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Archive for April, 2012

It’s been a long journey, and our three wyrmlings face their final challenge. Can they save Wrotha and earn the right to claim Hot Mountain? Find out in the final episode of Masters of Air & Fire. The episode is available on Podbean or my web site.

This special finale includes chapters 31, 32 and 33, with an approximate run time of 23 minutes.

Now here’s my challenge to you: let me know what you think! The series has been running since January and I haven’t received any feedback at all. (Picture me pouting.) So now that the story is complete, I’d love to receive comments on the whole yarn or any part of it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Masters of Air & Fire, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Time notes: Chapter 31, 0:53; chapter break, 6:48; chapter 32, 7:19; chapter break, 12:55; chapter 33, 13:48; end credits, 21:08; total run time, 22:25.

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Regular readers may notice that I haven’t been posting book reviews in the past few weeks. Although I’ve read several, none were books I could heartily recommend. I want to keep this blog positive, so I won’t post negative reviews and I won’t give titles of the books I didn’t like. I will say, however, that I was surprised not to enjoy these books. The authors are well known, and the series have been successful. I guess I expected to be dazzled.

My biggest stumbling block was that the dragons didn’t play enough of a part in the story. One of them was almost more fashion accessory than character. One of them mostly got the human character into trouble (although he occasionally helped his friend out). In a third series, the author was so coy about whether the dragons were real that it wore out my patience.

So, readers — tell me about some good dragons books! Ones where the dragon is a character that moves the plot and acts from its own motives, rather than a pet who happens to have scales and fire breath. Preferably books that a fifth- or sixty-grader can read without stumbling over vocabulary.

I’m looking forward to your recommendations.

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I’ve been discussing lately whether it could be possible for dragons to fly under the laws of physics as we now understand them. (In science fiction, one could posit different gravity and atmospheric composition on exotic planets, but I’m not enough of a scientist to go there.) I’ve mentioned the biggest flying dinosaurs and birds known from the fossil record, ptersaurs and terratorns respectively. These show that it is, indeed, possible for large animals to fly while still obeying the laws of physics.

The downside of our scientific understanding is what makes pterasaurs and terratorns unlikely examples of real dragons. This is avian behavior. The biggest flying birds today, albatrosses and condors, are primarily gliders. Although they can fly by flapping their wings, many of them roost on cliffs or tall hills, where gravity can assist their take-off.

These birds cover amazing distances in their daily lives. Albatrosses find their way between islands scattered all over the ocean around Antarctica. They seldom land except to eat and breed. Condors also spend hours in the air watching for carcasses to scavenge.

Gliding is a very efficient strategy for covering great distances while conserving energy. However, it’s not exactly the kind of behavior we associate with dragons. Our favorite mythical creature is depicted more as swooping down on prey or making flaming “bomber runs.” And, scavenging? No way! We all know that dragons would catch their own prey.

So, although the big birds and pterasaurs are exciting — especially the pterasaurs, with their bat-like wings — they aren’t a perfect example of how dragons could be real.  We’ll just have to stick with our imaginations.

Isn’t that what we all like best anyway?

 

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I proudly present the penultimate episode of Masters of Air & Fire! Listen to it on Podbean or my web site.

In this podcast, the wyrmlings try to decide where to go next. Is Hot Mountain safe again? This episode includes chapters 29 and 30 and runs approximately 15 minutes.

Next episode is a special, three-chapter finale. Look for it here on April 29th!

Time notes: Chapter 29, 1:00; Chapter break, 7:09; Chapter 30, 7:37; End credits, 16:54; Total run time, 18:17

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I wrote last time about the largest dragonlike creatures that science has uncovered thus far: the pterasaurs of the Azhdarchid family. For purposes of comparison, I’d like to also mention the largest flying birds. (And we’ll put aside the question of whether birds are, in fact, living dinosaurs.)

Terratorns are an extinct family of birds which lived during the Ice Age, just 6 million years ago. They are distant relatives to vultures and condors, although with some features more like eagles and other modern raptors.

The biggest terratorn yet discovered is called Argentavis magnificens, or “magnificent bird from Argentina.” You may have guessed that these fossils were unearthed in Argentina. The wing span of Argentavis is estimated at 7 meters, or 23 feet. That’s impressive, but still puny compared to the estimated 12-meter reach of Quetzalcoatlus or Hatzegopteryx.

What about living birds? The largest flying birds alive today are the Wandering Albatross, with a spread of 3.65 meters (12 feet), and the Andean Condor at 3.2 meters (10 feet).

In fantasy fiction, we love to write about dragons that are big enough for a person to ride on them. Obviously, none of these birds would be large enough for anyone but a child to ride. Yet they and the pterasaurs do have something in common. I’ll talk about that in next week’s blog.

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As writers, we often play with ideas like whether it’s truly possible for things like dragons to fly or breath fire while living with the rules of physics as we know them. Today I’m pondering the possibility of dragons flying.

We know from the fossil record that large flying animals have existed in the past. They were pterasaurs of the late Cretaceous, 68-65.5 million years ago. Two pterasaurs currently vie for the title of largest ever. Both are known only from partial skeletons, and so their true size can only be estimated.

Quetzalcoatlus was discovered in Texas in 1971. It belongs to a pterasaur family called Azhdarchidae, which had very long necks and no teeth. Estimates of Quetzalcoatlus’s wing span range from 11–12 meters (36–39 feet). Click here to read more about Quetzalcoatlus.

The other contender is Hatzegopteryx, discovered in Romania in 2002. It’s a member of the Azhdarchid family, the same as Quetzalcoatlus, but it’s skull has a heavier build. Based on bone fragments found so far, it’s wing span is estimated at 12 meters. You can read more about Hatzegopteryx here.

Stay tuned, because archaeologists are still debating the evidence and searching for more fossils. New discoveries may change what we now believe about these large ptersaurs.

Whichever of the two is biggest, a forty-foot wingspan is clearly impressive. That’s as long as the largest school busses! Even though the folk tales that give us our image of the dragon don’t specify its wing span (and in the case of Asian dragons, wings don’t even apply) we can see from the fossil record that it is indeed possible for a very large reptile to fly.

Score one for dragons!

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Episode 14 is here for your listening pleasure! You can hear it on Podbean or my web site.

In this installment, Yazka finally admits that she needs her siblings more than she wants to dominate the humans. Though homeless again, the three wyrmlings set out to return the freed slaves to their own kind. Includes chapters 27 and 28.

Look for Episode 15 on April 22, 2012.

Time notes: Chapter 27, 1:01; Chapter break, 10:00; Chapter 28, 10:22; End credits, 17:03; Total run time, 18:23.

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