Changes for Brechalon

Brechalon (New Cover)I’m making a change in my book lineup. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. It has to do with series starters, and specifically with Brechalon. His Robot Girlfriend, for instance, is a good series starter for the rest of the series. People download and read His Robot Girlfriend and like it, and so they may purchase the other books. I never envisioned Brechalon as a series starter. I always thought of it as an extra for readers of The Voyage of the Minotaur. Because I thought of it as sort of an add-on, I eventually decided to offer it free. Now however, because it is free, it gets downloaded and people read it to decide if they want to buy the rest of the series. I don’t think it represents the series very well. The characters, especially Senta, don’t grow much in this story. You could say that’s understandable, considering she’s a child of six in the story, but it’s not what readers picking up a cheap read want. I think The Voyage of the Minotaur is a much better starter for the series. It was always intended to be the first book read.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m pulling Brechalon from the ebookstores. It will still be available at Smashwords. I’m adding Brechalon onto the The Dark and Forbidding Land, which is the shortest of the series and as it’s number two in the series, it maintains Brechalon’s position as something to be read after reading The Voyage of the Minotaur. Since Minotaur is now officially, and obviously, the first book, I’m going to lower the price. Hopefully this will encourage more people to buy the book and then read the rest of the series. Already well over 60% of readers of Minotaur purchase The Dark and Forbidding Land. As a publisher, the idea here is short-term loss and long-term gain. Since I’m not really a publisher, but an author, I really just want my books read.  Everything should be in place for the arrival of book 6 in the series The Sorceress and her Lovers, in just over one month.


New Cover for The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)

You guessed it.  There is a new cover for The Dark and Forbidding Land to match the rest of the Senta and the Steel Dragon series.

Nothing inside has changed, so if you have a good copy, you don’t really need to update it.  If you haven’t read this book full of frightening dinosaurs trudging through the snow to eat small children, you should buy it.  It’s just $2.99 wherever fine ebooks are sold.

50% Off Books for Read an Ebook Week

March 2-8 is Read an Ebook Week and during this week you can get the following books at 50% off– only at Smashwords.  Follow the links and use the coupon code REW50.

The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Drache Girl

The Drache Girl

Blood Trade

Blood Trade

The Young Sorceress

The Young Sorceress

The Two Dragons

The Two Dragons (New Cover)

The Drache Girl: Radley Staff

The Drache GirlRadley Staff is a very important character in The Drache Girl.  He appears in a minor role in The Voyage of the Minotaur, and I believe is only mentioned once it The Dark and Forbidding Land, because he is away in the navy.  His return here in book 3 is a pretty major plot point for the whole series.  If they someday make a movie or mini-series of Senta and the Steel Dragon, you can expect a big name star to have Staff’s part.  He’s just larger than life.  In a way, he takes Terrence Dechantagne’s place in the second half of the series– interesting since they both arrive together on the S.S. Arrow in this book.  There are many scenes I love with Staff, but my favorite is his complex romantic escapades on ship.

With dinner over, he excused himself and walked outside.  He leaned over the railing and watched as a pod of ichthyosaurs raced along beside the ship.  They were so much like the porpoises of home waters, except for the vertical tails.  After a few moments, he felt a warm body next to him and turned to see Miss Jindra in her deep purple dress.

“Mr. Staff,” she said.

“Miss Jindra.”

“I gathered earlier that you had a rather poor opinion of practitioners of the art.”

He shrugged.

“Have you known many?”

“I’ve known a few—a few sorceresses and quite a few wizards.  You run across a lot of wizards in the service.”

“And you don’t like them?”

He shrugged again.


“I don’t know.  I guess I find them to be self-important.”

“Is it self-important magic wielders who bother you?  Or self-important women?”

He shrugged again.

“Birmisia is not the place to go if you don’t like powerful women.”

“Don’t I know it?”

“Is it magic you are afraid of, Mr. Staff?  You know there is a sorceress in Birmisia who may be the most powerful in the world.  She is said to have destroyed an entire city with a single spell.”

