The Year of the Dragon: Second Bundle (vols. 5-8) Release!

This is, most likely, the last solid bit of publishing news regarding The Year of the Dragon* series.

After finishing the series with The Last Dragon King, we’re now releasing the second bundled volume of the entire saga, containing Books 5-8:

5. The Chrysanthemum Seal

6. The Withering Flame

7. The Shattering Waves

8. The Last Dragon King

As with Bundle bundle2_thumbI (1-4), this one also contains some additional exclusive content, all the maps from the four books, and an exclusive new cover created by the same artist, the brilliant Collette J. Ellis. Fittingly, like my very first cover, this one also shows Bran himself, but for the first time with his faithful dragon, Emrys!

So this is it, friends. The final, final book. One day I might return to this world for another story, but for now I’m focused on a whole new, completely different project, of which I might start telling you in a few months.


Kindle Edition:
Amazon US |UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JPCA | BR | AU
iBooks (coming soon) | Nook | Smashwords | Kobo 

*) ebooks. There will be paperbacks soon, I promise!

Critical Fix to “Withering Flame” file! Read if you bought the book!

Hi folks, a little bit of an emergency update. If you bought the “Withering Flame”, you’ve probably noticed that from Chapter VII it’s all in italics. I don’t know how that got through – I double-check and triple-check every file, and yet, here we are…

Luckily, it’s an easy fix, and we’ve already uploaded the new file to the vendors. If you bought the book on Amazon, you don’t have to do anything – in a week or so, you should get the prompt to download the new version, or if not, just download it again to your Kindle.

If you bought the epub on Nook, Kobo or Smashwords, you might be able to download the fixed file too (give it a few days) but if not, please contact us using this form with details of your purchase, and we’ll send you the fixed file.

“The Withering Flame ” launching everywhere!

If you bought the Amazon pre-order, you’ll be getting “The Withering Flame” sent to your Kindle right about now. But also, you can now buy the book on Nook, Kobo and get it from Smashwords. In a few days it should appear on iTunes, too. Get the download links below. Exciting times!

Book 6: The Withering Flame

For centuries, the world outside Yamato turned, while in the island nation, little changed. But the barbarians have finally broken through the gates, and the rebels have risen openly.

Bran reunites with his father on Dejima, just as the Bataavians and the local daimyo prepare to join the rebellion against the Taikun. Nagomi follows her visions across the Dan-no-Ura Straits, only to discover there is more to the Prophecy than she ever imagined. Sato and the Kiheitai, on secret orders from Lord Mori, rush to reach the Imperial Capital of Heian before the full might of Taikun’s army – and the Black Dragons he’s allied with.

The time for whispers and secrets is over. The dark clouds burst – and the bloody civil war is finally upon Yamato.

Kindle Edition:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP | CA | BR | AU
iTunesNook | Smashwords Kobo 

The Withering Flame Amazon Pre-Order is Go!

I promised and promised, and looks like I am finally about to deliver! I have finished the final draft of the Withering Flame, sent it off for proof-reading, and set up an exclusive pre-order on Amazon. That’s right – you can now pre-order Book Six of “The Year of the Dragon”, scheduled for release on June 4th!

For centuries, the world outside Yamato turned, while in the island nation, little changed. But the barbarians have finally broken through the gates, and the rebels have risen openly.

The Withering FlameBran reunites with his father on Dejima, just as the Bataavians and the local daimyo prepare to join the rebellion against the Taikun. Nagomi follows her visions across the Dan-no-Ura Straits, only to discover there is more to the Prophecy than she ever imagined. Sato and the Kiheitai, on secret orders from Lord Mori, rush to reach the Imperial Capital of Heian before the full might of Taikun’s army – and the Black Dragons he’s allied with.

The time for whispers and secrets is over. The dark clouds burst – and the bloody civil war is finally upon Yamato.

