Author Interview | Anthony P. Jones

Somedays ago I read a book named Red States by Anthony P. Jones. I enjoyed this book so much that I decided to interview the author behind this entertaining read. Like the book, his answers to my questions were interesting as well. Let me introduce you guys to Anthony first and then I will let you read his mini spun answers. 😀 Final Book Cover - Red States

Tony was born in a small rural town Kenbridge, Virginia. He studied biology at Xavier University of Louisiana, medicine at Meharry Medical College and creative writing at the University of Virginia. He has spent twenty-five years in corporate America, fifteen as an Associate Vice president with Morgan Stanley. Tony has written for twenty-four years and has published two novels, Operation Smokeout- Allen Publishing and D8 With F8- Self/Brown Bag Books. He has a collection of seven additional completed novels as well as two screenplays.


Questions regarding Red States:

  1. What made you choose the title “Red States” for your book?

The story is taking place during an election year, when there is talk about Red and Blue states.  The antagonist, Zhang Ju wants to make the US all Red States, China Red.

2. The government and mafia conspiracy and them trying to one up each other was something that I most enjoyed about the book. What  level of interest did you have in the topic before writing the book?

I have always had an interest in politics, though, my taste has soured with the division we’ve seen over the past twenty years.  With regard to conspiracy, I once told someone that I choose topics that make the average person say, “No fricking way” and makes the government say, “Humm.”  When my first novel, “Operation Smokeout” came out, the Detroit Free Press questioned the plausibility— the book landed me a six-month stint on the NSA’s watch list, I had to meet with the NAS and it generated twelve calls from intelligence sources.  Ten to twelve things I wrote came true— the book was a creation of my imagination.

3. There’s a good balance between action and description, neither one of the sides over power the other, which I really appreciate. How difficult was it to find the balance?

This is an interesting question.  For me, the characters tell me where to take the book.  I am simply telling the story “they” tell me to write.  If it comes out balanced, it’s due to the story my characters tell me to write.

4. Were there alternate endings you considered?

When I begin writing a book, I generally know the beginning and where I expect it to end.  As I get into the thick of things, the ending may vary a bit, I simply follow where the story leads me.

5. Which character from the book did you find the easiest to write about?

Wow, this is a tough one.  I believe there are elements of the writer’s personality in each of his characters.  Cole is sarcastic and uses off-beat humor to deal with difficult situations— much like yours truly.  Zasha is strong, compassionate and on task, much like people I appreciate.  Zhang is ruthless, driven and is focused on the task at hand, while disregarding any potential pitfalls to achieve what he wants— I recognize this guy too.  As a writer, you have to have an appreciation, if not love for all of your characters.  You have to be able to get in the head of each of them.  Learning their complexities is something that comes as you write.  Easiest?  Cole and Zasha because they represent the Yin and Yang.  IN Martial Arts, we learn to seek balance, Cole and Zasha represent this balance.

6. What got left out in the final draft?

In this book, nothing got left out.  This story plays out as it was written.  The changes happened internally.  I wrote this book fourteen years ago, I did have to update technology to reflect things that have changed during that time.


These questions and Anthony’s answers gave me more insight about the book that I enjoyed reading. So, I asked him questions about being an author.

  1. Are you a plotter or pantster?

My stories are plot driven.  Thrillers should never be planned, they are free-flowing and what happens in one seen dictate where the story goes.  If you use an outline writing a thriller, your readers will know that you are trying to force the story.  Thrillers should be free flowing, the characters will tell you where to take the story.

2. What’s more important for you: characters or plot?

For me, plot drives the story, but the characters tell you where the plot has to go.

3. How long on an average does it take you to write a book?

Every book is different.  I put a lot of research into my stories.  My first book took about five years and the last one I wrote took only a month and a half.  Every story unfolds in its own timeline.

4. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write about than others?

Sex scenes are the most difficult!  Sex is different in everyone’s minds— too graphic, not graphic enough, just enough to get the point across.

5. Which other genre would you want to try your hands on?

Thrillers are my stronghold.  I have dabbled with drama and even a religious based screenplay, but I always come back to thrillers.  Other genres cause you to think in different ways, I could do that, but I like the natural fit, I’m good at home.


After all these serious questions, I had to ask some fun questions as well. What better way to get to know a person than to ask them weird questions?

