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Archive for the ‘Dragon Wine’ Category

The title of this blog post says it all really.

I still feel a bit of trepidation putting more Dragon Wine out. I guess is it because the series meant a lot to me personally and it’s kinda  a raw exposing it by publishing it myself. I never thought I’d come all arty and stuff but there you go. Donna is being precious. But I’ll get over it.

I’ve been so lucky with the covers of the series now all complete, even the books I haven’t written. Many thanks to Frauke and Crocodesigns and to Aarjaun who recommended her. If you want to check out Crocodesigns.

You will see that I changed the naming convention when I brought out Shatterwing and Skywatcher, calling them ‘parts’ instead of ‘books’. I think that reflects what they are. I have also brought out a box set of Shatterwing and Skywatcher, called Dragon Wine Volume One, which works out cheaper than the individual books. Grouping them together is more like how they were intended to be read.

That being said, Bloodstorm, Dragon Wine Part Four, is currently being revised by me. I’m taking up the editorial suggestions and I’m dealing with the big finale ending. So close I can taste it. Then it will go for proofreading. I expected Bloodstorm to be out by July. Not long. I will feel massive relief when that is out. I will then put out a box set, Dragon Wine Volume Two.

So that leaves the last two parts. I have been writing notes. Lots of notes but the last two parts will take planning and I’m going to start on that. I have a PhD novel to write, to draft at least, and maybe after that is done I’ll have the head space to tackle the Dragon Wine concluding parts. Of course, if people read and like, Deathwings and Bloodstorm, I’ll be very motivated to conclude the series faster.

There is also this other idea for a book called, Moonbinders, that is floating around in the back of my head with the cobwebs and the dust. And then there could be a prequel, covering the life of Trell of Barr with a guest appearance of Nils. Oh to have too many ideas and not enough time!

The cover again and the blurb.

Deliciously dark fantasy…Deathwings, Dragon Wine Part Three

“Shatterwing has all the fantasy ingredients I love: tormented heroes, a truly twisted villain – and a brand new take on dragons!” Glenda Larke, (award winning author of The Stormlord Trilogy)

“Dark and compelling, with strong characters and a sense of grim inevitability that pulls you along with the story.” Craig Cormick, (award-winning author of the Shadow Master Series.)

Life on the ravaged world of Margra is more difficult than ever… Salinda and Garan blasted the evil Gercomo into the sky. Except … he didn’t die, he transformed into a dragon. Final moonfall looms ever closer and the world is on the brink of destruction.
Gercomo’s vile influence spreads among his dragon herd and he is reaching for power in both the human and dragon worlds.

Salinda has the means to stop him and save the world.

And Gercomo wants her dead.

Deathwings-highres

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Well it’s been a long wait!

The reversion of rights process did not go as planned. Shatterwing and Skywatcher were taken down early (I had requested May) and I had a mad scramble to get covers and get the books prepared etc. I’m so lucky that Crocodesigns were able to do the whole series. Don’t you think Frauke did a great job? There is more to come. She’s working on the covers for final two parts (not actually written yet) and box set covers.

I can’t decide which cover is my favourite. I really love the meteors and the depiction of the observatory in Skywatcher and I love the colours in Deathwings and I love the dragon in Bloodstorm. Overall, I think the covers portray the darkness and the space elements of the stories. Shatterwing and Skywatcher are out now everywhere! iBooks should flow through today. I uploaded them this morning.

Deathwings I think I’ll put up next week (maybe). I’m so nervous about releasing this part three. It’s been edited and proofed and it’s waiting to go. But holding on to it seems like a good idea. I’d like to be able to release Bloodstorm, Dragon Wine Part Four soon after. That’s due back from the editor next week. Still I’m nervous. Stupid I know…but I can’t help it. I had ten years to work on Shatterwing and Skywatcher. Although I drafted Deathwings and Bloodstorm a while ago it is only recently that I’ve picked them up again. Hopefully there will be some good reviews. I need to work on the final two parts.

These books are retailing around $3.99 US per book. I’ll be putting links up in my book section later on. I need to drink some French Champagne just now and eat chips and dip and chocolate and veg in front of Netflix. Sorry duty calls. I presented my confirmation seminar for the PhD today and it went well! So celebration.

 

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And I’m going to release Part One and Two together as a ebook box set. Maybe next week. Estimated price is $5.99 USDragonWineVolOne-3D

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I was bright eyed and bushy tailed yesterday.

This morning not so much.

Of course there are a number of reasons for this. Yesterday afternoon I sent off Ungiven Land (The Silverlands Book 3) for proofreading after quite a while working through the toughest edits yet. It was going to take me a lot longer but on Sunday I hit of spot of chapters that had light edits and I pushed through them and built up some momentum. That left yesterday morning to finish it off. I had some family obligations during the day, but after that I did some more tinkering and sent the book off. It’s a bloody long book at 145,000 words.

Then yesterday evening, I picked up the revision I was doing of Bloodstorm (Dragon Wine Part 4) without much recollection of how much more I had to do. Well, I was further along than I thought so I pushed through and sent that book off to the editor last night. It’s a shorter novel at just under 90,000 words. I think I have more work to do on a battle scene but the edit will help with that I think. It gives me a month to think about it and make notes. I needed to push it off my plate as I have important PhD stuff to do.

So you would think after an excellent sleep that I’d be ready to roll and full of vim and vigour. Obviously my stories are still in my head. I was thinking about both of them while driving and drove right past two turns offs to my university and didn’t realise until I made a t-junction. Oops! So I had to go to another entry and park in a different spot. Then I realised I hadn’t brushed my hair. This called for emergency coffee and I hope  it kicks in soon.

