Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

I’m hanging out with Esme at The Recipe Hunter today. Stop by for a little excursion into the joys of “research.”

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It’s a delight to be over here on Esme’s blog, and I’m going with the cooking theme. But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.

If you’re having a group of important people (like potential readers) over for dinner, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what you’re cooking up. Reading recipes and browsing images on the internet is a great first step, but it probably makes sense to check out the recipe yourself before you serve it to others.

Well, writing is the same way. Authors can collect amazing information online, and to be honest, there’s often no way around it, but trying things out ourselves provides invaluable inside knowledge that we can’t always get in other ways. I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers.

Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, calls these experience-collecting excursions “Artist’s Dates.” Basically, you make a weekly date with yourself to expand your horizons, culinary or otherwise. I’ve taken the advice to heart on several occasions:

Three books of the Dragon Soul Saga take place on old sailing ships, and sailing around the lake on a sunfish as a kid didn’t cut it. So, I packed up my husband and dragged him off for a tall ship sailing adventure. While the rest of the passengers were drinking rum and listening to pirate stories,…

(Continue Reading… The Recipe Hunter)

What it feels like to ride a Dragon

Dragon riding3

pixabay compilation

The meadow sings with crickets and dragons, swarms of bees and seeds on white wings. You wade into the blue-eyed grass, a waterless sea of larkspur, speedwell and mountain everlasting. Breathe the fragrance of a windless day when the energies of earth, water, and sky crackle in the air.

In the cloudless currents, dragons dip and roll with the grace of swallows. Silken wings billow, dyed by a blushing sky, light as windswept sails. The waning sun glints on scales of emerald and seafoam, coral and moonstone.

You know what to do.

Present to your perceptions, shutter your eyes and breathe until the rhythm of your heart entrances. The dark and stale corners empty, willing you to release the mind and be one, indistinguishable from the world. You call the dragons down.

A breath of wind whispers across your lashes. Risk a glance. The aimless whirl of wings transforms into a weaving dance of muscle, sinew, heart and soul.  Dragons ride the sky in undulating waves, a vortex swirling down to the mountain’s flowered sea.

Be still, a pillar of stone as the great dragons descend. A flurry of wings paints the air in hues of topaz, amethyst, and green tourmaline. Crescent scales shimmer like watercolor moons.

Wary, you exhale, mindful of those that huff and hum around you, sharing the air as if you’ve vanished into the breathing, living landscape. A dappled dragon rears before you. Wings of abalone sweep the sky. You do not falter, but surrender and approach.

Fingertips glide over the webbing’s hollow bones and brush pearly scales, bestirred by the softness. The long neck curves and cloud-gray eyes peer into you, a soul freed of fear. The dragon lowers a wing, the long-awaited invitation.

You open like a whisper, and in that pause between your heartbeats, at the precise point when the inhale becomes the exhale, the dragon slides  beneath your skin. Light streams into your heart. Particles of life that once comprised your body merge in tender intimacy with the world, and your essence radiates beyond your flesh, blood, and bones. You are luminous, sunlight and stardust, one with the dragon’s soul.

Stepping softly, you rise over the sleek back. Wings unfold beneath you, flowing and flaring outward as the last rays of day span the wilderness. They drum the petaled sea, and as one, you ascend, chasing the sun that rolls over the horizon. You lift your face and raise your arms for you too have wings and song and soar.

The dragon spirals higher, neck craned, eyes glistening in the golden glow of twilight. Wings fanned back, you fly faster, picking up speed, letting the world pull you around, faster, the wind singing in your ears. You sweep past forests of jagged giants, crest the snow-cowled peaks, and soar over the thorny rose that rims the craggy shore. Your heart surges as you sail over the wind-worn sea, embracing the utter boundlessness of flight, the freedom of the wing, the spinning of the world hurling you forward and slinging you into myth.

That’s what it feels like to ride a dragon.

