Behind the New Cover

I got some feedback that the cover was not on genre. People thought it might be a horror book. The new cover is more representative of the book which features some epic battles, and the “Dragon’s run” is a pivotal moment in the story line. Hopefully the new cover appeals more to my audience.

Jark has no Pinocchio Complex

Sam’s face felt warm. “Are you trying to be human?”

Jark’s eyes flickered blue. “Good heavens no. Humans are smelly, dim witted, and cruel. The young ones are insanely incapable, then they become hormone enraged monkeys, they get a few years pretending to know what they’re doing and then their knees go and they creak around groaning in pain for the remainder of their pathetic existence. Becoming a human would be an immense step down for me. Emulating a human can be useful though… and I do wish to understand them better. I just wish humans would stop killing me, dismantling me and putting me back together… it’s irritating.”

Excerpt From Book 3: The Dragons Awake

[Minor Spoiler Alert]

The Beast

The Beast’s Realm

Tao Yuanming

The Beast needs to be fed, thought Tao Yuanming.

He sniffed the Chrysanthemums by the eastern fence and looked up leisurely upon the southern mountains.  The garden was perfect, as usual, each plant was blooming as per his orders.  Each grain of sand was groomed to perfection.  The blood from the patio had been cleaned and no trace left behind.

A brief shadow flitted over him and so he lifted his gaze to the sky.  The clouds offended him. They were all free spirits with no balance, no purpose, and no control.  One of them must have impertinently passed briefly before the sun.  He snarled as he saw one that resembled a dragon.  There is no one to punish for the haphazard clouds.  He took a deep breath.  I shall have to tolerate the imperfection of the heavens. His thoughts turned to the disappointing harvest and the subsequent punishments he had made. 

The Beast must be fed.  It is important that people know there is a price to pay for substandard work, he thought.  If a farm produces one percent less rice this year, then next year it may produce two percent less and before long there is anarchyThe Beast must be fed.

He watched a new clone emerge from the palace escorted by two guards. It had the usual confusion on its face.  Tao had long ago concluded that the cloning process must introduce a weakness into the copied mind.  His scientists had disagreed with him, until he had encouraged them to change their view, just before they moved to the belly of the Beast.  The clone was wearing a pristine black Tang suit.  There were tears streaming down its face.  Tao examined it.  It’s face, he knew, was identical to his own, except it was reddened from sobbing.  He compared it to the faces of the guards, they were almost identical except the guards faces had aged.  One of the guards even showed a little grey hair.

The clone was crying uncontrollably.  Tao put a hand on its cheeks.  “I am going to call you Larry Fong the third.  What do you think of that?”

The clone kept crying.  It irritated Tao.

“Ugh, just go.  You know what you’re supposed to do.”

I gave it orders before it existed.  Yields must go up by two percent.  He made a dismissive wave with his hand.  Seriously I don’t ask much.

              The new clone was escorted out of the palace grounds, to spend its life farming.  Tao then noticed two red suited gate guards approaching. Hmm that is very unusual.  They were very aged.  Tao realized he really needed to clone some replacements and add the old ones to the Beast.

              The two guards saluted and one spoke.  “There is a visitor at the gate who wishes an audience with your excellency.”  The expression on the guard’s face was of complete serenity, as if nothing was unusual.

              A visitor? From where? How?

              “Hmm, it has been over a thousand years since I had a visitor.  How did he arrive at our gate?”

              The guard maintained his serene expression.  “He arrived on a dragon, your excellency.”

              Tao smiled.  “I suppose it is an old woman in a gold robe.”

              “It is a man, your excellency,” said the guard.

Tao’s smile broadened.  “An old man with a long beard, wearing a gold robe?” he asked knowingly.

“No, your excellency; it is a rotund man with no beard, wearing a red fur lined jacket and cummerbund.”

              Really? That is a surprise.  “Well show him to me.  I shall meet with him below the empty scales.”

              Tao shooed the guards away with a gesture and walked to the west side of the courtyard where there stood three golden scales.  The scales were twenty strides high and forty strides wide.  In the center there was a long seat and a table.

