Congratulations: Another WordPlay Published Author

Jan Davies The Great Big Spanish AdventureA big congratulations to Janette Davies, who has followed up her success with Hey!Zeus!, a collection of humorous short stories, with her first novel, The Great Big Spanish Adventure.

This is a romp through the lives of six families living in the same apartment building in Spain, and I have to say there’s a little bit of something for everyone. You’ll find laugh-out-loud moments easily mingling with dark and suspicious scenes, as well as characters easily mingling with each other!

You’ll also find a fantastic international flavour in this novel: characters come from England, Spain, Russia, and Greece. Davies weaves their personalities and characters well, in a plot that will have you turning the pages ever quicker.

I really don’t want to give too much of the story away, but there is a terrific ‘marriage of convenience’ that has friends gasping in amazement and will have you holding your sides. But you had better be ready to grab for the tissues too. Just saying!

Janette launched the book at her local bar, just round the corner from a hairdresser’s that gave some inspiration for characters and subplots. Though the event was held on something of a cold day – strange for Spain – plenty of people attended and were rewarded with signed copies of The Great Big Spanish Adventure. We wait to be told whether any of the plot might be just a tad autobiographical. Read it and you’ll see why we ask!

The Great Big Spanish Adventure is available to purchase on Amazon and Kindle: just click on the cover below.



Book Reviews Galore

Kathy Rollinson – of Fallyn trilogy fame – has been reading a fair amount lately. Thankfully she’s told Amazon, and WordPlay, what she thinks about the novels she’s had on her bookshelf lately. Here’s her lowdown on her favourties:

screen conspiracyThe Screen Conspiracy by Maxwell Black

5.0 out of 5 stars

I would have given this book more than the five stars maximum if I could. I could not put this book down. It was extremely well written, full of suspense.

The author’s in-depth knowledge of IT is evident in the book, but for less mortals, such as me and the main protagonist, Jack Haplin, this is explained in simple terminology so it is not off-putting. I am a Lee Child, Michael Chrichton, James Patterson fan and now I’m a Maxwell Black fan.

someone differentSomeone Different by Kate Hanney

4.0 out of 5 stars

When I first opened this book I thought oh! oh! Another writer that doesn’t use English grammar correctly, but then I realised it was Jay, the male protagonist, speaking to the reader. He is working class, abused by his father, in trouble with the police, of course, his language is not proper posh – init?

Then there is Anna – Annabel, middle-class, a nervous wreck because of her parents’ aspirations.

The author very cleverly uses different points of view, in the first person, in alternating chapters, depending whether Jay or Anna speaks.

The sex scenes, or should I say love scenes, are very beautifully and sensitively done. This book is perhaps aimed towards the older YA audience, but I’m much much older and I enjoyed it.

cassidy jonesCassidy Jones and the Secret Formula by Elise Stokes

4.0 out of 5 stars

All the time I was reading this well-written book I thought the characters had stepped out of comics or films. Indeed, I could see the book made into a film or/and a comic strip. Cassidy Jones’ ‘nerd’ helper is just like a young Clark Kent. One of the ‘baddies’ Mr King, in his green/purple pinstripe suit with his white dress shoes, reminded me of the ‘Penquin’ character.

I don’t know whether the author consciously or subconsciously had these images in mind when she wrote the book. This is not meant to be a criticism but it might put readers off who do not care for comic-type characters. I enjoyed this book immensely, even though it is presumably aimed at the YA market.

colour of dishonourThe Colour of Dishonour, by Rayne Hall

4.0 out of 5 stars

This book is very well written. The stories are magical, set in some far away fantasy world, loosely based on the Middle East, and cultures inspired by the Bronze Age. Each story has a tantalising twist at the end and many have an underlying moral to tell. At the end of the book the author gives a mouth-watering section of her book ‘Storm Dancer’ which I’ll definitely download.

harvestThe Harvest by Anne Ferretti

5.0 out of 5 stars

I would give this book more than 5 stars if I could. I couldn’t put it down, it was gripping. I know ‘the end of the world’ books have been done before but notwithstanding; this was up with the best. In my opinion it should be a best seller and I could see it made into a film.

