Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Category: Novels (page 2 of 2)

Sleeping Dragon: Geography

Like many a fantasy world before it, the Sleeping Dragon is an analogue of our own Europe. I could give some kind of academic style answer to that, involving much talk of metaphor and historic analogue, but the truth is that since the Sleeping Dragon has elements of a comic fantasy novel, one in which I make jokes about standard fantasy settings, it made sense to have a standard fantasy setting.

At the heard of the setting is the Empire, which is what our Europe’s Holy Roman Empire (a.k.a. Germany) might have become had Russia not existed. (In the world of Sleeping Dragon, there was no equivalent of Russia for the very good reason that the territory where it would have existed was instead home to orcs, beastman, and other assorted barriers to human civilisation).

Map produced by Jacob Rodgers

Once the Empire occupied only the territory between the Middle Sea and the World’s End Mountains. But after the development of ranged weapons firing bolts of pure mana, its territory expanded rapidly; within a century it stretched more than a third of the way round the world, to the borders of the Empire of the Sun[1].

To the south of the Empire are the Border Principalities, a patchwork area of notionally sovereign princedoms, some not much larger than the metaphorical postage stamp. Beyond that is merely burning desert, home to hardy nomads and scattered cities.

To the north lies ice, and warriors famed in equal measures for their resourcefulness and savagery.

Around the Middle Sea, which is this world’s ancient cradle of civilisation, lie other human realms, sometimes enemies of the Empire, often rivals, but still bound by common bonds of species[2] and culture.

Dotted across the lands of man are other species: in the forests one often finds halflings; in the canyons and caverns of the World’s End mountains one finds dwarves. Once, relations between these different species were difficult, but now legally protected rights against discrimination and a commitment to multiculturalism ensure that all three species can live and work together peacefully for the common good.

Mostly.

And finally, across the Western Ocean lies the lands of the Elves. Once they lived in the lands that now form the realms of humanity; indeed as a species they predate humans. But humanity’s arrival in this realm displeased them; the energy humans threw into their so short lives changed the world in ways they found unacceptable. After several millennia of increasingly uncomfortable coexistence, the elves built a fleet of wonderful ships and set sail for the then empty lands that lay across the Western Ocean. There they dwell still, locked in a relationship with the lands of humanity that is not war, but not quite peace either.

[1] And yeah, that is a sort of Japan / China mishmash, and yeah I get that when fantasy settings do that, it rides roughshod over huge cultural, ethnic, religious, historical, and linguistic differences in a manner that is a best, Western-centric, and at worst, quite dodgy. But like I said, I deliberately wanted to start with a very typical, standard fantasy setting – and then twist.

[2] Strictly speaking, if I was really wanting to get the standard fantasy feel I’d say “race” rather than “species”. But having thought quite a bit about this, I realised that there is a fundamental difference between race and species. When we talk about race in the context of Homo sapiens (e.g. black people and white people), we are referencing something that is a social concept, and not a biological one. If you ask a biologist about “race”, they will tell you you need to go talk to a sociologist, because race is a social construct, and a bullshit one at that. But if you are say talking about the differences between Chimpanzees and Gorillas (or between Halflings and Dwarves), you’re now talking about the difference between two species, and those are real, genuine, biological differences. In the world of Sleeping Dragon people might once have used the word “race” to describe Humans, Elves, Dwarves and so on. But that would now be regarded as an old-fashioned, and perhaps even offensive, term. Instead they now say “species”, and use the phrase speciesism to describe species based discrimination.

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Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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My Goodreads Giveaway Is Now Live

For the next ten days, I have a giveaway up on Goodreads that gives 100 people the chance to get a free advance Kindle copy of the Sleeping Dragon. If you fancy a copy, then please go to this link to enter. You will be required to be a Goodreads member, but if you haven’t already joined, I recommend doing so as it’s a pretty cool place – basically a social media network for people who love books.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sleeping Dragon by Jonny Nexus

The Sleeping Dragon

by Jonny Nexus

Giveaway ends December 18, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Sleeping Dragon: Gadgets & Items

Sleeping Dragon’s world is a world of magic, not electricity, with the universal laws of magic explaining that universe in much the same way that physics explains ours. The devices that Sleeping Dragon’s civilisation is built upon are powered by magic, having been designed by mage-programmers and mass-produced in factories.

