Posts Tagged ‘creatures’

I’ve mentioned before the my current work in process, BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING, is inspired by the legend of Hercules–the real one, not what Disney did with it.


It’s not a retelling, just inspired by the a couple of particular aspects of the legend.

Nevertheless, I’m putting in a nod to a couple of the labors–not all twelve, that would take up way too much story space. Just the first two. In reverse order.

My main character has already slain a dragon, which is a nod to the second labor, in which Hercules slew the Lernian Hydra. The one in my story isn’t a water dragon and it doesn’t have nine heads, but it is a dragon.

And now I’m just about to write a scene in which he gets to kill a lion in a manner very much reminiscent of the first labor, to kill the Nemian lion. Although, again, this lion won’t be quite so formidable as the mythological one. (Making the lion’s hide impenetrable by any weapon is probably just a little much for this story.)

This one should be fun to write.

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One of the writer’s Facebook groups I belong to, Clean Indie Fantasy, is doing #DragonWeek for next week, including a giveaway. (None of my books are in the giveaway, but that doesn’t mean I can’t promote it as soon as it goes live.)

The reason I’m not in the giveaway is that none of my books are really suitable, in my opinion. Yes, dragons do often appear, but they’re generally not central to the story.

  1. In The Bard’s Gift, Astrid misinterprets something in the New World (Thunderbird) as a dragon because that’s the only frame of reference that she has.TheBardsGiftCover
  2. In the Dual Magics Series, Quetza’s avatar is a wyvern, but that only comes up a handful of times.Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed Set
  3. My only series in which dragons are really prominent is the Chimeria series and that tips over the edge into PG13, so I’ve never included it in anything to do with Clean Indie Fantasy.ChimeriaBox

Dragons won’t have an important part in the BECOME series, either. However, it just so happens that I’m currently working on a scene in which my main character has to fight a dragon.


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So, my last post was about the physical world of BECOME–the map and the forest, chiefly.

Become 5

The other thing that makes up the physical world is the creatures that inhabit it.

The only magical creatures so far planned for BECOME are some very magical small grey cats.


Sort of like this guy–though Beethoven (Toby for short) was never a small cat. All cats have some magic about them, anyway. And his disposition was very like the little cats in this story.

And a dragon.


For some reason, I don’t have any photos of dragons. 😉 So I’ll use this one which I used (modified) for the cover of “Wyreth’s Flame”.

The dragon in this story will breathe fire–but he won’t be made of it. And he’ll live in mountains something like these:


That’s the Great Western Divide as seen from Morro Rock, Sequoia National Park. Morro Rock is already a bit over 6,700 feet high, so it’s not as though this is the view from the feet of these mountains. (Every one should climb Morro Rock once–and only once. Unless you have a fear of heights. Then don’t.)


This is a closer view (well, using a zoom lens, anyway) of the same mountains.

Those are all for now, though, as a discovery writer, I’m open to new creatures deciding to show up. Always possible.


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Revisions to BEYOND THE PROPHECY are ahead of schedule.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I thought I’d change it up a little today and write about the world building for the DUAL MAGICS series, specifically, the creatures found in this world.

Creatures of the Plains

I hope it’s not obvious, but the beasts living on the plains in the world of the Dual Magics Series are based—loosely—on the Pleistocene megafauna of North America.

I left out all the creatures that would have screamed that that was the inspiration. No mammoths or mastodons. No giant ground sloths or wooly rhinos. Although, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in this world. Just that they don’t occur in the part of the plains inhabited by the Dardani. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dardani’s ancestors had something to do with that.) But if you were to wander off the map up north into the Northern Wilderness or south beyond the mountains, you might find these creatures roaming in those areas. Maybe that’s why people don’t often go to those areas.

