Posts tagged with: fantasy adventure

Here Be Dragons

by Nancy

“Here be dragons,” read the margins of old maps, warning of dangers in the seas beyond the known (flat) world. Today, however, we know what’s in those spaces, or think we do, and dragons are consigned to the realms of myth and magic.

A book I’ve been using for research on the current wip says dragons are part of almost every culture on the planet, that they’re associated with the Great Goddess and are symbols of power and royalty. Pretty cool.

The book also mentions an herb called dragon blood that’s used for a variety of magical purposes, such as those involving love, purification and protection. Some sources say it can add power to particular spells.

Helping carry a long paper dragon is part of Chinese New Year celebrations. King Arthur’s surname has come down to us in legend as Pendragon, and Wales historically used a red dragon on its flag. Beowulf fought his last battle against a firedrake, a winged serpent that breathed fire.

The Vikings, as I imagine we all know, carved dragon heads onto the prows of their ships. In Norse mythology, the dragon Fafnir guarded a treasure hoard until Sigurd, or Siegfried, slew him. Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent, coiled around the world with his tail in his mouth and created the oceans.

One of my favorite children’s songs is “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary. If you’re too young to know who they are, click on the link. I think “Puff” is probably available from iTunes or from their website. It’s a sad song about what happens to our childhood’s imaginary friends when we move on, but it has an upbeat ending. And no, I never made the counter-culture associations with it until someone pointed them out to me.

The boy has led us to many fictional and fabulous dragons. Playmobil makes wonderful, if pricey, knights and dragons. One of the boy’s favorite Pokemon was the orange dragon, Charizard, who had a very obstinate and independent personality. From Pokemon, our son moved to Yu-Gi-Oh, which featured the Blue Eyes White dragon and several others.

If you like dragons, you should check out the beautiful, detailed children’s book Dragonology, which I would never have seen if the boy hadn’t been the right age to care when it came out.

Much as Sherlock Holmes’s adventures are presented as John Watson’s chronicles, the material here is supposedly the result of extensive research by a Victorian dragonologist into types of dragons, preferred foods, ability to fly, ability to speak, and pretty much anything else a person might ponder about dragons.

The boy also had a gorgeous picture book about why dragons left the world, but I can’t remember the title. One of his favorite picture books was Saint George and the Dragon (original cover pictured at left), with text by Margaret Hodges and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, who won the Caldecott Award for it.

The tale of St. George and the dragon, of course, is an old one. This version comes from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, but it’s beautifully retold. When the boy weeded his childhood books, we refused to let him discard this one or Dragonology.

Our search for adventure books to share with our young son, who had no bias against stories starring girls, led us to Patricia C. Wrede’s wonderful series about Cimorene, a princess who hates court life so much that she runs away to cook for a dragon. When knights come to her aid, she finds creative ways to discourage them because she has no desire to be rescued, thank you very much.

The first book, Dealing with Dragons, is pictured at right. The books are rich in story and humor, and the princess has major but endearing attitude and quick wits. She eventually finds true love. The last book in the series, actually the first published, features her son.

Now the boy is into Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars in which the armies have air forces mounted on dragons. In the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, a Royal Navy captain captures a rare dragon egg, only to have it hatch on his ship. The dragon, Temeraire, chooses the captain as his rider, changing his life forever.

Novik won SFWA’s John W. Campbell Award for the most promising newcomer with this book. The series is now up to six and still going strong. They’re on the “must read” list for me, but I’m putting them off until the first of the year, when I’m not teaching, lest I be swept up and unable to stop until I reach the end. The Aerial Corps, as England’s dragonriders are known, seems like the Napoleonic equivalent of World War II’s RAF, and I’m a real sucker for Battle of Britain stories. And dragons.

As an adult reading Tolkien for the first time, I met Smaug, the greedy creature who has a riddle match with Bilbo Baggins in his cave outside the town of Dale. Given my weakness for archers and Smaug’s sly malevolence, it’s no wonder I loved the scene where Bard the Bowman’s expert shot brought down the dragon. I didn’t love the Bakshi version, so I’ll be interested to see how this comes across in the forthcoming movie.