After having these deadlines I don’t think I like them. I had listed Ungiven Land for pre-order on Amazon. For some strange reason beknownst only to my back brain I put down 31 May 2017 as the delivery date. However, I had not allowed enough time for processing proofreading changes so I had to push it back by two weeks. Amazon lock you out of the file about 3-4 days before release btw. I have had now had my pre-order privileges revoked for one year because I pushed back the date. Thank god for that. I can’t be tempted to put in hard dates that give me stress. I don’t want to do that again because that deadline plus the ones I had with the editors really put the pressure on.

As I don’t have more fiction planned other than putting up books of which I have the rights back, I’m going to give deadlines a miss for a while. I have my PhD novel to think about.

Fingers crossed I get some covers this week because Shatterwing and Skywatcher are ready to go. Deathwings and Bloodstorm the next two parts of the Dragon Wine series are coming soon.

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I have an exciting blog interview planned but it’s not ready yet. I am waiting for some answers to come in. In the meantime, I thought I’d post something about what is happening with me.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of stress lately due to an external issue. This has been hard on me. I’ve had to take sick leave from my PhD and I’ve had awful stress and anxiety symptoms and I find it hard to concentrate. High stress and anxiety increase my overall pain levels so it can be rather debilitating. I haven’t been able to read much at all, or invest in watching a movie or write fiction. I do walk a lot and I’m losing weight.

We live in an ableist society and so we are brought up thinking that we should be able to do everything and when we are not we get over critical of ourselves and also stress about how people view us. For me, I hate labels. I was sent to a psychiatrist last year to assess my stress and anxiety after a panic attack at work. I wasn’t sent to the psychiatrist until about four or five months after the attack. By then I’d been on meds and had two different lots of counselling and was feeling much better. I didn’t want to have a label and so was pleased that the psychiatrist said I wasn’t suffering from any psychiatric disorder. Even though this attack was brought on by an injury at work that I was having trouble adjusting to and workplace shenanigans. But shrug.

I believe my inherent ableism affects my outlook on my physical disabilities as well. The RSI and arthritic conditions limit me. I hate to be limited. I am a doer. I am an ablelist. It is part of who I am. There is so much I can’t do now and I hate it. I try not to think about it. No wonder I’m stressed. So I hate to acknowledge that these things make me less than I want to be. I know I should just suck it up right. I’m getting older. Well I’m 56 not 76!

But here I am again. Sigh. Having symptoms and it sucks.

My approach to Indie publishing has been to publish books that have been previously published and that I have the rights back to and books that I’ve already written that made it to acquisitions but weren’t bought by publishers. (This doesn’t include the book that is/was with my agent as we still have hopes). Last November, I wrote the short novel, Opi Battles the Space Pirates because that was just fun. However, while I’m not actively writing new stories, there is a bit of work in getting the books back out there and the new ones published.

The rights to Shatterwing and Skywatcher have been returned to me. This meeans they are no longer available. Before they can be relaunched they need to be proofread. Shatterwing is done and I’m just waiting on the map and the new cover. Skywatcher is still in progress in proofreading. My approach to this was work from hard copy that way I can use my tilt board and make it as ergonomic as possible. However, it’s still hard work! Concentration people!

My apologies to Dion who bought Shatterwing and then found he couldn’t buy Skywatcher as Pan Mac took it down. He wrote to me to say : Wing dust! It ended in a cliffhanger. In my defence, I had asked for the books to come down in May 2017 so I could have time to prepare but something went missing in the communication and I had no notice of when they would or did come down. They just disappeared from the Internet.

As per above, concentrating has been hard. Deathwings copy edit is done. I was a good way into it before the external stress causing business came back and overwhelmed me. But as I was nearly done, I managed a few more hours. Deathwings is now with the proofreader.

The new covers are in progress too. And I have Russell K looking at the maps. I’ve outsourced as much as I can. I have three weeks to finish revising Bloodstorm before it’s due at the editor. I think that’s doable, even if I only do an hour per day. However, if I don’t make the deadline, it will take longer to get Bloodstorm out.  No great dramas, except for readers because a lot happens in Bloodstorm.

For more of the Dragon Wine series, you guys will have to wait. I have a PhD to do. Although if this external stress thing doesn’t resolve I will probably go part time on the PhD for a little while.

The Silverlands series. Argenterra and Oathbound are published. I have to do a little bit of stuff to get the print file of Oathbound ready. I also need to pay someone to do the formatting for the Smashwords edition of Oathbound. I can do it, but it’s a bit difficult on the physical side of things. (Oh I hate admitting that–it’s the ableist in me!).

The edit of Ungiven Land is in progress. I may have a bit of work to do when it comes back to me later in the month. I had a chat to the copy editor this afternoon. Apparently I’ve developed new bad writing habits and may have my work cut out for me. My editor wanted to know if it was okay if she picked me up on things, suggested new scenes etc. I said go for it.

That’s what I want. That’s what an edit is for. Make me sweat. I want a better book.

This week I heard that I have the rights to The Sorcerer’s Spell back. That’s a sexy paranormal novel that is published under the Dani Kristoff name. That needs the same treatment. New cover, proofreading, new ISBNs etc. I have a half started sequel somewhere. If I’m to work on that then it will be dictation software! If I can concentrate. A lot depends on what happens over the next few weeks and months. However, finally I might get a male torso on the cover! A first for me.

There is administrative stuff that is done and heaps not done. Just registering ISBNs and Catalogue in Print stuff takes time and energy. I wished I earned enough to pay an assistant! Hahahahahaha!

