Book Birthday

It’s publication day for DARK WYNG, book two of the Erth Dragons series.  By way of celebration, here’s the prologue.  This is Gabrial, the dragon hero of The Wearle, when he was very young, being told the legend of the ‘dark dragon’ by his father.  It’s a story that will stay with Gabrial all his life and have great significance for him in the second book.  Enjoy!

In the homing caves of Mount Vidor

On the dragon world, Ki:mera, 9 turns ago

“Tada, tell me a story.”

Garon snorted softly and rasped his tongue over a run of fine scales around Gabrial’s ears. It was late and the pale yellow moon, Cantorus, was throwing its golden light all across the homing caves. A good night for hunting, Garon thought, but equally good for telling stories. “What kind of story shall it be?” he asked.

“One you haven’t told before,” said Gabrial. “Tell me about…the black dragon.”

Garon stretched his neck and glanced across the cave at his partner, Gaverne. She was fast asleep, her fine purple head tucked under one wing. Gabrial’s sister, Graile, was curled up beside her, snoring softly. “There is no such thing as a black dragon, Gabrial. Whatever you have heard from other wearlings is a myth. We can have black markings – you have some on your wing tips and tail – but no dragon can be completely black.”

“Why not?”

“Godith forbids it.”

“Doesn’t She like black dragons?”

“No.”

“Why?”

That word again, Garon thought, the one that Gabrial used like a hook to draw all worldly truths out of him. Was he this inquisitive when he was a wearling? Possibly so. He licked Gabrial’s ears again. Sooner or later, the drake would come to hear this story, so why not now? It was the right of every dragon to understand their beginnings, to know what was – and what might have been. “Very well, but don’t expect to sleep tonight.”

“Mama says I sleep too much.”

“Hmm. And Mama will growl if she hears me telling you a tale like this. So this is for your blue ears only, yes?”

“Yes, Tada.”

“Good. Then this is how it begins – at the very beginning. You know that Godith created Ki:mera and all the worlds beyond from Her fire?”

“Yes. Hrrr!”

“Ssssh! Don’t wake your sister.” Garon glanced at the females again. Gaverne would roast his stigs to points if the wearmyss was woken for no good reason. Quietly he said, “You know as well that Godith created dragons in Her i:mage?”

“Like me?” Gabrial gave a swish of his tail.

His father immediately trapped it under his.

“Like you and Graile, like the Veng and the De:allus and the Elders and the Prime. Like every class of dragon you can think of. We are all one in the eyes of Godith. But there was once a dragon who defied Her will. His name was Graven. He was Godith’s firstborn.”

“And he was black?”

“Not in the beginning, no. When he was created his scales shone gold.”

A little breath of wonder seeped out of Gabrial’s spiracles.

“Brighter and deeper than Cantorus, they shone. So pleased was Godith that She said to Her son, ‘I give this moon, Cantorus, to you. There you shall build your eyries and make more dragons in your i:mage.’”

Gabrial’s mouth fell open in awe. His primary teeth, perfect and white, glinted in the moonlight like a row of small mountains. “Graven made gold wearlings?”

“No. Keep listening. As you can imagine, Graven was pleased with his gift. Here he was, the first son of Godith and he had a whole moon to himself. He bowed to Godith and pledged his love to Her always.”

“Hrrr!” went Gabrial.

Garon opened his foreclaws and used them to gently close his son’s mouth. “Quite. And so Graven flew to Cantorus, there to explore his new surroundings. He was pleased with what he found. One day you and I will fly to Cantorus and you will see its giant mountain ranges and the rivers and fire beds that flow through them. But for now, just listen, don’t hurr, yes?”

Gabrial nodded.

Garon eased his claws. “Now, if you’ve been watching the night skies you will know that another moon rises in front of Cantorus sometimes.”

“Crune,” said Gabrial, eager to show his knowledge.

“Yes. Well done. I can see you’ve listened well to the teachings of Per Grogan.”

Gabrial twisted his snout.

“What was that for?”

“What, Tada?”

“I didn’t miss that snouty twitch. What’s the matter? Don’t you like Per Grogan?”