  1. Do you have any scars? What are they from?

Scars?  My back looks like a runaway slave’s.  The wrong relationships, trying to help people, who only wanted to use you, trying to be a good person in a world that doesn’t give a damn… and through it all, my daily goal is to make at least one person smile a day!  I may not be able to effect the world, but I won’t let the world bring me down!

2. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Shoot your best shot— there is no way to stop me!

3. Characters often find them in situations that they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

Five years ago, divorcing an attorney after twenty years of marriage.  I am going to win!  Not because I’m entitled, or deserve it more than anyone else, but simply because I refuse to give up!

4. Share a fun fact with us before signing off.

When this book becomes a hit, some will say that I’m an overnight success.  They’re right, 9,132 overnights!


This is one of those cases where you can truly see how much of himself an author as put in a book. I wish all the very best to Anthony and his book Red States and also all his future endeavors.

If you guys enjoyed this interview and would like to check the book out and support Anthony then go get the book.

Buy this book: Red States (Amazon)

Watch my review on the book-

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Book review | 8: The Game is On by Swapnil Khamkar

8: The Game is On

 

Title: 8: The Game is On
Author: Swapnil Khamkar
Genre: Fiction, Historical fiction, Mystery- Thriller
Publisher: Srishti Publications

Publishing date: 10th December, 2017
Pages: 160

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

*Book received from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

History holds a lot in its pages. But till when can truth be hidden?
Neel is a cop investigating the mysterious death of a famous film director. In the middle of a divorce case with his wife Avantika and amidst thoughts of resigning from his job, will he be able to find the culprit?
A five-hundred-year old sunken ship belonging to Vasco da Gama is discovered off the coast in Oman. It is well known that the ship sank with thousands of artefacts in it. Out of them, eight artefacts are missing in specific. Do they have some connection with the film director’s death?
Neel tries to unearth the truth behind the missing artefacts to find clues to questions nobody else can answer. Join Neel as he tries to find the truth behind 8! 1 ship; 2 deaths; 3 cops; 400 murders; 500 years; 60 days; 7 countries; 8 artefacts – Let the adventure begin!


My Take:

8! 1 ship; 2 deaths; 3 cops; 400 murders; 500 years; 60 days; 7 countries; 8 artefacts – Let the adventure begin!

This line was what sold me to the book. There’s so much scope in that one line. When I picked it up, I braced myself for a thrilling ride but the book wasn’t that.

The author was in great touch with the baseline of the story, the history part was well researched and smartly inserted in the story. Although the book could have done wonders only following this story line, I don’t know why Neel and Avantika’s stupid marital problems were added. In 1/3rd of the book, it turned from a decent thriller to a crappy romance story. Being cops them acting this way was so unwarranted, even after being in the same profession if this is how they react to situations and if this is what almost fails their marriage then God help their relationship.

Because of their story being introduced, the main story took a back seat. Where 3-4 pages were needed to find the first artifact, the last was found in a paragraph of 3 lines. Also, Raghu, their senior, sends Avantika with Neel and Jay (sidekick) to help their relationship. Excuse me? This is an international issue where you already have an incompetent officer (Neel) and you add his love interest, who by the way does nothing for the case, she either keeps making coffee or keeps romancing Neel in a real cringy way.

Neel was tried to be portrayed as this naturally talented officer who is really good at his job but the way he is written, he instead comes across as a really mean and arrogant person, who is incompetent but tries to hide it by talking people down and taking credit for their work.

The first story of the director is left hanging in order to pursue the artifacts storyline then that is forgotten because of Neel and Avantika (if you could not figure out, they frustrated me because they took a lot away from a story that could otherwise have been really good) and then we are again introduced to the first story line as a conclusion after rushing through the second one.

The climax was really anticlimactic, it seemed more of the TV series CID style. There were a lot of editing mistakes as well and then I looked at the name of the publishing company. I don’t know why but all the books that I have read from this publishing company are riddled with mistakes.

The idea and research that went behind it is really great, which is why I would love to read more from the author. You can see that he really has a great vision, this being his debut novel I feel the pressure to add romance to make it sell-able actually backfired.


Why would I pick it up?

Image result for animated reading gif

For a quick dose of history and a short read.

