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.

THE GREAT BIG SPANISH ADVENTURE Front Cover v2

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Why You Should Join a Writers’ Group

IMG_1209[1]One of WordPlay’s members, Joy Lennick, sent this to us a couple of days ago. She just wanted to let us know what she felt about belonging to a writers’ circle, and how it has affected her writing and productivity. We thought we’d share her feelings about what it means to her to belong to a writers’ circle.

Writer’s Block is No Excuse

Having belonged to a few writing groups, and known many writers over the years, I’ve heard too many say “I haven’t a clue what to write about!” or “I’ve really got Writer’s block!” Without knowing whether any of them actually wrote a book or found some other writing outlet, I’d bet that most who uttered such words never ‘made it’. I don’t mean ‘made it’ like being a best seller or having your book turned into a movie (I should be so lucky!); I mean just getting published. This is where WordPlay Writers’ Forum and WordPlay Publishing Ltd comes into the equation.

There’s being published, and then there’s becoming published

In my long career as a writer, I have had three books published by ‘mainstream’ publishers. Running your own small Hotel and Jobs in Baking & Confectionery were published by Kogan Page Ltd of London, of whom I have nothing but praise. These helped me put a lot of jam on my bread in the early days. My third book Hurricane Halsey, about an epileptic ocean rower who successfully crossed the Atlantic, was published by Libros. Although the end product was good to look at and the photographs excellent, the whole process was painfully long: two YEARS, and I was never paid for being the subject’s biographer. But that’s another story…

WordPlay PublishingI come, at last, to WordPlay Publishing Ltd. Fully aware of the huge difficulties in getting accepted by main stream publishers today, and of the sometimes exorbitant sums of money charged by some self-publishing companies, I wholeheartedly recommend WordPlay.

A Forward Looking Forum

The group started when Michael Barton and Ian Govan decided to do something about the lack of opportunities for talented authors in the traditional publishing world. WordPlay Writers’ Forum lives up to its aim of encouraging writers’ to write and then getting them read. Unfortunately Ian passed away prematurely, but Michael has carried on with the same ethos.

Forum meetings are all about the exciting world of writing and publishing, marketing and promotion, and more. We also have workshops discussing all manner of pertinent things: the latest was an introduction to social media marketing. Then there is the website, with useful tips and tricks about the act of writing itself posted on an almost daily basis.

From Writing to Publishing: a Writers’ Circle’s Journey

WordPlay, now headed by Michael, not only assists serious writers to ‘get on the ladder to literary success’, it doesn’t put authors ‘on the bread line’. WordPlay Publishing has a growing stable of books published through it, including my fourth book My Gentle War (Memoir of an Essex Girl). Without WordPlay’s help, I doubt I would ever have seen this in print.

More than this, though, WordPlay Writers’ Forum also regularly publishes group anthologies. The talent and dedication of all members was recognised last year, when WordPlay’s Shorts for Autumn was voted the best writers’ circle anthology in the UK’s Writing Magazine’s annual competition. A welcome literary feather in our cap. In the last couple of weeks, we have published Precinct Murder, an anthology of murder stories set in New York. Winter Gems will be available in the next couple of weeks, and a Spring anthology, working title Talk of the Towns, is due to be published in April. As if that isn’t enough, we’ve started work on a collaborative novel, with plans including turning it into a play for local production.

A Writers’ Group that Helps Others

Many of WordPlay’s members, who might still be floundering, are now published. Too many to mention here (why not visit the websites, wordplaywritersforum.com and wordplay-publishing.com?), but not satisfied with this, WordPlay is also helping non-members with their publishing dreams. The latest is the Costa Writers’ Circle’s eclectic anthology A Mixed Bag, which is due for publication later this week.

So if you want to get ahead in writing, then join a go-ahead writers’ group. If there isn’t one locally to you, then why not start one, or get in touch with WordPlay?

