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Archive for November, 2013

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the US. A wonderful family time, yet with a weird, ugly side. The huge food binge, followed by a huge shopping binge. Everything feels just a little bloated today.

Thanksgiving has made me think about dragon hoards, of all things. A huge treasure binge, if you will.

In many of the ancient tales, heroes do battle with dragons for the greater good. They risk their lives to protect their homes and families from a malevolent force bent on devouring everything. Fame and fortune are happy accidents.

In modern story telling, like D&D or fantasy video games, adventurers do battle with dragons for personal gain. They risk their lives to get the dragon’s hoard. Fame and fortune are the whole point.

I mention this because greed for the dragon’s hoard is a theme I addressed in my fantasy short story, “The Dragon King.” A valiant king fights to save his people from the rapacious dragon, only to be snared by the lust for gold.

This short story was published by Song of the Siren, a long-defunct online magazine. Sadly, I can’t link to the text version any more. However, “The Dragon King” is also the first episode of my podcast series, which shares the same name. It’s on my web site, and it’s free in the spirit of holiday giving. (Although fame and donations would be great, too)

Check if out, if your interested.

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For someone who loves dragons as much as me, you might think all my books have dragons. Well, I blush to admit, only one of them does. That’s my second novel, Too Many Princes, published in 2007 by Dragon Moon Press.

In this book I discovered one of the problems in combining humans with dragons: scale. Dragons are so much larger than humans, it’s difficult to fit both in the same space. In a dragon-sized space, humans rattle around like the last cracker in a box. In a human-sized space, dragons don’t fit at all. If they are outdoors, standing side by side, the human only comes up to the dragon’s elbow. They can’t look each other in the eye unless the dragon crouches and pretzels its neck around.

To combat this, I gave my dragons the power to change their shape, as they do in Asian lore. So they could disguise themselves as human, fit into human-sized spaces, and hold conversations that didn’t involve humans shouting up at their gigantic friends. Also as in Asian lore, I made them master wizards who trained a few carefully selected humans to follow in their ways.

In Too Many Princes, two of the three viewpoint characters have a connection to the dragons. I was surprised how that grew out of my first vague ideas for the book. If you’re interested, my web site has more about Too Many Princes.

What really intrigues me, though, is how other writers have handled the differences in power between human and dragon characters. How do you handle conversations when one character is physically bigger than the others? (Conversations with giants would apply just as well, I suppose.) Do you give your dragons magic, or are they tough enough just with flame breath and plate armor?

Let me hear from you!

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I’m breaking away from the topic of dragons, just for long enough to mention some news in my writing career. The Seven Exalted Orders is my fourth fantasy novel. Up until now, it’s been only an e-book. However, Sky Warrior Books just let me know that they’re also producing trade paperbacks.

This is a big deal to me because I’ve done signings for all my previous books, but there’s no way to autograph an e-book. Now I’ll be able to have paper copies when I do my holiday signings!

As a refresher, The Seven Exalted Orders is set in a society where wizards are strictly controlled in what kind of magic they can do. A woman is born with a power that doesn’t fit those neat categories. Rather than live a lie, she runs away to dwell in the wild… but the phrase “you can’t fight city hall” has a whole new meaning when it comes to wizards.

This book has intrigue, the temptation of power, a stormy romance and second chances. It has 4.8 stars on Goodreads!

If you’re interested, you can get the e-book from Amazon, B&N, and very soon, your favorite book seller!

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On the topic of so-called “dragonfish,” there’s a third and most famous sort, the Arowana. These are a clan of striking fresh water fish whose bodies are long and flat with fins running along the top and bottom. Arowana are living fossils, with evidence of the family dating to the Cretaceous. In modern times, various species live in tropical Australia, Asia, South America and Africa.

All of these fishes are large and beautiful, but they have especially deep roots in Asian culture, whence the “dragon fish” name springs. Their barbels and long, trailing fins were thought to resemble the “moustaches” of legendary dragons. In the US, we sometimes see Arowana housed in aquariums sited at Chinese restaurants. They are considered very lucky (possibly because they would have provided a lot of food for the table) and an omen of prosperity.

The restaurant fish are likely youngsters, because most species reach 2 to 3 feet in length and require a large tank to house them. Their natural habitat is slow moving, murky rivers in jungle areas where overhanging vegetation provides cover. They have a kind of primitive lung that allows them to breathe air. Arowana lurk near the surface and jump out to ambush prey. One species in South America is reported to have jumped up to 6 feet high to snare a meal!

Unfortunately, these beautiful fish are threatened by habitat destruction. Several species are endangered and cannot be caught or sold. However, international treaties do allow commercial breeding, so the fish you may see in pet shops should be captive bred. It’s sad to think such an impressive animal might one day disappear from the wild.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how dragons can appear in unexpected places. I first saw Arowanas in a video game called “Animal Crossing,” where you can catch fish to earn money. Little did I know this would be just one more surprise dragon in my life.

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It’s all very well to read about sea monsters like the Giant Oarfish, and deep sea dwellers like Dragonfish, but what if you want a water dragon of your own? Believe it or not, there are a couple of “dragon fish” you can keep in a home aquarium.

Violet Goby is a species found in the US from South Carolina south along the Atlantic coast to northern Brazil. They have long, thin bodies with larger heads and vicious-looking teeth. Their eyes are small, and they don’t see well.

Pet stores often promote these “dragon fish” as aggressive carnivores. In fact, they are algae eaters who tend to hide in the daytime. However, their natural foraging behavior is to root around in the sand, and this can put on an entertaining show.

If well cared for, Violet Gobies can grow to an impressive 2 feet in length. and develop a silver/blue hide that is described as metallic or iridescent.

The natural habitat for Violet Gobies is coastal marshes, bays and river outlets where the water is warm and brackish (that is, a mix of fresh and salt) with a sandy bottom. Keeping them in aquariums requires a bit of know-how and more equipment like heaters than your basic goldfish tank. Here’s a link to a good care-of page.

But wait, there’s more! Next time I’ll tell you about an even more impressive “dragon fish.”

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It’s amazing where dragons will turn up. In a class, I was helping a kid look up bio-luminescent animals, and there it was! Yep, I wasn’t even looking, and I found another ocean-going dragon.

Dragonfish are predators of the deep sea who can produce their own light. Some have eye spots that generate light, others can flash rows of lights along their bodies, and still others have bio-luminescent lures similar to angler-fishes’s. Unlike angler fishes, dragonfish have long, skinny bodies rather than with the outsized head we associate with angler fish.

Like many denizens of deep water, dragonfish are mysterious. Do they use their lights to attract mates? To lure in prey? To startle enemies? How long do they live? Scientists aren’t sure. We know adults are found up to 5,000 feet deep. Many animals at this frigid depth can make their own lights. Some dragonfish even have black stomachs, to block the lights of prey they have swallowed. They aren’t very big, only 6″ long, but they sure have a dragon’s-mouth mouth full of cutlery!

If you want to find out more about dragonfish, Sea and Sky is a great web site with information about all kinds of deep-sea monsters. Next time, I’ll talk about a few other fish that are nick-named “dragonfish.”

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Time has been short for blogging this week, so here’s a picture of another real-life dragon. Yes, it’s a leafy sea dragon. Isn’t it just the cutest little thing?
Leafy_Seadragon

If I had an aquarium, I would definitely want a leafy sea dragon.

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