Buy this book-

Amazon

 

Book Review | Red States by Anthony P. Jones

Red States Book Cover

Title: Red States
Author: Anthony P. Jones
Genre: Fiction, Action, Thriller
Publisher: Brown Bag Books LLC

Publishing date: 12th December, 2018
Pages: 325

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

*e-Manuscript received from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

Final Book Cover - Red States

A Triad Boss, who has grown board with the day-to-day activities of building his criminal empire decides to launch an initiative that will make him the best-known person in the world— he plans to overthrow the United States government.

As the largest “Snake Header” in China, his plan involves planting people in the US and providing them with citizenship paperwork, then having them vote in hand selected candidates, who will gradually assume power.

Two CIA agents are sent to China to investigate the Snake Headers, who dump more illegal immigrants in the US than any other country. They stumble on the Triad Boss’ plan, which involves underworld figures from Russia and Mexico. After learning of a meeting bringing together the underworld figures, the CIA agents rally a group of commandos to take the group down all at once.

Things go terribly wrong and the Triad Boss escapes with his delegation. Spared by the failed attempt to arrest them, the Triad Boss falls back to a secondary plan— he has fireworks destined for the Fourth of July celebration in the US filled with Abrin, a poison seventy-five times more potent than Rison.

Abrin is lethal in any form and the dust particles falling from the unsuspecting fireworks will wipe out seventy five percent of the exposed people. Wind carrying the Abrin will continue to spread the effect to water supplies, particulate that will be inhaled or simply reach any mucous membrane spreading death.

Learning about the Abrin at the last moment, the CIA agents implore the President to stop all fireworks displays in the US. They work to find the Triad Boss in order to prevent any secondary attacks. They are unable to prevent all the fireworks displays. The President sets up triage units to treat the affected, while the CIA agents round up the delegation one-by-one.


My Take:

Red States is a thrilling, action packed story. The way this story is written is sure to hold a reader’s attention. The balance of information and action is the thing that makes this book a page turner. There’s no information dump even though there is a lot of information in this book, it is smartly sprinkled in between the action scenes, not making any one part of the book over bearing.

The characters all have their own quirks and are really interesting to read about, even the side characters have their back stories described, in parts they get the front seat and we see their emotions play out. With this big of an operation, there are sure to be casualties but the one with one of the agents driving out to take a closer look at what was going on when he wasn’t supposed to and then getting caught and brutally beat up had me at the edge of my seat asking why did he go, he didn’t have to, why did he die… His partner didn’t know him well but because he was her partner, her getting emotional and wanting revenge yet keeping her cool and working by orders had me moved.

This book makes you go through a lot of emotions, if you can feel for the side characters too then the book definitely is well written.

The concept of the storyline was very interesting. It was easy to read and understand. Even if you are not into political or action stuff this can still be a very enjoyable read because it doesn’t use jargon, the way of explaining how things work is really simple. Straight forward language and easy flow of the book breaks the complex structures into an entertaining read.

The pace is perfect, neither too fast nor too slow. Considering it is an action story, I thought it would be fast paced but because of the amount of information about border crossing and Abrin and CIA and gangs the pace that it goes in is more suitable to the story. No scene goes on for too long, they keep moving on from one segment of the story to another. The characters and their personalities lacked a bit of intensity but it some how played out well for the story.

The end isn’t your perfect puppies and rainbows either, like the team comes in and saves the day. They do save the day but not without minor casualties and that gives it a more real touch than if everything was left completely unscathed.

All in all, I will definitely recommend giving this book a try.


Why would I pick it up?

Image result for cartoon soldier reading gif

For the interesting story line and a laid back read. 🙂

Buy this book

Red States

Watch my review –

Read an interview with the author (Anthony P. Jones) here

Book Review | Lovely Revolution by Saras Singh

Title: Lovely Revolution
Author: Saras Singh
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Publisher: K S Designers

Publishing date: 2018
Pages: 218

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

*Book received from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*


Synopsis:

This was the beginning of the 21st century. A boy lived in a culture rich district called Unnao in the states of Uttar Pradesh. He fought for justice, honour and rights—not only his but others too. And he loved a girl who is the daughter of a corrupt politician from his town. The boy wanted to marry the girl and proposed to her many times, but the girl was not sure and she reserved her reply for future. In the course of time, the boy became a powerful campaigner and developed associations with a political party led by some honest people in the country. Then there came the assembly elections in their state. Now the girl put a proposal before the boy. She could marry him if he supported her father, campaigned for him and won him the elections. Now the boy got stuck between his love and principles. Which way he went?


