The Making of Dragonbound Part 4 Character Arcs: Raahi

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by Vincent Schofield Wickham

I’ve been mulling over where to go with this post for a couple of days. So many possibilities, so many angles, all of them leading around into the two topics that seem to induce the most controversy and hard feelings on the internet: politics and religion. So, before I jump in and start talking about Raahi I just want to say this. I write to explore the human experience. I do not write to advance any political or religious agenda. For those people who try to suss out what an author’s beliefs are from reading their books, I’ll save you the trouble and just say flat out, I’m a hard core moderate. As an author I spend most of my time inside the heads of characters with different view points. Therefore, when confronted with political controversy I see things from multiple points of view and so tend to agree with multiple sides. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated everyone else with respect and kindness despite any differences in beliefs. For the record, I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I do not base the religions of my epic fantasy worlds on my own religious beliefs. There, I’ve now said enough about my own true beliefs so that everyone on every side can be up in arms 😀      So, on to talking about Raahi.

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Machu Picchu by Martin St-Amant

***Spoiler Warning Dragonbound: Blue Dragon and Copper Dragon***

I mentioned in Part 3 that I very loosely based the Maran culture on imperial-age Britain and Darvat on Peruvian culture. In the Dragonbound world, Maran sees itself as the world’s sole superpower. With their democratic-republic form of government and all the bureaucracy that entails, the Maranies have formed the world’s largest army and navy. Seeing their culture as superior, they have set out to colonize and exploit the other countries of the world. This has often thrown in them into conflict with Varna, their closest neighbor. Maran has not yet succeeded in conquering Varna, because the Varnan’s when pressed, though they don’t have much professional military, are very good at mobilizing all the levels of their society into self-defense. What’s more, the Varnan dragon hunters are fierce fighters and just as  fiercely independent. The Varnans, descendants of the humans who overthrew the Nagas at the fall of Stonefountain, would most likely fight down to the last man, woman, and child rather than surrender their freedom to the Maranies.

The only other continent to stand up to Maran is Kundiland. The Maranies would love nothing better than to colonize all of Kundiland, claiming it as their own. The Great dragons, however, particularly the Great Blue dragons have no intention of letting them succeed at that. The war between the Great Blue dragons and the Maran armies has been long and vicious. One wonders what the fate of the natives of Africa and North and South America in our world would have been if they would have had Great dragons to defend them against the world’s colonizing powers. The Great Blue dragons would accept no treaty, they would cede no land, they would give no quarter to the humans who try to colonize Kundiland. Thus Maran barely maintains the slimmest foothold on the continent.

Unfortunately Darvat does not have such avid defenders, and the Darvat people have always been peaceful. The original natives traveled to that land and settled there because they wanted to be in a place no one else wanted, so they could live quiet peaceful lives. In many ways Darvat is an inhospitable land. There is no substantial amount of flat space to farm, and the soil is rocky. Fortunately there is enough rainfall that terraces can be formed to farm small plots of land. Subsistence level food can be grown, but much of their food comes from herding and hunting. The cities are built out of stone on the shoulders of the mountains. The altitude is high, and the people have adapted to that height by being relatively short but having great lung capacity. Having settled into a land that no one else wanted at the time, the people felt relatively secure. They have almost no central government. Individual villages tend to govern themselves. There have been great fighters from time to time when villages have had skirmishes with each other, but over all the Darvaties are peaceful people and might have remained peaceful and independent for a much longer while if the Maranies had not heard tales of the great treasures that could be mined from the Darvat mountains. Iron ore for weapons, gold and silver, and precious stones. With the war in Kundiland sucking up resources, the Maranies needed what Darvat had, and why trade peacefully with indigenous people if you can conquer them almost without a fight and use them as forced labor in the mines while you strip the wealth from the mountains?

