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Steven L. Lovett

Steven L. Lovett

Emporia, Kansas

Steven L. Lovett is a life-long fan of crackling fires, cold winds in autumn, stacks of hand-cut firewood, stormy-grey oceans, and the kinds of stories which keep all of us looking for magic in quiet places.

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About the author

Steven is an admiring student of T.H. White, a sentimentalist of C.S. Lewis, and an unabashed fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. (He says he'll have "made it" as a novelist when everyone begins referring to him as S.L. Lovett.) A professor by day and a writer by night (or by weekends or any other free time), Steven has previously published three nonfiction books and several scholarly journal articles, and possesses a trove of waiting-to-be-published short stories and one novella (a Poe-esque tale).

Steven lives with his wife, their daughter, and far too many dogs on a quiet, wooded street in a small town in eastern Kansas.

A Place With Dragons is Steven's debut novel and the first of a series about Telluric Grand, The City With Seven Gates.

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Success! A Place With Dragons has already sold 260 pre-orders , was pitched to 7 publishers , and is in discussions with publishers .

$20 Soft Cover Copy + e-book

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For all those die-hard book hounds out there, who have shelves full of dog-eared, wrinkled, and worn-out soft cover books.

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$25 Personally Signed Paperback Copy + e-book

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Signed personally by me to you, your favorite person, Lord Aldus Ward, or whomever...

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
- a personally signed soft cover copy of the book
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$30 Hardback Copy + e-book

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A beautifully produced hardback copy with a bookmark.

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
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$35 Personally Signed Hardback Copy + e-book

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Signed personally by me to you, your favorite person, Lord Aldus Ward, or whomever...

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
- a personally signed hardback copy of the book
- a letterpress bookmark

1 copy + ebook included

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$75 Personally Signed Hardback Copy + Framed Picture of Author's Notes

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During the writing of "A Place With Dragons," I kept a leatherbound notebook with pen and ink drawings, pictures, and handwritten notes about characters, scenes, histories, and facts about the mysterious world of Telluric Grand.

You can own a beautifully framed replica of one of the pages from my personal notebook.

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
- a personally signed hardback copy of the book
- a framed picture of one of the pages from my personal notebook
- a letterpress bookmark

1 copy + ebook included

$10 shipping

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$150 Personally Signed Hardback Copy + Signed and Framed Map of Telluric Grand

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"A Place With Dragons" is set in the magical world of Telluric Grand, a world parallel to our own but filled with giants, Wisps, War Crows, and ... dragons.

You can own a beautifully framed and enlarged replica of the map contained inside the novel. A true "treasure map" of a new world!

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
- a personally signed hardback copy of the book
- a framed and enlarged replica of the map contained inside the book, signed by me
- a letterpress bookmark

1 copy + ebook included

$15 shipping

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$350 Reading by the Author + 10 Signed Hardback Copies of the Book

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For a dinner party, library event, wine tasting event, or for a very unique bedtime story, I will be happy to show up and read a selection from the book. I will also bring 10 personally signed hardback copies for you to keep or give away.

NOTE: I live in Central East Kansas. If your event is more than 150 miles away from my home in Emporia, you may be responsible for the cost of my transportation and lodging. Please let me know, and we can work out the details together.

- an exclusive download of the e-book which will be available at the close of the campaign (on August 8th)
- a reading of a selection from the book by me
- 10 personally signed hardback copies of the book
- 10 letterpress bookmarks

10 copies + ebook included

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A Place With Dragons

A City With Seven Gates Novel

Nicolas Bennett, heir to a king's throne in the magical world of Telluric Grand, is destined to destroy an overlord dragon but at what cost?

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Science Fiction & Fantasy
97,000 words
100% complete
6 publishers interested


This novel is about the coming-of-age of a bright, English boy, who discovers he is heir to a royal bloodline from another world, Telluric Grand. When twelve-year-old Nicolas Bennett shows his father a strange, coppery leaf, which was left by a mysterious crow on Nicolas' windowsill, he can’t imagine how much such a small thing will change his life. He is surprised by the news that his grandfather also once found a similar coppery leaf—leaves which are not of this world but from another: a place with dragons.