Cardinals Front Cover BlueThe Cardinals of Schengen, by Michael Barton

4.0 out of 5 stars

This a cracking yarn with undercurrents of dark Nazi history. The whirlpool of political suspense pulls you into the present. The tenacity of the hero finally saves the day.

farells last case

Farrel’s Last Case, by Gerry Wright

4.0 out of 5 stars

Farrel is a middle-aged. grumpy cop, who drinks too much. His wife left him four years ago because he was too dedicated to his job. Then he meets two women, who as well as giving him information to help him unravel this complicated case, also they provide ‘therapy’ to unwind him. Why is this Farrel’s last case? All is revealed in the surprising end.

The author certainly knows how the police work. He provides insights on the painstaking surveillance techniques used. Early on it is disclosed there is an unknown traitor in the police ranks who thwarts, for a time, Farrel’s attempts to solve the case.

I enjoyed this book, a cracking good read.

Divine DamagesDivine Damages, by Georgia Varjas

5.0 out of 5 stars

I have just one word to say about this book – DIVINE! Every man should read this book – if they are brave enough. I love some of the author’s descriptions ‘I…disposed of (his) phone – tucked it under the wheel of an articulated lorry’. Or ‘the girl with the rebellious tongue and the velvet complexion.’

Zeus Cover‘Hey! Zeus!!’, by Janette Davies

4.0 out of 5 stars

The twelve stories are varied and very interesting. All of them move at a lively pace, some of them with a terrific humour. I enjoyed this book tremendously with its rich varied tales. If you are a ‘quirk’ these quirky stories would right up your street.

Tips on Critiquing in Print

critics critique wellI’ve recently been asked to critique some work, so I thought I’d share a few tips which should help anyone in the same position do a good job. This is particularly relevant to all those critics who write for newspapers, magazines, or the like. When you’re putting something down in print, then you had better make sure your critique doesn’t make a mockery of your ability as a critic.

Constraints of quality catches errors

During my career as a freelance writer, the way I read all manner of material has changed to become far more discerning and critical. I suspect this is because the constraints of quality placed upon my work by clients are so high. I would be horrified, for example, to write a piece that was strewn with 21 easily identifiable errors in 342 words; especially if that piece is a critique of another’s work and pointed specifically to the requirement for editing, proofreading (notice how this is one word not two), subediting (one word, not hyphenated), and tips regarding style and presentation (notice the use of the Oxford comma, to help properly express thoughts in a list format).

Irksome misspellings are a real turn-off

One thing that really irks is the misspelling of words. In the course of my work I have to write for clients from America, the UK, Canada, and Australia – notice how the Oxford Comma is used once again – and this necessitates correct spelling. If I were writing a piece for an American publication, for example, I would ensure I used ‘er’ at the end of Kilometer, whereas for UK English publications I would revert to ‘re’ (kilometre).

If you must use cliches, then make sure they are correctly worded

I also give some thought when using clichés. I don’t particularly like them: they make me as sick as a parrot. They don’t make me as sick as a turkey. Just as UK English and American English spellings may be poles apart, or even miles apart, they are unlikely to be kilometres apart: the cliché simply doesn’t work well, particularly if misused and misspelled in a UK English publication.

Presentation, consistency, and punctuation for comprehension

Other elements of writing I might pay considered attention to, especially when critiquing other’s writing, would include presentation (for example, the first paragraph of a piece should never be indented); consistency (for example, if speech marks or inverted commas are used to accentuate words or phrases then they should be used throughout and not seen as interchangeable);  the correct use of commas (when a pause is required then use a comma), colons, and semi-colons; and also word use and audience (for example, ‘becomes involved with’ sounds far less ‘primary school’ than ‘gets involved with’).

