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Category: Dragons

Wordfest 2019

Last Friday, my wife and I drove down to Corpus Christi. On Saturday, we took part in the second annual Wordfest, a book festival and symposium held at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. We had a great experience.

They had a contest for best decorated table, so we went all out, as you can see from the photo. The fiber-optic lights represent Seri’s color beams of magic. There’s Victor’s flail. And a friend loaned me the big metal dragon. No, there aren’t any dragons in this book, so he’s holding a sign that explains that. The result? We won second place!

Such a diverse group of people. For the day, my table sat in between a local Christian radio DJ (who also wrote a book), and a college professor promoting her book on social justice activism. (She sold more than I did, even though she was charging $35!)

I did sell a few books, but I also got to share my experiences and advice with several young writers who are hoping to publish their own stories. We talked about independent versus traditional publishing methods, and the difficulties involved in each. 

If you are one of the people I talked with and happen to be reading this, here are the links to some of what we discussed: IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing. One solid source of a wealth of information is the Alliance of Independent Authors. Their website will keep you busy for hours!

Most amusing conversation I had: the one with the college girl who said, “I’m always curious to talk with people who write for money.” 

Manning an author table is great fun, and I hope I can find a few more opportunities sometime soon. 

Unfortunately, this event, with the travel and everything else involved, put me behind on #NaNoWriMo. But not by much! I’ll write more each of the next few days to catch back up. I have just over 10,000 words to go. The end is in sight!

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Pete’s Dragon and Recovery of the Real World

When I wrote my blog post about dragons yesterday, I had no idea that my children would ask to spend the evening watching the new version of Pete’s Dragon on Netflix. I also had no idea that I would be moved by one scene in particular, and catch the subtle references to one of my favorite writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.
In the movie, Robert Reau_movie_poster_petesdragon_3f223dac.jpegdford’s character Meachum describes the time when, as a young man, he had a brief encounter with a dragon. He talks about being scared and almost shooting it, but then deciding not to, because… there was magic. He couldn’t find any other word to describe it but magic. He tells his daughter how this magic affects him: “It changes the way I see the world – the way I see trees, the way I see sunshine, the way, even, I see you.”
Meachum is speaking of what Tolkien called “recovery” or “a re-gaining – regaining of a clear view.” Tolkien said this was not seeing things as they are, but as we are meant to see them. He elaborated on this very extensively in his famous essay “On Fairy-Stories.” I highly recommend reading the entire thing.
Meachum’s daughter, Grace, is a forest ranger. In her first appearance in the movie, we see clearly that she loves the forest. She tells Pete that she grew up loving it and so took a job to help protect it. But she scoffs at her father’s dragon stories. When the evidence of a dragon mounts, she tells her boyfriend, “I know this forest like I know the back of my hand! How could I have missed a dragon?”
This is exactly what Tolkien was talking about. He spoke of appropriating things that are familiar to us, so that they become trite: “We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their color, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.” This was Grace’s problem. Even though she still loved the forest, it had become “known” to her, to the point that she was missing the true beauty and wonder hidden within it.
A couple of weeks ago, my family was at Carlsbad Caverns. We wandered slowly through the majestic rooms, in awe of everything around us. Only one thing perplexed us: there were constantly people rushing past us. They weren’t just moving at a more rapid pace – they were literally rushing to get through, barely even glancing at things around them. They were missing out on extraordinary beauty.
Tolkien speaks eloquently of how fairy stories or fantasy can help us recover the seeing of things the way we should. “Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds.”
I’d love to quote pages of the essay, but I’ll leave off with one more: “It was in fairy-stories that I first discovered the potency of the words, and the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.”
It is through the fairy stories, the magic in the woods, and yes, the dragons, that we truly see the world around us. We recover the way we are meant to see it – as something magnificent and powerful, not trite and boring.
In The Two Towers, Eomer* asks,

“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?”

“A man may do both,’” said Aragorn. “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”

IMG_0081.JPG*Fun tidbit: in the movies, Eomer was played by Karl Urban, who also starred in Pete’s Dragon.
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Why Dragons?

It’s no secret that my current novel features dragons in a big way. In fact, dragons have somehow managed to show up in almost everything I’ve written, even when there are already dinosaurs involved. (Yes, you can have dinosaurs and dragons in the same story. Stop it!)
Some would say dragons are played out, overused, exhausted for story potential. After all, they’ve been around for a while. Almost every major culture throughout the planet has legends and stories of dragons, dating back many thousands of years in some cases.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories of all, references dragons and dragon fangs. Some even interpret the monster Humbaba as a dragon (though I don’t think so).
SmaugDestroyingLakeTown.jpgDragons are even in the Bible. In the book of Revelation, the dragon is used as a symbol of Satan. But in the ancient book of Job (possibly the oldest part of the Bible), God describes the leviathan as a fire-breathing dragon, and uses it as an illustration of His (God’s) creative power.
In modern fantasy fiction, dragons are abundant. I glanced over my bookshelves before starting this post and saw at least ten books with the word “dragon” in the title, and that doesn’t include obvious dragon-central stories like The Hobbit!
Dragons are so integral to fantasy in general that the all-time king of fantasy role-playing games includes them in the title. (Dungeons & Dragons for those five of you who didn’t get the reference.) Multiple game systems and fantastic worlds of writing have been filled with detailed descriptions of dragons and their abilities, culture, lairs, and so on.
Now I’m not going to try to get into deep psychological analyzation of the human mind’s fascination with dragons. If you want that, I suggest using Google to find it. It’s out there. I have no idea how much, if any, of it is actually worthwhile.
Dragons, through various stories, have been friends or enemies, good guys or bad, helpful or hurtful… but always dangerous, always powerful, and usually near invincible.
So what makes me think I can add anything to the dragon mythos?
To be honest, I didn’t start out thinking I would be writing about dragons. It just happened. Apparently, they’re so close to my imaginative process that they just forced their way into my thoughts and plotting.
Once I had dragons in the story, though, I had to start thinking about their abilities and origins and so on. In this, I hope I’ve been able to do something somewhat unique. I think the origins of my story’s dragons are something unusual. When the book eventually arrives, maybe you’ll agree.
Or maybe you’ll ignore it altogether because “dragons are so 2000 (B.C.)!”

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