While at a medieval fair in Yanwath Wood, England, Nicolas comes across a hidden path which he thinks is a short-cut, and he follows it into a magical woods. The path leads him to a strange new world. There, he learns of a fourth-generation overlord dragon called the Shadow Thief, who has been freed to terrorize and destroy the kingdoms of Telluric Grand in its insatiable and obsessive search for star-iron. Nicolas discovers he is the heir of the first king of Telluric Grand’s First Kingdom, and he is told he is the only person who can save this strange realm from the Shadow Thief. Nicolas, a quiet and introspective boy, struggles with the newness and the brutality of Telluric Grand but bravely sets off to find a way to defeat the overlord dragon. In the City of Relic, the First Kingdom’s enormous capital city, Nicolas meets three new friends who vow to help him in his quest. Traveling through dark forests and treacherous bogs, the four friends barely cheat death in their search for Remiel, a powerful and ancient being with a dark plan for slaying the Shadow Thief. An ancient poem prophesizes that Nicolas will deliver Telluric Grand from its suffering and become a "Dragon Nightfall," but what terrible sacrifices will he have made in the process?

Over the course of his journey, Nicolas grows older and wiser. He learns the value of true friendship, the pain of real loss, and the loneliness in doing the right thing.

Throughout human history, epic stories have transcended time and place. They have allowed their audiences to leave their own surroundings and to share in universal fears, disappointments, surprises, sacrifices, and triumphs, cast against something far more monumental, and more primal, than the routines and ordinariness of everyday life. These tales of high adventure offer the possibility of playing a part in something much greater than what we can see and what we've experienced, something hidden in a far-off lonely mountain or down a rabbit hole or at the back of a wardrobe. They remind us of things which still slink about in dark places, magic which survives in unexpected ways, villains whose greatest trick is to remain unseen, and heroes riddled with unheroic doubts, weaknesses, and flashes of raw audacity.

As a life-long reader of high fantasy, I believe such stories are best told by firelight or candlelight, in the gloom of a wintry afternoon, and out of a thick, leather bound book with its pages glimpsed through eddies of pipe smoke. So grab a blanket and your favorite warm drink.  
A Place with Dragons: The City of Seven Gates, is the beginning of just such an epic tale.


A Place With Dragons is the first of five novels in a series entitled, The City With Seven Gates. The second novel, A Murder of Crows, is already being written and should be finished by March, 2017.
The structure of this novel is primarily driven by the character, and the coming-of-age, of Nicolas Bennett. In the first part (roughly Chapters 1 - 11), Nicolas discovers some new, but subtle, truths about himself and his family's history. He encourages his own resolve and his own sense of purpose and adventure. This leads him to follow an unused path through the woods and to decide to leave his own world and enter Telluric Grand. There, in a place of ancient prophesy and grim danger, Nicolas accepts the invitation to find and destroy the Shadow Thief.
In the second part (roughly Chapters 12 - 23), Nicolas experiences the value of true friendship and learns how vulnerable those relationships can be--how brutal life, and adventure, can be. Nicolas realizes how deeply his own emotions run and what terrible loss feels like. He marvels as his new friends fully commit themselves to helping him and, and in turn, he discovers how committed he becomes to them and to their well-being.
In the third part (roughly Chapters 24 - 29), Nicolas faces the singular test of everything he has learned about himself. To be someone special is also to feel very alone. To genuinely treasure friendships is also to risk those same relationships. To do the right thing is to do the very thing which feels unforgivably wrong. Ultimately, Nicolas learns that being the heir of a king means inheriting the heavy and lonely mantle of sacrifice, and the willingness to make unthinkable decisions and the courage to follow them through.
This novel also opens the door to the coming-of-age of Nicolas' new-found friends: Adelaide Ashdown, whose life experience and desire to heal others belie her profound strength, wisdom, and yet-to-be-discovered magical powers; Ranulf Son of Renfry, whose honest character and humble leadership hide his own painful past; and Benjamin Rush, whose wit and remarkable loyalty are far greater than his small size and orphaned past. Over the course of his journey, and the books yet to come, Nicolas grows older and wiser. He learns the value of true friendship, the pain of real loss, and the loneliness in doing the right thing.


A Place With Dragons is a high fantasy novel with cross-over appeal. While the book’s main protagonist, Nicolas Bennett, is a twelve-year-old English boy, the writing style and plot are accessible to a Young Adult audience, as well as to a more mature, adult audience. The mother of one young adult reader (15-years-old) of A Place With Dragons has said, “He was able to read it a time or two before school started, and I’m sure he will pick it up again one weekend soon. He really loved the plot and characters.” An adult reader has said, “I am in awe! S.L. Lovett is my new favorite author! I would read, realize how quickly I was going through the adventure, and try to slow down to make it last... it didn't work. I am in love with Telluric Grand and all of its characters. Now I am anxiously awaiting the next book (almost as much as Benjamin awaits his next meal).”