Click these links to pre-order “The Withering Flame” on Amazon NOW:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP | CA | BR | AU

Excerpt Reveal – “The Withering Flame”, Chapter V

Yes, like George R.R. Martin, I too am still working hard on Volume 6 of my fantasy saga 😉 And just like Winds of Winter, it’s taking me much longer than I had hoped for. I had to do a massive rewrite of the first half of the book, and then life added its own share of delays… But now I have finally finished the new draft, and we seem to be back on track for a release this side of half-year!

To celebrate this milestone – and the release of a new Winds of Winter excerpt on GRRM’s site – here’s an excerpt from Chapter 5 of the new draft of “The Withering Flames”.
(minor spoiler warning, naturally)

The noblemen prison wing was packed to the limits. So many Mori Clan’s retainers had been arrested at the Terada-ya, that the guards had to cram them two each into a cell. Only one cell remained, at Koyata’s insistence, occupied by a single inhabitant.

It was to this cell that he was now leading his latest quarry.

“Here you are, Izumi-dono,” he said with a bow, showing the new prisoner in. Maki Izumi grunted and crossed the cell’s threshold.

“This is Miyabe-sama from Kumamoto,” Koyata introduced the cellmates. “I thought a pair of Southerners will get along.” He smiled and backed out. As soon as the grate slid shut, he rushed down the corridor, and up the stairs into another, secret hallway, hidden from view by a sliding wall with the painting of a pensive Butsu-sama, standing on the sea shore and putting a conch to his ear.

He shuffled quietly along the lightless hallway, to a location he had marked earlier. The hallway floor was pierced with small slits, covered with sawed-off bits of floorboards, at measured distances – one per cell; through those slits, Koyata was able to observe and listen in on everything that happened in the rooms below. He lay down and put his ear to the hole.

“…and what were you planning to do with it once you got to Edo?”

That was Master Izumi’s exasperated voice. Koyata smiled to himself – the plan worked perfectly. And he’d made it just in time to hear the juiciest part of the conversation.

“You know full well what our mission is,” Miyabe replied, snidely. “To free the court from the abominations that control it.”


       “Fools,” scoffed Izumi. “Now your men will be captured, and the sword will fall into the Taikun’s hands.”

So it’s a sword…

“And I suppose you’d rather we sat quietly in Kumamoto and did nothing,” said Miyabe. “Let your Master do as he pleased.”

“Shimazu-dono is doing what he believes is best for Yamato.”

       Koyata heard one of the men pace this way and that across the narrow confines of the cell. He pressed his eye to the slit – it was Miyabe, jumpy and agitated.

“Well I don’t trust anyone who’s dealing with one of them,” he said. “And don’t think I’d forgive him for what he did to Hosokawa-dono.

“Dōraku is different,” replied Izumi. “We would be nowhere without him. Look, Miyabe-dono.” He put his hands together in an entreating gesture. “In the end, we both want the same. A bright, prosperous future for our country, without the Fanged pulling the strings and without the barbarians ordering us about.”

There’s that word again. The Fanged. Koyata had heard this name spoken, always in secret, a few times already during his stay in Heian, but he couldn’t figure out what it might mean.

“Shimazu just wants the throne for himself,” scoffed Miyabe.

“He may want to rule, but he’s not after the throne. We remain loyal to the Mikado.

Loyal to the Mikado, huh… Just as Lord Matsudaira had predicted, the letter sent out by His Majesty Kōmei had been stirring up trouble. The daimyo should be loyal to the Taikun; not to whatever puppet occupied the symbolic throne in Heian’s Imperial Palace. Those were the rules – the rules that had been managing to prevent another Civil War for more than two centuries.

“Same difference,” said Miyabe.

Izumi raised his hands and shrugged. “If that’s what it takes… do you have a better candidate?”

“What about Mori?” asked Miyabe. “I heard his men are in town.”

“Chōfu is a lost cause,” said Izumi. “They tried, and they failed. Half of the retainers were brought into this prison tonight with me. Hear them now, wailing and cursing!”

He banged at the wall of his cell. A Chōfu samurai on the other side yelled at him in response – what, Koyata couldn’t hear.

“Yes! That’s right!” shouted Izumi. “Your little revolution is over before it’d begun!”

