they do. As always, you can preorder directly from me via the website. That includes print (which isn’t available for preorder anywhere else). I’ll have the back-cover copy and tagline soon, as I’m well into writing the book. At last!! Hooray!!!


Best Laid Plans and Magical News!

I had Plans for today’s blog post here at the SFF Seven. But we know what the poet said about best-laid plans…

Yes, my day has gang agley.

All in a good way, though. I got a lot done. Important stuff, just not quite the several steps required to post what I hoped to post today. So the short and dirty update is:

  • TWISTED MAGIC will have a release date and preorder link soon!! (Though you can already preorder it on my website.)
  • Of my new book that I’ve been writing, the one I wasn’t supposed to be writing, but that insisted on being written, which I’ve been calling ONEIRA, Agent Sarah said: “You’ve crafted your very own fairytale, Jeffe and it’s magic.”
  • We strategized today, so look for more news on ONEIRA soon! And on TWISTED MAGIC!



Contemplating Failure

Know what this is?? It’s a teaser for the cover of TWISTED MAGIC, Book #3 in Renegades of Magic!!

Yes, I have the cover – and have had for a while – but I’ve been hanging onto it until I could set up a release date and preorder link. I’m a bit on tenterhooks at the moment, waiting on feedback from Agent Sarah on the book I wrote that fell on me from out of the sky and insisted on being written: ONEIRA. Once I know whether she wants to take it on submission to traditional publishing or if I’ll self-publish it (in August!), then I’ll be able to set a date for the TWISTED MAGIC release. Meanwhile, you can preorder the book via my website store!

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about failure. Ostensibly, the topic is reassuring ourselves that we are not failures and offering wise words to that effect. I say “ostensibly” because I don’t think it’s possible to say that we are not failures. We are all failures, at some point, in some way, on the large or small scale. Failing at something is a natural part of life. Everything, everywhere, fails to do something or another, usually multiple times, probably more often than they succeed.

I’m being persnickety about this because I think the concept of failure gets a bad rap. As if it’s something we’re supposed to avoid at all costs. I can’t be honest and tell you you’re not a failure. I can’t be honest with myself and say that. I’ve failed at all kinds of things I’ve tried to do. I wrestle daily with facing that I’ve failed to reached certain goals. But the answer isn’t some pep talk where I pat myself on the head and console myself with the comforting words that I haven’t actually failed. That doesn’t benefit me. Instead I have to look at why I haven’t succeeded at what I set out to do. A lot of it may not be within my control. A great deal of publishing isn’t. And it’s good for me to look at that and cut away those things I can’t control – and then focus on what I can control. What can I do better? How can I change my strategy? What can I learn from this failure?

Let me emphasize: failure is okay! We learn from failure.

I’m not going to tell you that you’re not a failure because you are one, just like every other living creature. Life is about the attempt; failure and success are only metrics by which to measure the result. Learn, and live.


ROGUE FAMILIAR Delayed (Again) – But Not as Much as You Think!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what’s going on there with the creative professions. I have Opinions, which boil down to my conviction that nothing can replace human creativity. But a lot of very smart people have written on the topic and SFWA has been collating those. Go read those excellent articles.

For my part, I’m trying to get ROGUE FAMILIAR written. I’ve passed 60K words and I’m closing in on the Act II Climax. I’m getting there! But I’m not there yet. No way can I make a March release date. So I’ve pushed the release back. Amazon will tell you the new release date is April 24, but that’s a handy lie. That’s just the farthest date I could push to, just in case. I’m guessing it will be more like April 7 or 10. I can always release early! I know you all are patient and supportive, so I don’t need to apologize. (But I feel I do.) Anyway, I’m working away on this!

No AI involved.


First Cup of Coffee – April 25, 2022

Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee.

