The Young Sorceress – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Birmisia was full of life in the spring. Wildflowers seemed to suddenly appear just about everywhere. The days were warm and wet, with frequent fog and almost daily rain showers. The giant maples grew new leaves, adding their lustrous green to the ever-present deep emerald of the tremendous pines. Ferns opened up their fronds in the dappled light beneath the mighty trees and in those places with no light, large and varied mushrooms showed their rounded heads. Plants were not the only life forms present though. The land was alive with both birds and beasts. One could easily spot cormorants, snipes, rails, and wrens hopping through the trees along with the strange four-winged microraptors. A few godwits, grebes, puffins, and pelicans occasionally strayed inland from the shore.   On the ground caudipteryx, buitreraptors, bambiraptors, meilong, and mahakala ran among the ferns looking for small lizards and snakes and large insects, which were everywhere. They didn’t bother the opossums or the mice, which stayed snug in their dens until nightfall. In the open areas huge iguanodons grazed, sometimes accompanied by triceratops and ankylosaurs. Most of the large predators like the tyrannosaurs and utahraptors had become scarce due to the presence of man, though the velociraptors and deinonychus were still thick, as happy to scavenge human trash as to hunt the other Birmisian creatures.

A flock of seven velociraptors made their way down the road. They went in fits and starts, pausing to snatch a lizard or small rodent from among the ferns and squawking at each other. They were, like all of their species, covered with hairy feathers, yellow near their small arms, and green everywhere else. Most of this particular group had a black band around the base of their necks. They were only about two and a half feet tall, but their long tails stretched straight out almost five feet. The most famous features of the velociraptors were their feet, each of which had a three-inch claw curving upward, and their long many-toothed snouts, more like something one would expect to see on a crocodile than on a bird. The leader of the flock raised its head as it spotted a human walking toward them from down the lane.

Velociraptors seldom hunted human beings unless one was wandering alone and injured. It had little to do with size. Some of the animals that fell to the feathered runners were much larger than man-size. Though velociraptors were not known for their intelligence, they possessed a cunning that matched most aerial birds of prey and this allowed them to determine which potential targets were more likely to become their supper than the other way around. Simply put, most humans didn’t act like prey. A few did. They started, and jumped with fear. But most didn’t. They didn’t quite act like predators either. They blundered around the forest without regard to what they might run into. To the velociraptors, they were simply too confusing to be bothered with unless there was nothing else to eat. And in spring, here in Birmisia, there was plenty to eat.

Regardless of their intent on hunting this particular human, the flock fanned out, following their instinctual behavior for both hunting and defense. Three took positions on either side of the road, moving in and among the shelter of the trees, while the leader moved into direct confrontation. This way they formed a triangular trap around the animal, in this case a human, directing it forward and keeping its attention away from potential attackers on the side. What happened next cemented in the tiny minds of the velociraptors as much as anything could, that this human was a poor choice for prey.

This human being was a teenaged female, and though biologists still debate whether velociraptors can distinguish between the sexes of mammals, others of her kind could immediately recognize her gender by the long flowing deep violet velvet dress, made more expansive by an extensive bustle over her rear end, and the long flowing blond hair held back by the deep violet velvet ribbon fastened on the side. Tens of thousands of other human beings could in fact identify this particular human female, because this particular human female was the young sorceress Senta Bly. She was hurrying home from the Hertling house where she had enjoyed afternoon tea. When she noticed the brightly feathered creature standing directly in her path, she flipped her hand toward it and muttered a single word under her breath. A bright blue ball of energy flew from her fingers to the velociraptor, which exploded into a puff of yellow, green, and black feathers. Its comrades disappeared into the forest.

Senta had scarcely passed the spot in which the velociraptor had stood when she was brought to a stop by a honking coming from behind. She turned around to see a shiny steam carriage chugging down the road toward her. As she waited, the vehicle slowed and came to a stop. A tall man in the uniform of a police sergeant looked down at her. His thick blond hair, flashing moss green eyes, and confidant air made him handsome in a way that the recently acquired bend in his nose couldn’t detract from.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 20 Excerpt

It was damp and cold. A thick blanket of fog rolled slowly through Port Dechantagne, between the trees and houses, obscuring the creatures, large and small, that moved through the mist. It left decorations of condensation upon everything it touched. Police Constable Saba Colbshallow pulled out his gold pocket watch and flipped it open. The time read 6:53. He put the watch away and then stuffed both hands into the pockets of his reefer jacket. He stepped through the remains of the burned out house of Mrs. Yembrick, careful not to step on an exposed nail or a jagged timber.

