Saturday, June 29, 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019

Dramatis Personae for The Iron Dragon's Mother


I am still promoting the heck out of my just-published novel. Don't worry, though. This blog will back to the normal variety and silliness soon.

Today's promo tidbit is a list of named characters who appear in The Iron Dragon's Daughter.

Dramatis Personae
the Anonymous Everyhaint
Lieutenant Anthea
Missy Argent

the Baldwynn
Barquentine of House Pleiades
Prince Benthos
Bessie Long Gone

Caitlin of House Sans Merci
Clever Gretchen
the Croaker

Dahut merc’h Gradlon
the Dark Lady
the Demiurge
the Dowager San Merci

Echloë, Syrinx of House Syrinx
Counselor Edderkopp
Elektra, daughter of Olympia, daughter of Hephaesta, of the line of Hekate
Enna of the Bright Eyes, Blind Enna

Wing Commander Firedrake
Annable Frowst

Kate Gallowglass
King Gradlon

Annie Hedgewife
Helen V.
Aurvang Hogback  
Hot-Box Hannah

Innocent Jenny
Lady Jane Iron


Ana Kashalyi

Will le Fey

Meririm Phosphoros
Missy Tibbs
Mistress Nobody
Mother Eve

Fata Narcisse of House Syrinx
Nettlesweet Underwood

Olympia, daughter of Hephaesta, of the line of Hekate


Quicksilver of House Lunaire

Rabbit of House Oneiros

Lord Sans Merci
Slugabed Peg

Lolly Underpool


Zmeya-Gorynchna, of the line of Zmeya-Goryschena, of the line of Gorgon


I've tried to play fair with this, but inevitably some characters will appear under more than one name, one or two are only referred to (only the most important, though, I've weeded the list of a lot of off-stage names), and I may have shorted one or two characters who are referred to only by their titles. This should give you an idea of the cast of characters, though.

This was culled from a much longer list of proper names and odd words which I assembled for the proofreader. I'm considering combining that list with the lists for the other two Dragon novels and posting the results here.

And Speaking of the Image Book . . .

The caption on the left-hand page reads Not this novel but the next. Which means I hadn't discovered the bridges yet. There are bridges in the novel and they matter.

The lower right hand image on the photo above comes from the New York Times, of all places, and shows dancers at the Folies Bergère, of all places. Or it might be the Moulin Rouge. It hardly matters which. All that matters is the Dance of Life and the Goddess, unnoticed, behind and beneath it all.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dahut merc'h Gradlon


This one is a genuine discovery. It's a first glimpse of Dahut merc'h Gradlon, who plays a significant role in The Iron Dragon's Daughter. The picture captures a lot of her personality, I think. She's everything a tragic heroine should be--beautiful, willful, and absolutely unreasonable. Also, ultimately and unexpectedly, noble.

Should I have said spoiler alert?

The page opposite her was left blank because, well, who could stand up to Dahut?

Above: The Iron Dragon's Daughter is on the stands. But I'm going to keep posting the Image Book until it reaches the end.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Enter the Audiobook


Look what came in the mail today. Apparently, the audiobook of The Iron Dragon's Mother is being published simultaneously with the print book.

The Dragonstairs Press rug is delighted with it. You will be too.

And from the Image Book

Caption: Annise? (She looks like her)

This is a doctored fashion shot, most likely from The Wall Street Journal. As for the name... It took me forever to get the names of the female dragon pilots (besides Caitlin there are only a dozen) right. Annise ultimately became Fiona (of whom Ysault once said, "Fiona is a pill and a spazz") when I decided they should all have Irish names.

Above: The Iron Dragon's Mother is on the stands! And I'm continuing with the images from the Image Book until the whole thing is complete.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Accidental Trilogy

Today I am officially in print again! The Iron Dragon's Daughter is my tenth novel, and I'm here to tell you that it doesn't get old.

To celebrate this happy event, I've written an essay explaining how it all came about. As follows:

My Accidental Trilogy

A quarter century ago, I was driving to western Pennsylvania with my wife, Marianne Porter, and our young son Sean to visit family there. Sean was in the back seat, occupied in a book or handheld video game. Marianne and I were talking about fantasy literature and then about steam locomotives. I made a joke about the Baldwin Steam Dragon Works and Marianne laughed.

A mile or two down the road, I said, “Write that down for me, would you?”