WordPlay Forum: November Minutes

WORDPLAY FORUM

Minutes of meeting held Monday 11 November 2013 at ‘Emerald Isle’

Present: Michael Barton, Gareth Barton, Evie Barton, Nigel & Pat Grundey, Janet Waters, Joy Lennick, Gerry Wright, Drummond Marvin, Nikki Dee, Jan Davies, Ann Mancey, Maggie Hegarty, Migel Jayasinghe, Kathy Rollinson,  Janet Pogson, Peter Hayward, Lynda Kiss

Apologies: Georgia Varjas, Margaret Rowland. David McCall

Margaret is still in the UK recovering from a broken bone in her foot, and we all wish her well.

Welcome – new members Nigel and Pat Grundey

1. NEW PUBLICATIONS:

last night  on Kindle ‘Precinct Murder’ six New York murder stories. Authors: Joy Lennick,  Maggie Hegarty, K.J.Rollinson,  Drummond Marvin, Gerald R.Wright and Warren Kent (Michael Barton).  $4.99. Also available in paperback. Any one who would like copies to email wordplayenquiries@mail.com by 20th November at the latest. Should then arrive by next meeting.

‘The Great Spanish Adventure’ Author – Janette Davies  Book launch 16th Nov.     ‘Friendly Bar’ Citrus Centre, Playa Flamenca.  Congratulations – two books in a year.     Opportunity for other members publications to be available at the Bar.

2. WEB SITE – Apologies for lack of input but will be updated.  Search Engine Optimisation –  having dropped off social media, within two weeks there was a drop of 80% hits – Twitter/Facebook.  Social media really important – Workshop 25th November 11 a.m. at Emerald Isle.  An Australian client confirmed that by adding # to his tweets, increased his site hits by 40%.  Get it on your Tweets!  Janet Pogson queried quantity of search hits without the ‘ok’ marker on Google when searching under WordPlay, and also the number of other WordPlay’s out there. Very little we can do about the other WordPlay sites, but Michael will look into the security issue.

3. KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING – Amazon news.

It appears that Amazon have been increasing its minimum list price on paperback self-published books, possibly pushing to get rid of paper backs in order to turn to Kindle?

Kindle introducing ‘match book’ – if you have published a paper back you can tick ‘match book’ and its owners will be able to buy the Kindle version for at least half price.

Reminder: A Prime Amazon member can ‘borrow’ one book each month.

‘Kindle Fund’ – if your books are borrowed you get a proportion of the fund.  A few members earning more this way than sales.

‘Count Down’ deals – a period where author can set price and the availability of that book at that price is ‘counted down’.

4. KEY WORDS – Kindle have a ‘Help’ page.

Five basic headings.

Go for less popular words, can be short phrases, and look at less competition.

Book tracking – see website.

Kathy was congratulated – used key words, and during a 5 day free period, did considerable tweeting and got into first 100 list.

Janet Waters also congratulated; her book ‘Truth Hurts’ has had 1,000 Kindle downloads in six months, November royalties donating to Philippines disaster fund.

5. ANNUAL DINNER – February 2014.  Organiser needed.  If non volunteer forthcoming in two weeks then Michael will organise.

6. BOOK WEEK – see newsletter, and come back next month with your thoughts and ideas.

7. SPRING ANTHOLOGY – information sheet: get by emailing Gerry or Drummond at wpspringanthology@gmail.com

8. COLLABORATIVE NOVEL PROJECT  – will disseminate on newsletter.

Next meeting 9 December 2013.

Meeting finished 1 p.m.

The Write Reason to Give to the Phillipines

Philippines Disaster

Sometimes as writers we find ourselves wanting to do our bit, in whatever small way that might be, to help our community, or the community thousands of miles way. It might be an individual, or a cause, a charity, or club or school… there are a million reasons why we give our time and talent.

A couple of years ago I wrote a story for the anthology 100 Stories for Queensland, a worldwide collaboration to raise money for the victims of the terrible flooding there.

Keep Write OnLast year, WordPlay posthumously published Keep Write On by Ian Govan (with a small contribution from myself), with 50% of the proceeds going to Alzheimers charities in the UK and the remainder to an award for writers, the Ian Govan Award.

Earlier this year, one of our members Peter Hayward, undertook a sponsored hike in Jordan to raiseMacmillan nurses money for the Macmillan nurses, and WordPlay was happy to donate.