Readers of fantasy fiction rank among the largest consumer groups in traditional bookstores, libraries, and book recommendation sites, like More fantasy books have been produced as movies than any other genre. While many fantasy books are categorized as Young Adult, recent research shows that fifty-five percent of readers who buy those books are, in fact, 18-years or older (usually 30 – 44 years old). Because of this, books with a distinct cross-over appeal, like A Place With Dragons, have an especially high exposure and sales’ success rate.
Steven has already established a growing presence on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook (, and Instagram. He also has his own website at and actively looks for opportunities to work with local and regional independent bookstores for book signing events and consignment sales.
Steven currently owns all rights to A Place With Dragons.


While dragons and fantasy worlds have remained a popular theme or construct over the past fifteen years, A Place With Dragons has several unique qualities, using magic as a backdrop instead of a centerpiece, re-introducing dragons as evil and bestial archetypes, and setting the stage for a vast, epic story, versus several stories linked together more by characters than by a greater purpose and environment. The following provide a brief review of several popular books which would complement or compete with A Place With Dragons.

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (2004) - Nathaniel is a young magician with only one thing on his mind: revenge. Nathaniel decides to speed up his magical education, teaching himself spells way beyond his years.
The Axe and the Throne by M.D. Ireman (2016) - Tallos commits himself to a voyage north. His lifelong friend’s eldest sons are said to have been taken by Northmen, a raiding people ill-reputed for their savagery. The boys are already dead, Tallos knows, and in that dark place of grim reasoning he wishes only to find their corpses quickly so he can fulfill his promise and return to his wife, but he finds something far worse.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2005) - Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous mix of magic, glory, and power.
Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey (2007) - In 1145 A.D. fourteen year old Rosalind will be the Pendragon Queen but has a lot to do to fulfil her destiny. She must also hide the dragon claw she was born with or her people will find out her mother’s dark secret.
Dragon’s Fire by Anne McCaffrey (2006) - The Red Star is coming to Pern and its deadly “thread” must be destroyed by firestone-fueled dragonfire. Pellar, Halla, and Cristov learn important life lessons as their planet gets ready for the coming of the Red Star.
Dragon and Liberator: The Sixth Dragonback Adventure by Timothy Zahn (2008) - Jack Morgan and his friend Draycos, who is a K’da dragon, must stop Neverlin from wiping out the entire K’da race with a death weapon.
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (1990) - Princess Cimorene is not a very good proper princess and yearns to learn more of the world. She leaves her home to be an apprentice to a dragon and helps them fight the evil wizards who want to take over the dragon kingdom.
The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen (2011) - The last dragon rises after two hundred years and wants to destroy the Islands of May. Only a kite-flying hero and a healer’s daughter can stop him.


6 publishers interested
Dragon Moon Press logo Dragon Moon Press

500 copies • Completed manuscript • Looking for novel-length genre fiction: fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, adult, and YA.
Dragon Moon Press is a small, traditional royalty-paying publisher. We work with experienced editors and designers to produce the best books we can. We work with you on marketing the book to your readers to develop a loyal following of your own. We have recently started audiobooks with world-wide distribution.

Traditional publisher

Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction


Scribbcrib Publishing logo Scribbcrib Publishing

500 copies • Completed manuscript • Looking for romance, fantasty, science fiction, and poetry.
We're a small publisher, created by authors, for authors. We specialize in unknown authors looking to get their foot in the door. We provide all of the services required for your book to be successful, but also require a lot from our authors in return. We are a royalty publisher and do not charge for services, but we ask our authors to assist with personally marketing their work.

Traditional publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Personal Growth & Self-Improvement, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Silver Leaf Books logo Silver Leaf Books

Silver Leaf Books LLC (SLB) will design and market interesting, exciting, and creative stories based on the Action / Adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, and Thriller genres.

Our novels are intended for genre book readers from age 10 and up. These books will be written by up and coming yet talented authors who have interesting storylines but are relatively unknown in the industry.

SLB realizes that there are challenges inherent to introducing new and unknown talent, but it is our hope that a quality product and storyline will generate a loyal fan following in these core genres of our business.