Pay attention to tense and point of view with verbs

In addition, the use of verbs – together with the correct form for tense, plural and singular points of view – will need specific attention. As we say to all who come along to WordPlay: it is ‘story telling doesn’t come easy’ and not ‘story telling don’t come easy’. At a writers’ group you might just find superior assistance but we realise we’re all equal: so you won’t receive assistance from superiors. Realising the difference, and what both phrases mean, is not difficult.

If you are ever requested to provide a written critique of someone’s work, then here are a few tips to help you make your comments valuable:

•     Never begin with an apology, no matter how veiled it may be. Doing so simply negates the worth of what is about to come;

•     Always ensure that your own writing is the best it can be. Write it, put it to one side, and go back to it. Correct it methodically and thoroughly. Repeat this process a couple of times;

•     Microsoft Word is a great tool if used properly. Set your document proofing language to the correct English – and see those squiggly red, blue, and green lines? They tell you that your writing is poor;

•     Use your word processor’s spelling and grammar check, and then consider the message you wish to convey. This technology used properly can be the satnav of your writing – if you understand how to use it, then you’ll never arrive at the wrong address again. If you can’t be bothered to learn, then you’ll always be a lost cause;

•     When acting as a critic, always find the positive and suggest ways to improve the negative.

There is no longer anything obvious in the world of publishing

In this fast moving world, a critic must write for several markets. It is neither obvious where books (and articles, education resources, magazines, and newspapers) will be available to buy, nor the prices at which they will be available (increasingly publishers are not placing prices on book covers to allow ease of price flexibility as well as cross selling in different markets). The word ‘obviously’ should be used sparingly. In my experience, the only thing that is obvious – in all walks of life, not just writing – is that 50 years or more of self-proclaimed expertise counts for nothing if it cannot be backed up with expertise displayed.

If you are ever asked to critique someone’s work, then show your expertise to do so; because to do so requires expertise.

Migel’s Solace Receives Poetic Praise

solace in verseMigel Jayasinghe has recently seen his latest poetry collection published by Strategic Books.  Titled Solace in Verse, it details Migel’s reflections of his autumn years – or rather, as he more eloquently says, his ‘golden years’ – and the impact of change from an active career to a more relaxed retirement. It’s perfect reading for those quiet moments when a little contemplation is called for.

Here, John E. Roper reviews the book, a review that was first published in The US Book Review.

“Please grant me space, I want to live
freed from past failure. A few forgotten
triumphs, thinly glimpsed, remain shining
like polished armour; though hardly a crusading knight
defending honour, faith or creed.” 

Daily life comes with constant demands. Focusing on a career, establishing and providing for a family, etc. can often be draining as we keep running from one thing to another. The change from an active lifestyle to one not as fast-paced in retirement can also be stressful. Some attempt to cope with this change by getting more involved in their community; others find more creative ways to adjust. Jayasinghe falls into this latter category, seeking Solace in his poetry. The result is an intriguing collection of poems that not only reflect his thoughts on his “golden years” but frequently turn more philosophical as he muses on topics such as religion and society.

Although his poetry often follows established Western patterns of stanza structure in regard to meter and rhyme, Jayasinghe occasionally experiments with other forms such as in the selection “Five Haiku” and the whimsical “Solace.” He is also not above engaging in a bit of literary allusion and comic wordplay in altered lines such as “The Ode Less Travelled” and “June is undoubtedly the fairest month.” All of his poems, though, whether serious or flighty feel to be almost watermarked with the poet’s personality. Whether raging at the world’s greed and materialism in “Price of Progress,” musing on aging in “Curtain Call,” or exploring the soul of a certain location like in “St Petersburg,” Jayasinghe pulls back the curtain just enough for a brief glimpse at the older, introspective gentleman who is deftly pulling the levers and operating the smoke machine of his wizardry. Solace isn’t a lengthy book, offering readers only four dozen poems to sample. However, like all pleasing tastes they leave the palate wanting more.

Solace in Verse is available from Amazon

Frank Lampard’s Magic Ballpoint

Magic Frank: he shoots, he scores, he writes, he publishes

Frank LampardSo, I see that the celebrity book publishing machine is at it again. This time it’s a footballing luminary that is hitting the headlines with a series of children’s books.