Ah, dreamy sigh for the deliciousness. Those of you acutely observant either on video or listening to the sounds of the chime will note that I’m back inside today. It’s a stormy morning here in Santa Fe not precipitation. Alas. But um, a cold wind blowing. Ah today is Monday April Twenty Fifth it’s the perfect date. Um, all you need is a light jacket. Ah, hopefully that’ll be us this afternoon you I’m sure all of you get that. Maybe not my mom but ah, you know what can you do. Ah I had a great weekend. Um, did get to get out in the garden hung up my hanging plants. You can’t see them on the video. It’s to glare e f. It’s not gonna happen. But. Yeah, got my hanging plants hung up just in time for them to be blasted by the cold wind. But I’m sure they’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. Everything is fine I got some other ones planted I put together a couple of hanging baskets of my own. We’ll see how they turn out. I did go out and check on them see if I could sit outside and I thought oh it’s not gonna be pleasant been scraping tumbleweeds out of the property. So Friday we got this wind that was. Unreal I mean they’ve been given us the high wind warnings by afternoon we had ah the alert go off on our phones saying warning us of dust storms that you know if we were traveling that the visibility could go down to 0 in like no time at all. We were having like seventy mile an hour seventy five mile and our gusts and the wind roared all night long it was it was something people so I’ll put a photo on the show notes. But the ah. Tumble weeds I was bitching about the tumbleweeds last week there they’re everywhere I had already cleaned up a bunch from like under the juniorni per out front and that kind of thing tons under there now but they had mounted up in front of our garage. You know like the old. Um I don’t know.

You know if you grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder like I did or that sort of thing but you you know instead of having snow piled up to the eaves of our house so that we have to dig our way out with tumbleweeds piled up in front of the garage and I had did like. Get out there and drag them out of the way just to get the car out of the garage. It was um and was something and on Saturday I saw some of the writer people Melinda Snodgrass did a plot break with us done at beastly books. And Melinda has lived here all her life I’ve just been here like 13 years but I asked Melinda because she lives not far from me just like we’re we’re both sort of in the same outskirts of Santa Fe area she’s a little bit more outskirty than I am. But I asked her I said knew the wind had to be bad at her house too and she was and she said it was the worst she’d ever experienced in all her time here. Good thing. There’s no such thing as global climate change right? Otherwise we’d be concerned. Ah, um. Total aside for those of you who you probably were not you probably were not worried about my laptop screen but it is gradually drying out it dried out someone I was in Tucson and there’s like only a couple little spots left. It’s mostly good now i’t been meaning to mention that. There’s like 1 that’s like right if I do this of your own video I could put it like right over my face and then it looks like I have some sort of skin condition. But if I don’t do that. It’s sort of like the ah the thing with the doctor you know it’s like you know, stop doing that it hurts when I do this. Then don’t do that. Ah, so um, yeah, been cleaning out tumbleweeds I told David that for the first time really ever I understand now why people want to burn stuff because. There’s like what can you do with all of these tumbleweeds except set them free again. I wish the ha would hire like a big wood chipper and put it in the community parking lot and so that we could just haul all our tumbleweeds there chop them up. That’s it’s so tempting to set a match to the fuckers.

Except then we would be we would have big problems but I understand now why people want to do it? Um, yeah, so so had a great time. Got I was pretty efficient on Saturday got the laundry done got some chores done around the house. And then in some nebula meeting stuff and then headed out in the afternoon and ran a few errands and then met up with the writer folks for the plot break talked to Grace Draven on the phone for a while and that was really nice to get to talk to her. She had so some good news career wise so that’s nice because she’s been having a hard time with dealing with family stuff. So it’s funny when we have these conversations we our conversations are this mix of personal family and career. But it was nice to get to have a ah long conversation with her and yeah and just debate stuff. You know we were we? Um, we rubb her neck on other authors and and judge them. Ah quietly to each other. Um, but it’s always interesting to look at what other people are doing and do it it helps reaffirm our own guidelines for what we’re trying to do and 1 conclusion I came to I’ve been sort of mulling 1 question. And I’m trying to think of how to phrase this because I don’t want to to give you guys the exact details. But ultimately I came around to well I don’t know why my writing is perceived this way and someone else’s writing is perceived that way. And then I kind of circled around on it and said but you know why am I even thinking about this because even if I could figure it out. It’s not like I’m going to change what I’m doing and and I come back to this over and over again and I’ve even got this little. Well I’ve got it stuck on here pretty well on my monitor but it’s a Georgia O’Keeffe quote and she says if you can believe in what you are and keep to your line that is the most one can do in with life and I really do believe that. Ah, you know it’s. Tempting tempting when you look at maybe something else being ah more widely regarded you know more popular selling better um, having a better reputation that you think oh should I should I be trying to do something more like that.

And of course there’s always the drive to improve to to grow and to do better and are those things in line with each other or are they going in different directions and what I ended up circling around to on this was. I’m not going to try to write like somebody else does even if I could I couldn’t do that all I can do is believe in what my what I am and keep to my line and I think that’s that’s.