The lions are actually intended to be the American lion, a separate species that was a little larger than the modern African lion. Though, having nothing else to go on, I do portray their lifestyle as very much like their African cousins. The swiftcat(mentioned only a few times) is actually the American cheetah—which was not a true cheetah. At least one species had retractable claws that would have made climbing trees easier for it than for modern cheetahs. And the Forest tigers are fairly obviously based on saber-toothed cats.

The wild horses are modeled more on the zebra than on domestic horses, except that I gave mine leopard spots rather than stripes to break up their outlines and make them harder to see. Why not?

Of course, I added a few things, like the wyverns the live in the mountains (and at least historical hints of other kinds of dragons). But wyverns and dragons aren’t new to fantasy. (In fact, most of my novels seem to have a dragon in them somewhere. Only FIRE AND EARTH and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING have no mention of dragons.)

The only creature I entirely made up was Chitter in the first book, the little flying-squirrel-like creature with a lion’s mane (like a golden lion tamarin) that hung around Vatar’s campsites.

I left out the teratorns, (really giant condors) too. The largest North American version (there was one a lot bigger in South America) was about fifty pounds with an eighteen-foot wingspan. I’d duck if that flew overhead.

However one of the two kinds of magic allows certain people to take a different form and a couple of my characters change to eagles. But one of the requirements of these shape changes (under normal circumstances) is conservation of mass. So, a petite hundred-pound woman will be a hundred-pound eagle. Plus, just because she can take that shape doesn’t mean she knows how to use it. That has to be learned. I didn’t want to lessen the struggles of these characters learning to fly by having really big birds making it look easy.

So, that’s a window into what might be lurking out on the plains.




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TheBardsGiftCoverSmallwas a different experience for me. I write fantasy. Usually, I just get to make things up (as long as it makes sense, anyway). That’s why they call it world building. But THE BARD’S GIFT is historical fantasy, so I couldn’t just make up anything I wanted. I had to do research to find out what kind of houses my characters would live in and what kind of clothes they’d wear and a bunch of other things.  Sometimes, interesting things turned up in this research. Some made it into the story, some didn’t.

Now, since my Norse characters go to set up a new colony in North America (in what the Greenlanders would have called Markland, around the Saint Lawrence River) I also included some things specific to North America–especially the thunderbird.

Many North American Indian tribes had stories about Thunderbird. For some, it was a singular, somewhat irascible, creature and a sometimes guardian. In the Pacific Northwest, there were said to be many thunderbirds, who could remove their feathers like a cloak and tilt their beaks up like a mask and so take human form. Those things made it into the story.

What didn’t get in was the real-life (prehistoric) birds that might have been inspiration for the Thunderbird. These teratorns, something like a cross between a condor and an eagle, actually once flew over the skies of North (and South) America.

Merriam’s Teratorn is well known from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits. It would have weighed about 30 pounds and had a wingspan of about 10 to 11 feet. That’s a big bird.

But it’s nothing compared with it’s cousin Aiolornis Incredibilis, which weighed in at 50 pounds and had a wingspan of 16 to 18 feet. Yikes! How’d you like to see one of these fly overhead?

And both of these birds would have been in the skies when people first arrived in the New World.

The biggest of all is only known from South America. Argentavis Magnificens was the largest known flight-capable bird (though it probably soared much more than it flew). It had a 25-foot wingspan and would have weighed about 170 pounds! One of its flight feathers would have been 59 inches long (that’s almost six feet!).  (Sorry, five feet, not six. I shouldn’t try to do arithmetic in my head before breakfast.) Now that’s a Thunderbird.

I’m not making this up. Just take a look at the first chart on this site.

More fun and interesting things to come as we lead up to the launch of THE BARD’S GIFT on January 30th.

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I’ve had the opportunity to have a couple of people who are very good at seeing the big picture take a look at the beginning of my Weird Oz Story. With their help, I’m beginning to get a clearer picture of what went wrong and how to fix it.

