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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’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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Phew! What an amazing ride! A big thank you to my many hosts. I could not have done it without you. Thank you for the amazing array of questions and article topics. I count 24 separate posts!!!! The blog tour took place from 16 December 2015 to 8 January 2016. The draw for the books will take place on 15 January. You are welcome to leave a comment here to be in the draw. Meanwhile I’ll be trawling through social media shares etc and blog comments to compile the draw list.

Below I list and link blog posts from the blog tour. If you press the link it will open a new page in your browser.  If you are planning one of these blog tours be prepared for a lot of work and a little bit of organisation. I love how this whole process was so collegiate–other writers helping other writers! I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself so hard and talked about so many things.

  1. Amanda Bridgeman over in Perth. You should check out her SF Aurora series. This post was an excerpt from Shatterwing. A nice way to ease me into the flow. Here.
  2. Alan Baxter in the ‘Gong, who asked me to talk about the inspiration to the world building for Dragon Wine. Here.
  3. With Matthew over on Smash Dragons. I believe Matthew is in Bathurst. I wrote a short article on what makes fantasy dark. Here.
  4. Alis Franklin also from Canberra asked me for five pieces of advice to the younger writer me. Here.
  5. This one was fun! Matthew Farrer my partner and I in conversation where I’m trying to get him to host me on his blog. The Dweeb and the Dweebette. Here.
  6. This in-depth interview is two-pronged. Ian McHugh (Canberra)  interviewed me and it appeared on his blog and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s (CSFG blog). Ian did an amazing job, a follow up to his in-depth interview last year. Here and Here.
  7. Over in Canada with Liz Munro,  West Coast Book Reviews, who asked me some quick quirky questions and has been a great supporter since she review both Dragon Wine books. Liz is a spec fic author too. Here.
  8. Glenda Larke in Western Australia. If you haven’t read Glenda then you should right now! Glenda interviewed me with some probing questions. Here.
  9.  David McDonald (Melbourne) included me in his Paying for our Passion series. Here
  10. A Christmas post by me. Here.
  11. Keith Stevenson, also from the ‘Gong, asked me a few questions about the inspiration behind the world and story of Dragon Wine. Here.
  12. Fellow Canberran, Chris Andrews asked me to talk about my darkest hour (writing). Here.
  13. Sydneysider, Joanne Anderton, asked me about my work life balance or lack there of. Here.
  14. Patty Jansen, also from Sydney, asked me to talk about romance in speculative fiction. Here.
  15. Leife Shallcross, fellow Canberran, asked me about my research habits or my own personal research rabbit hole. Here.
  16. Dawn Meredith who is a fellow CSFGer, but lives in the Blue Mountains, let me talk about how reading helps my writing. Here.
  17. Me again for my New Year’s Post. Here.
  18. Romance author, Maggie Mundy, had me talking about romance in Dragon Wine. Now I consider Dragon Wine to be unromantic because it’s dark and nasty, but I did find that I had two love triangles. Who knew?  Here.
  19. Allan Walsh from Queensland had me talk about world building. Here.
  20. DL Richardson had me over for a wonderful and fun coffee chat. Such a fab idea. Love it! Here.
  21. Kim Cleary had me on her blog to talk about why sweet little ol’ me wrote such a nasty story. Here.
  22. Nalini from Dark Matter Ezine had me over to talk about Female Heroes. I’d like to extend this blog post at a latter time as I was quite knackered when I wrote it and there’s so much more to say. Here.
  23. Last stop was MJ Oliver, currently resident in Indonesia, where I talk about how writing is not all about the writing. You know that promo stuff. Here.
  24. This probably went out first. It was an article in Scott Robinson’s newsletter- some writing advice . His website is here.  I’ll put the text of the article here. Writing in the zone. One of the best things about writing is finding the zone. I used to call it the zen zone-the frame of mind where I’m into the story, I’m creating stuff and I’m getting a buzz. Often I’d only get into the zone on a writing retreat. The peak time for the zen zone would be Wednesday of week two. These days I can’t rely on retreats to get me into the zen zone. I need the portacot type of zen zone. One I can assemble and set up and use anytime.I think that is doable, but finding out how to do that requires some self reflection and understanding of what inspires one to write.

    I don’t think I have met a writer who hasn’t had a crisis of faith in their writing, or their writing career. This can be brought about from lack of success in getting anything published, or lack of achievement in finishing the novel or even after being published and having that novel they have worked on for ten years not selling. All of these things can be detrimental to the mind set of putting your head down, believing in yourself and writing.

    Now I don’t have a one size fits all solution to this. I have some suggestions for finding out how to tap into your own zen zone, mostly from my experiences.

    1. Don’t buy into the self-doubt talk down.

    This is where you obsess about not being good enough. For example, you’ve just read the best book ever and you feel that it’s all over, you’ll never be that good and why should you even try. Bollocks. There’s always going to be someone, no matter how good you are, that’s done something more interesting, more popular or award winning than you. It’s not about them it’s about you. Writing what you love, what you enjoy and doing it to the best of your ability. Don’t listen to that voice in your head that tells you to give up. Not if you really want to succeed. If you’re not the best you can be yet, then keep at it, keep practicing. You’ll get there if you really want it.

    1. Figure out how you work best.

    I heard an interview with a writer recently who studied when she was the most productive. Although she was a morning person, she found she actually wrote more at certain times in the afternoon. Some people like writing to music. Or they have to be in a certain space in a certain chair. Others like writing in coffee shops. The thing is to actually think about what contributes to writing well for you. If you stop writing and spend all your time on the internet then think about leaving your phone off, and disconnecting from the internet. If you watch tv instead of writing, think about not watching television at all. Whatever distracts you or makes you feel out of frame, you need to identify it and address it. That will help you get into the zone.

    1. Be kind to your body.

    As a person who has developed RSI and spinal issues over time then I am all for looking after yourself. Take breaks. Use a timer. Take a walk or do something physical. We weren’t built to be on the computer all day. Writing requires that. Unless, of course, you try dictation software or standing up or both. Whatever you do balance the physical with the mental. That way you can enjoy your zen zone to the max.

    1. Read widely and often.

    Reading teaches and it also opens your mind up to possibilities whether you are reading fiction or non-fiction you are shoving stuff in your head that’s going to come out in your writing either the next week or the next year or five years from now. You can learn from other fiction writers about techniques, taking risks or just opening up your mind to possibilities. This is like fertiliser for the zen zone. You have built up enough fuel to give your zen zone blast off.

    1. Try to do the best you can do.

    My motto here and it’s only recently adapted into my approach: Enough isn’t good enough. I am trying to put some perfection into my writing. Maybe this is because I’m pretty sorted with story and plot and world building, although I think I can do better with characters all around. But I don’t want to be just competent or good, I want to go for more. For me that might be patience and subtlety in my story telling. It might mean one day aspiring to write the literary genre masterpiece. All I know is that writing is a continuum and I want to climb up that line of achievement and explore what I can be as a writer. Seeing a goal also gives meaning to my zen zone. When I’m there it’s so right and good and sigh…I just want to be there always.

And here is the exhausted me!

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

Exhausted me on 8 January 2016

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Now that Shatterwing and Skywatcher are out there, I was thinking that there are things that I’ve written in the Margra setting that will never see the light of day. Maybe they were never meant to, but  I thought I’d share with you a scene from Salinda’s past. This was how she found Plu, the dragon as a hatching. You will also meet Mez, who had already passed on by the time of Shatterwing. It’s unedited and I wrote it about 2009, so six years ago.

Deleted scene, Salida finds Plu

Salinda ran, her bare feet throwing up dust as she left the curved perimeter of the prison vineyard. The lure of freedom beyond the dragon hatcheries compelled her forward. No guard would dare to follow her, fearing death on the plains or in the treacherous geothermal wastelands. Salinda knew that there was a way through for her. Had to be.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Mez, her elderly helpmate, dart out of a vine row and begin loping after her. Salinda groaned and increased her pace. Why did the old man follow her? What business was it of his whether she went or stayed?

Ahead rose the pockmarked ridge where the dragons laid their eggs in crevices, seeking the warm, sulphurous mineral deposits to nurture their young. If she made it past that, then there was a chance.

Putting her head down, she strove for a burst of speed, until the shadow of the ridge fell on her. Then she lifted her head to assess the rock face, choosing the best way to ascend. Veering to the left, she leapt onto a large boulder, gripping it with her toes. She made it up over the top and then scrambled up a section of red-brown dirt, grasping at protruding roots and clumps of vegetation to assist her climb. Dirt rained down on her head and shoulders, with some landing in her mouth. She spat out the grit and continued upwards, using a rock as a foothold to push her up to another level.

Mez called out. Looking down she saw that he had stumbled at the base of the boulder, his chest heaving. Maybe now he would cease dogging her steps but she doubted he would. Concentrating on each hand and foot hold, she continued to climb. Above her head, she felt a long flat stone. Hopefully it was a ledge where she could take a breather.

Then Salinda felt it, a disturbance in the air behind her. She stilled. Over her raspy breathing, she heard the sound of wing beat.

Her gaze slid to the right and then to the left. She was careful not to make any sudden movements. In her peripheral vision, she caught sight of the dragon. Exposed on the ridge face, Salinda assessed her options. To escape she could drop to the ground, risking possible death and certain disablement as the fall would snap bones and crush internal organs. The dragon was likely to devour her in one swallow but there was a chance she could avoid the encounter. A very slim one.

With her hands over her head, she further assessed the lip of the ledge. The dragon screeched as she heaved her body onto it. Frozen for a moment, she dangled there. The dragon did not strike so she moved, leaping to her feet and swinging round to face the dragon in a crouch, in time to see the dragon pull up, exposing the smooth scales of its under belly. A small reprieve. The rock face narrowed above her forming a cleft, making it difficult for the dragon, a female, to snatch her easily. It was clear though that on the next pass she would gain footing and take her.

The dragon’s approach mesmerised her as it swooped back, dark green and purple head slanting towards her, grey claws outstretched to grasp the rock face. Salinda took a step back, hoping for the comfort of the wall behind her. Her feet dislodged fist-sized rocks, which she nudged out of the way. The beast came at her—pointed snout, lower jaw ratcheting wide, preparing to rend. Instinctively, Salinda raised her arms over her head and stepped back again. The hot, rank breath of the dragon made her recoil. She stepped into nothing—a hole and slipped down, loose scree and stones assisting her slide.

Salinda landed hard, the impact forcing the air out of her lungs and leaving her with arms and legs splayed. She had fallen into some sort of fissure or cave. The dragon’s frustrated cry vibrated the air around her as it clawed at the rocks and soil around the opening.

Salinda dragged in a painful breath, fearing she had broken a rib. Foul dragon’s breath poured from the snout hammering at the opening, as it moved closer and closer. Helpless, Salinda lay there watching the entrance enlarge, as chunks of rock tumbled to the ground and sand hissed into piles. Then she heard another sound, muffled and faint—a man’s voice calling out a chant of some kind. A wave of dizziness hit her and she lost consciousness.

When she came to it was silent in the cave and her hair was crusty with dust. After spitting blood, she realised that she had bitten her tongue and wiped her lips with the back of her hand. Her limbs were stiff and sore but the pain in her side had eased somewhat. She could move. Light pierced through various cracks overhead and she could see it was a short climb to the opening of the shallow cave. Wiping sweat and dust from her forehead, she froze. There was a sound in the cave—a scratching, pecking sound.

Crawling on all fours, Salinda scouted around the nooks and crannies, searching for the source. She found the shell first, broken bits of grey, speckled with green and purple. Tumbling about was a newly-hatched dragon, shell still sticking to its head. It was an ugly thing, thin wings adhering to its gooey hide, knobbly, dark-purple head, surrounding an over sized snout.

Her first thought was to find a rock and smash its brains out. It would save the world from another human-eating dragon. She watched as it fumbled about helplessly, then it gazed at her with black, glossy eyes and mewed. A dragon had almost taken her. Her life had been spared and, to repay in kind, she would spare this creature’s life. Instead of greeting it with violence, she stroked the hatchling, removing the fragment of shell at the same time. It made a sound in its throat plu, plu, plu. Salinda grinned.

A rock tumbled down to the cave floor. Salinda looked up to see Mez struggling through the opening. “Salinda?”

Salinda frowned, then let her anger melt away. She knew the old man cared for her in his odd way, but couldn’t help resenting his interference. “Down here. I’m safe.” Her voice carried a tone of resignation that she could not disguise.

Mez gathered his dirty robe around his skinny legs as he made his way to her. Sweat made his face shine amidst the patches of dirt. “Well, my girl. That was a close call. Ready to come back now?”

Salinda tried to stare him down, but after a moment, she looked away and nestled the hatchling in her dress. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, she rubbed a thumb over the scar on her ankle. The scar caused by a year in chains.

“I’m leaving this place. And before you begin lecturing me…I don’t care if I die trying.”

Mez looked around him and sat down on a rock, resting his arms on his knees he assumed his lecturing pose. “Then you will die for certain and sixteen years is too early to die for nothing.”

“It’s not for nothing and I said I don’t care. Anything is better than internment here. You may choose to end your days here fermenting wine, but I have better things to do.”

Mez looked around the cave. “Say you made it across the plains and back to Sartell or wherever you wish to go. Say you win your revolution. It means nothing.”

“Nothing?”

Mez chuckled in that horrible knowing way. “Your revolution is pointless and I’ll tell you why.”

Salinda continued to stroke the hatchling, which apparently Mez had not yet noticed.

His eyebrows cinched together. “I hope you know me well enough to hear the truth in what I say. We are a dying people, so it matters little which government is in power or which rebel group wins through.”

Salinda clenched her right hand. In her left hand, she held the hatchling, who chose that moment to mew. Mez lifted a fluffy white eyebrow, but did not comment on the noise. “You would say anything to keep me here.”

Mez chuckled. “Not anything.” Then he shrugged. “Well…perhaps everything and nothing.”

“You say we are dying?”

Mez’s brown eyes hinted at sadness. “Yes, all of us. We have always been dying. When Ruel moon split and fell to Margra, all should have perished. Yet some survived. Whether this is by accident or design I am not sure.”

Salinda did not like what she was hearing. “You speak in contradictions. I feel perfectly alive.”

Mez leaned closer. “Of course you do. What did I give you for breakfast this morning, mmm? The first of the new season’s Dragon Wine.”

Salinda rubbed her forehead, dislodging dust. “So I drank wine. So what, all the prisoners got some. Even the lowliest person in the poorest village receives some dregs of wine.”

“That’s it exactly. Everyone everywhere drinks Dragon Wine.”

Salinda’s head was pounding. All this talk of wine was making her thirsty. “You’re not going to tell me that by growing grapes we keep everyone alive are you?”

“Yes. I am. We live through the grace of dragons, through the medium of Dragon Wine. By tending these grapes and making wine you, me, we make a real difference. The wine keeps us alive by virtue of the power of the dragons. That I know.”

Salinda screwed up her face. “No. No. That’s not possible. That’s not even logical. Dragons kill humans. Humans kill dragons. Why would they help us survive? It makes no sense.”

Again Mez smiled. “I did not say they do it willingly. It is a by-product of their existence. A secret known to a few. A dangerous secret, too. For he who controls Dragon Wine has the power of life and death over everyone.”

The hatchling was growing restless. Salinda pulled it out, stroking its head softly.

“A hatchling?” Mez whistled softly as he leaned in for a closer inspection. “You are full of surprises today.”

“It must have fallen through one of the cracks.”

Mez chuckled. “Newly hatched I’d say. Risky keeping it alive, but it appears to have imprinted itself on you. Perhaps, you have found a friend for life, one that may come in handy in future. Mmm…I suppose we could tend it for a little while and then reintegrate it into the nest. Any longer than that and we could not conceal it.”

He felt in his pockets and pulled out some old bread. The hatchling caught it deftly and swallowed it in one bite. Salinda smiled at it. Holding it calmed her.

“So this is not a creature of death but of life?” she asked holding the hatching out as it squirmed in her hands.
Mez nodded. “You did right to let it live.”

Salinda let a breath out slowly and looked at the aftermath of the dragon’s attack on the cave opening.

“That was you I heard before, wasn’t it?”

Mez raised an eyebrow and feigned innocence. “Me? What do you mean?”

“You spoke to the dragon, made it go away.”

“Now you are being fanciful.” He stood up and turned around as if to make his way out of the cave, but there was something there in Mez’s eyes, something that made her breath catch.

“No, I’m not. It makes sense. That she dragon almost had me. One more moment and I was dead. It had almost breached the entrance.”

“Salinda.” With his back to her, he shrugged his shoulders.

“No. I want the truth, old man.”

“Yes, it was me.” He turned back to her. “I speak dragon tongue. Though they are not words as such, they are sounds that shape images the dragons understand.”

Salinda had been reasonably well-educated and had never heard of anyone speaking to dragons. With her gaze locked with Mez’s, she stroked the hatchling again and lifted it high. “I’m going to call him Plu.”

Mez hesitated. “Yes, why not? Te Pluan Nuresh, which equates to Plu that fell from the nest.”

Plu nuzzled her palm, seeking more food. She liked the sound the hatchling made when she stroked it.

“All right then,” she said. “What do baby dragons eat?”

Mez smiled. “Meat mostly. You’ll have to sacrifice your ration for a while. You are coming back with me?”

“Yes, for a little while. I’m not slaving here until I drop and I’m not giving up my ideas about revolution…but there is more to you than I thought, old man.”

Shatterwing and Dragon Wine available in ebook and print.

DragonwineLinks from the publisher’s website here.  Book depository have them both in print too.

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I’m still settling in after the jetlag. Still in transition from being on holiday in lovely historic Britain to being at home again in Dweebenhiem in Canberra.

Here is a shot of Dweebenhiem with peach blossoms! I hadn’t seen those before as we saw the house in late Spring before we bought it.

Dweebenhiem in Spring

Dweebenhiem in Spring

Yesterday it was a fab Sunday roast with friends and some family. I even did stuffing to go with the pork. I’m still trying to hang onto the threads of my trip.

Last night I had the grandchildren over. They’ve just left actually and peace has descended. Tomorrow I go back to work. Mind you I’m not sure how I’m going to get there as Action Buses took my express bus away. No more 788 or 785. I’ll just have to transition to the more convenient but expensive car and leave the inconvenient but cheap public transport along. Mind you before the bus timetable was imposed it was convenient and cheap. Thank you ACT Government! Not!

As I’ll be back at work I won’t be able to do much promotion and writing time will be these treasured moments when time, inspiration and energy levels combine. I’m entering a busy reporting stage of my project that should keep me stressed out until Christmas and maybe beyond. Then again maybe it won’t be that way.

As I may not have books for my launch on Saturday 12.30 at Conflux SF Convention, I’m getting these postcards printed. Provided they make it in time. They will have a discount code for the ebook, which will be fab.I’ll also be on a couple of panels at the convention.

. Along with the fabulous launch speaker Cat Sparks and awesome MC Nicole Murphy. The wonderful Matthew Farrer will be doing the book selling (or preorders).  So for the launch reading there will be just me, raw, everyday me. I was going to say naked me, but not your your life! I’ll be wearing my special launch shoes. I haven’t thought about a dress yet. And I may not do a reading but I’ll need to work that out pretty soon won’t I? I mean there will be people and everything like that.

So the postcard!

Dragon Wine Series Book 1 and 2

Dragon Wine Series Book 1 and 2

Then the special launch shoes! (this is my excuse for buying a third pair of shoes in that store on that day in Maidstone, Kent).

Launch Shoes

Launch Shoes

Everyone needs special shoes on a special day. Now I just have to find something to wear.

