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Shadow Duet

It’s been eighteen months since Baroness Charlotte von Steinbeck stepped into a carriage with the most famous castrato singer in Europe, leaving her family and her reputation behind for the sake of true love. What she and Carlo found waiting for them at the end of their first journey, though, was nothing like what they had hoped. Now they’re hoping to begin a new life together in cosmopolitan London…but will they really be able to continue their forbidden duet, or will society’s disapproval doom them forever?

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Excerpt:

“So you’re the one.” Laughter glittered at the edges of Lady Bramwell’s voice as she looked Baroness Charlotte von Steinbeck up and down, from Charlotte’s smoothly upswept and powdered hair to her sedate dark blue silk gown, trimmed with silver. “Signor Morelli’s…dear friend.”


Charlotte bit her tongue hard enough to burn as she forced a polite smile for her hostess. She had hoped to stay secluded for now in this darkened corner of the crowded salon, but Lady Bramwell had unexpectedly sought her out, accompanied by a far younger gentleman, dripping in diamond rings and lace, who appeared to be hanging on his hostess’s every word. “Your Ladyship,” Charlotte said, dipping a curtsey. “How kind of you to invite me.”

“Oh, well…” More bright jewels flashed on Lady Bramwell’s fingers, catching the candlelight as she waved one languid hand. “They say the Signor accepts no invitations which don’t include you, so…” She traded a knowing glance with her companion. “We could hardly invite one without the other, could we, Laurington?”

Historical Notes (to be read after reading the short story)

Angelika Kauffman, Antonio Zucchi, and Thomas Gainsborough were all real artists who lived and worked in London in this time period, and I’ve kept as close to historical reality as possible in my fictional presentation of them. The horrible Lady Bramwell, on the other hand, is fictional but plausible for the period, much like Carlo and Charlotte.

Likewise, Angelika Kauffman’s student in this story, Miss Bigelow, is a fictional character but perfectly representative of the many young women training and working as professional artists during this time period – and in a very nice correlation, the top painting on the front cover of this book is actually a self-portrait of Élisabeth Vigée LeBrun, another famously successful woman artist working in this time period. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include her as a character in this story, since she was living in France at the time, but I was very happy to get to include her in the cover art! So perfect for the story.

(And thank you so much to Patrick Samphire for that wonderful cover design!)

Forbidden Magic: a Prequel to the Kat, Incorrigible Series

It’s 1772, and all of Olivia Amberson’s dreams seem to have come true. At eighteen years old, she’s an accomplished magical Guardian and a secret witch, with a love spell that’s made her unlikely betrothal wonderfully secure…until it all comes crashing down around her in a mass of scandal and humiliation.

Now, with her reputation and her magical vocation both lost, it’s time to save her remaining honor by telling her fiancé the truth – but it will take more magic than she’s ever known to create a happy ending.

A 4400-word short story prequel to the Kat, Incorrigible series, to be published as an ebook on April 5, 2017.

Note: this story may not work well for anyone who hasn’t read at least one of the Kat, Incorrigible books! (Start with Book 1, Kat, Incorrigible / A Most Improper Magick, starring Olivia’s future daughter.)

Excerpt


Olivia Amberson wrapped white-knuckled fingers around the windowsill in her small corner bedroom and recited every spell she knew by heart as she waited for her doom to arrive.


She had a startling number of spells to draw upon, actually, considering that she had begun her illicit study of witchcraft only nine months earlier. But then, she’d always thrown herself whole-heartedly into everything she did…


…Even, apparently, her own destruction. How could she have gone so far astray in so short a time?

Published as an ebook on April 5, 2017.

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Flying Magic

A (very) short story set 25 years after the book Kat, Incorrigible. Now a full-grown woman, Kat is used to directing and defeating powerful magic-users of all descriptions…but managing her own wild and magical children may prove to be her most difficult mission yet!

You can read this story for free on my website or get the ebook to keep on your e-reader. At this point, it’s free on every ebook site except Amazon, and I hope that Amazon will price-match soon! Until it does, though, you can download the Kindle version for free using this link.

A Cup of Comfort

Excerpt

It was the finest teahouse in Trevanne; everyone agreed on that. The ancient Dragon Queen’s loyal courtiers would buy their tea nowhere else, for the quality of the tealeaves was unmatched and the blend was one that no other teahouse in the city could provide. The courtiers, all powerful men and women with subtle minds sharpened by decades of scheming, spent many a happy afternoon gathered around the central hearth, spinning political webs over steaming cups of tea while sitting in their favorite armchairs, which had worn over the years into the shapes of their familiar bodies.

The younger, wilder, and more dissatisfied members of the court, who cared far less for tealeaves than for wine, still followed the aging crown prince’s lead in spending long raucous evenings at the teahouse, bypassing the fire-lit rooms inside for the pleasures of the lush, beautifully laid-out open courtyard filled with lanterns and pink–blossomed magnolia trees, where the most popular musicians in the city played nearly every night. The fires burned cozily within the teahouse, keeping it the perfect temperature, never too hot even at the height of summer; the magnolias bloomed year-round in the warm inner courtyard even when three feet of snow piled up in the streets outside.

It had been the finest teahouse in Trevanne for generations, by then. No one thought to question its magic anymore. The owner had seen to that, long ago, with promises and threats and a contract that had nearly been forgotten, by now.

But that contract had not expired…

***

Read the full story free online (or listen to it as an audio podcast!) in Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #210.