Raahi’s father was once a world-renown blacksmith, but at the start of the series he and all his people have been enslaved by the Maran armies led by General Samdrasen. Almost all of them have  been put to work in the mines. Samdrasen has taken Raahi as his personal slave and carried him to Kundiland to continue the battle with the Great Blue dragons. Samdrasen is brutal and cruel to Raahi who submits to Samdrasen’s abuses without fuss or complaint. At the beginning of the series, Kanvar is also at the Maran Colony having indentured himself to a Maran soldier in trade for passage to Kundiland. Kanvar and Raahi become good friends as they both serve the Maranies. When Kanvar’s indenture is near its end and Kanvar intends to head off into the jungle in search of a Great Dragon to bond with, he promises Raahi that he (Kanvar) will become a famous and wealthy dragon hunter and buy Raahi’s freedom. Raahi doubts Kanvar will survive long in the jungle, but he wishes his friend the best anyway. Raahi does not know that Kanvar is really a Naga, and Kanvar does not know that Raahi has a secret of his own.

As a small child, Raahi was chosen as the guardian of his people’s most sacred place, the Hall of His Ancestors. Raahi’s people believe that the spirits of all the people who have gone before dwell within the mountain and are tied to the land. The spirits of the ancestors watch over the people, cause the crops to grow and their animals to flourish. No one is allowed to enter this sacred hall. In fact, the Darvatie’s believe that anyone who does will lose his soul. The long-time guardian of the Hall is a Naga named Karishi who is bound to a copper dragon. The Naga, knowing he will not live forever and looking to the future chooses Raahi as the person to pass on all the knowledge and power of the secrets of the Hall. As a child, Raahi’s body and soul are thus bound to the land and the ancestors that dwell in the Hall. He is tasked with being the human guardian to back up Karishi. But how can Raahi be a guardian when he himself is a slave? At the end of book 1, Kanvar does buy Raahi’s freedom, and Samdrasen uses that money to buy his advancement to control of the entire Maran army. Having gained complete control, Samdrasen returns to Darvat to make himself rich by siphoning funds from the mining company that is stripping Darvat of his wealth. In the process he uncovers the greatest treasure cache of all, the Hall of Raahi’s Ancestors, and takes Karishi and his dragon prisoner. The ancestors call out in anguish to Raahi to come save them.

Raahi has a long way to go from being an abused victim to saving the Hall of his Ancestors and becoming the victorious liberator of his people. It is a perilous journey and a seemingly impossible task, but Raahi has some confidence that he has the help of Kanvar and Kanvar’s grandfather, the Great Dragon Hunter, Kumar Raza. But as things turn out he becomes separated from Kanvar and Raza. Raahi has to fight General Samdrasen (a fully trained, fully armored and armed veteran military leader) alone. Well, not exactly alone. Raahi’s soul is connected to his ancestors and they have the ability to possess him and fight through him. The concept that the spirits of the dead can come back by possessing the living is first introduced in this pivotal battle. In this case the possession turns out to be a good thing and Samdrasen is defeated. Raahi still has to negotiate with the new supreme Maran general for the freedom of his people and the security of the Hall of the Ancestors, a delicate matter which Raahi’s quiet thoughtful personality is well suited for. By succeeding in the end, Raahi has had to face all his greatest fears and overcome the traumas of the abuses he’s lived through. Raahi is not a great fighter like Kanvar, but his calm unwavering courage makes him every bit as much a hero as Kanvar is.

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The Making of Dragonbound Part 4 Character Arcs: Denali

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Eskimo kayak and boy (Josiah Edward Spurr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

***Warning, Dragonbound White Dragon Spoilers***

Denali’s character arc in White Dragon is pretty much a classic coming of age survival story inspired by such classic literature as Call it Courage, Hatchet, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I enjoyed drawing from my own dog sledding experiences to create Denali’s adventure. Denali starts the book comfortably in his father’s shadow. He has his mother as well and the whole clan surrounding him, providing safety and training in the subsistence lifestyle of The Great North. But, the threat of starvation pushes his people toward the civilization of the Maran settlement. Just as the clan is taking down their tents and preparing to move, they are attacked by a Great White dragon. The tribe flees, all except Denali’s father, Kumar Raza (Kanvar’s missing grandfather). Seeing his father facing down the dragon alone, Denali makes a snap decision to stay and help fight. With Denali’s help, his father defeat’s the white dragon but is knocked unconscious. Denali’s decision to stand and fight when others are running marks him as a true son of the Great Dragon Hunter.