Thus was born The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. Once I had the notion of dragons being built in a factory, like so many locomotives, it was a small step to imagining a changeling child laboring therein under Dickensian conditions. The child I named Jane, because that was a common name among Elizabethan English witches. Already, I had a situation and a protagonist. All I needed was a plot. Escape was the obvious choice and a dragon the obvious means for, unlike locomotives, dragons can fly.

By the time we got to Pittsburgh I had a good idea of the story.

Jane Alderberry was a great protagonist. She had all the weaknesses of the young. She let her friends mislead her, she fell in love too easily, she made every mistake she could possibly make. But she had grit. Every time life smashed her flat—and it did, repeatedly—she got right back up and tried something new. At the novel’s end, as a kind of reward for her service, I restored Jane to the world she came from, ours. I gave her the one thing she wanted more than anything else, the freedom to live her own life whatever way she wished.

The Iron Dragon’s Daughter was a popular book. Inevitably, people asked me if there would be sequels.

The idea horrified me.

I had rescued Jane from a world where she did not belong and could find no place for herself and given her a life of her own. To have her wake up one morning to discover herself restored to Faerie seemed to me the essence of cruelty.

I just couldn’t do that to her.

Fast forward roughly fifteen years. An editor who was putting together an anthology of dragon stories asked me to contribute to it. Specifically, he wanted an iron dragon. Long ago, I realized that my imagination will not perform on command. “I’ve learned to ride the wind,” I would say. “But I can’t tell it where to go.” So I fobbed him off with a promise to write a story if I could, knowing it was extremely unlikely.

A day later, the image popped into my head of a boy running to the top of a hill to watch a squadron of dragons pass overhead. When I was young, a dirigible flew low over my neighborhood in Schenectady, engines thundering, and I ran after it, watching it dwindle, until I had to stop from exhaustion. So I knew how that felt.

I sat down to write the scene and the scene turned into a story which I realized was the first chapter of a novel. One of the dragons is brought down by a basilisk. Wounded and unable to fly, it crawls into the boy’s village and declares itself king. The events triggered by this act will send Will le Fey (for that is the boy’s name) into the outer world and, ultimately, to the Tower of Babel, where he might or might not be the rightful king.

When I began work on The Dragons of Babel, I had no idea whether it existed in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter or not. The two books had no characters or locations in common. Even the names of the gods were different, though at the head of each pantheon was the Goddess. Only she and the dragons were the same. Ultimately, I decided that it did no harm for the books to be in the same world (though, presumably, on different continents) and would please those who had read The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. So I brought Jane back—not from our world but from an earlier period of her life, when she was behaving very badly—for a brief cameo appearance. Just as a small treat, an Easter egg, for those who had read the earlier novel.

To my surprise, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter had been characterized by reviewers as an “anti-fantasy” because it challenged many of the assumptions of genre fantasy. This had never been my intent. But, the idea having been placed into my head, in The Dragons of Babel I set out to upend the standard model of fantasy in as many ways as possible while still delivering its traditional pleasures. There is, for example, an absent king but, his absence being the basis of his country’s prosperity, a restoration is not to be desired. The helpful strangers who form a “family” around the questing protagonist turn out to have their own agendas. Above all, the naïve country boy is as smart as a whip. Will is forever seeing traps the author has set for him and refusing to fall for them. Which made more work for me but also, I hope, a more satisfying read.

I brought the novel to a conclusion, and that was that. 


One fantasy novel is a book. Two fantasy novels set in the same world are an unfinished trilogy. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an idea for a third novel. In the first, Jane doesn’t belong in Faerie and can’t find a place in it. In the second, Will does belong and his task is to find that place. So I had thesis and antithesis (as they long ago taught me at the College of William and Mary). Where the hell could I find a synthesis?

Ten years passed. I grew older and, as a consequence, found myself more and more visiting friends and relatives in hospitals, physical rehab centers, and nursing homes. As a writer, I felt the obligation to observe and describe these venues. But the thing about such places is that they are deliberately bland. All the colors are vague, the sounds muted, the textures soft, the smells anodyne. There is nothing there to upset you or make you feel for an instant alive.

At last I thought of how my mother, who loved strong colors, painted all her house’s walls beige because she was a Sunday artist and needed a neutral background for her bright oils. All the color and character, I realized, would have to come from within a woman trapped in a hospital room by impending death and raging all the way down. An old woman. One who, like Jane in The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, has a plan to escape.