Now, another of our writers, Janet Waters, is donating the proceeds from her book for a good cause. She wrote to me late last night.

“My nephew’s new bride was brought up in Tacloban in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan has struck with such devastation. Her grandmother and family still live there and until this morning we did not know if they were safe. Thankfully this morning we received the news we had been waiting for – they are safe.

Truth Hurts KindleDuring the month of November, all proceeds from the sale of Truth Hurts will be donated to the emergency fund to help get Tacloban and the surrounding areas back on their feet. If you are looking for something to read and at the same time would like to help this worthy cause, please download my book in November.

I would be grateful if you could share this on Facebook, Twitter or any way you can. Thanks.”

So here’s a challenge to everyone: let’s see how many copies of Truth Hurts can be sold over the next 18 days. Tell your family and friends about it and tweet it and Facebook it and Tumble it.

September 2013 Forum Minutes

Minutes of meeting held on Monday 9th September 2013 at ‘Emerald Isle’

Present: Evie Barton, Michael Barton, Jan Davies, Peter Hayward, Maggie Hegarty, Migel Jayasinghe, Lynda Kiss, Joy Lennick, Ann McCall, Dave McCall, Ann Mancey, Drummond Marvin, Kathy Rollinson, Margaret Rowland, Joanna Rich, Georgia Varjas, Janet Waters and Gerry Wright.

Apologies:  Nikki Dee and Rosemary Westwell

1.      Welcome

Michael welcomed new members, Ann Mancey, Ann McCall and Dave McCall, and introductions were made.

2.      Royalties

These amount to 31 Euros and monies were distributed at the end of the meeting.  Michael mentioned that authors should push sales through Createspace, as it gives a higher rate in royalties.

It was agreed that the £250 cheque received from the Writers’ Magazine will go into the bank account and will be used to promote the group or for a future group event.

3.       Website

Michael continues to work on this and is actively encouraging traffic through it.  At present he is using very little Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and believes its traffic driving relevance will be usurped by other methods in the future, such as social media networks:  Twitter, Facebook and others. However, he will be increasing the SEO work he is doing on the site over the coming months.

He mentioned that it helps Search Engines if you put links in.  Michael is linking internally with the aim of keeping people on the site longer. WordPlay have also started a monthly newsletter. To begin with this will be for members only, but eventually this will be for site followers.

Dave McCall mentioned that he produces a newsletter each month to promote his work and he keeps his own e mail list.  Readers are interested in what the writer is doing.

4.      Blogs

It was noted that ‘personal’ blogs generate more hits that purely informational ones. Tips for blogging:

  • When creating a blog, you need to be clear in your own mind what you wish to communicate.
  • You need to decide if you wish to inform, engage your reader or do both.
  • Postings need to be done regularly otherwise numbers will drop off.
  • They should not be too long and an ideal of 400 – 500 words was suggested.
  • Other suggestions to enhance blog:  subtitles, title each paragraph, use bold text, use bullet points and images can improve the message and presentation.
  • Think about a ‘Call to Action’ on each post. For example getting readers engaged by conducting a poll.

if you have a website, get blogging, and link to your fellow members blogs/ websites –  because we need to work as a group to drive sales. Try to drive traffic to your website through Wordplay.

Targeted traffic numbers remain at 1,000 hits on the website per month in December. However, we have already passed 500, and hits are growing at around 20% per month. With some SEO work, and other methods employed, Michael believes it likely to break through our target by November: when we can start working on our big target of 1,000 hits per day.

5.      Project Ideas

In November three anthologies will be published:  Winter Gems, Lifetime of Childhood and Precinct 22.

The intention is to publish another anthology in March/April 2014.  Michael asked members to volunteer to oversee this project.  The work entails:  choosing a theme; deciding on parameters and genre; collating; and producing a timetable (stories will need to be completed by the end of January).  Thanks go to Drummond and Gerry for volunteering.

Another project was mentioned:  there is a competition which is held each November with the aim of writing a novel in a month.  It could be a group effort and creation.  The following procedure was suggested:  chapter 1 on Website; another member writes chapter 2 and so forth.  Members who wish to be involved would create a Wordplay novel.  Michael will put something in a newsletter concerning this and will ask for a response from members.