“I thought I saw you over here.” Eamon Shrub stood at the edge of the building foundation. His uniform exactly matched Saba’s, from the helmet on his head, to the shin-high boots on his feet.

“What are you doing dressed for duty already?” wondered Saba. “You don’t come on till nine.”

“Dot was tossing and turning all night, so I got up early. Figured I might as well get ready. Talking of which, didn’t your shift end last night at nine?”

“You know how it is.”

Saba walked across the blackened foundation and Eamon walked around it. They met on the far side of what was left of the structure and shook hands.

“I can’t stop thinking about what’s going on with the lizzies,” said Saba. “I’m sure that something is up.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. I caught one in town using false documentation and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. If they’re sharing their bracelets, then it’s possible we have many more of them in town than there should be. Then there’s whatever they’ve been getting from the ships in port. They’ve hauled away loads of crates from two ships that I know of and there may well have been more.”

“It’s probably someone trying to smuggle trade goods past the tax collector, and using lizzies for hired labor. Kind of like what the professor was doing, only in reverse.”

“Maybe. Even if that’s all it is though, it’s still quite a smuggling operation.”

“So what’s that got to do with Mrs. Yembrick?”

“Both times I trailed the lizzies carrying crates; they passed by this general direction. Then I took a look back through the log books and found that Mrs. Yembrick reported seeing lizzies in her window on three separate occasions.”

“That does seem a bit fishy in light of the fire,” offered Eamon.

“Exactly. So since I had no luck following our cold-blooded friends, I thought I would poke around here.”

“All right. I’ll poke with you.”

The two began making a sweep across the yard, carefully examining the ground for anything unusual. After only a few minutes, Saba noticed a pile of debris that seemed oddly placed. Several timbers had apparently fallen a good distance from the fire, and were sitting on five or six boards and a piece of canvas, none of which had been touched by the flames. The young constable began tossing the wood aside. By the time he had finished, Eamon had joined him to help pull the dirty canvas over.

“Did you remember Mrs. Yembrick having a root cellar?” asked Saba, looking down at the door on the ground.

“Can’t say as I did,” replied Eamon.

He bent down at one end of the door and Saba the other. They both lifted the portal open, revealing a set of stone steps leading down into the darkness. Saba, who was closest to the top step, started down. His fellow constable followed him into the darkness. There were exactly ten steps down to a large room with a dirt floor. Though shrouded in shadows, there was just enough dim morning light leaking in for them to see that all four walls were lined with stacks of long thin wooden crates.

With a single stride, Saba reached the stack of crates almost as tall as himself along the left hand side of the room. He lifted the lid of the topmost. Though it had once been nailed shut, the lid was now just sitting on the wooden box. Inside, there was nothing but a handful of straw packing. He kicked the bottom of the stack and could tell from the movement of the boxes that all were empty.

“Look over here,” said Eamon, who had moved to the back of the room.

He was pointing to one of the crates at the bottom of the stack against the wall farthest from the doorway. It had black printing painted across the wood. Saba had to kneel down in the darkness to read the writing. “.30 caliber Hecken 98”

“Oh sweet Kafira. Rifles.”

The Drache Girl – Chapter 19 Excerpt

Senta finished washing her face and brushing her teeth. She walked back to her bed and examined the dress that lay there. Even though Zurfina had not returned, clothing continued to appear each morning. Sometimes Senta ignored it and wore one of the dresses that she had purchased for herself at Mrs. Bratihn’s, but more often she simply slipped into whatever strange accouterments appeared. She had already put on her underclothes, including her bustle, when she lifted up the dress by the shoulders to examine it. This one was actually not too bad. It was black with puffy white sleeves and white lace trim around the neckline and the bottom. The only problem was that the bottom was just below her knees.

Senta rolled her eyes then slipped on the dress. She reached behind her and easily fastened the row of tiny buttons that ran up the back. Opening her top dresser drawer, she rummaged around and found her knee-high socks with one-inch horizontal black and white stripes. She sat down on the bed and pulled them on, and then put on her black patent leather high heels. Looking in the cheval glass, she decided that it didn’t look too bad.

Once downstairs, she thought for a brief moment about preparing some breakfast, but decided she’d rather walk to Mrs. Finkler’s. It was a new month and her pockets were once again filled with her stipend. The desire not to have to clean the kitchen and the fact of her newfound wealth had both conspired to disincline Senta to cook since Zurfina had left. And as Bessemer didn’t seem to mind, preferring to catch and eat wild prey anyway, she scarcely took the time to prepare any meals at home anymore. She looked at the steel dragon’s empty corner and then headed out the front door.

