GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Q&A with UF author L. R. Braden (The Magicsmith Series) + giveaway | I Smell Sheep

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Q&A with UF author L. R. Braden (The Magicsmith Series) + giveaway

What is something unique/quirky about you?
According to most people . . . pretty much everything.

One thing that often catches people off-guard is that I’m a metalsmith. (That’s where I got the idea for Alex.) Metalsmithing was my first major in college, and I spent a lot of long hours in the studio learning how to forge, cast, enamel, solder, polish, and all the other skills necessary to work metal into pretty much any shape and style a person could want. Unlike Alex, I don’t make grand sculptures, but I have sold my work in galleries and consignment shops, and I’ve done a few commissions.

I also make chainmail. That does NOT mean I write unwanted letters to people. It means I spend hours hooking tiny loops of metal together to form intricate patterns. Lots of people say I’m insane for staring at something so small and so complicated for so long, but I find it relaxing. If you want to see some of what I’ve made, you can check it out on my etsy site: .

Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
When I was a kid (about 5 or 6), there was a huge snow storm. My brother and I built a big sled ramp on the stairs of our apartment building. The ramp faced the driveway that led to the garages, but the driveway itself was blocked from view by the corner of the building. (I bet you can guess where this is going).

I laid on my stomach on a sled and my brother pushed me down the ramp. As I came in line with the corner of the building, I saw a car coming up the drive. Since there’s not a lot a kid on a fast-moving sled can do to avoid an oncoming car, I just held on tight. The front wheels of the car passed right in front of my face. Then I was under the car. I remember looking up and thinking, “Huh, so that’s what the underside of a car looks like.”

I watched the back tire approach with dread, but I passed out the far side of the car right in front of it. I slammed into a snowbank on the other side of the driveway, totally untouched. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than a couple seconds, but it was one of my first experiences with the phenomenon of time slowing down when something exciting or scary is happening.

I’m not sure what it says about me as a person, but I’ve experienced that sensation quite a lot over the course of my life.

What are some of your pet peeves?
It drives me bonkers when people explain things really slowly, or repeat simple concepts over and over like I might not understand.

Where were you born/grew up at?
I’m Colorado born and raised. Though I’ve moved many times, I’ve always lived along Colorado’s Front Range, close to the mountains.

What kind of world ruler would you be?
A reluctant one. The idea of having people rely on me to make life-affecting decisions makes me sick to my stomach.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to read, play video games and board games, and go for hikes or bike rides. And of course, all those things are better when I get to do them with my family!

How to find time to write as a parent?
When I first started writing, my daughter had just been born. (Wow! Has it really been that long?) I was working at the library, and my husband was working on a variety of tech contracts, so I’d drive my daughter down to her grandparents’ house, go to my shift at the library, pick her up, then write with her in my lap until my brain shut down.
After a while, I reduced my hours at work so I could focus on raising my daughter, then I mostly wrote during her naps. At this point, my daughter is in school, so I write between when I drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon. Summers are a little trickier. I usually end up waking up early to get a couple hours of work in before she wakes up.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess I didn’t really take myself seriously until I finished the first draft of my first book. Then, like so many writers just starting out, I assumed I’d written a terrific story and sent it off straight away to my favorite publisher assuming they would also love my book and want to print a million copies of it right away. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Then came a long period of revision and self-doubt. Every time I got a rejection letter, I rewrote the book. I can’t even count how many different versions there have been. Still, somewhere in that mess of rejections and re-writes, I began to identify as a writer. When people asked me what I did, my answer morphed from “I work in a library. Oh, and I write books.” To “I’m an author, and I work in a library.”

Do you have a favorite movie?
My “favorite” anything changes constantly, but I really like the first Lego Movie. I think it’s a great message delivered in such a unique way. Plus, I love Legos, so I was totally geeking out over the awesome constructions throughout the whole thing.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I’m not so sure about a movie, but I think my Magicsmith series would make a really good tv show.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Definitely a fox.

