SPFBO and an update

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Hello all! First, I should mention that I’ve entered a book in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). For those unfamiliar with this contest, it’s basically an indie book fantasy contest where the judges are ten sites that review fantasy books. Mark Lawrence has posted a bunch of information about this year’s contest on his blog. I entered Enchanted Legacy and I’m excited to see how it will do.

Since there are quite a few redditors from the Fantasy subreddit who follow the contest closely, I’ve decided to give away 2,000 digital copies of Enchanted Legacy for those interested in reading along with the bloggers. You don’t need to sign up for my mailing list to get this title free, just go to Bookfunnel and download the version you’d like. First come first served, so grab one while you can. A bunch of the other authors involved in the contest are also running deals on their books. One of the best ways to find these deals is to search for SPFBO on twitter.

But wait! That’s not all the news I have. I’ve been busily writing the last couple of months and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve got with you. I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated everyone on what I’m currently working on. I’m right in the middle of a new fantasy series. At the moment, I’m thinking four books – I’ve written the first couple and am working on the third. Some of you may be asking why I haven’t started publishing the first one yet. Part of the reason is because I want to make sure the continuity is solid, solid as a rock (apologies but this song is stuck in my head). The story is a bit complex – I’ll tell you more about it in my next posting – and it’s really important to me that I stick the landing on it. In return for your patience, I’ll be giving the first book to all my subscribers absolutely free. I’ll still be running an advance review team for it (those folks will get the first book a month early), but everyone on my mailing list will get the finished book when it’s ready as a thank you for your support. I know that’s not much to go on, so here’s a little teaser for everyone. It’s only been edited lightly and hasn’t yet been to my editor. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy the prologue to this new story.

Prologue

The sea was calm in the pre-dawn light. Roscoe’s line was still, as it had been all morning. He tugged it every so often, hoping his bait hadn’t drowned. Fish weren’t as interested in dead bait. When he felt no resistance on the line he spat into the water. The foam floated on the surface longer than it should have, but Roscoe hardly noticed.

“I think this is a bust, Father. Your new secret fishing spot isn’t playing out,” he said, sighing.

Roscoe’s father was minding three lines. Not one had moved in the last hour. A single silver fish – too small, but it was the first catch of the day, and it was bad luck to throw back the first catch – swam in circles in the wooden bucket on the deck of his boat. He turned to look at his son.

Roscoe hadn’t been blessed with his father’s darker skin. His was pale and constantly red from his work on the water. Freckles so numerous they blotted out his skin dotted Roscoe’s shoulders. Gerald would swear Maggie had lain with another man if Roscoe didn’t share his brown hair, eyes and wide nose.

“It’s a fine spot,” he said, tugging at one of his lines to check the bait. “The fish just ain’t biting today. I told you, I scouted the area last week. I noticed a warm current. This time of year, that should draw the fish like nothing else. And the current comes right through here.”

Roscoe looked down into the water doubtfully. He leaned over the boat’s edge, hooking his foot under the rudder to keep his balance. He sunk his hand into the unusually calm waters then wrinkled his brow.

“You said warm. But this is bath water. This won’t draw fish in so much as cook them. No wonder they aren’t biting.”

Gerald made a scolding noise and walked over to Roscoe, pulling him back aboard.

“Don’t exaggerate, Rossie. This is the sea. It ain’t as warm as a bath. Can’t be. It’s impossible.”

“Feel it yourself if you don’t believe me.”

Gerald rolled his eyes. If he needed to stick his arm in to prove it to his son, he would. But he’d cuff Roscoe right after for goading him into doing it. Roscoe moved out of the way so his father could position himself safely. Once he’d anchored his feet, he stretched out to reach the water. He wasn’t as tall as his son, so he teetered on the edge of the boat, barely hanging on.

He dipped his hand in the seawater for a few seconds before a puzzled expression crossed his face. Roscoe wasn’t wrong. Even stranger yet, the water grew warmer the deeper he plunged his arm. He stretched further into the depths.

“You’re gonna fall in, pa.”

“Be quiet, boy. I’m trying—”

Gerald’s foot lost its purchase and he tumbled into the water. Roscoe crossed his arms and grinned.