Senta had almost completely crossed the yard before she noticed Graham standing at the gate. His brown hair was neatly combed and his freckled face had been recently scrubbed. He wore a tan and white horizontally striped shirt that made him look chubbier than he actually was and a new pair of dungarees cut extra long and rolled up into cuffs over his work boots. In his right hand, he clasped a handful of small white flowers.

“You look kind of ridiculous,” she said.

“You should talk. I mean… you look nice. Here, these are for you.” He shoved the handful of flowers in her direction.

“Thanks. I didn’t think there were any flowers in bloom yet.”

“These are the only ones. They grow in the dinosaur poo.”

“Pretty. So what made you decide to come around here?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must have some idea. I haven’t seen you in a whole month.”

Graham mumbled something.

“What?”

“I said I guess I missed you or something.”

Senta smiled and stepping over to him wrapped her arms around his left arm.

“I was on my way to Mrs. Finkler’s for breakfast. Come with me.”

“I’ve already eaten,” said Graham. He didn’t say this to decline her invitation and she didn’t take it that way. It was understood between them that for him two meals in a row was no problem. “I’m buying though.”

“Then it will be a real date,” said Senta.

“No, not really.”

Graham turned and headed toward town, Senta still holding onto his left arm.

“I think you’ve grown since I saw you last,” said Senta, who was several inches taller than Graham.

“Yep. Da says I’m in a spurt. Look. If we’re going to be friends…”

“We are friends,” she corrected.

“Okay. Yes, we are friends. But you can’t go fighting my fights for me. You have to let me take care of myself. I’m a man.”

“Nope. That’s not how it works. You are my friend and if anyone messes with you, I will crush them.”

Graham stopped and pulled his arm from her grasp so that he could put both of his hands on his hips.

“And,” she continued. “If anyone messes with me, you can do the same, just like you did with that Freedonian wanker Streck.”

The boy thought for a moment. “Well, that seems fair.”

My Books – Part Seven

Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge (2016)

I had plotted out  Electric Racecar Challenge, and was just getting ready to start.  Then, I was reading a story in which a character was in a car wreck and ended up with a chunk of their memories missing.  This was devastating for that character and they never were able to recover.  I thought that this was just the sort of beginning that would be a challenge for Astrid to overcome.  This also added an interesting subplot that I was able to explore that tied into catfishing, which was big in the news at the time.

A Plague of Wizards (2016)

After the traumatic into to Electric Racecar Challenge, I decided I wanted something like that for the next Senta book.  This was not part of the overall arc that I had planned.  But Senta had become so powerful and important, I wondered what would happen to her friends and Birmisia if she were to just disappear.

Kanana: The Jungle Girl (2016)

I started working on this book about 2011.  I worked on it off and on for a couple of years. When I got back to it in 2014, I decided that I didn’t like the story in the first person, so I went back and rewrote it in the third person.  Then I decided that it was better the way that I had it before.  I went back to the first draft and continued it until there were only three chapters left.  Then I set it aside.  I finally came back to it at the end of the 2016 year, and it was fairly easy to finish up.

His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience (Coming Soon)

This book will be out in September 9th, 2017.  I got the idea for this book in 2014, while working on Charity.  I started it right after A Plague of Wizards, but paused to work on the next Senta book, and Kanana.  This is by far my favorite robot book.

The Dragon’s Choice (Coming Soon)

I started working on this after A Plague of Wizards and it was the quickest book I’ve ever written, unusual since, I think it’s nearly the longest Senta book.  It continues the story of the same main characters in A Plague of Wizards.  The first draft of this book is done, and as soon as the final edit of A Great Deal of Patience is done, I’ll start the edit on it.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 18 Excerpt

The past five days had been more grueling for Radley Staff than the previous five, and that was saying something. Getting his expedition home through the dinosaur filled forest, carrying one dead and one dying, had been more adventure than most people would have ever wanted. A pack of deinonychus had dogged their trail the entire way, but the party was large enough and well armed enough, that the beasts had kept their distance. Such was not true for the utahraptor that had rushed out of the trees. The seven foot tall, twenty-five foot long creature clamped its jaws down on Sanjo’s arm just as Staff pumped five rifle rounds into its fist-sized brain. Crashing to the ground, it nearly ripped the poor lizzie’s arm off. It was a wound that was sure to have killed a man, but after it was bandaged, Sanjo seemed already on the mend.

Glad that he didn’t have to worry about the lizardman, Staff did worry about Miss Jindra. The fact that he had dragged the beautiful young sorceress out into the forest seemed sure to be the cause of whatever blight had settled upon her. He felt guilty—only to find out that her illness was self-inflicted, the result of her theft of magically booby-trapped money. Even after discovering this fact, Staff insisted that she remain in the apartments of the M&S Coal offices and paid for the very best care.