The man behind the wall yelled again, but Izumi ignored him and sat by the wall opposite. Miyabe lay down on the floor, with the straw pillow under his head.

“Izumi-dono,” he started, looking at the ceiling. Koyata prayed that he wouldn’t notice the slit – it was right above him. “Do you think we still stand a chance?”

“I don’t know, Miyabe-dono. I do know that Takashima-sama managed to destroy one of them in battle, and lived through it. And she’s only a girl, who’s barely come of age. Think of what real men, real warriors could do, with proper planning.”

Takashima! Koyata put a hand to his mouth to stop himself from gasping.

“How did she do that?” asked Miyabe.

“I did not get a chance to ask her, before those Aizu thugs took me away,” said Izumi. “I hope they got away safe.”

I’ve heard enough, Koyata decided. He covered the slit with the wooden plank, and headed back to the ground floor.

Koyata held his head in both hands, and rubbed his temples. “This is all giving me a headache,” he said, and took a chunk from the brown powder tablet he carried in a bamboo box at his waist. He had been ordering the medicine from Kiyō – it helped alleviate the stresses of his new job.

“So let me get this straight,” he said, after he finished chewing the medicine. “There’s a conspiracy of demons, living dead, who control the Taikun’s court and want to rule all of Yamato – and one of them was responsible for the abduction of Takashima Shūhan and Tokojiro Namikoshi from Kiyō?”

Tokojiro did mention some monstrous man in a red robe, torturing him… remembered Koyata. He had always assumed it must have been just another Rangakusha, corrupted and maddened by power…

Miyabe and Izumi exchanged glances and nodded. “I don’t know the other name, but if you’d speak to Takashima Satō-sama,” said Izumi, “she would confirm everything I told you.”

“And this… Dōraku, did you say? What is his role? Is he some other kind of demon?”

“No, no,” said Izumi. “He’s like the others, but – on our side. They call him the Renegade.”

“Or so he says,” added Miyabe, scowling. “All I know is that he used to be Mori-dono’s confidant, and then he betrayed him for Shimazu. I wouldn’t trust him with a blunt chopstick.”

Koyata swiped his hand across his face. “Do you have any proof of this?”

Izumi laughed, Miyabe rolled his eyes. “If we had, we wouldn’t be here,” said Izumi. “You think Shimazu-dono would just sit on a secret like this?”

“I do,” said Miyabe. “The old fox knows far more than he’s letting on.”

It was now Izumi’s turn to roll eyes. “That may be, but in this case we’re all just following hearsay. The only two Fanged anybody’s ever seen, and lived to tell the tale, are Dōraku-sama and the Crimson Robe. One of them is dead – the other in hiding.”

This was almost too much to take in. Koyata’s mind raced, as he struggled to connect the many pieces of puzzle he’d been gathering ever since the first incident in Kiyō. All the rumours, all the random bits of investigation, all the strange events he’d been hearing about… if a conspiracy of demons was the true explanation for everything, it certainly wasn’t the most far-fetched he’d ever come up with.

One thing he couldn’t still figure out.

“Why Heian?” he asked. “How does His Majesty fit into this?”

Miyabe looked at Izumi mockingly. “Yes, Izumi-dono, how does the Divine Mikado fit into Shimazu-dono’s plans?”

Izumi’s eyes darted to the sides, and to the ceiling. He knew, realized Koyata.

“Don’t worry, I made sure we are not being spied on.” He had the two noblemen moved to a separated cell, at the far end of the prison wing, and had checked twice that nobody would be able to use the floor slit without his permission. He hoped it was enough – though in Heian, everyone spied on everyone else.

“Let me preface this by saying that Nariakira-dono has the best Scryers in Yamato at his service. Even you’d agree on this, wouldn’t you, Miyabe-dono?” asked Izumi.

“I don’t know about best, but I’ve heard they are good,” agreed Miyabe.

“And those Scryers are all clear on one thing: the Mikado must be protected, at all costs. His life is in danger.”

Koyata scratched his head. “I know His Majesty and His Excellency are at loggerheads over the barbarian question… but that’s a bit much. The Taikun would never strike at the Imperial Capital. That would be attacking a God!”