Our books are released in print and are available direct through our website and can be ordered wherever books are sold, as well as digitally and electronically.

Traditional publisher

Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction

Canada, United States

Mascot Books logo Mascot Books

Mascot Books is a full-service hybrid publisher dedicated to helping authors at all stages of their publishing journey create a high-quality printed or digital book that matches their vision. With comprehensive editorial, design, marketing, production, and distribution services, our authors have the support of an experienced publishing team while still retaining one of the highest royalty percentages in the business.

Hybrid publisher

All categories

Dog Ear Publishing logo Dog Ear Publishing

A publishing services company dedicated to delivering amazing results to our authors. From manuscript development and editing to book design to effective marketing tools, Dog Ear delivers. Our dedicated team of publishing professionals have spent years in both the 'traditional' and self publishing worlds.

We know how to build, distribute, and market great books.

Dog Ear authors pay less and make more than authors from ANY other publisher. Visit to learn more.

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel


Virtualbookworm Publishing logo Virtualbookworm Publishing

Virtualbookworm (VBW) Publishing was founded by a writer frustrated by the long wait time and occasional heartbreak often associated with the publishing industry. After researching the various "alternatives," he discovered a number of subsidy publishers that would publish any author ... for a price. Unfortunately, many reviewers (and readers) thumb their noses at books from such houses, since all it takes is cash to get published by them.

Then he discovered self publishing and the endless opportunities it presented. However, such a venture requires countless hours of research of printers, proofreaders, artists, etc. And after publication, even more time is consumed trying to market the book.

So, was established as a "clearinghouse" for authors, since it offers virtually everything under one roof. Although we now charge setup and design fees, those costs are kept to a minimum so as to cover all expenses. And, as with "traditional" publishers, we carefully review each manuscript and only offer contracts to authors who truly have exceptional manuscripts. We don't print garbage, and we want our authors to proudly say they were published by Virtualbookworm. If we accept your book for publication, you can rest assured that it will be sold next to other quality books, and not just work that had enough money behind it. And, you'll receive some of the best royalties in the business!

Since our initial costs are so low, we want your books to sell as much as you do.

Service publisher

Children Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mind & Body, Mystery, Thriller, Horror & Suspense, Romantic Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, YA Fiction, Biography & Memoir, Business & Money, Career & Success, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Journalism, Politics & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Society & Culture, Sports & Outdoors, Technology & the Future, Travel



Chapter 19: The Hollow Fen
Light is a wonderful thing. It distinguishes night from day. It grows flowers and plants and trees. It reveals what is hidden. It brings things alive, and it gives hope. Light is safe.
But fog, fog does a funny thing to light.
Fog isn’t as bold as dark thunderheads of a stormy sky. It isn’t as impenetrably gloomy as a deep cave. It isn’t as obscure as the floor of the ocean, and it isn’t as thorough as nightfall. Fog isn’t even as shadowy as a shadow.
Fog is dull. It is dreary. It is drab. It is somehow like turning on a light while the room remains doggedly dark—a false hope of being able to see when, in fact, almost everything is just beyond view. Everything is vanishing. Inside a fog’s ghostlike paleness, light is broken. Inside a fog, light reveals very little. Light is an empty promise—one left unfulfilled.
In this way, fog also does a funny thing to Time.
There are hundreds of little things people see and hear and smell which tell them time is passing. The sound and sight of traffic may swell during the morning and late afternoon when people are traveling to and from work and school. Birds may coo and chirp more busily as they share gossip or conspire about plans for a new day. Dogs may bark as they shake off a night’s sleep and warn their owners against the imminent attack of garbage trucks rumbling slowly down residential streets. Pedestrians may flood sidewalks and crosswalks, dodging past each other on their way to important meetings with important people about important events. Drivers may impatiently tap their feet on brake pedals, wishing red lights wouldn’t take so long and school bus stops weren’t so numerous. Smells of coffee, baked goods, and diesel exhaust may fill the air while distinct whiffs of cologne and perfume hover over men and women like scented halos. Trains click and clack noisily away from their stations. Airplanes roar away from their runways. Ferries churn away from their docks, blowing brassy blasts from their loud horns.
But fog—the strange wraith of mist and chill and haze—distorts these things. The visible presence of school buses and garbage trucks and pedestrians disappear inside a fog. Birds and dogs and trains sound more muted, hushed, and far away. Freshly baked donuts and coffee and pretty perfumes do not percolate through a fog; they only exist in tight pockets of smell—here and then gone.
Fog does this. Fog distorts and deforms those little things people see and hear and smell which tell them time is passing.
And because the fogs of the Hollow Fen were full of broken light and distorted Time, it is where the Clokkemakers—the Wisps—the secretive Kohanim—had decided to live.

