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Dragon’s Breath

One of the hot food fads in 2017 was actually extremely cold. “Dragon’s Breath” is a dessert created by dipping cereal balls in liquid nitrogen. Yes, you heard that right.

The cereal balls are served in a cup. You pick them up with skewers, so you don’t get freezer-burn on your fingertips. Once the frozen treat encounters your warm mouth, it produces billowing vapors that are said to look like a dragon’s breath. I’m picturing something like dry ice in a punch bowl.

This specialty dessert was first created in South Korea and the Philippines during 2015. It  now appears in restaurants and at county fairs all the over the world. Shared videos of the spectacular “dragon’s breath” have no doubt contributed to its popularity.

Naturally, there are some safety concerns. Liquid nitrogen is a hazardous material and has to be handled carefully. There have been scattered reports of burns in the mouth or on the hands while eating dragon’s breath. In addition, having too much nitrogen introduced to a closed area could theoretically create a danger of asphyxiation.

It does sound… well, cool (ha ha)! But I’m not sure I’d be willing to try it.


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Unbelievable

My husband stumbled across a documentary on Netflix a few weeks ago. The Wreck of the Unbelievable detailed the discovery of an ancient shipwreck off the coast of East Africa. Among the items recovered were several statues encrusted with barnacles, coral, and other sea life. The one that caught my attention was a monumental six-headed dragon squaring off to battle an equally large warrior.

I love ruins and relics, so this drew me right in. The film went on to detail conflicts among the crew, the danger of storms at sea, and even African villagers saying how curious they were about what those foreigners were doing out there on their ship.

However, a part of my brain was whispering doubts. Items under water since the 1st Century shouldn’t be so clean. And didn’t that one look sort of like Mickey Mouse? So I went to do a little research. I found out my eyes were wrong while my brain got it right.

The Wreck of the Unbelievable was actually a mockumentary created to build excitement around an exhibition by the British artist Damien Hirst. The “treasures” recovered from the “wreck” were contemporary art, sea life and all. That includes the six-headed dragon and warrior sculptures. It all appeared in a Venetian museum in 2017. You can read arts coverage here.

Now, I have no special grudge against Hirst for creating a mockumentary. As a writer, I spend a certain amount of time trying to build excitement around my own books. Still, this is something of a cautionary tale. I’m glad I did that follow-up on the film I saw. Otherwise, I could have passed off fiction as fact just like any rube who saw a side show at the circus.


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Many kinds of creatures have been named after dragons, but perhaps the most colorful are the Dragon millipedes. Desmoxytes are a family of nearly 40 arthropods found in Southeast Asia. The first of these were identified in China in 1923. New species continue to be found as recently as 2016. In addition to China, they live in Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and scattered through the islands of Malaysia.

Some of this Dragon clan are cave dwellers, while others roam the leaf-litter of jungle floors. It sounds as though they might be fierce predators, but actually most millipedes feed on decaying leaves and fungi. In addition to hiding among forest debris, many species burrow into the ground for safety.

These critters are indeed tiny, with the largest specimens coming in around 3 cm (1.2 inches) long. They are recognizable by their ornate, spiky exoskeletons and brilliant colors, including red and hot pink species. In addition, Dragon millipedes have a chemical weapon — they can secrete a cyanide poison to ward off predators!


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Just a quick note today, to keep you up on my current projects.

I hoped to get another short story collection together this spring. This one would feature my short work that’s more oriented to adults. However, when I sat down to organize it, I found I don’t have enough material. So that goes on hold while I pester myself to write more short stories.

On the other hand, the collection of material from this blog is coming along. I pulled down what I thought was the best material — general dragon lore, folk tales and myths, plus my silly poems and the ponderings about what dragons mean to people. I’ve tried to leave out anything that’s strictly publicity for my books and material that relies too much on links to other articles or using photos I don’t have rights to.