That’s just part of you have to grow and develop in your own way but you can’t be someone else and we were ah looking at another author who is trying very very hard to look like somebody else and and. And she’s not the only one it’s tempting. You know everybody wants to be as hugely successful as some of the big authors some of the big popular authors right now and but imitating them isn’t gonna get. Anywhere something that I don’t do and it may be effective marketing. It probably is effective marketing grace and I were acknowledging that it probably is and at the same time we will just hate it is when people have perfect for fans of. Sarah J Maas and that’s always like the same 3 authors you know, perfect for fans of these books and it’s like well ah, what maybe it’s perfect for fans of your books guys. Ah I ah, um, shake my cane at you can I shake I’ll shake my ah. Permission wand here shaking the permission wand ah Scott the same as shaking a cane. But um, yeah, be yourself right? like you if. If you want to do a cover that’s more in line with the subgenre now I just did this rebranding for sorceress moons books they’ll start releasing on Friday I am’m trying a new a few new marketing things on those I’m gonna put them in kindle unlimited ah but I want to signal to readers that I think these books fit in that genre but I am not going to tell you that you know perfect for fans of throne of glass. You know first of all, okay, Mea Culpa I’m going to say it right out here. Um I hate a throne of glass I tried to read it. I read about half of it and nearly threw it against the wall because I found it insipid and stupid I know a lot of people. Love it. I’m sorry yeah and and it’s one of those ones that like people say oh well, it gets better after the next book and it’s like yeah I’m not gonna spend any more of my life reading about this. Girl who’s supposed to be an assassin. she’s supposed to be a trained assassin and she’s like the stupidest assassin on the face of the earth who never does actual assassin things there. There’s my unpopular opinion and I know a lot of people. Love it.

And it’s a great premise. It was a really wonderful premise and I I read it. You know as part of genre research. Ah there are other books are wildly popular that I think are abysmally stupid and I never ever ever. I shouldn’t say never ever ever. But I I feel like at this moment I can say with confidence that I’m not going to compare my books to those because I don’t I think I write better books on that. Yes or not as popular, but so anyway it’s it’s back to that same thing. And I know I talk about this a lot. But um, don’t try to write like somebody don’t try to make your book be a clone of somebody else’s so anyway, it was fun talking Grace always grounding for me. Do that with her and I’ve got I cleaned off my desk I had like all this crap you know how it like slowly grows I like a really clean desk so I’m very happy that my desk is now clean, but I’ve got a couple of stickies. So I’m gonna throw this one in here. Um, I thought I was gonna talk more about it. But I was you know last week or the week before I talked about generation x stuff. So I think maybe this is a Genx thing. But when I see on a I don’t know any of these social media sites. When I’m trying to find something or look at something in particular and they have the thing like look at what’s trending it’s like is it just me that I am automatically suspicious of anything that’s trending this is not a feature for me. It’s a bug It’s like if it’s trending I don’t want to know about it because. That’s like mass mind shit I’m I’m in a feisty mood this morning aren’t I I mean when you guys see stuff that’s trending do you go to magpie to it I know that’s what they want us to do I think this is like a gen x thing Megan tell me sit since we are. Fellow Gen Xes um so then my other sticky note I was well I want to finish what I was saying about melynda. Um, she’s so smart and it’s really fun to hang out with her and for those of you not familiar with Melinda Snodgrass um she has written. You know she wrote for star trek the next generation she was the show run showrunner for the third season she wrote the episode the measure of a man where they did the trial for whether or not data was human I think is was the question.