With the dragon defeated, Denali loads his unconscious father onto a dog sled and follows the tribe toward the Maran colony. But the forces of nature are set against him. A nearby volcano is stirring, and the heated ground causes a chasm to form in the glacier, cutting him off from the rest of the tribe. What’s more, it is the imminent threat of a full volcanic eruption that has caused the wildlife the clan usually lives on to flee from the area. Not only has the clan been affected, but the giant snow wolves too are starving and seeking anything to eat. A lone boy with a pack of dogs and unconscious man seem to be an easy target for the wolves’ hunger. Denali, starving, tasked with saving his own life, his father, and his dogs, has a big task ahead of him. His struggle brings him in contact with Frost, a baby Great White dragon, the child of the dragon Denali helped kill. It’s mother has also died of starvation. Denali first thinks of the little dragon as an enemy, then a nuisance, and then a companion. In the final show-down with the wolf pack, Denali and Frost prove to be an incredible fighting pair. But all of their fighting skill can’t save them from the pyroclastic flow of an erupting volcano. Kanvar’s attempt to save Denali, Frost, and Kumar Raza from the volcano reveals to the tribe that he is a Naga. And if Kanvar is a Naga, Denali and Kumar Raza have Naga blood as well. The tribe’s sudden turn against Denali, severs his final hope of continuing life as he had always planned it. Suddenly outcast, lucky to have escaped the tribe with his life, with his father still unconscious due to head trauma, likely never to wake, Denali must give up his life in the Great North to travel to the jungles of Kundiland where the oldest of the Nagas may be able to heal his father.

Through the action of the book, Denali goes from being timid and unsure of himself, to a courageous fighter capable taking care of himself and saving others. He is an awesome character. Despite being shunted to the side by some of the adults in later stories because of his young age, by the end of the series he proves to everyone that he and Frost are indispensable in the fight against evil.

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The Making of Dragonbound Part 4 Character Arcs: Kanvar

I totally need illustrations of the Dragonbound characters for these coming posts (because blog posts are so boring without pictures). Unfortunately one of the artists I work with is already in the middle of doing some original cover art for me, and the other artist is doing illustrations for a picture book for me. I thought about maybe doing some sketches myself but . . . well, my last attempt art art (last week trying out a new water color pallet) turned out like this. butterflies001And the oil painting I attempted last month turned out like this.

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Ah well, my hands shake a lot more nowadays. 🙂 But that’s completely off topic, except for to say, until I can get a real artist to illustrate these characters, I’ll have to leave it up to everyone’s imagination.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Kanvar is the central character of the Dragonbound series, by that I mean he gets Point of View time in every book, but the series is not all about him. Each book has a different main protagonist and most of the books have multiple Points of View. The largest part of Kanvar’s character arc occurs in the first two books.

**Spoiler Warning Dragonbound: Blue Dragon and Dragonbound II: White Dragon.**

Chapter 1 of Blue Dragon starts with the following description of Kanvar. “Heart pulsing, Kanvar pushed his way through the cloth door of the herbal shop out onto Daro’s busy street. His left leg dragged behind him. It had been twisted and crippled since birth. His left arm hung at his side, half as big as a normal arm with only two fingers and a thumb. But he couldn’t let his deformed body slow him down.” But Kanvar’s visible physical challenges aren’t where his main character arc springs from. To dispel any doubt that his twisted leg and half-sized arm and hand are going to seriously impede him, the third page of the book gives this lovely display of Kanvar’s temperament and physical ability.

“Look what we have here?” an older boy saw Kanvar and followed him across the square to the street on the far side. “A cripple. Untouchable, pile of dung. What did you do in your past life, murder innocent children?” The boy spit into the dirt behind Kanvar.

Kanvar whirled to face him. “I belong to the dragon hunter jati. My grandfather was Kumar Raza, the greatest dragon hunter who ever lived.”