Frank Lampard says that he used to make these stories up to tell his children at bedtime, and they enjoyed them so much that he decided to make the deal formal. It just so happened that an agent and publisher saw the potential and picked him up straight away. The books are about a football playing boy named, er, Frankie, who has… ooh, ah, Mrs… a magic ball.

Children make great editors

Clearly the player has a lot of free time, because in the last 5 months the first three books in the series have been published, though he did have some expert help with the editing: he told one of the celeb magazines my wife leaves laying around that his children had ‘done 80% of the editing’ needed.

A role model writes

His first three books have centred on an educational tack. With the publishers and certain critics saying how it’s great that such a role model should write for children, I thought I’d put together a few suggestions for further books, all with protagonists and their exploits that should be revered by today’s children:

  • Teflon Terry Bags Himself a Girlfriend
  • Roon the Loon Keeps Gran Happy
  • Shy Suarez Visits the Dentist
  • Loyal Ryan Helps his Brother
  • Balotelli has fun on Bonfire Night
  • Tevez the Tourist takes a Long Holiday
  • The Famous Five Footballers give a girl a Sunday Roast
  • Fearless Frank plays Away
  • Elegant England wins the World Cup

It shouldn’t be too difficult to bang out these in double quick time: only one of them is complete fiction.

Fire Up Your Imagination With a Great Dragon Read

Today, WordPlay member, Joy Lennick, tells us what’s got her fired up in the world of reading.

Fallyn and the DragonsRollinson rides dragons before giving birth to Rode

Kathy J. Rollinson is a highly imaginative writer of poetry, books for children, and, her latest venture, MURDER stories! First, let’s talk about those dragons, a subject that has fascinated children both young and old for decades if not centuries. Kathy has written an exciting, fast moving, trilogy of adventure stories. The first one called ‘Fallyn and the Dragons’; the second ‘Fallyn in the Forbidden Land’: and the third, to be published shortly, titled ‘Fallyn and the Sea Dragons’.

Four friends find the world of their dreams

So, what may you ask is different about Kathy’s dragons? Well, for the most part, they are not the maiden-devouring, ferocious monsters of our imaginations. The first book tells of the ‘live’ dream adventures of twins Allan and Eileen and their close friends Carla and Martin as they enter a medieval world: the Island of Nashta. In their dream world, the four children assume the roles of Lord Fallyn, Lady Eila, Lord Merin and Lady Kalla. There is ‘shape-shifting’ and much else to set readers of all ages thinking, but perhaps an excerpt from the second book, ‘Fallyn in the Forbidden Land’, will intrigue and have you wanting more:

Dorius: The Keeper of Dreams emerges from the swirling mist. Allan speaks to him:

‘Hello, Dorius, I think we’re so used to entering our medieval dream world that it has become our second home. We didn’t expect to return so quickly though since our last conflict.’

‘Ah, if you remember, Allan, as I have said before, minutes in dream time can means days, weeks, or years could go by in Nashta, and two years have passed since your last visit, although it has only been two weeks here!’

Fallyn in the Forbidden Land Amazing adventures for children

Children’s eyes will widen at the prospect of riding on the back of a dragon and be drawn into a magical world far removed from their own. ‘Fallyn in the Forbidden Land’ takes them on another fantastic journey where they will meet dragons with human-like characteristics; and where evil dragons have to be challenged. What amazing adventures await us in ‘Fallyn and the Sea Dragons’ one wonders?’

I have yet to read Kathy’s latest book, a murder this time: ‘THE RODE TO JUSTICE’, but know its main protagonist is one John Rode, lst Grade Detective. An erudite man with a love of ‘The Classics’ he has a droll sense of humour and doesn’t always see eye to eye with the law. Being fully aware of the excellent quality of all Kathy’s writing,  it’s bound to be winner.