During that same decade, I lectured to a class or two at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. (Such odd opportunities pop up occasionally if you’re a writer. Particularly if you don’t insist on being paid.)  I found myself seriously impressed by the female midshipmen. They appeared to be deadly-serious, fiercely-driven, near-humorless, and very, very tightly wound—which is to say, close to everything I am not. I found myself thinking that one of them would make an interesting protagonist for a story. A dragon pilot, perhaps.
It was only when I put the two women together that I realized I had the makings of a novel. Specifically, a novel about mothers and daughters.

All the women I have ever known have had complicated relationships with their mothers. Even those who think of their mother as their best friend—and I have known at least one such in my lifetime—would not describe the relationship as “simple.” Half the people in the world have been, at some point in their lives, mothers or daughters. So it seemed a logical subject for a novel. Particularly one with dragons.

So I began to write what was originally going to be called Mother of Dragons. (The success of a certain fantasy series and HBO show by George R. R. Martin, made the Khaleesi Daenerys’s title so well-known I had to retitle the book or else look like I was trying to catch a ride on George’s popularity.) The Iron Dragon’s Mother is a stand-alone novel. So are the other two books. 

People have asked me what order the books should be read in. The answer is that it all depends on where you want them to end. There certainly is no chronological order. Time is strange in Faerie. So far as I can tell, the novels occur pretty much simultaneously. So while Jane is busily flunking Alchemy 101 in college, Will is rescuing a little girl named Esme from a lubin and two stickfellas, and Caitlin of House Sans Merci has just stolen a motorcycle and is going dangerously fast down a road toward a destiny she cannot foresee.

There is a good reason the three novels are not sequential. Which is that it took me twenty-five years to write them. Imagine if, taken together, they had told one story, rather than exploring and expanding upon a single world. Picture to yourself the exasperation with which an early reader of The Iron Dragon’s Daughter would pick up a copy of The Iron Dragon’s Mother. “At last!” she would snort, and settle down grumpily to see if it had all been worth the wait. Which no book could possibly be. I couldn’t do that to her.

The Lord of the Rings, or rather its first volume, turned me into a writer in a single night, back when I was sixteen.  Tolkien finished it in a mere nineteen years—six less than mine took me. But, of course, he had the advantage of knowing he was writing something very long, a trilogy. 

Mine caught me by surprise.

And from the Image Book . . .

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, is being published today. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the novel.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Tomorrow is Publication Day!


Tomorrow is Publication Day for The Iron Dragon's Mother! It has literally been years since my last novel, so this is a big deal for me.

I'll be celebrating publication tomorrow with an essay explaining how I came to write what I call My Accidental Trilogy." Today, I have two pages from the Image Book.

On the right-hand page are two pictures I put together to help imagine Bessie Long Gone. They aren't literal representations, I hasten to emphasize. Bessie is an albino and no one's going to carrying that much gold in a hobo jungle. Not for very long, anyway.

But, inside, Bessie Long Gone is a warrior.

Written below the image is: Hobo Queen. There's also a crude sketch in the right-hand corner of the holey stone, annotated first use of the stone.

The text on the left-hand page reads:

The persecution has moved on to your co-conspirators. 

Wait. My what?

Saoirse. [Names]  Others are suspected.

Wait a minute. Why only women? Why not men?

The males all passed their virginity tests. The women... well. Rumor is a writ of [illegible] is being sworn out against them all.

Readers will be pleased to learn that the persecution later moved on to the men as well. At that time I had not yet established that Saoirse, Caitlin, and the other eleven pilots were the first female graduates from the Academy. So, as it turned out, there were not enough available women to limit a full-scale persecution to them.

At the bottom, with an arrow pointing to Bessie Long Gone are the words: This is my war, not yours. My plot & no business of yours.

As events turned out, Bessie never got to give that speech. I don't think those are sentiments she would have agreed with anyway. She would have expected every woman in the jungle to do her duty as Bessie saw it.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 1 day. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.




Here's a rarity: a page from the Image Book with no images.

Just in case you can't read my handwriting--and there are at least three people in this world who cannot--the text is as follows:

"Do you know who to tell a story?"
"How, yes. But all my stories are old."
"I'll provide the words. You sell them."

... "Courage," Helen said. "Don't slouch."

A little offended, for she had never slouched in her life, Cat took her mark at the focus of her audience and clapped her hands briskly for silence.

Esme serves as the musician


Esme looks at the locomotive's workings: "It can't be fixed."
--"How would you know?"
--"I know lots of things." (shrugs)

[Peregrine is a great elf-name]

The dying locomotive wants to speak to her Dragon & to be shriven


Her price: Tell me something I need to know

Second request...
Esme says: Tell her something she wants to know.

