In Lush Valley, it’s a crime to even talk about dragons…
When Ezaara meets Zaarusha the Dragon Queen, she’s swept up in a blaze of emotion and they imprint, forming a deep bond. But she must give up her home, her family and everything she knows to become the new Queen’s Rider. Ignorant and unprepared, how can she possibly succeed?
Luckily, she has a dragon master — although rumors say that with help like his, maybe she’d be better off with the enemy.
Plunged into a world of cutthroat politics and traitors in every shadow, who can Ezaara trust as Commander Zens and his army of bestial tharuks march closer, destroying villages and enslaving the people of Dragons’ Realm?
What personal price must Ezaara and her Dragon Master pay to save their people?
The special price of 99 cents is only valid until 18 October 2018. Afterwards, Ezaara will be listed at $US 3.99. Click this linkto start your dragon riding adventure!
Then scroll down to get my free short story, Silver Dragon.
Ezaara has been a long time coming.
Nine years ago, I decided to write a book. When I began, the only thing I could see was the edge of a dragon’s multicolored wingtip. So I had to start asking questions.
Who does the wingtip belong to?
A dragon, Zaarusha, the Queen of Dragons’ Realm.
Who is seeing the wingtip?
A teenage girl, Ezaara, who isn’t even sure if dragons exist.
Where is she?
In a clearing in a forest.
What happens next?
She imprints with the dragon, forming a deep and everlasting bond. Ezaara is ripped out of her life in the sleepy backwater of Lush Valley, where it’s a crime to even talk about dragons, and plunged into a world of danger, deception and adventure.
Why does the dragon choose her?
Her mother has a dark and terrible secret that she’s hidden from Ezaara and her twin brother, Tomaaz. A secret that defines who they are. A secret that rips their family apart, throwing them into the jaws of malevolent enemies.
This story is brought to you compliments of the Summer Blog Hop. Feel free to visit the links at the bottom of this page and enjoy stories from many other authors.
If you like Suds and Scales, there are more of my fun dragon stories for kids in Dragon Tales.
Suds and Scales
“Get in that bath,” Mom insisted. “You’re dirtier than a worm in a mud puddle and smellier than dad’s gym shoes.”
I stomped into the bathroom and slammed the door. What was wrong with a bit of dirt? It was all natural, no additives and definitely no refined sugar – another thing Mom was always going on about. I was only going to get dirty again tomorrow.
Peeling off my sweaty socks, I tucked them in the cabinet behind the shampoo, instead of in the hamper. Hopefully Mom wouldn’t sniff them out – I only had one pair of socks in my team’s color and I needed them for my football game tomorrow.
Mom rapped on the door. “I can’t hear the water running.”
Sighing, I turned on the faucet.
“Use soap,” she called. “No cheating.”
I tipped some liquid soap into the bath. Soap was evil, but if I had to use it, I might as well have bubbles. When the water was deep and sudsy, I dumped my clothes on the floor and got in. Wrinkling my nose at the floral stench, I looked down. There were so many bubbles, I looked like a corpse-less ghost, or an alien with froth for a body.
“It’s not fair,” I moaned. “Why should I have to wash every day?”
The toilet seat clunked.
I turned so fast, a mini tsunami sloshed onto the floor.
Nothing was there – except the clothes I’d dropped and the water I’d spilt. Nothing that could’ve made the toilet clunk. And now my underpants were swimming happily in the aftermath of my tidal wave.
I lifted my right knee above the water and scrubbed it with the washcloth.
I whirled back. Oops, another flood.
Before my eyes, a long claw slid between the toilet seat and lid.
My heart thudded, like I was running for goal.
Two more claws reached over the edge. A scaly limb slithered out and flung the lid open with a crash. Another taloned limb grasped the seat. With a grunt, a dripping head emerged from the toilet!
“Whoa!” I yelled, as a little dragon clambered out and perched on the seat. It was green with baby-blue eyes and had an odd crest sticking up on its head. Luckily I had lots of bubbles or that dragon would have seen too much.
“I heard you yell,” called Mom. “What’s going on in there?”
Mom would really flip out if she saw this little guy. “Ah… I dropped the soap. That’s all.”
The dragon shook itself like a dog, spraying droplets everywhere. Dribbles splattered the mirror, ran down the walls, and landed on the towels. Yuck! Germy toilet water was all over the place. I eyed my towel on the rail. I’d have to remember to get myself a fresh one.
“What are you doing?” the dragon’s voice was tiny.
Had I heard right? Had it really spoken? “W-what did you say?”
“What are you doing? Is it fun?”
