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Archive for November, 2015

Hommana hommana, I peer into my crystal ball
And learn the most mysterious thing of all:
What are dragons grateful for?

Ikartya of the Emerald Scales — Gratitude, what’s that?

Ysislaw, Emperor of Sillets — My hoard.

Fruq the Furious — My flames, which destroy my enemies.

Tetheus of Shoredance Island — Delicious sheep.

Gnawrath, Most Malign — That my family is far, far away.

Cazarluun the Wraith — That I killed Sir Whatsizname before he killed me.

Carnisha of Mount Cragmaw — That humans are so easily deceived.

P.S. — Ysislaw, Cazarluun, Tetheus and Carnisha are all characters from my stories! Ysislaw is from my second novel, Too Many Princes. Carnisha is in my story that appeared in The Dragon’s Hoard anthology last spring. Tetheus and Cazarluun are in short stories that are thus far unpublished. However, their statements here don’t necessarily represent their roles in the stories.

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I was hesitant to read this book. You see, osteomancers are a kind of mage who gain magic by eating parts of magical and extinct creatures, particularly the bones. At the higher levels, they also feed on each other. With this premise, I was concerned that it might be too grisly. Fortunately, the author gave just enough detail to make me shiver without disgusting me. (For comparison, I’ve never been able to finish any of the Anita Blake books.)

The setting is an alternate Earth where the above-mentioned magi have seized power and declared independence from the United States. Southern California is its own country, hemmed in by magical rivals. As a native Angelino, I enjoyed how Van Eekhout used the geography of Los Angeles and wove in all sorts of detail, such as Hollywood history and the La Brea Tar Pits. I enjoyed how familiar city and road names are connected to characters. I also enjoyed how he veered into strange but fascinating alterations like having canals everywhere instead of freeways.

As a novelist, I give him top marks for thinking deeply and carefully before putting pen to paper. There’s an unflinching quality here, similar to George R. R. Martin and C. J. Cherryh, as this author didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of his setting. I appreciate the leavening of humor to balance that darkness. I also appreciate how each character was fully thought out. Even the minor walk-ons showed quirky aspects that raised them above the stereotypical guard or passer-by.

My only complaint is the absence of dragons. Of course, dragons are real in this world. Their parts are used in the most powerful spells and constructs. Although the main character has one or two experiences where he “sees” in the form of a flying dragon, the beasts themselves are not present in this book. However, it looks like that will be rectified in the next two books.

Again, be aware there is persistent mention of cannibalism in this book. You’ll need to decide for yourself if that content is too much for you.

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A commenter recently asked if I could publish more information about dragon lore from Korea. And as I was in the midst of research, what should come through but a post from Princess of Dragons! Although her post covered Asian Dragons in general, she did have a portion on Korean dragons.

With her kind permission, I’m reblogging the relevant section. Click here if you’d like to read her entire post.

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Korean Lung (or Yong)

Less friendly than either the Chinese or the Japanese Lungs, Korean Lungs share the love of hot water of the Japanese, and will nest in hot springs or volcanic waters. They have also been known, if they find an appropriate pool, to heat it up themselves. This also helps with hatching their eggs, since a constant temperature of just boiling water is needed to incubate them properly.

They are very narrow, but longer than the Chinese Lung, reaching up to 50 feet in length at their largest. They have four claws on each foot, and a similar head shape to the Chinese, but no spines along their back and fewer tendrils on the face. Colours for these dragons are yellows and golds in a range of shades, with white manes.

Mainly their diet consists of small mammals, such as deer found in the country. They use their long bodies to strangle and constrict the prey, before swallowing it whole, much like a snake would. It is unknown whether they can disjoint their jaws. They also seem to have a strange dance-like pattern or coiling movement that they can use on prey, which has a hypnotic effects, making it easy for them then wrap their bodies around the prey.

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Here’s a cute meme that’s been going around:

“Look to your left. The first thing you see is what you would hoard as a dragon.”

I saw… a tropical plant. Some of you probably know that I like gardening, so this is actually totally realistic.

What about the rest of you, blogging friends? I’d love if you could share what your hoard item would be.

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About a month ago, I mentioned that Spokane is hosting the Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival. I was longing to go, but money and schedules conspired against me. Fortunately, the festival was so successful that they extended it another two weeks. I was able to go last weekend with my husband, daughter, and some good friends.

So, how was it? A little pricey, I must admit, but it was also lovely and very cool, and I’m glad we found the time. In daytime the lanterns appeared almost too colorful, but when we went in the evening they had a beautiful glow. The weather was unusually warm for early November, and that made it a more pleasant experience.

There was a good variety of subject matter, including flowers, fish, insects, and animals, plus several large pagodas and similar structures. Some were arranged in arrays of lanterns, which carried quite a punch.

In addition to the lanterns, there was about a half-hour long stage show with folk dances, funny clowns and an acrobat. They had a small but amazing display of replicas from the famous tomb of terracotta warriors, plus a number of bronzes from different eras.