After a long time of silence, out of the blue, Nicolas suddenly blurted out, “We’re looking for a Clokkemaker.”
He had a growing sense of being lost and hoped conversation would help to drown it out. Other than Aldus’ instruction to enter the Hollow Fen, Nicolas had no idea where or how to find the Wisp, Remiel.
They had been slowly making their way through the strange moorland for about half an hour, and the path was not very wide. It was like the Lonely Road, except it wasn’t hedged in by thick groves of trees, only moss and heather and yellow-leafed crowberry plants. Nicolas, walking at the lead, had kept his head down, watching carefully for ruts made by occasional cartwheels and horse hooves, while little Cornelia, mud-spattered and increasingly tired, had decided to trudge along at his heels. Star-grass also grew on each side of the path in occasional clusters. Each flower had six, yellow petals, like bright, little footpath lights, which made finding the path a bit easier. Adelaide had already plucked several, telling the boys the cheery flowers would help them to stay well after they were steeped in a hot tea. Ranulf carefully and quietly led the pony, and Benjamin walked last in line, every once in a while touching his sore head tenderly.
“A Clokkemaker?” Benjamin asked with some reluctance. He reached down and plucked a quick handful of purplish-black crowberries. “I thought,” he said as he gulped them down, “that all Clokkemakers were evil ghosts which haunt empty castles and possess ravens. Maybe even little goats.” He grinned at Adelaide, showing off his purple-stained tongue and teeth.
She stuck her tongue out and flashed him an annoyed look. “The fat lardyman I worked for said Wisps came in the night to steal flour and barley, but I never believed him,” she said. “He was always trying to come up with excuses when customers accused him of cheating. I don’t think he really knew what a Wisp is. Still, it makes me nervous to think we’re trying to actually find one.” The young Healer anxiously looked around. “Actually, this whole place makes me nervous. I wish there wasn’t so much fog.”
“I don’t think they’re all evil,” Nicolas said, although he didn’t sound certain. “However, I was told about one raven, the raven that followed Aldus into the room where we all slept; that one has a Wisp inside it, but I don’t think a Wisp ‘possessed’ it. Aldus said the raven was a special kind of raven that had ‘room’ for ghosts—and it just happened to give that room to a Wisp,” Nicolas explained. “I don’t think Wisps really ‘possess’ anything.” He stopped for a moment and looked around. The fogbank they were in had thinned, but twilight was settling in quickly, and the day’s light had become much weaker. “I don’t think Aldus would have sent me—us—to find this Clokkemaker—this Wisp—if it was an evil one.” Secretly though, Nicolas didn’t know what to expect. He wanted to tell the others about his encounter with Remiel when he was with the tall man and the donkey in the forest, but he didn’t want to scare them. Instead, he simply said, “Aldus thinks this Clokkemaker will help us.”
While the other three spoke, Ranulf had been grunting and tugging at the pony’s lead rope, trying to coax it or force it over a patch of soft earth. Aggravated with the stubborn pony, he took a break and said, “Straight Hammer actually liked Wisps, but I think that was unusual for a giant. I once heard Bragnof, a giant who owns one of the larger smithy shops in the Iron Quarter, tell Straight Hammer he’d rather eat hot coals and drink molten metal than have anything to do with a Wisp.” With that, the older boy gave a firm jerk on the lead rope. “C’mon!” he said, urging the pack pony forward, but the pony wouldn’t budge.
Suddenly, there was a soft sucking sound. And then another. And then another. It reminded Nicolas of how his father’s wellies—his dark green rubber boots—sounded when he was walking across the sheep pasture next to the Bennett’s home after a good rain. Everyone stood still, listening, unsure of what was making the strange noise. It was coming from beneath their feet, and Nicolas, like Ranulf, Benjamin, and Adelaide, began to stare intently around them at the grey-green turf, but they didn’t see anything peculiar. Except a small swell of wavy hair grass gradually rising between Ranulf’s boots. Abruptly, the swell of grass flattened out. Then, with the same soft sucking sound, it disappeared underground entirely, leaving a small hole.
Immediately, Adelaide shouted in a clear panic, “Don’t move!”, but even as she did so, Ranulf’s right boot sank up to his knee beneath the surface of the pathway. Then his other boot vanished. And then, without making a sound, he vanished. Nicolas leapt toward the older boy, trying to catch a fistful of his weather-cloak. But he was too late.
Ranulf was gone.
“Ranulf!” screamed Nicolas, as he scrambled backward from the enlarging hole in the ground. But there was no reply. Only more of the soft sucking sound.
The pack pony, now free of any guiding hand on its lead rope, turned and bolted back in the direction of the Woodcutter’s Forest, knocking Benjamin on his seat. Before anyone could do anything about it, the pony had disappeared into the mist with its load of kindling and bulging sacks clattering wildly against the wooden cross-frame.
“Benjamin! Don’t move!” Adelaide was clutching Cornelia to her chest and tears were streaming down her face, but the insistence in her voice was firm and steady. The boy-thief slowly nodded and sat where he was, eyes as big as saucers, clearly terrified but ready, too.
Nicolas was shaking. “What just happened?” he asked, his chest heaving with deep breaths. “What just happened?!”
Adelaide sniffed and wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “We’re in a featherbed bog,” she said quietly, tensely.
“A what?”
“My uncle used to call it a featherbed bog,” Adelaide explained, clearly frightened. She was still sniffing, but she’d kept control of her voice. “Some call it a blanket bog. There’s wet hollows hidden beneath the surface. They can be treacherous to walk on, but sometimes there is something more—maybe…” Her voice trailed off and she looked like she might be sick. Another tear fell down her face.
“Maybe what, Adelaide?!” Nicolas pressed. He was still in shock over Ranulf’s sudden disappearance. The little he knew of bogs and mires was what his father had once told him about the North York Moors National Park in Yorkshire. The Bennett’s had been attending a Dark Skies Festival in Dalby the Great Yorkshire Forest outside of Pickering, and his father had chatted on about the plants and animals and landscape of moors and bogs. But nothing his father had said included people disappearing into the earth. “Can we get Ranulf back?” he demanded impatiently. There was something in Adelaide’s reaction which also frightened Nicolas. Something more than sinkhole bogs.
A fresh wave of tears rolled down Adelaide’s cheeks. “I don’t know,” she cried helplessly. “I don’t know.” She sat there rocking her little goat back and forth and shaking her head.
“I’m going after him.” Benjamin’s quiet voice seemed small and faraway. Nicolas looked at the boy-thief, who was still sitting, trembling on the ground. His smallish face was as pale as the mist surrounding them, and his lips were quivering. “I’m small. I’ll go in and get him,” he said again, almost whispering.
Nicolas stared at him and suddenly heard a steady voice say, “Me, too.” It was his own. It felt removed from the wild alarms crashing about in his mind.
Benjamin nodded and slowly turned himself around onto his hands and knees. His mouth was set in a grim line. Nicolas glanced at Adelaide. She was staring back at him, still shaking her head. Pretty locks of her hair bounced against her shoulders. “Don’t,” she pleaded quietly.
Nicolas tried to sound brave. Cool and calm. “Why not? It’s just a bit of mud and muck, right?” The young girl just kept shaking her head, miserable.
And, like a nightmare that wouldn’t go away, the soft sucking sound returned.