“Raza?” the boy’s eyes widened. “You lie. Besides, I heard Raza went in search of the Great White Dragon and never returned. He’s probably dead, so that makes him the worst dragon hunter that ever lived.”

Kanvar threw himself at the older boy, tackling him to the ground, and pummeling him with his good hand. The older boy tried to block Kanvar’s blows, but he belonged to one of the farmer jatis and hadn’t been trained in fighting like Kanvar had.

“Never insult my grandfather again.” Kanvar gave the pathetic boy a kick in the ribs for good measure then set out once more for home.

That little scene always makes me smile, because of it we know that Kanvar does have physical challenges, but he does not perceive himself as a cripple. His greatest physical challenge, however, is unseen by anyone. As a child whose blood springs from Naga lines on both sides, he is genetically a Naga–a Naga hiding in a society where where Nagas have been hunted and killed for a thousand years. In fact, he witnesses his own mother try to kill his father and brother for being Nagas  and has to flee for his life or die as well. He knows that around the age of fifteen, the dragon fever will come upon him, and if he does not bond with a Great dragon, he will die. Or, the fever will give him away as a Naga and the humans will kill him, which would be a swifter and less painful death, but still a death he intends to avoid. With the humans at war with the Great dragons, the odds of him finding a Great dragon to bond with and surviving are slim. In true Kanvar fashion, he tackles that impossible quest with the same vigor and energy he used to tackle the older boy taunting him in the market place.

Without recounting the entire plot of the first book, I’ll just say that Kanvar, by breaking all rules of both human and Nagas, succeeds in bonding with a Great dragon, defeating all enemies that stand in his way, and saving his brother’s life in the process.

But Kanvar’s zeal in saving himself and his brother lands him in direct conflict with his father, the Naga king. For Kanvar, this is a more difficult conflict to resolve. For me, the physical story arc of his battle to stay alive and bond with a Great dragon pales in comparison to Kanvar’s internal struggle–a struggle of identity and loyalty. A personal struggle to overcome the traumas of his childhood and find a place for himself in the world. He can’t help but feel emotionally scarred by his own mother trying to kill him when he was a child, or by the fact that, given the choice between which son to save, his father chose Kanvar’s older brother to escape with and left Kanvar to fend for himself. Though Kanvar’s feelings of betrayal and abandonment are buried while he takes care of the more immanent need to bond, they resurface when he comes in contact with his father and brother again so many years after they abandoned him and learns that they have been living in luxury in a golden palace hidden in the jungles of Kundiland. Though Kanvar’s father tries to explain that he went back and searched long and hard for Kanvar until he was told Kanvar was dead, and though Kanvar’s older brother risks his own life to try to retrieve Kanvar from the humans, Kanvar can’t bring himself to forgive his father. To make the hard feelings between them worse, the dragon that Kanvar bonds with is his father’s greatest enemy. Another factor that adds to Kanvar’s animosity toward his father is that it was his father who wiped his grandfather, Kumar Raza’s, mind and sent him off weaponless and armorless to the Great North never to return. Kumar Raza is Kanvar’s idle, and his father’s perfidy in severing Raza from his family is unforgivable in Kanvar’s eyes.

Despite Kanvar’s anger at and distrust of his father, his father loves Kanvar dearly. His father’s greatest desire is to restore their family unity even if that means accepting the dragon who once was his enemy. This familial conflict is played out to conclusion in book 2. By the end of White Dragon, the conflict with his father is basically resolved, but Kanvar’s actions put him into deeper and deeper conflict with the other Nagas at the palace. A schism between the Nagas cracks open and eventually shatters Kanvar’s family in later books. In a sense, the overarching conflict of the whole series is the struggle of Kanvar’s family to deal with each other, to survive, and to make a place for themselves in a hostile world. A family drama, so to speak, at the center of a whirlwind of epic fantasy battles, and Kanvar is at the center of the center of all that.