“He’s mean, Tada. Every time he roars at me he says it makes another wrinkle in his eye ridges. He said his body was as green as the Marad Valley once and that it’s wearlings like me who turned his head scales grey. He says he bit off his third claw because a drake he was teaching couldn’t tell the difference between a rock and a hard place!”

Garon snorted a smoke bung from his nostrils.

“He did, Tada!”

“He did not,” said Garon. “He lost his claw in a battle. He’s teasing you, Gabrial. Per Grogan cares for your welfare. He is a good and wise mentor who will always stand by you. You must listen to him. He can teach you the history of your family line and more. Now, where were we with our story?”

“On Crune.”

“Oh, yes. Now Crune glows blue, like you of course. Godith gave this moon to Her second son, G’restyn.”

“She had two sons?”

“Hmm. What do you think about that?”

“Per Grogan says a mama can only have a myss and a drake.”

“That’s right. She can.”

“But you said Godith had two sons, Tada.”

“Patience, Gabrial. We’re not finished yet.” He blew smoke into Gabrial’s ear, making the wearling snort and wiggle. “Graven was happy with this arrangement because Cantorus was bigger than Crune and as the firstborn son he felt it was his right to be…better than his brother. But of course there came a time when Crune rose up and cast its shadow over Cantorus. Not only that, it blocked Graven’s view of the centre of Ki:mera, where Godith had Her settle.

“Graven was furious. His fire sacs ignited and his claws extended as far as they would go. He flew to Crune and demanded that G’restyn hurr on his moon and move it to a different orbit. Both dragons were very large. They could move planets with a single breath. But G’restyn refused to do it. He said the orbits were made by Godith and no dragon had the right to change Her plan.

“Well, they roared at each other, until they both grew tired and grumpy. Graven flew back to Cantorus, and G’restyn stayed on Crune. But Graven could not rest and his anger would not settle. And so he came up with a plan. The next day, when Crune had risen to its peak and was casting even bigger shadows over Cantorus, Graven focused his optical triggers on his brother and waited and watched. Eventually, he saw G’restyn lift away from the surface and disappear around the far side of the moon. When G’restyn did not reappear, Graven flew down to Crune and positioned himself to one side of it, the side that his brother had left abandoned.”

“He’s going to hurr on it himself,” said Gabrial. “Tada, this isn’t very scary.”

“It will be,” said Garon. “ Graven took a breath so huge and blew a wind so strong it could have made these mountains bend. Crune began to move. But it did not change orbit as Graven had intended. Instead, it began to spin. And spin. And spin. And spin.

“Graven was annoyed. He tried hitting the moon with his tail, but that nearly broke off his isoscele.”

Gabrial twitched his tail. He checked his own isoscele, just in case.

His father went on, “So instead he did something very foolish: He tried to move the moon with his fire.”

“Did it burn?”

“Yes, that’s why to this day you’ll see dark craters on Crune. Those are the scorch marks Graven created. But it wasn’t just the moon that burned. G’restyn was asleep on the surface. He was big, but he was blue, just like you and me, and Graven didn’t see him. Only when G’restyn took to the air in a blaze of wings did Graven realise what he’d done. He had flamed his only brother.”

“Hhh!”

“Poor G’restyn fell back to the surface, dead.”

A flutter ran down Gabrial’s wings. The fine scales on his neck began to clink.

His father rested an arm to calm him. “I told you it was scary. Perhaps that’s enough.”

“No,” said Gabrial. “What about Godith? What did She do, Tada?”

Garon sighed, but hid the sound well enough. He remembered pausing like this when he was young and had first heard the tale. How the icicles of terror had crept under his scales and made gritty bobbles of the flesh underneath. He looked up at Cantorus and offered Godith a silent prayer before he continued. “Godith heard G’restyn’s squeals as he burned and came to see what had happened. She found his body and wept so freely that storms blew up all over Her universe. She saw the scorch marks on Crune and knew what had happened. She flew to Cantorus, there to punish Graven for his wild act of jealousy. Some say She planned to kill him, to tear off his wings and burn him as he had burned G’restyn. She found Graven quaking, weeping at his foolishness. He begged Her to be merciful. And in some small way She was. She decreed three laws: first, no dragon could ever give birth to two sons; second, gold could never be a dominant colour; and lastly, and most mysteriously, no dragon would ever be able to flame any dragon it was related to.”