Izumi raised his eye. “Do you forget your history? It happened before, and it will happen again. The Taikun’s army is heading for the city – and, for all we know, so do the barbarians. The Aizu are already in control. I fear the Chōfu forces were our last chance at securing the palace.”

Koyata stood up and turned their back at the samurai. He needed to think clearly, and their mocking, annoyed looks were getting on his nerves.

“Is there anything that can yet be done?” he asked.

“You… you would help us?” said Izumi.

“I must not be connected to this,” Koyata replied. “And you would have to stay here, to avoid suspicion.”

“That – that might work,” said Miyabe. “All we’d need is some sort of contact with the outside world.”

“I will let you know.” Koyata opened the grated door. “Tomorrow is the first day of Obon – I’ll be busy. But I will come back as soon as I can.” He stepped outside and shut the door. “I was not here. I heard nothing.”

The two noblemen nodded in unison.

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Writer’s anime – unblocking the block

The Withering FlameDraft Two of “The Withering Flame” is now happily done, and I finally have a little time to rest and write the blog.

There was a point earlier this year where things didn’t seem going in that direction at all. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I had a hard time starting with this book, struggling through a long and arduous writer’s block all through the summer and autumn.

Out of several things I tried to break through it, there was one that helped the most, and it’s something I hadn’t tried in years – watching some anime. I used to be a serious anime and manga fan a long time ago – not quite otaku level, but I did watch a lot. It’s been quite a while since I watched a full new series; I lost track of what was going on; after a few years of binge watching, like any pop-culture genre, it all got a bit samey.

But then, while mindlessly browsing YouTube for “inspiration”, I stumbled upon two new series that got me hooked – and, eventually, helped me break out of the stupor. Their subjects were similar: slice of life shows about struggling artists. Even the titles sound almost the same – Barakamon and Bakuman.


Barakamon is a fantastic series; a true gem of an anime, calm, with all the whimsical, summery lightness of Yotsuba&! It’s a tale of a calligrapher overcoming an artist’s block – so obviously, a story close to my heart. Barakamon is, quite rightly, widely praised for its characters, art and smooth pacing. It’s a short series – only twelve episodes; as such, it doesn’t suffer from the common anime problems, like fillers and over-the-top plot complications. It’s a simple, straightforward story: the main character moves to a remote southern island, to find inspiration far away from the big city crowds – but the true inspiration comes to him not from self-imposed solitude, but from interactions with the local villagers.

The series relies on child characters, so it was easy to make it either too sweet, or too annoying, but the writers manage to steer clear of either of the obstacles. The script is an exercise in life-like moderation. There are teenagers here, but no angst. There are good friendships, but they are not overbearing. Even the ending nears perfection, breaking through the common cliches and expectations.

Twelve episodes is a quick watch, and it’s all on YouTube, so do yourselves a favour and try it out.


I actually ended up reading the manga, rather than watching the anime of Bakuman. It seemed fitting: after all, this is a manga about writing a manga.

If this sounds a bit meta, that’s not even the start of it. Bakuman is a shonen battle manga about writing shonen battle mangas, written by the masters of the genre – the authors behind Death Note and Hikaru no Go; so when they set out to show what it takes to create a #1 series, you can take their word for it – these guys know what they’re talking about.

I did say that it’s a battle manga… The battle element comes from the publishing system used by manga magazines like Shonen Jump: weekly rankings and ratings are the key to having your series continued or cancelled. Every issue of Jump is a new battle, every new mangaka is a potential enemy.

This is all fairly interesting, but it’s not what makes Bakuman the perfect series for breaking out of a writer’s block. It’s the passion all the characters show for their work. The mangaka’s life is, by all possible measures, a terrible one. No sleep, no holidays, pushing the deadlines, constant need to be on the top of one’s game… in a faint hope that you’ll be the one guy or girl out of the struggling hundreds to make the big time. A failure is unforgivable – and, often, irreversible. And yet, they keep doing it, just for the sake of creating art and telling stories.