“That’s probably exaggerated,” said Staff.  “She didn’t do anything particularly amazing when I knew her.”

“You know her?”

“Knew her.”

“So you really are not afraid of magic.”

“I’m not afraid of magic.  I’m also not afraid of a steam train.  That doesn’t mean I would stand in front of one.”  He tried to change the subject.  “You have an interesting accent, Miss Jindra.”

“My father was a Brech, but my mother was from Argrathia.”

Argrathia, in the southeast corner of Sumir, was one of the cradles of civilization thousands of years before Magnus the Great had conquered the world.  But now it was a backwater country ruled by petty nobles and warlords.  Its only revenue was the plundering of its past.

Miss Jindra’s eyes shifted to look past him.  Staff turned to see Mrs. Marchond standing behind him.

“Mr. Staff, I was wondering if you could join me for a drink.”

“Your husband?”

“Raoul has retired for the evening.  He gets weary on these long days at sea.  Miss Jindra, you could accompany us.”

“I think that I too shall retire,” said Miss Jindra.

“Good night then,” said Staff to Miss Jindra, and offering Mrs. Marchond his arm, he led her forward toward the first class lounge.

It was three in the morning when Matie Marchond climbed out of his small bed and stepped back into her gown.  She didn’t bother putting on her bustle or her other undergarments.  She simply rolled them into a ball, and tucked them under her arm.  Then she bent down to kiss him, biting his lower lip hard enough, he thought, to draw blood.  Then she stepped out into the corridor and was gone.  Staff waited a few discreet moments and then stepped out the door, walking down the hall to the bathroom.  Taking a quick shower, he put on one of the complimentary robes stacked on the small shelf, and then carried his clothes back to his room.  There were no others in the hallway, and the gas lights were very dim.

Staff slept in late the following morning, having drunk more than he was used to, and having been up very late.  When he finally crawled out of bed, he found his clothing hanging on the inside doorknob, pressed, and his other shoes just inside the cabin on the floor, polished.  After he dressed, he walked down the hallway to the bathroom, where he shaved.  Breakfast was long past and he didn’t feel like eating lunch, so he went to the stern of the ship and sat on a folding chair on the sun deck.

The day was anything but sunny.  The wind was up, just as it had been the day before.  The sky was already overcast, and as Staff sat, the temperature dropped steadily until he judged that it was below forty.  No other passengers showed themselves, but the weather did not stop a waiter from coming out and asking the gentleman if he wanted anything, in a decidedly Mirsannan accent.

“What do you have for a hangover?”

“I’ll see what I can find, sir.”

A few minutes later the waiter returned with a glass filled with a thick, red concoction.  Staff sipped it.

“Kafira’s fanny!  What the hell is in here?”

“Two eggs, two anchovies, a clove of garlic, a hot pepper, tomato juice, a twist of lemon, and a splash of healing draught.”

“That’s supposed to cure a hangover?”

“Yes, sir.”

 “Wouldn’t the healing draught by itself do just as well?”

“Probably sir, but it would not be nearly as beautiful.”

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Honor Hertling

Honor Hertling is a character that I added to the draft of The Voyage of the Minotaur as The Dark and Forbidding LandI was finishing it.  As so often happened, I had a spot for a character and I decided to make her the sister of Hero and Hertzal Hertling.  Of course, since she’s a Hertling, it followed that her name would begin with H.  I named her in honor (grin) of Honor Harrington, the space captain featured in the books by David Weber.  I’ve read and enjoyed the whole series.

In fact I had the Honor Harrington books in mind when I wrote The Voyage of the Minotaur.  Of course these aren’t space books and are quite different from Weber’s books, but I liked the flow of the plot.  I copied the way that his story just moves along as you meet and then get to know the characters, and then BAM BAM BAM– the end of the story explodes and you see which of the characters you liked managed to survive.

Anyway, Honor Hertling barely appears in The Voyage of the Minotaur, but I gave her a small but important part in The Drache Girl.  In The Dark and Forbidding Land, I got to go back and build a foundation for that.  So, she appears more in this book than any of the others.  Here is her first part in book 2, when she shows up at Senta’s door to collect her sister.