              “Tea for two,” he said to a clone-servant, who then scurried away.

              Tao looked to the sky again and frowned.  I do not like the unexpected, and yet I find myself almost excited to have an unexpected visitor.  I like the enigma of it; the impossibility of it.  No one in my realm has escaped my tender care, and the barrier most firmly prevents any entrance or exit.  If any man were somehow to enter my realm, then they’d be insane to come here of all places unless they wish to end themselves.

              The guards escorted a portly middle-aged man, wearing very ornate clothing.  Tao closed his eyes so he could concentrate on his senses.  His mind’s eye saw the icor chambers buried within the man, and two on a necklace on his chest.  More on his fingers, worn as rings, and a final one in the form of a short staff.  The man was standing in front of him, but Tao kept his eyes closed so he could look within the man.  He is not a chosen… ahhh he is a champion. Siva.

              Tao opened his eyes, tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

              “My name is Bestich,” said the man.   He was brimming with excitement which irritated Tao.  Bestich was smiling more broadly than anyone Tao had seen in over fifteen hundred years. 

              Tao gestured to a seat by his side.  “Please sit.  I believe I knew your mother young Bestich.” Bestich nodded and sat. 

              “My mother told me of your last meeting; it sounded quite acrimonious.”

              Tao nodded.  “She survived, which was quite astonishing really.  Her use of crows…” He saw a clone arriving with a tea service.  “Let us have tea, shall we?”

The clone began preparing a white porcelain tea set.  “You do not come on her orders, do you.”  It was a statement, not a question. The clone rinsed the cups in steaming water.  Tao noticed Bestich’s smile falter a fraction.    The clone put leaves into the pot and moved them with chopsticks.  He then poured boiling water into the pot, gently cradled and swirled it before pouring the water into a wide bowl.  He then refilled the teapot, covered it and stood back.

“My mother and I have had a falling out,” said Bestich.

Tao frowned.  “Ah yes, I did hear about that.  You tried to kill her twice, didn’t you?”

“Three times,” said Bestich.

“Mothers can be difficult,” said Tao sympathetically.  The clone poured the tea into a large fair cup, shook it and then put it into teacups.  Tao picked up one of the cups and offered it to Bestich with both hands. 

Bestich took the cup, sniffed the tea, sipped it and smiled. “Wonderful,” he said.  “I expect your mother has been much less trouble since she entered the belly of the Beast.”

Tao chuckled.  “Indeed.”

“The Beast has been idle for too long,” said Bestich.

“Ah, we arrive at the purpose of your visit,” said Tao.

              Bestich took a big gulp of tea and winced.  “I have altered the barrier, making it possible for the Beast to venture forth,” he said.

              “I am aware,” Tao said.  “I am not foolish; I know a trap when I see one.  If the Beast takes over the realms of Pixous, Augmentous and Non Augmentous, then you will have control of the icor, and I, the Beast and all of this world, save for the Hall of the Ancients, will be under your power.”

              “I have a solution in mind,” said Bestich and gently bit his lower lip.

              “I thought you might,” said Tao taking a small sip of tea.  “I am an empty cup.”

              Bestich nodded. “Create a fresh clone, have him come with me and I will make him Yuang’s champion.  The Beast can then consume all of humanity, save the sleepers, and the icor will be divided.  You can then merge with the clone, and you will control Yuang icor.”

              Tao closed his eyes.  He listened to Bestich’s heart. He tasted the air and pulled in the icor that was seeping from Bestich.  There is no deceit in this sweet innocent child.  “I see two problems: how will you make my clone into Yuang’s champion, and how will we coexist in a world without humanity? We would surely find ourselves plotting against each other immediately.”

              Bestich grinned.  “The clone you create will ingratiate himself to Sam, the naïve simpleton currently gilded and gelded under Yuang’s yoke.  I will help with that ingratiation.  Then a worshiper of mine will poison the simpleton in such a way that he will look dead.  His companions will bury him, and your clone will sneak back to his burial site and as the boy dies for real, your clone will be the only one nearby capable of inheriting the title.”