In our world, one word can often serve two meanings, with the correct meaning being obvious through context. For example, a mouse can refer to either a rodent, or a pointing device. Or if I tell you that a tank once crashed through the ceiling of my bedroom I’m referring to a water tank, while if an elderly German man raised in East Prussia tells you that back in 1945, a tank crashed through the wall of his family’s house, he’s referring to a T34[1].

Similar double-meanings exist in the world of Sleeping Dragon, but they are different double-meanings, typically derived from either:

  1. The spell that a wizard would have cast to perform this task back in the days before magic and magical items became mass-produced (e.g. a wizard would once have cast a whisper spell to communicate at a distance, so now people carry mobile-phone like devices that they refer to as “whispers”).
  2. The device originally designed for other tasks that a wizard would once have enchanted to perform a different task, back before the physical item being enchanted was specifically designed for that purpose (e.g. where once a wizard would have grabbed a broomstick / sweeping brush, and cast a levitate spell on it, now engineers design what is essentially a flying motorbike, which then has a levitate spell cast upon it – but which for historical reasons is still referred to as a broomstick).

The point here is that while to our eyes it might seem strange that when the inhabitants of the world of Sleeping Dragon can be referring to either a flying car or a rug when they refer to a “carpet”, but it’s no more strange than us using the word “tank” to refer to an tracked, armoured fighting vehicle[2]. We don’t notice it, because we’re used to it[3].

To make things a little easier for the reader, I’ve put a glossary at the start of the novel. Here’s a sneak peek.

bolt noun

A ranged weapon firing a beam of pure mana. A modern refinement of earlier wands enchanted with lightning bolt spells, bolts are available in small one-handed versions and larger two-handed versions.

broomstick noun

A small personal flying vehicle for one or two passengers. Originally a broom magically enchanted with a levitation spell, now a metal spine equipped with handlebars, seat, and footrests, and propelled by a mana-powered lift/repulsion unit.

buggy noun

A wheeled ground-transportation vehicle, typically seating two to five persons, controlled via a steering wheel and pedals, and propelled by a mana power unit turning a rotating drive shaft.

carpet noun

A personal flying vehicle carrying two to five passengers. Originally a rug magically enchanted with a levitation spell, now a metal monocoque shell propelled by a mana-powered lift/repulsion unit.

crystal noun

A round, flat-screened device used to broadcast entertainment and informational programming via ethereal plane transmissions, originally derived from crystal balls used for communication.

dial noun

A timepiece, either wall-mounted or free-standing, or worn on the wrist (a wrist-dial). Originally passive outdoor devices requiring sunlight to operate, dials now use chronological spells to track the time and a magical face to display it.

guard noun

A law enforcement officer, often a member of a city or town guard.

herb noun

Collective term for plant-derived psychoactive substances. Herb is often ingested in powdered form via the nose and is illegal in most jurisdictions.

mana noun

The fundamental energy force that powers all magical spells and devices.

oracle noun

A mana powered device incorporating thinking spells. Used for data calculation, analysis, and storage. Smaller models typically incorporate a crystal screen for display and a keyboard for input.

pictograph noun

Image of a person, scene, or object, taken by a camera. Originally saved on paper magically sensitive to different wavelengths of light, pictographic images are now usually downloaded to oracles in informational form.

pictographic memory noun

The ability to remember or recall information, particularly visual information, in exact detail.

wagon noun

A larger wheeled ground-transportation vehicle, typically used for the transportation of cargo, controlled via a steering wheel and pedals, and propelled by a mana power unit turning a rotating drive shaft.

whisper noun

A personal communication device used for person to person voice communications. Originally derived from the use of whisper spells for long-distance communications.

whisper verb

To contact someone using a whisper.

worm noun

Colloquial term used for Empire City’s underground rapid transportation system.

