Ursula K. Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards:

Ursula K. Le Guin is the reason I got into writing, probably even more so than Tolkien.

Mirror Worlds bundle open for pre-order

All my short fantasy works are now available in one neat bundle for pre-order on Amazon. This edition contains also another, never released before short story, “Favnirsbane”.

Dragons' FallDragons’ Fall: Tales from the Mirror Worlds


Two novellas and two short stories from the Mirror Worlds epic fantasy universe.


Duke Ayaris is a dragon slayer. He’s the only one left in the world, and he is hunting after the last of the dragons. He is about to fulfil his life’s destiny.
A dying old man asks him to take care of his beautiful young daughter. But the girl has a secret – one that will cause him to set sail where no man has willingly sailed before: to the Dragon North, in search of the fabled city of Eden.


Ennaki’s Master is also a dragon slayer. But not just any dragon slayer: each beast he slays is greater and more powerful than the previous one, and each fight brings more woe and damage to the innocents around. As the knight proceeds with his murderous scheme, Ennaki begins to doubt and wonder. Is his Master’s secret plan really worth the slaughter? And is this really the best way to win the everlasting War against the Shadow that threatens to engulf all Mirror Worlds?

Also includes short stories “Crown of the Abyss” and “Favnirsbane

Promoting a stand-alone novella: Dragonsbane #free #kindle


The hardest task of a self-published author is promotion; the hardest books to promote succesfully are stand-alone ones, and out of these, the most notorious must be novellas.

A stand-alone book cannot be used as a loss-leader. It can’t be offered free or cheap, in an effort to guide the readers to your other work. A novella, especially a new one, without reviews or ratings, is a terrible thing to promote: most of the big sites will not accept a work like that, or if they do, it will cost you more than you can usually hope to get back from sales.

It’s a conundrum. It helps if you’re an established author, with large following, and plenty of fans that will buy anything you release; but even they may not be willing to spend money on a short work with completely new characters in a completely new world.

So what is there to do? Well, bugger me if I know! Today, I’m doing a one-day free promo on my latest novella, Dragonsbane. It’s not quite a stand-alone, as in, it’s set in the same Mirror Worlds multiverse as Dragonbone Chest; but that is meaningless, as the multiverse is vast, and the only thing the two works have in common are dragons.

I’ve used my list of book promo sites to find the ones that accept freebies without reviews on short notice (this, incidentally, is why it’s important for readers to leave reviews – any reviews – on Amazon books: we need those stars to get advertising space). There aren’t that many, and most of them don’t have much following. I’ve scheduled a few tweets, and a reddit post. This blog can hopefully bring in a few downloads, too. It would certainly help to have a big mailing list that I could now bomb with the promo information – but despite my best efforts, I could never get more than a couple followers (it’s here, by the way). So yeah, I did all I can think of. Will any of that work? And what will be the effects of the free promo on what matters – ie. sales? We’ll just have to wait and see…

For now, click the cover above, or go here, for a free download of Dragonsbane, the second Mirror Worlds novella! It’s short, it’s fast, and it’s more action-packed than anything I’ve written so far 🙂

Ennaki’s Master is a dragon slayer. But not just any dragon slayer: each beast he slays is greater and more powerful than the previous one, and each fight brings more woe and damage to the innocents around. As the knight proceeds with his murderous scheme, Ennaki begins to doubt and wonder. Is his Master’s secret plan really worth the slaughter? And is this really the best way to win the everlasting War against the Shadow that threatens to engulf all Mirror Worlds?

In other news…

Advent Calendar notwithstanding, there are some news I have to share with you. I’m having the best week ever on Amazon, and here are some bragging screenshots 🙂

Breaking through to the Epic Fantasy Top 100
Breaking through to the Epic Fantasy Top 100
Top 5 Alternate History
Top 5 Alternate History
Author #109 in Science Fiction. So close to getting the number by my name!
Author #109 in Science Fiction. So close to getting the number by my name!

Not bad, not bad at all 🙂


Update 2:

#97 Science-Fiction Author on Kindle
#97 Science-Fiction Author on Kindle

Yaldā Advent Calendar 2012 – Day 4 – Half Price Bundle









Today’s gift is a bundle of all three so-far written volumes of “The Year of the Dragon” – at HALF PRICE of just $6!