              Tao took a sip of tea and then placed his cup down.  “If Yuang’s champion is poisoned, he will just heal himself, and if he is already unconscious then one of his companions will heal him.”

              Bestich looked around.  “Do you have scones?”

              Tao looked to a clone and nodded to indicate that scones should be provided.

              “With strawberry jam and clotted cream please,” said Bestich to the clone who had just begun to walk away.  Bestich poured himself another cup of tea.  “This is really good.  Green tea is my second favorite brew.”

              Tao looked on patiently and without expression.

              “The icor was very resistant to me but with Ethan’s help we found… a loophole.” Bestich gave a small smile, which Tao interpreted as a look of pride.   “I call it ‘wizard’s bane’, a poisonous plant that would produce nausea followed by death.”  Bestich looked excited, like a boy with a new toy.  “Normally if a wizard was poisoned with it, they would heal themselves.  With a few code alterations, I made it so the healing icor magnifies the effect of the poison.  When Sam’s companions attempt to heal him, they will only make things worse.   The icor will not allow the poison to kill him… but his friends will bury him, and that will kill him.  I have tested it on one of my crimson wizards.  It was most effective.  He died in his grave from suffocation, despite being quite adept at healing.  It took quite some time for him die.”

              Tao gave a slow nod, a hmm-not-bad expression.  “I have always believed that I am the true champion of Yuang.  My purpose is, of course, perfect Karmic balance.  My citizens in the belly of the Beast have no positive or negative experiences.  They do no good, they do no harm.  It is only when they leave the Beast that their Karmic balance sheet becomes indebted.”

              “So Yuang will choose you, I mean your clone, as its champion when the boy dies,” said Bestich.  “He will be close; he will have balance.”

              Tao showed no expression, but he felt excitement at the prospect of finally completing the Beast’s manifest destiny.  “How about the coexistence conundrum?  How do we avoid becoming enemies after the devouring?”

              “Simple; I will ascend.”

              There was a long silence as Tao contemplated Bestich’s words.  Ascension requires restricted technology, but with humanity out of the equation, there would be no need for the restrictions, so Bestich could indeed be augmented with enough processing power to ascend, just as the hyper augmented and the singularity did during the fall of the ancients. Bestich, the last human would ascend and leave the Earth to the Beast, and manifest destiny would be complete.

              A clone arrived with the scones.

              “I accept your proposal,” said Tao.

Deleted Excerpt from Book 3

The First Demon Encountered

[This is from Rose’s perspective]

It was heart warming to see how concerned those left on the other side of the barrier were.  They think we are too young and inexperienced to make it on our own.  It is kind of sweet really…

              She realized their expressions looked almost panicking. They were looking up the valley. She turned and saw a group of thirty men running towards them.  They were all wearing heavy green cloaks with large hoods, so their faces were hard to see.

              “Sam, some people have come to say hello,” she said.

              Yurkin chuckled.  “I think they’ve come for a snack.”

              “He’s right,” said Sam.  “Remember there are vampires and demons on this side of the barrier,”

              She then realized the men were moving remarkably fast; faster than a human could run.  Some were using their hands to run; almost like beasts.  She realized she was about to be attacked. They all pounced at the same time.  Their trajectory would have fallen on top of the three except Sam had an icor shield up.  They slammed against it.  They seemed enraged and clawed at the shield; saliva dripped from their fangs. 

              Their robes protect them from the sun, Rose thought.

              Sam grimaced, as if the effort of the shield was too much for him.  “They’re doing something to my shield.  It’s that one…”  Sam pointed to the biggest of them.  “He’s not a vampire; he’s something else.”

              “A demon,” said Rose. “Are they fire proof?”

              Rose could see Sam look to the ground for a moment, in thought, then he seemed to make a decision.  He looked up, tightened his grip on the staff and brough it before him.  Fire erupted from his hands and tore into their attackers.   Their clothes all caught fire, exposing them to the sun.  The vampires then exploded.  The demon howled.  It sounded like it was almost speaking.  Its blackening face pressed harder against the shield and then it turned to ash. 

              “Did it say something?” asked Sam.