So now if I talk about leaning out of a carpet with a hand-and-a-half assault bolt in one hand, and a whisper in the other, while trying to evade the herbed up nutter who’s pursuing you on a souped up broomstick, and thinking maybe you should just have stuck to white-collar crime using oracles or picking pockets on the worm, you’ll know what I mean[4].

[1] That’s a hypothetical example, but back in the mid-nineties, when I was just starting my career in programming, I met a German guy who in 1945, at the age of 15, had been conscripted into the German army. His career ended somewhere in East Prussia when he stumbled across a tank whose turret was already turning towards him. Luckily the shell missed, and he was captured. He ended up in a prisoner of war camp near Stalingrad where he was fed only watery soup and was to hard labour. Pretty soon, he realised he was going to die if he didn’t change something. (Of the four million German soldiers taken prisoner by the Soviets at the end of the war, only one and a half million survived to eventually, some years later, go home, with the other two and a half million being worked / starved to death). Then a guard came around asking for engineers. He wasn’t an engineer; he’d been a schoolboy. But he had been at the German equivalent of a grammar school, so he put up his hand and was taken away to a drawing office. The older men there quickly clicked that he wasn’t an engineer. But they covered for him, and taught him. In 1948 he was released. His family were gone, and the family home was now in communist Poland, so he made his way to West Germany, enrolled in university to study engineering, and ended up becoming a successful businessman. When I asked him how he felt about his experiences he just said, “It was a good training for life.”

[2] The reason why we call tanks “tanks” rather than the more obvious “landships” is because when, in 1915, the British army were developing the first tanks they wanted to keep it secret. So they developed a cover story that they were intended as mobile water tanks for delivering water to the troops in the trenches, and in keeping with this referred to them as “tanks” – and the name stuck.

[3] I should give a hat tip here to Harry Turtledove, because this whole area of language and terminology is a line of thought that occurred to me having read his Great War series (an alternate First World War in a world where the Confederacy won the American Civil War). In this timeline, it was the USA who developed the first tanks, and their cover story was that they were mobile water barrels. So through this entire three book series, and the WWII trilogy that followed it, you have the phrases “barrel” and “anti-barrel gun”. And you know what? It ingrained itself in me. Right now, some ten years later, if were to read the phrase “three barrels appeared over the horizon” I’d be picturing tanks in my mind.

[4] That’s a made up example by the way, any not any kind of scene or plot line from the novel. You’ll have to wait for someone to produce a Sleeping Dragon RPG if you want to see that scene played out.

* * * * *

Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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Countdown to Sleeping Dragon: An Introduction

The Sleeping Dragon, my third novel, is set in what I call a “post-Tolkienesque” world. Five hundred years previously, it possessed all the standard trappings of a typical fantasy setting – kings, wizards, warriors, magic, dwarves, dragons, and elves who’d been so pissed off at the rise of men that they’d sodded off over a western ocean in a monster sulk.

But that was then, and by the time of my novel’s now, the world has changed beyond all recognition.

After enduring thousands of years of largely unchanging culture and history, the discovery of the means to mass-produce and commoditise magic triggered a tsunami of world-changing events and developments. Adventurers equipped with hand-held weapons shooting beams of pure mana tamed the wild East, broke the power of the once lawless Orc tribes, and looted so many abandoned dungeon complexes that paper money had to be invented as an alternative to wheelbarrows’ worth of not-particularly-valuable gold.

It is now a world encircled by flying ships and linked by a web of instantaneous communication links. Huge metropolises, each home to several millions of people, sprawl across what were once unspoiled landscapes.

And all of this is powered by magic; there is no electricity in this universe.

The once heroic past is apparently over. Where once adventurers wove tales of myth and legend, now they wield their skills and talents in towering arenas against programmed constructs, competing in sporting contests for audiences that number in the millions, their prize not glory or treasure but sponsorship and salaries beyond the dreams of the average Joes who worship them.