My Take:

This book is an easy read for beginners. It gives out great wisdom for the youth. Encouraging them to be the change if they want the change, fighting for what is right even if that means going against people who are close to you, choosing happiness over social construct, etc.

It also touches the subject of making a career in what makes you happy rather than what’s expected of you. Even though there are lots of good teachings in this book, it also portrays a toxic relationship.

The two leads, Rajeev and Neha, are frustrating at times. Neha is basic, manipulative, has no depth as a character, and uses Rajeev as if he is a commodity while on the other hand, Rajeev bases his entire life around Neha. Rajeev does not take no for an answer, in fact, despite Neha being clear multiple times that she wasn’t interested, he keeps calling her my girl, girlfriend, and them stopping communication is breaking up to him.

Both of them are toxic but both towards Rajeev. Rajeev manipulates himself to do what Neha wants thinking about love and Neha manipulates Rajeev to do what she wants.

Despite this, whenever there were major things on the line, whenever there was a question of his principles, Rajeev chose his principles, that made me respect him.

The writing had some issues as well, such as articles being used where not required, wrong use of articles, hindi to english direct translations, switching of words, wrong words, etc.

There are a lot of scenes that will remind you of Bollywood, Neha asking him to uproot his life for her, asking him to support her father if he wanted to marry her, her cousin and his men beating up Rajeev, his dramatic proposal, the scene at Neha’s wedding, etc.

So, if you are someone who enjoys Bollywood movies or wants to read something light that also teaches something then this is the book for you!

This book needs a few revisions and a thorough edit. Despite this fact, it is an enjoyable read.

Watch more of what I think in my review video- 


Why would I pick it up?

Image result for reading gif

To read something light that at the same time preaches something useful!


Buy this book- https://amzn.to/2KBZ6qA

Giveaway of an audio play: Legend of Song de Light by Kaitlynzq

Legend of Song de Light Audio Play_Logo
Title: Legend of Song de Light audio play
Author’s Name: Kaitlynzq

Synopsis:

The stories within Legend of Song de Light
connect, unfold, interweave many character’s stories
needs, feelings, desires, dreams
their threads as two crescent moons
connected under the firelights
that layer the chords, and form the lyrics
all of you entered my world as dawn’s awakening sky of soft palette
my garnet heart melted in iridescence to bloom in sun’s rays
glow in night’s depth as the stars echo the rhythm of my heart
my insides sigh and expand in delight
harmonious blend as our lives
circle the melody

To enter: Comment below why you would like to win this book and also mention your email id with your comment so that you can be contacted if you win.
Winner will win a copy of Legend of song de Light audio play.
Giveaway duration: 30th October 2018 to 5th November 2018
Deadline: 12th November 2018, 23:59 pm

Vocal Synopsis:

Information for the audio play: The audio play is adapted from Legend of Song de Light audio book by Kaitlynzq, and written in how her imagination envisions an audio play

The characters are heard
Their interior hearts speak
The volumes of their depth
In the airwaves that float around you
While in attendance in a public venue
The actors are unseen but heard
Their lyrical voices like a heart’s song

And, layered into a downloadable pdf.


Excerpts from Legend of Song de Light audio play:

“ALOVHUC
…[Sing the following lines a cappella at a gentle pace]

Ankqb spoke his heart into a mix of clay and water to form a pink sonic stone, and with each chord’s
luscious caress…”

“…EUZY
[Spoken lines]

Title of Play: “The Adventure of One Word”
Opening Date: Scheduled for the near future
Inspired By: …
Set Design: A bedroom with cascades of golden fabric on the walls, stone fireplace in the back corner,
and two chairs nestled together with a single footrest.
Music: A melodic hum accompanied with sparkles of fire.
Dance Sequence: Danseur and ballerina begin with one hand on the other’s heart space to form two
crescent moons with their arms and geeté, geeté, lahnur, huganto, adream petite. Danseur whispers in
ballerina’s ear, and releases her to perform magnifi-gras-se-susay and return to him in truset luh-es-aglo,
with an immediate leatur lautu, and repeat…”