Even with that, it’s a lot of material to sift through. Currently I’m going over six years, from 2012 to 2017. But it’s so much, I may cut it back to an even 5 years. We’ll see.

I’ve also struggled a bit with format. My first try has been to sort the material into chapters, with all the folk tales together and so on. But I’ve found in several cases that this requires breaking up a particular thread into different chapters. Dragon’s Teeth, for instance, begins with mythology but then goes into some real-world objects that were named after the mythology. This feels to me like I’ve lost momentum.

For that reason, I will most likely publish the material in the order it appeared, and then figure out a way to include bookmarks or possibly hashtags to help people find categories such as folklore or mythology. Suggestions would be welcome.


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Rather than just asking what a group of dragons should be called, it might be better to ask if there would ever be a group of dragons. After all, you seldom find dragon groups in traditional stories and myths. Dragons such as Fafnir and Hydra are distinct individuals, so dreaded and powerful that nothing more is needed for them to be an effective monster. Not to mention that these dragons are fiercely jealous. How likely is it that they’d allow another dragon near their territory and/or hoard?

There are a few names, though, that might capture the danger of many dragons coming together. A “plague,” a “swarm,” even an “invasion.” Interesting that these come from insect groups — locusts, bees or ants, and roaches.

If the dragons in question are of the more intelligent and noble variety, perhaps they would be known as a “council.” Intelligent but evil dragons might form a “congress” or “parliament,” especially if they spend a lot of their time in ferocious arguments.

Well, what do you think? Is a group of dragons a “plague” or a “council?”


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Dragons in Groups

What do you call a group of dragons? The question arises because I recently ran across one of those listings where they give the clever, and sometimes bizarre, names for groups of animals. (A “flange” of babboons?)

In names for dragon groups, the two leading contenders are both from modern literature. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series gives a “thunder” of dragons from the sound of their wings.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books present a more complicated name set. A “weyr” is a group of dragons living in a fixed location (also called a weyr) and mostly related to the queen dragon who lays all the eggs. McCaffrey’s dragonweyrs have a quasi-military structure, with fighting groups known as “wings.” Any other grouping of Pernese dragons is a “flight.”

Also to be noted is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, where the swamp dragons have a distressing habit of exploding under the wrong conditions. A group of these dragons is an “embarrassment.”


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Here’s another re-blog about dragons at war. This one is from February 2013.


No, it’s not like the gold standard! Although, given the reputed size of some dragon hoards, dragons could BE the gold standard. But what I’m referring to here is using the dragon as a battle standard.

Lots of countries and individuals have used the dragon as their personal or military symbol. It’s easy to see why. Western dragons are huge and powerful. Using that as your emblem could certainly give your enemies pause. I’ve previously mentioned that a red dragon was the national symbol of Wales, before it became incorporated into Great Britain.

Eastern dragons, on the other hand, still convey power, but also wisdom and grace. So Bhutan, for instance, uses a white dragon on its flag. The white dragon conveys the beauty and serenity of this Himalayan kingdom.

One of the most fun and interesting dragon symbols I’ve read about is the Dacian draco. In Roman times, Dacia was a region in Eastern Europe between the Black Sea and the Carpathian Mountains. The modern countries of Moldova and Rumania, plus parts of Serbia, Hungary, Solvenia, Poland, Ukraine and Bulgaria, lie within the ancient domain of Dacia.

You’ve probably figured out already that the dragon was Dacia’s battle emblem. What’s fun is that they actually made a dragon that would roar, and they carried it at the front of their armies.

The draco was a metal tube decorated to look like a dragon, although the surviving images look rather more wolf-like than draconic. Behind the head was a fabric covering. The open mouth contained several thin metal strips.

This contraption was mounted on a pole and carried at the head of the Dacian armies by a man on a horse. Once he reached full gallop, the fabric would flow behind him, moving as if alive. Meanwhile, the metal pieces in the dragon’s mouth caught the wind and emitted a piercing shriek, amplified by the tube. Viola — a dragon that roared!


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