When I was in my last year of college I had a roommate who loved to draw furries. (For those who don’t know, a furry is an anthropomorphized animal character--an animal with human characteristics or human with animal characteristics depending on how you look at it.) Anyway, this roommate loved to create furries to represent all of her friends. One day, she presented me with a beautiful sketch of a fox-woman and explained why she thought a fox matched my personality. Foxes are shy, clever, agile, curious, resourceful, etc. I’d never considered what animal might best represent me before that, but I fell in love with my fox picture that day.

Faerie Forged (The Magicsmith Book 3)
by L.R. Braden
January 17, 2020

264 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
New world, new rules . . .

Alex is screwed. She’s due at the fae Court of Enchantment in less than twenty-four hours, but she’s not even close to being ready. Her job is hanging by a fraying thread. There’s a new vampire master in town. And several of her werewolf friends have been captured by the Paranatural Task Force.

She’s their best chance for release before the full moon reveals their secret, but the Lord of Enchantment is not someone you keep waiting—even when he happens to be your grandfather. All Alex can do is call in a favor, hope to hell she can survive the plots of the fae court, and hightail it home to salvage her life.

One mistake at court could change everything . . . .

“Original and riveting.”—Book Likes Blog on A Drop of Magic, Book One of The Magicsmith series

“Great plot. Lovable characters. Heart-pounding action.”—Lauren Davis, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic

Chapter 1
BRONZE DUST AND red buffing compound coated my work surface, my

jeans, and my hands. Pulling down my respirator mask so it hung over my

collarbone like a necklace, I set the Dremel aside and, fingers clasped,

pressed my palms toward the ceiling until my back popped. My stomach

growled, and I glanced longingly at the dregs of coffee staining my empty

mug. Breakfast had been a long time ago. The air in the studio smelled of

warm metal and sulfur patina, and my nose twitched with the warning of

an oncoming sneeze.

Sniffing, and brushing the back of my wrist over my upper lip, I

snatched up a polishing cloth to wipe out the residual red rouge caked in

the corners of the bronze queen chess piece. I was careful to keep my mind

clear as I worked, blocking off my emotions so they didn’t accidentally

spill over into Uncle Sol’s Christmas present due to my magical ability.

That would be a fine gift. Here’s a fun game full of anxiety and stress

that makes you sick to your stomach when you touch the pieces.

When the queen shone with a mirror finish, I set her besid e her king,

ready to lead her army across the cherrywood chess board.

On one side of the battlefield, fractal-pattern pawns guarded a court of

frozen snowflakes—all sharp angles and hard lines—their shapes as bright

and clear as their finish. Across the no man’s land of checkered space, a

second army sat, ready for war. These pieces were dark, stained to an oilslick

finish. In contrast to their counterparts, the patinaed court swooped

and curled with organic curves.

The set was done. One more item checked off my to-do list, and not a

moment too soon. I’d be on my way to the fae Winter Festival in less than

a day. My tutors, Kai and Hortense, had been cramming almost every

waking moment with fae etiquette lessons to help me survive my debut at

the Court of Enchantment. Most of the lessons boiled down to “Don’t be


Standing, I brushed what metal dust I could off my jeans, then

scrubbed my hands raw at the sink in the corner.

I had a box all prepared for Sol’s gift, kept safe from the studio’s mess

in a cabinet off to one side of my work space. The chess pieces each

slipped into individual pockets in two felt-lined drawers under the board.

Once the armies were laid to rest, I set the board on a bed of bubble wrap,

covered it, and tucked it in. I secured the box with packing tape and

scribbled the address for Uncle Sol’s New York apartment—the closest

thing he had to a home—across the top. Then I cleaned my Dremel, placed

it back on its peg on the wall, and swept up the evidence of my work.

Straightening, I turned a slow circle, making sure everything was tidy.

Thanks to the time-dilation between realms, this would be the last time I

set foot in my studio for at least a week. Assuming I came back at all.

A colorful sheet hung like a ghost in one corner of the room,

suspended on the copper sculpture it was keeping safe from my creation

process. All the tools were in their places, the kilns were off, the forge was


Grabbing Sol’s present, I turned out the lights and locked the studio

door. The mid-morning sky was clear but cold, tightening the skin across

my cheeks. Tendrils of mist still huddled in shadows, close to the ground

where the sun couldn’t find them. I breathed deep, and crossed the clearing

to my house.

