Tween Author Boot Camp

Check out this awesome writer’s workshop for tweens. I get to present my 5 Simple Steps to Write Your Own Story class at it. It’s going to be fun.

http://tweenabc.com/

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More about Kumar Raza

I just have to add this after my last post about Kumar Raza and how his character came about. In that post I mentioned Kumar Raza’s trunk that was mysteriously at Kanvar’s house with all his dragon hunting gear even though he disappeared while hunting the white dragon. I also mentioned that Kumar Raza is modeled after my own larger-than-life grandfather. What I forgot to say was that Grandfather’s Trunk does exist in real life. This is a travel trunk my Grandpa Green brought back with him from Tahiti. It currently rests in my mother’s living room and is filled with my Grandfather’s things that she inherited. I subconsciously put grandfather’s trunk into Dragonbound Blue Dragon and only just this week realized there is a real life object that I got that idea from.grandpa green's trunk

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The Making of Dragonbound Part 4 Characters: Kumar Raza

Warning: spoilers Book 1 Blue Dragon and Book 2 White Dragon

It may be interesting to note that Kumar Raza, the Great Dragon Hunter, does not exist in the original outlines for the first three books of the series. It is common practice for writers in the planning process of a book to create character sheets for the main and some lesser characters that include all the details of a character’s looks and personality and back story. Kumar Raza did not have a character sheet either. He simply was not part of my conscious plans for Dragonbound. How then did such a central character for the whole series come about? It went something like this.

The outline for book 1, chapter 1, scene 1 says Kanvar gets medicine for brother and goes home. The beginning of any book, especially an epic fantasy, the author must first introduce the reader to a new world and culture. Therefore, the first order of business was to put the main character, Kanvar, into his setting, letting the reader discover the world through Kanvar’s eyes as he interacts with it. To do this, I as the writer had to get right down into the center of Kanvar’s body and consciousness. I become Kanvar and hurry with him through the narrow dusty streets of Daro and across the crowded square. But this whole beginning would be incredibly boring if Kanvar just walks through the setting without interacting with it. It would be wasted space and wasted words if it didn’t do more than show setting. Every scene, every line in a book, especially right at the beginning, must pull its weight in the story, doing many things at once: showing setting, conflict, character, tone, and foreshadowing. Therefore, Kanvar can’t just go home. Something has to happen. So Kanvar reaches the market square and is confronted by a bully who mocks Kanvar for his physical disability. Kanvar has better things to do than listen to some stupid farm boy; Kanvar is trying to save his brother’s life. But, Kanvar knows himself, who he is (or thinks he does. Everything he thinks of himself is about to change when he gets home), and he is so deeply rooted in his identity, his retort comes back to the bully without hesitation.

“I belong to the dragon hunter jati. My grandfather was Kumar Raza, the greatest dragon hunter who ever lived.” (Actually the original line just said “I belong to the dragon hunter jati. My grandfather was ______, the greatest dragon hunter who ever lived.” It was much later in the book’s development I went in search of a good Hindi Name that would essentially mean great hunter and named him Kumar Raza)

Well, of course, Kanvar has a grandfather. Since Kanvar belongs to the prestigious dragon hunter caste, it makes sense that he would boast that his grandfather was the greatest dragon hunter. Whatever, moving on with the story. But my subconscious mind had other plans, better plans. My subconscious creative has always been a better storyteller than my conscious mind. The next retort from the bully sprang fully formed from my subconscious, minus the name. “Raza?” the boy’s eyes widened. “You lie. Besides, I heard Kumar 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.”

“Wait a minute, brain,” I said to myself after typing that line. “You realize if you put a spicy line like that in at the beginning, a line that includes an unsolved mystery, that is a promise to readers that you will have to fulfill later.”

“Stop whining and keep typing. I know what I’m doing,” my subconscious answers.

(Yes, I talk to myself. I’m a writer. It’s my job to make up dialogue. But don’t we all talk to ourselves in one form or another when we’re trying to solve a problem or make an important choice in life like where to go for dinner? “I’d really like an Arby’s roast beef. But last time I went to Arby’s the staff was rude to me. You know there’s a new independent hamburger place that just opened. Maybe I should try there. But I might not like it. I know I like Arby’s, in fact I really want a roast beef sandwich, not a hamburger.)

“Well, okay,” I tell my subconscious. “I’ll just leave that line like it is, and if I can’t figure out how to fit that into the story later, I’ll come back and delete it before the book gets published.”

So I continue typing merrily on my way, and Kanvar gets home. Now, I’m once again faced with setting. I must describe what the inside of his home looks like. It is nothing like any modern American house or apartment, so I have to be precise and concise. I have to show the reader with a few very distinct details how these people live, weaving the setting in with the action of his brother dying and the doctor’s life-changing assertion (the death sentence for Kanvar, his father, and his brother) that his brother is a Naga. The doctor gives Kanvar’s mother a cup with poison in it to kill her sons. So, here’s what happened after the doctor leaves to call out the authorities.

Mani set the cup down on the dragonhide-covered table beside the bed and went to a locked chest she kept in the corner. It was grandfather’s chest. Kanvar had been allowed to look inside once or twice. It held grandfather Kumar Raza’s dragon armor, his spear, sword and crossbow. And grandfather’s singing stone. All his tools for hunting dragons.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I say to my brain. “Why in the world would you say she has his grandfather’s chest, including all his gear? Yes, I know his mom needs the singing stone to find out if her husband really is a Naga and a crossbow to kill him when she finds out he is one, but she could have her own singing stone and crossbow. Mentioning Kanvar’s grandfather again here makes no sense. Besides, you already said that grandfather has gone off hunting a white dragon and disappeared. There is no way he would have gone hunting and left all his weapons and armor behind. This is totally bogus. You can’t say this.”