This story started when I’d read one too many novels in a row that featured a supposed female protagonist who sat around and waited for some guy to show them what to do. If you haven’t noticed already, that’s a really, really big pet peeve of mine. So, I thought of dropping a new “Dorothy” into a much more dangerous Oz–basically, the Jurassic Park version of Oz.

But it’s not working. I knew that, though I was too close to it to really figure out why. Now I’m starting to get feedback that helps me to understand why.

  1. In the interests of having my “Dorothy” make her own choices, even in a strange and unfamiliar world, I set her down alone. That won’t work. L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy’s first companion, the Scarecrow, in Chapter 3. My character needs someone to talk to, someone to help her recognize the “she’s not in Kansas anymore” sooner. But not somebody to take over and tell her what to do. Most of all, another character who can provide some additional conflict. I’m working on an appropriate character for this–something or someone a bit ADHD who will be as much a hindrance as a help–more conflict. 
scanned from 1900 Wizard of Oz book

scanned from 1900 Wizard of Oz book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. The first few chapters were a bit too frenetic. The whole novel can’t be just bouncing from one threat to the next. There has to be time to lay plans, reconnoiter, and take deliberate action. There have to be try/fail cycles in which “Dorothy” fails before she finds her way out. I have to throw enough at her to make it clear she’s in trouble, but I also need to pace it better.
  2. Writing it in first-person is turning out to be somewhat problematic for two reasons. The longer it takes to convince “Dorothy” that this really is Oz, the longer I’m actually shutting the reader out of the truth, too. Because the reader has to experience everything through “Dorothy” in first person, even while “Dorothy” is in denial. Also, I haven’t really hit on a likeable voice for “Dorothy”, probably partly because of her denial. I haven’t made a decision on this yet. There may be a way I can fix “Dorothy’s” voice. On the other hand, third person frees me to let the reader in on things Dorothy hasn’t figured out yet and, if I want, even to jump to another character for a chapter. That might be the deciding factor.

At any rate, I’m getting closer to getting back to this story.


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Did you ever notice that the middle book (or movie) in a series is usually the least exciting? It just feels like there’s something missing. I have a theory about that.

This applies to all lengths of series in which there’s some overall conflict tying the whole series together, but, for the sake of brevity, let’s use the trilogy.

In the first book, we, as readers, meet the characters for the first time. We “see” the setting for the first time. Hopefully (so that we’ll want to continue the series) we fall in love. If it’s a fantasy, we also learn about the magic system, about any strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit this world. It’s all new and sparkling and full of wonder.

In the third book, we have the big bang, the ultimate confrontation between the hero and the villain. The villain gets his come-uppance. The hero emerges victorious. We get the resolution, the satisfaction, of finding out how the story ends.

The poor middle book doesn’t have either one of these. Hopefully, it’s at least a decent story in its own right, but not always. I’ve read series in which the middle book doesn’t even come out to a story, in the sense of having a smaller problem recognized in the beginning and resolved at the end. It’s just a bridge between the first and third books. I have to really love the characters to want to come back for more in those cases.

This is something I’m really struggling with right now with BLOOD IS THICKER, which is the middle book of my CHIMERIA trilogy. The three books are each meant to stand alone, but they also build on each other and there is something of an overarching problem. BLOOD IS THICKER suffers from middle-book syndrome. And I’m not quite sure how to fix it. Yet.

Now, I want to mention one series that spectacularly beat the middle-book blues–J. K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series. And I think I know why. She parcels out that sense of wonder all through the books, especially the early ones. In SORCERER’S STONE we learn about the wizarding world, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Quidditch, baby dragons, unicorns, and centaurs. But in CHAMBER OF SECRETS we get the flying car, the whomping willow, giant spiders, a “talking” diary, a phoenix, and the basilisk. In PRISONER OF AZKABAN we get dementors, hippogriffs, werewolves, time-turners, the Marauders’ Map, and the patronus charm. Do I even have to go into GOBLET OF FIRE?