Situated along a short coastal stretch of southeastern England, in Devon County to the east of Cornwall, is the modest beachfront borough of Torbay. Torbay’s quiet marine inlet is fringed by three, seafaring towns: Torquay in the north, Paignton in the center, and Brixham in the south. Summer tourists on holiday there might visit a medieval abbey with gardens and a tearoom, Oddicombe Beach, the fortified manor house of Compton Castle, or the sixteenth century Berry Pomeroy Castle ruins. But this small area of England has another curiously unique distinction. It has been occupied by people ever since the Palaeolithic Era. Indeed, the oldest human bones in Europe were found lying in Kents Caverns in Torquay. But long, long before even then—ages before prehistoric man gathered together to sharpen stones for tools, or to scavenge for wild animals, or to forage for plants—worms, giant worms over three feet in length, burrowed deep within the damp earth under the borough of Torbay. It is thought, these prehistoric worms only came to the surface to drink … and to feed.
On a brisk, early spring morning a few years before, Nicolas’ father, Peter Bennett, had been sitting quietly in his study when he suddenly waved his Sunday edition of the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald in the air, and loudly exclaimed, “They’ve found giant worms in England!” Nicolas, who was halfway through a second helping of grilled oat cakes, sausage, and fried eggs, dropped his fork and raced into his father’s study, hoping to see graphic pictures of enormous, slimy creatures as if they had come alive right out of an old science fiction film. He was disappointed. There were no pictures, and Mr. Bennett merely stabbed an enthusiastic finger at a boring page of newsprint, which discussed a recent find of the worms’ fossilized burrows. “Just imagine,” he’d told Nicolas excitedly, wriggling his fingers in front of him, “giant worms as tall as you are!” Nicolas had asked a few questions, still hoping for some kind of ghastly alien description, but after a few minutes, he lost interest and hurried back into the kitchen before his eggs turned cold.
Now, standing in the pale light of a cold fog along a narrow path somewhere within a perilous moor, Nicolas again thought of that long ago Sunday morning. He regretted not finding out more about the prehistoric worms. This long-forgotten memory suddenly came to Nicolas’ mind because of what was coming out of the hole into which Ranulf had vanished a few seconds before—the bulging swaying head of a gigantic bog worm. Out of the rubbery, wet flesh of the bog worm’s mouth came the soft sucking sounds. They were the sucking sounds of a bog worm feeding.
Adelaide screamed and buried her face against Cornelia’s little body. Benjamin, with his mouth hanging open in shock, back-peddled as fast as he could on all fours. Nicolas, however, just stood there. A thick terror was beginning to paralyze his mind, and his thoughts were becoming stiff and dull. Yet a single thought remained stubbornly vivid and alive—the grisly knowledge that his friend had just been consumed by the repulsive mass of ribbed worm meat in front of him. His friend, Ranulf son of Renfry, had vanished inside that spongy, wet, sucking bog worm’s mouth.
Nicolas’ hand grasped for the small flat dagger hanging around his neck. He jerked it free from its leather cord, and without any plan or strategy, he shouted madly, “We have to save him!”
Nicolas, the boy who called himself a Wren, jumped at the hideous bog worm, slashing his small knife downward toward its squirming flesh.
And as he jumped, the grey daylight around him became dark. It was as if someone had turned the lights off in a room, leaving it in the gloom of evening shadows.
And the air around Nicolas instantly chilled, biting into his skin the way the icy dampness of a hard frost had done on many dark winter mornings. The air also smelled—familiar—like almonds and burned earth. Something he’d smelled once before in the woods with the tall man and Cherry Pit the donkey.
Meanwhile, the bog worm, which sensed Nicolas was close by, had swung its fleshy head toward him, hungrily searching. Its huge throat muscles and thousands of little tongues were sucking excitedly against rows and rows of knobby, bony teeth. But just as Nicolas sprang at the worm, he was thrown back violently and crashed to the ground with the wind knocked out of him. At first, Nicolas thought he’d been struck by the bog worm’s writhing body, and the thought flashed through his mind that he was about to be pulled inside its mouth and eaten alive. There was a sound like the roar of an avalanche, and the massive bog worm began to violently twist and lurch upward, raising its fleshy body up. In Nicolas’ dim mind, the worm looked like a snake about to strike.
But it didn’t strike.
Instead, the bog worm gave a final furious spasm and, miraculously, as if the gloomy, icy air itself had seized hold of its squirming, bloated body, the gruesome worm ripped completely in half, hurling chunks of fatty tissue and bits of bony teeth out across the boggish moor.
And in the slippery, gooey mound of bog worm guts, Nicolas—on the edge of blacking out—saw a human hand.
So he grabbed it.