“…WIJSVYE
[Spoken lines]

A rendering of inside.
One room is partitioned by a fireplace’s heat waves, tucked in the corners are flowers of teardrop petals,
and all merges seamlessly with the stream that flows beyond the drawbridge.
A reminder of me that helps me sleep at night…”
“…RQUHWY
[Spoken lines]
…A bouquet of Rhacew held in a tree’s roots includes morning glory for his dimple smile, a starburst
flower for the moment his tenor voice revealed his name, sprinkles of his clover scent that lingered on
the paper that began his flirtatious notes…”

Available to Purchase at: https://www.kaitlynzq.com
Direct Link on Website to the story: https://www.kaitlynzq.com/legend-of-song-de-light-audio-play


Author’s Bio:

Kaitlynzq_PhotoKaitlynzq’s fictional stories are written from the inside view of a character’s interior heart-that beautiful, vulnerable, intimate space feelings, desires, needs, dreams a blend of delicate feather ripples of heart waves needs, feelings, dreams, desires quiet, gentle heart strings tender, continuous soft, vulnerable air mist circles, weaves to caress a sonic sea of heart’s breath woven into audio books that are recorded in her voice, and with a medley of music into downloadable mp3 files; audio plays adapted from the audio books, and layered into pdf files; and audio poems that are multiple poems designed to connect to form a story.

https://www.kaitlynzq.com


Promotional Offer:

Sale Offer for 20% off of Legend of Song de Light audio play:
Coupon Code: 752920

 

 

 

Blog Tour | Book Spotlight| The Battle for the Four Realms: Dragon Bone By Aldrea Johnson

                                                            The Battle banner

The Battle for the Four Realms: Dragon Bone
By Aldrea Johnson
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Fiction


 

Siblings Aliedori and Maldar, heirs to the throne of the Southern Realm are attacked by an unseen assailant while camping in The Sacred Forest. Aliedori’s brother Maldar and his golden dragon, Keidrop, are trapped by a powerful binding spell; a spell that leaves Aliedori strangely unaffected. In an attempt to track down their unseen attacker Aliedoqri uses her natural gifts and casts a “Seeker” charm enabling her to pursue a chase to a shadowy figure through the dark woods until he mysteriously disappears without a trace…and the adventure begins!

As the trio sets off in the direction the mysterious figure disappeared they encounter mysterious creatures formed from dark magic, a mage powerful enough to incapacitate dragons and other threats only ever spoken of by the Chronicler.

As they journey East more of the Chronicler’s prediction come true, Aliedori’s destiny lay ahead along with … the battle for the four realms!

About the Author

Aldrea Johnson

I was brought up on stories, tales of adventures of far off places, of princesses in peril and their princes rescuing them, they filled my head and sparked my imagination from an early age. I have very fond memories of “Lloyd Brown” or “Lloydy” as he was known to us children, telling the most wonderful stories. The only time he didn’t stutter was when he was telling stories, I would travel with him to those far off places from the Grimm fairy tales and just around the corner of the “Anansi” stories of Jamaican fables, these were amongst my favourites. By the time I had to swap the Jamaican sunshine for the winter “watery” sun of England at the age of almost eleven years old. My head was already crammed full of stories to accompany me on my very own adventure to far off England.

I may have spent my formative years in the Jamaican countryside with the wild green woods and perfectly clear rivers but I grew up in London. Long winter days and darkened evenings would find me with my head in a book, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Arabian Nights and closer to home Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were later replaced but not forgotten by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, and Sterling E Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey.

I was a shy introverted child but while at school I was regarded as one of the “cool” kids; I was a real Jamaican with the accent to prove it.  Libraries became my playground; they helped to fuel my imagination where adventure after adventure played out again and again in my head.  I could be anywhere, any place, anytime from my little corner of the local library. I lived in my head; my stories gave me a sense of belonging, they sustained me and now somehow one of my adventures found its way onto the page and is about the be shared with others.

