Monthly Archives: October 2009

History of Dragons: The Evil Part of Man?

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I watched a great documentary the other day about Dragons on the History Channel. It was different because it explored the scientific and historical findings that lead through civilizations. From Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Carthage, Scandinavia, China and Japan through the Middle Ages, across the ocean into Mexico with the Olmecs and Aztecs who performed human sacrifice to appease their dragon deity to Native North Americans and present day the basic concept of the dragon has endured throughout millennia.

The first evidence of dragons appeared in Mesopotamia 6000 years ago when the first written records were made. In this myth a good dragon, Marduk, slays the evil dragon, Tiamat, and uses the carcass to create all of the elements necessary for creation of the world. The question is why a dragon? Where did this concept originate? Why not a bear or wolf?

It went on to show the many civilizations that have used the various images of the dragon on pottery vessels, jewelry, facades, statuary, weaponry. They all contained similar characteristics; wings, large maw with massive teeth, horns atop the head, horn or beard below the chin, long tail, scales and clawed feet. Whether the image was Chinese with the elongated, sinewy body or European with a stout muscular shape, the main characteristics remained. One aspect that did vary greatly was personality. The European or Western dragons were always destructive and called evil. The Chinese or Eastern dragons are benign and revered.

The Imperial Chinese had an order in their government established by the number of claws on the dragon’s foot. Only the emperor could wear the image of a dragon with five claws. The Imperial Clan’s dragon had four claws and so on. They also believed that if the dragon flew eastward, toward Japan, he would lose claws. The Japanese believed that a dragon flying westward lost claws.

All societies have held a belief that dragons controlled water. In Japan the god of water is a dragon. Some held that dragons lived at the bottom of wells, lake and rivers thereby controlling the water supply. Some believe the Loch Ness creature could be a dragon.

Scientists conjecture that dragons may have been composed from three elements of which early man was deathly afraid; big cats, big snakes and big birds. Dragons share characteristics of each of these. A dragon’s head has a pointed snout full of teeth and large eyes, its neck is long and serpentine and it always has wings. It is also predatory.

While literature and myth portrayed the dragon as destructive and powerful, it wasn’t until the Catholic Church related the dragon to Satan in Revelations and the use of Gargoyles on the facades of Cathedrals that people began to identify them as evil and demonic. It was apparently the hope of the church leaders that this connection would scare people into trusting the church to save them from dragons, hence Satan. This was when such tales were born as St George and the Dragon or the Knights of the Roundtable. In all of these and more, virgin princesses were rescued from evil dragons by knights using swords. Anyone need that metaphor explained?

It is this aspect I have chosen to include in my book. I believe that dragons are symbolic and have always been part of man’s basic nature. They demonstrate parts of man that man wishes he had more of, like power and flight. They also demonstrate a part of man that he is afraid of in himself and wishes to slay. So we do it in literature. Whether evil exists in physical form or not the dragon is the perfect metaphor.

diablo as dragon

Diablo, Nefar

Editing Adverbs From Your Manuscript

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I was editing my MS recently and realized that many new writers may not know about an easy way to edit out some adverbs. So I decided to explain it here. Many times an adverb ends in –ly, so they are easily spotted.

I also listed many of the adverbs I removed and show the original use as well as a suggestion for the improvement of the sentence. These are only suggestions and may not fit your style, but keep in mind that many editors/agents today do not like adjectives and adverbs. They prefer to see strong verbs instead.

In order to easily see what and where you put many of your adverbs you can highlight them. If you use Microsoft Word, go to Editing, Find. Type ly into the find space and click Reading Highlight then Highlight All. Stand back and wear your sunglasses as your manuscript suddenly lights up like a yellow traffic light. Now start analyzing each adverb. If you choose to delete it, the highlights will disappear, but the box remains up so just click Highlight again and they’re back.

-ly words removed:

quickly

She smiled, finally glancing quickly at his eyes, then away again.

She smiled, glanced at his eyes, then away again.

softly

cooed softly.

cooed.

finally

she finally opened her eyes

she opened her eyes OR

at length she opened her eyes OR

minutes later she opened her eyes

to finally kick the bucket

to kick the bucket

actually

Actually, I wanted to go as well.

I wanted to go, too.

only

We know there are only two of them traveling alone,…

We know there are two of the them traveling alone… OR

We know there are two traveling alone…

Rusty killed only the useless fisherman.

Rusty killed the useless fisherman.

lately

Which one of you had a Pernicon watching her lately?

Which of you had a Pernicon watching her?

suddenly

Suddenly Berith’s eyes lit up.

Berith’s eyes lit up.

really

So I really won’t be missed at school or work much, will I?

So I won’t be missed at school or work much, will I?

I really have to go back now

I have to go back now

He’s super cute and all, but I really like Michael.

He’s super cute and all, but I like Michael.

mostly

She mostly studied the table,

She studied the table,

Then more quietly, almost to herself, “I…

Then almost to herself, “I….

slowly

…turned and slowly stumbled back

…turned and stumbled back

completely

We are not completely sure.