The manga is not without its flaws. Unlike Barakamon, Bakuman is a long and winding series, and it tends to get rambling at times. The cast of characters is mind-bogglingly vast, the plot arcs at times get ridiculously complex and unrealistic. The romance plot is far too romantic and sugary for my liking – although, to their credit, the authors don’t stray from showing the sexism prevalent in the entertainment industry. But all that is insignificant compared to the sheer force of inspiration emanating from the pages, a force that makes you want to drop everything and start drawing/writing/composing that long forgotten piece of art you had lost all hope for.

There are 176 chapters of the manga available as scanlations, and three seasons of anime. Even if you stick to manga, you will want to watch at least bits of the anime, to see how the “shows within the shows” are brought to life – the fake openings are better than most real ones I’ve seen lately 🙂

Winning #Nanowrimo 2014


Yesterday, at 10pm, I hit the 50,000 words mark, thus winning Nanowrimo 2014 – with three days to spare!
This year I was talking it far more seriously, as at the start I had to overcome a serious bout of writer’s block – and finish the first draft “The Withering Flame” as soon as possible. Since I started out with 30k already written on Nov 1, that means the full manuscript, at 80,000, is now pretty much completed!

nanoIt was quite an odyssey this month, as you can see from the chart above. A few days after a good start, the poor performance crept in. Half-way through, I was more than 4000 words behind – almost three full days of writing.

The Withering FlameBy the end of last week, I caught a flu – which was luckier than it sounds, as fever makes me write faster. That surge of wordcount the last four days – that’s 38 degrees speaking 🙂 Not sure about the quality, but then that’s what first drafts – and Nanowrimo manuscripts – are like.

I give myself two days of rest now – and start revising the draft on Sunday. Barring any unforeseen accidents, I foresee “The Withering Flame” to be ready sometime early next year. Stay tuned!

October News: NaNoWriMo, Smashwords… and BOOK 6 incoming (eventually)!

It’s been a while since I wrote something about my books – over a month, in fact; and even longer since I mentioned “The Year of the Dragon” series. But, here it comes:

The sixth book of “The Year of the Dragon” series will be called “The Withering Flame”. We have a new cover artist once again this time – Anndr Kusuriuri. The cover is awesome, if I do say so myself (and a bit spoilerish, if you can figure out what’s going on in the picture!).The Withering Flame

Now, there’s a bit of a setback with the book. It really should have been ready for this Christmas, but I’m afraid that won’t happen – and there’s nobody to blame but myself. I’m just recovering from a bout of severe writer’s block, which lasted far longer than these things should for a professional author. It’s been over a month since I last put the finger to the keyboard; I’m finally back on track, though, and roughly half-way through the first draft.

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonWhich brings me to another piece of news – I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year, hoping to finish the first draft by the end of November. You can keep up with my progress – and cheer me up! – here. I’ll be counting words from whatever I have written by Nov 1st, so I may “lose” if I assume the book is big enough, but having a deadline may keep me from falling back into the writer’s block’s sweet embrace.smashwords

Final bit of news – there’s yet another distribution channel for the first five books: Smashwords. Like on Kobo, you can get the “Shadow…” for free there, and the rest of the books are priced the same as elsewhere.

Plotting the draft, part 2: Volume 6, Sato’s POV

Hi Guys,

Volume 6 (which I have not yet formally announced – that’s for a future post) is coming along… slowly. I’m perhaps half-way through the first draft. Partly that’s because I was travelling again this summer, but partly, because it has the most complex and convoluted plot of all the books so far. At long last, things seem to be coming to a head in Yamato…

Earlier this year I showed you how I tried to make sense of the plot of “Chrysanthemum Seal“. I managed to fit most of it on a single piece of A5 paper.

This picture, on the other hand, shows a single plot-line of the next book (mostly POVs of Sato and Shoin).


The good news is, I already have Nagomi’s POV largely done and dusted. The bad news? Bran’s plot-line is not yet even touched upon…

Sigh. Maybe I should’ve stuck to writing novellas 😉