The story of the Sleeping Dragon is built around a central question. In a world changed so utterly that heroism itself seems an obsolete concept, will there still be heroes?

From Sleeping Dragon’s prologue…

Five figures sit around a table. In a heroic age, these men are heroes. They have humbled tyrants, slaughtered dragons, and reduced entire tribes of rampaging orcs to tears. Occasional difficulty with taxes aside, no man or beast has bested them, and no challenge have they feared.

Until this day.

For even they feel stunned disbelief at what has just been revealed.

One of them, a priest, clears his throat before breaking the awed silence created by his previous announcement. “And so that, gentlemen, is that. In a little over five hundred years our world as we know it will be destroyed. Civilisation will fall. Starvation and plague will stalk the land. All that we value, all of our learning, all that we hold dear: gone. Nothing left save dust and ashes.”

At the far end of the table sits an armoured warrior, his sword and shield placed on the table before him. The sacred symbol painted on the shield testifies to his faith and piety; the bloodstains and nicks on the sword bear witness to the fury and vengeance with which he has recently expressed that faith and piety. “Are you sure?” he asks.

The priest nods, his face a solemn mask. “The runes do not lie, Sir Ethelded. Nor the stars, nor the cards, nor the numbers. I have consulted them all, and it is certain: in five hundred years the sleeping dragon will wake and bring forth an apocalypse upon our world.”

I hope that’s given you a flavour of both the book’s setting and its themes. I hope you like what you’ve read.

* * * * *

Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

* * * * *

 

 

Announcing the “Manaverse”

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about my need to create a name for the fantasy setting of the Sleeping Dragon. Well, a few days later, I have it.

Ladies and gentleman, drumroll please, may I give you… the Manaverse.

What is the Manaverse? Well as the name suggests it’s a universe, but one that runs on mana, where mana is the raw force upon which magic is built. This is not a fantasy world like ours but with magic added in. No, for magic is as fundamental to this universe as physics is to ours.

Our universe runs according to four fundamental forces, gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Everything in our entire universe is ultimately derived from these, so much so that the physicist Ernest Rutherford was moved to declare that all science was either physics or stamp-collecting, by which he meant that physics revealed the underlying meaning of everything, reducing all other scientific disciplines to mere description and classification.

In the Manaverse, wizards could say much the same thing about the study of magic, for in this world, it is magic, and the fundamental force of mana that it controls which ultimately underpins every single process, natural or artificial, living or inert.

This is a magical world, but not a random or illogical one. It is a world as internally consistent and ultimately knowable as ours, but one whose forces of nature sit on an entirely different set of foundations.

It’s the Manaverse.

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The first book set in the Manaverse, the Sleeping Dragon, will be published in February of next year. It will be followed by the Elven Lands Murders.

On The Naming Of A Series

This is something of an announcement twice over, the first announcement being of a new novel that I’ve started working on1, and the second announcement being that of the resulting marketing / naming predicament that this decision has precipitated.

The new novel, provisionally titled the Elven Lands Murders, is not so much a sequel to the Sleeping Dragon as a follow-on, set in the same world, and featuring Blade, one of Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists in a story that, as the title suggests, is set in the Elven Lands that lie across the Western Ocean, and which involves murders.

I’m calling it a follow-on rather than a sequel because while it follows on from that story, Sleeping Dragon itself is a completely self-contained novel whose story brings all its plot threads to a full and complete close.

And that’s where I arrive at the resulting predicament. Right from the start, If Pigs Could Fly was conceived as the first book of a series. Before I typed the first word of chapter one, I’d typed the title, “If Pigs Could Fly (WKPDA I). When the first cover was designed, it bore the words “West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency: Book I”. When I uploaded the book to Amazon’s Kindle Desktop Platform and it asked me if it was part of a series and, if so, which series and number that was, I typed in “West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency” and “1”.

But Sleeping Dragon is a stand-along novel, with no sequel.

Or at least, it was. Until now.

