The Young Sorceress – Chapter 4 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger bent down and picked up a paper from the street.  At least he was still able to do that.  Many of the people he saw passing him on the street seemed barely able to lift their own feet.  He was still in the ghetto of Zurelendsviertel.  He had been unable to get out.  During the past eleven months, Wissinger had been forced to use the money that his guardian angel had given him to buy scraps of food.  She had been right.  When push had come to shove, the other Zaeri had helped themselves and their families, and not the famous writer they knew of, but didn’t really know.

The angel had not come back since that night.  If Wissinger had not had the money to spend on moldy bread and mysterious meat, he would have thought that he had dreamed the whole thing.  Of course there were also the stories.  Stories had come into the ghetto from the outside world—stories about a mysterious woman. A blond woman had attacked Neuschlindenmacht Castle, burning it to the ground, though nobody knew exactly how. A powerful witch had fought and killed a dozen wizards of theReine Zauberei on the streets of Kasselburg.  A blond sorceress had freed hundreds of Zaeri prisoners held in a work camp and had killed or frightened off a company of soldiers guarding them.  Wissinger carefully listened to the stories without adding his own experiences. There was nothing to indicate that these stories were about the same woman, or that they were even true.  But Wissinger believed them.

“You’re thinking about me right now, aren’t you?” asked a sultry voice right by his ear.

Wissinger jumped.  The woman was back.  He looked up and down the street and realized that there was no one else to be seen. This was unusual.  It was almost mid-day.  He looked back at her.  Yes, it was the same woman.  She was dressed at least this time.  Sort of. He tried to think where her black corset and leather pants would be everyday dress, but could imagine no such place in the world.  She tossed her hair back and then took a pose with her chin held high, like a statue.

“Um, you’re back,” he said.

“Oh my.  Here I was told that you were the greatest writer in Freedonia, and this is your introductory line?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Well now you’re just being thick,” she said.  “I came back for you.  You were supposed to be gone, out of the ghetto and to the coast at least.”

“I couldn’t get out.  The Kafirite, Kiesinger, the one who smuggled some Zaeri out for money. The day after you were here, I mean in my room, he was arrested.  He wasn’t arrested in my room, he was arrested… wherever they arrested him, but no one else took his place.  There was no one else who would help, to smuggle me out.”  Wissinger stopped speaking and realized he was out of breath.

“Relax lover.  We’re leaving now.”



“Wait.  We have to go back to my room.”

She smiled seductively.  “What a wonderful idea.  I thought you might be more welcoming this time.”

“No, it’s just… it’s the middle of the day.”


“Well, um… I… Aren’t we in a hurry?”

“You’re the one who wants to go back to your room.”

“I have to get my book.”

“What book is that?”

“My book.  It doesn’t have a title yet.  It’s about life here.  It’s hidden in the wall.”

“Then let’s go get it.”

Wissinger led the woman down the cobblestone street to his apartment building and upstairs to his room.  His building had been a fine middle class apartment twenty years earlier. Now it was rapidly falling apart from neglect.  Holes had appeared in the walls and the floor.  In one spot just outside his apartment door, he could see completely through to the floor below. In a way this was all fortunate.  The crack in the wall next to the loose board, behind which he hid the tools of his trade, didn’t look out of place.  Removing the board, he pulled out the tablet and pencil.

The tablet was the type children used in school.  He had started at the beginning and had used every page.  Then he had turned it over and had written on the backs of each sheet, in ever smaller script as the pages had become scarce.  The pencil was the last of a package of twelve.  Oh, how he had wasted his pencils at first, insisting on a sharp point, whittling each one back with his knife.  When he had gotten to the sixth one, he had stopped such foolishness. He let the lead become as dull and round as a turtle’s head and had only cut back the wood around it, when it, like the turtle’s head, had become hidden inside.  That was all over now.

He felt the woman press against his back.  She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and licked the back of his neck.  He turned around and kissed her deeply.  She pulled him toward the cot, and he let her.  He spent the last hour that he would ever spend on that horrible, worn, bug-ridden mattress making love to a beautiful woman.

“I don’t even know your name,” he said, as they dressed.

“It’s Zurfina.”