The first dragons I remember finding really cool were in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight (pictured at right with the beautiful Michael Whelan cover that graces my copy), the book that launched her epic Dragonriders of Pern series. The planet Pern suffers from periodic invasions by something called thread–long filament spores that fall from the sky, starting fires and eating through anything they touch. To combat them, the Pernese bond with dragons when they hatch. As pairs, they take to the sky to fight thread before it reaches the ground. The riders feed the dragons stones that help generate fire breath, and the dragons destroy thread before it reaches the ground.

F’lar, the dragonriders’ leader, knows a queen egg is about to hatch. Because dragons choose their riders, not the other way around, he needs a selection of girls available to greet the hatchling. When he rescues Lessa, an abused servant, and takes her back to the weyr for the hatching, he doesn’t realize she and the golden queen, Ramoth, will win not only the planet’s future but his heart.

I also loved Melanie Rawn’s Dragon series, which starts with Dragon Prince. In a land threatened constantly by war, a new ruler and his wife struggle to protect the dragons tradition demands he slay. Doing so may be their best hope of avoiding war. There are six of these, shelved in fantasy but including a lot of romance. Another wonderful book is Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, which kicks off her Winterlands series.

There are plenty of other dragons out there. Allyson James’s Stormwalker features a shapeshifter dragon as a hero, and Deborah Cooke has a series about shapeshifter dragons, just to name two. One of my favorite guilty pleasures movies is Reign of Fire, starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConnaughey, an alternate future tale about humans trying to destroy the dragons that have decimated them. Dragonheart, with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery, has lots of fans, and How to Train Your Dragon has done well in theaters this summer.

So what are your favorite stories about dragons or other mythical creatures? A package of books I picked up from RWA National, including a signed copy of Jessica Andersen’s wonderful Demonkeeper, will go to one commenter today.

The Trouble with Demons

Today fantasy author Lisa Shearin joins us in the Lair. Lisa writes the popular Raine Benares series, which started with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. Her third book, The Trouble With Demons, is due out this Tuedsay. Welcome, Lisa!

Who is Raine Benares, and why is she in so much trouble?

Raine Benares is an elf and a seeker, a finder of things lost and people missing, kind of like a gumshoe/private detective with daggers—lots of daggers. Raine’s occupation is at odds with being a member of the notorious Benares crime family. Some of the things Raine’s hired to find are better off staying lost, and one of those is the Saghred, an ancient, soul-stealing stone of cataclysmic power. When the Saghred bonds with Raine and she can’t get rid of it, she suddenly finds herself with the kind of attention a girl can do without: the sadistic leader of a goblin secret society, the sexy but secretive commander of the Conclave Guardians, and a renegade goblin prince. And when attacks in back alleys fail to capture Raine, the goblins take the legal road. As Raine said, “I couldn’t be bonded to just any old stone of cataclysmic power. Mine had lawyers.” Oh, and by the way, at least once in every book something big gets blown up—warehouses, embassies, gates to Hell—just your fun, garden-variety pyromaniac targets.

Raine has interesting problems with the men in her life. Can you tell us a little about them?

Tamnais Nathrach is a goblin nightclub owner and a friend of Raine’s. He wants to be more than friends. Like most goblins, Tam wears his black hair long—and his fangs aren’t for decorative use only. If a fight gets dirty, a goblin won’t hesitate to use their fangs to lethal effect. Tam won’t hesitate to use his fangs to nibble on Raine’s neck or the tips of her pointed ears.

Mychael Eiliesor is an elf and the commander of the Conclave Guardians, the most elite magical fighting force in the seven kingdoms. At first he’s after Raine to keep the Saghred from falling into the wrong hands; later he wants to keep Raine from falling into anyone’s hands except his own.

Would you like to share an excerpt with us?

I heard the creak of leather as Tam came to stand directly behind me, the heat of his body warming me. Warm and nice. Except it wasn’t nice; it was dangerous. Don’t forget dangerous, Raine. Tam was dangerous to anyone who crossed his path, but mostly to me, especially now.
And I was dangerous to everyone, period.

Tam’s strong hands settled on my shoulders and gently pulled me back against him. I knew it was a bad idea, but I leaned into him anyway, my head resting on his chest. Just a minute or two wouldn’t do any harm. A little comforting never hurt anyone, and right now, I could use some.

Our reflections looked back at us out of the glass.

I watched Tam’s hands slide from my shoulders to my arms. His hands were deliciously warm. My numerous brushes with death today had left me shivering—and not just from cold.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Those two words said everything, but told me nothing.