Um, she’s also written on other shows the profiler ah stuff like that. She’s writing on a new show. It was fun because after we did the plot break stuff which I’d like to go and listen to that’s how I got into this I was explaining to grace. That I don’t go to get my own work critique because I have feelings about that. But I like meeting with this group because I really like hearing how melynda approaches plotting she has such a different approach to it than I do so this is part of how I want to learn and grow because. I may not be able to do it like she does I’m tempted to try it with one of my upcoming books to have her do plot break with me and just see if I can do it but 1 of her things is is she she has to know the ending she wants to know the ending so that she can figure out everything. Leading up to that and she’s very firm in her opinions and which I adore about her. But I think is funny sometimes too because sometimes I just totally don’t agree with her. Um, but she puts things with such conviction I I admire that. Ah. But she’s like you have to know the ending otherwise you never end anything and it’s like I finish stuff all the time. Ah, but I never know the ending till I get there but there is one book that I do kind of that I’m one of my upcoming projects for the fall I do kind of know the ending of it. And I’m going to get her to ah maybe do plot break with me on it. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens it maybe I don’t know I might drive us both crazy. Yeah, we’ll find out but um, yeah so I was telling grace how interesting it is. Just to go through that mental process and it was very stimulating for me refilling the well and and now I have all of these ideas of things that I want to do and and she’s funny I may never get around to my sticky note here because I have other things to say. I did ask her a question because 1 of my upcoming projects is very much inspired by a particular movie and and I love her that she didn’t ask me what it was I said basically it’s an alternate fantasy world version of of a big movie. And she well she did say well if it’s Casablanca and I said it’s not Casablanca ah they all love casab blanca. It’s like the perfect moving perfect story. Ah they were going on about it at the Jack Williamson lecture ship too and I guess at tous toolbox they have a casa blanca viewing night.

Where people um are forced to watch it and then they analyze why it works so well I know I saw it a long time ago when I was younger and I keep thinking she watch it again. But I don’t I don’t know maybe I’d appreciate it better this time anyway. Um. Yeah, I’m clearly never going to get to the stick keynote so it’s just gonna have to live on my desk today. Um I asked her is it. You know this is what I want to do I said if you were going to do this if you knew not me would you. Try to plot the book according to the exact beats of the movie or would you just allow that beat to be the inspiration and and get away from the movie and she kind of cocked her head at me in a funny way and she’s like I would even take the movie of course she said that’s. That’s how you do good work is you find the right template and you use it. So I’ve never done this before but I’m I’m intrigued so I have these 2 potential projects that I could try to plot break with her and I would find very interesting to. Know just try stretch myself a little bit that way I’m having all these stretchy feelings as those of you who have been participating in the podcast for a long time having coffee with me for some time now. Um. That you know like I’m wanting to go into multiple povs which I know should not be as big a deal as it feels to me but it does and I think it’s it’s breaking out of that romance structure is what feels like such a big deal. Um. And I kind of want to do that for the next bonds of magic book once I finish this one? Um I found out interesting things about the book that I’m writing I’m enjoying that and let’s see oh but I know that there’s something I’m supposed to tell you guys. Also. Have to go look at my um to do list because I know I noted it on there something I’m supposed to publicize as a responsible author. Oh yeah, um I have I’m going to start putting the link in the show notes. But I do have a. List of ah but bla for the polyon convention in July I have a preorder link and it’s only it’s a good to like the first week of June or something like that. But if you want to preorder print books for me to have their.

For you to purchase and sign and so forth. You can do that and I’ve been meaning to say things about it but I need to put it out there a little bit more um and then sorceres moons rebranding. Coming the end of this week exciting. Yeah so um, there’s my 20 minutes further stickies tomorrow I hope you all had a great weekend to hope you are feeling. Like stretching and growing in all the most positive ways and I hope that April Twenty fifth is indeed the perfect date for you and I will talk to you all tomorrow take care bye bye.

DARK WIZARD – Chapter One

DARK WIZARD comes out in one week!!!!

You guys, I’m so revved about this book!  If you missed it, an early reader said this:

O . M . G …
That was amazing. I just finished Dark Wizard and I feel drunk.
I have to wait a minute before I review it or the whole review is going to be “Omg, best, omg, new, omg, series … “

I’m more than satisfied with that review as is – what do you all think? LOL!

Want to read the first chapter? See it below!

Preorder via the buttons below or via my website store.

Available at these Retailers


Gabriel Phel crested the last ridge of the notorious Knifeblade Mountains that guarded Elal lands on nearly three sides, and faced the final barrier. The path through the mountains had been narrow, crooked, with blind endings and unexpected pitfalls.

Not unlike his life, Gabriel thought with grimly sardonic humor.

He halted his gelding, Vale, several lengths short of the border, sensing the repulsion spell that prevented the uninvited from crossing. It was a highly refined enchantment—he’d expect nothing less of the powerful Elal wizards—one that barred only humans, but allowed animals and weather to cross freely. Gabriel dismounted so he and Vale could both rest a moment before the last leg of the journey, while the Elal border guardians confirmed his identity. Lord Elal was famously insular and fanatical about guarding what was his. And, as the most powerful wizard in the Convocation, Lord Elal had a great deal to call his.