I set Sol’s package on the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen

from the living room, and glanced at the clock on the wall.

Crap. I only had thirty minutes until my shift at the bookstore.

I FLEW THROUGH the back door to Magpie Books, purse dangling from

one hand, keys clenched in the other. I’d stripped off my dirty clothes,

wiped the worst smudges off my face with a damp rag, and pulled on a

clean outfit in two minutes flat. I’d also careened down the Boulder

Canyon like a maniac, so I was only five minutes late for my shift.

Shoving my belongings into a locker in the back room, I pushed

through the employee-only door to the store proper and jogged up an aisle

of bookcases toward the front.

Dozens of people were perusing the shelves, arms piled high with

popular titles, and the front door jingled constantly with the flow of

holiday traffic. The scent of pine and cinnamon mixed with the smell of

books and coffee. A row of over-stuffed stockings hung on one wall, each

embroidered with an employee’s name. Mine was third from the end.

Kayla stood by the register. Her platinum blond hair was pinned back

from her face with two tiny silver clips. She wore her usual high-collared,

ankle-length dress to hide the gossamer pixie wings she’d once shown me.

I licked my lips, recalling the heady sensation caused by the magical dust

that came off those wings.

“Hey, Kayla. Sorry I’m—” My apology stalled as my gaze shifted past

Kayla to the café area and a knot lodged in my throat.

Standing at the counter was an agent of the Paranatural Task Force—

PTF for short. He wore blue jeans, brown boots, and a button-up shirt with

a beige plaid pattern, nothing to mark him as a PTF agent, but I’d

recognize Benjamin O’Connell anywhere. Hard to forget a man who’d

sworn to ruin your life. Especially when he had the means and authority to

actually do it.

Clenching my fists, I continued past the register, ignoring Kayla’s

furrowed brow. I stepped up to O’Connell. “What are you doing here?”

O’Connell raised one eyebrow. “Getting a coffee.”

I crossed my arms. “Why here?”

He shrugged. “Why not?”

Emma, the barista, pulled a lever on the copper machine behind the

counter and a hiss of steam poured out. She jingled as she worked, her

many chains and piercings clicking with each motion, but her usual

perkiness was absent. Her shoulders sagged, and when she turned I saw

dark circles below her eyes.

Last month, Emma took, and passed, the test to become a practitioner

—a rare human who could use magic. She’d also convinced a local healer

named Luke to take her on as his apprentice, which would explain her

glazed expression. I knew from experience that using magic was


I inched closer to O’Connell and pitched my voice lower. “What do

you want?”

“I was worried you might get lonely after I saw the list of potentials

brought in this morning.”

My heart stuttered, and my mouth went dry. Potentials were people

reported for exhibiting magical behavior. They were rounded up, dragged

to the nearest PTF facility, and tested for paranatural abilities. I’d seen

firsthand how brutal PTF tests could be, and the consequences of

failing . . . I was just lucky my ability to handle iron protected me from

suspicion, since that was the main way they tested for fae heritage. Not all

my friends were so lucky. If he’d gotten his hands on any of them. . . . I

swallowed the sour taste in my mouth.

“Gonna take all day to get them processed.” He sighed and rubbed the

back of his neck—the picture of an overworked employee just trying to get

through the day. “Then there’s the testing. Could be days. Weeks maybe,

backed up as we are.” He leaned toward me like a friend sharing a secret.

His nearness made my skin itch. “We’ve been up to our eyeballs in

suspicion reports since the election results came in.”

Colorado’s governor-to-be, Gary Anderson, had run a Purity

campaign, aligning himself with the extremist group that endorsed

wholesale slaughter of anyone with a drop of magic in their blood. I’d

already noticed several disturbing changes around town, like iron bead

curtains hanging in doorways, anti-fae stickers in storefronts, and a recent

call for magical-segregation in schools.

News that the number of reports had risen since the election wasn’t

surprising, but it was disturbing. The same thing happened right before the

Faerie Wars broke out, when tension between the humans and fae had been

at its highest. I shuddered to think how much worse the situation was

going to get come January, when Anderson was officially sworn in.