“Well, I’m getting clean, and no, it’s not fun. I hate it.”
“What’s that foamy white stuff? Does it taste good?”
“Depends if you like roses.” I picked up a handful of bubbles and blew them over the floor.
“I don’t know if I like roses.” The dragon leapt off the toilet, pouncing on the foam, its talons slithering across the slippery tiles. Its feet got tangled in my clothes, sending it tumbling. My undies flew up in the air and, as the little critter sat up, landed on its head. What a sight: baby-blue eyes peeping through the leg-hole of my dripping undies, its wee dragon body covered in soap suds.
“That was fun,” the dragon said, and leapt into my bath, the undies floating away.
“Aagh!” I jumped out, skidding on the floor, and landed in the mess. “No way, little guy. You’re dirty! You’ve been swimming in the grubby toilet.” I snatched my towel to cover my private parts, then realized, too late, that my towel was damp – with toilet water!
Rummaging in the cupboard, I dropped the filthy towel and tugged a fresh one around me.
The dragon was diving in the bath and thrashing among the soap suds, flinging bubbles around the room with its tail. “Can we play together? Are you coming back in?”
“But you’ve been in the toilet.”
It cocked its head. “Did you want to swim in the toilet too? There’s no foam, you won’t fit very well and the water’s colder. I like this warm water much better.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. The toilet is germy, so you’re dirty. You really need to wash.”
“Dirty? What’s that?”
“It means… never mind. You have fun in there for a few minutes.” I had to get the smelly toilet germs off me. I couldn’t get sick and let my team down tomorrow. Turning on the shower, I got in. Luckily the glass was frosted, so the dragon didn’t have a million-dollar view of me. I grabbed the soap and lathered it all over my body, scrubbing hard with a washcloth to make sure those germs were gone.
A small voice piped up, in the air above me. “Why is it raining inside?” The flying dragon tilted its head to stare at the ceiling. “There are no clouds in here.”
Except the thunder cloud over my head. How dare that pesky dragon peep while I was showering? The lathered soap protected me from view, but I used the washcloth too, just in case.
The dragon spied the shampoo bottle and bit it, squirting shampoo all over the shower walls.
“Hey!” I squealed.
“Sorry,” it yelped, and flew out of the shower, diving into the bath . A huge plume of water shot up, splashing the floor. Not again. There was enough water out there for an Olympic swimming event. Even enough to wash a dirty football team.
I scraped dribbles of pearly shampoo off the glass, collecting them in my palm. What a waste! Might as well use it. Mom would go nuts if all the shampoo was gone and I still had dirty hair.
In the middle of working the shampoo into my hair, those baby-blue eyes peeped over the top of the glass again.
“Would you wash my crest too?”
“Sure, in a minute.” That little dragon needed a thorough scrub all over to get rid of those poo-ey germs.
Mom knocked at the door. “Are you going to be much longer?”
The dragon dive-bombed the bath, splashing the walls and soaking the other towels on the rail.
“Are you using the shower and the bath at the same time?” Mom sounded way too curious.
I had to think fast. “I was so dirty, I need to shower and bath today.”
“At the same time?”
“Um… yeah. I’m scrubbing myself in the bath then rinsing in the shower.”
“Okay.” She sounded doubtful. “Remember to wash your hair.”
“Already done,” I called.
“Fantastic!” She sounded surprised. “But not too much longer, I still need some hot water for my shower.”
I breathed a sigh of relief as Mom’s footsteps went back down the hall. Drying myself, I pulled on clean underwear, shorts and a T-shirt from a hook on the back of the bathroom door. Luckily they were still dry.
But not for long. The dragon’s next splash soaked me from head to foot – with its filthy bathwater.
The dragon sat on the edge of the bath, its tail trailing in the water. “Will you wash my crest now?”
“Only if you stay there and don’t move while I get everything ready.”
The baby dragon bared its fangs and tugged its lips up. It was smiling – the weirdest but cutest smile I’d ever seen.
I pulled the plug out of the bath. The water – now an odd shade of brown – went down the drain with a huge slurp.
The dragon twitched, its eyes round. “Will it swallow me?”
A long exaggerated sigh hissed from my lips as I eyed dripping walls, shampoo smears, soaking towels and the ocean I was standing in. “Stay right where you are and you’ll be fine.”
The dragon froze on the edge of the bath, looking more like an ornate dragon fountain than an animal. I could imagine water spouting from its mouth at any moment.
I ran more warm water into the bath. When I turned around, the dragon was balanced on the toilet seat, drinking water from the bowl.
“No. Don’t! It’s dirty!”
“There’s that word again. What does dirty mean?”