Finding a spot with a good perspective of the serene and rolling valley below—level enough to stand on and just shy of the border spell palpable to his wizard senses—Gabriel took a stance and opened the placket of his leather pants to empty his bladder. He would honor his first visit to the hallowed soil of the Convocation’s greatest High House appropriately.

With a grim smile, he aimed his stream across the border, marking his territory as he studied the land of his enemy.

House Elal stood at the center of the valley below, a towering edifice amid winter-quiet fields and clusters of farmhouses. Some of the smaller dwellings—those with families not wealthy enough to afford fire elementals for heating—had chimneys with smoke coiling fragrantly against the late afternoon light spreading to the horizon. An enormous river, so large that it remained unfrozen, ran through the valley, and House Elal sat in a crescent bend of it that also served neatly as a moat. The house—more accurately, a castle—sprawled in all directions, wings, courtyards, and towers added over multiple generations. At least three kinds of stone had gone into its building over the centuries, judging by the different colors easily picked out from this distance, probably more.

Between the moat, the high walls, and the edifice’s sheer complexity—not to mention the guarded narrow passes through the Knifeblade Mountains—House Elal was virtually unassailable. Except via the weapon he currently held in his hand.

Take that, Gabriel thought, shaking his cock dry and tucking it away again. He did so carefully, as that member had important work to do that night. All he needed was some unlucky accident to render him unable to plant the seeds of desperate ambition.

Lowering, when a man’s future depended on that kind of performance. But then, nothing much made rational sense when it came to the Convocation’s bizarre and arcane laws regarding their precious familiars and breeding the next generation of power-mad wizards. Gabriel didn’t like it, but you can’t win the game unless you play the game. If he wanted to restore House Phel and ensure comfort, security, and peace for his own people, like that enjoyed by the people below, then he needed to win.

Once, he would have said that there would never come a day when he’d go crawling to the Convocation for anything. But then, the idealistic certainties of youth had a way of collapsing before the exigencies of the present. To be a wizard powerful enough to challenge the likes of Lord Elal, he needed the magical amplification a familiar would give him. Who better than the most powerful available familiar in the Convocation? It was just a bit of extra satisfaction for him that she was Lord Elal’s daughter.

The ancient volume on enchantments that Gabriel had found in a moldering library at what was left of House Phel had seemed to guarantee the moon-magic fertility spell would work—and that it would be undetectable. It wasn’t cheating, exactly. The extensive Betrothal Trials rules booklet provided by the Convocation only forbade House Refoel interference with fertility, not other enchantments. Gabriel had read the cursed thing enough times to be sure.

Still, his annoying conscience whispered, it seems unethical. He banished the thought with a sharp shake of his head. Lady Veronica Elal was in the Betrothal Trials for the same reason he was. As a familiar, she needed to be paired with a wizard, just as he needed a familiar if he wanted to be more than a rogue wizard from a fallen house. She was a daughter of a High House, with a Convocation education and admirable magical potential scores. He was her fourth suitor, and he imagined she’d be glad to be done with being locked up.

He knew he’d hate it.

But will she be glad to be saddled with a no-tier house like yours? Apparently he hadn’t banished his irritating conscience firmly enough. Such considerations had no place in his life. House Phel had an opportunity to rise from the ruins, to escape the cycle of poverty that had them forever scraping for the leftovers of the Convocation’s wealthier lands.

Returning to his horse, he checked Vale’s hooves, then the gelding’s tack for fit and chafing. Another hour or so’s ride wouldn’t change much, but no sense losing his bid for a kingdom because his horse went lame short of the finish line. Satisfied all was well, he extracted his flask of water, tugged off his glove, and poured some into his palm for Vale, the chill biting bright on his wet hand.

How long would these border guardians make him wait? Probably just long enough to make his role as supplicant to the mighty House Elal very clear.

Upon the heels of that thought, a cloaked and hooded figure stepped out of a cloud of fog, closely followed by a bare-headed young man in House Elal livery.

“Lord Phel,” the cloaked woman said, tipping back her hood to reveal a stern face made sharper by ruthlessly scraped-back dark hair—and the depthless black eyes of a wizard. She wore a gold pin on one shoulder, the House Elal crest of spirits intertwined in a braided circle. The young man remained a pace behind her, head bowed. “I am Tyrna, wizard to House Elal. Welcome to Elal.”