Fun is over. Back to work.

And just for fun I’ll put a cover image of Argenterra here. It’s new low price is USD 2.99. I also revamped the blurb for this.

Sophy is not looking for a talisman: she is the talisman!

Sophy is snatched from our world during a ghost tour. Landing in the lush world of Argenterra, she’s the odd one out. She can’t use the land’s native magic, the given, even though her friend Aria, and everyone else, can.
Worse still, she’s a faded version of herself and doesn’t fit it at all.

Abandoned by Aria who marries a handsome prince, Sophy travels the land with Oakheart, the high king’s ambassador, to explore the mystery of why there is a crystal leaf growing inside her.

Then the accidents start to happen and she realises a dark force wants her: alive or maybe just dead…Argenterra with subtitle

For more information on The Silverlands Series and buy links, click here. Have you got your copy of Argenterra yet?

Also if you are interested in signing up for my Newsletter. Click here.

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Time seems to fly by so quickly these days. Some kind of inverse perception. When I was a child time passed slowly. Now, I can’t believe how fast.

I wish it would slow down.

For me, 2016 was an interesting year. Lots of changes in my life. I left the work force and started a PhD in Creative Writing. I had done my sums, and of course, things change so sums are often being trimmed and rearranged. Do I regret leaving work? Hell no! It was the best thing for me physically and mentally. Of course I miss the huge $ I was making but there was a cost involved. I’m content.

I started the PhD with a vengeance–long days and it hurt too, but now I’m better at balance and I hurt less as a result. I actually felt good for many, many months and I was happy. I realise I can stay home and read and relax while studying instead of in a chair in the study centre everyday. I tried twice this year to get an APA and was unsuccessful, (APA is a stipend/grant for studying) and I have to give up applying now. It was a lot of work putting the application together. Hint do honours and you’ll be a shoe in, they are worth more than a Masters by coursework).  Now I have to look for part time work to fund me. I was hoping for some tutoring at uni but there are no guarantees.

One the writing front, I put out Argenterra in late April. It’s my epic, portal fantasy, that’s not dark (like Dragon wine) and is suitable for YA readers. It’s romance themed too. I thought I’d get the next two in the series out this year but that was a lot harder than it seemed to be when I thought it up. Book 2, Oathbound is with the editor (some delays there with editor moving house) and Book 2, Ungiven Land is awaiting one beta reader comments before being revised and sent to the editor. I’m thinking they will be out in the first half of 2017. I was so thrilled to get those books written. Finish drafting my first trilogy!!! (15 years in the making) Wohoo! Next year, when the books get published I’ll see how the hybrid, indie, self-publishing gig works for me.

Under the name, Dani Kristoff, I was published again by Escape Publishing, this time with Invoked. It’s the third and last book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. I thought this book was coming out next year so I was so happy to have it come out in December. I have one more book to write under Dani Kristoff and then Dani might retire. I enjoy writing the sexy paranormal books, but you have to have a big enough audience to make it worth your while and frankly, I don’t. I’m proud of those books. Invoked was the hardest thing I’d ever written. Nearly chucked it out. Rewrote it almost completely. It taught me a lot about writing. Although it is dark, especially compared to Spiritbound which was light and bright and lovely.

So for Nanowrimo I wrote another Space Pirate book. This time starring Opi, Rae and Essa’s mother. It’s fun and I like it a lot. I’m going to publish this myself.  Escape aren’t selling enough of the other books, Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa Space Adventures to acquire it. But I’m totally cool with that. I want to publish it myself. It’s a bit of light fun. I’ve kept it sweet level in case any YA readers happen on it, but it’s longer 55,000 words and features older protagonists and space pirates….

Also in December, I dusted off the draft of Deathwings, book three in the Dragon Wine series. I’ve booked it in with the editor that Momentum used for the first two books and I’ve got book 4 booked in too. So fingers crossed I’ll have them out in 2017 too. I have to meet the editor’s deadlines!!! Both books are mostly written. I had to dump about 10,000 words from book 4 and I did that over a year ago (then Phd happened). It was starting off too slowly according to beta readers. I have not written a word of the last two books  (5 & 6) and that will be my side project for the rest of 2017. Around other writing and the PhD and part time work if I get any.

I have three other books in completed draft form. Into the Dark Glass (YA fantasy) is currently with a skilled beta reader. It’s the most ready to go somewhere. Cold Soldier (SF Romance) – I haven’t touched this in nearly a year. Needs a new beginning and a revision. The Tainted Lady, my attempt a Regency romance needs a revised beginning and a revision then polish, then beta readers etc. Ruby Heart is still looking for a home but I’ve a mind to write Emerald Fire (the sequel) or actually finish writing it. Half written I think. I have a couple of other things started but may have to wait years before I revisit them.

I have my PhD novel to write too, which will get drafted during 2017. I think all this other writing helps me refine my craft so the PhD novel will benefit.

I have to prepare for my confirmation seminar in March so I’ll be busy with that in January and February and maybe before New Year. It’s my first piece of work that gets assessed and the foundation for the PhD. I will then be officially one year into the PhD too. My surveys that are part of the PhD are going great guns. Need more responses though.

Along with the rest of the world, I’m processing terrorist attacks, the US election, Brexit, war in Syria, Australian bloody politics and views on refugees, deaths of fav actors and musicians. May we weather these things and find 2017 a better time to live in. Highlights, Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, RWA Conference in Adelaide, Shanghai visiting my son in October and presenting a paper on Twitter poetry in November. Also, I am standing for GUFF ( Going Under Fan Fund), which is a fund to send people from Australia to Europe from SF conventions or a European fan to Australia) and there are some great candidates this year all vying to get to the SF World Con in Helsinki in August. (link below)

Downside some work injury related stuff that I won’t blog about until resolved. Worst thing ever!

