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Archive for February, 2018

Did you know the U.S. Army once included dragons? That’s right — their 240 mm Howitzer M1 was nick-named the “Black Dragon.” This particular weapon was employed in World War II and the Korean War, but retired from use in the 1950s when ammunition became harder to acquire.

For the non-weapon-initiated (like me) a howitzer is a type of artillery. It falls between canons, which pretty much fire straight ahead, and mortars, which fire at a higher angle. A howitzer can lob explosive shells high enough to pass over enemy defenses. One drawback of howitzers is that the gunners don’t have a direct line of sight with the intended target and must make calculations in order to strike the proper area. They make up for it with a considerable range, allowing key points such as bridges to be destroyed without practical risk to the gunners.

The Black Dragon was the biggest field artillery piece deployed by the U.S. in World War II. The only larger artillery were mounted on battleships or railroad cars. Howitzers were best used to penetrate heavily armored targets, such as solid concrete structures. In more modern parlance, they were “bunker busters.”

Today, only one army still deploys Black Dragons. This is the Republic of Taiwan, which maintains installations against possible attacks from the People’s Republic of China.


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Today I’m sharing an article from Nature Magazine, published in 2015. The authors, Andrew J. Hamilton, Robert M. May and Edward K. Waters, purport to discuss the history of humans and dragons through European history.

Their theory: dragons are quite real, and were well known to people in the Dark Ages. However, climate change drove the creatures into a centuries-long hibernation. During this time, people became more concerned with scientific proofs than fictional tales. Unable to prove that dragons exist, most people came to believe either that dragons were extinct or that they had never existed at all.

However, the authors caution, the world is now warming again. Dramatic global temperature shifts are sure to bring dragons back from their hibernation!

You’ll note I said they purport to discuss these matters. The article is rife with references to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and especially to Newt Scamander, protagonist of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A close look reveals that the text was published on April 1, 2015. Obviously it’s an April Fool’s Day article. The Potter references suggest that the magazine was playing up for the Fantastic Beasts movie, which if memory serves was released later in 2015.

Anyway, I hope you’ll read the article and enjoy the faux scientific gravity.


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Long ago, in France, there was a terrible dragon known simply as Drac. She was a sorceress as well as a dragon, and had learned the secret art of invisibility. People around her domain could never know when she was nearby, and never knew where her lair was. They only knew the dread of her evil.

The stories tell that Drac had a clutch of eggs. Being a selfish mother, she abducted a young woman from one of the villages and demanded that she care for the newly hatched dragons. If she refused, her entire village would be laid waste! The hapless girl had no choice but to comply.

For seven long years, she tended the vicious brood. She fed the babies raw meat, cleaned up their waste, and tended their hurts when they squabbled and scratched each other. The captive longed for freedom, but since Drac could make herself and her young invisible, she could never know when she was safe. She had no hope of escaping.

But then one day, the woman was rubbing the young dragons with a special cream Drac provided. She touched her own face and some of the cream got into her eyes. To her amazement, she gained magical sight and could see the dragons even when they were invisible. The woman was clever, and desperate. She pretended to see nothing.

Soon enough, all the dragons flew off. The woman seized her chance and ran back to her village. She hoped to gather a force and march on the dragon’s nest. With her gift of sight, she would tell the soldiers where to strike and destroy Drac’s brood!

Alas, the woman had been missing for seven years. No one recognized her, and they would not listen to her plan. Then Drac returned home and found her captive gone. She flew to the village, invisible, and heard as the people there rejected the woman’s plea. As soon as she had a chance, she snatched up the unfortunate woman and tore out her eyes. Thus ended the threat to Drac’s reign of terror.

Throughout the 13th Century, rumors flew about the location of Drac’s lair. There were numerous attempts to destroy her, including full-scale military campaigns. She survived them all. Centuries have now passed, and Drac hasn’t been seen in many a year. It’s believed that she died of old age. However, her legacy lives on in a town called Draguignan in the French region of Provence.


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In Gascony, during the reign of King Charlemagne (742 – 814), there was a dragon named Jilocasin. He enjoyed mingling with humans and often assumed the guise of a troubadour in order to entertain the nobility with poetry and song. One day as he traveled through a forest, Jilocasin heard a woman calling out for help. He rushed to the site found a young lady being accosted by bandits.

A dragon as powerful as Jilocasin had no trouble dealing with such ruffians. However, the lady had swooned and did not see her rescuer in his true form. The kindly dragon carried her back to his castle and resumed his human appearance to tend to her. In doing so, he was startled to discover a tiny baby was wrapped inside the lady’s robes.

When she recovered, the young lady explained why she had been alone in the forest. It seemed she was recently widowed, and in order to maintain control of her wealth, her family had forced her to marry a cousin. They hadn’t even observed the traditional year of mourning. Her second husband was a repulsive person who cared only for her fortune. Soon she discovered that she was with child by her first husband. Her cousin would not permit anyone to rival his claim and demanded that her child be killed immediately after birth.