Now I need some kind of unifying subtitle. Not necessarily a series title, but a description for the shared world that can then go onto the cover and in the Kindle subtitle. Something like S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse or C. J. Cherryh’s Alliance–Union universe. Something that allows me to put “An XXX novel” as a subtitle both on the Sleeping Dragon, and on the Elven Lands Murders.

And that’s where I’m stuck. In these blog posts I’m calling it “the world of the Sleeping Dragon”, but that’s essentially a circular reference (I’m saying that the Sleeping Dragon is set in the world that the Sleeping Dragon is set in). What I really need is something that captures the essence of the setting (which I described in the first Sleeping Dragon blog post).

And so far, nothing’s come. 🙂

1This is in parallel with Sticks and Stones, book 2 in the West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency series, and the sequel to If Pigs Could Fly. At this point, I’m not sure which novel will be first out of the gates, but the smart money should be on Sticks and Stones given that it is 90% complete in first draft, even if the reason for it being paused on 90% is that it has metaphorically fallen at the final hurdle, that hurdle being how to make the damn ending work from a narrative point of view.

Upabove: Sleeping Dragon’s Decaying Jewel

Sleeping Dragon’s origins lie more than ten years in my past, to a weekend break my wife and I took to Venice back in the autumn of 2007. This was just three months after our wedding, but full disclose compels me to admit that this was the result not of some romantic gesture by me, but of an impulsive purchase of bargain flights by my wife on some last-minute type site.

I arrived with in possession of a degree of scepticism, but that scepticism was blown away by the reality of Venice. I found it both beautiful and inspiring, though not perhaps in the way it is commonly portrayed.

To me, Venice appeared akin to the clichéd English stately home, once grand, but now crumbling, with its once wealthy owners living amidst the faded grandeur of what had once been – but with Venice, this was repeated a hundred-fold. To take a trip along the Grand Canal is to take a trip past crumbling palace after crumbling palace, the peeling paint on the epic visages revealing that this is a place that was fabulously wealthy once, but now isn’t.

Somewhere during that visit, the vague dust cloud of ideas that had been orbiting my brain’s creative centre for several weeks began to coalesce into a rounded planet of an actual idea, that idea being the “fast-forwarded fantasy world” of Sleeping Dragon. And orbiting that planet of an idea was a satellite moon of a plot-point location: a Venice-like city that sat not in the sea but instead floated in the clouds.

Upabove.

This is what I wrote about Upabove in Chapter Twenty-Five of Sleeping Dragon:

Upabove was an obsolete relic that shone with the light of ages past; a name that conjured up images of wealth, intrigue, and decadence. It had been founded a little over three hundred years ago by a group of refugees fleeing the carnage brought by the Empire’s Great Succession War. Desperate, they’d set out by carpet across the Middle Sea towards the independent lands beyond; a destination far beyond the range of that era’s early and crude flying vehicles. Reaching safety would require them to ditch in the sea while their vehicles’ mana stores recharged, in carpets not designed for ditching.

Many refugees undertook those sorts of desperate journeys, and many were never seen again. But fate, chance, and geography smiled upon this particular group, for at the halfway point of their journey they encountered a unique and hitherto unsuspected anomaly: an area a mile or so across, around five thousand feet above the surface of the sea, in which the background level of mana was more than five times the standard. The downward progress of the charge needles in their carpets, which had been moving relentlessly towards zero, halted, and then reversed. The needles began to rise, and within hours were sitting at the top, fully charged. The refugees realised they were sitting atop some kind of flaw in the world’s mana field that leaked mana like a volcano leaks magma.

People with lesser ambition, or who were less blessed in imagination, would have waited until their carpets were fully charged, and then resumed their journey, thanking the gods and fate for the good fortune that had spared them a risky and possibly terminal ditching. But these were not such people. Instead, they took the older and slower carpets and lashed them together, building a temporary shelter for the children, the old, and the sick. Then a group sped back to the Empire, returning with supplies, building materials, and people. From those ramshackle beginnings they built a floating city that they called Upabove.