 

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The Making of Dragonbound part 3 Maps and Cultures

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I have written a number of epic fantasy books where I tried my hardest to make the worlds as unique and different from our own as possible. Then I noticed that something that brought me tingles of joy when reading other people’s writing were the little Easter eggs in their writing that referred back to things of this world. Allusions to great literary works, hints of cultures from this world other than my own, bizarre things that turn up in real world folklore. Having noticed that I enjoy seeing these things in other people’s writing, I decided to take a new course with the Dragonbound world. I would purposely make it connect to the real world in as many ways as possible while keeping the integrity of the Dragonbound world and storyline. For instance, many of the lesser dragons are based on or extrapolated from real dinosaurs. And since I was researching prehistoric times, and playing in my head with the idea of humans living alongside the dinosaur/dragons of the ancient world. I decided the map could/should reflect that. I knew I needed a map of my new world (it wouldn’t be epic fantasy if it didn’t have a map), so I started with Pangea and looked through the continental drift maps from Pangea to the present. I needed to find a continent structure that would match the cultures and conflicts of the Dragonbound world. If you’ve taken the time to click on the link, take a look at the map for the Cretaceous Period. You will see that it bears a certain basic resemblance to the Dragonbound map above. I started with the Cretaceous map and changed it to fit more particularly the world I was creating.

I talked in an earlier making of post about the central novum of this world being people of two different races forming a physical bond that would give them great powers. The two races, of course, being dragons and humans. Before I could do much of anything else, I needed a name for these beings. I could have come up with some new and original fantasy name to call this race, but thought to myself, what if there is some creature already in mythology that is half human half dragon/reptile. You know, there totally could be, let’s go do some research. I found my race of beings in Hindu mythology. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica a naga is “a member of a class of mythical semidivine beings, half human and half cobra. They are a strong, handsome species who can assume either wholly human or wholly serpentine form and are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans. They live in an underground kingdom called Naga-loka, or Patala-loka, which is filled with resplendent palaces, beautifully ornamented with precious gems.” Thus the Dragonbound race of Nagas got their names, and the idea of the fabulous city of Stonefountain with its riches incredible palaces and more fully developed in my mind.

Perhaps a linguist like Tolkien can create fully developed languages for his world. I know if I try something like that it would be some crazy mashup of names and words that would have more incoherence than consistency. My hats off to all those brilliant authors who do and have created whole new languages for their worlds. I admire you more than you can know. I am not one of you. Some days I’m lucky to spell my own name right. And yet there must be cultural uniformity in names for each culture of an epic fantasy world. Anything less would destroy any believably in this new world. So, after having taken the name of the dragonbound from Hindu mythology, it seemed necessary then to draw other names from the central culture first introduced in the books from the same language. I have had some people ask why I came up with such impossibly crazy names for the Great dragons of the Dragonbound world. Well, I wrote out the character descriptions of the characters that would appear in the first book and went to a Hindi baby names page and Hindu mythology pages and tried to find names that would match the characters. The most recognizable of those names, of course, is Dharanidhar (the cosmic serpent of Hindu mythology according to some sources).

Having used Hindu names for many of the main characters, it seemed logical then to base the whole culture loosely on Indian culture. And that actually tied into the map I had created, the continent of Varna being roughly shaped like India. I named Varna after one of the four traditional social classes of India. And the central Varnan city, Daro, is a recreation of the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro.

A whole world is unlikely to be one culture, however.  So I very loosely based the Maran culture and names on imperial age Britain, Darvat on Peruvian culture, the humans in Kundiland on South American and African rain forest natives, and the Great North the Athabascans. I really enjoy studying different cultures, so all the research necessary for this book was pleasant and invigorating for me. People associated with any of these cultures will of, course say, that I did not do justice to any of them. I didn’t get anything particularly right at all, and I wasn’t trying to. anymore than I was trying to make the dragons true to real dinosaurs or the map exactly like that of the Cretaceous Period. All of these connections to the real world were only jumping off points to creating a fantastic other world setting. Because, well, it was fun for me to create a world that way. I found it creatively satisfying to put as many little filaments of connection from the real world into a fantasy world as possible.