‘The Dragon’ books are available from Amazon and kindle

‘The Rode to Justice’ is available on Kindle


Book Review – My Gentle War by Joy Lennick

Front Cover My Gentle War 10 16 12 v1

Kathy Rollinson, WordPlay member and author of the Fallyn Trilogy, loves to read also. Every now and again she’ll pick up a book that really pulls at her heartstrings and tells us about it. Here she reviews My Gentle War by Joy Lennick.

The Velvet Valleys

Having moved to South Wales myself when I was twelve, I felt the affection Joy Lennick feels for Wales immediately in this delightful book.

I found the ‘History of the Havards,’Harwards,’Howards’ at the beginning of the book particularly interesting. The author had obviously done a lot of research on the name, and stated, Several Havards are listed amongst the aristocracy and landed gentry in Burke’s Peerage…a first son inherited everything. Other children often became impoverished and disappeared from recorded history…This is probably where our branch of the Havard’s came from! Hey ho.

Laughter, Poetry, and Imagery

Humour is evident throughout the book as you follow the adventures of this gifted, imaginative little girl, cocooned in her Welsh village. While bombs are raining on her hometown, Dagenham, Essex, she is sliding down a Welsh slag-tip!

The author’s love of poetry is evident in her beautiful descriptions. May I quote you a few from her book?

Page 23. A few stately white lilies graced another corner of our smothered plot, putting me in mind of the Lady of Shallot and other maidens…Sweet and heady mock orange blossom conjured up flying confetti…

This fragrant fragment continues on page 24. I was almost heady with the imagery of perfumed flowers.

On pages 100 – 105 the author shows photographs of her family and events in her life, including an extract from her dad’s notebook (page 103) of Christmas Day, 1939.   On pages 104, 105, there is a letter she received from Mrs Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill. We had held a fundraising event for the war effort…Days later I received this personal handwritten thank you… This letter comes high on the list of my most valuable physical possessions.

The author salutes all the kind people who took and cared for evacuees at a great time of need. I salute Joy Lennick for her story, which evokes the magic of childhood, despite constant change and occasional heartache during the dark days of war.

My Gentle War (Memoir of an Essex Girl) is available on Amazon and for the Kindle. You can read more about Joy here.

And if you haven’t read Fallyn and the Dragons by KJ Rollinson yet, then now is a perfect time to do so. You can download it for free on Kindle between 26th October and 30th October – a perfect Halloween gift for all.

Book Review: The Assassin’s Mark by David Ebsworth

assassins markYesterday, we told you that we’d let you in on where the lines of inspiration we posted came from. The fourth one on the list – “This should be interesting, he thought” – came from David Ebsworth’s latest novel, The Assassin’s Mark. Here, WordPlay member Lynda Kiss gives her lowdown on his work.

Bells ringing leads to book buying

David Ebsworth came along to our last WordPlay forum, and I have to say I found his contribution very interesting. While I sat in the meeting bells started ringing – I had read about him and his novel in the newsletter of Labour International at Javea – Bob and I are members. However, I tried not to be influenced by his political sympathies!

At the forum, he spoke about his latest novel, The Assassin’s Mark, and his inspiration for it. And that prompted me to go ahead and buy it on my Kindle. And I’m certainly glad I did: in my opinion a very well written novel – a worthy member of our Forum!

A well researched novel is obvious

I enjoyed its historical/political content, obviously very well researched, and I had immediate empathy with the protagonist. In fact, all the characterisation within the novel I found to be extremely good. There are a few twists and turns in the plot, as there are in its players: not all is as it seems.

Twists and turns, great characters, espionage, and sex. What more is needed!

The story is based around the ’Battlefield Tours’ set up by Franco during the days of the Spanish Civil War, a propaganda parade for tourists. The novel, like the tours, one suspects, gathers pace slowly, taking the reader on a journey of intrigue, espionage, and some rather good sex! The reader finds themselves on the bus with the tourists, visiting the Spanish cities one by one along the north coast of Spain (though I have to admit that, having travelled the area myself, I’m too tempted to consider these places as they are now, rather than in the historical context of the book).