“It means that water may make you sick.”
The dragon’s eyes widened in alarm. “I don’t want to get sick.”
“Here, I’ll help you.” I grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste and cleaned the dragon’s fangs. “You have to take care of your health,” I said. “You can’t just drink any old water.” I rolled my eyes – I sounded just like Mom.
I turned off the bath faucet and, when I looked again, the dragon’s tail was curled around my toothbrush. It stamped on the toothpaste tube to squeeze out some more.
I laughed, until it flew towards me, toothbrush still in its tail.
Clamping my mouth shut, I turned my head away, so the dragon couldn’t brush my teeth with the grubby brush it had just used for its toilet-water-drinking teeth.
“I’m fine, thanks. You can keep that brush. It’s a gift, just for you.” I grabbed a new brush out of the cabinet, hurriedly smeared it with what was left of the toothpaste, and brushed my teeth.
The dragon brushed its fangs. Afterwards, I put my new brush safely in the cabinet, so it wouldn’t end up in the dragon’s clutches.
Then I popped the dragon in the bath and soaped it well. I even shampooed its crest. I scrubbed the creature’s hide with a soft nail brush. It purred happily, turning a lighter shade of green. The water turned dark gray, not clean enough for rinsing.
Pointing to the shower, I said, “Fly around in the rain for a while, while I clean up.”
I used the wet towels to mop up the floor and walls, and rinsed the shampoo off the shower walls. Then I gathered all the sopping gear and dropped it into the bath with a satisfying squelch.
The dragon flew out of the shower, rubbing its body against a freshly-hung towel, then flitted around the room. I tossed its towel into the bath, too. I was still damp, but the bathroom was cleaner than before.
A deep rumble issued from the toilet.
The dragon’s eyes shot wide open. “Ooh! That’s Mom calling me for dinner!” It perched on my shoulder and gave me a minty-toothpaste kiss! “I’ll be back tomorrow, so we can play again.” It grabbed my old toothbrush in its talons and dived into the toilet with a splash.
I dashed over and peered into the bowl. There was nothing there.
Mom knocked on the door. “Did you hear that thunder? I think there’s a storm brewing.”
“I’m done. You can come in.”
She opened the door and her jaw fell open. “Oh! You’re clean! And you’ve cleaned up after yourself. You’ve done such a good job, I’ll make you a hot chocolate.”
“Um, I’ve already brushed my teeth.”
Mom was speechless, except for a quiet, “Wow.” She swept the towels and dirty laundry out of the bathtub.
“Oh, Mom, I think you forgot these.” I reached into the cabinet and took out my smelly socks. “I’ll need them for my game tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” she said, her eyebrows raised, as if she couldn’t believe her luck. “I’ll do the laundry right away.” She marched out, leaving a trail of drips behind her.
Outside, thunder rumbled through the sky. Was that what I’d heard? Or had there really been a dragon growling in the toilet, a moment ago? Maybe I’d imagined it. Mom was always telling me I had an over-active imagination.
As I left the bathroom, I picked up a washcloth Mom must’ve dropped. Something wet glinted against the fabric. I looked closer.
Today I had fun at the Writers Plot & Readers Read Midwinter Book Festival. Writers Plot is a cool bookstore in Upper Hutt that only stocks books by kiwi authors They invited me to read some of my dragon books and bring along my dragon costume.
Well, if I’m going to bring a dragon costume, why not wear it?
And if I’m going to wear a costume, why not do my hair too?! (Luckily, one of my best buddies is into creating wacky multi-colored dragon hair, so we gave it a whirl! Yes, I flinched whenever I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror for the first day!)
AND, if you’re going to wear one costume, why not stay up late the night before, making an extra costume for the kids, too? (I swear there was no cursing at the sewing machine, at all, when the foot dropped off and the fabric bunched because I’d forgotten that I needed a special microtex needle! And no mutterings of, “giving up in ten stupid minutes, if I can’t get this silly machine working!” But I did sigh in relief when after an hour’s struggle, the machine suddenly hummed. An hour or two later, the kid’s costume was born!)
At the festival, we dived into the word of Dragons’ Realm —A You Say Which Way Adventure, where a dragonet sings off-tune, farts chocolate wrappers and pines for its mother! Of course that’s not the only story in Dragon’s Realm. In this book, You Say Which Way the story goes, so you can discover all sorts of adventures in one book —22 to be exact.
Of course, the kids got to choose at every decision point and my lovely assistant (dressed in the kid’s dragon costume) awarded them with blood stains or medals for their efforts. It was loads of fun, with kids joining in and even teenagers eye-rolling at all the manure jokes! These kids chose a long and involved story with lots of action, adventure and opportunities to ride (you guessed it) dragons!
