The Making of Dragonbound part 3 Maps and Cultures

map colored

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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Great News. Dragonbound X: A New Day is now available in print

Twisted and scarred by his encounter with Khalid, Devaj seeks a new life hiding as a human minstrel in Navgarod, but his past pursues him. Hated and hunted, Devaj faces powerful forces bent on his destruction and the inhalation of the royal line. Epic Fantasy at its finest. Dragonbound X: A New Day inspires a new generation of dragon fans to live lives of courage and hope.

As with some of the other books, this one is priced for a short time at a discount of only $8.99. To get the price that low, it has to be exclusively on Amazon while it’s on sale. It will stay $8.99 for two weeks and then go up to the regular $16.99 price and be distributed elsewhere. You may have noticed this price is 2 dollars more than the price of the other books in the series. That’s because, as far as word count, the book is twice as long as any of the other books. To keep the book from being twice as expensive, the formatter worked really hard to make a beautiful book while keeping the page count as small as possible. I think it turned out nice, and am still pushing for the print price to be $14.99 like the other books even though it means I’ll make very little on each sale. I guess we’ll see where it ends up in a couple of weeks. But if you want to get it for the really awesome price of $8.99 now is the time. Here is a description of the book.

I hadn’t originally planned to write this book, but after Great Blue Liberator, I had this unsettled feeling that I’d left Devaj in a very bad place emotionally. It haunted me at night, and I realized for the story to have full closure, Devaj’s story had to be told. It is a longer book than the others because of the very basic nature of the character. For the rest of the series, Kanvar has been the overall main character, and Kanvar is a man of action; he makes split second decisions on the fly, fights his battles, and solves his problems as quickly as possible. Devaj, on the other hand, is a thinker, a planner, a quiet man who prefers to avoid confrontation. Too bad for him, everywhere he tries to retreat brings him into greater and greater confrontation. So, there is plenty of action and adventure in this story like there is with the other books, It just takes Devaj a little longer to figure out what he must do to resolve his problems and take the necessary action to accomplish it. For me personally and emotionally, this book is the crowning jewel of the series. I hope you enjoy it.

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