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The Making of Dragonbound Part 2 continued

How does one go about creating an original fantasy world? There are a lot of books and articles on the subject and it seems at least one panel discussion at every sci-fi fantasy convention. I’ve listened to my fair share of panels and been on a few, and all those have helped me develop the skills of world creation.

My two favorite worlds I’ve created, I think, are the Worldshifters world and the Dragonbound world. I think these two are my favorites because I was able to bring a lot of my true inner self into their creation. Worldshifters is a world torn by the forces of order and chaos. Anyone who has cared for children (in my case four of my own and one grandchild so far) knows this constant battle. I just vacuumed a wide spread of yellow pixie-stick off of my bedroom carpet. The war is real and constant and easy to write about.

Dragonbound, on the other hand, took a lot more thought and planning, a lifetime of research, experience, and messing about with characters and ideas in my head. It’s the culmination of something that some of3636363636363636363636it’s roots started (Okay, that bit of chaos is also my grandson. He likes to help me write) in play with early childhood friends. I believe credit for the idea that two people of separate races could form a blood bond that gave them immense telepathic powers should be credited to my friend Lanette Russell. Further development that those two races could be human and dragon, I believe goes to Holly Horton. My memories are a bit dim about who came up with what during play so very long ago. The point being that few ideas are born alone in a vacuum. They are the sum of universal collaboration between writer and everything the writer interacts with, and one should never discount childhood friendships and childhood games. I am very glad for a mother who encouraged such creativity and even played along with me at times, never telling me to get my head out of the clouds or focus on reality even as I grew older.

The idea for a blood bond between human and dragon that gives amazing powers is just an idea. I still needed to create a world to place the idea inside. There have been many many books about dragons set in just as many worlds. How could I make one that would be unique and compelling?  I started by thinking about what I didn’t like about one or two of the dragon fantasies already written (a difficult thing to do since I enjoy reading dragon fantasies so much).  but, you know, it never sat right with me the Dragonlance idea that were either good or evil depending on what color they were, that in fact all dragons of a specific color had the same personalities and allegiances. Dragons, like other people, should be considered good or bad by their actions not their race. The other thing that bothered me was the tolkienesque idea that dragons are sparse. If dragons existed as a species on a world, it seems like other animals there should be extensive types and sub-types. In fact, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a world where dragons were everywhere and involved in all aspects of humans’ daily lives. Some people believe that the legends of dragons in our own world became a thing when people found dinosaur bones and imagined what creatures could leave such a skeleton behind.

I jumped off at this point and did a lot of research about dinosaurs and extrapolated what a civilization would look like if humans and dinosaurs/dragons coexisted. Of course, I needed dragons who were super intelligent and capable of building their own civilization to equal (outdo if you ask them) the humans’ civilization. Thus the idea of both Great dragons and lesser dragons was born. Both the omnipresence of the dragons and the existence of the Nagas (powerful humans bound to dragons) would have impacted all parts of society. The complexity of it takes a good while to sort out in one’s mind before anything can be written. Thus I spent a good long time just mulling things over, consciously trying to work out the Dragonbound world. But in the end it is from my subconscious mind that my stories are born.

I was in bed one time, trying to get to sleep, when my storyteller voice bubbled up from my subconscious in clear precise sentences (It does that occasionally). Feeling that the sentences forming in my mind were important, I struggled out of bed, grabbed pen and paper, and wrote:

Life started at Stonefountain.

Near the bubbling fountain of power, the humans and dragons grew up together. Bound by blood, the two races became great and powerful. But with power came division. For not all were bound, and those with the power brought on by the bonding abused that power, subjecting all powerless ones to servitude.

In time the servants rebelled against their masters. Their violent uprising destroyed the bonded dragons and humans. From that day on, the races separated, fleeing from Stonefountain and claiming their own lands. Distrust and war grew up between humans and dragons. The humans, fearing the power of the dragon bond, killed all those born to bond with the dragons. But some survived.