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On Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QJavY1

On Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-battle-for-the-four-realms

On B&N: https://bit.ly/2pvF6w5

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/FourRealms

On FB: https://www.facebook.com/imzadipublishing

Website: http://www.imzadipublishing.com

 

Excerpt:

After many weeks of travelling, resting for very short periods and only rousing Sibley long enough to feed her, the scruffy, smelly, tired and very dirty band of travellers arrived in the city. Dragon riders visiting the city and seeing it for the first time saw it from the air were spellbound by the majesty and size of the capital. Fengardia lay on the mouth of several large freshwater crystal blue ocean-lakes. They were fed by rivers winding from the snow-capped mountains of Ferran-Gar and springs coming from as far away as Stornvale on the distant side of Broken Hills. The city was flanked on one side by the vast Southern forest and on the other three sides by the fresh waters of the ocean-lakes.

The water was as blue as the sky and stretched out as far as the eyes could see. It disappeared over the horizon and appeared to merge with the skies just before it dropped off the end of the Realm. Boats, commercial and private, large and small, lined the wharf and docks. Their sails were a multitude of colours catching the breeze and dancing their bellowing riot of hues across the bay. The clatter of traders was carried up to them in the air as gifts and offerings for their safe return. Of all the entrances into the city, this was a sight Aliedori loved the most, but it was the one she saw the least. This entrance showed Fengardia off at its best. The ocean-lakes sustained the vast and rich metropolis with fresh water, commerce and fishing. The trading ports bustled with traders and beyond the port, the sandstone and slate roofed buildings of the main city stretched out away from the crystal blue waters to the right and into the green of the forest. Bridges and walkways connected the mainland to an island in the centre of the largest ocean-lake and to the Temple Gardens, a place of worship and pilgrimage for many of the Realmers. A shard of an ancient mountain remained in the centre of the island; sharp, jagged bare rocks on one side while the other side had slopes covered with an abundance of fruit trees, shrubs, plants and wildflowers.

At the base of the slope stood the Temple Gardens and an ancient ruined temple palace said to go back in the mists of time. The temple was once the site of the original palace and home to the first Grand Naturalist, Anterian. The rest of the island disappeared when distant melted water had swelled the lakes, breaking the banks of the individual lakes and they became one large expanse of water to be known as the ocean-lakes. All that had remained on the island was the old palace and temple as a new palace was already established on the knoll overlooking the bay. After the swell, centuries before, all that remained on the island was the temple to the ancestors.

Closer to the forest and land was a turquoise lagoon where the remains of a mountain range jutted out above the water providing a perfect place for swimming. Several peaks had bathing temples and steps cut into the rock to provide access to the lagoon. While others were covered in dense shrubbery and only dragons and dracs traversed them. On land, a bridge linked the main section and oldest part of the town to the palace. The bridge was ornately decorated, carved out of one solid block of white marble to span the narrow inlet. The highly decorative swirls and curves of the solid structure mimicked the ebb, flow and gentle ripple of the ocean-lakes. Each side of the wide bridge was planted with palms and flowers, but the many coloured plants did not distract from the bridge but instead enhanced the purity of the white marble. Above the heads of the people were suspended walkways connecting the mainland to the island and the temple gardens.

On the ground, equally ornate roadways made from red and yellow baked bricks, linked all the outer settlements with the city. High above the city were the dragons’ towers reaching into the sky. Structures of steel, bricks, entangled with vines and trees; the leaders’ magic was used especially to grow the vines and plants that clung to and bound all the towers. They were commercial towers owned by the city merchants and used for dragons and their riders from all across the Realms as trading posts. All across the city, dragon towers housed stables, dwellings for travellers and places to dine, play and even gamble. Many traders came to the city without ever landing on the ground and chose only to see the city from the towers. The central windows in all dragon towers housed the dragon masters and the keepers whose lifelong devotion was tending to the needs of dragons only.

Aliedori never grew tired of seeing her home from the dragon’s eye view. But morning she barely noticed the city below her that still had not risen from its slumber. The palace was built on a large sweeping curve of the bay in the ocean-lakes; on the south side was a spectacular view of the town. Between the palace and lower town lay a lush shallow ravine and the palace, which, like the other buildings in the city, had been built from sand stone and coloured slates.

The main residential area stood closest to the lakes and extended over the water on stilts of living trees, making that part of the palace look like it had grown out of the tree trunks. There had been many, many times when she and Maldar would dive straight from her window or veranda into the crystal blue lake. It was a race to see who could touch the roots first; she was never allowed to cheat by using magic. Maldar always beat her, bobbing back up through the water first, fist raised in triumph and a grin so wide it threatened to blot out the sun. The structure over the water was wooden framed with a wooden floor interspersed with ornately carved blue wooden tiles from the blue wood of the Amelia tree. The walls and beams were also ornately carved with flying dragons, galloping dracs and plant life. The entrance from the water was large enough for guests of the palace arriving by water to moor. On the other side of the palace in the wall of the lower level lay another entrance to the grand hall and garden from the town.