Adapted from Myths of the Mirror – Re-release in August

The Lover’s Moon

Lover's Moon

In my fantasy worlds, the Lover’s Moon ushers in the ripeness of summer. Fiddleheads unfurl on the mountain paths and the high meadow blooms with fireweed, toadflax, and pearl everlasting. In the villages, the lanes bake and the heat rises in liquid ribbons. It’s a moon of full-bellies,  bare feet and water warm enough for swimming, of golden hay and long lazy days.  On the sea, it’s a time of genial winds, promises of love, and sails billowing with sunshine.

For anyone romantic at heart, the full Lover’s Moon smiles tonight.

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn - en.wikimedia.org

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn – en.wikimedia.org

Excerpt from the Lover’s Moon, Eye of Sun
(Percy is going to create a little diversion)

The Crow’s Nest bustled with seamen, yardsmen, and scurrying serving maids. Caron crowded them into a corner, sharing a long table with men from the Gale Breaker and Seabourne. A few crewmen hoisted their tankards in a boisterous greeting. Edin had never patronized such a chaotic and raucous place. Seamen sloshed well beyond their cups, and he couldn’t tell whether they were getting along or apt to throw punches. Caron suggested the mash for supper, and he took the recommendation, barely able to think straight with all the noise.

The food hearty, he ate like a starved man. One of the crewmen sharing the long table leaned toward him. The skinny seaman sported a crooked nose and hair that might have been trimmed by a blind man in a stiff wind. “How’s yer mash? Good ain’t it?”

Edin pushed away his empty plate. “We’ve been living on old bread and watered oats, complements of your governors.”

“It weren’t fish, anyway,” the young man said.

“Percy got fish nigh up his gills,” a flaxen-haired man explained. “Name’s Hywel and that’s me brother, Malven.” He pointed to the beardless version of himself sitting across the table.

“Fish mornin’, noon, and evenin’,” Percy muttered. “Can’t tolerate it no more.”

“Quit cookin’ fish then,” Malven said. “Yer the blame cook.”

“Pull up somethin’ aside fish and I will.”

“Mutton would be good,” the bearded older brother said. “Hook us a good shank of sheep off Ramsey.”

Percy thought that worth a laugh and ordered more ale.

“Don’t mind the fish stew,” Hywel said. “Like it with potatoes. Good when they come in again.”

“Still fish,” Percy muttered.

“Good crab off Ross and Whitnee,” Hywel said. “Crab’s worth the work.”

“Still fish.”

“Crab’s not fish,” Malven said. “It’s crab.”

“It’s a sort of fish,” the skinny cook insisted.

“It don’t got fins, Perce.”

“Neither do a clam, ya idiot.”

“A clam ain’t a fish neither.”

Eyeing Malven, Percy downed his ale. “If it’s from the sea, it’s fish.”

“Lot’s from the sea that ain’t fish,” Hywel said. “Rocks and weed. Sand.”

“We’re talkin’ about fish, not sand!” Percy shouted with a grin.

“Just sayin’ not everything in the sea is fish,” Hywel said.

“If it come from the sea, looks like fish, tastes like fish, is fish.” Percy pushed back his chair, thumping into a bald warrior at the next table who growled and gave him a shove. Percy bolted up and faced the shiny-headed hulk. “Now, that weren’t necessary. We was just talkin’ about what’s fish.”

“And I’ve heard enough,” the man snarled. “Fish have gills. That’s how you know they’re fish.”

Percy’s face turned scarlet. He lifted the edge of the warriors’ table and spilled every tankard the length of it. Before Malven could stop him, he took an off-balance swing at the warrior who popped him in his crooked nose. Percy howled, grabbed a tankard, and smashed it into a bearded warrior’s cheek. The man shoved Percy so hard he flew off his feet, landing on the suppers of the Gale Breaker’s crew.

