Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books & Movies’ Category

I’ll be out and about this weekend, at Lake City Comicon. It’s a one day comic convention in Coeur d’Alene, ID. This will be their first year, but they’re associated with Lilac City Comicon, which has been going for a few years now. My role is to sit at a book table and accost… I mean, strike up conversations with all passers-by.

Lake City Comicon will be at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds. My table is in the Jacklin Building. We’re open from 10 am to 4 pm. If you’re in the area and love comic stuff, it would be a great chance to meet up.


Now, I can’t just drop the Voodoo theme I’ve had going for the past few posts, so here’s a re-blog of a post from a few years back.

Dragonwort (May 21, 2016)

Here’s a truly spectacular flower that will amaze and… well, maybe not delight you. To be honest, it’s kind of stinky.

Dracunculus vulgaris is native to Mediterranean regions from Greece and the Aegean Islands to the Balkans parts of Anatolia. It’s been known since ancient times and has a number of names: Voodoo Lily, Black Arum, Black Dragon, Snake Lily, and so on. Because it is so showy, it has been transplanted to yards and botanical gardens all around the world.

The plant has just a few big, jagged leaves, with the blossom reaching up to 2 meters tall. The single petal is scooped, somewhat like a calla lily, and deep red or purple. At the center is a prominent spadix, which is black. The flower’s sexual organs are deep inside the base of the flower and emit a “perfume” that smells much like rotting meat. Flies and other insects are drawn to the scent and crawl through a narrow gap to the chamber where the actual flowers are. Unable to escape, the insects are forced to crawl back and forth over the flowers, thus pollinating them.

When enough of the flowers are fertilized, the petals wither. This allows the flies to escape and perhaps carry pollen to another flower of the same species.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Last weekend when I visited my local comic book shop, I got a terrific surprise. Nalo Hopkinson, the award-winning SF and historical author, is writing House of Whispers for D. C. Comics. House of Whispers follows the tradition of the equally award-winning Sandman, which introduced Neil Gaiman to the world. I was immediately captured by how Hopkinson drew on her Jamaican heritage. It’s much in the spirit of Gaiman’s mythic approach, yet wonderfully distinct.

It appears the supernatural cast here will spring from Voodoo lore of the Caribbean and Deep South. The main story focuses on a loa named Erzulie. Loas are sometimes referred to as if they were gods and goddesses, but the tales make them more like angels who move between the mortal world and the creator god, Bondiye.

In Erzulie’s palace, we quickly encounter a significant reptilian character. Uncle Monday is a loa from the same clan as Erzulie. However, he’s also one of those great figures who may originally have been a real person. The story goes that Uncle Monday was a shaman in Africa. Captured and brought to South Carolina, he was meant to be sold as a slave but escaped his bonds and fled to Florida. There he found refuge with the Seminole Indians, a tribe who resisted white colonization and took in many escaped African slaves.

In his native land, the shaman specialized in crocodile magic, which was very compatible with the natives’ alligator magic. Even though the loas told the shaman that conquest was inevitable, he vowed that he would never submit to slavery. Instead, he intended to transform himself into an alligator. In that guise, he would wait for better times.

So the Seminole tribe prepared for a great ritual. Amid much drumming, the shaman danced. His legs began to shrink. His skin turned scaly. His head sloped into an alligator’s toothy maw. Uncle Monday bellowed, making the waters tremble. Alligators came in answer to his call. There were dozens, then hundreds, then thousands!

The alligators formed an aisle. Uncle Monday was now the biggest one of all. He strolled down to the water. The other alligators followed him. According to Voodoo lore, Uncle Monday still lives in the murky swamps of Florida. Sometimes he comes out and takes on the form of a man, to wander the world and check on how the mortals are doing. Whenever he returns, all the alligators in the area start to bellow and carry on. That’s how people know that Uncle Monday is still alive and well in the swamp.

With only one issue of House of Whispers, it’s hard to know if Uncle Monday will be a benevolent or malevolent loa. His appearance thus far is certainly creepy. If you’re a fan of horror or urban fantasy, House of Whispers should be worth a read.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

Read Full Post »

Will you bear with me while I mix politics and the writing life for a bit? Normally I confine myself to dragon lore here at Wyrmflight, but I’ve experienced a moment of “total recall” that made me do some thinking.

Anyone living in the U. S. (and probably people outside our borders, as well) is aware of the confirmation fight over a supreme court nomination. The nominee has been accused of sexual assault. This comes amid the two-year-and-growing Me Too movement, where women are speaking up about their experiences with sexual harassment or assault. Powerful men are being accused years after the events occurred.