“Like the daughter of Magnus the Great?”

“Yes, exactly like that.”

“You’re not her, are you?”

“Yes.  Yes I am.”

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Senta watched as the last pallet of copper was placed inside her rented warehouse by a lizzie crew working steam jacks.  The copper was made up of oval ingots about a quarter inch thick, dozens of which were packed together in crates and then the crates had been stacked together on wooden pallets.  The copper barely filled one corner of the warehouse, but occupying the rest was an enormous pile of pillows.  Not all of the pillows were new.  In fact most weren’t.  But it looked a comfy enough pile to take a run at and jump into.

A loud whomp on the pavement next to the Drache Girl signaled the arrival of Bessemer, the Steel Dragon.  The lizzies in the area reacted immediately, though not all in the same way.  Some scurried away, some placed their hands in front of their dewlaps in a respectful greeting, and a few dropped to their knees in genuflection.

“I hate when they do that,” said Bessemer.

“Kisses,” said Senta, and the steel dragon bent his neck toward her, air kissing first on one side of her face and then the other.

“Oh, good.  My copper is here,” said the dragon.

“Your copper?  What are you going to do with copper?”

“Make pots of course.  You put the copper ingot in a steam press and turn it into a pot or a skillet or even a kettle.”

“What do you know about making pots?”

“I read.  Some people could do a bit more of that.”

“I’ve been busy, but I’m planning on reading a bit today.”

“Do tell,” said the dragon.  “Anyway, why did you call me down here?”

“You need a place to sleep.  Well, here it is.  I’ve brought all your pillows down and got you a few more besides.”  She saw Bessemer’s dubious look.  “It’s just till we find something else.”

“Did you bring Mr. Turtlekins?”  Bessemer refused to sleep without his well-worn stuffed turtle.

“Yes, he’s in there somewhere.”

“Still, I don’t know.  It’s awfully noisy down here so close to the docks.”

“It’s very quiet at night.”

“I don’t just sleep at night.”

“You could sleep through an explosion.  I’ll tell you what though.  I’ll come down and sleep here with you for a few nights, until you get settled in.”

“That’s nice.  I miss crawling into bed with you when it gets cold at night.”

“Yes well, that’s why I had to get a new bed.  Anyway, it’s a bit too crowded at home.”

“What do you mean crowded?  You’re the only one there, aren’t you?”

“Never mind.”

“Well, I’ll try it out,” said the dragon, stepping inside the warehouse and sliding the large rolling door almost closed.  He poked his head out the small remaining opening. “You’ll be back tonight?”


Bessemer pulled his head in and shut the door.  Senta turned around and was almost immediately confronted by Graham.  He had a big grin on his face.

“I’ve got it.”

“Got what?” she wondered.

“Your token.”

“Token of what?”

“Token of my affection… you know, like you said.”

“I did?  Oh, sure I did.  Okay. What is it?”

Graham held out a small box.  Senta took it and carefully opened it to find the interior lined with velvet.  Right in the middle was a silver pendant in the shape of a dragon on a thin chain.

“It’s real silver… mostly,” boasted Graham.  “It’s a real silver chain and the dragon is covered with silver, but it’s made out of… and this is the best part… a tyrannosaurus tooth! Do you get it?  Dinosaur for me and dragon for you—it’s like the perfect symbol for us.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty ace all right.”  Senta was quite sincere in her appreciation for her boyfriend having come up with an acceptable gift, especially considering his lack of romantic proclivity up to this point.  “Help me put it on.”

Pulling the necklace from the box and promptly dropping the box on the ground, Graham draped the necklace around Senta’s neck as she turned around.  He fumbled with the latch for a minute, but at last the silver form of the dragon pendant rested comfortably on her blue dress over her heart.

“Thanks,” she said, turning around.

“When do I get mine?”

“Am I supposed to buy you a necklace too?”

“No.  When do I get my, you know…” his voice grew quiet.  “My kiss.”

“How about right now?”

The boy turned around to see if they were unobserved, but as was so often the case anywhere the young sorceress went, quite a crowd of people were encircled about them, too afraid to get too close, but too curious not to stay and watch.