“He pushed me on ya!” Percy shouted, his arms protecting his face. “Blame warriors, wreckin’ yer supper.” The Gale Breaker’s crew tossed Percy back toward the warriors, but Hywel caught his arm and yanked him out of the path of a right hook that would have lopped off his head. A man from the Gale Breaker spun around and thundered a punch into the bald warrior’s belly and head-butted him in the face, breaking his nose. Another warrior with a puckered scar on his chin picked up a chair and hurled it at the Gale Breaker’s crew. The seamen erupted, climbing over tables and throwing fists at any warrior in range. The proprietor roared from the end of the room, but he was far too late.

(Coming in August!)

Crofter’s Moon

original images - pixabay

original images – pixabay

In my fantasy world spring truly arrives with the Crofter’s Moon. The soil warms and the old jenny plods before a hand-held plow. Seeds drop in tidy rows, and sprouts peek from the rich loam, tender promises of harvests to come. Neighbors emerge from their dark hearths, shuttered eyes thrown wide in their hunger for light. Hearts venture in celebration, seeking communion, another lean winter survived. The sun blesses faces and beats on backs as the endless cycles of all life wax and wane. There are chores to be done, but the world feels hopeful and alive.

The Crofter’s Moon shines its full face tonight. Enjoy the coming Crofter’s Moon. May your garden grow a bounty and of your heart flourish with love.

pixabay

pixabay

Excerpt from the Crofter’s Moon, Dragon Soul Trilogy

Brend’s shoulders rose in a shrug, and he stretched his legs out in front of him, his ankles crossed. “Do you remember what Conall said when he spoke to the lair’s riders? He said, in essence, that the choice to do nothing in the face of cruelty is no different than choosing cruelty itself. I’ve mused over those words since. Every time we look away from ruthlessness, poverty, corruption, and suffering, we’re allowing those things to flourish and grow. Are we saying it doesn’t matter to us? We don’t care enough? We stood by as a people and did nothing when the governors murdered your father. We saw dragons captured and tortured, Morfael exiled, skyriders banned. Then cruelty crouches on our own doorsteps, and we are suddenly outraged. If a child is beaten and we neglect to interfere, who are we to rail when the child grows into a violent man? If we fail to feed the hungry are we choosing to starve them to death?”

Earlin rested her elbows on the table. “You have too much time on your hands.”

“Maybe so.” Brend chuckled. “But reflection is good for me.” He shook her gently by the back of her neck. “I’m trying to choose the Belonging over fear, Earlin, and discover what that means for me. Do the same and you’ll find your way.”

Hungry Moon

pixabay compilation

pixabay compilation

In my fantasy world, the Hungry Moon ushers in the thaw. Days lengthen, trees blossom and nature knits an emerald coverlet over the wilderness. The blues and grays of winter surrender to a tapestry of fresh color, and the sun rolls around like an old friend. Yet, this is a hungry time, winter’s stores dwindling, the cellars and cupboards bare. The fields lie sodden and fallow, new crops a distant dream. The warming sun promises fiddleheads and dandelion greens, nettle and chickweed, wild pickings filling aprons for empty bellies. For the poor, it’s a thin, lean time, a cruel tease of the spring to come.

The Hungry Moon rises on March 23rd. Hang in there, spring will come.

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Excerpt from the Hungry Moon, Eye of Blind

The hut warm, Starling listened to the timbre of Gallard’s voice, his feelings carried through the air. She heard the news as a faint echo, translating facts and events into an emotional unfolding, layered with nuance, thick, rich, and threaded with light. She barely saw bodies anymore, or faces, or remembered names. They comprised the trappings of essence. How else could she think of it? They glittered as if fashioned of stars.

She’d always called herself a Death Droom, and here she’d found there was no death. Merging with the dragons had fundamentally changed her. She no longer saw the faces of light descending so beautifully and peacefully to accompany the dying. Rather, she witnessed the infinity of soul, the stardust, color, and light that transformed but never altered. Spiraling circles of life, generation upon generation of birth and death, and yet the spirit remained unbound. The essence existed outside of form, vibrating in the void. She slowly became the World’s sublime song, losing a sense of her body and drifting more in otherness, oneness. At times, she believed she could walk through trees, dissolve into water, fragment and fly away on beams of light.