I’m still addicted to Twitter and Facebook. I’m the world’s worst gardener, besides the Dweeb and I totally failed at sending Christmas cards this year. I’m pleased to say that this year  for me Christmas isn’t about excess as it usually is. My two daughters are vegans and we are having a small gathering this year so less meat, less waste, less money spent. I kinda feel good about that. I will miss my son, who is in China and two of my grandchildren and their mother who are in Perth this Christmas.

Most of all I want to say, I wish you well and happy and prosperous this Christmas, end of year, New Year. I am grateful for my health, my wonderful family and friends. My excellent partner Matthew (the Dweeb) and for those of you to interact with anywhere in the world and on the internet.

Maybe I’ll see some of you at the ARRA convention in Melbourne in February.

 

More info on GUFF

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I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve bitten the bullet, I’m working on book 3 and 4 of the Dragonwine series. Hopefully this is good news for fans of Shatterwing and Skywatcher.

I’ve booked both books in with the editor that means I have to do the work. (Momentum shut down, but they weren’t going to print these anyway as I didn’t sell enough).

Anyway, I thought I’d paste some of the WIP here. Feel free to criticise or comment, or just read and be teased. This is the first two chapters of Deathwings (tentative title) and hopefully it picks up the action and fills in on what happened before in a non-intrusive way. I try to reintroduce the characters but do let me know if you think it’s too much. Notice I start in Danton’s POV. As I love Danton this is a good thing. He had some great scenes in these two books.

Deathwings

Part 1

 

Prologue

 

Dust particles shimmer in the light of Margra’s sun, enveloping the world below in a lavender halo. A lump of space rock turns end over end as it plummets, a tail of vicious fire in its wake. Belle Moon’s surface erupts as debris is thrown high as another crater is born. The planet revolves on its axis again. Oblivious.

 

 

Like blood, a rich drop of wine is licked from the fingertip

 

Chapter One

Wings

He was falling.

Air rushed past. Breath stolen. Sharp rocks below. Fear spearing into his lungs, his heart. No breath.

A blur of the world around him.

Gercomo opened his mouth to scream. No air. No sound, his mind white with panic.

His arms and legs flailed. He tried to fly.

It was like swimming against the tide, limbs useless, clumsy. A great, burning surge of blood trammelled every muscle, undoing his human-ness, remaking him, remaking his mind. Dulling it, smashing it, obliterating it. He sucked in a lungful of air snatched from the wind rushing past.

A guttural cry vibrated against his hardened skin. His own fear haloed him. He struggled to maintain height, wrenching his shoulders, clenching his jaws in the effort to crawl through the air, yet he continued to drop.

Throwing his senses out, the world around him spun and slowed and came into conical focus. Valleys and rifts and eroded peaks loomed large beneath him, all jagged with the capacity to rend flesh.

He flapped. Wings moved, halting his plummet.

With a desperate heave, he threw more of his strength into his wings until his muscles burned, the sensation as if the flesh was being ripped from his bones. It wasn’t working. He was falling, still. Slower.

With a last ditch effort, he fought to recall the dance of dragons, remembering how they skimmed thermals and glided above the prison vineyard. Effortlessly they used the membranes on their wings to trap the air and slide. That was what Gercomo was doing wrong. He was fighting against the air instead of working with it. He ceased his struggling and stretched out his arms, no his wings, and air billowed underneath them. The headlong rush to the ground slowed as the wind caught and effortlessly lifted him. A relieved laugh turned to a screech that was alien in his mouth as he soared higher.

He was no longer falling, but he was too tired to stay aloft for long. Already the muscles between his shoulder blades ached.

Beyond the treacherous foothills of the Duggan Ranges, the desert plain stretched out muted pink, mauve and brown. He tilted his body in that direction, the colours of the landscape strange and his vision distorted while he tried to process a greater range of colours and a spectrum of light he’d not experienced before, a fierce violet glow and other alien ripples of energy that radiated and bent as he turned his head from side to side. He wasn’t seeing with his own eyes. It wasn’t the same. These were his eyes now. He had to adapt.

The flat stretches of wasteland gave him an uninterrupted view of the landscape. Yet he could not tell if objects were near or far. At times he thought he could but his brain was having trouble interpreting the new range of images and colours.  Drifting lower, the wind grew precarious and like a cough the air pushed out from under his wings. In a panic, he tried to maintain his height, to stop himself from falling and failed. Instead, the clawed foot he extended to the earth clasped emptiness and he rolled and tumbled. Over and over he went, his bones bending and his tendons twisting. Fear and agony intermingling and robbing him of even a scream. When he finally came to a halt, he lay there stunned, pain shafting through every part of him, while he waited to breathe again.

Gercomo uncurled his claw and then dragged a torn wing from underneath his ungainly, scaled body. Every movement radiated hurt and increased his confusion. He no longer had hands that could touch. All he could do was lick his skin. It was then he noticed his size.

He was puny. What horrible twist of fate was this? To be cursed to exist as a beast, but not a real one, just a semblance of one. Looking down at his body, he knew it was terribly wrong. He was nothing like the huge winged beasts that overflew the vineyard. He was pitiful. What if another dragon found him? They would know he was different, alien. Instinctively he understood the danger. With one wing dragging in the dirt, he scrabbled across the stony ground, scooping loose earth with his claws as he waddled, driven by the need to hide before Margra’s sun set, bleeding the sky of light.