It was dark—past grimlock, the witching hour—when Nicolas next opened his eyes.
He was lying on the narrow pathway. Someone had thrown his bear skin blanket over him, and his first thought was that this was odd, since he remembered seeing the pack pony run away. Slowly, he sat up. Lying next to him, rolled inside another bear skin blanket, lay Ranulf. The older boy was breathing evenly, and he was sound asleep. He looked unharmed, although his skin looked very pale and his dark hair looked several shades lighter. A few yards further up the pathway, Nicolas could see the flickering flames of a small fire. Benjamin and Adelaide were sitting by the fire, and Adelaide was speaking in a low voice to someone else—a very little person, perhaps only half her size, who was kindly petting Cornelia. The little person looked quite old and, in fact, had a pointed and tidy little beard. It wore a fitted leather cap and was dressed in a boiler suit—a pair of earth-stained coveralls—with little round-toed boots on its feet. A few steps away from the fire, Nicolas could see the pack pony, munching contentedly on clumps of wavy hair grass. Next to the pony, but more difficult for Nicolas to clearly make out in the shadows, stood a very tall figure. It was dressed in a dark hooded robe and held a slender staff in its hand.
“You’re awake!” Benjamin’s voice sounded happy and good. It confirmed that Nicolas was alive and was not dreaming.
“Yes,” Nicolas said weakly, his voice croaking like it might after a long night’s sleep. He smiled. “Yes, I’m awake.”
The smallish boy-thief hopped up and ran over to him, nearly knocking him over. “Thank the endless heavens!” he cried. “You dropped to the ground like a dead man right after you pulled Ranulf free, and we thought you both had died and had your souls collected by the tusk moon.” Benjamin squeezed Nicolas’ hand. “I’m so glad you’re awake.”
Nicolas shook his head, trying to remember what had happened. “Me too,” he said. Nicolas looked around. “What happened? Where’s the worm?”
“It was ripped in half,” Benjamin said with a grimace. “And what was left of it, slowly slid back into the hole.” The boy-thief had a slightly sick look on his face. “We heard other sucking noises. I think another bog worm must’ve ate it.”
Nicolas felt his heart thump hard in his chest. His foggy mind tried to make sense of what Benjamin has said. “It ripped in half? There are other bog worms?”
“Yeah,” Benjamin said, as an answer to his second question more than Nicolas’ first, “but not around here. Not any longer. Not after what happened,” Benjamin said with smug satisfaction. He gave Nicolas a reassuring pat on his arm.
Nicolas wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but he suddenly felt tired again. He felt his mind slipping back to sleep, back to darkness. He let out a long sigh of relief. He glanced over at Ranulf. “Is he okay?” he asked weakly.
“I think so,” Benjamin said. “Got all his fingers and toes as they say. I tell you, Adelaide is great. She carefully cleaned him and gave him tea with some kind of potion mixed in it after the Clokkemaker revived him.”
Nicolas struggled to pay attention. “A Clokkemaker?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Benjamin said and pointed to the tall figure standing next to the pony. “The Clokkemaker. He says his name is Remiel.”