There are few things that one writes that don’t need to be revised and polished before being shown to the world. This is one of those rare things that I made almost zero changes to. I think the only changes I made were correcting a couple of spelling mistakes. The setting and underlying conflict for the Dragonbound world had fountained up in my mind on its own where all of my conscious planning had not gotten me far. But where did the idea of Stonefountain itself come from? What about the singing stones, where did they originate? I had certainly not been thinking about singing crystals and fountains while researching dragons, politics, culture, and economics.  The fountain, I don’t know. I’ve certainly seen and admired many beautiful fountains in my lifetime. Of course, there are all the legends of the fountain of youth, wishing fountains etc. So there is an underlying cultural idea that fountains can be magic. The idea that such a fountain could be connected to a pure spring of water in the mountains I attribute to the many adventures I’ve had hiking and backpacking in the Wasatch and Uintah mountains. Going back to one incidence in my early childhood, I had been hiking a short trail up to a spring with my father. I remember the overwhelming sense of wonder that came over when I saw this particular spring as it formed a small pool of water that cascaded in a little rivulet over moss-covered rocks amid which little yellow and white flowers grew. It was one of those breathtaking moments that one would like to hold onto forever, and I lamented to my father that I had left my camera in the car. My father, with his ever practical wisdom, told me I didn’t need a camera. I could take a picture of that spring with my mind and remember it forever. I did as he instructed, and that picture still remains with me today ever so many decades later.

The singing stones must probably be attributed to being told over and over again in every writing class, workshop, and conference that magic must always have a price and the more powerful you make a character, the stronger the kryptonite must be to counter that character. Ha, I just did an image search for kryptonite and yes, there it is, a clear colored crystal that can take away super powers. Isn’t the subconscious mind a beautiful thing? But kryptonite as far as I know, doesn’t sing. The voices of the ancestors, the oversong . . . I started college as a music major, playing the cello. I was an okay cellist, but what I really wanted to study was music composition and conducting. I loved writing music, and the more I focused on music, the more I could have sworn I could hear this unending song winding around and coming from the world all around me. I heard it in the water in the shower, in the wind through the trees, in the call of birds, the sound of people’s voices. It was ever present, and all music that I performed or heard others perform seemed to be just a piece of this one great song that filled the world with life. I wanted to tap into that music and write pieces of it myself. Eventually I figured out that I was far better at writing stories than playing the cello or composing music and changed my focus from music to writing. Though my love of classical music had been suppressed and somewhat forgotten for untold years, it could never be purged from the deepest regions of my subconscious. It burst forth in the subconscious creation of Stonefountain, and I was very glad to give it voice in the Dragonbound series.

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The Making of Dragonbound Part 2

Maybe I should have made this the first part, because now I’m going to talk about where the idea for Dragonbound came from. Fans of the Dragon Codex series have probably already heard this story from me, but for everyone else, here it goes.

The original Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were published in the 1980s. Since then countless books have been published set in the Dragonlance world including the YA series Dragonlance: The New Adventures. After The New Adventures wrapped up, I was invited along with several other authors to submit a proposal for a book in the new Dragonlance middle-grade series. I was to choose a side character from the New Adventures to have an adventure with a dragon. How cool is that? It’s not often one gets to write in a series they grew up loving. The new series was scheduled to  have 10 books, one for each of the types of dragons in the Dragonlance world. Five metallic (good dragons) and five chromatic (evil dragons). I ended up writing Red Dragon Codex and Brass Dragon Codex, with other super-talented writers writing five more of the books. Then the Great Recession hit and the company that holds the Dragonlance copyright made some changes including axing the last three books of the Dragon Codex series, thus Blue Dragon Codex, Copper Dragon Codex, and White Dragon Codex were never published much to the sorrow, and for some outrage, of the Dragon Codex fans. I spent several years responding to inquiries from frustrated fans, feeling powerless to do anything even though I had outlines for those books. I certainly don’t own the copyright for Dragonlance.