The desert was barren and there was no sign of human habitation. Turning to glance behind, he saw that nothing followed on land or sky. The changes in his body had slowed. He found his sense of smell enhanced. As the light faded, the tortuous jigsaw of his vision settled and honed to a rare acuteness. He could see the warmth of the day’s sun radiating off the sand. Above, the dark purple of the sky was marred only by Shatterwing blinking pinkly above the horizon. Ripples red and violet caressed the sky and the distant horizon. The colours confused him. Why do I see in this strange spectrum?

#

Before dawn, Gercomo found a patch of ground, layered with rough, loose sand. A nudge of his snout revealed it was littered with large, round stones, like a river had once flowed along the plain. Within the soft folds of earth, he found he could wriggle down and cover himself with the sand. Delving deep enough to keep himself safe, he could allow himself to rest. After an hour or so, pale pink sunlight swept over the horizon. Then as the sun climbed higher, the sand began to warm his skin. The pain eased as if the dirt provided healing. And as he lay there his mind began to relax and to warp. The human concerns began to wane, but a few knots of anger did not disappear entirely. He held onto the important things and would not let them fade—anger, envy and lust. They are what defined him, and they melded well with the animal desires surfacing within him. He was hungry, and he was lonely. He never needed another person before but now there was something burning in his blood, something driving like stakes through his brain. He needed kin.

In the late afternoon, Gercomo was rested but the cavernous hunger inside had grown out of proportion. He needed to eat. Needed to move. Simple as that. Thoughts of food, of starvation, swelled up inside him, dominating his mind. What did dragons eat? Was he a dragon or dragon enough to eat raw burden beast? He lifted his head and sniffed. There wasn’t much of anything on the breeze, except dust. He would need to search out prey.

The sand dropped silkily from his scaled hide as he clawed his way out of his resting place. Tentatively, he stretched a wing and tested it. It no longer sang with pain yet it was still tender in places, particularly the elbow joint. Fortunately it functioned. In the growing shadows, he stepped confidently, his strange vision still pink and mauve with flashes of vermillion. He remembered there were other colours in the spectrum of light and that the world wasn’t nearly as contoured as it seemed now. Nearby small stones were so clear and precise and the distant peaks loomed large as if he could breathe onto their slopes. Even these human thoughts of what he’d lost slid to the back of his mind as the need for food dominated.

The sun’s rays began to cool as night shrouded him. In the distance, he heard something, a clink, clink, as if someone was throwing stones against a rock. Perhaps it was an animal, something he could eat. He sniffed, searching for the scent of food.

Gercomo zeroed in on the sound, learning with each step how to control his various body parts. The more he walked the more natural his gait became. He was almost elegant as he slowly stepped toward his prey. Ahead he saw that there was a tumble of boulders, spread in a circle like thrown dice. Further on he could see the mark of flame burning across his vision. Beyond that was a settlement or a dwelling of some kind. But there amid the standing boulders was a boy, tossing stone after stone. Stealthily, Gercomo angled around to get a better view and to see if any adults were about, to see if there were any dragon lances or harpoons. The boy was aiming for a target, a crudely drawn circle on one of the boulders, the outline faint in the dim light emanating from the small fire. Tick, tick the rocks hit against the boulder the boy used as a target.

Gercomo sniffed and realised the boy was the food he smelt. His stomach churned and saliva filled his mouth, dripped off his tongue. He wanted to surge forward and swallow the boy whole. That impulse he held in check by the sound of a woman’s voice. It was distant but growing closer. Hearing the call, the boy shrugged once and kept aiming at the target. He looked about ten years old, maybe younger. Gercomo blinked and saw that the child had a faint violet glow about him as well as the tantalising scent of food. Another cry from the woman and the boy laughed and scooped down to pick up more stones.

As he crept forward, the boy stiffened and turn toward him. A faint squeak of surprise and then open-mouthed the boy stood stock still. Gercomo extended a claw, reaching around the small waist and clasping him tight in his grip. Looking down at the scaly appendage that held him, the child screamed and struggled. Gercomo liked the sound; it made him drool.

The woman’s voice was suddenly closer—after a pause, there was a sharp intake of breath from just outside the ring of boulders. A frantic wail cleaved the night.

Swinging his head round, he saw her jerk as she tried to enter the circle of stones, saw her react at what he was holding in his claws and stop dead, her eyes like large dark holes. When he had her full attention, he bit off the boy’s head and upper torso and swallowed. Next he ate the remainder, enjoying the crunch of bones in his snout, the sharp gnash of his fangs and serrated back teeth as he chomped and chomped and then swallowed. His laugh echoed around him, sounding like a roar.

With a guttural scream, the woman pulled her hair and fell to her knees, lost in a moment of grief. She should have run. It would have made better sport. Gercomo threw his gaze toward the settlement, but no one stirred. She was alone and unprotected. The boy’s life blood filled his stomach with warmth, spreading out and filling his extremities with a tingling sensation that enlivened him. Eating humans was good.

Like a dart he lunged at her and pinioned her against the target her son had painted. She fainted so he let her go. After falling to the ground, she came to, shook her head and began to crawl away. He let her move away at first, seeing that she found hope in that pointless exercise. Then reaching out, he pierced her dress with his index claw and drew her slowly towards him as the cloth fell from her shoulders. With the other claw, he drew a line down her front. The sharp tip cut the skin. A fine red line opened up. The scent of blood teased his hunger and made his pulse throb. A howl like the lonely wind tearing across the plains rose from her mouth. How he wanted to taste her and yet play with her and draw the moment out. This hesitation was invigorating and excruciating, honing his taste buds until he drooled hot saliva across her face and shoulder.