6.      Book Presentation

Dave McCall had a book launch at Guardamar library and Michael invited Dave to explain his approach.  Dave suggested that it is not a good idea for the author to read from his/her book.  The audience are usually more interested in the author at this stage and the aim is to adopt a personal approach and inspire and intrigue the audience.  The location of a launch is very important and, where possible, the author is advised to choose a location which has some connection to their work.

 A.O.B.

Georgia mentioned Toastmasters and gave out information about the next meeting and change of venue.  This has proved an excellent platform for her work and she urged other members to attend.

Miguel has had his book of poetry published and was congratulated by the group.

Date of Next Meeting:  Monday 14th October

July 2013 Forum Minutes

WORDPLAY FORUM

Minutes of meeting held on Monday 8th July 2013 at ‘Emerald Isle’

Present: Evie Barton, Michael Barton, Jan Davies, Nikki Dee, John Francis, Peter Hayward, Maggie Hegarty, Migel Jayasinghe, Joy Lennick, Drummond Marvin, Kathy Rollinson, Margaret Rowland, Joanna Rich, Georgia Varjas and Gerry Wright.

Apologies:  Linda Kiss

1.      Welcome

Michael welcomed new and returning members:  Migel, John, Joanna and Janet.  Each person introduced themselves and gave us an insight into their work and experience.  Michael explained that they were joining a diverse and talented group with experience in many different genres.

Michael requested an up- to- date list of e mails and telephone numbers.

2.      Royalties

Monies were distributed.  In June, every book on the list was sold via Kindle.  Kindle books are outselling tree-books by four to one.

3.       Website

It is presumed that prospective readers have visited the site and looked at the Anthology.  There have not been many sales of “Shorts for Autumn” but this has linked them to the novels of authors listed and has resulted in sales.

Since the first quarter, the number of hits on the website has increased exponentially. The ultimate target is for 1000 hits per day to the WordPlay website.

4.       Publishing

Michael has published a collection of Ian’s articles from CBN:  “Keep Write On”.  50% of the royalties will be contributed to the Ian Govan Award and the other 50% will be donated to Alzheimer’s.

Next year Michael has offered to publish a book for a Children’s Charity for free in exchange for acknowledgement of Wordplay Publishing.

5.      Marketing/Publicity

At the last meeting, members were asked to research marketing/publicity opportunities.  Kathy filled in the forms for Kinship.com but this contact was unsatisfactory.

Georgia has gone down a different road.  She is a member of Toastmasters and has promoted her books at these meetings.  There are Spanish members and, because they want to become proficient in the language, they are interested in English authors and books.  She is doing two University gigs in September and, from past experience, is confident she will sell more of her books. Self- marketing requires a lot more effort but is proving successful for Georgia.

Gerry called in to the Euro Weekly offices in Benijofar concerning Wordplay’s Award but there has been no feedback.  U3A will mention the group and the Award on their Website and will include a link to ours.

The overriding message was that members have to fully utilise social media in order to sell themselves and their writing:  blogs, websites, facebook, and twitter.  Members have to use strategies to get their books into ratings:  interact with readers by enabling fans to contact characters from novels on facebook; offer your book free on Kindle for a few days; or offer three books for the price of two.

Michael helped Jan with the publishing of “Truth Hurts”.  She put it on to Kindle and the original price was £1. She then raised it to £1.98 and put it on for free for two days.  Her strategies paid off and her sales ratings increased. Jan highlighted the advantages of using Goodreads, a free website for book lovers, and members are urged to review each other’s books.

Members then detailed their efforts to publicise their work and Wordplay:

Georgia has approached Talk Radio Europe and has set up a pre-recorded interview.

Cathy has investigated Sunshine Radio with a view to publicity.  Sunshine Radio invites local people to contribute.  As Michael is away for a month, it was decided to postpone this until early autumn.

Nikki has produced a press release and has submitted it to several publications.  Michael read it to the group and it was agreed that it hit the spot:  targets audience; has a personal angle; and advertises her novels and short stories.