“Maybe tomorrow.  You’re still cooking dinner for me at your house, aren’t you?”

“Am I? I mean of course I am.  But you don’t want to wait all the way until then, do you?”

“I think it might be better.”

“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind them.

Graham and Senta turned to look into the freckled face of a young woman.  She had evidently just come off one of the ships in port.  She wore a long traveling coat over a white blouse and brown dress. A brown bonnet held back bright red hair, a few strands of which escaped to hang down on the side of their face. In her right hand she grasped the handle of a small carpetbag.

The Young Sorceress – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Isaak Wissinger sprang suddenly from his cot, motivated by a particularly enthusiastic bedbug.  He was immediately sorry, as the pain in his back was exacerbated by the sudden movement.  He looked back down at the vermin filled, inch thick mattress, a few pieces of straw sticking out of a hole in the side, sitting on an ancient metal frame.  It was a sleeping place not fit for a dog. Then he laughed ruefully.  That was exactly how he and every other Zaeri was thought of here—as dogs.

The Kingdom of Freedonia, like the rest of the civilized world was divided in two.  There were the Kafirites, who ruled the world.  And there were the Zaeri, who had long ago ruled it.  Two thousand years ago, Zur had been a great kingdom, one that along with Argrathia, Ballar, and Donnata ruled the classical world.  Then a single dynasty of kings, culminating in Magnus the Great, had conquered the rest of the known world, and made Zur civilization the dominant culture.   Zaeri, the Zur religion, with its belief in one god, had replaced the pagan religions of the civilizations that Magnus and his forebears had conquered.  Even when Magnus’s empire had splintered into many successor kingdoms, the Zaeri religion had remained dominant.

Then a generation later, a Zaeri imam named Kafira had begun teaching a strange variation of the religion in Xygia.  Kafira had taught the importance of the afterlife, an adherence to a code of conduct that would lead one to this afterlife, and a general disregard for the affairs of the world.  Her enemies had destroyed her, but in so doing they had made her a martyr. From martyr, she rose swiftly to savior and then to godhead of a new religion, one that had spread quickly to engulf all that had been the Zur civilization.  In the following millennia, the Kafirites had converted the remaining pagans to the creed of their holy savior, thereby making it the only religion in the world of man—the only religion in the world of man save those who held onto the ancient Zaeri belief.

Now here in Freedonia it was no longer safe to be a Zaeri. First it had become illegal for Zaeri to be doctors or lawyers, and then actors or publishers.  Then laws had been passed which made it illegal for Zaeri to own businesses or property.  Finally entire neighborhoods became forbidden to Wissinger’s people and they had been pushed into ghettos, segregated from the other Freedonians.

Wissinger spent the day picking up garbage on the street. That was his job here in the ghetto. He had been an award-winning writer when he had lived in Kasselburg, but here in Zurelendsviertel he walked the street, a silver zed pinned to his jacket, picking up refuse.  At least people didn’t treat him like a garbage man. The other Zaeri knew him and respected him.  They asked his opinion about things.  They called him “professor” when they spoke to him.  It was not like that at all with the Freedonian soldiers who occasionally made a sweep through the ghetto.  They would as soon kick an award-winning writer to the side of the road as they would a street sweeper.

Back once again in his room, he pulled his tablet and pencil from its hiding place behind a loose board and continued writing where he had left off the day before.  He could not live without writing.  He wrote down what had happened that day, what he had seen, what he had heard.  He wrote about the death of Mrs. Finaman, brought on no doubt by lack of nutrition, and he wrote about her husband’s grief at the loss of his wife and his unborn child.  He wrote about the sudden disappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Kortoon, and the speculation that they paid their way out of the ghetto.  And he wrote about the disappearance of the Macabeus family, and the speculation that something sinister had happened to them.

That night on his uncomfortable cot, Wissinger had a wonderful dream.  He dreamed that a beautiful woman was making love to him.  She licked his neck as she rubbed her naked body against his.  She whispered to him in some foreign language—he thought it was Brech.  When he managed to pull himself out of the fog of sleep, and he realized that it wasn’t a dream, that the woman was really here with him, he tried to push her off of him.