Somehow, the lady managed to escape into the woods with her child. The desperate widow begged for the (as she believed human) lord of the castle to protect her from her vicious husband. Jilocasin immediately agreed, and made provisions for widow and child to live in his castle.

By the time three years had passed, the two had become very close. In fact, Jilocasin loved her so dearly that he revealed his true identity as a dragon. The widow, in turn, loved Jilocasin so completely that she accepted his nature without complaint. Although they could not marry, they lived together as if they were husband and wife. Soon enough, she became pregnant again.

Alas, the lady died in childbirth, but Jilocasin raised both of her sons as brothers. Though neither became a dragon, they were fine and valiant knights who fought to avenge their dear mother. When the time was right, they attacked and seized the castle of their mother’s second husband. The elder son assumed ownership of his rightful heritage, while Jilocasin’s son ruled his own domain as a peaceful neighbor. Jilocasin helped and advised them until the end of their days.


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In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is a legend of draconic love.

One of the greatest Medieval rulers was Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1204) who reigned over both England and France. Her court held an annual Tournament of Poetry to celebrate the arts.

According to the story, one year this contest was won by a previously unknown young troubadour who refused to disclose his identity even to Queen Eleanor herself. He was as kind as he was handsome, traits that won him many hearts. One of these belonged to  Griselda,  the lovely young daughter of the Lord of Foix. Although shy, Griselda gathered enough courage to declare her feelings for the Troubadour. Her pleas touched the young man’s heart, and he agreed to marry her and take her to his home — but on two conditions. Griselda could never see him except at the times of his choosing and she must promise never to try and find out his true identity.

Personally, I think this should have set off a few alarm bells, but Griselda was deeply in love. She promised to do as her beloved said, and so the marriage was celebrated in secret. Griselda fell asleep in her husband’s arms that night. The following day, she awoke in an unfamiliar chamber. It was luxurious as Eleanor’s own palace, with silken tapestries and gilded furnishings set with precious stones. Beside her, her beloved husband smiled at her surprise.

“This place is my home,” the Troubadour said. “You are my lady, and all that I have is yours. Only remember your promise to me.”

“All that I need is your love,” Griselda replied.

For many months, the two lived happily. Griselda ordered the household, and all the servants obeyed her. She could ride for pleasure and hunt with the hawks. Handmaidens dressed her in finery. Music and dancing filled the nights. As for her husband, he remained kind and attentive. If she needed anything, he would immediately provide it.

Only, at certain times, the Troubadour would go into a locked room. True to her word, Griselda did not ask him what went on there. He was never away for long. Griselda believed she lived in paradise.

But alas, on one fateful day, the Troubadour went into his private chamber and forgot to lock the door. Discovering this, Griselda could not restrain her curiosity. She crept up to the door and eased it open just a crack.

Inside, to her horror, she saw her husband transform into a huge dragon with glittering golden scales and mighty wings. Griselda could not hold back a cry of shock. The dragon turned and saw her there. Griselda was terrified. Surely such a dreadful creature would kill her for disobeying!

Yet the dragon prince showed only grief at this betrayal. He ordered his servants to take her away. Before she knew it, Griselda found herself back at Queen Eleanor’s court. She never saw her husband again. Years went by but she never remarried. Only her closest friends knew of her tragic romance with a dragon in human form.


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This coming weekend, I’ll be at RadCon Science Fiction Convention in Pasco, WA. This con is an old favorite of ours that we regularly attend, and I’m really looking forward to going again. Here’s my schedule of panels and talks during the weekend.

Friday, 3:15 pm — (Re)Tired Genres? Noire, vampires, zombies… What are some of the tired genres? Ones you think should be retired, and why they haven’t been.

Saturday, 11:00 am — Book Table. I’ll be in the dealer’s room, persuading anyone who comes near to buy one of my books.

Saturday, 3:15 pm — Reading. I’ll be reading from my books and greeting fans.

Saturday, 4:30 pm — Writers Answer Questions. Writers answer the questions you always wanted to ask.

Sunday, 10:15 — Reading Education for Writers. This is the panel I’m working hardest to prepare. Using my experience as an educator and children’s writer, I’ll discuss how Common Core has changed reading education and what opportunities this creates for writers.


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Unlike the mysterious heath-dragons of legend, these heath dragons are actual, living creatures. Heath dragons are a group of lizards native to Australia. They are members of the Agamid family, close cousins of iguanas.

The natural habitat for heath dragons is open forest, sandy scrub and, yes, heath lands. They mostly prey upon larger insects, such as grasshoppers and crickets. Most of them are patterned with gray, brown and tan as camouflage. They mostly prey upon larger insects, such as grasshoppers and crickets.

These lizards are small, about 21 cm/8 in, and have a wary nature. They prefer to stay under cover of rocks or hide beneath fallen leaves. Sometimes they will bury themselves in sand. It’s thought they do this to help regulate their temperature in Australia’s summer heat.

Heath dragons can be taken as pets and seem to adapt well to human keeping. They are not the most famous pet lizards, though, so this trade doesn’t seem to effect their long term prospects. No species of heath dragons are currently listed as threatened or endangered.


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