He offered her a nod of greeting. “Thank you.” I think. Remaining wary, Gabriel kept one hand near the hilt of his sword. Not that mere metal could defend him from a House Elal wizard, but the blade might offer him time to summon a defensive enchantment.

She smiled mirthlessly. “You need not be concerned, Lord Phel. You are expected and may proceed onto our lands. Do not, however, stray from the main road. It will lead you straight to House Phel. You should have no reason to diverge from that path.”

“No reason, indeed,” he agreed curtly. At least there was some comfort in discovering Elal hospitality was as forbidding as he’d been warned.

“Good luck in your efforts tonight,” Tyrna offered with a smirk, looking him up and down and making it clear she thought no amount of luck could help him win the prize. “We’re all so interested in the future of House Fell.”

Amazing how people managed to make the alternate meaning clear, even while smiling politely. It hadn’t taken him long at Convocation to clue into the insult.

Not dignifying her little joke with a reply, Gabriel waited. Perhaps she hoped he wasn’t enough of a wizard that he couldn’t detect the barrier. Another fine joke for her to get him to walk face-first into the invisible wall, thinking she’d already opened a crossing. If that was her game, she’d be disappointed. A moment later, with a hint of an annoyed scowl, the wizard yanked off her glove and held out her hand in an impatient gesture. The young man behind her stepped forward, placing his bare hand in hers.

Gabriel watched with close interest. He’d never seen a wizard work with their familiar before. There wasn’t much to see, however. No burst of transferred magic, at least to his unpracticed eye. The young man never moved while the wizard made a complicated gesture with her free hand, and an opening formed across the road, like a curtain drawing back. Taking Vale’s reins, Gabriel walked the gelding through the opening, then turned back to the wizard with a nod.

“Come, Feny,” the wizard said, turning on her heel—tugging her familiar along by the hand—and stepping into a cloud of fog that vanished again, leaving no sign of them. A nifty parlor trick. A waste of magic, though, just to look impressive.

Though, in Gabriel’s limited experience, the Convocation wizards seemed excessively interested in anything that made them look good.

“Come, Vale,” Gabriel said aloud in snooty tones to mimic the Elal wizard as he mounted again. Swiveling back his ears, Vale snorted in apparent appreciation of the humor. On this side of the border, the road opened up to a welcoming width—in stark contrast to the difficult trail through the Knifeblades, more suited to mountain goats than horses—and Vale kicked into a sprightly pace. Unsurprisingly, the prickle of unseen eyes still followed them.

Among the numerous skills in their magical arsenal, the wizards of House Elal commanded air elementals and other spirits mostly invisible to the human eye. There were tricks to making them visible. Gabriel could condense some fog or mist to reveal their movements. But, as much as he disliked being spied on, he wouldn’t. He’d do nothing to jeopardize this gambit.

Once the well-maintained road—kept dry and clear of snow and ice by more fire elementals bonded during its construction—finished winding down from the foothills, it ran arrow-straight to the gates of House Elal. Now that they were on a level with its base, the castle loomed with majestic splendor, more fortress than home from this angle.

Gabriel began to encounter other travelers, too. Farmers, merchants, and craftspeople—all bundled in wool and furs against the chilly weather—passed by, some with smaller handcarts, others with wagons propelled by air elementals. The people looked well-fed, well-clothed, and reasonably happy, though they gazed at Gabriel with suspicion, eyeing the house crest on his shoulder in puzzlement. A prosperous people, but not so complacent that they didn’t notice an armed stranger in their midst—and a foreign wizard at that.

Gabriel nodded in greeting, otherwise ignoring their scrutiny. He’d like to say he was inured to the stares, but one didn’t come to wizardry as he had—relatively late in life and with cataclysmic suddenness—without being keenly aware of how people reacted to the sight of him now.

Needing to distract himself, he pulled out the miniature of Lady Veronica Elal and studied it, for the one-millionth time, probably, since he’d received it in the Convocation packet announcing her Betrothal Trials. Her image captivated him, though she was no great beauty, despite the painter no doubt flattering her as much as possible. She had the high Elal forehead and strongly arched nose. Her brows, black as a raven’s wing and flattened with a hint of impatience, framed lushly lashed eyes the artist had no doubt intended to look soft and appealing. The green of them had been perhaps difficult to capture, for they looked far too hard—almost unnatural—with nothing inviting about them. Lady Veronica’s lips had been fashioned into a pretty bow shape, shaded a deep red. Not prim, however, her lips were lush—and also seemed to be holding back a slicing remark. Her pointed chin tilted with the arrogance he’d expect of House Elal, but the picture overall evoked something else. She struck him as both sad and angry. Frustrated, perhaps, almost to the point of despair.