Previously I mentioned the big Asian dragon lantern, which was closer to 100 feet long than the 40 feet I had guessed. There were a few smaller dragons, too. Some of these were Western-style dragons, and some were more cartoonish/anime types. Curiously enough, they were displayed along with the dinosaurs.

If you’re interested, here’s a photo book, sponsored by a local TV station, showing almost all the lanterns.

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In the “Shadow Dragon Saga,” the final plot arc of the epic Dragonball series, the good dragon Shenron turns to the dark side. Dragonball has some philosophical groundings in Zen, which show clearly here. Every character has facets of good and evil. Several times, readers encounter characters who have split themselves into good and evil halves in order to reach a sort of enlightenment. However, the ‘evil selves’ always have their own goals and often become deadly villains.

In the same way, when heroes gather all the dragonballs and make their wishes, good and evil energies are created. Good energy goes into actually fulfilling the wish (assuming it is a benevolent one). Evil energy is contained within the dragonballs and released slowly over hundreds of years. This works all right in the era when the scattered dragonballs are nearly impossible to find, but advancing technology such as Bulma’s “radar” makes it relatively easy to gather them. As the dragonballs are used more and more often, the evil energy can’t be released. Eventually it builds to a critical mass.

When Goku makes his latest wish, an “evil half” of Shenron is created. Black Smoke Shenron seizes the dragonballs before they can disperse. He divides himself into seven Shadow Dragons, each connected to one of the dragonballs. Each of the Shadow Dragons has a distinct appearance, personality, and power set. The relative strength and malevolence of these dragons corresponds to the nobility and the scope of the original wishes. So the most comical dragons are linked to small or silly wishes, while the most vicious spring from wishes that revived many people or righted great wrongs.

The Shadow Dragons are, roughly from least to most powerful: Haze Shenron (pollution), Rage Shenron (stretching), Oceanus (water), Naturon Shenron (earth), Nuovo Shenron (fire), Eis Shenron (ice) and the most devious and cruel of all, Syn Shenron. Syn is a lethal martial artist whose goal is to destroy all life in the universe. He loves to taunt and torment his victims as much as he enjoys bloodying his hands.

In the closing chapters of the Shadow Dragon Saga, Syn devours the seven dragonballs and becomes Omega Shenron, whose awesome and terrifying power is capable of obliterating Earth itself. An array of heroes face Omega through many twists and turns. Both sides appear certain of victory at times, but finally Goku destroys Omega Shenron with a technique called Universal Spirit Bomb.

In the aftermath, the original Shenron returns. He heals the wounded and reverses all of the Shadow Dragons’ damage. Then Shenron tells the heroes he needs time to recover. He takes the dragonballs and disappears. Now the people of Earth must stop depending on him and begin to make better choices.

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Among the multitude of recurring characters in the Dragonball saga, three important ones are dragons. These are Shenron, Porunga, and Icarus.

Shenron is the magical dragon of Earth. When brave heroes gather all seven dragonballs, this is who they summon. Shenron is a classic Asian dragon — long and serpentine, with stag horns, flowing whiskers, and so on. His scales are bright green above, buff/gold beneath, and his eyes are scarlet. Like all Asian dragons, Shenron has a benevolent personality. However, he does have his pride and sometimes expresses scorn for humans who make selfish decisions. His home is in the fiery core of the Earth.

In granting wishes, Shenron shows kindness by fulfilling the intent of the wish without trying to twist or undermine it. He seems able to grant almost anything, such as eternal youth or the restoration of destroyed lands. In quite a few cases, the victims of various evildoers are restored to life by a wish. They return as they were, not as any form of undead.

Some of the adventures in Dragonball take place on the alien world of Namek, where Porunga is the wishing dragon. He shares Shenron’s green-and-gold coloring but is more naga-like, with a distinctly human torso giving way to a serpent’s tail. His head and shoulders bristle with spikes, while his features are more crocodilian than Shenron’s.

Despite his more fearsome appearance, Porunga is even more amiable than his Earth counterpart. Though sometimes impatient, he has a sense of humor and has been known to cast minor magic for friends even without a wish being spoken. Like Shenron, Porunga is generous in granting the full intent of wishes rather than their literal meanings.

Back on Earth, a third dragon appears later in the sagas of Dragonball. Icarus lives in the wilderness near Goku’s home. He first appears as a baby dragon and becomes friends with Goku’s young son, Gohan. The two grow up together and have many adventures.

Unlike the other dragons, Icarus is a Western-style dragon with wings. His scales are lavender above and buff underneath. He has very humanlike, blue eyes. In general, his appearance is chunky and cartoonish compared to the others. For instance, his wings are tiny, though still capable of sustaining flight. Ultimately it seems the creator ran out of things for this character to do. He quietly drops out of the series, and fans speculate he returned to his forest home at some point.

Are these all the dragons in Dragonball? Not quite! Check back on Saturday for the darker side of the saga.

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