He didn’t have any time to sit by Miss Jindra’s bed. He spent almost all of his time during the five days after his return to Port Dechantagne, arranging for the funeral of Aakesh Mouliets, seeing to the needs of Mrs. Mouliets and her boy, and negotiating with the railroad for the construction of a spur line to the coal deposits. Staff had known that the Mirsannan culture was steeped in tradition, but he didn’t realize until now just how difficult it would make his life. There were all kinds of requirements for the burial of a Mirsannan, none of which were simple or straightforward. The coffin had to be made of cedar, a not impossible task. But the deceased had to have a pillow of ferret skins and the church had to be filled with peacock feathers, neither of which could be found within five thousand miles of Birmisia. Mirsannan men, or at least Mouliets, appreciated the demure Mirsannan woman, who as far as Staff could see, could do almost nothing on her own. Purna Mouliets did nothing but weep into her hankie, and while he could appreciate the genuine emotion for her beloved, Staff eventually wearied of her inability to stop crying long enough to approve or disapprove the elements of the funeral. Her son Sudas on the other hand scarcely took his face out of a book long enough to notice that his father was gone.

Mr. Lenahan Norich of the Mallontah and Birmisia Railroad had sent his personal assistant Anton Garner all the way to Port Dechantagne to negotiate the construction of a spur line. He arrived in his employer’s private railcar. The railroad was quite happy to build the additional track, but the guarantees they wanted in exchange were exorbitant. Had it been any other time, Staff would have asked for the influence of the royal governor, but two days before negotiations had begun, Iolanthe’s husband had committed suicide. Staff couldn’t help but have mixed emotions. At last the paperwork was signed and on the day of the funeral, more than one hundred lizardmen workers, supervised by a dozen engineers and foremen, began clearing the way for the iron rails that would soon follow.

Mouliets’ funeral was attended by about forty people. All of the M&S employees were there along with their families. Caitleen Harper, her daughter Melody Lanier, and her granddaughter Wenda were dressed in simple black. Theadora Vanita, in charcoal grey, was accompanied by a man that Staff had never seen before. It was an example, he thought, of how there was a match for anyone somewhere out in the world, because this fellow at six foot eight and at least three hundred pounds was probably the only person in Port Dechantagne capable of making Miss Vanita look dainty by comparison. A slight shudder went through Staff when he saw Mrs. Fandice. The woman, who had been remarkably helpful in arranging the funeral, wore a dress that dripped with artificial lilies. What was obviously meant to be a mourning dress looked more like something that would be worn by a street performer. She and her gorgeous niece, Loana Hewison, were accompanied by PC Colbshallow in his finest blue uniform. Staff escorted Miss Franka Rocanna, who looked as beautiful in her dark purple dress with antique lace, as she did at any other time. Her veiled hat disguised her strangely short red hair, but not her smoldering, dark eyes or dark, full lips. Edin Buttermore arrived with his wife and child. It was the first time that Staff had seen either of them since their arrival in Birmisia, and it appeared that life in the new land appealed to them. The haggard and frail appearance that he had noted on Julietta Buttermore’s face was gone, and the toddler, Easton, was as fat and happy as ever. Mr. and Mrs. Rutan wore expressions one might expect at a funeral. Of course, these were the expressions that they wore all the time. The Gliebermans, Beeman, his wife Acadia, and their six-year-old daughter Sherree all wore the same simple grey and white clothes that had originally made Staff assume that they were Zaeri. The little girl with her miniature eyeglasses and her tiny dress identical to her mother’s, carried a fluffy stuffed animal in one hand and a first year primer in the other. Ivo and Femke Kane were the last to arrive, just moments before the start of the service. Ivo Kane wore a long, black suit, and Mrs. Kane wore an identical one.

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.”

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

If you would like to read one of my books, now is the time. Smashwords is having their summer reading sale. You can get ebooks in any format— Kindle, nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc. The sale ends July 31st.

The following books by me are on sale for FREE:

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike (Astrid Maxxim Book 1)
The Voyage of the Minotaur (Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 1)
Princess of Amathar

Use coupon code SW100 at checkout.

The other books in the Senta and the Steel Dragon series are 50% off:
The Dark and Forbidding Land
The Drache Girl
The Young Sorceress
The Two Dragons
The Sorceress and her Lovers
The Price of Magic
A Plague of Wizards

Plus:
Blood Trade (Vampire Novel)

Use coupon code SW50 at checkout.

In addition, Smashwords has literally thousands of ebooks by other authors on sale this month. Hundreds and hundreds for free. Time to fill up your ebook reader with a library. Visit Smashwords.com.