Category Archives: The Dragons of Sheol
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Re-printed below in a more readable font
The main difficulty for me with the Halcyon Cycle has been the interval between books! On this occasion, (having previously written to ask when this was coming out) Peter kindly sent me a free review copy, which I found waiting for me on my return from a trip away. I was tired from my travels; so that made a perfect excuse to put my feet up and read – and I devoured over a third of the book in one day! After that, I decided I had better catch up on my other work and rationed myself quite severely. One tip: if, like me, it’s about 2 years since you read the last book I’d recommend re-reading that first. Maybe even re-read both. I found that I had become pretty hazy over some of the details: but I was so intent on following the story that I failed to notice the helpful glossary and maps at the back until I’d almost finished.
The book is very fast-paced, as Al and his friends engage in an increasingly desperate search to trace his wife and adopted son before they are lost forever in the terrifying abyss called Sheol. This leaves them less time for philosophical debate than in previous books. Nevertheless, the philosophical element is still present, covering such issues as the social bankruptcy of [tyranny], duty in the face of despair and whether the goodies are always good or the baddies irredeemably bad.
The book ends on a high note: but this is very evidently the calm before the storm. Key questions remain unanswered; and the eventual outcome is far from certain. Will good ultimately triumph over the evils that may arise from the depths of Sheol, from within the ranks of the Ancient Ones, or from Earth itself? Is there going to be another trilogy? I won’t be satisfied until I see the next series.
When I finally received my copies of The Dragons of Sheol yesterday, it seems like the long process of writing this book has come to an end and I can concentrate on the next one, Coventry 2091.
As a novelist who is trying to build his reputation, I realize many readers take a chance to spend their time and money reading one of my books because they have come to know me personally and so have become interested in what I write. Indeed, as a writer, one pours so much of oneself into one’s book you can probably get to know how I think and look at life much more clearly through my writing than simply by speaking with me.
When I first started out, personal sales, including sales where I mailed my books to readers was a big part of getting the word out. In those early days, I could mail my books to readers in Canada for $7-$8 postage (from a mailing perspective, unfortunately none of my books except Questioning Your Way to Faith is small enough to be sent as a letter-sized package). Now, there are so many surcharges that even with a small business discount, it can cost me $17.50 to mail one book to a small town in Ontario (I could drive it there for that). There is no point in giving my readers a $6-$10 discount when they buy a trade paperback from me if the postage costs $17.50. If you buy from Amazon®, you can often get free shipping if you are willing to aggregate orders. For Chapter/Indigo® one can avoid shipping cost all together if one is will to drive to the nearest store for pickup.
So where does that leave me? I had discussed this change in the dynamics Indie book publishing in a previous post. For me it means personal sales that avoid postage charges are very important. I always carry a few carefully bubble-wrapped copies of my books in a satchel in my van. If people express an interest in my writing when they meet me, I can let them buy a book from me directly and avoid the postage charges. So if you see me, and want one of my books at a discount, be sure to ask.
Wolfsburg Imprints has never run a sale on The Battle for Halcyon, but they are running a 99-cent sale now on this e-book for a limited time as launch-bonus for book 3, The Dragons of Sheol. If you haven’t yet tried books 1 and 2 in The Halcyon Cycle or, if you’re like me, and wish to have an e-book copy for reading after “lights out,” now is the time to take advantage of this special value. You’ll need a free Kindle® app on your smart phone or tablet to read these e-books.
Download the e-books from my Amazon® author page.
For my Canadian readers, even though my publisher (Word Alive Press) is based in Winnipeg, the Amazon sale listing in is USD. That currently translates approximately to $1.32 CAD.
Barnes and Noble® were the first to list The Dragons of Sheol. If you would like to check it out, here is the link.
Most of our immediate family birthdays occur from mid-December to mid-May. Kathy and I have had a wonderful time celebrating almost non-stop since Christmas. This culminated with our youngest grandson’s birthday in May along with Grandparent’s Day hosted by the school our two oldest grandchildren attend.
