Friday, May 23, 2014

Sci-Fi Encounters: Chats with Jeffe Kennedy and Cara Bristol

by Veronica Scott)

Just came back from the 2014 RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, and my head is still whirling from all the wonderful people I met and the terrific panels I attended, including several on science-fiction, which were absolute catnip to me. Lots of good books in the SF&F romance pipeline this year — can't wait!

Today I'm sharing two new releases — one epic fantasy and one very spicy science-fiction romance. We'll begin with The Twelve Kingdoms: The Mark of the Tala, opening volume of a fantasy trilogy from Jeffe Kennedy.

A little about Jeffe: She's an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

She also has the most amazing collection of fabulous hats (have I ever seen her wear the same hat twice?) and lives with her husband and two Maine Coon cats in New Mexico.

Here's the story for The Mark of the Tala (courtesy of Kensington Books): The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn't mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she'd thought was no more than legend--until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn't know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come ...


Veronica: Can you share a little of your writing process with us?

Jeffe: I have a full-time career-type day job, too, so I mainly write in the mornings — about three hours — before I switch over. I use Freedom to switch off the Internet, because I'm weak, and I walk while I write, using my treadmill desk. These days I write about 2,500 words/day and usually walk about 3-4 miles while doing it. I love the trance-induction the slow walking creates for me, along with getting me off my behind.

Veronica: I devoured The Mark of the Tala and was totally drawn in by the world-building. What's your favorite line/scene?

Jeffe: There's a scene where Rayfe, the foreign king, tells my heroine, Andi, about another forced marriage. They're watching the decamping of the armies and she knows that her life is about to change utterly. He tells her this kind of horrific story — almost mythological — of what happened to this other queen. It's a story I read somewhere a long time ago. So long ago that I have no idea where it came from. Or if I dreamed it. She asks him why he'd tell her a story like that and he says so she'd know the difference. That, as hard a man as he is, he would never be that. Then she asks what happened to the queen and he admits he doesn't know. The stories never say. She knows then that the end of her own story is up to her. I love that moment.

Veronica: I saw the character of Andi grow and come into her own strengths during the book, definitely. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Jeffe: I don't believe in guilt. I'm a total hedonist who believes life is meant to be enjoyed to the utmost.

Veronica: In view of that, how do you celebrate when you finish a novel?

Jeffe: Really, being finished is celebration enough. And there are a lot of "finished" moments — completing the first draft, sending to critique partners, sending to editor, sending developmental edits, etc. It never feels truly DONE to me until the final copy edits are in the can and I never have to work on it again. Then I take my tracking spreadsheet from the big Excel workbook and save it in its own folder, for my records. It's a minor, maybe silly ritual, but there's a great satisfaction in it.

Veronica: You're renowned for your comprehensive spreadsheets, so I'm not surprised to find them involved in the "celebration ritual." What's on your Bucket List?

Jeffe: I really want to snorkel at Lord Howe Island and in the Maldives. If anyone wanted to invite me to visit Australia, I'd totally try to make that happen. (Don't tell me they're not that close, OK? They're on the same side of the globe!)

Veronica: What book by another author would you recommend to readers who are new to reading science-fiction and/or fantasy romance?

Jeffe: I think everyone should read Anne McCaffrey, as she pretty much created the genre for a lot of us writing today. The Dragonriders of Pern series is a great place to start. Or the stand-alone Restoree.

Veronica: Restoree is one of my all-time favorites by Ms. McCaffrey. I always wished she'd written a sequel, or made the novel longer! I've worn out multiple copies of the book over the years. And I'm a total Dragonriders fan.

What was your inspiration for your trilogy?

Jeffe: I had a dream where I was hiding in a castle. Outside something frightening stalked me and my sister was with me, promising that I'd be safe. Her husband went out with an army to kill what hunted me, but they all started dying. I knew I had to go out there, because I couldn't stand for them to die for my sake. The rest of the story evolved from that moment — which is pretty much the midpoint of the book.

Veronica: Will there be other novels set in this fascinating world, after the sisters' stories are told?

Jeffe: I don't have anything planned right now, but I could definitely see it happening. If Talon ends the way I think it will (something I never know until I get there), there will be ample opportunity for these characters to continue to get into trouble.

Veronica: What's next for you?

Jeffe: The Tears of the Rose, the youngest sister's story, will be out in December,, and I'm writing The Talon of the Hawk, the eldest's story, now — to be out this time next year. My other fantasy romance trilogy — A Covenant of Thorns — winds up with the third book, Rogue's Paradise, in September. I also write contemporary erotic romance, so I have a new trilogy, Falling Under, starting up. The first book, Going Under, comes out in July. I start writing book two in that series next!