The woman struggled and tried to break free. She turned on her stomach and scrabbled in the dirt on all fours. At his screech, his victim shivered and shrieked. He liked her fear, revelled in it. He flipped her over and her screams became music and then she stopped, her eyes wide and staring with no more than a whimper leaking through her lips.

When she quieted, he played with her some more, exciting that melody once more from her throat. A bite of her arm was a tasty morsel, raising the tune to a new pitch. As he lapped the blood from her wounds with care, savouring each drop, her voice became low and husky. He began again, this time at the legs. Her scream flowed over him, filling him with joy as he lapped the arterial blood gushing into his mouth. As he gulped down a thigh, her voice grew whisper thin. Another bite and there was a visceral grunt and then a low moan as her last breath eased out of her throat. Gercomo didn’t know if she could see his grin, see how happy she had made him. He had found a new source of power—human flesh.

 

Chapter Two

Vanden’s Fallen

 

‘We have to do something about the dead,’ Danton said, as he balanced on a flat slab of broken stone in the remains of the observatory’s courtyard. ‘And then there’s the wall to repair.’

Not only was there a breach in the wall where the Inspector’s siege engine had torn through, there was the debris from Danton’s carefully laid explosives that had blown up the entrance to the courtyard. With his empty eye socket covered by a patch, the rebel turned a full circle, nodding slowly. This was where the Inspector had indiscriminately sacrificed so many lives and where the observatory had fought for survival.

His young, rebel companion, Brill, climbed up behind him, feet anchored on two large pieces of rubble. Now that Danton knew Brill better he understood why Salinda helped this young lad, with his vision of hope for the future of humankind.

‘There are so many of them,’ Brill said as his gaze raked the scene. ‘Many of them are on the pyre ready to be burned, but still too many in the rubble.’

Danton tried to smile, but found that he couldn’t muster one. He was tired. Deciding to help the observatory in its fight against the Inspector had ramifications. He found he could not walk away, even though he wanted to do so. Who would have thought his attempt to rescue Salinda would lead him to this place. ‘Yes and they are ripening.’ He brushed the end of his nose with a knuckle and shook his head.

Brill’s head angled in the direction of the elders and the tenders, who were crawling over rocks, peering into crannies to locate the dead with their mouth and noses muffled by cloth. Brill’s mouth turned down at the corners and dual tear trails wormed a path down his dirt stained cheeks. ‘That’s not the only problem. The escaping rebels will take away tales about the technology this place possesses.’ Brill then wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve and sniffed loudly.

Danton thought it was more than sorrow that made his young friend’s eyes water. The dust and the stench were sufficient irritants to make a herd of burden beasts weep. ‘You think the rebels will come back?’ he asked.

Brill’s brows drew together and he shook his head. ‘No, I don’t think so. But it would make interesting information for their superiors.’

‘Damn!’ Danton’s expletive made a few elders look up from their task, dark shadows under their eyes. Acknowledging them with a nod, Danton scratched his beard and then ran his hands through his hair. ‘I didn’t think of that. Who knows what damage such a report could do? It could threaten the future of this place. Wing Dust!’

Different options ran through Danton’s mind. There was no help for it. He could not have hunted down every last rebel and silenced them. Brill and Danton were the only fighting men here and he couldn’t imagine that the observatory would condone wholesale slaughter in any case. Thoughts of escaping rebels clouded his future plans. ‘Our goal is slipping through our fingers.’

‘The wine?’

‘Yes, the wine, meeting up with the rest of the men. I must be dust mad.’ Danton wiped his forehead with a cloth from his pocket and tucked it back into his trousers. ‘Right now we need help to clear this.’

‘Agreed.’ Brill turned away, nodded to one of the elders and jumped across the gap between two chucks of wall. Calling over his shoulder he said, ‘I’ll speak with Elder Wylie. He’s bringing the people back from the caves. I’ll ask if he can bring them here as a priority so we can speed up recovery the dead. And I’ll suggest he start to works for repairing the wall.’

Danton nodded, watching Brill’s figure recede. ‘Check with Salinda’s first. With the Master Elder dead, they have turned to her for leadership. Good idea though about the wall. I may have brought it down, but that doesn’t mean I have to put it back up.’

Brill paused and looked back over his shoulder. ‘Doesn’t Sal want to leave straightaway?’

Danton felt a weight pressing down on his chest and swallowed. Thinking about Salinda was hard. He wanted to stay close to her, but she was with Nils now and that made his feelings redundant, except to him. And there was duty, which was everything to her. It was his duty to recover that wine stash that much was clear. ‘Yes…and so do we.’

#

The subterranean city of Barrahiem seemed more empty than usual as Nils strode through its desolate, dust-filled streets. White homes stood sad and empty, their walls punctured with dark round holes, like the eyes of vermin. The last of his kin, he was alone. He had been in a prison of sleep for over a thousand years. Now he had to face the future alone.

If not for the lure of dragons, his desire for knowledge of this new species that had appeared on Margra, he would never have been inclined to explore the world above, the world of the Sundwellers. He would not have rescued Salinda from that witches pyre, brought her to this secret and sacred place and taken her for a mate. Now he missed her.

A sudden, intense cramp made him falter, made him lean against the balustrade for support. Thus weakened, he found he was seized with a coughing fit, until his throat burned. Struggling for breath, his legs buckled, too weak to stand. When it was over, the pain subsided to a dull ache, one that weighted his footsteps and took the spring out of his step. His bond with Salinda was stretched so taut that it caused him physical and mental pain. Thankfully Salinda did not experience it thus.