Family is truly a blessing and we are thankful that everyone lives within driving distance.
We also had a cold winter and were privileged to get away from the ice and snow and spend a few days with my sister and her husband in La Quinta near Palm Springs. The picture below shows the lagoon in their gated community that Kathy and I would walk around daily for exercise.
This year we opened our cottage in mid-May (which is quite early for us). When we arrived the trees still had buds and we had a open view up and down the water way. When we left, less than a week later, the leaves were all out and we had our more usual seclusion and privacy. I’ve attached a couple of pictures from the cottage to show that Spring is truly here.
It was interesting to me that on Grandparent’s Day the grade one class showed us their writing project. The picture below shows they process they followed. It’s exactly the same process I follow to produce my books (although I am sure I go through it much more slowly than they did). It’s a wonderful school. Kathy and I are so glad our grandchildren are able to attend there.
This June is the 50th anniversary of my Crescent Heights High School class’s graduation. I am disappointed that I cannot make the trip out west right now and join the festivities, but I wish my classmates well and am grateful for the re-connections I have been able to make in the lead-up to this significant event.
This spring has also been a significant milestone in my writing journey as shown in the picture above. I’ve just completed my fourth book, The Dragons of Sheol, the final book in The Halcyon Cycle. The print copy should be available in a few weeks, and the e-book likely earlier. I have already been working on my next book which I have tentatively entitled Coventry 2091.
I continue to work to improve my writing with each successive book. I hope this is my best book yet. My readers have always been helpful and I hope to hear from them.
As always, one of my favorite aspects of these infrequent newsletters are the emails Kathy and I receive back. These personal contacts mean so much and give us a chance to re-connect with our friends.
Books are expensive, especially if you buy hard cover or trade paperbacks and have to include the shipping costs. It makes sense then to be reasonably sure the money you’re spending is worthwhile.
June is launch month for my latest book, The Dragons of Sheol, the third and final book in The Halcyon Cycle. This book should list on Amazon in a few weeks. If you think you might be interested, why not read the first few chapters. The first chapter is appended. I plan to make a few more chapters available for reading later in the month.
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Here is the first chapter of my upcoming book, The Dragons of Sheol. I like books that begin quickly, with a good deal of action right away. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 1 Dirty Tricks
Copyright © 2019 by Peter Kazmaier
Dave glowered at the diminutive figure darting and swaying before him like a jack-in-the-box. Wiping the sweat from his swollen left eye, Dave mumbled to himself, “Come here Brandor, you half pint. All I need is one touch with my quarterstaff and you’re finished.” Not for the first time in this match, Dave wished he had picked a lighter weapon. Maybe then he could land a blow.
His fellow students at Gur Academy stood in a circle around the two combatants, cheering them on.
“Come on Rokodor,” called one using Dave’s Gurundarian name, “All you have to do is fall on the little squirt to win.”
“Brandor, stop with the bouncing around. You make my eyes tired,” chimed in another.
Dave fixed his eyes on Brandor’s, whose slender form was seventy pounds lighter than Dave’s solid, well-muscled body. He could smell Brandor’s self-confidence. Then he saw his opponent turn and smile at one of the young women watching them. Dave seized on the moment and rushed in, raising the end of his staff for a quick blow.
Brandor evaded the swing easily, crouched and swung a low, sweeping blow at Dave. Dave felt a sharp crack on the side of his leg. It sent him sprawling to the ground, gasping in pain. He moved to get onto his feet.
“Stop!” came the order from the Academy commandant. Brandor was poised to drive his quarterstaff into Dave’s head, as Dave crouched, vulnerable, on the ground. Dave dug his fingers into the sand of the practice ground. He could smell Brandor’s indecision. He could sense his hatred.
“You’re lucky, skork. You don’t belong here with us. Go back to your own kind,” said Brandor through gritted teeth. Sullenly, he pulled his weapon back from the killing blow, then stood at attention, facing the commandant.