“Don’t stop now lover,” she said, a noticeably Brech accent to her Freedonian.  “I’m just starting to really enjoy myself.”

Wissinger pushed again, and slid his body out from under her, falling to the floor in the process.  She stretched out, lying on her stomach.  He stared at her open-mouthed.  Her long blond hair didn’t quite cover a fourteen-inch crescent moon tattoo at the top of her back.  Another tattoo, an eight-inch flaming sun sat just above her voluptuous bottom.

“Who are you?  What are you doing here?”

“I would have thought that was obvious,” she replied in a sultry voice.  “I’m here to warn you.”

“You… uh, what?”

“I’m here to warn you.”

She rolled over and stood up, revealing six star tattoos all over her front.

“In a short while, maybe a few weeks, the food supply to the ghetto will be reduced.  It will be reduced a lot.”

“They barely give us enough to survive on as it is.  They can’t cut it back anymore.”

“They can, and they will.”  She stepped closer to him.  “They are going to try and starve the Zaeri to extinction.”

“They won’t be able to.”

“No, it’s true, in the end they won’t.  But they will try and many will die.  Even worse things will follow.  Do you know how to get out of the ghetto?”

“I can’t leave.  People need me here.”

“No they don’t.  People like you, but they don’t need you and they won’t help you when things get very bad.  You have no family and when it comes to eat or starve, you won’t have any friends either—no one will.  I ask you again; do you know how to get out of the ghetto?”

“They say a Kafirite named Kiesinger will get you out if you can pay, but I don’t have any money.  I didn’t have any before I came here.”


The woman handed him a small leather pouch, though he had no idea where she could have had it hidden. He looked inside.  There was a small roll of banknotes and twenty or so gold coins.

The Young Sorceress – $2.99 for Kindle

Everyone in Port Dechantagne seems to have an agenda of their own, from mysterious sorceress Zurfina, to agents from the enemy nation of Freedonia, to the kings and witchdoctors of the mysterious lizardmen. On the eve of her fifteenth birthday, sorceress’s apprentice Senta Bly finds herself being pulled first one way and then the other. Will she actually have to split herself into four?

Buy The Young Sorceress for Kindle – Just $2.99


The Drache Girl – Chapter 17 Excerpt

“Of course I gave him the rope,” said Iolanthe.

Yuah shuddered.  No matter how close she had come to Iolanthe as a compeer, she had never forgotten that her sister-in-law and former employer could be merciless.  It still seemed like being given a cold slap, to be forced to come face-to-face with that realization.

“Why did you give him the rope,” asked Saba.

“I thought about giving him a pistol.  It would have been a much more appropriate way to do it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t count on Mercy not to shoot me instead of himself.”

“He means, why did you help him kill himself,” said Yuah.

“She knows what I meant.”

“I don’t really need to explain it to you, do I Saba?  You have lived with us since you were born.  This family has been knocked down again and again, and I have done everything to build it back up.  After three generations of incompetence and stupidity, I have made the Dechantagnes a great family name again.  I will not let it be linked forever with treason.  Can you imagine a public trial and then an execution?  No, I will never allow something like that to happen.”

“He was your husband, though.”

“Yes.  He was. And at least he had the decency to take the honorable way out.”

Yuah couldn’t take any more.  She stood up and walked out of the parlor, down the hallway, and into the library. She stopped inside the door and took a deep breath.  Terrence was sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs with a book in his lap. A pair of reading glasses was perched on the end of his nose, but he wasn’t really reading.  She stepped over to him and placed her hand lightly on his shoulder.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

Jerking her hand away from his shoulder as though it had been burned, Yuah turned and rushed back out of the room.  She leaned against the wall and placed both hands over her stomach.  She could feel the cane strips in her corset but couldn’t feel the life growing inside of her.  Continuing down the hallway, she stepped into the kitchen.  One of the lizardmen was sweeping the floor and a black-haired teenaged boy sat eating a sandwich in the corner.

“Can you drive me now, Marzell?” Yuah asked the boy.