Any further consideration of her mistress’s peculiarities was cut short by a knock at the door.  Picking up Zurfina’s discarded coat and throwing it onto the coat rack, Senta opened the door to find Honor Hertling and three armed militiamen, one of whom was carrying a lantern.

“Did you have fun?” she asked the four children.  “It’s time to go home now.”

“I thought my Da was coming to get us,” said Graham.

“He was needed at the saw mill, so I said that I would come and fetch you.  Of course Mayor Korlann wouldn’t let me out of the gate without an armed escort.”  She indicated the three men who were glancing cautiously into the dark spaces between the trees.  She waited at the door while Graham, Hertzal, and Hero gathered their things.

Honor Hertling was in many ways an older version of Hero, with a thick mane of raven hair and large, expressive, dark eyes.  Her lips were as enchanting as her eyes, but her nose, that feature that so often goes unnoticed in even the most beautiful, was the most striking thing about her.  It was perfect; neither too long nor too short; perfectly symmetrical and correctly sized for her face.  That nose brought together those lips and those eyes in a symphony of beauty on a face that had once been flawless.  But the flawless days had ended in Freedonia, when a soldier’s rifle butt had smashed down on that beautiful face and now a scar ran from her cheekbone to her chin.  It was not so horrible a scar that people looked away.  It was not so bad that their eyes were constantly drawn to it when they spoke to her.  It was noticeable though, and just as though a scratch is more noticeable on a steam carriage that is brand new rather than one that has seen some years of service, it was all the more noticeable and all the more tragic because of the otherwise perfect face which it marred.  And in Honor’s eyes, it ruined her.

Last chance to pick up The Dark and Forbidding Land free

The Dark and Forbidding LandJust two days left to pick up The Dark and Forbidding Land for free at Smashwords.    Follow this link to the book page.  Be sure to use the following code at checkout: RG66K.

The Dark and Forbidding Land (which I’ve been posting about all month) is book 2 in the Senta and the Steel Dragon Series.

Two years have passed since Senta, the sorceress Zurfina, and Bessemer the steel dragon, and hundreds of colonists arrived in the strange land of Birmisia.  Their new home, Port Dechantagne is under construction in this dark and forbidding land, ruled by terrifying dinosaurs and strange lizardmen.  Ten year old Senta must discover which is the greater threat, a would-be wizard or the ever-increasing presence of the tyrannosaurus.  Meanwhile, former maid Yuah Korlann must negotiate living among the aristocratic Dechantagne family and deal with their new servants, the aboriginal “lizzies.”  And young militiaman Saba Colbshallow finds himself in the middle of espionage intrigue.

The Dark and Forbidding Land: Cissy

The Dark and Forbidding LandWhen I wrote The Drache Girl and The Two Dragons, Cissy the lizzie had a small but important part.  So when I went back and wrote The Dark and Forbidding Land as a prequel, I couldn’t resist the chance to write a big part for her from her point of view.  I did the same with Brechalon and The Young Sorceress.

Here Yuah and Cissy have a confrontation with each other after the woman finds out that the lizzie has been learning to read.

The woman led the way around the side of the house and through the still dead-looking garden.  At the far side of the backyard was a gate which opened into an alleyway that made up the middle of the block between the Dechantagne house and the empty lots behind it that would someday host large stately homes.  Turning right, Yuah walked through the alleyway.  It was not covered with gravel as were the surrounding streets, but was mostly covered with dead grass and a few patches of dirty snow, with a meandering footpath roughly in the middle.  At the end of the block, she turned west down Acorn Street.  Glancing quickly behind her, she saw that Cissy was following at a distance of three paces.  She stopped and pointed to a spot on the ground just to her left.  The reptilian quickly moved to the spot by her side.

“You will stay close by me to help discourage velociraptors.”


Yuah took a step and then another, but did not return to the quick stride she had been taking earlier.  She lazily strolled from step to step.  From the corner of her eye, she could see Cissy’s great greenish bulk beside her.

“So,” she said slowly, and then burst out.  “Who has been teaching you to read?”

