Posts Tagged ‘The Dragon King’

I’m so glad I went on my ramble last week about dragons, zombies and dystopian fiction. I got much more response than usual. Thanks to all who commented, even if you disagreed with my theories about apocalyptic fiction.

To update my self-publishing plans, I have been reading and studying the process, figuring out which stories to present, who the audience will be, and so on. My budget and schedule are slowly coming together. My plan at the moment is to publish ten of Lucy D. Ford’s fantasy short stories. Half of them were in my podcast, The Dragon King, back in 2012. The others are newer and have a slightly more contemporary tone. It should be a great collection for kids in 4th to 6th grades, or adults who enjoy the fairy-tale style.

After setting up this blog post, I’ll start inquiring about cover and interior art. I’ve gotten to know a number of illustrators during my years involved with SF clubs and conventions, so it will be fun to get in touch with a few old friends. As I always say, stay tuned for more information.

After all this, I can’t stand to leave you dragonless, so here’s a fun news story from Britain. It appeared that a gigantic dragon skull had washed up on a Dorset beach in 2013. Charmouth Beach is on the famous “Jurassic coast,” where many dinosaur fossils have been unearthed.

Alas, the dragon skull turned out to be… an advertising sculpture! It seems one of Britain’s media streaming companies, BlinkBox, was about to release the third season of Game of Thrones. I’ve been searching around to see if the sculpture still exists, and where it might be now. If anyone has the information, I’d love to hear from you.

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It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the US. A wonderful family time, yet with a weird, ugly side. The huge food binge, followed by a huge shopping binge. Everything feels just a little bloated today.

Thanksgiving has made me think about dragon hoards, of all things. A huge treasure binge, if you will.

In many of the ancient tales, heroes do battle with dragons for the greater good. They risk their lives to protect their homes and families from a malevolent force bent on devouring everything. Fame and fortune are happy accidents.

In modern story telling, like D&D or fantasy video games, adventurers do battle with dragons for personal gain. They risk their lives to get the dragon’s hoard. Fame and fortune are the whole point.

I mention this because greed for the dragon’s hoard is a theme I addressed in my fantasy short story, “The Dragon King.” A valiant king fights to save his people from the rapacious dragon, only to be snared by the lust for gold.

This short story was published by Song of the Siren, a long-defunct online magazine. Sadly, I can’t link to the text version any more. However, “The Dragon King” is also the first episode of my podcast series, which shares the same name. It’s on my web site, and it’s free in the spirit of holiday giving. (Although fame and donations would be great, too)

Check if out, if your interested.

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This post will be another digression away from dragons to talk about why I’m podcasting some of my fantasy tales.

Fellow blogger Nila White released a great post about the demise of Night Shade Books and how it affects their authors.

It’s certainly maddening to hear of publishers cheating authors, or setting up self-publishing imprints that forge partnerships with notorious scam publishers, as in the case of Archway, an imprint of Simon and Schuster that’s run by Author Solutions. Talk about a Hydra!

The whole circumstance of the publishing industry makes self-publishing more and more enticing, but it’s my experience that the follow-through is even more important than the initial setup. You have to treat it like a business, and some of us fear the business would suck all the time away that we need to just finish our stories.

One of the best pieces of advice I got was from Elizabeth Moon, who told me (paraphrasing here) “Never go any farther than you can afford to.” She was talking about traveling to conventions in order to promote my first book, The Magister’s Mask, but the advice applies equally to self-publishing ventures.

Self-publishing is touted as quick and easy, but it isn’t free! In fact, many self-publishing outfits are scammers, too. Hopeful authors can rack up thousands of dollars for a minimally edited and poorly produced book that turns off many customers. Just because it’s self-published doesn’t mean you can ignore the bottom line.

The reason that I podcast, rather than self-publishing my books, is because the expense would simply be “farther than I can afford to go.” Podcasting, on the other hand, is something I can do by myself, with equipment I already have, and on my own time.

For instance, I put together my first podcast, Masters of Air & Fire, in the two weeks of a winter break. I did my second, The Dragon King, at the start of summer vacation, and my latest during this last spring break.

Speaking of The Weight of Their Souls, I have a couple more steps to go through, but I expect to start posting episodes on Podbean next Sunday. I hope you’ll check it out!

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Last week, my friend David Summers challenged me to name five characters from books or movies that I would most want to meet. It’s part of the “Circle of Five” meme. Now that I’ve tied off the thread about Lindworms, I’m ready to answer him. Since this is a blog about dragons, I here present the five literary and movie dragons I would most want to meet.

1) Mnementh, from the series Dragonriders of Pern. Pern was a huge discovery for me in my teens, and I did a lot of Pern fan writing all through to my late thirties. Mnementh is the first dragon to appear by name in the series, so he formed my impression (Pern fans will get the pun there) of all Pernese dragons: calm, somewhat puzzled by those excitable humans, but with a streak of humor. He was a perfect balance for the driven, intense F’lar.