“So I can’t flame Graile?”

“Definitely not. The pers will tell you these are good laws, but you must know they rose from a moment of sadness. For Graven, the sadness did not end there. Godith used a cold flame on his scales to suck the colour out of them. That beautiful shining gold She’d created was reduced to nothing, to black. Her flame was so strong it opened Graven’s chest and exposed his three hearts. Godith reached in and tore out the smallest, the one that keeps us closest to her.”

Gabrial shuddered from his nostrils to his isoscele. He crossed his forearms over his breast where his primary heart was thumping like thunder.

His father went on, “You might hear it said that Graven was born without a third heart and that this is what led to his vanity and foolishness. But that will come from the mouths of those who want to believe Godith has no fury. Understand me when I tell you, Gabrial: Godith is a loving but vengeful Creator. She punished Graven severely. In Her claws, His third heart turned to stone. She crushed it into a thousand pieces and scattered the fragments in a hiding place known only to Her. It’s said that his blood poured out of the heart like scalding rain and killed every living thing it landed upon. Graven was never seen again. Yet the legends insist his auma survives because his grieving Mama could not bear to destroy it. This has led some Elders to teach that Graven will rise again one day. They say that even now the fragments of his auma reach out into the universe in search of the evil that will help him restore his heart and his power.”

Gabrial gulped back a smoke plug. “Will he come here?”

“No, Gabrial. He won’t come here. Shall I tell you where he is?”

The drake’s soft blue eyes grew large and round, losing their slanted aspect for a moment.

“Look again at Cantorus,” his father whispered.

Gabrial turned his head and peered at the still, imperious moon.

“Some pers say that if you look hard enough, the blackness around Cantorus will form itself into the shape of Graven. They call him by another name then: Tywyll, a word from the old tongue meaning ‘the darkness’. So there he is, Gabrial. There’s your black dragon. Flying close to his moon – where he’ll stay. And that, my brave son, is the end of your story. Rest your weary head now, and know that in the morning the darkness will be gone.”

And with that Garon curled his tail around the drake and hugged him into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Dark Wyng

dark-wyng-array

Dragon fans. Make a note in your diaries. October 6th. UK publication day for DARK WYNG. Yes, it’s here. The gripping sequel to The Wearle. All the surviving characters from The Wearle are in it, including the mysterious ‘Ty’, who only appeared in the final pages of the first book, but has a big part to play in this one. DARK WYNG, as its title suggests, is spookier than The Wearle and delves deep into the murky history of dragons. It begins with a short, deceptively sweet prologue in which Gabrial’s father, Garon, tells a very young Gabrial the legend of ‘the dark dragon’. At the end, when Gabrial asks if the story is true, Garon dismisses it in the same way we might laugh aside a fairy story. But all stories have a basis in truth, and as Ty begins to exert his devious influence among the people of the Kaal tribe, little does Gabrial know how his father’s story is going to come back to haunt him…

In other news, The Wearle is set for release in North America on December 27th – though I’m sure you’ll be able to get it for Christmas. An audio book will also be available. Can’t wait for that. A couple of days ago I was contacted by the producer asking for my thoughts about who might narrate the story. I immediately thought about a few of the cast of Game of Thrones. In my mind, the men of the Kaal sound like the character ‘Jon Snow’ from Winterfell. This is not so much an homage to Game of Thrones, more a nod to the fact that I spent all of my teens in the north of England – and we speak like Jon Snow, Ned Stark etc. Then there are the dragon voices, of course. Quite a challenge for any narrator. Well, I’ve heard a few excellent samples already and I can tell you that The Wearle is going to be a story worth listening to. I’ll say more about this as news comes in. For now, enjoy DARK WYNG. Oh, and keep it to a whisper for now, but work on the third book gets under way this weekend. Hrrr!