Skork was the pejorative used to describe all bent and broken peoples from the zombie-like Apemen, to the Halfmen, and even to Dave’s own people who were inferior to the Ancients in longevity, speed, and several other attributes.
Brandor was a young nephew of Arachodor, a member of the ruling Council of Thirteen. Arachodor had objected strenuously to Dave’s acceptance into Gurundarian society, after Sirona the healer had called him back from death. In saving him using a healing plant tuned only to Ancients, Sirona had changed Dave’s body from that of a Lesser Man (what Ancients called ordinary people from earth) to that of an Ancient.
I wonder if Brandor would have killed me if the commandant hadn’t stopped the match? No one’s been killed during Academy combat training in more than a hundred years, Dave thought.
He stood up gingerly and limped toward the circle of onlookers. The Academy stood high on the western slopes of the Barrier Mountains and he could see the vast expanse of Lake Tolbar shimmering in the distance. His wife, Arlana, came toward him. Clutching his right arm to support him, she walked with him away from the crowd.
Dave was glad she didn’t talk about the fight. She had neither his strength nor toughness, but she was as fast as thought. She had deftly handled Brandor in a sparring match the previous week. She still had a bruise where Brandor had flailed out and “accidently” hit her when she had started to walk away after their match. Dave had planned to teach Brandor a lesson today—and hadn’t been able to touch him. The humiliation was almost unbearable.
“Well, husband,” said Arlana, “are you ready for our expedition test the day after tomorrow?”
“I think I’m ready, Princess. Any idea where we’re going?”
“I hear we’re heading to the eastern slopes of the Barrier Mountains to replant the guardian trees that were burned by the Halfmen.”
“Sounds easy enough,” said Dave.
“Things are never easy when we’re close to the Skull Mountains,” said Arlana.
“I wish we could get some leave and head home,” said Dave.
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking—how are Al, Pam and Little Thomas?”
“I am. Since we’ve been at the Academy, we haven’t been able to visit our ‘mailbox’ to see if they’ve sent us a message from home. They’re probably wondering why we haven’t answered.”
“Shhhh, Dave. Keep your voice down,” whispered Arlana.
Dave glanced over his shoulder, relieved that there was no one in sight.
“Anyway,” continued Arlana, still whispering, “Since Al and Pam know we’re away at the Academy, I don’t think they’ll be too worried about our lack of communication.”
When they finally reached their quarters, Dave went out back to wash in the creek-fed shower. When he returned, he saw Arlana and Ferris, her cousin, in serious conversation. They looked up as he limped in.
“What’s going on?” asked Dave. “You look like there’s been a death in the family.”
“We have trouble, Dave,” said Ferris. “Your old enemy, Arachodor, used his influence with some of the teachers. He’s made the motion that you shouldn’t be allowed to join the cadets on their expedition. They claim your lack of competence makes the trip too dangerous for you.”
“Arachodor’s concern for my welfare is—well—touching. Can they really do that?”
“They can, and they are trying to do exactly that. I’m about to head over there now, to intercede on your behalf. You deserve to take this first test. Arlana and I have been training since we were very young. You may not have had all the instruction we’ve had, but you’ve seen more real combat than half the Rangers in our force. That should count for something. Perhaps they’ll listen to a seasoned Ranger who knows you.”
Dave sat down and poured himself a cup of siph. “What I don’t get is why Arachodor’s argument for my exclusion is even being considered. After all, we’re only going camping alone on the other side of the Barrier Mountains; there will be seasoned Rangers and Guardians on patrol—so where’s the danger?”
“Husband, as I said before, anytime we are on the other side of the Barrier Mountains we are in the wild and there is danger. The guardian trees have been destroyed in large measure, so there is no protection from that quarter.”
“But I thought,” interrupted Dave, “that the Bent Ones had all fled to Abaddon, and the Halfmen would be cowering in the Skull Mountains, nursing their wounds.”