Upabove grew fabulously wealthy in its first two centuries. Its skilled magical artisans were able to use its high background mana level to create items that were both better and cheaper than those produced elsewhere; its position at the centre of the Middle Sea allowed skyships and carpets to travel directly across the sea rather than around its periphery, stopping at Upabove to recharge.

Upabove was never technically an independent state; in fact it was never a state at all, consisting legally of nothing more than a collection of skyships, tethered together. But its inhabitants used their wealth and power to gain a de facto independence, registering their floating palaces under a succession of flags of convenience with border principalities on the fringes of the Empire. They called their state a republic, and themselves merchant princes. But then, some hundred or so years ago, a series of advances in magical technology rendered Upabove obsolete. Improvements in mana storage and more efficient motors meant that skyships and carpets could now fly not hundreds of miles on a single charge, but thousands. And new techniques for magical item production allowed finer items to be crafted using far less mana.

On Upabove, little appeared to change. The merchant princes continued to party as decadently as before, but now the money was flowing outward, not inward. It was said by some that it had taken the inhabitants of Upabove two centuries to earn their fortunes but less than one century to squander them. Others joked that while Upabove was now bankrupt, its inhabitants would notice this only when the drinks tab ran out. Like a neglected gemstone, Upabove started to tarnish. The magnificent palaces, now old and their maintenance neglected, showed signs of rust under layers of peeling paint. Meanwhile, Upabove’s hard-earned quasi-independence grew fragile, maintained only by the inability of surrounding governments to agree on what its new status should be. People whispered of mortgage defaults and hostile takeovers, and talked of an invasion by stealth.

But through all of this, the merchant princes partied on. Upabove might have been a relic, and a bankrupt one at that, but it was still Upabove.

And it was still magnificent.

A little late on, when Dani arrives, I’m able to give a description of Upabove itself, in an infodump made possible by virtue of a talkative cabbie:

Upabove was built like a spinning top, albeit one made from hundreds of separate pieces that merely floated in formation, connected by a spider’s web of walkways. The “disc” consisted of a ring nearly half a mile in diameter, with a rounded outer surface sculpted to deflect the strong winds that blew at this altitude; and an inner surface terraced into gardens, balconies, and public walkways. Floating inside the ring were hundreds of separate buildings, some squat, others shaped like long, thin cigars set on end with their tops and bottoms extending far above and below the ring’s protected inner space.

At the centre of the “disc” was a long, thin needle that extended both further above the ring and further below than every other part of Upabove. At its bottom were clusters of docking ports, connected to which were more than a dozen large skyships, including the one that Dani had just arrived on. At the needle’s top, a forest of communication dishes and antennas sprouted. And somewhere in between was the long narrow platform of the cab rank, upon which Dani now found herself.

A line of carpets painted in yellow and black checkers floated next to the platform. Dani stepped carefully into the first of the waiting vehicles, which was piloted by a slightly chubby man just this side of unkempt. “Far Clouds Hotel, please,” she told the cabbie. “But could you take the long way? This is my first visit here and I’d like to see a bit of the place.”

“No problem love,” the cabbie told her. “I’ll take a loop around the hoop.” The man smiled, clearly pleased with the rhyme.

The carpet glided away, passing over the floating buildings that made up Upabove’s “disc”. The cab pilot started pointing out various features. “That building there, the one that looks like it’s covered in gold – that’s the casino. And see that group over there that form a square? That’s Founders’ Place, where the Opera House is.”

Dani looked further down, at the docking platforms below. “A friend of mine said her skyship was docking at Platform Twenty-Seven. Do you know which one of them that is?”

“Ain’t any of them, love. Twenty-seven’s over there.” The cab pilot hooked his thumb back at somewhere the other side of the central needle. “It’s not down there on the hub. It’s a private platform attached to one of the buildings on the eastern side. Think your friend must have got her numbers mixed up.”

“Really? I was pretty sure she said twenty-seven.”

“Yeah? Tell you what, I’ll show it to you.”

So that’s Upabove, inspired by Venice, but subtly different: not merely a floating Venice but instead a product of the World of Sleeping Dragon’s culture and technology. I hope it sounds intriguing, and if it does, please considering pre-ordering the Sleeping Dragon at the links below.