Carol Naylor, a former member of Wordplay, has approached Michael and offered to review books.  She produces reviews and enters them on different websites.  She is interested in promoting local authors and will not charge for reviewing our work.

6.      Future Plans

Linda Kiss would like us to consider holding a Book Week next year.  We need to start thinking about this and Linda wishes to include it on the next agenda.

Action Points:

  • Bring ideas for a ‘Book Week’ to the next meeting in September.

Ian Govan Award – Writers are invited to write a novel, in any genre; the name of the hero has to be Ian.  Ian’s point was that it was a very unlikely name for a hero.  Entrants should submit first three chapters and a character study of the hero, Ian.

In November Michael is visiting England and Scotland and will be involved in a tour of writing groups.  He will be promoting Wordplay Publishing and, hopefully, spread the message in the U.K.

Date of Next Meeting:  Monday September 9th

I did what she meant!

panda shootingI had something of a scare this week, all due to a misplaced word or two. Now, I’ve spoken about misplaced commas and the damage they can do before. Who can read the faux pas ‘a panda bear eats, shoots and leaves’ without picturing a black and white ursine giant in a restaurant, having just demolished a rather rare steak, pulling out a handgun and randomly firing at anything that moves before he departs: bill unpaid, of course? But I digress. Back to the scare I wanted to tell you about.

My wife – and at this point I had better make it plain that I love her to bits – set a message upon the kitchen side for our son the other morning. We had to go out, you see, and she-who-must-be-obeyed had put a load of washing on (a technical operation for which I am completely under-qualified). You can imagine my consternation (a lovely word, and one that I don’t get to use often enough) when my wife and I arrived home to see our son’s legs flailing mid-air, as he struggled in aggravated suspension from the balcony overlooking the garden.

After we had rescued him from this predicament, he explained that he was only following the instructions left for him by his Mum. You see, she had written the following on that message I told you about earlier:

“If the washing machine has stopped, please hang in the garden.”

I realised immediately the mistake he had made, though her-indoors was not best pleased.

“You know exactly what I meant,” she said as she stormed to the solarium.

I, of course, made every effort to appease my better half and did what she had wanted done in the first place.

garden hang outI’m not really sure what her problem with me now is, though. She hasn’t spoken to either my son or me since I did as her written word commanded. And the washing machine is still hanging in the garden. Just goes to show: even when you read something and decipher exactly what it means, it can still get you  into trouble.

Great Lines Remembered

Ian GovanOne year ago today, my very good friend, co-conspirator, and Birmingham City supporter (we all have a cross to bear) Ian Govan passed away. The previous afternoon we had enjoyed a few pints together – as was his whim to do so – and had chewed the cud about the world. I enjoyed our times together, mostly because Ian made me laugh. And he inspired me. Some mornings we would catch up for a coffee, talking all things writing and WordPlay, before reconvening after lunch.

On one such afternoon, we got onto the subject of famous and great lines from the movies. An afternoon of chat, laughter, and guesswork that spawned the following article.

This morning I’ll be having a coffee at one of our old haunts, before having three or four pints to toast him in the afternoon. I’ll round off the day with a glass of red wine accompanied by a pork pie. And all the while, Ian will be with me urging me to keep right on.

Lines, lines, lines

So, what makes a great line? We spent some time this week, okay over a couple of beers, trying to come up with the most memorable film lines.

Examples, in no particular order, included:

“Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!”

“Go ahead punk, make my day.”

“I just said blow the bloody doors off!”

“The man we want is the one who gave him those scars.”

“Of all the bars in all the world ….”

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s just a naughty boy.”

How many did you get? Name the film, the actor, and the character.

Move into other genres – comedy:

“A pint, a pint! That’s nearly an armful”

“Friends all over the world … none in this country, but all over the world.”

“This time next year, we’ll be millionaires”

And so it goes on. Fabulous lines that resonate with all of us.

But there is another facet. Lines that never happened.

Apparently “Play it again Sam” was never said.

Then there is yet another.

“Elementary my dear Watson”, is said in the film but was never written in the books by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sometimes, the memorable bit is not even in words. “42” springs to mind.

Keep Write On Call To Action

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.

 

CHAPTER ONE

(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