“We have no proof,” said Ferris, “that the Bent One controlling the Halfmen has left. He may have left. He may still be there. Or maybe a black swamp oak has been established in the Skull Mountains, so that he can travel back and forth to Abaddon. We just don’t know, and so we assume the worst. That is why we train so long before venturing beyond the Barrier Mountains. From the cadet leader’s point of view, you have had much less training than the other recruits.”
After Ferris left, Arlana looked at Dave as if she were deciding whether to tell him something.
“What is it, Arlana?”
“What Ferris said, about us learning to fight from our earliest years is true, you know.”
“Are you telling me you know why I’m losing to a pipsqueak like Brandor? I know I’m losing because I’m just too slow.”
“You’re not too slow. You’re actually much faster now than you were before you became one of us. You’re losing because he knows exactly what you’re going to do a fraction of a second before you do it. Let me show you.”
She picked up her light quarterstaff and took up a defensive position with her left foot forward. Look at the muscles in my arm and my calf; do you see how they’re tensed? It means I’m getting ready to evade.” She shifted slightly. “Now I’m ready to launch an attack. Do you see the difference?”
“So that’s why you beat the little twerp. He was so busy watching your beautiful muscles flexing and unflexing that he completely forgot to defend himself.”
Arlana jabbed Dave in the shoulder with her quarterstaff. “Kree ah na koo! Stop joking. This is serious. In two days you could be out on the mountain slope without me to take care of you. How would it look if you got yourself killed? All the women would wonder if you went out looking for death to get away from me. Think of what that would do to my reputation.” They both burst out laughing.
She knows how to handle me. She’s not just good to me—she’s good for me, Dave thought.
“One more thing, husband. You probably don’t yet realize how much more acute your sense of smell is now that you’re an Ancient. By paying attention to your nose, you can tell a lot about your opponent. Is he fearful? Is he confident? Is his anger growing? All these emotions will tell you what he will do next.”
They sparred for a couple of hours with only the occasional breather. Dave began to see what Arlana meant and started to anticipate her moves. Then Arlana showed him how to disguise his next move by deliberately attacking from a disguised defensive posture.
The door opened and Ferris entered again. He was scowling.
Dave’s spirits flagged. “I take it they won’t let me go.”
“Actually,” said Ferris, “they were surprisingly easy to convince. Your father-in-law, Kelldor, and your adopted father Celyddon, had anticipated this last-minute difficulty and were both there to speak on your behalf. The board of the school logged Arachodor’s protests, and then capitulated, agreeing to let you go.”
“So why the long face?” asked Arlana.
“It was too easy,” said Ferris. “I think all of us have been duped. They’re digging a pit for you through the test, and they wanted to register their disapproval in advance. If you have an ‘accident,’ they’ll shake their heads and say, ‘We did all we could to avert this tragedy.’ Be on your guard and watch your back.”
It was getting late and Ferris left. Dave and Arlana began to organize their equipment for the trip. Dave tried on his living cloak, hung a small satchel containing a light gourd around his neck and strapped on his long belt knife, which he had named Skene Dhu. Dave had found his knife, along with his sword, Gram, in a blade tree near the Ancient fortress of Kellburg.
Dave realized he needed a tie to fasten his sleeping blanket to his pack. He had some stout leather, which he had taken from the hide of a Rokash. He took out Skene Dhu and examined the blade lovingly. It had a lustrous blue sheen unlike any other metal blade. The bioengineered alloy of molybdenum-tungsten steel, protein spacer, and diamond fiber, cut through thick Rokash leather as if it were the thinnest of papers.
He put the knife back in the metal-lined sheath and walked over to Arlana.
“Princess, I want you to take this.” He held out Skene Dhu.
“Dave, I couldn’t. The blade tree knife came to you. I have a good knife …”
“Arlana, please take it. I need to keep you safe. If you don’t have this knife, I’ll worry.”
She peered into his eyes, as if wanting to wrest his thoughts from him. Suddenly she relaxed, raised herself on her toes, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“We’ll trade knives. Viper will look after you.” She handed him her knife and scabbard and then they both turned to organize their packing.