“Told ya.”

His grin fell after his father remained below the surface for longer than a minute. He gripped the side of the boat and peered into the depths.

“Pa? Pa!”

For an agonizing ten seconds, there was nothing. No sound, no ripple, no sight of his father. Roscoe began pulling off his boots to dive in when a scream erupted from the other side of the boat.

“Pa!”

Roscoe ran to the opposite edge of the boat to see his father struggling to stay above water. Steam was rising from his skin and wet clothes. He was screaming non-stop.

“Pa!”

Roscoe reached down and pulled his father aboard. His skin was hot to the touch.

“Get them off me. It burns! Get them off me!”

Gerald was pawing ineffectually at his clothes. Roscoe helped him out of his vest and pulled away aghast. Gerald’s skin was blistering as if he’d been boiled.

“Pa?”

Gerald didn’t speak. His breath came in pants as he pulled off his trousers. The pain was unbelievable. The cold air seemed to seep right past his skin to his muscle. It was no longer a gentle caress on a warm day – the breeze was made of knives. He needed a doctor, and there was something dreadfully wrong with the sea. He grimaced and looked up at Roscoe to tell him to begin rowing to shore.

But Roscoe was staring out at the water in horror. Despite his pain, Gerald managed to pull himself up to the edge of his boat. As he looked out over the water, an odd sensation hit him. He was hungry. The sea smelled of stew. All around the boat, the water began to churn. Fish, seaweed, clams, crabs, and all sorts of other sea life floated to the surface. All dead.

Then the sea began to bubble.

“Get away from the edge boy!” Gerald rasped. “Get to your oar!”

Roscoe stumbled to his seat. With colossal effort, Gerald pulled himself to his own oar. The pain was incredible, but his body was powered by pure adrenaline. He lurched clumsily into a rhythm as he began pushing and pulling his oar, but the boat was going in circles instead of away from the bubbling sea. Steam began to billow around the boat.

“With me boy!” Gerald called out. “Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke.”

With Roscoe now rowing in time with his father, the boat slowly made its way towards the shore. Gerald looked out over the sea. He could see where the boiling stopped not too far away. They could make it. If they kept going, they could make it.

His skin screamed at him every time he took a stroke. It felt like someone was using a cheese grater on him with every slight movement, but he couldn’t stop. He knew he couldn’t stop. He didn’t know what was happening, but he knew death would come for them if he stopped.

The boat began to sway violently. Boiling water sloshed over the side. Gerald pulled his feet back in time, but he heard a scream of pain from Roscoe.

“Hold on boy! You have to row! Hold on! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”

Then a swell of water tipped the boat into the air. For a fraction of a second, Gerald felt like he was weightless. He could see the water far below him, his boat on a wave that put him almost perpendicular to the flat surface of the sea. A creak from the boat broke the spell, and the boat began to slide down the wall of water.

“Hold on!”

Gerald couldn’t tell if Roscoe had heard him – a guttural scream was his only reply. The boat plunged downward. Miraculously, it managed to keep upright. Water sloshed over them, washing them in fresh waves of pain and heat, but they made it to the bottom of the wave alive.

Gerald turned around, expecting to see more waves following. His eyes widened and he stood. They hadn’t slid down the side of a wave. Roscoe joined his father. His pale skin was even redder than it had been before, blisters covering his arm.

“Pa… is that…”

“Dragon.”

Gerald dropped his oar. There was no point now. The dragon circled. Its girth made it look as if it was moving in slow motion. It screamed and the water around them vibrated like the skin of a drum. Roscoe flinched, but Gerald remained still. He took his son’s hand.

“I thought they were all dead,” Roscoe whispered.

These were the last words he spoke.

The dragon whirled and spotted them in the water. It opened its sulfurous maw and roared. The water around the boat turned to steam instantly – the boat and its occupants, to ash. For a few seconds, the ash kept its shape – a small fishing boat, two long oars, even the fishing poles. In the center of the boat were two humans holding hands. Then the wave of hot air that followed the gout of flame burst over the water and the ashes scattered, leaving nothing but a grey cloud behind.

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