My subconscious answers, “Seriously, shut up and keep writing. I know what I’m doing.”

“No you don’t. You’re crazy. I’m deleting that and rewriting it.”

“Don’t you dare touch that paragraph.”

I sigh. “Fine, but this one for sure I’m coming back and deleting before the book gets published.”

If you’ve read Dragonbound: Blue Dragon and Dragonbound II: White Dragon, you’ll know that I never went back and deleted those early introductions to Kumar Raza. It is those very lines that created what many readers consider the most endearing/engaging conflict in books 1 and 2. The conflict that really carries the stories isn’t so much the conflict with the dragons like I’d planned in my outline. It is Kanvar’s conflict with his own father whom he rightly blames for his grandfather’s disappearance.

So, the question is from what deep internal spring did the larger-than-life grandfather, Kumar Raza bubble up from in my mind? What possible thing could be so central to my experience in life that would make my subconscious mind so fixated on the missing grandfather? After giving it much thought, I have discovered the answer.

My grandfather Doyle Green died from cancer when I was six years old, and I felt his loss deeply. I was old enough to remember spending time with him and have treasured those few memories. But my grandfather wasn’t just any gray-haired old man. He was such an influential man in Utah that his published biography is nearly four hundred pages long. Grandpa Green was a world traveler, a magazine editor, and an author–everything I always looked up to and wanted to be. In fact, I have always felt since his passing that he has never been far from me, that he is watching over me and guiding me in my efforts as a writer.

granpa green002The stories in his biography show a man truly larger than life, at least life as we know it in today’s world. In addition to traveling all over the world (a trait shared by the mythic Kumar Raza), he spent much of his childhood living in the wild. His father was a forest ranger, and every spring he would ride his horse up into Big Cottonwood Canyon above Salt Lake City and camp out in the mountains all summer long.

Around the age of 21 he went to Tahiti and lived with the natives there for almost three years (makes sense why Kumar Raza would go live with the natives in the book).

granpa green004

After he married, the first house he lived in he made with his own hands, like for real. He made the bricks and everything. I could go on and on about Grandpa Green, so let’s just say that the very much larger-than-life Kumar Raza isn’t so different from my own Grandfather. The only thing Grandpa Green did not have was a twin brother. But of course my grandfather on my father’s side of the family was a twin.

Frank and Fenton Tyler with Frank on the right

Frank and Fenton Tyler, twin brothers. Okay, that pretty much rounds out the picture of one of readers’ favorite characters in the Dragonbound series. I’m not going to say any  more, because that would give even more spoilers to the series than what I’ve already talked about in the first two books. I’ll just say that Kumar Raza is one of my all-time favorite characters I’ve come up with.

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Real Dragons featured on eBook Daily

Great News, Real Dragons is being featured today on eBookDaily. Also, it hit #1 on Amazon’s children’s ebook fantasy and magic list. I’m still giving away a few more signed print copies to people who review it on Amazon. It’s still free to download right now so everyone can take advantage of the promotion.

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Real Dragons thumbnail

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Real Dragons now in Print

Real Dragons thumbnailHi, all. To celebrate the print release of Real Dragons*, we’ve set the price for the ebook to FREE in all online stores (except Amazon which has only free in the US). Plus, the first twenty people who read the free ebook and leave a review on Amazon will get a free signed copy of the print edition. To get your free print book, just leave the review on Amazon and let me know via the contact me on my website www.rebeccashelley.com. If you live outside the US and can’t get the free ebook on Amazon, use the Contact Me button on my website, and I’ll email you a copy.

I’m particularly fond of Real Dragons because of its contemporary urban setting, and because the way the magical creatures interact with the real world is different from what I’ve seen in other urban fantasy books for young readers. The feel of the magic realism in this book just makes me smile, and I hope you all will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

A gifted artist, twelve-year-old Weldon can’t stop drawing even when forbidden to by his mother. But when his drawings of dragons and fairies come to life, he finds himself caught between deadly criminals and the jewels they want. Only his courage and imagination can save him and his friends.

Also, COMING SOON . . .  The Enchanted Hills.

Enchanted Hills 2 thumbnailAfter Cara Burgess’s marriage collapses and corporate empire crumbles, she’s forced into bankruptcy and takes her personal yacht out for a goodbye cruise. On the water, dark forces rise against her and destroy her ship. She washes ashore on an island off the coast of Northern Scotland where she faces dangers she’s never dreamed of, discovers more about her past than she ever knew, and finds new love with someone who is not quite human.

I’m super excited about The Enchanted Hills, which is currently in the revision process. I’m looking for a few beta readers to give me feedback on this before the final draft. If you’re interested in beta reading The Enchanted Hills, just let me know via the contact me button on my website. I wish you all as much enjoyment with summer reading as I’m having.

*Real Dragons was first released as an ebook in 2011 under the title Black Dragon. We’ve changed the name along with the print release to avoid confusion with Dragonbound VIII: Black Dragon. Real Dragons is not part of the Dragonbound series.

 

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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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