Against this background, I picked up a book given to me by a friend over the summer. Dragon Tales is an anthology from 1983, collecting stories that feature dragons. It’s edited by two revered figures, Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg. The authors are luminaries like Orson Scott Card, Gordon R. Dickson, Anne McCaffrey, Gregory Benford, and Dean Koontz. The editors made an effort to find work by early fantasists such as L. Frank Baum, and there were even a pair of women authors I hadn’t heard of before.

Imagine my surprise when the very first story included a sexual assault. A woman is pinned against the wall and kissed, despite her saying she doesn’t want this. It turns out she’s a dragon cursed into the form of a woman. Neat trick! But instead of punishing the fool who laid hands on her, she decides to help him get revenge on some guy he doesn’t like. Wha—?

Later, we see relentless bullying of a retarded man… for which the victim is persuaded to blame himself. We see barmaids equated with whores. Several tales use women as mere pawns, captured by dragons to serve as bait. One of these characters is so shocked by her experience that she becomes nearly mindless, yet apparently lives happily ever after. (“She is a mirror in which her husband can see himself.” This is what we call a Happily Ever After?)

In the most egregious case, a young woman sorceress is hounded by a stronger male sorcerer who sends an invisible incubus to grope and molest her. Ultimately this ends in her being raped while out-of-body fighting her persecutor. After winning, she is determined to summon that incubus again. But it’s not because she intends to punish him. Apparently she regrets missing out on the complete rape experience. WHA—???

When I finished the book, I told my husband I wanted to have a strong drink while taking a hot shower. Because fantasy is my beloved genre. It’s what I read and what I write, and I couldn’t believe the roots of it were buried in such filth. How could I not know this?

What made me really sad was to realize that, actually, I did know it. I read stories like these when I was in high school and bitched to my friends about the sexism. There was a terrible plot arc in the Avengers comic book, where Ms. Marvel (now known as Captain Marvel) was brainwashed and raped and had a baby in a matter of days. The rest of her team thought the baby was adorable and couldn’t understand why Ms. Marvel was so upset. I remember reading an interview with Anne McCaffrey, one of my early idols, who spoke of being asked to write soft-core porn for the SF magazines of the 1960s and ’70s. And she did write it, because the editors paid her well.

I guess I was oblivious, because I still read fantasy and comic books. And time went on. Until I read that anthology, I was able to forget how bad it was.

Now, the whole Sad Puppy debacle appears in a starkly different light. I thought they were all just obnoxious jerks. This anthology reminds me that when they say they want to get back to “the good old days of science fiction,” this is what they mean: women as pawns, women as whores, women who like being raped.

No. No. No. You assholes. No.

Things have gotten better, at least to some extent. Editors are more aware of demeaning content and have begun to avoid it. Certain factions may still think it’s funny to mock trigger warnings, but the warnings are there because they’re needed.

Do we, as a genre, still have miles to go before trigger warnings are no longer needed? Undoubtedly. But we who write fantasy really have come a long way since 1983.

If only certain judges and senators could say the same.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

Read Full Post »

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my forthcoming fantasy novella, The Tower in the Mist. It introduces one of the most unique dragons I have ever written: the drakanox!

While writing this blog for almost seven years, I’ve learned about many dragons with different powers and traditions. One of the most interesting facets has been that some ancient dragons relied on poison rather than fiery breath. Fafnir, in particular, was so poisonous that he created an invisible cloud of lingering poison that killed everything within miles of his lair. In creating the drakanox, I pushed that concept even farther.

For your reference, Zathi and her squad of hunter-guards serve the evil mage, Dar-Gothull. They have captured a renegade mage, Ar-Keilos, and are marching him toward a fatal confrontation with their master. They have encountered a few obstacles…


Zathi didn’t like how the vegetation glistened with moisture all around them. This heavy mist had too much texture and it carried a faint, bitter odor. Jaxynne had asked if they should turn back. Zathi wanted that more than she cared to admit, but she held strong.

“No. We keep going.”

They needed the second ox, had to follow it no matter how far. That, or the day was wasted and everyone pushed the wagon. Between her legs, Spark was calm. He would have been acting up if he smelled something amiss. Zathi held to that for reassurance.

Still, the fog bothered her enough that a call from the back of the line was almost welcome.

“Zathi..?”

Of course, it would have to be the mage. She turned Spark to see Ar-Keilos brushing past Keerin on Ember. Thersa stormed up behind him.

“Hey!” The guardswoman grabbed for his elbow. He deftly avoided her.

“I’m not running off.” Concern tightened his features. “Zathi —”

“I’ve told you not to call me by name.”

His shoulders sagged momentarily. “What, then? I’m not under your command.” Then he waved vigorously, as if shooing a fly. “Ugh, it doesn’t matter. We have to get out of here.”

“You’ll call me sergeant, and why should I listen to you?”