That, more than anything else, appealed to him about her. He understood frustrated ambition, and the despair that followed close behind. The other available familiars had been presented as handsome and pretty and sweetly serene—obediently invisible like Tyrna’s familiar, Feny—and without any spark that interested him. Nothing that made him want to spend his life bonded to them.

Maybe he imagined what he wanted to see in Lady Veronica. After all, how much could one read into a portrait intended as an advertisement of goods? The painting served primarily to confirm the familiar being offered. As the Convocation packet made clear by highlighting Lady Veronica’s magical potential scores, her value as a familiar and for the children she could breed were the grand prizes. The miniature had been clearly labeled as assurance that the chosen wizards would indeed be bedding the woman who accompanied the scorecard. Certified and guaranteed by the Convocation.

Yes, all so very cold-blooded, but Gabriel had been assured that the Betrothal Trials were voluntary, so Lady Veronica must be hoping to find a good wizard partner and husband.

The sense that he and Lady Veronica might at least find some common ground had been the final spur that decided him to try for her. Yes, her magical potential scores were desirable, too much so, because that meant he was reaching high. That she was of House Elal, with an expensive Convocation Academy education, also meant she could help him navigate that legal, professional, and social hierarchy.

When he succeeded in impregnating her—which he would, thanks to the spell he’d found—and they married… Well, it wouldn’t be a love match like his own parents had. Perhaps, though, he and Lady Veronica had enough in common that they could find a way to being friends.

Regardless, some wizard would have Lady Veronica for their familiar. And none of them could possibly need her more than Gabriel did. It might as well be him, especially since the future of House Phel depended on it.

Pocketing the miniature, he set his sights on House Elal and firmed his resolve.

He would be the one.

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DARK WIZARD Cover Reveal!

In case you missed it, I’ve revealed the cover for DARK WIZARD!

This is the first book in a brand new series, Bonds of Magic, in a new world with a new magic system, totally unrelated to anything else I’ve written.

Did I mention it’s new? 😀

You can preorder it at the links below, or on my website, as usual. This one is running a little long, so I’m going to have to raise the price after release, for both print and ebook, so grab the deal now!!

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Lord Gabriel Phel wants one thing: to rebuild the shattered fortunes of his people and restore his ruined House to its former station in the Convocation’s highest tiers of elegant society. Fortunately, through a wild chance of birth, he was born with powerful wizard magic, the first in his family in generations. If he can obtain a familiar to amplify his magic, a highborn daughter he can marry, to be mother to his children, he’ll be that much closer to saving his family. With her by his side, he can ascend to such a position of power in  the Convocation that he can destroy it forever.

Lady Veronica Elal, captive in her tower, has only one way out. To her bitter disappointment, she will never be a wizard. Instead, through a twist of fate and despite her expensive Convocation Academy education, Nic is doomed to be a familiar like her mother. Forced to participate the Betrothal Trials, she receives a wizard suitor for one night each month. Whichever man impregnates her will bond her forever. With no choice but to serve the one who wins her, Nic has one hope for control over her life: a wizard she can manipulate.

Gabriel Phel seems like the perfect choice for Nic’s gambit—he’s desperate and untutored in wizardry—but within moments of meeting him, she feels the bonds of magic tying them together. Afraid of losing her will to the compelling wizard who touches her heart like no other, Nic does the unthinkable: she runs. Pregnant and alone, Nic eludes monstrous hunters, searching for a safe haven. But when Gabriel catches up to her, their adventure has only begun.

Last Day for Reduced Preorder Price!

Only one more day to preorder UNDER A WINTER SKY at the lower preorder price of $5.99! The price goes up for release day tomorrow. Well, really it goes up tonight, since I’ll change the price on the retail sites before I go to bed. We’re hearing terrific things about the collection so far! My favorite is the person who instantly clicked, saying “You have no idea how much I need this in my life right now.”

I think we all could use some magic in our lives right now.

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