After the festival was over, we had the chance to snap a few photos and enjoy cos-playing dragon attacks! My books flew off the sales table! Everyone loves dragons — and adventure. With four dragon books to choose from, there was something to suit all types of reader — pulse-pounding adventure and plenty of laughs with Attack on Dragons’ Realm and Dragons’ Realm; fun and frolics with Dragon Tales; laughs with Fangtastic Dragon Jokes & Clawsome Limericks; and interactive fiction with Mystic Portal and Dragons’ Realm.
I was thrilled to meet Ben Spies, who wrote his first novel, Weirdo, at nine years old, and his next The Magic Pencil at ten! Ben is now twelve and still writing up a storm. The kids in his workshop loved his book and enjoyed his insights. It’s inspiring for them to see someone so young and already published!
A big shout out to Writers Plot owners, Cat and Caro, for doing such a great job. It’s well worth a trip to Upper Hutt to see their great selection of kiwi books for kids, teens and adults. They also have an online store, so if you’d like one of my paperbacks, you can shop here, or contact me here.
I love my publisher, The Fairytale Factory. They’re always keen to try new things! Their latest idea was to update the cover of Mystic Portal – A You Say Which Way Adventure.
I’ve seen kids reading this book in various places around Wellington lately, and it always tickles me pink when they come up to me and tell me their favourite endings. They Say Which Way the story goes! Fun freedom and adventure, and every time they read it, the story’s different.
They say each new jump leads to another world. You and your friends can’t wait to try it! Will you ride a camel? Fight bandits? Meet Bog the ogre? Or end up in an underwater city? Whatever you choose, watch out for mad genies, suspicious merchants and one-eyed creatures with orange fur.
I hope your Christmas was merry and bright, and that your New Year started off with a positive bang or a relaxing sleep-in, whichever you preferred!
What Christmas tales do I have to tell? My family had a great Christmas. I usually take my kids ( and a few tag-alongs) camping before Christmas while our favourite camping spot is bright, sunny and relatively deserted. Luckily, I have a fantastic friend who is always game to come with me!
This year we arrived home on the afternoon of the 23rd of December, tanned, tired and with a terribly-full car to unpack: 4 mountain bikes, 3 tents, & mountains of camping gear. After swimming, biking, mooching around the campfire and cooking all our woodsmoke-flavoured meals , we were ready to relax, but, no! The gear had to be unpacked.
It does mean that Christmas Day itself is very relaxed because everyone already feels like they’ve had a great Christmas adventure! The long summer holidays can be spent doing other fun things, like writing and day trips!
So I’ve been flat out (haven’t we all?) but wanted to let you know that I recently had two articles feature on Holly Lisle’s international writing school blog. Both articles are about The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, a highly successful anthology that I co-edited and Phantom Feather Press (published in 2014).
If you open door number one, you’ll find a very special Christmas story from me. I’m happy to be part of this Christmas Advent Calendar, created by Katharina Gerlach, a German author who has written over sixty books!
Each year, for the 25 days leading up to Christmas, I get the stories in my inbox from all over the world. These are a great way to get in the Christmas spirit. Feel free to Share this calendar and spread the joy of Christmas across the world.
The Big Book Bash is a book festival for kids and teens , featuring many Wellington and Wairarapa children’s and Young Adult (YA) authors. It’s all happening this weekend on December 2nd in Carterton.
There’s fabulous line-up of well-known NZ authors, music, workshops and a carnival atmosphere. Libraries, schools, newspapers & radio stations are talking about it, the local book community is excited, and it’s going to be fun.
In my workshop, You Say Which Way – Create a Sci-Fi or Fantasy Story, I’ll be taking youth on an adventure in the world of interactive fiction. We’ll journey through exciting worlds, making choices that shape the reader’s experience. They’ll start a science fiction or fantasy adventure of their own.
During New Zealand Book Week, I had a great visit to Hataitai School, (with my rainbow-feathered top hat). 120 kids crammed themselves into a classroom, like teens getting cozy at a rock concert (minus the screaming). They were packed so tight, I urged them a little closer, until they were literally at my feet.
Teachers wanted them to know about life as an author. For 40 minutes they quizzed me about everything from, ‘What’s it like to be famous?’ to ‘Have you ever seen a dragon?’ (of course, I have 4 at home) and ‘Do you find The Hero’s Journey useful for plotting?’. These kids were really switched on about creative writing. Among the fun and laughter, I awarded them many medals and bright red felt bloodstains for creativity in questioning.