* * * * *

Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

* * * * *

The Cast of Sleeping Dragon: Dani

The cast of the Sleeping Dragon is an ensemble one, featuring five misfits bought together by circumstances beyond their understanding, who swiftly realise that only by working together can they work out just what the hell’s going on and, more importantly, just how the hell they can get out of it.

In this post we look at the woman who supplies the ensemble with a streetwise mix of skills and knowledge gained from a life lived in Empire City’s darker margins.

* * * * *

Dani fought her way out of a tough childhood spent in the care of the state after the death by overdose of her herb-addicted parents when she was still just a toddler. A loner, both by nature and circumstance, she now earns a living, albeit an illegal one, as a grifter. Not for her the cosh, or the rope and grapple: this is the Second Millennium of the Third Age and the tools she uses are somewhat more sophisticated.

Dani swung her pack off her shoulders and pulled a flat object out of one of its side pockets. It was a small, but highly powerful, portable oracle she’d got from Pete’s loaded up with a whole load of cutting edge software that she most definitely hadn’t got at Pete’s. She reached back into the pocket and pulled out an even smaller device that also hadn’t arrived on her person via any legitimate retail sales channel, plugged it into a port on the back of the oracle, then nodded at Blade.

Dani opened the oracle and ran up a general-purpose security-monitoring program available only to certified professionals in the security industry, and people like her. The screen, blank initially, gradually filled with a variety of icons of varied colours and shapes, each representing a particular device installed somewhere in the landscape before them.

“I’m guessing that means there’s stuff down there,” Blade whispered, nodding at the screen.

“Yeah.” Dani jabbed a finger from icon to icon, listing each type as she did so. “We’ve got line sensors here, forward looking motion detectors over there, a belt of general proximity stuff, and then some general comms gear. All pretty standard. Good quality. But standard.”

“Can you get us through it?”

Dani gave him a smile, then flexed her fingers. “Watch me.”

When we first meet Dani, she’s living a life she believes is the one she wanted.

The mark gave a smile and a wave as he caught sight of her. He stepped briskly up to the table and sat down, hand outstretched. “Ms Smidt,” he said to Dani, smiling. “Good to meet you in the flesh at last.”

Dani took the hand and gave it a good, firm shake. “Call me Johanna.” She tossed a twenty gold piece note onto the table and pointed towards the statue of Sir Ethelded. “How about we go and take a look at the goods?”

“You’re reading my mind,” said the mark, smiling. They walked across the paved expanse to the statue, stopping just in front of its polished marble plinth. Dani gave him some time to admire it. After a few seconds, the mark spoke. “It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

Dani nodded. “It is.” And to be fair, even covered in pigeon shit, it was.

“Hard to believe your bosses want to get rid of it.”

Dani leaned in, looking first left, and then right, as though checking that none of the sash-wearing old ladies could overhear. “Which is why the City Council is insisting on absolute discretion. There are still too many who don’t understand progress, who can’t see this statue for what it is: an obsolete symbol of a bygone age. They don’t see the shame in honouring a man who ethnically cleansed the East of orc, goblin, and beastman.”

The mark paused again, the expression of oily covetousness upon his face showing clearly that it was the vision of the statue set upon the front lawn of his new-money mansion that currently occupied his mind, and not the fate of any orc, goblin, or beastman. “Ms Smidt.”

“Please, call me Johanna.”

“Johanna. I want this statue. Now.”

Biting at the bait, thought Dani, time to start reeling him in. She waved a protesting hand. “This is a discreet process, not a secret one. There will be an auction. Sealed bids.”

The mark snorted. “Auctions can be talked about. Bids can be leaked. Do your bosses want this to happen or not?”

Reserved and suspicious as she is, Dani’s talents and strengths are not immediately obvious. But as time goes by, her companions comes to realise that she is someone they can rely on.

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Just for fun, I created some mocked up RPG-style character sheets for Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists. Here’s Dani’s:

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Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

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The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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