It might have been difficult to find humans in Birmisia who were willing to work as servants, but it was surprisingly simple to find young men willing to serve as drivers for one of only two steam carriages on the continent. Terrence had given out that the position was open and had faced an avalanche of applicants.  He had narrowed the selection down to three boys, and had let Yuah choose her favorite.  She had chosen one of the Zaeri boys from Freedonia.  Marzell Lance was a serious young man of sixteen, with a shock of perpetually mussed black hair and brown eyes.  He always seemed to be hungry.  Though he had proven he could not only drive, but maintain the steam carriage, that was not why he had been chosen.  He, like so many coming from Freedonia, had arrived alone.  His sister, the only member of his family with him, had died on the ship.

Marzell jumped up and held open the outside door.  Yuah walked through and he followed.  The steam carriage was parked near one of the sheds.  It looked as pristine as it had when it had arrived on the ship from Greater Brechalon.  The minor damage caused by Yuah’s accidental diversion into a snow bank had been repaired, and from the rich black leather of the seats to the shining copper bonnet, it was clean and polished.

“I’ll have to fire up the boiler, Ma’am,” said Marzell.

“I know.  That’s fine.”

Marzell held out a helping hand for Yuah, as she stepped up into the passenger seat.  As she sat with folded hands in her lap, he stepped around to the back to light the boiler. He shoveled in several more scoops of coal for good measure as well.  Then, popping back around to the driver’s side, he climbed in.

“If I had known you were planning to go out, Ma’am, I would have fired it up earlier.”

“I know.  It’s all right.”

“Where did you want to go, Ma’am?”

“Please stop saying ‘Ma’am’.  I feel old enough as it is.”

“Yes, Ma’am.  Where did you want to go, Ma… Mrs. Dechantagne.”

“Take me to Miss Hertling’s home, please.”

Shifting the vehicle into gear, Marzell stepped on the forward accelerator, but with a still relatively cool engine, the steam carriage rolled forward very slowly.  It seemed as though it took at least five minutes to reach the gate, which was no more than fifty feet away.  Once the young man had gotten out and opened the gate though, steam had built up enough that they were able to start down the road at a respectable speed.  It was less than ten minutes later that Yuah was knocking on Honor’s door.

The front door of the small cottage opened and Honor stepped outside.  She immediately pulled Yuah to her and enfolded her in her arms.  Tears welled up in Yuah’s eyes, but she bit her lip and fought them back.  By the time her friend let go of her, she had screwed her face back into order.

“Come in.”

“Just a minute.  I didn’t know if you were here.  I have to tell Marzell that I’ll be staying a few minutes.”

“Tell him you’ll be a couple of hours and that he should come back,” said Honor.  “Don’t argue. Just do it.”

Yuah did as she was told, and as Marzell took off with a whoosh in the steam carriage, she stepped inside the Hertling house and closed the door behind her. Honor was stirring the contents of a large crockery bowl with a big wooden spoon.  Her typical brown and black dress was covered by a white apron, now stained with a brown smear.

“I made Hertzel a cake last week, so now I’m making one for Hero.”


The Sorceress and the Dragon

Now that His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire is done, I can get onto the final Senta (The Sorceress and the Dragon) book.  It is written and still needs revising and editing.  Before I start though, I’m going to go through and do a major re-edit of all of the series.  I’ve done some editing of them before, but this time, I may do some minor rewriting of certain sections.

I’ve already completed and uploaded the new version of Brechalon, and now I’m working on the Voyage of the Minotaur.  I’ll post here, when I’m done.  Once I have them all re-edited, I’ll start the revision for book 10: For King and Country.  It is a very long book, by far the longest in the series.  Watch this space for more info.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Though winter was well on its way out in Birmisia, it was still cold enough at night—cold enough to bundle up tight, cold enough to blow steam in the air with your breath, and cold enough that the lizzies moved with their characteristically slow gate.  Police Constable Saba Colbshallow watched them from behind the corner of a warehouse building across the street from the dock.  He didn’t know why they were working in the middle of the night, but he hadn’t spotted them taking from the ship any of the curious long crates that he had seen on previous occasions.  He watched for more than thirty minutes as the reptilians moved freight.