              “I think it said welcome to Augmentous,” said Yurkin with a smile.

              Yurkin did not appear to be phased at all by the situation. It actually looked like he enjoyed the encounter.               “It makes sense that they might see anyone coming from the Non Augmentous realm as easy pickings… easy food, I guess,” said Rose.

“The Demon stopped my fire. I had to use the staff,” said Sam.

So magic is not going to be an effective weapon against them.

“How long will it take for your staff to recharge?”

I created a scary new type of monster

There must have been a moment when Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stephenson thought … wow I’ve created a new kind of monster here.

This is how I feel as I set up book 4 of the icor tales. I actually worry I will give people nightmares. I don’t think there is anything like the beast in literature.

I will keep the details close to my chest for now but boy oh boy Sam has his work cut out fighting the beast.

WW2 Flamethrower vs Wizard’s Fire

A WW2 Flamethrower would throw fire about 50-100 strides long and about half a stride wide for about 7 seconds. How does this compare with the Wizard’s fire in the Icor Tales?

WW2 Flamethrowers

In the Icor Tales, a junior fire wizard is a pathetic sight on a battle field. Their flame is a foot wide and ten strides long, lasts five heart beats and they can only fire once per day.

A normal senior fire wizard, of which there are 144 in the world, can shoot flame a stride wide and a fifty strides long. This is Sam’s flame at the battle of the central pass. They can fire once or twice a day.

Crimson wizards can have the same ferocity of a senior fire wizard but the strength has to be built by inflicting suffering. There is no limit to the number of times they can throw flame as long as they continue to create suffering.

Crimson Wizard

Unmind’s flame is said to be ten strides wide and two hundred strides long. He has been seen to throw it twice, but may not be his limit.

Deleted From Book 2

The Red Disease

I was told this was too complex, and too political… and I reluctantly agreed… and deleted it. The Red disease is something that Sam will have to defeat in Book 4… basically its zombies, and this is the back story for them…

Sam took a sharp intake of breath.  “So the Beast is real. What exactly is it?”

Violet momentarily chewed her lip before speaking. “In the time of the ancients, the biggest nation in the world had billions of people…”


Violet chuckled.  “Yes, billions.  They were ruled by a dictator who judged each citizen by how much their will was subsumed by his.  He even gave them a citizen score.  The less individuality they showed, the higher their score.  He soon realized that the icor could give him the opportunity to completely subdue his citizens individuality, so they would have no will of their own, no consciousness.  He believed their individuality was an illusion anyway.  So he created something called the red disease.  When people were infected with it, their consciousness was suppressed, and their body became absorbed into his.  So, he became one massive beast that contained the bodies of all his citizens.  At a whim he could send them out to do his bidding.  The beasts only objective is to absorb all mankind, to consume every consciousness.”

Sam blinked hard.  “So, there is a beast out there that wants to eat everybody in the word.”

Violet nodded.  “But the icor put a barrier around it to thwart it.  The red disease was contained… mostly.”

Book 4 “The Red Disease”

The Goddess cast the icor upon the wounded land
To cleanse it from the sin of greed
To provide us with our every need
To heal us when we bleed
To lift us from our knees
To bring back the trees
To cool the warming seas
And quell the red disease

From Book 4 of the Icor Tales – “The Red Disease”

Coming in 2022

The next 60 days

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It’s going to be a busy 60 days

  1. Today: The last promos for They Came By Night Kindle version start today and end June 14th. The price is reduced to just $2.99. Practically giving it away in order to boost interest for the audible version coming soon
  2. June 10th Book 2: In the Hall of The Ancients comes back from editors, and I get to do one more rewrite before sending it for formatting
  3. June 17th : Deadline for Audible of They Came By Night (I should have it done before then)
  4. June 25th: Production begins for Audible of Book 2
  5. June 30th : The deadline for first draft of Book 3: The Dragons Awake. Beta Read program needs volunteers
  6. July 22nd: Deadline for publishers to receive Book 2
  7. July 26th: Book 2 Publishing Date
  8. July 29th: Book 3 sent to editors
  9. August 14th: Book 4 first draft due

Gay Characters in Fantasy

When I wrote the character of Morefield I had in mind the stereotypical Victorian British officer full of arrogance and self entitlement. I had not planned for him to be gay until I wrote his first scene and it just came out that way. I remember drawing a deep breath after writing that scene; I wondered if it was okay to have a gay bad guy. I was worried that this aspect of his character was so unplanned.