2)Kazul, from Patricia Wrede’s Talking To Dragons. Kazul is the dragon who has to be talked into letting Princess Cimorene come live with her. She’s a brisk, no-nonsense personality, but loyal once her friendship is given. You’ll cheer at the end when Kazul becomes King of the Dragons.

3) Toothless, from the movie version of How to Train Your Dragon. Toothless is wary at first, but once he comes out of his shell, he’s as feisty and full of fun as a dragon-sized puppy.

4) Haku, from the movie Spirited Away. Haku is a nature spirit co-opted into the service of a wicked witch, yet retains enough goodness to help a human girl who becomes stranded in the spirit world.

5) Fuku Ryu, the luck dragon of Japanese myth. Just being around him brings good fortune, and who doesn’t need a little help at times?

So those are the five dragons I would most like to meet! I’m not going to tag anyone back for this, but do drop me a comment if you decide to carry on the “Circle of Five” meme.

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One of the most famous Norse sagas concerns the Viking known as Ragnar Lodbrok. Like King Arthur, Ragnar the character is compilation where true history is impossible to separate from myth. Many tales relate how Ragnar raided all over Northern Europe and attempted to claim the thrones of both Sweden and Denmark. And, yes, you knew it — Ragnar also fought a dragon.

This tale begins with Herradur, the Jarl of Gottaland, who gave his daughter Thora a baby lindworm to be her pet and guardian. Like many owners of exotic animals, Thora found the lindworm increasingly big and dangerous. At full growth, it was large enough to encircle the Jarl’s hall and hold its former mistress hostage. The lindworm demanded an ox each day in ransom to spare Thora’s life.

In his wanderings, Ragnar heard of Thora’s plight. He was looking for a wife of noble birth to further his political ambitions, so off he went to Gottaland. Preparing for the battle, Ragnar coated a set of bear-skin trousers with tar and sand to make them fire-proof. The strategy was successful; he battled the lindworm to its death and claimed Thora as his bride. This exploit gave Ragnar the epithet Lodbrok, or “hairy breeches.”

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sunday_snippets2Somewhat to my own surprise, I have another snippet for the blog hop. Actually, it’s a rework of my previous snippet with input from comments. This makes it longer than 250, though. Sorry!

Again, this is the opening page of a YA novel.
“What is wrong with this town?” Tyne grumbled to herself.

The cottages of Palte loomed over her, beehives built of yellow stone. The muddy earth of the lane between sucked at the rails of her heavy sledge. Tyne was in no mood for trouble, not after the bad news from her customers today. Feeling the resistance, she yanked harder to keep the load of wood moving.

Doing so knocked her scarf askew. She stopped with an irritable sigh and adjusted the knot beneath her raven-wing braid. Tyne didn’t even want to wear the scarf. She hated the way it rubbed against her pointed elfin ears. Tyne didn’t care if people saw her ears, but her mother insisted she cover them whenever she went into town.

Satisfied, Tyne hauled her sledge around a bend and to her next customer’s yard. As she passed through a gap in the fence of woven willow branches, she called out, “Delivery!”

She had just reached the wood shed when the cottage door banged open.

“Tyne! Hold on there.”

Tyne froze in the act of undoing the straps that held the wood on her sledge. Her heart sank as old Hildr trotted toward her, but she tried to answer politely, the way her father would have.

“Well met, goodman Hildr.”

Hildr planted himself between Tyne and his wood shed. He cleared his throat and a sickening weight dropped into her stomach. This was the third time today one of her customers wanted to talk to her. She had a good hunch what he was going to say.

“The thing is,” Hildr faltered. He ran a nervous hand over his balding head. Pale eyes darted to the ground, then to the fence behind her, looking everywhere but at Tyne. “The thing is, I won’t be needing you any more.”

“May I ask why?” Tyne gritted between her teeth. “My father supplied you wood for many years. I’m trying to carry on the work he left unfinished.”

At last the man looked at her. Everyone in Palte had known Tyne’s father, Willem. They all knew he was but five months dead, ambushed by bandits as he cut trees in the mountains south of the village. A momentary softening of Hildr’s expression let her hope he would change his mind.

“Is it a problem with my work?” Tyne pressed.

Hildr glanced toward his house, a kind of flinch. Tyne glimpsed movement there, curtains parting behind a window in the low, round cottage. Griffa, his wife, peered out. She scowled. Resolution replaced the pity in Hildr’s eyes. He squared his shoulders as if bracing to lift something heavy.

“I just can’t use you,” he said. “Be off, elf.”
Fellow participants in the blog hop:


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Q: Do dragons like Dwarves?
A: No. They are too tough and chewy. Plus, the beard gets stuck between your teeth.

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After my last post, M. Q. Allen asked the fascinating question (paraphrasing here) “What’s with dragons’s predilection for virgins?” This is a complicated question that shows how folklore can blend across nations and ages, growing new meaning with the passage of time.