“I guess between the halfer,” O’Connell cut his eyes to Kayla, “and

the witch,” he nodded toward Emma, “you’ve got all the company you

need.” He smiled. “For now.”

Emma set a to-go cup on the counter and O’Connell stepped away

from me to grab it. He lifted the steaming container to his lips, hissing

when the hot liquid hit his tongue. Then he raised his drink in salute and

walked out the door.

“Hey, Alex.” Emma smiled. The steel ring in her lip glinted. “Want

your usual?”

I set my hands on the counter, leaving sweaty smudges on the glass.

“Was that guy bothering you?”

She frowned. “No. Why?”

I shook my head and walked back the way I’d come. Passing Kayla, I

said, “I need to make a phone call,” and hustled back through the

“employees only” door before either of my coworkers could do more than


Yanking open my locker, I grabbed my cell phone and stood with my

finger over the contacts icon. Did O’Connell really have one or more of

my friends? Or was he trying to trick me into giving someone away?

Could he have bugged my phone?

I frowned. The CSI shows on TV always talked about cloning cell

phones, but people had to steal the phones first. And even the PTF needed

a warrant for a legal phone tap . . .

I scrolled through entries, wondering who was most exposed.

My first thought when O’Connell hinted a friend had been taken was

of Kai. But O’Connell wouldn’t have called him a potential. Kai was a

fully registered fae, living at my house on a visa granted by the PTF. Plus,

O’Connell had already dragged Kai in for extensive testing.

I shivered, recalling the way Kai had screamed during those tests.

No. Kai was safe. As safe as a fae could be, considering the growing

influence of Purity.

But James—a vampire hiding in plain sight—was definitely not safe.

O’Connell knew we were friends, and potentially more. Our complicated

relationship status had come under close scrutiny when James was

investigated for murder. I’d since slammed the brakes on dating, but the

jolt of dopamine and the way my body tightened whenever he was around

made it painfully clear that my heart and my head weren’t on the same


I pressed the call button. As soon as the line connected I asked,

“Where are you?”

“The nest.” The sound of James’s voice loosened some of the ropes of

tension squeezing my chest.

I rubbed my forehead, fighting back a headache. James had spent the

better part of a week preparing for the arrival of a new master vampire—

some woman named Victoria—who’d claimed ownership of the Denver

area nearly as soon as we’d put the old master down. How she’d known

about the vacancy so fast was anybody’s guess, but she’d come to town

two nights ago.

“You’re all right?” I asked. “No . . . problems?”

“I’m fine.” Worry crept into his voice, stretching his syllables. “Has

something happened?”

“It’s nothing. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.” I disconnected before he

could press me for more information. If he wasn’t O’Connell’s prisoner I

didn’t have time to waste chatting with him, and the last thing he needed

while dealing with a new, powerful vampire was to be distracted.

I scanned through my remaining contacts. Some names were missing,

like Chase and Jynx, the shifter siblings crashing at my house, and

Hortense, the tutor sent by my grandfather to fill the gaps in Kai’s lessons.

They were all full fae, and I had no way to contact them except face-toface,

but Chase had been a snoring ball of gray fur at the end of my bed

when I left for work, and Jynx had been watching television. I bit my lip. I

couldn’t imagine Hortense being careless enough to get caught by the likes

of O’Connell.

That left the wolves. I knew several members of the local werewolf

pack, thanks to my recent exploits, but I didn’t have all their numbers. One

number I did have was Marc’s. As the leader of the pack, he was sure to

know if any of his members had been picked up by the PTF.

The line rang . . . and rang. No answer.

I took a deep breath. No reason to panic yet. Maybe he was just in the

shower. Scrolling further down the list, I clicked the entry for Oz, a pack

member I’d actually known before I discovered, rather violently, that

werewolves were real.

The line rang. I bit my lower lip, my heart rate starting to climb. No

answer there either.

I didn’t have a direct line to Sarah Nazari, a werewolf detective with

the Boulder police department. And Sophie—my human friend turned

werewolf the night we both learned they were more than just stories—had

her phone privileges revoked after sneaking out to go clubbing and nearly

shifting in a building packed tight with tasty mortals.