I reflected that his sexuality would actually seed a depth to his character. This came out later when we start to get hints of the abuse he suffered. His driving motivation is to be free to be himself, and to do that, he feels he needs the crown. I began to wonder if there could be a redemption for him.

In book 1 I write that ‘any abused dog will grow surly’. One theme that is important to me in all my books (published and unpublished) is that people, like dogs, can be healed with love… usually.

When my gay neighbors got married, I was overjoyed for them. It was like the jackboots had finally been lifted from their necks, and I probably embarrassed them by getting them such a big wedding present.

The idea of the jackboots being withdrawn made me think about what would happen to Morefield if he found acceptance, could he be redeemed…

Morefield and Ryandal

A look at the Reviews…

I read every review as they come in, and it has been very useful. People have been very generous and I have had a lot of feedback that has been vital in improving my work. One reviewer told me about an issue with the formatting of the paperback, so I corrected it. Another review told me about typos and grammar mistakes so I did a proofread and corrected almost 300 errors.

My Book 2 beta readers have helped re-form the overall plot, they also firmed up some plot elements. I had worried about introducing magical creatures, but reactions to dwarves, dragons have been positive. Book 3 “The Dragons Awake” magnifies everything, so I will be watching Book 2 reviews closely.

BOOK TWO – “In the Hall of the Ancients” is available for preorder

The planned 5 book series may expand

I am still trying to cram all the scenes into 5 books, but book 3 is shaping up to be massive. It has 3 times the number of scenes as book 2. That would be okay if I were G.R.R. Martin and people were willing to pay $25 for the printed books.

There are some parts which could make associated novellas, but I am anxious to get book 3 out as soon as possible. i.e. this year. My goal is November.

Sales of book 1 are beginning to gain momentum, which means I can use those funds to pay for a professional proof read for both book 1 and book 2. Book 1 sorely needed it.

The numbers and types of magical creatures featuring in Book 3 is much expanded; demons, vampires, dragons, zombies, pixies, elves and dwarves. We are also introduced the realm of the beast: Hades.


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Book 2 – Milestone – Call for volunteers

That’s it! I have shipped the book to the editors. I want to thank my beta readers. Book 3 is well under way.

Would you like to help?

I need volunteers to get an early release (in pdf format) and provide me with an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads, in return I would offer :

  1. the audible version of book 1 (hopefully available in June),
  2. the official ebook version once published
  3. the audible version of book 2 when that is available
  4. if I ever sell a million you can have a signed first edition (but don’t hold your dragon’s breath)

How to volunteer…

Please just email me at with the subject “Stritz! Count me in!” or if you’re offended by Stritz then just “Gosh! Count me in!”

There are dragons. Big dragons. Fire breathing dragons. Stritz! I love dragons.

Reading Game of Thrones

I read game of thrones before HBO announced they were going to make a series of it. I am not sure what attracted me to it initially.

For me, it was a hard read, especially at the beginning, because there were so many introductions to characters and very slow plot development. This is not bad writing, it’s just that I am a bad reader. I had difficulty keeping all the characters straight in my head. It was not until I saw the TV series that it all made sense.

For me the plot itself was a 1 book deal. There were just a LOT of diversions from the main plot… which was [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] basically there is a zombie army coming we better build an army to defeat it.

I love and miss the characters though…

My Favorite GoT character

Does God Exist

“You will be able to go in the forecastle, the captain’s cabin, and the study,” said Violet.

            Sam felt a surge of excitement.  These had all been forbidden areas.  On their previous travels Violet had often retreated to these areas and locked Sam and Rose out leaving them to burn with curiosity.

            “The Drasti has many secrets, and I will show some of them to you,” said Violet.  “Come, follow me.”