Among the threads that I believe weave into this tapestry are human sacrifice, virginity, and how justice was carried out. Each of these has a long history in folk belief, so we’ll go one at a time.

In ancient times, people believed their gods wanted concrete proof of devotion. That proof was in the form of a sacrifice. Sacrifices could be wine poured out on an altar, gifts of food and coin to a temple, or the slaughter of animals. Well, for the highest devotion or when praying for something especially important, the sacrifice would be a human life.

So if a human life is required, then the absolutely ultimate sacrifice would be one’s own child. All the parent’s love of their child and hopes for the future given up in an instant, to please the Gods.

This seems horrible to us, but it was practiced all over the world for thousands of years. Europeans sank victims in bogs or burned captives in a “wicker man.” Altars thoughout Central America were drenched in blood and there was a mummified child or girl on many mountaintops in South America. Even the Bible relates, in Genesis 22, that Abraham would have sacrificed his son, Jacob, if God hadn’t sent an angel to intervene at the last moment.

In story after story, a king’s virgin daughter is set to be sacrificed to a dragon — buying security for a kingdom at the expense of her life. It’s such a powerful image, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that dragons came to be connected with it.

Next time, I’ll delve into why being a virgin was such a big deal.

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Last week, during my holiday break from blogging, I received and enjoyed my first-year report from WordPress. The little fireworks started off tiny, but grew and grew. It’s a fun way to think about how my friendships have grown due to this blog. So I’m starting Year Two with a big THANK YOU to everyone who reads and comments on Wyrmflight. I hope I’ll continue to entertain through the coming year.

This Christmas’s big movie is The Hobbit. As a life-long fantasy lover, I should be way more excited about this than I actually am. The reasons are complicated, and perhaps fodder for a future post. For now, I’ll settle for repeating a blog from February 2012 on the topic of Tolkein and his great dragon, Smaug. Enjoy!
The Hobbit is full of enchantment: Dwarves, Hobbits, dark forests, magic rings found in goblin-infested caverns. Amid all these wonders, Smaug stands out even though he only appears in the final quarter of the book.

He is, in some ways, merely another European dragon lying on a hoard in his dark lair. But Tolkein took that basic form and added something new and remarkable. Something that made Smaug scarier than any dragon before him. Tolkein made Smaug smart.

From the moment he opens his mouth, we know how dangerous Smaug is. Using only words (because riddles are an ancient passtime Tolkein included in his story), he got enough information out of Bilbo to figure out where he came from. He also sowed seeds of doubt about the intentions of Bilbo’s Dwarf companions. These doubts complicated the plot even after Smaug himself was gone.

Like all great villains, Smaug was partly responsible for his own downfall. Bilbo, who wasn’t too dumb himself, managed to flatter Smaug until he rolled over and showed his belly, which was crusted with gems from lying on his hoard so long. The hobbit noted a gap in Smaug’s armor, which was later exploited to bring about Smaug’s death.

Vanity may have been Smaug’s undoing, but he remains a remarkable character. Smaug was nobody’s pet or BFF. He acted for himself, in his own interests, and apologized to no one. In a genre that soon grew crowded with mighty dragons, Smaug stands alone.

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One more ouroboros, and then I’ll be taking a holiday break.

Jormungandr is a dragon of Norse legend, sometimes known as the World Serpent or Midgard Serpent. Like Hydra, who I covered during the fall, Jormungandr is part of a larger monstrous family. His siblings are Fenrir, the giant wolf, and the death goddess, Hel. All three are offspring of the frost giantess Angrboda and the wicked god Loki.

Because they were so horrific, the children were seized by Odin, king of the gods, to be neutralized in some way. Hel and Fenrir have their own legends; Jormungandr was thrown into the sea. He continued to grow until he was so large that his tail stretched all the way around the earth. Norse lore held that storms at sea happened because Jormungandr had bitten his own tail and was writhing in pain. This might sound bad, but the stories also said if he ever let go of his tail, the world would end.

Jormungandr had a special enmity with Thor, son of Odin. Here is a story from Norse mythology.

Thor planned a fishing trip along with a giant named Hymir. Hymir said he didn’t have any bait, so Thor cut off the head of Hymir’s ox and they used that. Hymir (who didn’t seem to mind having his ox killed) took Thor out to his favorite fishing spot.

Hymir caught two whales and was ready to head back, but Thor hadn’t caught anything yet. Ignoring Hymir’s warnings, he rowed the boat farther out to sea. Using the ox head as bait, he cast his line. Guess who bit the hook? Yep, Jormungandr! After a terrific struggle, Thor pulled the serpent up, while Hymir cowered in the bottom of the boat. Jormungander spat poison and blood, but Thor was fearless. He raised his hammer to strike!

Maybe Hymir had been paying attention when the skalds said Jormungander’s death meant the end of the world. At the last second, he ran out and cut the line. The sea dragon fled back into the depths, but he hated Thor ever afterward.

Thanks for following my blog through 2012. I’ll see you in 2013!

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