“No, no ye fool,” Grimbor, the Blade Meister growled as he jabbed Dave in the lower chest. “Rokodor, ye canna shift from an evade form directly to a cut or thrust form. Yer feet are not set. It makes ye too slow. How many times do I have to tell ye that ye must use a transition form first?”
Dave was exhausted. Grimbor had summoned him, to offer some extra help on using his sword after yesterday’s fiasco with his quarterstaff. Now after three hours, Dave was laboring and Grimbor didn’t even seem to be tired.
Dave began to circle once more. Grimbor was shaped like a fire hydrant, with no waist. He was much shorter than Dave, but his shoulders were just as broad. Yet he was fast as well as strong. With his eyes fixed on Dave’s, Grimbor’s feet and sword moved in perfect coordination, with a grace and fluidity Dave wished he could match.
After another flurry of exchanges during which Dave was barely able to evade and block the lightning attacks, Grimbor sighed and said, “Enough fer today.” Sitting down, he gestured to a space on the bench beside him and offered Dave a drink of water.
Dave took a long pull from the water skin and handed it back to Grimbor.
“I know I’m bein’ hard on ye lad, but I’m tryin’ to get ye ready for the test tomorrow.”
“Even if I see a Halfman tomorrow, I don’t think he will press me nearly as hard as you do, Blade Meister.”
Grimbor’s eyes became hard. “It’s not Halfmen I be thinkin’ of. Fer a youngin, ye have many enemies, and to my way of thinkin’, Halfmen are not the most dangerous of ‘em. Watch yer back and practice yer forms every night when it’s safe to do so. Hmm.” Grimbor lapsed into thought.
After a while he spoke again. “Rokodor, ye be fast, and ye have good instincts,” he said. “But ye spend too much time thinkin’ what to do next, and when ye be thinkin’ ye not be watchin’ the enemy. I be wantin’ ye to use only one form in each of the five categories. Practice those until ye can change from one form to the other without thinkin’. When you have those perfect we be addin’ some more.”
With that, Grimbor
rose and clapped Dave on the back. “One more thing, Rokodor, find a safe
campsite. The safest be a campsite yer enemies canna find. The second safest be
one where ye hear ‘em coming. Be smart! Be safe! Come back to me alive.”
 An expression in the Ancient Tongue meaning “May the Creator help me!”
If you would like to see what else I have written, including earlier books in The Halcyon Cycle … http://bit.ly/2qzzi4P-Author
The demonstration copy of The Dragons of Sheol has arrived from the Print-on-Demand printer, Lightning Source.
I’m very pleased with the fonts, layout, and cover. Unfortunately, I did not include the complete set of maps and some of the map images are too low resolution and will need to be re-submitted. After these minor tweaks, all will be ready.
All in all, it’s very exciting being this close to having my fourth book available to the public.
I don’t consider myself a well known Science Fiction and Fantasy author. Nonetheless, by my count, I have readers in every continent except South America and Antarctica. It makes sense therefore to launch my next book, The Dragons of Sheol, using internet platforms that allow me to interact with my readers, no matter their time zone or their latitude.
So what can you expect? There will be free chapters to read to see if the new book is your “cup of tea,” I plan to have a few 99 cent sales on previous book in The Halcyon Cycle as well as access to free, downloadable and printable maps if you, like me, like to have a printed map handy as you read.
If any of you would like to email me or contact me on Twitter or Facebook, there will be plenty of opportunity for that connection.
I hope to receive my first printed copy tomorrow (for my review). If everything looks satisfactory, the printed and e-book versions should be available later in June. I hope to connect with you soon.
So, whether you live in Picton, Ontario, Canada or Picton, New Zealand, why not come visit via the internet and help get the conversation rolling?
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A Brief Description of The Dragons of Sheol
Albert Gleeson, his pregnant wife, Pam, and his young stepson are struggling to adjust to their life on an acreage in Georgia after their return to our world. However, on his way home from a long day of teaching, Al finds that his home has been ransacked—and his family kidnapped.