Now, if I could just figure out how to apply that to BLOOD IS THICKER. I think I have a better chance with the sequels to MAGE STORM.

Also, new chapters of FIRE AND EARTH and BLOOD WILL TELL are available on wattpad.

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Ack! I really generally dislike prologues–both as a reader and as a writer. Besides that, I’ve heard often enough that agents hate them, too. But even I have to admit that sometimes they’re necessary. Unfortunately, it looks like THE BARD’S GIFT is one of those times.

You see, there’s a speculative element in TBG that will be somewhat important to the ultimate resolution of the story. And that element–a particular creature–doesn’t turn up as early as I’d originally hoped. Not until about three-quarters of the way, through, in fact.

In my opinion, any unexpected element that will affect the ending needs to be introduced at latest before the half-way point. Otherwise, you risk the ending feeling like Deus ex Machina–something the characters haven’t really earned. That’s just not satisfying for the readers, generally.

But there just isn’t any way to introduce this creature/character much sooner because my POV characters don’t get into his territory before that. My solution, at least so far, is a prologue–just a short scene involving this character that hopefully also raises some tension, but mainly lets the reader know that he exists.

Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do.

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Well, things seem to have settled down for the time being. Now back to writing.

I’m beginning to pick up momentum in THE BARD’S GIFT again. That’s a very good thing. This story is a different experience for me in a couple of ways.

First, it’s alternate history set against the failure of the Viking colony in Greenland. This means I’m constantly stopping myself to go check on what plants, animals, birds, etc. actually exist in Greenland. I’m used to making up my own worlds and populating them with whatever habitats and creatures I like. Things will, I hope, get a little easier once I move my main characters to North America.

Second, this is a story about a girl who tells stories, which means that the narrative sort of stops in several places for the story that Astrid is telling. Of course, for the most part, the stories have something to do with what is happening or what is going to happen to the characters. I’ve incorporated legends into my stories before, but never to this extent.

The early stories are more or less traditional, although I’m having to make some modifications to match the life experiences of a girl from Greenland–no castles, no forests, and some animals or birds have to be changed to those that she might actually be familiar with. Later stories will be more flights of my own fancy and I’ll be able to let loose a little more with them.

This book also has a couple of things I’ve never included in a novel before: and afterword on the actual history behind the story and a glossary. I’ve put the history portion up under the “Worlds” tab, if you’re interested.

It’s certainly an interesting story to work on. I hope it turns out as interesting when it’s told. I think it will.

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The last post was about dragons. This one is about everything else.

I write fantasy, so fantastic creatures creep into my stories all the time. Sometimes I plan for them to be there. Other times, they just show up.

BLOOD WILL TELL/BLOOD IS THICKER have unicorns as well as dragons. Other fantastic creatures (or, as they are called in this world, magical races) are mentioned, but don’t actually have much of a role. At least not yet. There’s still the third book (tentatively, BLOOD STAINS) to be written. And since that one will involve a battle to defend their home, who knows which ones will turn up to take a part in that?

MAGE STORM also has griffins as well as three kinds of dragons.

SEVEN STARS remains the only novel-length story I’ve written with no fantasy creatures in it at all. Hmm.

MAGIC’S FOOL has some creatures of my own devising, sort of. There’s something very similar to a saber-tooth cat (although I’ve made my own revisions and additions) and a kind of zebra-like wild horse with leopard spots instead of stripes. In addition to wyverns and maybe a hippocampus, later stories in the series will have more odd creatures from my own imagination. In an earlier version of these stories, there was an unusually large and intelligent spotted flying squirrel, a sort of cross between a wild pig and a rhino, and possibly some really mean miniature unicorns. Making up my own creatures can be fun. I should do it more often.

At least right now, the plans for THE BARD’S GIFT don’t include anything other than dragons. But, I haven’t even started writing it yet, so who knows what may show up.

I’m also wondering what imaginary creatures I might want to include in my retelling of the fairy tale “Little Furball”.



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