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Archive for March, 2015

We all have an image of the classic dragon: big and red, armored, fire breathing, malevolent. But way back at the dawn of role-playing games, the creators of D&D must have felt that dragons posed a difficult challenge. How could gamemasters keep players interested in fighting yet another dragon?

Their solution was to create a veritable spectrum of dragons. Evil dragons were not just red, but also blue, green, black and white. In homage to the more benevolent Asian style of dragon, metallic dragons could be gold, bronze, brass, silver or copper. These were potentially wise guides for players. As years passed, there were jewel dragons and fairy dragons and creatures part dragon and part something else. Because the challenge remained the same — to keep these creatures interesting.

Of all the D&D dragons, the white dragons were most obviously the opposite of a stereotypical dragon. White dragons loved high, cold, icy mountains. They lived in caverns near glaciers and breathed deadly frost instead of fire. It was said they were not as intelligent as some other dragon breeds and relied on savagery instead of spellcasting.

Despite these slurs, ice dragons have become some of the most popular subjects for artists. Any Internet search will turn up dozens of likenesses of ice dragons. There’s just something about them. The ice is hard, yet beautiful. It shines against sunlight or moonlight. Ice dragons posess a mystery and grace that the traditional sort simply don’t have.

Here’s a link to a funny cartoon about white dragons in D&D.

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Here’s a preview of the cover for the fantasy anthology, The Dragon’s Hoard. It’s coming out sometime this summer, from Sky Warrior Books. Yes, I have a story in it! As you might guess, it is told from the dragon’s point of view.

Dragon's Hoard cover

Dragon’s Hoard cover

This has been a really good year for me, publication-wise. Not only did my middle grade dragon fantasy Masters of Air & Fire come out on February 2nd. Not only did my gothic werewolf novel, The Grimhold Wolf, come out February 13th. The Dragon’s Hoard will be the second anthology issued within 8 months months that includes one of my stories. This brings me to four publications within twelve months.

For some of you, it may not sound like much, but for me this is outstanding productivity. The only thing that would make it better is if a few of you could help me out with reviews, tweets, shares, and any other way you can think of to boost my signal. I can provide review copies.

If you’d like to find out more about my books, just click here. E-books and paper are available from Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Regardless how much or how little you can do, know that I appreciate the friendship and support I get from all of you bloggers out there. You are the best!

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One of the ultimate winter sports is actually an art: ice carving. Teams of competitors use power tools to sculpt blocks of ice into majestic works of art. Generally there is a time limit, and much of the work is carried out at night to help keep the ice frozen. When completed, the sculptures resemble fantastic glasswork. They are displayed with colored lights for a magical glow.

From the early 20th Century, Alaskan spring fairs featured thrones carved from ice for beauty queens and such. This gradually morphed into more elaborate ice carving as a special local event. Now, almost 80 years later, ice carving attracts teams from all over the world.

The annual world championship is held each March by Ice Alaska at the Ice Park in Fairbanks. Ice is brought from O’Grady Pond, where the water is believed to be especially pure, so the ice is especially clear. The 2015 championship was held March 17-20th. The weather was unusually warm this year, leading to rain and fear of premature melting.

Still, the show went on. This year’s winner was “Fighter,” by Junichi Nakamura and a US/Japanese team. It features a magnificent dragon squaring off against a Medieval Warrior. Another entry, “Peace in Spite of Evil,” depicts a fairly demonic female naga preparing to attack a meditating Buddha. This was created by Manu Songsri and a team from Thailand.

The images are proprietary, so I can’t post them, but here’s a link to a photo essay by CBS News.

This art form is ultimately perishable. Over several weeks, the sculptures melt or are eroded away by wind. We keep their images only in our minds — but wasn’t this always true of dragons?

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A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans. What a mouthful that title is! The authors are Newberry Honor-winner Laurence Yep and his wife, Joanne Ryder, an award-winning poet. These two collaborate on a clever retort to the trope of humans having dragons as pets.

The viewpoint character is a dragon, Miss Drake, who is mourning the recent death of her human pet. Fluffy, a.k.a. Amelia, was the latest in a family line that Miss Drake has kept as pets for several generations. But Miss Drake has little time to grieve, for along comes Fluffy’s great-niece Winnie, a lively young girl who somehow seems to think Miss Drake is her pet.

A dragon as pet? Who could imagine such a ridiculous thing!

So begins a middle-grade fantasy with shades of Harry Potter, as Miss Drake introduces Winnie to a magical world hidden among the mundane. There are even illustrations by Mary Grandpre, who did the art for Harry Potter.

The tale is short, light and breezy, full of humor and gentle adventures. Kids in 3rd to 5th grades will enjoy this book. Older readers may find it a bit childish.

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Maleficent has always been one of my favorite Disney bad-gals. She can turn into a dragon! What’s to not like? Plus, that head-dress of hers is just classic. So I’ve been looking forward to this character’s return in the fairy tale drama, Once Upon A Time.

The season has just begun, but already I can tell Maleficent will be a major focus. Not only does she have past entanglements with Snow White and Charming, but evidently Maleficent and Regina (a.k.a. Snow White”s nemesis, the Evil Queen) once had a close friendship.

In the most recent episode, we saw how Regina, then a bitter teenager, idolized Maleficent’s dragon powers. Rumplestilkskin, in his jealousy, transported Regina to Maleficent’s castle, where Regina found Maleficent shattered by the failure of her curse against Briar Rose. Though disappointed, Regina succeeded in rekindling Maleficent’s flame and restoring her powers.

Hints in past episodes are that the two women had a rocky relationship. Regina ultimately imprisoned Maleficent in dragon form to guard a powerful artifact, while Maleficent had secretly offered to help Snow White overcome Regina’s curse before it was even cast. For his part, Rumple had also recruited the Queens of Darkness — Maleficent, Ursula (the sea witch from Little Mermaid) and Cruella deVille of 101 Dalmations — for his schemes, only to turn against them later.

But alliances shift, and now a consortium of villains is hunting down the Author. They include Regina, Rumple, and the Queens of Darkness. Their plan is to force the Author to write them all happy endings.

I missed the first season, where Maleficent battled Emma (daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming) and lost. This time, by darn, I’m not going to miss it! I’ll follow up in a few episodes to let you know how my favorite Dragon Lady is doing.

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This is a picture book, published in 2012 by Two Lions. Ken Baker, an old hand at picture books, finds his words well matched to the whimsical illustration by Christopher Santoro.

As you can guess, Baker’s story riffs on the children’s song, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Here, in addition to the standard cow, sheep and pig, MacDonald decides to add a dragon to his menagerie! Is this a good idea? The other animals don’t think so. Then the dragon lets them know what he thinks of their thinking.

Yep, you knew this wasn’t a good idea.

Although predictable, it’s a fun telling and the cartoonish art style keeps it from being too scary. If you have young readers around the place, you might want to check this one out.

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This is some student art I saw hanging in Garry Middle School. The medium is scratchboard. There were several dragons, but this one had the nicest presence and flair.

Student artwork, Garry Middle School; photo by Deby Fredericks, Dec. 2014

Student artwork, Garry Middle School; photo by Deby Fredericks, Dec. 2014

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