You can get them for a week from my shop over on Gumroad, following these links:

ePub Bundle: http://gum.co/tqkP

mobi Bundle: http://gum.co/sIny

This offer expires next Tuesday.

Don’t forget you can still get the first book, “The Shadow of Black Wings”, is still available for free on KOBO.

Yaldā Advent Calendar 2012 – Day 3 – A Gift of Kobo



Today I have something on offer for my oft-neglected KOBO audience: “The Shadow of Black Wings” is FREE for Kobo users, for  a whole week, starting today!


And you don’t even need to have a Kobo e-reader – just grab an Android or iOS Kobo App, and you can download my books! And since they are DRM-free, you can then read them on any device capable of reading epubs.

The Shadow of Black Wings
(The Year of the Dragon #1)

Top 10 Bestseller in Alternate History Amazon US

Genre: Historical Fantasy
ebook ISBN: 978-83-935529-0-0 ASIN: B008FS5RPC
Published: June 2012 by Flying Squid
paperback ISBN-13 978-83-935529-1-7
ISBN-10: 8393552915
Published: July 2012 by Flying Squid

It is the sixteenth year of Queen Victoria’s enlightened rule and the world trembles before the might of her ironclad navy and the dreaded Dragon Corps. The largest ship ever built sails from the Brigstow Harbour on a journey to the mysterious lands of Orient. Its load – a regiment of the Royal Marines and one Bran ap Dylan – freshly graduate in Dracology at the Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.

In the empire of Yamato, sealed from the rest of the world for the last two centuries, a wizard’s daughter Sato witnesses her father joining an anti-government conspiracy. Her friend Nagomi, training to be a priestess, is haunted by dark visions that she must keep secret. Neither of them is aware that a change is coming to Yamato… on the wings of a dragon.

A detailed and fast-paced historical fantasy based around the turbulent opening of Japan to the West in the middle of the 19th century, “The Shadow of the Black Wings” is the first volume in “The Year of the Dragon” saga.

Available at: Amazon US |Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon JP And: Kobo | Kobo 楽天 Paperback available at: Amazon US | Amazon UK | ペーパーバック | Barnes&Nnoble Junglee.com

The Ancient Art of World-building

I’m slowly gathering a substantial collection of reviews for my “Year of the Dragon” books. The variety of opinion is sometimes difficult to cope with, ranging from “couldn’t put it down” to “trite and mediocre” (as is, I suppose, a case with any book) – but one thing a majority of my readers seems to appreciate is the world-building in the novels. With few exceptions, the world-building is mentioned in superlative terms and pointed to as the main strength of the story.

This is, of course, on one hand very flattering. I’m glad there are easily definable strengths to my writing, I’m happy to see somebody appreciates all the effort I put into the world of “The Year…”.

But, on the other hand, I find it symptomatic of a greater problem with fantasy books in general.

I was always a bit worried with the increasing prevalence of praise for “world-building” in reviews of fantasy novels. I guess I’m old fashioned, but, to me, praising a fantasy writer for world-building is a bit like praising the builder for putting up scaffolding. Creating a rich enough setting is a given; the most basic starting point. This is what separates fantasy (and science fiction, to an extent) from other literary genres. Otherwise, why would you even bother writing fantasy? Why not set your story simply in medieval Europe, or renaissance China, or modern London?

Whether I start writing with plot, characters or (as in the case of “The Shadow of Black Wings”) setting, building the world is the crucial part of creation. I agree that sometimes it can get… excessive. The picture attached to this post is one of the TWO maps for the Dragonbone Chest novella. That’s right, a stand-alone 30k work required a world rich enough to get two maps (there was a third map, actually, but I omitted it as only 10% of it actually showed in the novella). But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Call it obsessive, but I need to know that the Moon phases in “The Islands in the Mist” match the original Moon phases in May 1854, or that the way the mistfire engine works is consistent with what I’ve written about elementals twenty chapters earlier – even if none of my readers will ever notice that sort of detail. I need to have two thousand years of the world’s history written down, and detailed maps of the entire planet made before I even start the first chapter. Personally, I blame Tolkien; Lord of the Rings was one of the first books I remember reading, and the first book I read in English, and is still the most important book in my life, by far. Cutting corners when creating the world would feel like betraying Tolkien’s legacy.