Then a revolution happened in the publishing industry brought on by print on demand and ebook technology. Suddenly around 2010/2011 a publishing company could be formed and books produced for a modest capital outlay instead of the investment of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus Wonder Realms Books was born. The first series it published was the Smartboys Club series, the first book of which hit #2 on the B&N children’s ebook list and stayed there for quite some time just below Alice in Wonderland. Money from the success of the Smartboys Club series made it possible for Wonder Realms Books to look around for another series. I realized even though I couldn’t complete the Codex series, the outlines for the last three books could be changed (drastically) to fit a different/new dragon fantasy world.

Coming Next: Creating a New World.

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The Making of Dragonbound I

Hi all, I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a long time, and some of you may think I have dropped off the face of the earth. Well sort of . . . Ma1f82-blue2bdragon2bsmallany of you already know this, but for those who haven’t heard yet, I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. According to Wiki “Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged.[1] This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems.” I won’t bore you with the full range of symptoms I am currently coping with. I’ll just say that I had a series of MS attacks over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays at the end of 2016, which made me think it was perhaps time for me to retire from writing full time. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but three and a half months into that, I’ve found I can’t stand myself when I’m not writing. Life is just too boring and meaningless if I’m not making up stories. So I have come up with several ideas for new books, which I’m tinkering with at the moment, however to get those ideas on paper, I’ve got to get back into the habit of writing every day—and somehow convince my physically impaired mind and body that it can do this. As an exercise and just for the fun of it then, I’ve decided to do a series of posts about the making of the Dragonbound series.

Since my own disability is currently on my mind, I figure I should start with Kanvar. Kanvar is the central character in the Dragonbound series. Readers will know that Kanvar was born with significant disabilities. When I was young, I read with horror about the affects of a drug called Thalidomide. Wiki explains Thalidomide “was used against nausea and to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. Shortly after the drug was sold in West Germany, between 5,000 and 7,000 infants were born with phocomelia (malformation of the limbs).” The pictures I saw of children affected by Thalidomide never stopped bothering me. Though Kanvar’s disabilities are genetic and not caused by a drug, I based them on some of the pictures I’d seen. It is said that we write to dispel the horrors in our own minds. Or as Stephen King puts it “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” Kanvar’s half-sized left arm that ends in a partial hand of only three fingers and his clubbed left foot are an expression of that. I had seen the horrors of Thalidomide early in my life and now sought a strong character who could overcome that memory for me.

But, Kanvar’s disability goes even deeper than that for me. I have to say, he is the easiest character I’ve had to get into the headspace to write. I can slide into Kanvar’s mind and body instantly if I want to. Some, even most characters, are hard for me to get grounded into their mindset to write from their point of view. Not so for me with Kanvar. As a toddler, I was severely knock-kneed and had to wear corrective shoes day and night. They were the ugliest most irritating things ever invented IMHO. So much so that even though I was young enough I shouldn’t have any memory of wearing them, I totally do. Stupid, ugly shoes. Eventually my legs straightened out so I looked and walked normally, but my kneecaps were always tilted weird which rubbed the cartilage and caused inflammation etc. As a youngster, I wanted to run marathons and dance ballet and stuff, but my stupid knees, ARG. I learned that those things would have to wait for a more perfect body in another lifetime. But, I wasn’t going to let them stop me from doing other things I wanted to do–hiking, backpacking, climbing mountains, horseback riding, dog sledding. I found that I could do all of those things . . . not as fast as other people, not as well as other people, but I could do them my own speed in my own way. When I was younger, I was accused of being obstinate and determined in pursuit of goals. Kanvar carries that obstinacy and determination to overcome his challenges as well. I think there is a bit of me in all of the characters I write, but Kanvar stands out as being an amplified personification of my own physical struggles and determination to overcome them.

Well, now I have a whole new set of physical struggles to overcome. So I’m saying to myself, what would Kanvar do if he were diagnosed with MS? Darn it, that means I have to get my butt off the couch, stop Netflixing, and get back to work. My next post will be about some other aspect of Dragonbound. If I don’t post it right away, those of you who have my email address should send me taunting emails to help me in my resolve to start writing again. 😀

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