A book with a gripping last quarter, races you to the end

Ebsworth winds up the pace of the book, like a taught spring, and the last quarter is absolutely gripping. I raced to the end.

Why not give yourself a treat: read David’s The Assassin’s Mark and let us know what you think?

Before we go…

I told you that I would let you know today where all our inspirational, story trigger sentences came from in yesterday’s post. Here are the remaining four:

1)      “Smithy asked if I’d get any stick from Colin if I accepted his offer, so I told him I could handle it.”

Fallyn and the Dragons by KJ Rollinson

2)      “I’ve had a complaint,” ACC Copley announced

– Farrel’s Last Case by Gerald R Wright

3)      She’d spent her life looking after Deb, and now she had to keep an eye on Dad, too.

– Losing Hope by Nikki Dee

5)      A pair of lights followed closely behind, weaving the traffic as the Citroen was now doing.

– The Cardinals of Schengen by Michael Barton

Self-published? Time to rack-up those book reviews

book reviewsWell done on finishing your book

It’s one hell of a big thing to write a book, and for anyone that has then that’s a great achievement. Those long hours sweating over every chapter start and end, the plot and subplots, character and dialogue, finally come to an end when that last sentence is penned.

Time for the hard work of marketing and selling

If you’re an author who has recently finished your masterpiece, and have published your sweat, blood, and tears, then I’m afraid I’m about to burst your bubble. It’s now that the hard work begins. You’ll probably want to sell your book, so there’s marketing, book launches, signings, an author platform, maybe radio or television interviews… you’ll need to be out there doing it all to stand half a chance.

Unbiased reviews shouldn’t be expensive

Of course, it’s all very well for you to big-up your own book, but what you really could do with is a few unbiased reviews. Now you could pay for these, or get a few friends to write nice things about you and your book. But that really doesn’t cut it, does it. Apart from the fact that such reviews will probably be ‘seen through’, there is no ego boost to them. What you could really do with is a good, honest review by an impartial reviewer. Where to go for these is the question that needs answering. There have to be book lovers out there, willing to read and tell folk what they like – and don’t – about your work, and we think we may have found a couple of sources of free, unbiased, impartial, and honest reviews.

Free book review sites for self-published authors

Here are two sites that any self-published author might like to take a look at – and they are absolutely free, too.

A rapidly growing site is the Indie Reviewer List. This is a directory of reviewers who have registered with the site, and writers need only register, too. The reviewer mustn’t be affiliated with a publisher, review eBooks, and not charge for their reviews.

At the Book Blogger a writer can search for a reviewer by genre, so you can be sure of being reviewed by a reader who loves the type of story you’ve written.

Help your cause with these 4 tips when using book reviewers

It’s hard work to get your name out there, and a big part of that is getting your book read and reviewed. These two free services could prove a stepping stone on your sales path, as could others such as Goodreads.

There are a few things all writers should do when seeking reviews, online or offline:

  1. Be mindful that the reviewer is human: he or she has feelings and deserves to be treated with respect. Like my mum always said: “mind your p’s and q’s.”
  2. If the reviewer reads horror, don’t request a review for your romance/ chick-lit from them. Make sure the reviewer doesn’t just like your genre, but loves it.
  3. If you’re using an online reviewer, then make sure you follow their instructions of how to submit your work for review.
  4. One final word from us here at WordPlay: be careful when you’re sending your work to be reviewed. We’re pretty sure that all the reviewers are genuine, but the last thing you want is for your hard written work to appear on a free-to-download site. It might be worth making sure you gift the book via Kindle, or send a hard copy to an actual address.

Fallyn in the Forbidden Land by KJ Rollinson

Fallyn in the Forbidden Land Front Cover v2KJ Rollinson is something of an enigma in WordPlay circles. click to tweet

Her output is nothing short of phenomenal. Short stories, poetry, novels… you name it, she writes it. In fact, she’s non-stop from the minute she wakes to the moment she rests her head on her pillow last thing at night. You’re just as likely to see her out walking, playing bowls, or golf, as you are sitting at her computer tapping the keyboard.