I thumped my cell phone against my forehead. A couple missed calls

was hardly conclusive, but my gut told me O’Connell had gotten his hands

on some or all of the werewolves. Waves of dread rolled through me. I had

to know for sure.

Lifting the phone one more time, I called Maggie. A month ago,

talking to Maggie would have been the most natural thing in the world.

Now, the prospect made my insides writhe. Maggie was one of my few

remaining human friends, and the only one I’d managed to keep

completely out of the craziness my life had become. But my secrets had

driven a wedge between us, and I wasn’t sure how to bridge that gap.

Before I’d walked into the near-certain death of Merak’s nest, I’d

written a letter to Maggie explaining everything and apologizing for

keeping her in the dark, just in case. I hadn’t died. I also hadn’t given her

the letter yet. I’d stuffed it in my nightstand drawer, too afraid to face the

fallout of laying my secrets bare, especially as the gulf between us grew


“Alex?” Maggie’s voice was sharp. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I just—”

“Are you at the store?”

I looked at the employee door, then at the exit. “Yeah, but I need to


“Bloody hell, Alex. Your shift just started, and this is the last shift

you’ve got before the two weeks you requested off during the busiest

shopping season of the year.” Her voice rose as she spoke, her London

accent becoming more pronounced.

“I know, but something’s come up.”

A loud sigh came through the phone. “Something always comes up

with you these days, and you’ve told me bugger all about it.”

“I know. I—”

“How long?”


“How long do I need to cover? The morning? The whole day?


I shuffled my feet and looked up at the speckled ceiling tiles. “Better

not count on me today.”

“I can’t ever count on you anymore.”

Dead air filled the line as I struggled to find something to say,

something to make things right between us, but she was right.

“I can’t take this anymore, Alex. Not with . . .” A sharp exhale and a

shaky breath. “You’re sacked.”

The words dropped like a bomb in my head, splintering my thoughts

into a million shards of jagged shrapnel. I opened my mouth to argue, to

come clean about my heritage, to explain why I’d missed all those shifts,

but all that came out was a ringing silence.

“I’m sorry, Alex.”

The line went dead.

Pressure built behind my eyes.

I’d thought about quitting the bookstore dozens of times—usually

when I was fighting to get out of my nice warm bed before the sun came

up—but I’d never really considered it. Magpie Books had been Maggie’s

dream, but we’d built it together. I’d been there from the start, and I’d

always assumed I’d be there till the end. Magpie was supposed to be a

place I would always belong.

Dropping the phone in my purse, I blinked until my tears were no

longer in danger of falling. Somehow, I had to repair my friendship with

Maggie. I couldn’t afford to burn any more bridges. But first, I needed to

find out what, if anything, had happened to the werewolves.

Courting Darkness (The Magicsmith Book 2)
by L. R. Braden
August 23, 2019
283 pages
Deeper into the shadows. . . 

The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she's got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect.

Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust.

She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.

“A great story of murder, mystery . . . and well-developed characters.”—Margie Hager, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic 

“A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series 
by L. R. Braden
July 31, 2019
236 pages
The war isn’t over . . .

With the world clinging to a fragile peace forced on the Fae by humanity after the Faerie Wars, metalsmith Alex Blackwood is plunged into the world of the half-fae who traffick in illegal magical artifacts. Her best friend’s murder and his cryptic last message place her in the crosshairs of a scheme to reignite the decade-old war between humans and fae.

Worse, violent attacks against her and the arrival of a fae knight on a mission force Alex to face a devastating revelation of who and what she is. To catch a killer, retrieve a dangerous artifact, and stop a war, Alex will have to accept that she’s an unregistered fae “halfer” with a unique magical talent—a talent that would change everything she believes about her past, her art, and her future.

Her world is crumbling around her, and Alex will have to decide who to trust if she and the world are going to survive.

“A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series

About the Author:
Born and raised in Colorado, L. R. BRADEN makes her home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her wonderful husband, precocious daughter, and psychotic cat. With degrees in both English literature and metalsmithing, she splits her time between writing and art.

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