 

The Wearle in America

Calling all US dragon fans.  I thought you might like to see the cover of The Wearle as it will appear in your book stores in December 2016.  Still a while to wait, I know, but you can preorder the book on line, of course, and have it on the day of publication🙂

Apart from the typography, the US cover is no different from the UK edition.  But then why would you alter artwork as good as this?  The dragon is called Gabrial by the way.  He’s the hero of the book.

A quick heads up about DARK WYNG.  The cover is finished and I’ll post it very soon, when you’ve had a chance to savour The Wearle for a little longer… Hrrr!

Wearle cover

Galan aug scieth…

Hello, dragon fans. This is a special post that at first glance has nothing to do with the Erth Dragons series, but read on and you’ll discover why I’ve written it.

Today sees the UK publication of A Crown of Dragons, the final book of my UNICORNE Files series, pictured below. If you’re not familiar with the ‘UFiles’ but you like my books, I suggest you seek them out, because they have a strong dragon theme running through them. The books focus on a young boy called Michael Malone, who has the power to alter reality. That’s a pretty big ‘power’ to have. But where does this ability come from? Well, that’s a question that is put to Michael right at the beginning of A Crown of Dragons. The answer isn’t revealed to him for another hundred pages or so, though it’s pretty obvious from the very first chapter that it’s all to do with dragons – or a very small part of them.

ACOD with scale bookmark

The arc of the three books revolves around the mysterious disappearance of Thomas Malone, Michael’s father, who was sent to New Mexico by UNICORNE (an organisation that probe paranormal mysteries) to investigate the alleged discovery of a ‘dragon scale’. Thomas manages to return with the scale, but his close contact with it has a profound effect on him. He not only begins to exhibit powers similar to those we eventually see in Michael, he also has ‘flashbacks’ or memories of dragons on Earth. Over time, he becomes so obsessed by these encounters that he starts to believe he once lived in an age when dragons roamed the planet. In an effort to keep Thomas sane and under control, UNICORNE use a deep hypnosis technique called ‘past-life regression’ to allow Thomas to open his mind and ‘remember’ his experience with the dragons. This leads to a dramatic moment when Thomas not only appears to recall an encounter with the creatures, but suddenly develops scales along one arm and speaks the words that form the title of this post: Galan aug scieth…

scale

Now, anyone who’s read The Wearle will know that this is the phrase that is imprinted on Ren Whitehair’s mind when he first encounters a dying female dragon. The words are dragontongue. In English they mean, ‘I am you and you are me’ or ‘I am become you’.

So we have the same phrase cropping up in two books but in different series. Intrigued? If you’re into dragons, you should be! Basically, the reason I’ve linked the two series is because they both explore the mythology of dragons from different viewpoints. In the Erth Dragons series the reader is right there with Ren, experiencing dragon culture first hand. The UFiles looks at the lasting impact dragons might have had on the human race over time.

A favourite editor once said to me, ‘dragons are wired into the human consciousness’. What she meant was lots of people have an inexplicable fascination for the creatures. But no one really knows why. It’s an interesting point. I love the idea of dragons and so do millions of other people around the world. Yet no one to my knowledge has ever seen one of these ‘monsters’ that can allegedly fly and breathe fire and is covered in hard scales. Why is that? Could it be that, like Thomas Malone, some of us are carrying distant memories of the creatures? Memories that dragons themselves might have wanted to eradicate for some reason? And what if their legacy went beyond memories? What if dragon DNA had somehow become cross-contaminated with human DNA – from a bite, perhaps? What would that mean for the human race? We know what it means for Ren in The Wearle. If you want to know what it might mean for Michael in A Crown of Dragons, then read the books and form your own opinion. A Crown of Dragons and The Wearle are both available NOW. And remember, they’re just stories – or are they…?