Writing is about lots of choices—genre, settings, magic systems, world rules, characters and plots. To give them practise, we decided they could make choices while I read them a You Say Which Way adventure.
Their first choice: Dragons’ Realm or Mystic Portal?
From the flurry of hands for Mystic Portal, there was great support for a magic mountain bike adventure where every jump takes you to a new exciting world and adventure.
But what is it about dragons that appeals to many readers? Every hand in the room shot up for Dragons’ Realm.
You are the main character in You Say Which Way adventures. This book opens with bullies chasing you into Dragon’s Realm—a world of dragons, adventures and magic. At one stage, a bully leaps out from a behind a tree and yells, “Gotcha!”
I’m a trained singer and got a bit enthusiastic so, in the heat of the moment, my “Gotcha!” suddenly came out as “GOTCHA!” The girl sitting at my feet leapt, arms flying. Startled movement rippled right to the back of the room. Talk about ‘jump scare’ city. I think I even frightened myself!
I had to laugh. All the students and teachers did too. We awarded the student who got the biggest fright a bloodstain as compensation. When the laughter died down, we continued reading.
While developing their You Say Which Way brand of interactive fiction, The Fairytale Factory have done a lot of research in classrooms. They found that kids generally like to make ‘the right’ choice. A choice that won’t hurt others or get them into trouble in the real world.
However, these kids at Hataitai were on a mission. Through their choices, they had the opportunity to pay a bully back, big time. And they took it.
The teachers’ eyes flew open as I read on, but then they smiled when everyone found out that bad choices have consequences.
Of course, we had to play the ‘what would have happened if… ‘ game, so we went back and saw how heroically saving the bully paid off. And yes, in this story, it really pays off!
Doors for NZ Book Week
As part of NZ Book Week, Hataitai School disguised their classroom doors to look like their favourite books, and asked me to judge their fabulous creations. This blog post shows off their work.
While visiting Hataitai School during Book Week recently, I was asked to judge a competition. The whole school had disguised their classroom doors (for NZ Book Week) to look like their favourite books. What a tough decision. All the doors were fabulous. The students put in fantastic effort. Here are a few of my favourites.
Doors for NZ Book Week – 1st place
The Lorax won first place with it’s bright colourful landscape and three-dimensional fluffy truffula trees, which also grew down the hallway! There are photos of the kids all over the grass, each holding mini truffula trees. To be honest, the photos and giant truffula trees really sealed the deal, because 2nd, 3rd and 4th place-getters were so close! Brilliant job! Over the top!
Doors for NZ Book Week – 2nd place
Fox in Sox, another Dr Seuss book, was also one of my favourites, winning 2nd place. Students had made bright fluffy socks, decorated with wool and pompoms. Their funky socks were pegged on washing lines, with fluffy clouds floating over head, making it look like Fox’s washing day. Well done. I love it!
Doors for NZ Book Week – 3rd place
Third place went to The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, a book that’s special to me because I lived in Switzerland when it was published in 1992. This class went to the extra effort of decorating the windows and door. These photos really don’t do their work justice! They were much more colourful in real life. Great work. (I first heard it read aloud from a special Swiss-German edition, and it has since been published all over the world and made into a TV series).
Doors for NZ Book Week – honourable mention for creativity & attention to detail
It looks like a normal wardrobe, but when you open it, a world of adventure awaits you and there’s a familiar solitary lamppost shining in the darkness. Yes, it’s Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This door was brilliant, and battled for a placing. Creative, sophisticated art.
The Secret Garden is blooming beautifully in this classroom! What a vibrant range of colour and shapes as flowers of all species spout in this window. A lovely job.
Poor Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne) has got himself into a sticky mess—yet again! I loved the sign, which reads, DO NOT DISTURB — HONEY TIME! Great work team!
The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle was a great team effort by a junior class. The caterpillar’s body segments have each been hand painted, and kids have made all of his favourite foods. He’s a very lucky caterpillar indeed. (The sunny day meant that this little caterpillar had crawled into the shade, so I couldn’t photograph him properly). Good job!
More Doors for NZ Book Week
A Door for Every Book!
This last door includes a whole library of art (left to right, top to bottom): The Day the Crayons Quit, The Three Little Pigs, Fantastic Mr Fox, Lord of The Rings & The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Witches Field Day.
Reading Dragons’ Realm Live – Bloodstains and Roaring!
My visit to Hataitai School as part of NZ Book Week also involved quadrillions of questions from keen literary minds, lots of bloodstains (but none on the floor), and some load roaring! Along the way, the students had the say! Click here to find out more!