Nils understood that his mate’s duty lay elsewhere. The aftermath of the battle and Jalen’s death, left the observatory in a delicate state. Salinda could not turn her back on them. Yet, the bond formed in the deep lake was tangible to him. It stretched out through the Ways to where Salinda was, and it hurt.

Burying himself in research appeared to be the single means to salve the hurt. With his dying breath, Jalen had spoken of Trell of Barr, Nils’ grandsire. The Master Elder had mentioned that he had seen the name in a book. That had intrigued Nils.

In his workroom he found the index markers for his grandsire’s writings. A quick scan of the dates made Nils frown. The dates were within the year he had been interred in the sarcophagus and made to sleep away millennia or more. He read the final entry.

My heart is heavy this day. My favourite grandchild has been placed in the sarcophagus—a prisoner of sleep. It pains me to know that we will never talk again. It pains me to know that the world he will awaken to will be less than it is now. But in my heart I hope that there will be a world for him to enter again.

The child of my heart has always shared my passions. I remember the light in Nils’ eye when he peered through the scopes at Trithorn Peak. I remember the catch of his breath when I told him of the bands of power holding Ruel together. I remember how he touched my hand with his forehead in thanks at the gift of knowledge and experience I had given him. Now I see his face stilled in sleep, as cold as death, caught at the cusp of adulthood.

Barrahiem holds nothing for me now. My kin are mine no more. I turn my back on them, on their ignorance and their fear. They will not heed my warnings, nor will they make any preparations for the inevitable end. I go out into the world above to seek other learned men, Sundwellers who will work with heart and mind to save what they can of Margra. For the failing Ruel will be a global catastrophe that will leave this world shattered. We cannot avert this doom, but we can make something from the ashes.

Nils searched the records again, puzzled. That could not be Trell’s last entry. Did his grandsire truly leave his kin, to dwell above after Nils was interred? That would mean that the observatory possibly held the last writings of his grandsire. No, that could not be allowed. All the knowledge must be kept together in the archives. Then he recollected that the old observatory had been levelled, the present one raised from its remains. He shuddered at the thought of the loss of Trell’s thoughts and deeds from the archives. It was akin to having his grandsire’s existence expunged from the world.

When he reached his abode, he realised there was no reason to put off his departure. All he needed was his shroud and supplies and he would see Salinda again and perhaps look about for Trell’s writings in the ruins of the old observatory.

#

As Laidan considered at the bodies piled on the pyre, there was no emotion. She knew she should feel something but too much had happened, almost being raped and killed.  It was if there was an empty space surrounding her, blocking her from empathising, from feeling sorrow, from feeling anything. The world was too awful. Its evil had slapped her in the face and there was nowhere to hide from it. What was the point anyway, of obeying the rules, doing what you were told, if you only ended up dead? May as well enjoy yourself while you can. That was her new approach to life.

Salinda had her studying mind-numbingly boring texts. They served Laidan well though because the more she read, the more distant that seat of unsettling power and thought, the cadre, came. Thurdon had thrust the cadre into her unprepared mind, making power shine out of her eyes and leaving her incapacitated and in danger of being burned as a witch. Thurdon’s voice had been so loud, so overpowering that she had been grateful when Salinda had been able to quiet it and give her some peace. But Laidan did not want the thing and from what she could tell it did not want her either.

At least, Brill made her feel good. He made her light up, made her feel like she was beautiful and important. If she was patient the task would be completed and then Brill would come to her. She would make him come to her. She would make him promise. Brill always kept his promises.

#

Garan thought that breakfast of cacti porridge, soft bread and some mulled dragonwine would wash the taste of death from his mouth. He was wrong. Everything he ate and everything he touched tasted of rotting corpse. When he closed his eyes, images of the faces, the bodies, the blood, the body parts were always there. He could not shift them from his mind. They appeared in the dark shadowed corners and dwelt in the depths of his dreams. They would plague his mind forever. He would hazard a shooting star that he was not the only one not to sleep last night. Unease and despair was in the air around him, like a sob held in check. The observatory was grieving. They had mourned the Master Elder but now they mourned Vanden’s dead, those who had been sacrificed by the Inspector against the walls of Trithorn Peak.

Even if the observatory’s inhabitants remembered the faces of their dead kin, none were recognisable, not from what he’d seen. Faces smashed, skulls caved in, bodies flat and crushed, gizzards everywhere. Blood like paint staining everything, providing a feast for flies. The observatory’s inhabitants mourned every single death as if it was their own flesh and blood. Such horror was new to them, new to Garan.

As he chewed and swallowed his breakfast without tasting it, he became lost in his nightmarish thoughts until startled by Salinda sitting down next to him. With his sleep starved gaze he gaped at her. She, too, looked like she passed a restless night. Lines at the corners of her mouth cut worry into her face. She’d been helping the elders restore some order after the attack, working long hours. The refectory doors swung open and Danton and Brill walked in. He thought Laidan might with them but she was nowhere to be seen.

Salinda looked at Danton and Garan followed the path of her gaze. He had never seen the one-eyed rebel look so grim. The smile was forced and his gaze haunted as he joined them at the table. Garan’s mood plummeted. Danton, who had helped him face the worse moment in his life, the death of a friend by his own power, was now succumbing to the misery surrounding them. Something had to give.