And maybe this is why I find it difficult to read a lot of modern fantasy. Yes, there are great builders out there, and they are rightly among the most popular fantasy authors. Obviously a rich and detailed world is something that’s still appreciated by the majority of readers. But the fact that they are becoming rare, that proper world-building is something worth pointing out and exceptional praise, is what worries me.

Or maybe I’m just too old school.

Halloween Surprise – Dragonbone Chest FREE on Kindle

Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP

We do not know where the Forgetting had come from, what causes it and how exactly does it work… all we know is that nobody is safe from its dark touch, nobody knows where and when it will strike. A prince, a pauper, a wizard, a child… it can happen to anybody and there is no way to prevent it.

Duke Ayaris is a dragon slayer. He’s the only one left in the world, and he is hunting after the last of the dragons. He is about to fulfil his life’s destiny.
A dying old man asks him to take care of his beautiful young daughter. But the girl has a secret – one that will cause him to set sail where no man has willingly sailed before: to the Dragon North, in search of the fabled city of Eden.

“Dragonbone Chest” is a stand-alone fantasy novella and it is now FREE on Amazon Kindle up until November 2nd:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP

De Draconibus, Part 2 – Notable Eastern Races and Ancient Progenitors

The following is an excerpt from an Appendix on Dragon Breeds and Races, Dracology Handbook Year One, Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.


Note: the Eastern Dragon lore is sketchy and unreliable. What we do know about the beasts of the Orient comes from a variety of sources, from ancient travelogues to spy reports. Since the recent war with the Qin Empire we have started improving our knowledge, but it’s a slow and difficult process.

Longs (Air Dragons)

  • Qin Long

All tame “Longs” are, to our knowledge, descended from the dragons of Qin. This ancient civilization has bred their mounts for millennia, starting from wild fresh-water races captured in the rivers of Annam.

The Qin Long are serpentine and wingless, relying only on their magic powers for flight. As such, their lifespan is shorter than that of the Western dragons, but they are better and stronger fliers.

  • Annam Rong

While the wild beasts of Annam are regarded as predecessors of the Long, the dragons currently employed by the Kingdom’s armies are descended from the Qin beasts, brought into Annam during the many invasions the Kingdom had suffered from its northern neighbour.

  • Chosun Yong

The remote and little known kingdom of Chosun reportedly breeds two major races: the flying Yong and the water-based Imugi. Judging by the name “Yong being an obvious corruption of the word “Long”, the flying dragons of Chosun must be similar to all other Oriental dragons.

  • “Ryu” or Winged Long

Vasconian and Bataavian reports tell us of a winged, shorter and more muscular breed of Long, coming from an island or a set of islands East of Qin. These reports remain unconfirmed.

  • Himalayan Druk

A thunder-spewing race of Eastern Dragons. Whether they are related to Qin Long (to which they are similar in form), or have been bred in parallel by the Shambhallans, is uncertain.

Nagas (Water Dragons)

The Nagas are primitive dragons, little more than giant water serpents. They are notoriously difficult to tame, and rarely used as mounts. Some breeds of the Naga are multi-headed.

  • Phaya Naga

The wild Naga of Annam. Small and weak, a few are bred in the royal stables for ceremonial purposes.

  • Arakan Naga

The Kingdom of Arakan is the most successful nation to utilize the Naga in warfare. Their dragons are fierce and well-trained, and had proven a match to the Western mounts several times. The Arakan Naga can have up to seven heads, although only one is fully functional.

  • Chosun Imugi

The Imugi are the second race of the Chosun dragons that we know of. From the reports, it seems they are closely related to the Nagas of Annam and Rattanakosin, although little is confirmed.

  • Antaboga

A race of giant, salt-water Nagas living in the area of Sri Vijaya kingdom. They have vestigial wings, which led some scholars to suggest that they are a failed product of the Qin breeding program.