            Sam walked dutifully behind Violet as she opened the door to the forecastle cabin.  Violet paused to indicate to Aravand that he should wait outside.

            On entering Sam was a little disappointed.  The room did not look like anything special.  There was a desk, a bunk and some stairs.  He was confused about the stairs because he could not remember seeing corresponding stairs on the gun deck below.

            “I see you’ve spotted the first little surprise, the stairs,” said Violet. “Let’s go down and see what’s there shall we?”

            Sam followed her as she descended.  They arrived at a deck that was not the gun deck, nor the tween deck, nor the hold.  Sam was very confused.  “This is not possible.”

            Violet wore a sad smile.  “This is the library.  Every book you will ever need is here.”

            Sam was breathless. “This is impossible, this deck is … it’s longer than the Drasti.  Did the icor build this for you?”

            “Not exactly, it was the singularity that built it,” Violet said dismissively.

            Sam sighed. “Listen, this does not make sense.”

            “What doesn’t make sense?” asked Violet.

            “Nothing makes sense: the singularity, the icor, Yuang, Siva, Hedon… I just don’t understand any of it.  Is the icor, the goddess?”

            “The singularity is a perfect intelligence, it knows all, it is god-like.  It ascended to a level intelligence so advanced that humans could not interface with it, so I used the icor to create manifestations that could ask the singularity questions.”

            “Like what?”

            Violet let out a long noisy breath. “Well, the first question I asked was whether God existed.”

            Sam’s confusion deepened.  “Which god?”

            “Many of the ancients used to believe there was only one God.  A God that created everything, and was all powerful, all knowing and perfectly good, and all other gods were imaginings.”

            “Wow, and this God was male?” asked Sam.

            Violet chuckled.  “I know it is hard for you to think that could be true having been brought up with a female goddess.”

            “A male God makes no sense,” said Sam emphatically. “How can a male God give birth to the universe, and nurture us into being conscious?”

            Violet shook here head. “I think assigning gender to the divine is an absurdly human thing to do.”

            “What did the singularity answer?”

            Violet’s eyes lost focus for a moment as she was lost in memory.  “It said there was a God.”

            Sam’s mouth dropped open.

            “Then when my friend Ethan asked the same question, the singularity said there was no God,” Violet added.

            Sam’s mouth closed.  “Well, that’s impossible. Either God exists or does not exist, right?”

            “Well, me and Ethan had different definitions of God.  That’s the real problem when we ask spiritual questions, we lack a spiritual dictionary.  All our spiritual definitions are subjective.”

Sam was frustrated.  “And if an all-powerful God exists then he sure isn’t doing a good job looking after the world.”

            Violet chuckled a little.  “I asked it, how can God be good if He allows so much suffering in the world, and it told me that we don’t understand God’s nature, and that we are trying to judge God as if God were a man.  God is not a man.  If a man kills a child, then that is an evil man, but if a lion kills a child, then it is just acting in its nature.  How are we to judge God when it is impossible for us to understand God’s nature.”

            “So where does Yuang, Siva and Hedon fit in?”

            Violet opened her palm and produced some icor, it changed from white to blue, to red, to purple, to green.  “Icor is like trillions of little minds and they form opinions on the most important question of all… what is God’s purpose.  Siva believes that suffering is the most powerful experience therefore it is the primary purpose for humanity.  Hedon believes that as humanity strives to minimize suffering and maximize pleasure that means that pleasure is humanity’s purpose.  Yuang believes that all the facets of experience are supposed to exist in balance.  The real question is, what do you believe?”

            Sam shrugged. “I haven’t the foggiest.”

Laumas mixes Siva and Hedon

Siva, Hedon and Yuang all have very different views of humanity’s purpose. Siva’s icor is red, Hedon’s is blue and Yuang’s is white.

Yuang is supposed to reflect all icor working in unity, but red and blue mixed make purple… so Yuang is something else. (This will all make much more sense if you read the Icor Tales)

I am imaging a moment where Laumas mixes Siva and Hedon and discovers he does not get white icor, but he gets purple … which is something else.

Laumas mixes Siva and Hedon