“Because it isn’t fog. Watch this.”

Ar-Keilos snatched a stick from the ground and poked at a cluster of needles on a low-hanging branch. Accumulating moisture weighted the branch down. As they watched, liquid rolled loose, but it didn’t spatter. Instead, it dribbled along the stick in viscous strands, almost like mucus from a runny nose.

“What the,” Razzet muttered from the rear, and Giniver said, “That’s not normal.”

The mage tossed the stick and waited, forcing Zathi to ask the question. “What is it, then?”

“We’re inside a drakanox.” His lack of smugness was almost more alarming than a smirk would have been.

“Bullshit. That’s just a story,” Zathi snapped. Her guardswomen were listening, gauging her reaction. The mage shook his head slowly.

“It’s real. Dar-Gothull used it to bring down Seofan Holl. I know you’re heard of the battle there. You might not have heard that the drakanox got away from him afterward.”

“Nothing gets away from Dar-Gotholl,” Thersa answered stiffly.

“It can turn into mist,” he answered patiently. “How would anybody cage it?”

There was a brief silence. The mage went on, “We minstrels heard that the drakanox is so poisonous that even when it turns to mist, the mist is deadly. At Seofan Holl their arms corroded and the buildings crumbled. It killed every living thing in the Seofan Valley and when it was sated, it turned into a river of fog and went into the Hornwood. They say it wanted to sleep. Or maybe to spawn.”

“Spawn?” Giniver wrinkled her nose with disgust.

“Dar-Gothull wouldn’t let go of a weapon like that,” Keerin objected.

“It was his. He created it,” Jaxynne added.

Zathi nodded. This was part of Dar-Gothull’s legend, a measure of his power and cunning that he brought such a monster into being. Vanquishing Seofan Holl had all but cemented his conquest of Aerde.

“He didn’t actually create it,” the mage rebutted gently. “There were tales of the drakanox long before his rise to power. Dar-Gothull simply made a bargain with the drakanox to fight on his side. Also, he wasn’t at Seofan during the battle or he would have been killed, too.”

“A bargain? You know nothing of Dar-Gothull,” Thersa hissed.

“All the tales agree, Dar-Gothull was in Dakadoz when the drakanox attacked Seofan,” the mage said. “He wasn’t there to stop it leaving, or extend their bargain, or whatever you believe the relationship was.” Again he waved his hand to dismiss the unimportant. “The fact remains, we’re inside the drakanox. We shouldn’t linger.”

The cold weight of decision settled onto Zathi’s shoulders. Ar-Keilos appeared sincere in his concern. Not surprising, since he would share whatever fate they encountered. Yet she didn’t want to take advice from a mage. Despite the appearance, he could be manipulating them.

Still, it seemed she had been right to bring him along. Being right… was a curse.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Near the end of July, I finished the first draft of a fantasy novella, The Tower in the Mist. Just yesterday, I put the finishing touches on the second draft. It’s 75 pages (single spaced) and just under 32,000 words. What’s it about? As usual, I’ve come up with a rich tale that is difficult to categorize. On Twitter I called it a “Dystopian Swords & Sorcery with an Amazonian-type main character. Plus a lost civilization, giant badger and dragon that takes the form of poisoned mist.”

It’s Dystopian because the characters are living under the Evil Empire of the Wizard King, Dar-Gothull. Its Swords and Sorcery because half the POV is a group of hunter-guards who round up rebellious mages. Also, most mages are evil, which is a hallmark of Swords and Sorcery. The hunter-guards are all women, hence the Amazonian tag. The other POV is a rebel mage who seeks to overthrow Dar-Gothull by nonviolent means. Is there even a category for that?

One interesting thing to share is that I didn’t set out to write about a group of Amazonian women. My first pages had a woman mage being the one who aspired to change the world with kindness. She had been captured by a group of male warriors. It didn’t take me long to realize that a group of men trained by an Evil Empire would rape this woman viciously and often. This was something I just didn’t want to get into — and I’m always telling other writers that you don’t have to put anything in your story that you don’t want to do.

So I flipped their genders. A male mage, Keilos, was captured by female hunter-guards. Immediately the characters sprang to life. Zathi, the tough woman who had fought many battles, both physical and political, to pick her own troop. Keilos, the mage who clung to his ideals in a situation that forced him to compromise every principle. Will they all end up as grist in the mill of the Evil Empire? Hopefully, a lot of people other than myself will want to read about this.

Other things that happened over the summer: directing programs for SpoCon and a web site revamp. I’ve previously mentioned SpoCon as the insane juggling act of speakers and topics, rooms and schedules. I’m happy to say that everything went very well. A few speakers cancelled due to illness, but I was able to get replacements. A wonderful time was had by all. We may not have had enough people attending to break even, though. It depends if the hotel decides to be jerks about their contract.

