When the book For King and Country comes out, I plan to change the series name. I think sales have been hindered because Senta and the Steel Dragon may come across as a children’s title. I plan to retitle it The Sorceress and the Dragon. Then, next year, as I do new editions of the earlier books, I’ll update them to the same series title.
Yesterday, I published a poll asking which book I should write next. I could have made a much longer list of possibilities. For every book that I have written, I have at least one idea for a sequel. Some of them I’ve started in the past. Some not. I have partially written sequels for Princess of Amathar, Blood Trade, and Tesla’s Stepdaughters. I have ideas for sequels for Kanana: The Jungle Girl and Women of Power, and Eaglethorpe Buxton.
For King and Country is planned to be the last Senta and the Steel Dragon book, but I have notes and an outline for a follow up series.
Patience Under Fire is planned to be the second to last book in the series, followed by Extreme Patience, but I have ideas for a follow up series.
I have notes and ideas for 35 more Astrid Maxxim books.
The first book of 82 Eridani is half-written. It is supposed to be a seven book series.
In addition, I have five new books that I’ve partially written, and fifteen more that I have notes or an outline for.
I turn sixty years old a in a few days, so I figure I’ve got at least 22 years to get all this written. Hopefully I can keep my brain cells working for that long.
I have finally gotten into a groove and I’m cruising right along in the new robot book. I don’t have a date yet, but as soon as I do, it will be posted here. The announced release date should come six to eight weeks before the release, because I know about how long the editing and proofreading takes. Keep watching this site.
“Do you think they are the same goblins that we saw earlier?” asked the orphan, at my shoulder, peering into the window.
I could only shrug, for in truth one goblin looks much the same as another to me. Though I had relatively close contact with three of the creatures earlier that evening, which is to say having kicked two and poked one in the head with my knife, I can’t say that I had become familiar enough with any of the three to distinguish them from any other of their race. That being said, I was relatively sure that the one I had poked in the head with my knife was not among those now in the little cabin. These goblins were singing or drinking or dancing or doing some combination of the afore-mentioned, all of which are extremely difficult if not impossible to do when one is dead.
“What are you going to do?” wondered the orphan.
“Why do you suppose I should do anything?” I wondered.
“Shouldn’t you avenge the poor man lying on the floor? After all, he is a human being killed by foul goblins, and you are a… I mean we are human beings too.”
“Aye, it is true that we are human beings.”
“And he was killed by goblins.”
“I do hate goblins.”
Hysteria knickered. She hated goblins too, probably because they stand so low to the ground and as I have pointed out before, she dislikes anything too near her feet.
“And I am frozen,” the orphan continued. “I would love to spend the night inside of doors and near a warm fire.”
“Now you make a compelling argument,” said I.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Have you ever heard of Brementown?”
“There is a story told there of a group of musician animals.”
The orphan rolled his eyes. I explained my plan, devised on a variation of the Brementown story. Turning Hysteria so that her rear end was pointed toward the wall of the cabin, I left her with the orphan while I went back to the front and took a position by the door. Pulling out my knife, I placed my fingers in my mouth and whistled, which was the prearranged signal for both my noble steed and the orphan.
At the signal, Hysteria began kicking the wall of the cabin with both hind feet and the orphan commenced to making all manner of strange noises. I was so surprised by the cacophony of sounds, which is to say noises that came out of the youngster’s mouth that I almost forgot my own part of the plan. I am aware that boys are well-versed in the creation of creative noises as well as all kinds of mimicry, having been a boy myself once. But this orphan was a true artist. He belted out the yowls of a wildcat, the braying of a donkey, the barking of a dog, the screech of harpy, and the gurgling growl of a frog-bear. Not to be outdone, Hysteria let loose with the squeal of an angry equine, which is to say a horse.
It was scant seconds before the door burst open and the goblins began pouring out into the snow, their shrieks clearly indicating that they were frightened out of their tiny little minds. The first two who came out were quickly dispatched with my knife. After that I decided that it was too strenuous to keep bending down to kill them, as they are so low to the ground and I had been riding all night long, which under the best of conditions can give one a sore back. Thereafter, I reverted to my now well-practiced maneuver of using their heads as makeshift kickballs, which is to say I kicked them on their kickball-shaped heads.
In the space of twenty seconds, I managed to get rid of all the goblins, which turned out to be seven. I can’t swear that all of the goblins were dead, as five had been sent in long arcs through the air into the darkness of the woods. They were gone though. Scant moments later, the orphan, Hysteria, and I were inside the cabin. I put Hysteria in the corner furthest from the fireplace and directed the boy to stoke the fire, while I pulled the body of the unfortunate former owner out into the snow next to two of his apparent murderers. Thereafter, I went back inside and bolted the door.
“That was a wonderful plan,” said the orphan.
“Indeed it was.”
“I’m surprised you thought of it.”
“Just one of the benefits of a classical education,” said I. “If I did not know the story of the Musicians of Brementown, I would not have known what to do. And as I recall, you looked noticeably unimpressed when I mentioned my knowledge of this particular bit of culture.”
“I do admit I thought it a waste of time, um… at the time,” admitted he. “I offer you my apologies.”
“I suppose I will have to accept them,” said I. “What with you being a poor, ignorant orphan.”
“Your magnanimity is wonderful to behold,” said he. “In any case, I think I would like to hear the story of the Musicians of Brementown.”
“Oh no!” cried I. “You still owe me a shiny penny for the story of Queen Elleena of Aerithraine.”
“But you didn’t finish it.”
“Of course I did.”
“No. You didn’t. When you stopped, she wasn’t even Queen yet. She was stuck in the temple in Fall City.”
“When she turned fourteen, she returned to the capital in Illustria and was crowned Queen by the Pope, after which she took control and banishing him back to Fall City.”
“How did she do that?”
“No one knows.”
“Gah!” he cried. “You are the worst storyteller ever!”
“What would a poor, ignorant orphan know about it?”
“I know you’re not getting my penny!”
“Go to sleep,” I ordered him. “You sleep on the rug by the fire. I will take the bed, after I give Hysteria a good rub-down.”
I put away my knife and then climbed back into the saddle. The orphan had regained his feet and I reached down, took his hand, and lifted him back into his spot behind me. He reached around my waist and held on tight.
“Thank you,” he said.
“All is well,” said I. “A few goblins are no match for a trained warrior.”
“Then how did they manage to prevent Prince Jared from becoming the King of Aerithraine? Did they catch him asleep and murder him?”
“One might have supposed that, under ordinary circumstances.” I continued my story. “These times were not ordinary. Goblins are not only small and stupid and smelly; they are disorganized. But every once and so often, there comes along a goblin who is big enough and just smart enough to unite the goblin tribes and lead them on the warpath against the civilized lands of humans.”
“I had always heard that none of the human lands were truly civilized,” said he.
“What an odd and unorphanish thing to say.”
“Um… oh. I’m just discombobulated from the incident with the goblins.”
“Even so,” I agreed. “Well, at the time my story takes place, there was one such goblin king, who came to power by killing and eating his many rivals. And as happens when the goblins become unified in such a way, they experienced a population explosion. The mountains of the Goblineld were teaming with the little blighters. When the mountains could no longer contain them, they swept out across the southern third of the Kingdom of Aerithraine, destroying everything in their path.”
“Frightening,” said the orphan.
“Humans are so large and goblins are so small. You vanquished three pairs of goblins, and did it quite handily too.”
“And you don’t seem particularly skilled or particularly bright.”
“I just wonder that an entire human kingdom could not put together an army to destroy even a large horde of goblins,” said the orphan. “I would imagine that even a well-trained militia could do the job. I once heard the story of the Calille Lowain who held off five thousand goblins at Greer Drift.”
“I don’t know that story,” said I.
“Perhaps I will tell it to you sometime,” said he. “But what about it? Couldn’t the humans defeat the goblins?”
“There were tens of thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands. Thousands of thousands. But you are right. In other times, such hordes were sent packing, back to their mines and tunnels in the Goblineld. This time though, the goblins had a hidden ally. Far to the east, the Witch King of Thulla-Zor, who is always looking for ways to cause destruction and chaos, saw this as an opportunity. He supplied the goblin king with magic and weapons, and sent trolls and ogres to strengthen his ranks. None of these facts were known to King Justin when he rode forth with the Dragon Knights to meet them.
“King Justin, his three younger sons, and all of the Dragon Knights were slaughtered—to a man. Prince Jared, who had been in the north fighting sea raiders, hurried his forces south, only to meet a similar fate. The goblins were waiting for him. The entire southern third of the kingdom fell— and remained in the goblins’ filthy little hands for almost twenty years. And the Goblin King feasted on the spoils of war, sitting on his throne far below the surface of the mountains, drinking his disgusting goblin wine from a cup made from the skull of King Justin.”
“How horrible,” murmured the orphan.
“Yes indeed,” I continued. “And I think the worse part of the story is what happened to Queen Beatrix.”
“What happened to her?”
“She died. She died of a broken heart. And her unborn child almost died with her.
“Unborn child? It didn’t die?”
“No, the court physician cut the child from the Queen’s belly. It was a tiny baby girl.”
“Queen Elleena!” snapped the orphan.
“She should have been,” said I.
“What do you mean?”
“She should have been Queen the moment she was birthed, but that wasn’t to be. There were too many competing interests at court. Too many nobles wanted the throne for themselves. And in the chaos that followed the fall of the south lands, they might have done it, had it not been for the church. Little Princess Elleena Postuma was whisked off to the temple in Fall City, where she stayed for the next fourteen years, and Pope Bartholomew became the regent of the kingdom.”
“Did they keep Elleena prisoner in the temple?” wondered the orphan.
“Of course they didn’t,” said I. “Though I will wager she sometimes felt that she was in a prison. She could go anywhere she wanted to as long as she stayed in Fall City and under constant protective guard. In the meantime she was given all the training and education that was necessary for one who would one day rule.”
“It is like prison,” said the orphan.
“Neither you nor I will ever really know the truth of that.”
At that moment, I spied a light in the distance. The story, or at least this chapter of the story over, conversation ceased. I urged Hysteria forward, which is to say I encouraged her onward toward the distant light, which turned out to be a small cabin on the side of the road. Yellow light spilled from its tiny windows onto the snow.
Not having had the best of luck so far that night with regard to welcomes, which is to say that I had been attacked three times already that night, two times of which I have already described for you here, I dismounted and crept around to the side of the cabin to the window and peered inside. Lying on the floor in a pool of blood was a man in common work clothes. The single room of the little cabin had been ransacked. And dancing around, or sitting and singing, or drinking were more of the little, round-headed blighters, which is to say goblins.
Chapter Seven: Wherein my story is interrupted by goblins, thereby explaining why it might not seem as good as it really was.
Goblins are nasty little blighters. They remind me of my cousin Gervil’s friend called Rupert. His name was Sally, which explains why he was called Rupert. But like goblins, he was short and had a big, round head. I don’t know why goblins have such large heads for their little bodies. Of course I don’t know why Rupert did either. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage in it. On the other hand, goblins have excellent night vision, making it very easy to sneak up on people in the dark. And they have abnormally large mouths with an abnormally large number of teeth in them. This was very unlike Rupert, which is to say Sally, who as I recall had only five or six teeth, though he made up for that by having an extra toe. In addition to which I don’t believe his night vision was all that it might have been, for once he kicked me in the head when he was on his way to the outhouse. Of course that could have been on purpose. Rupert was a bit of a nasty blighter too.
“What are you doing?” asked the orphan, as Hysteria took a step back.
“Thinking about a fellow called Rupert,” said I.
“Well stop it, and get us away.”
I said that Hysteria took a step back, but I should have said that she took two steps back, one on each side. I could tell she didn’t want the foul little creatures around her feet. She’s very particular about her feet, as most horses are wont to be. As they approached still nearer, she reared up a bit—not enough to bother me, but just enough for the orphan to slip off her haunches and land with a poof on his seat in the snow. The goblins cackled grotesquely and I’m sure that they thought they had secured for themselves a snack. They stopped laughing though when I kicked my leg over Hysteria’s shoulder and dropped lightly to the ground.
With a quick motion, I pulled my knife, still stained red from crabapple pie, from my boot. It was a small enough weapon to face off six attackers and I would have much rather had a sword, but I had been forced to sell my sword in order to get a fellow out of prison. I didn’t really know him, but he was the beloved of a poor but beautiful farm girl. In retrospect it would have been better if he had not turned out to be a werewolf, but that is another story. If I ever write this down, maybe I’ll say that I sold it to get the poor but beautiful farm girl out of prison and that I slew the werewolf. Yes, that’s a much better story.
“What are you doing?” asked the orphan.
“Recalling the time I slew a werewolf,” said I.
“Finally something useful!” he exclaimed.
The two foremost goblins looked at one another. While six or seven goblins might sneak up on a man when he was asleep, or might chase down a maiden who was alone and defenseless, they would have to be extraordinary members of their species to take on a seasoned warrior with a weapon.
“That’s right potato head!” shouted the orphan, jumping to his feet. “Werewolves, vampires, giants; he’s killed them all.
“Gree yard?” said the first goblin.
“Grock tor,” said the second goblin.
“I don’t think they understand us,” said I.
The first began to skirt around me to the right and the second began to skirt around me to the left. The others were following along. I don’t know whether their intention was to surround me so that they could attack from all sides at once, or to get by me and get at the boy, but I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen. I took a quick step to the right and kicked the big round head of the first goblin, which flew almost as far as the kickball I kicked as a child, and of course the rest of the goblin went right along with his head.
As a child, kickball was one of my favorite pastimes. We had our own little team and I was almost always the bowler. Sally and Gervil and several other boys made up the outfield. Tuki played first, second, and third base.
“Look out for the other one!” the orphan cried, interrupting my fond memories.
I twisted around to my left and kicked the head of the second goblin, sending it in a lovely arc off into the forest. If my first kick had scored a double, which is to say a trip to second base, then this kick must surely have been a triple. And I would dare Tuki to say that either of those goblin’s heads went out of bounds.
“Look out!” the orphan shouted again.
I turned to give him a dirty look and saw a third goblin who was attempting to use the distraction of his fellows, which is to say their current use as substitute kickballs, to slice my Achilles tendon with a rusty old razor. With a quick jab, I thrust the point of my knife into his head and he dropped to the ground—dead. When I looked back around, the other goblins had wisely run away.