Undead Philosophy 101

Excerpt

It’s hard to tell the vampires from the students in East Lansing. Let’s face it: in a university town, at least 80% of the people on the street look young and beautiful. In a northern town gripped by seven months of winter, the only people who aren’t inhumanly pale have spent way too much money in tanning salons. The ones still wearing fashions from twenty years ago are probably math majors; and in the grayest of short winter days, when darkness is only ever replaced by a bleak cloud cover, vampires can safely walk the streets both day and night.

And in every department on campus there are the PhD students who have always been there, their dissertations never quite completed, teaching a section here, a section there, but never, ever leaving. No one in their departments can even remember when they arrived and started their degrees–but with 20,000 whispering, flirting, beer-swilling, belching undergraduates to teach, the professors are only too happy to have reliable teaching assistants on hand who already have the syllabi memorized. It isn’t in their interest to ask too many questions…and anyway, everyone knows that grad students keep strange hours.

So I knew exactly where to go when I couldn’t ignore the vampires anymore…

***

Eighteen-year-old Amanda has finally escaped her unconventional upbringing to go to college. All she wants now is to concentrate on her classes and ignore the vampires blending in on campus…but when her roommate is bitten, it’s time for Amanda to take action.

Written as a Christmas gift for my brother Ben (a philosophy grad student at that point), who asked for a funny vampire story set in East Lansing, Michigan, our hometown. First given away as part of the December Lights Project in December 2010, and now available as an ebook!

The Art of Deception

Niko Hrabanic was once a famous swordsman. But after a scandal-laden departure from his last job at a royal court, he’s now hiding out in a rural inn, making himself useful to his attractive landlady in all sorts of ways that don’t actually involve paying rent…

…until a summons from the mysterious and dangerous White Library shakes up his life all over again. His landlady, it turns out, has secrets of her own. Now Hrabanic and Julia will have to confront both of their pasts – and if they’re going to have any hope of survival, they’ll need both Hrabanic’s sword arm and Julia’s magical training.

It’s time for them to become experts at the art of deception.

*Shortlisted for the 2016 WSFA Small Press Short Fiction Award*

Excerpt

There are three moves every true swordsman should know. First, the Shagomir Defense, as taught by every minor proponent of the art; second, the whistling attack, suitable for advanced students only; and third, the Hrabanic Deception, a lethally difficult move which turns a seeming defense into the neatest of stabs, clean into your opponent’s chest, piercing the heart in an instant. The Hrabanic Deception is always fatal.

Considering that Niko Hrabanic had invented the move, he should have been more prepared when it was used against him. But he had never been as gifted in the art of verbal swordplay as he was with the blade; and at any rate, he was attacked at an inopportune moment.

*

“What do you mean, ‘useless’?” It’s hard to carry off any semblance of dignity while naked, but Hrabanic did his best, pulling the sheet up to his chest and directing an outraged glare at his bed partner, who also happened to be his landlady…

************

ITH-Cover

The Art of Deception is a 12,400 word novelette full of swordfighting, banter, and a twisty plot. It was originally published in the 2015 anthology Insert Title Here, ed. Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Press). You can buy the full anthology (full of fabulous authors and stories!) as a paperback or ebook.

Alternately, you can buy the novelette on its own as an ebook…

….and also add it on Goodreads.

House of Secrets

Raised in hiding in the country and knowing nothing of her mother, Lily has been taught from birth that her existence can only bring shame to her wealthy father. But when she nears her seventeenth birthday, she is finally summoned to her father’s house in town…and discovers that everything she thought about herself was wrong.

And now she is a prisoner.

Locked among all the other mysteries in her father’s grand house – including one young man who could be an ally or an enemy – she may finally discover the truth about her own nature…and exactly why her father considers her so valuable after all.

House of Secrets is a Gothic Victorian fantasy novelette of approximately 12,000 words. It’s full of mystery, magic, and just a touch of romance, and it was published as an ebook on July 13, 2016.

Excerpt:

My father’s house is full of secrets. They cling to the thick, dusty curtains that he keeps tightly drawn all day and night, muffling the sound of his friends’ low, intent whispers and blocking out the sunlight. I can hear the dull echoes of carriages outside, rattling past at all hours, but I never see them. Since I arrived here eight days ago, I’ve become a creature of shadow, as dim and hidden from the outside world as everything else in this house.


Back home in the country, where I lived with my nurse, the sunshine poured in all day long. Bessie’s cottage might have been a tiny, insignificant thing compared to my father’s great house in town, but hers led out onto fields and woods where I could wander to my heart’s content. The local girls were forbidden to talk to me, but the wind brushed against my skin like a caress whenever I stepped into the meadows, and distant bells always seemed to ring in the air whenever I walked in the woods, although Bessie claimed she couldn’t hear them. In the summers, I spent nearly every day outside, coming home only for required meals, or when Bessie managed to pin me down to study my letters.


“You’re the daughter of gentryfolk,” she always told me, “no matter who your poor mother might have been. I’ll not have your father disappointed when he finally summons you to live with him.”


Back then, of course, my father was only a name, scrawled hastily at the bottom of his brief, infrequent letters: William Norton, Esq.

William Norton, Esq., hoped that my health was well and that I was behaving for my nurse. William Norton, Esq., would summon me to town when I was older, for my coming of age.


I always tried to think of that as a promise rather than a threat…

***

You can also add it on Goodreads.

Cover design by Megan Crewe at Another World Designs.