Tam could be sorry for any number of things: the bond that linked us, using me to cram that demon into a bottle, me being accused of practicing black magic, or even the crap heap my life had become thanks to the Saghred. But it didn’t tell me what I could do about any of them. The only thing I wanted more than to run was to do something, anything to find a way out of all of this.

Tam wrapped his arms around me, pulling me closer, his head bowed, hair falling in a silken curtain around us. The side of his face softly brushed against mine, like a cat—a big, dangerous cat. A shiver ran through me. This was about to go beyond comforting.

My heart sped up, and not just from Tam’s touch and his scent of fire-heated spices, of cinnamon and cloves. Getting within arms’ reach of Tam had always been risky; the kind of risk where your clothes somehow ended up on the floor. Now risk had turned to danger. Thanks to our bond, we were as intimate as two people could be and still keep their clothes on. The Saghred had forged our bond.

The rock never did anything without a reason—and no wards held it now.

I swallowed hard. “Tam, no.”

“Raine, I would never hurt you.” Tam’s voice was a husky whisper against my ear. It was the whisper of a man torn between what he wanted and the knowledge that what he wanted could ultimately destroy him. Tam wanted me. Tam’s black magic wanted the Saghred. Deep down, he knew it. He knew it and he didn’t care—or he couldn’t stop himself.

In one swift, smooth move, Tam turned me to face him. I didn’t fight him; I needed to see his eyes, to see if Tam was the only one home in there. I looked up into twin pools in a midnight forest. Not the solid black orbs that they’d been under the embassy, no black magic glittering there, just desire. A woman could drown in those pools. I could drown in those pools. But if did, I’d drag Tam under with me. It might not be tonight, but it would happen. The Saghred would see to it.

“No, Tam,” I said quietly. “I’m the one who would hurt you.”

His heart pounded beneath my hands as he pulled me tight against him, his body hard against mine, his breath warm against the tip of my ear. I expected his lips next, followed by a nibble of fang. Neither happened. We stood there, not moving, not speaking, not safe. Definitely not safe. And we both knew it.

Tam pulled back just enough to gaze down at me. “It won’t happen yet.” His denial was murmured on the barest breath. He bent his head, his lips poised above mine. “Not yet.”

I didn’t stop him, and I should have.

Tam’s kiss was a brush of featherlight silk, tentative, cautious; but his breathing had taken on a ragged edge—for me and for the power that had slowed to a soft pulse inside of me, anticipating, waiting. The touch of his lips quickened that pulse, and my breath along with it. Suddenly I was returning his kiss, my mouth pressing insistently against his, my tongue touching the smooth sharpness of his fangs. Tam shivered at the contact, and his breath came in a quick hiss as his long fingers gripped my hair, holding my head still as he kissed me hard and deep, devouring. His other hand left my waist to explore other places. I heard a soft groan; I think it was me. A slim slice of my consciousness knew it was more than me, more than Tam.

Stop this, Raine. Stop it now.

I couldn’t.

My hands took on a life of their own, sliding from Tam’s chest to his throat. I lingered there, my fingers resting against the vulnerable pulse point, feeling it quicken and throb at my touch. Tam’s arms tightened around me, and suddenly my feet weren’t touching the floor.

This was more than sensation, more than Tam and me. Magic curled in a sensuous swirl of heat through my belly and lower, along my skin and through my mind, and I saw Tam and I pressed together as if I were standing outside my body, a witness to passion that I had no control over. Tam’s magic answered mine, his power responding, transforming those swirls into living vines, touching, entangling.


Heat flared in the center of my chest, awake and eager, and I came back to myself, passion turned to panic.

I wasn’t across the room; I was clenched tightly in Tam’s arms. Our lips parted and we froze, pressed together, breathing fast, our hearts beating faster. Inside of me, the Saghred’s burn went from an exultant blaze to a triumphant smolder.

The rock had just given Tam a sample of the ultimate fix and a taste of me along with it. For a recovering addict, it could be damnation. Tam might be willing to risk it; I wasn’t going to risk Tam or myself.

I got my hands between us and pushed hard against his chest. “Tam, let me go.”

I was panting, so was he. A shudder ran through his body and his hold on me loosened just enough that my feet touched the floor. I was ready to fight him if I had to, but Tam released me.

“I’m sorry,” he managed between breaths.