During SpoCon, my husband got a good picture of me wearing a Wonder Woman tiara, which was my costume for Saturday. I’ve been using that to update my portraits all over the Web. I also re-did my web site, something I do every two to three years. You can check it out here: www.debyfredericks.com.

With all this going on, the end of summer comes as something of a surprise. I’m a school staffer, so I’ll be going back to work next week. Currently my schedule is split between two buildings, 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. I’ve been interviewing in hopes of getting a full day somewhere, but right now my day is still split. It’s kind of a pain.

How about the rest of you — written anything good lately?


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

Read Full Post »

IMG_20180812_061909090Last weekend was the convention I mentioned, SpoCon. It was just as amazing as I had hoped. As predicted, I encountered a number of dragons there. This one was hand drawn by one of the hotel workers, just for our convention!

There was one guy going around in a “furry” dragon suit that was quite remarkable. I couldn’t believe he wore that in the middle of August. Unfortunately, the picture I took of him didn’t turn out.

I must confess that my own costume was almost completely dragonless. My husband gave me a Wonder Woman tiara for our anniversary, and I put a costume together. Bear in mind, I’m not nearly athletic enough to wear Wonder Woman’s actual costume. Mine was more Amazonian mother-of-the-bride than warrior. The necklace I wore with it included four Asian dragons.

There was also a major trend of resin sculptures this year. Two different artists had sculptures in the art show, including numerous dragons. The detail was incredible, down to individual scales and whiskers. The painting was equally amazing, with colorful patterns and very life-like eyes. Sizes ranged from a few inches in diameter to a foot or more. Very cool and a lot of work!

For anti-piracy reasons, photography was not allowed in the art show, but both artists have online galleries. So go ahead and check them out, James Humble and David Lee Pancake.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

Read Full Post »

Todd Lockwood is well known as a fantasy illustrator, but it turns out he’s also a talented writer. The Summer Dragon is the first volume of his series, The Evertide. Based on its exploration of seasons and political fortunes, I suspect future books will feature dragons associated with autumn, winter and spring.

Certainly this is an ambitious work, nearly 500 pages in trade paperback. It combines a coming of age story with religious philosophy, political machinations and grisly warfare against arcane horrors. All this juxtaposed with domestic scenes of life raising dragons. Quite a tapestry!

One of the most interesting things here is the detailed life cycle and descriptions of the dragons, both aerie-bred and wilding. These are not mere animals, but intelligent beings with a limited ability to communicate with their human friends. Baby dragons, or qits, are bonded with human riders in a complicated series of rituals, including matched tattoos on dragons and riders. There is some emotional/empathic connection, although not to the extent as in series like Dragonriders of Pern. 

The main character, Maia, is a teenaged girl who was born and raised in a dragon aerie. She and her brother, Darian, are both of age to receive dragons of their own. However, the aforementioned war against arcane horrors isn’t going well. They are crushed to learn that neither of them will be getting a dragon this season — the empire they serve demands every qit for the war. As they struggle with this decision, both siblings witness an amazing vision: the mystical Summer Dragon, Getig, appears before them! A powerful omen, but of what?

This visitation spurs the plot into its complex web of loyalty and betrayal. The dominant Rasaal faith views Maia and Darian as heretics to be crushed, but they still need the family’s aerie to breed more dragons. Thus the priests cast layers of deception to get what they want. Lockwood drew this out very well.

I was a bit more frustrated with the main characters. Maia is very typical of protagonists in these stories, a downtrodden youth who gets blamed for everything by her overly stern father. Darian is her closest friend, yet he’s all too happy to let her take the blame for shared mistakes, even when people get seriously hurt. After Getig’s visitation, he’s equally happy to take the credit and rewards while Maia is ignored. Near the end of the book, he’s furious that she doesn’t trust him. Gosh, why could that be?

Maia herself is brave and follows her heart toward what she believes Getig is telling her. She speaks her mind when the adults stand fumbling. Yet, even after a harrowing experience, she continues to sneak off alone and get into more trouble. Miraculously, every escapade reveals some new important discovery. Then she wonders why those overly stern adults don’t want to trust her, either.

Yes, Maia and Darian are both kids. But they’re in a world where you’re expected to grow up fast. What else does it mean to be “of age?” I felt like all parties at times were being intentionally blind in order to keep the plot going. There were also some running battle scenes, which were effectively told but went on longer than necessary. Less is more, as they say.

So is this Game of Thrones with dragons? Maybe. (Although nobody ever got into a torrid sexual affair, so perhaps it would be Games of Thrones with dragons and a PG rating.) I did enjoy this book and will look for more of Maia’s adventures.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »