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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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).
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, 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.
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.
Hi, 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.
After 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.
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.
***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.
***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.
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. And the oil painting I attempted last month turned out like this.
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.
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.
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.