The police initially suspect him of foul play. When he’s finally cleared, accompanied by his friends, Al pursues the kidnappers to Abaddon, a continent whose main land surface rests ten kilometers below sea level.
Their search eventually forces them to cross an even deeper abyss called Sheol, where the air pressure is so high that dragons can fly. Fighting frustration and despair at his inability to locate Pam and his stepson, Al soon begins to understand that he has a role to play in rescuing the enslaved prisoners of Abaddon.
What This Means to Me
As a novelist, although I plan a particular story track, the characters usually “take over the story” as it were, and make it into something different. It means that I, as the story creator, can take the “something different” away for application in my own life.
As a Christ Follower and as a person of hope, I, like everyone else face circumstances that cause me to ask “Why God?” Eventually, as Al taught me as I wrote this story, I need to turn this question into “What do you want me to do, Lord? Then I’ll start to see the kinds of things that Al saw.
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I had written previously about the essential difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction [Link]. An illustration of this is provided in how I deal with dragons in THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL when compared with other occurrences in literature, for example in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not regard Tolkien’s silence on the question of “How can a large animal fly?” or “How can a dragon breathe fire without burning itself up?” as a defect. Not at all. Indeed, I regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy among my favorite books of all time and would not like to change a thing.
I merely wish to point out the difference in approach that the two genres take when designing the fabric of the story. As a genre, Science Fiction, often takes great pains to think about the physical laws involved, while for Fantasy these considerations are usually set aside.
So What’s the Problem?
Many years ago, I listened to a captivating lecture by Professor Octave Levenspiel. His lecture has been published . He applied many engineering principles to animals reconstructed from the fossil record and argued that these animals existed and were able to function because the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 Bar (a little more than 3-5 atmospheres).
Of relevance to The Dragons of Sheol was the data captured in his Figure 7:
The above figure is a log-log plot of mass (kg) against cruising speed (m/s). Since the lift (force holding the flyer up) is proportional to the square of the velocity and the first power of the wing area, one quickly runs into a limitation for birds. At our air pressure one of the highest wing loading (force/unit wing area) occurs for Canada geese. Indeed birds reconstructed from fossils (quetzalcoatlus and pteranodon) were much larger and were well above the one-atmosphere line.
However lift is also proportional to air density. According to Professor Levenspiel, very large flying creatures, that is muscle-powered flyers weighing more than 14.5 kg, could only have flown if the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 atmospheres. Even in fiction, if I want to have dragons flying, I have to imagine a setting that is plausible. In my thinking this led to the continent of Abaddon.
Abaddon Below Sea Level
The sketch below shows the altitude of Abaddon on a much-contracted horizontal scale. The Abaddon Plain is about ten kilometers below sea level while Sheol is about sixteen kilometers below sea level. For comparison, Mount Everest is 8848 meters above sea level. If sliced from the summit all the way to sea level, it would still be lower than the rim wall around the Abaddon Plain. Still, since Abaddon is a continent-sized plain, the ten kilometer rim wall on the scale of thousands of kilometers of plain, make the rim wall quickly disappear over the horizon.
Rough calculations on the pressure (assuming temperature is approximately the same as at sea level) would make the pressure approximately three atmospheres and six atmospheres respectively for the plain versus Sheol. Given the higher air density, much larger animals could fly at these pressures using muscle-powered locomotion, but it brought up the interesting idea: if the larger dragons grew so large they could only fly in the lower reaches of Sheol, then only the smaller ones could reach the higher terraces.
The Terraces on the Edge of Sheol
So how does one drop from the Abaddon Plain to Sheol? One huge drop? A steep slope? How about steps? Using steps has some interesting possibilities as shown in the figure below.
Depending on the geometry, line-of-sight would block vision of all but the immediate terrace below the escarpment edge. This fact, coupled with the danger of dragons rising from the depths would make the terraces an ideal place to hide. This plays a significant role in the story.