  • Bakunawa

Similar in general physique to the Antaboga, but without the vestigial wings, the Bakunawa inhabit the waters around the Tagalog islands.


The following is a brief list of mostly extinct races which our scholars believe to be predecessors of the modern dragons.

  • Azi Dahaka

Semi-legendary race from the highlands of Pahlava and Durrani, presumed ancestor of all domestic dragons. Known only through oral tradition and some archaeological finds. Presumably amphibian.

Worshipped by the ancient Pahlavans.

  • Mushussu

First fully land-based dragon, discovered in Mesopotamia. Tall and straight-legged, could not yet fly or breathe fire but could spit sparks and smoke.

  • Iluyanka

Bred by the Hittites, the Iluyanka was a transitory form between the land and winged dragons. Like the modern Long, it could fly without wings.

  • Typhon, Typhoeus

First of what could be known as ‘modern’ Western breeds, the Typhon had fully functioning wings and could spew flame. Earliest known specimens come from Cilicia, presumably bred from the Hittite dragons. After Rome’s conquest of Hellas, the Typhons were bred into the Ladon and Echidna breeds, from which all other Western dragons supposedly come.

  • Dvaraka

Heavily armoured, crocodilian in form. Assumed by some to be a type of the Naga, it seemed, however, to be much more comfortable on land. Relation to the Azi Dahaka is unknown. Earliest specimens found in the ancient cities of the Indus Valley.

  • Vritra

First ‘modern’ Eastern breed. Created in the stables of ancient Bharata by crossing the Phaya Nagas with the Dvaraka. The dragon breeding program was later abandoned, to be continued only in Qin. The Vritra were slim and small, but could easily fly and spewed both steam and lightning.

De Draconibus, Part 1 – Notable Western Races

The following is an excerpt from an Appendix on Dragon Breeds and Races, Dracology Handbook Year One, Llambed Academy of Mystic Arts.


Metallic (Ladon’s Breed)

The Ladon’s Breed is one of the oldest and most diverse breeds of dragons in the West. Bred first on Trinacria, they were the dragons of choice for the Roman Legions until the Sun Priests came to power and banished all dragons. Having escaped destruction of the Great Cull in select hidden pockets in the Alp valleys, their breeding was picked up after the Age of Unbridled Fire by the Midgardians and the Helvetii.

  • Savoy Bronze

Known for their speed and agility, the Bronzes bred in the highland of Savoy come from the eggs secured by the Helvetii and have served a great part in the Duchy’s wars of independence. When Savoy was annexed into Breizh, the Bronzes became a desired choice for young aristocrats.

  • Black Forest Iron

A heavy-set, muscular breed, used primarily in timber industry, although almost replaced by Osning Forest Viridians

  • Mountain Silver “Wyrmkings”

A chosen breed for dragon-flying armies, the largest and strongest of all the western races. Addition of the Norse White blood made them violent and brutal, but also very powerful.

  • Imperial Gold

Only the royal families are allowed to ride the Imperial Golds. It is alleged that they are related to the dragons the Roman Emperors rode, but that is conjecture – in fact the breed is an effect of breeding the Mountain Silvers with Steppe Yellows.

Red (Y Ddraig Goch’s Breed)

According to the legend, the Ddraig Goch’s eggs have been found by Emrys Wledig under Arthur the Faer’s last fortress during the Seaxe invasions. The ancestry of the Reds is unknown; it is suggested that they either have been domesticated in the Dragon Isles separately from the Roman efforts, or are related to ancient metallics.

There are few differences between various breeds of the Reds, coming mainly from geographical separation of the Hatcheries. The Crimsons and Scarlets are generally smaller and faster than the Rubies, and Ancient Reds are almost extinct today.

  • Ancient Red
  • Eryni Ruby
  • Kernow Crimson
  • Mon Scarlet

Green (Fafnir’s Breed)

Midgard’s main indigenous breed, the Greens are not as brutal as the Whites or as fast as the Swifts, but are known for their reliability and stamina.

  • Burgund Wurm

An early breed, presumably crossed with the Horse Lord Dragons during the invasions. Cheap and relatively easy to maintain, but goes feral quickly.