Salinda’s hand started to move across the table, and paused before she reached over to squeeze Danton’s hand. Instead, she wished him a pleasant morning. The look they shared with each other spoke volumes. Garan thought the rebel might cry.

Brill appeared in better spirits. Pointedly ignoring Garan, he began chatting to Salinda.

‘How are you feeling now?’ Brill asked her. ‘Rested?’

‘I am feeling more rested, thank you, Brill. And you?’

Garan was about to stand up to fetch more food, but he hesitated. Salinda’s question brought a blush to Brill’s face. Danton avoided Garan’s gaze by twirling an empty cup around in his hand, apparently absorbed in this action. What was going on now? Surely Brill had not been dallying with Laidan? Why Brill must be exhausted from all the heavy work. Garan glanced at Brill’s hands loosely clasped in front of him. The younger man had not bothered to get a meal yet. Brill’s fingers were cut and grazed and most of the fingernails broken. He had not been shirking.

Danton stood up. ‘Come on, Garan. Let’s get some of that cacti porridge. The day is young yet.’

Salinda rubbed her hand over her face as if that would wipe away fatigue, frustration and numerous other ills. Just then, the door flung open. ‘My lady,’ said that familiar croaky voice of Elder Wylie as he ran toward her breathlessly. ‘Forgive me…disturbing your breakfast. You must come…come to the gallery and see…’ Behind him strode Elder Titina, her longer legs keeping pace with the old elder. She looked thinner than the last time he had seen her. Garan recollected that she had been in the caves supervising the partial evacuation and then fell ill. Titina’s brows furrowed a vee in between her eyebrows and fatigue increased the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. With a brief nod to him, she kept her gaze on Elder Wylie and Salinda.

Salinda stood up straight away, shifting her robe out of her way to follow. Garan hastened after them. The anxiety in the old elder’s voice was acute. Elder Titina followed close behind, her steps unhurried but efficient. Once out the doors, Garan heard people whispering in the corridors. It was like the rush of wind in an empty cave, echoing and amplifying. Something had excited the inhabitants of the observatory. The slap of boots on stone warned him that Danton had followed behind.

Salinda took the steps two at a time. Elder Wylie followed as best he could. Once out on the gallery, the old man led them round to the Klester Valley side. A glimpse behind showed that the rest of the party still followed. As Garan came up behind Salinda and Elder Wylie, he didn’t understand what he was seeing. Then the sound filtered through and that drew his gaze. Beyond the pile of corpses stacked for the funeral pyre was a line of women with stooped shoulders accompanied by ragged, barefoot children. Garan could hear them wailing.

Salinda stood stock still. ‘Oh no!’

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So Argenterra, my YA/adult crossover fantasy is out there in the world. Fly baby, fly.

I have paid for some advertising,  and stuff, but essentially the only copies that have sold so far were friends buying the pre order. I’m very grateful to them! Thanks guys.

I have sent out a couple of review copies. All reviews help! I am waiting to see what the reviewers think. If you want to review it, please let me know.

It’s early days so I’m not going to stress about sales. From past experiences it goes in ups and downs. Discoverability is the biggest challenge with ebooks or small press or Indie publishing. The book is not sitting on a shelf in a book store waving hello to you as you walk in. (As an aside the print book is discounted to book stores at 40% and can be ordered via Ingrams.) For buy links click  here or see My Books Tab.

IMG_6085

Cover by Les Petersen

What I did want to say is that Argenterra is first in a series and I’m committed to putting the three books out. There should be a cliff hanger warning too! For that reason I’ve included the first chapter of book two at the end of book one.

As a self/Indie publisher I can make the commitment to publish the whole series. I may not put them all out in hard copy print, but we’ll see what demand is like. I’m currently revising/polishing book 2, The Crystal Gate. It’s written but I haven’t looked at the draft since 2009. My writing has changed a bit since then. I need to have it beta read, edited before I can layout etc. The proofing and stuff can take a couple of weeks too. I’m hoping to finish the revision by the end of May.

Book Three is partially drafted at 50,000 words. At the time I was writing it, I figured it wasn’t worth finishing a trilogy that hadn’t sold. Now the publishing world is completely different. Now it’s my trilogy and I’m in control so I will get it done and out there.Drafting book three to 135,000 words may take until much later in the year.

Control is so underrated.

As Dragon Wine was put out by Momentum, I had no say in the book being split in two, which people complained about. And as the books didn’t sell sufficiently well, they declined to publish the next book in the series.  A nice blow after working on it for ten years! Thousands were downloaded for free, but unfortunately that didn’t translate to sales. However, the next book is drafted and I will try to get it out later in the year. It’s a bit hard when I don’t have the rights to the first book and given it’s lack lustre performance and it’s very dark nature I can’t quite make up my mind what to do. It’s hard not to get disheartened and lose faith in your work. Alas, Momentum is no more, but Pan Mac have the rights. The Dragon Wine series is quite complex and dark. I may have to lighten it a bit before I publish the next installment. If I publish it.

Dragonwine

Dragon Wine Series

My previous post may have sounded a bit down on traditional publishers. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s just that the crisis in publishing is affecting everyone in the industry and it makes life difficult, particularly here in Australia. I have an agent trying sell a book to traditional publishers.It’s a good book-hasn’t sold but I’m not giving up yet on that. I’ve only half written the sequel to that.  I have more books written that I’d like to see get traditional publishing deals. It’s just tough out there and it takes a lot of time. With 15 years worth of writing behind me, I have a little bit of a back list of unpublished novels. I’m also working on new ones. I may be hyper active. Here’s hoping the PhD will keep me busy, too busy to write anything else but the PhD novel.

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