A short reading from The Wearle

I’ve been waiting ages to put up a new post in anticipation of the cover of Dark Wyng arriving. The artwork for that is almost done, but still being tweaked. So in the meantime, here’s something slightly different. The UK paperback of The Wearle is published this week, on April 7th.  Yay.  By way of celebration, here’s me reading a short extract from one of the ‘Hom’ sections of the book. (‘Hom’ is dragon name for humans.) There are five sections altogether. Three are told from the dragon point of view, and two from the human. In this reading, the ‘Hom’ boy, Ren, is out hunting with some of the men from his tribe when one of the men decides to challenge a ‘skaler’ (a dragon) with disastrous results…

Note: the extract was recorded on a small camcorder on my writing desk at home. Fans of The Last Dragon Chronicles might be interested in the background behind me. You can see a framed poster of the cover of Fire Star. And sitting on the speaker nearby is a firebird! The cream-coloured telephone doesn’t work, by the way. I just like the retro feel it gives to the room.

Enjoy the extract. Great excuse for me to wear a hat!  Cover of Dark Wyng very soon, I promise. Hrrr!

Dark Wyng is coming…

It’s that time of year again.  Happy Christmas everyone!

It’s been a few months since I posted anything so I thought I’d bring the blog up to date with where I am with Dark Wyng, the sequel to The Wearle.  I’m going to tell you right away, this hasn’t been an easy book to write.  The Wearle was amazing.  It almost fell out of the keyboard.  But Dark Wyng has been a real struggle.  And I have no idea why.  Some of the scenes in it are really good, on a par with, if not better than, the first book.  But somehow the story hasn’t really gelled like The Wearle.  Still, the good news is the book is written, and manuscripts always improve massively at the editing stage, which is where I’m at now.  I expect to finish editing by about the end of January.  By then I’ll have a pretty good idea of where to go next.  So think of me this Christmas, sitting in my room by flickering candlelight, wearing a pencil down to the nub as I cross out sentences and scribble new ones in their place.  Okay, it’s not quite as Dickensian as that, but I will be working during the holiday, and so will Jay – it’s a tradition in this house!

Have a great time, everyone.  Very soon now the cover of Dark Wyng will be finished and I’ll be able to post the artwork here.  Don’t miss the paperback of The Wearle in April.  All the best from me for 2015.  Hrrr!

 

The Wearle has landed

I’m very pleased to announce that The Wearle is now available in the UK.  It was published, in hardback, on October 1st.  I was in Vienna at the time, which is why this post is happening four days after publication.

I’ve been waiting such a long time to see this book in print.  Like all my stories, it started out as a series of vague ideas: What would happen if a colony of dragons (a wearle) landed on an early earth-like planet? How would an intelligent, if undeveloped, society of people react to the disruption?  Would there be any possibility of mutual interaction between the two species?  Would there be war?

The thing is, you never know the answers to these questions until you pitch in.  So the first challenge was, where to start?  For once, that was relatively easy; it had to be the dragons.  Over the fifteen years of The Last Dragon Chronicles, I’ve received lots of stories from children who’ve been eager to show me their own take on dragon lore.  Interestingly, ninety percent of these stories were told from the dragons’ point of view.  So it seemed like a good idea to try it, to look through the dragons’ eyes and hear the thoughts that were in their heads.  If it could work for rabbits (Watership Down) why not dragons?

And so The Wearle was born.  You’ll know, if you’ve read the first chapter, that the story begins with the dragon colony so well-established on Erth they are engaged in a ritual to decide who will be the guardian of a female giving birth to two young.  Right away, I had to stand in their midst and be part of their world.  I’d always had the idea that the book might begin with an action sequence – a battle – but I didn’t expect to see two dragons fighting over the right to become a father.  This highlights one of the most exciting things about writing a fantasy novel: you never quite know what’s going to happen.  This can be a daunting challenge, of course.  There are plenty of dark alleys and irritating cul-de-sacs waiting to beckon your fledgling storyline.  But if you happen to get onto a strong narrative path, then the story potentially unwraps like a flower.  A long, long time ago, before the Chronicles, I wrote a book called Fly Cherokee Fly, a short novel about pigeons (and bullying).  Cherokee was one of those stories that seemed to fall out of the clouds, fully-formed.  Not since that book have I experienced that feeling again.  But with The Wearle, I did.  I honestly don’t think I could write a better fantasy book – but I’m going to try!  I’m already well into the second book of the series.  It has a working title of… No, we’ll leave that for another post.  (Sorry.)  For now, just enjoy The Wearle and share with me the joy of seeing it in the world.  Happy reading.  Hrrr!