The large scrolled gate was set in a gateway of an ornate arch overrun with ivy, vines and other climbing plants and flowers. Within the walls was an enormous lawn surrounded by fruit trees, herbs, shrubs and edible plants. Beyond the garden was the main building, which consisted of four domed roofs. The domes were covered in green slate interspersed with blue tiles inspired by the natural surroundings of forest and water.

From the dome spires, symmetrical turrets reached up into the sky, gleaming with warmth and magic sparkling from every surface. It was a beautiful place, but it was a fortress all the same; every wall, every stone, every brightly coloured tile was impregnated with magic – but a defence against what? Aliedori had never questioned why the palace, indeed every building needed to have a magical protection. On the far right of the wall close to the forest was the dragon tower that served the palace. The building contained the stables for the dragons and was home to the dragon knights, riders, and the palace’s personal guards.

Wulfgar’s dwelling and apothecary was not part of the main palace but was built in the canopy of several very large and sturdy trees and connected to the palace by walkways to upper and lower levels. The ground was reached by a spiral stairwell carved out of the trunk of an even older tree, which allowed him and his apprentices direct access to their beloved forest to collect herbs and plants. The very ground floor was where sometimes he, but mostly his apprentices, worked in the apothecary freeing him up to see customers. The nearest access to Wulfgar for a dragon rider were the upper terraces and it was into these that Keidrop and her riders landed close to dawn.

The viscous fluid from the Grey had ripened and though Aliedori had managed to rid herself and Maldar of the worst of it by casting and incantation, the smell and stain still clung to them and had even transferred to Waifyn’s clothes and hair. It did not help that Sibley emitted the smell from every pore of her clay-like skin. She remained docile though she had continued to beg for release throughout the long journey. She was taken from Keidrop’s saddle and was carried between Maldar and Waifyn to the physician’s door. The first knock summoned an apprentice, who appeared so quickly it was as if he had been behind the door waiting for just such a summons. He jumped back crying out in fright at the sight of Sibley, almost shutting the door again in their faces. Only Aliedori’s quick reaction prevented the door from slamming. She calmed the apprentice as best she could and instructed him to go and get the physician. In his fright the apprentice forgot all his manners and protocol to rush from the hall and disappear behind a curtained off area. He returned a few seconds later to deposit the basket of herbs and other medicinal paraphernalia on the long waist-high cabinet against one wall and disappeared again. Still flustered, he returned a second time and invited the weary travellers in but kept a close eye on Sibley as he closed the door behind them and disappeared behind the curtains again.

Light footsteps could be heard, then voices, and in a few moments, the physician appeared on the upper level, looking over into the hall. He made an exclamation of surprise and, gripping the rail, vaulted over with feline grace to land perfectly balanced in front of the visitors. Middle age had not robbed the physician of his agility and grace; despite herself, Aliedori smiled as he showed off his skills.

“Intendant… Maldar… Waifyn…” Wulfgar exclaimed, bringing his palms together and inclining his head. He knew Waifyn very well and there was no mistaking his sister’s youngest child. With his head still inclined, Wulfgar said, “Who or what have you brought me at this hour of the morning, children?”

Wulfgar was used to Aliedori and Maldar bringing all kind of strays and the sick to be healed, but this was something new. He had attended Aliedori’s birth and attended Maldar when he was first brought to the palace and had even attended Waifyn as a child. They were young people he had known and loved all their lives, but now his eyes were firmly fixed on Sibley. He would talk to his nephew later; there was much to be said, especially if the rumours were true. He was handfasted to a humankind and it would appear that his nephew intended to do the same.

“What manner of creature is this?” he asked, raising his eyes to the three young people standing before him. Wulfgar was once a great warrior nymph, skilled with the bow as well as the sword. He had chosen to leave his beloved forest home and spent his formative years as a soldier. He had fought in border skirmishes with the Western Realm in defence of the liberty of the Eastern Realm.