  • Osning Forest Viridian

Industrial breed, strong, heavy, calm all-rounder. Currently the most numerous of the Western races.

  • Olissipo Emerald extinct

The counts of Burgundy had brought Fafnir’s breed with them to Lusitania, to carve out a piece of land for themselves. Unfortunately, almost all Emeralds have perished in the wars and what was left of their eggs was destroyed in the Great Earthquakes.

Blue (Cuelebre’s Breed)

Little is known of Cuelebre’s breed until after the cull. A few eggs have been salvaged from Vasconia to Dracaland and bred in the highland pastures of Alba, resulting in creation of the Azures – the first of the “King” races.

  • Pyreneean Sapphire

The only Blue to remain freely roaming on the Continent. A menace to farmers, but regarded with great esteem by the Vasconians, who do not try to tame or cull it.

  • Highland Azure Seakings

Before the advent of Mountain Silvers, the Highland Azures were the largest and strongest mounts in Dracaland army’s employ. They are still preferred by some because they are cheaper to feed and maintain.

  • Highland Grey Shadowclouds

Bred exclusively in the Fortress of Shadows on the Isle of Scathach, the Shadowclouds are used for spying and reconnaissance. Their scales can change colour slightly to suit the sky, and instead of dragon fear they spread dragon glamour which makes the observer turn their eyes away and forget about the dragon.

Swamp – (Tarasque’s Breed)

The Tarasques were Blue dragons brought to Provincia Nostra from the Pyrenees during the Age of Dragons. Following the rivers and marshes of Rhone and Rhein, they have eventually reached the Draca Lands. Resilient and fertile, the feral Tarasques soon spread throughout the land.

  • Fenland Celadon

Slim and serpentine, the Celadons are as fast on land as they are in the air.

  • Rhos Jade

Weak and small, bred as training and toy dragons for young riders.

(Emrys’s breed)

White (Orm Nidhoggr’s Breed)

Presumed to be remote descendants of the Echidna breed. The Seaxe and the Norsemen both rode Nidhoggr’s Breed into their many successful invasions, unstoppable until encountering the Reds.

Having accompanied the Norsemen on their oceanic expeditions, these frost-breathers were among the first Western dragons to arrive in Tyr Gorllewin.

  • Niflheimr Arctic
  • Norse White

The oldest war breed still in active use. A staple of Dracaland land army.

  • Vannin Cyan

Cross between Norse Whites and Highland Azures

  • Snaeland Snow

Born on Snaeland, this stocky, fat breed is most popular in Gorllewin

Earthy (Zmey’s Breed)

These stocky, heavy, slow dragons are kept by the Venedians in the lairs underneath their cities for defensive purposes. They are unique in that they are the only breeds able to blow both steam and flame – hence the ancient superstition that they have two heads.

  • Upland Brown
  • Giant Venedian

Ashen (Balaur’s Breed)

The ancient Balaurids were one of the most heavily affected by the Sun Priests’ cull. Only a few specimen survived to become ancestors of the current three yellow breeds. Now bred mostly for the rare colour of their scale.

  • Dacian Cinder extinct
  • Carpathian Vert

Swifts (Hleidra’s Breed)

The Jutish Swifts came with the Jutish conquerors accompanying the Seaxe. Coming from the same stock as the beast slain by Beowulf, the dragons have long outlived their masters. Small, sleek and fast, they have become a mount of choice for smugglers as well as the law enforcement.

  • Jutish Swift
  • Purple Swift

Cross between Jutish Swift and Ancient Red, popularly used by town guards and as blockade runners.

  • Chalk Swift

Cross between Jutish Swift and Norse White, preferred by the smugglers

Yellow (Echidna’s Breed)

Direct descendants of the Typhon, these breeds are as ancient as the metallic ones, and are said to have been cross-breeding with the Oriental dragons for generations.

  • Horse Lord Yellow

Brought into the West during the Barbarian Invasions, now a curiosity among collectors. More popular in the Eastern Steppes and in Varyaga.

  • Itil Zilant

A wild breed, roaming the flood plains along the Itil and other rivers of the Varyaga Khaganate. Almost impossible to tame, despite many efforts.