It’s a tough life…

…but someone’s got to do it, as they say.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting my publisher’s new offices on the north bank of the River Thames.  I’d gone to chat with her about the second Erth Dragons book and a few other bits and bobs, but she’d also asked if I could sign some copies of The Wearle.  I said, “Of course. How many?”  Answer: three hundred.

It looks a daunting task when you see the picture of the stack, but I’ve signing the wearle 4signed many more than this at events.  I was once at my publisher’s distribution warehouse signing a huge consignment of Fire Star, when someone casually said, “We’ve got another author coming in this afternoon.”  I said, “Oh, yes.  Who’s that?”  They said, “Billie Piper.”  My pen immediately skewed across the page.  “Billie Piper?” I repeated.  “Yes,” they said. “She’s written an autobiography.  Can you keep signing – neatly, please.”  I said, “Can I meet her?”  They said, “No. Anyway, you’ll be finished by the time she gets here.”  At this point, I still had about 150 books to sign.  I said, “If I slow down and sign really, really neatly, do you think-?”  They said, “No.”  Sigh.

There was no prospect of a famous Dr Who actress turning up to this signing of The Wearle (but thank you Lauren, Cat and Anna if you’re reading this!) but it was still a lot of fun.  If anyone is wondering what happens to all these signed copies, they’re mostly headed for major retailers at Christmas.  If you want one, it might be worth popping into your local store and asking if they’re likely to have any that you can reserve.  I’ve also been told that the print run of the hardback isn’t that big.  So they won’t be around for long.  Get them while you can folks.  Bye for now.  Hrrr!

signing the wearle 2

Welcome to the Wearle

It’s been a long time coming, but in one month’s time my new ERTH DRAGONS series will be upon us.  Book one is called THE WEARLE.  This little blog is dedicated to the series.  If you want to know more about me and my other books, you can always have a look at my official website: icefire.co.uk

I thought I was done with dragons when I finished The Fire Ascending, the seventh and final book of The Last Dragon Chronicles.  If I’m honest, I never really planned to write about the scaly beasts in the first place.  It was pure serendipity that kicked it all off.  But they’ve fascinated me now for the last … fifteen years or so, and I couldn’t quite escape their influence, even in my interim series The UNICORNE Files, which has a growing dragon theme.  People in publishing also kept telling me, ‘Dragons are dead.  They’re yesterday’s thing.  Write something different.’  I could see the wisdom in that, for certain topics clearly go in ‘phases’, but that line of thinking never quite tallied with the fan mail I was receiving for the Chronicles.  People clearly LOVED Dragons and wanted more of them.  So what the heck; I wrote THE WEARLE.

Followers of the Chronicles will know that ‘wearle’ is just my name for a colony of dragons.  I won’t go into the whole story here.  Click along the top bar and have a look at the ‘About’ section etc.  The glossary is an interesting read in itself.  It will give you some idea of the world we’re in.  It’s pretty much ‘Earth’ – but not quite as we know it.  Hence the reason for dropping the second vowel.  To be honest, I’ve never been one for ‘world building’.  I greatly admire people like Philip Reeve who are excellent at inventing interesting places and conjuring up wonderful devices to fill those places with; I simply don’t have a big enough imagination for it.  I write best, I think, when I’m close to some sort of familiar domesticity.  The Wearle’s setting is a bit outside my comfort zone, but the dragons are plentiful and the drama is intense.  So prepare to be drawn in.

I’ve been given permission to put up a sample chapter, which I’ll release a bit nearer the publication date of the UK hardback on October 1st.  In the meantime, you can read the prologue, which neatly sets up the basic story.  To get the true flavour of the book you need to meet Gabrial, G’vard, Grymric, Gossana and the many other dragons who populate the Wearle.  That’s coming, I promise.  For now, enjoy discovering how the universe came into being (ahem).  Till the next time.  Happy reading.  Hrrr!