  • Lee Constantine
    on July 8, 2016, 5:26 a.m.

    I'm a sucker for compelling novel series with dragons. Thanks Steven, I can't wait. Good luck!

  • Nate Lynn
    on July 9, 2016, 9:28 p.m.

    Looking forward to checking this out - congrats Steve on how far you have come on this project!!! So awesome!!!! Just an FYI, my favorite book series growing up was the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I got Paul to read them too. I look forward to this story finding a special place in my heart, much like those stories did. Keep up the great work!

  • Steven L. Lovett
    on July 10, 2016, 8:01 p.m.

    Thanks, Nate! Very kind words. I'm hoping this story, and the ones to come, really deliver!

  • Kevin Hurt
    on July 14, 2016, 1:20 p.m.

    Good luck with this journey brother. Semper Fi

  • John Cole
    on July 14, 2016, 4:02 p.m.

    Congratulations on your book! Look forward to reading it...
    Gig 'Em!

  • Steven L. Lovett
    on July 14, 2016, 6:38 p.m.

    Thanks, John David! And thanks for purchasing a copy. Your critique will be highly welcomed. Gig 'Em!

  • Steven L. Lovett
    on July 14, 2016, 6:40 p.m.

    Hey, Lee!
    The Prologue is available on my website, and we're really considering posting a sample chapter or excerpt, too.

  • Sharon Suhr
    on Aug. 1, 2016, 7:10 p.m.

    I am so excited! I'm really looking forward to reading this and your future books.

  • Steven L. Lovett
    on Aug. 4, 2016, 3:11 p.m.

    We had a fantastic book-signing event last night and sold a TON of books! With the newspaper ad, radio spot, and the help of a lot of family, friends, and READERS who promoted it, the event went incredibly well. I even had a bookstore owner ask about retailing the book!!

  • Alice Martin
    on Aug. 7, 2016, 1:54 a.m.

    Nothing like waiting until the last minute(s)... I didn't forget!! Congratulations and I'm so proud of you!!