Freeing the Dragons of the Lair

The cell’s iron door swung open, heavy and groaning on tired hinges. Adaryn paused in the broad aisle, blood racing, hands slick with sweat. The reek of foul hung thick in the heat, burning his nose. At the aisle’s end, chains clanked as the winch turned. Massive stable doors rumbled open, welcoming the remaining rays of day and hot breath of summer wind. The hooded dragon swung its tufted head toward the sunlight spearing the stale air. It pulled against battered shackles, swaying with the low thrum and hum of the song that echoed in Adaryn’s chest.

Across the aisle, Hedd and his grandson, Cadan, skyriders of the old Way, stood with eyes gazing inward, calling the dragon down in Belonging. They opened their souls, beckoning the creature into their blood, bones, and heart, their breath filling the dragon’s spaces.

This was Adaryn’s dragon; at least, in his mind it was. It towered over him, lustrous scales the emerald of dragonflies, onyx wings black as midnight. This dragon once brushed the sky with beauty and flew into myth, a copper ring clutched in its talons. A creature of the unfurling world, it arced with a swallow’s grace and hovered with falcons over wildflower meadows. As a rider of the lair, he had flown on this dragon’s back, harnessed its power, and mastered its will. And he would be the rider to finally set it free.

His opportunity arrived. Adaryn wiped the sweat from his forehead with a sleeve, and drawing a breath, released the tension gripping his chest. He took an irresistible, however unwise, risk and entered the cell.

Reaching up, he unclipped all but one of the braided tethers that strapped the hood to the dragon’s head, letting them slip to the stinking foul on the floor. Smooth scale shimmered before his eyes. Sinew flexed, muscle rippling with every sway, breath steaming above his head. The desire to touch it undeniable, his hand rose to the neck’s soft scale. Cautious fingers slid down to the base of the throat where a steel spine had carved its flesh, drawing blood and scarring, not so long ago.

At his touch, the dragon’s song silenced. Muscles tensed beneath his fingertips. Talons extended and curled, scraping the stone floor. Its long tail flicked, rattling the iron bars. The skyriders shifted, and Hedd’s eyes captured his in warning. Adaryn let his hand fall and knelt by the forelegs, unchaining one, then the other. Slowly and with care, he removed pins and slid the bolts free that held the manacles tightly bound.

His body pressed to the black bars, he sidled toward the rear of the cell. He yearned to slide his fingers along the webbed wing, touch the hollow bones, the sleekness of the skin that caught the air. Yet he resisted the impulse. With one rear leg unchained, he stepped carefully over the slender tail to release the second. He slipped back toward the cell’s door and there grasped the one loose tether left hanging from the dragon’s hood. As he stepped into the aisle, he pulled, and the hood fell free.

The dragon’s fiery eyes, splinters of gold, fell on the gaping doors as if the stream of light had harnessed all the sun’s brightness. Adaryn stumbled back against the bars, an arm raised to shield his face as the dragon reared. The giant body turned into the aisle, moving beyond the two skyriders who stood as still as the gray stone.

As the dragon spread its cramped wings, Adaryn felt his own heart swell, his body vibrating. Black webbing unfurled, filling the lair like a moonless night, stretching outward into the world with the dragon’s song. Thunderous wings drummed the air, fanning the heat as the creature rose from the stable floor, casting dust and dirt to the face of the man who embraced the freedom of its flight. The dragon soared through the gaping doors into the failing light.

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Through a fluke of timing, this poor little trilogy entered the world the same week as The Sorcerer’s Garden and is feeling neglected.  It was time for a little tender loving care. Thanks for reading!

Available on Amazon: Eye of Fire, The Dragon Soul Trilogy, Book One

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