I pulled air into my lungs, trying to clear my head, and took two steps back. I’d have retreated further, but my back was against the glass wall. Tam made no move to come after me.

I exhaled and tried for some more air. “My fault. Shouldn’t have . . . let you get that close.”

Tam’s lips were parted, breathing softly. “I should have had more control.”

His dark eyes were still drowning pools, reflecting fear at what had happened, but desire at what we’d done. I looked away. I couldn’t drown if I didn’t go swimming again.

“Though control would be easier to come by if you didn’t feel so good.” There was still fear in Tam’s eyes, but his sly grin was sex itself. “And if you hadn’t tried to stick your tongue down my throat.”

“I didn’t try to—” Then memory collided with sensation. Oh yes, I did. Damn.

“Maybe next time we should just stand across the room and talk dirty to each other,” he suggested.

“There can’t be a next time.”

Tam didn’t answer. He might be a scoundrel, but he didn’t make promises he couldn’t keep.

You’re an exhibition fencer. How did you become interested in that?

I took fencing and archery in college and the love of both never left me. My husband and I started taking lessons and jumped at the chance to become part of our fencing club’s Renaissance group, The Ship’s Company. We did fencing shows and demonstrations at movie premieres, Renaissance faires, museums and schools.

Since I’ve begun writing Raine’s adventures, unfortunately I haven’t had the time to get back into the fencing gym. But I have five years of fencing experience to fall back on (my Olympic weapons of choice are the foil and epee). And while I was working on the manuscript that would become Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I took private rapier and dagger lessons, and took a lot of notes for future book use. My fencing coach, Wes Caudill, helped me block out the fight scene in the first chapter of Magic Lost, Trouble Found, and is always available for any and all of my combat-related questions.

Like Raine, I like to be creative in my fighting style. Though unlike Raine, I’ve never used a rose bush branch as an offhand weapon. I prefer the more traditional offhand weapons: a dagger, a second rapier (fighting with a pair of rapiers is also known as a “case” of rapiers or Florentine style), a dueling cloak (though I never quite got the hang of that), but what was just too much fun was a rapier and a bullwhip. Yep, you heard me right. Believe me, nothing distracts an opponent like a six-foot whip wrapping around their blade. Hmmm, a bullwhip. That sounds like a weapon Raine would like.

We love call stories here in the lair. Would you like to share yours?

I got “The Call” from Kristin Nelson offering to represent me, and “The Email” from Kristin telling me we had a two-book contract offer on the table.

“The Call” came during the day while I was at work (at the day job). When Kristin said she loved my book and wanted to represent me, I did a lot of silent “squeeing” and fumbling to find a pen and paper to take notes. That alone shows how completely befuddled and caught off guard I was—I’m an editor, writer and proofreader at an advertising agency; I’ve got pens and paper all over the place. I had two other agents who were also considering my book, but I really wanted to sign with Kristin. Why? Because she was so excited about my book and seemed to love my characters as much as I did. For me, that was a must-have for an agent.

The frustrating part of getting The Call at the office was that while my co-workers congratulated me, they had no clue how freaking huge and mammoth and humongous this moment was for me. It’s definitely more fun to squee with people who know why they’re squeeing with you.

As to The Email from Kristin saying that we had an offer of a two-book contract from Ace Books—that one came at home. I’d just gotten home from work and had been checking my email like crazy every day. When I saw the subject line “We have an offer,” first I stopped breathing. Second, I let my breath out, took another one, and told myself to keep breathing. Then I opened the email.

And screamed.

Bear in mind that I was at home and so was my husband Derek. Now he understood how huge, mammoth, and humongous this news was, so when I burst into tears, I got the perfectly appropriate response of enthusiastic hugs and kisses (not that I wanted that from my co-workers). Our dogs (two retired racing greyhounds and a Jack Russell Terrier) were crowded around us and jumping up & down—they had no clue that mom had just scored a two-book deal, they just wanted to share in the excitement.

For more about Lisa and her work, check out her website. Lisa will be participating in a panel and signing at Barnes and Noble in Cary, NC, on June 23. For more information, click here.

What’s your favorite love triangle? What do you like about swashbuckling adventure, and what’s your favorite one? What criteria do you think a heroine should use when choosing between two hot guys?

Lisa is giving away a Raine Benares gift basket with copies of all three books and assorted other goodies to one commenter.