Finally deciding that the activity represented nothing nefarious, Saba stretched his sore back, pulled a sulfur match from his pocket, and lit the oil lantern sitting on a barrel next to him.  Then taking the lantern with him, he made his way across the street.  There were half a dozen lizzies loading wooden crates onto a pallet that was attached to the crane to be loaded aboard the ship. As he approached, several of the lizardmen eyed him.  Half of them were taller than his six foot three, but all of them hunkered down to look shorter than they actually were.  It was a demonstration of submissiveness that the constable had grown used to over the years.  Coming to a stop beside the workers, he crossed his hands over his chest.

“Working awfully late, gentlemen.”

One of the lizardmen hissed.  Even though Saba was not fluent in the aboriginal language, he could tell it was a non-verbal expression of anger or annoyance.


The two closest lizardmen held out their arms.  They each wore a wooden and twine identity bracelet.  Saba held up the lantern and read the engraved information on each of the tags.  “Finn: Serial Number 22211 BL”, and “Ishee: Serial Number 22214 BI”.

“All right.  The rest of you too.”

“Does there seem to be some problem, PC?”

Saba looked up to see the tall, silhouetted form of a man walking toward him from the direction of the ship.  When he reached the circle of lantern light he was revealed as Professor Merced Calliere.

“Good evening, Professor.  Just checking identifications.”

“I would appreciate some haste then.  These fellows have work to do.”

“So they’re working for you?  I noticed these two don’t seem to have night passes, and my guess is that the others don’t either.”

“Yes, well I needed help on what you might call an ad-hoc basis.  It’s very important business—government business. So I would prefer it if you not delay them any longer.”

“Then I had best let them get back to work,” said Saba.  “As soon as I check the rest of their identification.”

“This ship is leaving first thing in the morning.”  Professor Calliere hissed from between clenched teeth.

“I am aware of that, Professor,” said Saba, then to the other lizardmen. “Stick your arms out.”

The two reptilians that he had already checked stepped aside, and the remaining four held out their arms to show their identification bracelets. Calliere folded his arms and scowled. Saba read them off one by one.

“Maddy: Serial Number 19705 BL.  Sassine: Serial Number 18234 BI.  Guster: Serial Number 10100 BI.  Swoosy: Serial Number 11995  BI. Oh, I know you, don’t I?”

Saba looked up at the last of the lizardmen. It was a hulking brute, at least six foot five, though it was doing its best to seem shorter.  Its skin was deep forest green with large mottled patches of grey here and there.  It looked nothing like the lightly colored, rather short female that the constable had seen saved by Graham Dokkins from the new arrivals.

“Hold on,” said the constable, grabbing the wrist with the bracelet.

With a hiss that bordered on a roar, the lizardman leapt forward, grabbing Saba’s helmet in its clawed right hand as its momentum carried both of them backwards.  As he fell, Saba felt the alligator-like mouth clamp shut on his right shoulder. The gravel of the street flew as the man and the reptilian landed.  The latter flipped completely over and onto his back.  Saba jumped to his feet, his hand suddenly holding his truncheon even though he didn’t consciously grab it.  With a speed belying its supposed cold blood, the lizardman rolled onto his stomach, and without even getting up, launched himself into Saba.  They both fell into the pallet of crates, one of which splintered, spilling its contents onto the ground.  Saba swung his truncheon, but couldn’t tell if it connected. The next moment, his opponent was gone.

Jumping to his feet, the constable saw his attacker disappearing into the darkness, running south.  All of the other lizardmen were either running or were already gone.  Saba reached into his reefer jacket to feel his shoulder and pulled out a hand with several streaks of blood upon it.  His pulse was pounding in his ears.  Professor Calliere stood with his mouth open.  The ground was strewn with papers.

Saba reached down and picked up a fist full of the papers.  They were white, 8 ½ x 11 inch papers, covered on one side with long strings of numbers.  He kicked the damaged crate and it busted open completely, spilling out more of the number filled sheets.

“Papers?  Just papers?”

Calliere looked unhappily at the ground.

“What the hell are these?”

“Just… just some calculations.”

“Are all these crates filled with these calculations?”

Calliere bit his lip.

“Professor, you’re going to need to come with me.”

Calliere’s eyes shifted but then he nodded.