Here’s the first chapter of her second novel, Fallyn in the Forbidden Land, in the ‘Fallyn and the Dragons’ series.



(The Messenger)

‘Please Kalla, change back, I have had enough cuddling you as a cat. Please stop your shape shifting pranks.’

Fallyn heard a chuckle from the doorway, which he recognised as Kalla’s. He stood up and the startled cat scampered away.

Kalla laughed, ‘I’m here Fallyn. Have you been talking to that cat thinking it was me?’

Fallyn wagged an admonishing finger at Kalla, ‘You little minx, if you will copy Sandy every time you shape shift into a cat it is no wonder I get you mixed up. When she jumped into my lap demanding a cuddle I thought it was you.’

Kalla ruffled Fallyn’s blond hair and giggled. ‘I’m sorry beloved – I will try to remember and the next time I will change into that mangy one-eared scraggy cat which scrounges food around the stables at King Rudri’s castle.’

A worried look entered Kalla’s dark eyes. ‘I have come to tell you a rider from Orla has arrived requesting an urgent audience with all of us. I have already told Eila and Merin, and they should be here at any moment.’

Voices outside the door announced the arrival of Fallyn’s twin sister, and their friend Merin. Within a few moments, there came a knock on the door and when told to enter, a servant ushered a dishevelled tall man into the room who bowed to Fallyn and the others.

‘My Lords, Ladies, I bid you a good day. My name is Smethro, a messenger from Lords Davro and Kadro.’

Kalla led the man to a chair. ‘Please sit down my good man you look exhausted.’

‘I thank you my Lady. The journey from the province of Orla is a long one without a rest.’

Fallyn gasped, ‘You mean to say you have flown from Dragons’ Keep to here without a stop. You must have ridden a very strong dragon to do that.’

‘Yes my lord, I rode Solo your biggest and strongest dragon.’

Solo, and his brother, a dragon called Draco, had been taken a few months ago from Dragons’ Cave in the province of Outha to Dragons’ Keep in the province of Orla, in order that the blind dragon, Draza could choose one of them as a mate.

‘Solo! You rode Solo back. I must go and see him after our meeting,’Fallyn said. ‘Tell me was he or Draco successful in mating with Draza?’

‘Draza was reluctant to accept any mate other than Draggro, but as he was banished with Prince Bato and Andralo when they were exiled to the Forbidden Land, she seems resigned that he will not return and has accepted Draco.’

‘I would have preferred her to mate with Solo but presumably she has not forgiven him for accidentally blinding her in battle,’ Fallyn answered.

‘What is your urgent news?’ Eila enquired.

‘I am a dragon rider for my Lords Kadro and Davro. They sent me to King Rudri’s castle to inform him of the attacks on Port Orla.  His Majesty bid me to fly to you immediately and advise you.’

‘You poor man,’ Kalla murmured, ‘I know the distance from the King’s castle is only a few miles from here, but you cannot have had much rest since you flew from Orla.’

Eila clutched her throat, ‘I hope it is not Prince Bato and his henchman Andralo again. I thought because they were exiled it would put an end to their mischief. Sometimes I think the old king did not know the problems he would cause when he decided to give the crown of Nashta to the younger brother, Rudri.’

Merin snorted, ‘He did it because he knew Rudri would make a better king. Despite King Rudri’s generosity in having granted half of the Island of Nashta to his brother – the province of Orla and the palace there were never enough for Bato. I would not be at all surprised if he is behind whatever problems Orla now faces. What say you, Smethro?’

‘We are not sure. There is no evidence Prince Bato is behind the attacks, although the small dragons do head towards the Forbidden Land,’ Smethro replied.

‘Small dragons! Attacks!’  Eila and Fallyn exclaimed together.

‘We should allow you to start at the beginning,’ Fallyn said, placing a carafe of water and cup on a small table beside Smethro.

‘Thank you my Lord.’ Smethro took a long draught from the cup, wiping his mouth before he spoke.