And my commentary . . .

The first section is early notes for the scene in the hobo jungle where Caitlin (now Cat) tells the first trickster tale of Mother Eve. As eventually written, it was performed without music.

The second half is interesting because I'd forgotten that originally I planned to have the locomotive die. The encounter plays out quite differently in the final book. NO LOCOMOTIVES WERE KILLED IN THE MAKING OF THIS NOVEL.

Esme is being her usual enigmatic self.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 2 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.



Yet another weekend went by without my posting. My bad. I had work to do and I didn't do it. I lazed about all weekend and accomplished nothing. At least I feel guilty about that today. Sort of.

The collage is titled Musician

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 3 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Four Days to Go!


The Iron Dragon's Mother will be published on Tuesday! That's only four days away. I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a dozen things at once. I've written introductions to books, I've got stories scheduled in Asimov's Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and at least one anthology, and there are a couple of essays out there as well. There are other remarkable projects in the works as well.

None of which I can talk about right now. Ironically enough, it's when I'm at my most productive that  I have the least news to impart. And, as a rule, vice versa.
And from the Image Book . . .

A leaf. Also a picture, the only one, of Cat and Helen together. This is not a literal depiction, remember. It's more like a snapshot of their souls during a moment of particular stress. But there's truth to it.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 4 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Yoshio Kobayashi (1961-2019)


Yoshio Kobayashi is dead.

(Here, I must pause for a time to grieve. This is not a literary flourish; I really do mean this.)

I only met Yoshio the once, I think, in a food court at a Worldcon. He was with his wife Mika and their daughter, who was chowing down on some fast food at the time and, as young children won't, didn't respond to being introduced to me. So Mika, embarrassed, put a hand to the back of her head and pushed it down into a bow.

My son was about the same age as her daughter, so I identified perfectly. My heart went out to her.

As for Yoshio, he was everywhere in the 1980s and translating into Japanese close to the best of everybody in new-and-happening science fiction. The Locus obituary mentions Greg Bear, Bruce Sterling, Lucius Shepard, Lewis Shiner, and, well, me. We were none of us marquee names back then and he didn't treat us as such. He treated us as people who were doing the kind of cool work that he wanted to see published in Japan.

I, for one, was immensely flattered. His admiration was as good as any award. Others were, too, I think. I know that his name was slipped into at least a half-dozen stories and novels by various writers. 

Locus tells me that  "He translated for Japanese publishers includingShueisha and Hayakawa, and fo magazine Hayakawa SF. He taught translation for many years in Tokyo and Sooporo, inspiring generations to share his passion, and founded award-winning Japanese fanzine Palantir in 1981.

Most of all, he was a kindred spirit to the Eighties generation that was remaking science fiction, both those he translated and those he would have loved to. Whoever it is we are, he was one of Us.

Most of you never heard of him. Only a few of you ever met him. All of you are the poorer for his passing.

Godspeed, Yoshio. May the afterlife be good to you.

And in hte Image Book . . .

As my scrawl says, that's a Fox Spirit. Fox spirits come from Japanese mythology, so that seems a tidy bit of synchronicity. Synchronicity was considered very hip in the Eighties. So that's apt too.

And like it says below . . .

In only five days The Iron Dragon's Mother will be published! Five!! That's less than six!!!

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 5 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The New Prometheus


The Mongolian Wizard has a son... and he's a very dangerous individual indeed.

I'm back in e-print again! has posted "The New Prometheus," the ninth chapter in the Mongolian Wizard series. In this episode, Ritter faces an opponent unlike any he has ever encountered.

There are projected to be twenty-one Mongolian Wizard stories in all, and I'm currently at work on the next two. So we're closing in on the halfway mark

Of this particular story, I will only say that I am quite pleased with it. I hope you will be too.

You can read "The New Prometheus" here. Or you can simply go to and poke around. They have many articles and stories that you're likely to enjoy.

And over in the Image Book . . .

This picture came from a surprisingly legitimate source, possibly the New York Times' periodic fashion magazine. The text to the side says Centauress and the scrawl beneath reads She put on the minotaur mask. Now she was half woman and half someone who didn't give a fuck what anybody thought. Which seems to me half the reason for donning a mask in the first place.

If you could see my house, you'd know I have a thing for masks (the animal skulls are Marianne's). And pretty much all fantasists have a thing for half-human human-animal creatures.They come crawling out of the unconscious bearing a load of mystery and undeciphered meaning.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in only 6 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Only A Week To Go!