Wish me luck. I may have real life print books sometime soon. But the ebook is awesome. Did I mention it had maps? I’ll do another post on the Donna and the map drama later. Why waste a good blog topic? Also, I’m still working on the Four writers on a canal boat for a week post. It’s complicated.

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I’ve been thinking through the notion raised in the first review of Shatterwing that an editor or copy editor made a mistake on  because it contains ‘sexual brutality’, that they somehow overlooked this, or that they failed to warn me in some way or that it should have been removed before publication.

I think there is a confusion here about what an editor and copy editor do. To my mind, editors assist in improving the content, the expression of the ideas but are not censors of content. I believe a commissioning editor exercises that role when they decide to commission a work or not or accept a work with a proviso…say I’ll take this if you change x & Y and or Z. They may do this for a variety of reasons. This was not the case. Shatterwing was acquired as a dark fantasy and it deals with some gritty and less than savoury aspects of the world setting.

The inclusion of any such content is entirely my decision. My name is on the cover after all.

I wrote Shatterwing (and Skywatcher) a long time ago, when some pretty nasty things were going on in the world. To some degree the content is me processing this through the narrative. When I was doing the copy edits I did stop, think and question. Some parts of the narrative are not comfortable to read and I may have deleted a line here or there voluntarily, but I didn’t change anything materially.

I have no issue with people liking or disliking this aspect of the work as that’s entirely a matter of taste. I am grateful that people are willing to review and discuss the books.

 

 

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I have let out hints on Twitter and Facebook about contracts! Yes, plural. I’m so excited and I’ve been dying to tell but a few things happened. One, I hadn’t signed the contracts yet. Two, my laptop fell off my bed and broke. I’m afraid I was traumatised. But it’s now fixed and all is right in my world again.

If you have been following me for a while, you would know about my novel Dragon Wine. It’s the work of the heart, my major work, my first glimpse of writing something good way back when (2005). It was a massive  door stopping beginning to a trilogy, which I started in 2005. It wasn’t quite as good then as it is now. If it wasn’t for the Varuna MS development awards it may not have been written. I was encouraged by being long listed for the first 25 000 words (all I’d written at the time) of this first imaginings of Dragon Wine in 2005. At the time, I had a little vineyard so I did think a lot of it up while I was out there working on the vines, pruning them, caring for them. I wrote more in 2006 and it made the long list again, then I submitted again finally making the shortlist.

I did a quite a lot of posting a while back about how I cut it back after some feedback and also to make it eligible for some slush piles. However, I hadn’t quite got it where I wanted it to go. And those slush piles. Shrug. Publishing is a different place from when I started writing way back when.

I was thinking to do another rewrite of Dragon Wine this year, as you do with a work  you never give up on, when I had a chance to submit it to Haylee Nash at Pan Macmillan Australia. The wonderful thing was she read it straight away and loved it. I was offered a deal with Momentum Books and I took it. All very quick. It felt amazing to have an editor read it and love it. You can’t imagine how it felt. I’ve been working on this book for 9 years.

So Dragon Wine is coming out really soon. It is coming out in two parts. Dragon Wine is the name of the series and the first book is Shatterwing, which is the name of the remains of the shattered moon above Margra, the planet where Dragon Wine is set. The second book is called, Skywatcher, which is the name given to the people who watch the skies and shoot down meteors. Alex Adsett, my literary agent, coined the term-post-apocalyptic dragons when she read it.

You can probably tell that this is a weird sounding fantasy as it seems to have science fiction elements. It does! It’s also a pretty dark fantasy in that the world is not nice and is inhabited by some pretty nasty and desperate people. Of course, my story is about the people who are good and want to change things. Anyway, you will have to wait for the blurb! Then not very long after for the books. I am hoping to launch them at Conflux in October in Canberra.

Meanwhile, I post things as I hear or see (like the covers!). I’ve just got the copy edits for the first part. And I’m going to get the next ones when I’m in the UK in August, eep! There is more to the story of course, but being a commercial world we need to see how these two go before decisions are made about the next installments. But I do have the next two drafted!

And I have good news for Dani K too, but that’s another blog!

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