‘For two years peace has reigned. Since King Rudri appointed Lord Kadro and Lord Davro to oversee the province of Orla, we have been able to relax and enjoy life, free from the tyranny of Prince Bato. However, for the last few weeks Port Orla has been attacked twice a week by small dragons, led by a red female dragon, and they seemed intent on stealing a ship from the harbour. This they succeeded in doing three nights ago and towed it towards the north.’

‘Small dragons have stolen a ship! Why? Who? Where did it go?’ Merin bombarded the exhausted looking Smethro with his questions.

Smethro held up his hands and shrugged, ‘I do not know my Lord. When we finally discovered the theft the ship was a considerable distance away. We followed it as quickly as we could but when we rounded a headland the ship had completely disappeared.’

 ‘How can a ship completely disappear?’ Merin exclaimed in disbelief.

Smethro shrugged again and gave a placatory smile, ‘I know not my Lord. That is not all that has gone missing…’ He hesitated. ‘Perhaps I should not bother mentioning the other objects; they might mean nothing in isolation but added together all the small items that have been stolen have been of metal.’

‘Metal!’ Merin exclaimed.

Smethro nodded. ‘Yes, my Lord. Children’s tin soldiers, hoops, buckets, to name a few.’

‘How small are these dragons? Are you sure they come from the Forbidden Land?’ Fallyn asked.

‘They are about the size of a very large dog, like a Great Dane. They come in all shades of red and orange to almost an apricot colour, and spit flames like sparklers. As I said, a female red dragon leads them, which is bigger than the rest. They make a very pretty sight, if it were not for the fact that they can hurt you or a dragon if they get too near; fortunately the range of their flames is only a couple of feet. We cannot be sure they come from the Forbidden Land but they definitely make their way back there.

Lord Kadro and Lord Davro have flown to the port of Orla to investigate, and the King has instructed me to inform you that he will make his way with his troops to the border and wait at Dracito’s Place on the east coast until he receives word from you.’

At the mention of Dracito’s name Fallyn raised his eyes to the painting on the wall, which showed Dracito disappearing into the mist. Dracito had been only one year old when he died in battle. He had been a plucky, quick little dragon, whose willing spirit had made him a firm favourite amongst dragons and riders. Fallyn gave a small ironic smile as he thought Dracito would have been a giant amongst the dragons that Smethro mentioned.

‘Kalla, Eila, I do not want to leave you here alone. It would be advantageous to us all if you are both based at the palace in Orla. I was thinking if you were both near to the border of the Forbidden Land this would assist Kalla if we need her to shape shift and carry messages as a bird, and Eila, you and I would be able to communicate through thought transfer. It may be easier for us to get through to each other there.’ Fallyn looked at the two girls who nodded their agreement at his suggestion.

‘I hope we don’t have the same problems contacting each other as we had when I was captured by Bato, two years ago,’ Eila remarked and shuddered at the thought of her captivity before Fallyn and Merin had rescued her.

Merin frowned, ‘I wonder whether Kadro and Davro will be back from Port Orla by the time we arrive at their palace?’

 ‘If they are not back we will fly on to the port. We will take ten dragons with us on our journey; this will provide us with a change of mounts, and some to carry supplies. I intend leaving Solo behind to recover from his journey from Orla.’ Fallyn paced the room, his hand on his dagger as if prepared for immediate action.

‘I have a feeling Solo will make his feelings known about that,’ Merin replied. ‘Why not take all our dragons and riders with us, we may find we can put these annoying little dragons to flight once and for all?’

‘I had thought of that Merin, but we do not want to leave Outha completely unprotected, particularly when the King and his troops will be at the border.’

Kalla escorted an exhausted Smethro to a guest room where the poor man collapsed on to the bed, without removing his clothes, and immediately fell asleep.

Fallyn in the meantime eagerly went to Dragons’ Cave to visit Solo, only to find him sprawled in the hay fast asleep while golden Drartica, his adopted mother, licked his nose gently.

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Fallyn in the Forbidden Land