“Hy you hant to know?”

“Don’t you sass me!”  Yuah turned quickly to look into the round yellow eyes.  “You are my servant.  You live in my house.  Answer me, damn it!”

“He say not tell,” said the lizzie, very quietly.

Yuah just stared into the yellow eyes.

“Your Terrence.”

Yuah stared, her mouth falling open again.

“You liar,” she said quietly.  “How dare you lie right to my face like that?”

“Cissy not lie.  Terrence teach to read.  He say not tell.”

“Why would he do that?  He hates you lot.  He hates all of you.”

Cissy shrugged.  “Cissy look at…”  She made an opening book hand gesture.  “Cissy try to read.  Terrence find her.  He give testasstilas chogghua tostisthiss…”

“Stop, stop.  I don’t understand.  I know a few lizzie words, but… testarosa?”

“Testasstilas… He… teach.”


Cissy shrugged again.

“Why teach a lizzie who can’t even say ‘book.’  You can’t say ‘book’ can you?”


“You see?”

“I say ‘took,” said the lizzie, suddenly straitening up.  “I say took.  I read took.  I read Holy Scritures.”

Cissy seemed to have grown twice her original size and Yuah shrank back, glancing down at the long claws on each hand.  The reptilian followed her gaze and then returned it back to the woman’s eyes.  She leaned backwards away from Yuah, but didn’t return to her hunkered down smallness.

“I do not know why Terrence teach reading,” Cissy said, carefully enunciating each word.  “Terrence haff own reason.  He not do anyone say.  He do he say.  No else.”

“Yes, well that is certainly true.  He does what he wants and to the devil with what anyone thinks.  He always did, even before his mother died.  But still, I can’t imagine…  He didn’t give you the scriptures to study, did he?  I think he’s secretly an atheist, though he denies it.”

“No.  I see ladies reading Scritchers.  I read.”

“Surely you can’t find any real interest in them.  They are stories of people and places long ago in the human world.  What are they to you?”

“It is the whord of God.”

“Yes, but not your God—not the lizzie’s God.”

“I think hoonan God is God,” said Cissy.  “Lizzie gods not create lizzies.  How hoonans here?  How lizzies here?  How trees here?  How anything here?”

Yuah stood thinking for just a moment.

“I’m not saying you’re wrong,” she said at last.  “I don’t know enough to say one way or another.  I wish we had an Imam that we could go ask, or even a Kafirite Priest for that matter.”

“I not see you read Scritchers.  I see you read other tooks.”

“I should be reading them.  Maybe that’s why I’m not… maybe that’s why some things aren’t turning out the way that I want them to.  I read them a great deal when I was young.  I had to.  I had to be able to recite the names of the Scriptures by rote.”

Cissy tilted her head to one side, clearly unable to follow all the words the woman was saying.

“I had to learn them,” said Yuah.

“You know all Scritchers?”

“Oh yes, I can name them all.  Listen carefully.” She took a deep breath, and in very quick succession she listed. “Creation, Odyssey, Discovery, Old Prophets, Stars, Laws, Kings, Writings of Nom, Letter of Nom, Middle Prophets…”  She stopped.  “See?  And that’s only the beginning.  You know I can name the Kafirite part of the scriptures too.  Master Akalos made sure I could recite them.  He was our tutor.  Well, he was the Dechantagne tutor really.”

“More Scritchers?”

“Yes, well you see, the ones I just listed are the first part of the Grand Scriptures.  They along with the Magnificent Law make up the Zaeri Holy Book.  The Kafirites have thrown out the Magnificent Law, but they have another whole set of scriptures that they call the Modest Scriptures.  So their book has the Grand Scriptures and these Modest Scriptures, which if you ask me have very little modesty in them.”

“You teach Cissy Scritchers?” asked the lizzie.

“No.  I don’t think so,” replied Yuah, shaking her head.  “I am not Terrence.  I most assuredly do care what other people think of me—I suppose I shouldn’t, now that I’m a Dechantagne, but I do.  And teaching a lizzie?  I just don’t know what people would make of that.”