Veronica: I can see why you'd need the spreadsheets to keep track of the various series (vs. my "scribbled notes on scraps of paper" method).

Find out more about Jeffe and her books at


I first started reading and enjoying Cara's work in short snippets on one of the weekend excerpt hops. When she started sharing the steamy scenes from her Breeder science-fiction romance series last year, I was hooked. The second novel in the series, Terran, is out now, and Cara delivers as much action, intrigue and hotness in this book as she did in the series opener.

Some background on Cara: She says she didn't start out to become a spanking fiction author. It sort of happened … OK, with five spanking titles under her belt, three under contract, maybe it didn't just happen. Maybe she likes the naughtiness, the taboo thrill of writing about dominant, sexy men who like to spank their partners. Could be.

A multipublished author whose Rod and Cane Society novels are among the most popular domestic discipline erotic romance series, Cara lives in the Midwest with her husband. When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling and reading.

Veronica: What's your favorite line from your newest book?

Cara: I like many lines for different reasons. Some are funny, some sexy, some poignant. But the line from Terran that sticks in my mind is from hero Marlix when he tells Tara, "I win. Always." It's a brash bold statement by a man who's about to find out he can't get everything he wants.

Veronica: What inspired you to write this series?

Cara: The initial seed grew into something different than what one would expect. It's like if you planted an apple seed and got avocado. I write erotic romance so I don't fade to black, and many of my ideas spring from sexual scenarios, but then evolve into stories, in which sex becomes only a small part. The initial spark for the Breeder series was of society in which women were sexual slaves. Out of that grew the notion of an alien planet in which males dominated so absolutely that women had zero status and power, men coupled with each other and used women only for breeding (and not sex). In real life, there is nothing sexy or romantic about slavery. It's dehumanizing and ugly. I show that in the Breeder series, particularly book one, and some readers found that too harsh to accept. But out of the misogynistic, ugly culture, real love grows and changes everything over the course of the three books (Breeder, Terran and Warrior, the one I'm writing now). There is a message to the series, and it's this: What if everything you believe — the things you were taught from childhood, the core beliefs that form your identity — were 100% false?

Veronica: What's your guilty pleasure?

Cara: Watching reality TV shows. I love the Real Housewives series, among others. It's light entertainment. I can just zone out.

Veronica: How do you celebrate when you finish a novel?

Cara: By taking a break! I wait a couple of weeks before I start the next novel.

Veronica: What's on your Bucket List?

Cara: Right now my Bucket List is a whole lot shorter than my To-Do List! On my Bucket List I would like to take a European river cruise, see Australia, visit South America, go hot-air ballooning, maybe go river rafting.

Veronica: What book by another author would you recommend to readers who are new to reading science-fiction and/or fantasy romance?

Cara: There are two: Close Liaisons (book one of the Krinar Chronicles) by Anna Zaires and Archetype by M.D. Waters. Both authors created totally believable, creative worlds, unique characters, and complex relationships. Awesome books, both of them.

Here's the story for Terran (courtesy of Loose Id): After fleeing loneliness and heartache on Terra, Tara Diehl has adjusted to male-dominated Parseon better than most vendors--until she is kidnapped by Alpha Marlix, one of the five rulers of the planet. At first she's terrified of her tall, muscled abductor, especially when he doesn't hesitate to quell her struggle for freedom with a little corporal discipline. After all her methods and ploys to escape fail, she decides to seduce her way to freedom.

But out of seduction and subterfuge grow a true intimacy that cause Marlix and Tara to take action that drives Parseon to the brink of civil war, and threatens not only their relationship, but also their lives.

Terran, the second book in the Breeder sci-fi series, is a "capture" romance involving a domineering but hunky alien, and a female with a bad dye job and an even worse attitude.

Find out more about Cara and her books at


For this column's movie recommendation, I'm going with a classic movie that blends science-fiction and fantasy, albeit a bit awkwardly at times — 1983's Krull. A prince and his motley companions go on a mission to rescue his bride from an alien invader. If you like Firefly's "Captain Tightpants," wait till you see Prince Colwyn's wardrobe. And this is one of Liam Neeson's earliest movie roles (in a small but key part). If you need more incentive to check the movie out, there are Flying Fire Mares!

Amazon best-seller Veronica Scott is a two-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award and has written a number of science-fiction and paranormal romances. Her latest release is Magic of the Nile. You can find out more about her and her books at Please e-mail Veronica at about content related to this column. Due to the volume of mail, e-mails may not be answered personally, but all will be read.

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