It feels sometimes like I've been waiting for years for The Iron Dragon's Mother to be published. Because I literally have. If you throw in all that went into it's making, I've been waiting for a good quarter-century.

Now it's only a week away.

And up above . . .

Text: The Divider of the Ways

It isn't very often that someone is vouchsafed a vision of the Goddess, even in Faerie. This is one such, though in one of Her lesser avatars.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 7 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Another Ten Best Dragon Book List


Pictured above is one of Anne McCaffrey's dragons. Her dragons and mine have very little in common. Though the artist of the original cover of The Iron Dragon's Mother was very obviously told to make it look as much like one of her dragons as possible--and, so far as I can tell, nothing more about the novel at all. Which is why the cover shows a human figure that could be either male or female lying face-down in a forest glade, possibly sleeping and possibly wounded, in a kind-medievelish outfit but maybe contemporary with a gracile green dragon crouching either protectively or menacingly over the figure. (All credit to the artist for making the most of a vague assignment.)

But today I have something in common with Ms. McCaffrey. We're both on a list of the Ten Best Dragon Novels on The Portalist, which is the website for Open Road Media.  Since The Iron Dragon's Daughter ebook is published by Open Road, I'm guessing the rest are as well.

No matter. It's a Ten Best list and those are always fun to argue with. I personally think that R. A. McAvoy's Tea With the Black Dragon is an excellent choice. It's quirky, fun to read, and above all original. On the other hand, on the other hand, one book I would definitely kick off the list is...

Oh, come on. You didn't seriously think I was going to tell you that? I have to live in this field.

You see and argue with the list here.

And meanwhile, back at the Image Book . . .

Text: The Dowager (two candids) and Segundis

Those are not very flattering pictures of the Dowager, though they do capture a fraction of her glamour and her spite. She is a lot nastier and more dangerous than she ever lets show.

I have no idea what I meant by Segundis.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 8 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

It's Father's Day!


Today is Father's Day which, for me, is Son's Day. Many years ago, the midwife handed a small and perfect baby to Marianne. Then, after Marianne had cuddled and marveled for a time, Heather (that was the midwife's name), picked him up again and, turning to me, said, "Do you want to hold him?"
I was young and stunned--how often do you get to be present for a miracle?--and didn't want to be in the way, so I said, "Oh, no, that's okay."
"Take your son, Michael!" Heather said, and thrust the infant into my arms.
I looked down at Sean and he looked up at me. He was born curious and looked oupon all he saw with calm interest. And, looking into his eyes, I thought, "Someday, my son, you will grow up and turn me into an old man and then I'll die. But that's all right. It's a small price to pay for having you in the world."
This was not a writerly notion. It was what I actually thought and what I honestly felt. It's what I still think and feel.
So, Happy Son's Day, Sean! I loved you the instant I set eyes on you, and I've loved you ever since.

And from the Image Book . . .

The caption reads: Helen V. (Publicity Photo)
Okay, that's actually Lauren Bacall, and it's doubtful that Helen V. ever looked that good. But it captures some of the intensity and seriousness and (but I may be reading this into the photo) hidden sense of humor that Helen V. has.
Presumably, she told the photographer to make her look good. I hope he got a bonus for that particular session.

Top above: Las year's Google Doodle for Father's Day. Credit where it's due, Google makes the world a better place by commissioning such things.
Middle above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 9 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


Saturday's Blog Post


Again, this is a day late.

Shown above is Chateau Sans Merci, a major locale in The Iron Dragon's Mother. As I keep saying, these are impressions rather than representations. Here's how the chateau where Caitlin was raised is described in the novel:

Château Sans Merci was situated in the fold of the valley where graceful hills shaped like a giantess’ thighs met in a bosky thicket. Against this verdant backdrop, the dome and orange roof tiles of the château gleamed in the sun. The formal gardens surrounding the manor house, Caitlin knew from experience, swarmed with dragonflies, humblebees, fairies, and wasps. Not far below, the Amberwine emptied into a small artificial lake with a marble shrine to Astarte at the upper end and a decorative mill at the bottom. There was a dock on one side of the lake and a red lacquered moon bridge on the other giving access to a modest wooded island that the family used for picnics and the occasional midnight tryst   

And here's how the novel's protagonist reacts to seeing exactly that from the limousine that has been sent to fetch her home:

It was the pleasantest aspect imaginable. Caitlin had to blink away tears – not of pleasure – at the sight of it.   

It's not an easy business being the heroine of a fantasy novel.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 10 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.