We are not sure.

gravely

Minhtu gravely nodded,…

Minhtu nodded, her eyes serious and face drawn tight around her mouth…

Orig 7 Seraphim

Here’s a glimpse of a page of my MS before editing. Ouch! The highlighting didn’t show up so I’ve put the adverbs in bold and italics.

On the floor, overturned tables and chairs lay scattered across the once majestic hall. Amini, wings spread, fought in hand-to-hand combat, faces sweating and eyes screwed nearly shut in anger, clawed at each other and raked hair and robes trying to gain the advantage. Fortadivine slashed with swords and broadaxes while yelling orders to the Amini and Forzoram who were equally engaged in battle.  The Forzoram took the advantage over the smaller and less trained Amini, easily defeating them and ripping wings or decapitating them with the twist of am armhold. Severed heads lay where they’d been thrown against the walls, glaring with sightless eyes. The room was a din of roars and screams, curses and clanking of weapons.

“Why are you doing this?” a Fortadivine yelled to a fellow Fortadivine who was slashing madly with his sword, trying to sever an arm or artery.

“Because we follow Pravus! He is our leader and when he says fight, we fight!” the second man screamed hysterically above the racket and din.

“But he is wrong! Alska is our leader. Alska is love; Pravus has only hatred in his heart! You will not win if you follow such a beast!” the first Fortadivine delivered, stepping in with a sword thrust that entered the other man’s chest and heart. He pulled his bloody sword free of this rebel and turned in time to parry another attack from a Benedivine who’d found a sword lying on a dead Fortadivine. The Benedivine, used to basic slave-type labor and not trained for military work, was quickly dispatched and left mortally injured. The Fortadivine stepped over the dying, once-holy man and shook his head at the waste and pity of this all.

Overhead, the black dragon beast, Pravus, soared over the dais again and again, shooting gouts of fire at Alska, hoping he would tire and leave a chink in his armor that Pravus would then finish him by.  Red eyes glared in the smoky dust of the demolished room as he circled, checking the progress of the battle. He roared encouragement, “Fight brothers! Kill those bastards who cling to the old ways and

Twitter Addresses of Literary Agents Who Twitter

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Below is a listing of  Literary Agents with Twitter accounts.Books & Pen

@4writers / Jennifer DeChiara

@AffinityArtists / Ross Grossman

@AgentPete / Peter Cox, Redhammer

@agentrobert / Robert Brown, Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency

@allanguthrie / Allan Guthrie

@amblit / Amy Moore-Benson

@AndyBarzvi / Andrea Barzvi

@BeMissH / Holly Bemiss, The Susan Rabiner Literary Agency

@BookEndsJessica / Jessica Faust

@Bookfan / Kae Tienstra

@BookJacquie / Jacquie Flynn, Joelle Delbourgo Associates

@BostonBookGirl / Lauren E. MacLeod

@BourbonKid / Bourbon Kid, Isabel White

@ByrdLeavell3 / Byrd Leavell, The Waxman Agency

@chipmacgregor / Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

@ChrisRichman Upstart Crow Literary Agency

@ColleenLindsay / Colleen Lindsay, FinePrint Literary Management

@DanielLiterary / Greg Daniel, Daniel Literary Group

@DaphneUn / Kate Schafer Testerman, KT literary

@dsvetcov / Danielle Svetcov, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

@elainespencer / Elaine Spencer, The Knight Agency

@elanaroth / Elana Roth, Caren Johnson Literary Agency

@EMEvans11 / Elizabeth Evans

@EpsteinLiterary / Kate Epstein, Epstein Literary

@evanmarshall / Evan Marshall

@FolioLiterary / Folio Literary

@Ginger_Clark / Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown Ltd.

@HayleyYeeles / Hayley Yeeles, Pollinger Limited

@hroot / Holly Root

@Janet_Reid / Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management

@janetkgrant / Janet Kobobel Grant, Books & Such Literary Agency

@jasonashlock / Jason Allen Ashlock, Movable Type Literary Group

@jennyrae / Jenny Rappaport, The Rappaport Agency

@JLDelbourgo Joelle Delbourgo

@jonnyagent / Jonny Geller

@JVNLA / Jennifer Weltz, Naggar Literary Agency

@kate_mckean / Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency

@katelaurielee / Kate Lee

@KnightAgency / The Knight Agency

@LaunchBooks / David Fugate

@Laurenshults / Lauren Shults

@lisadimona / Lisa DiMona

@literaryagent, anonymous

@literaticat / Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

@LukemanLiterary Noah Lukeman

@MarleneStringer / Marlene Stringer, The Stringer Literary Agency

@mattwagner / Matt Wagner, Fresh Books

@MichaelBourret / MichaelBourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

@MiriamGoderich / Miriam Goderich, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

@NathanBransford / Nathan Bransford, Curtis Brown Ltd.

@NepheleTempest / Nephele Tempest

@petertallack / Peter Tallack, The Science Factory

@pwheeler_agent / Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary Management

@rachellegardner / Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary

@samjanehaywood / Samantha Haywood

@sarahsuch / Sarah Such

@simontrewin / Simon Trewin

@slopenagency / Beverly Slopen, Slopen Agency

@spaccher / Sandrine Paccher

@storyseller Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary

@StrothmanAgency / The Strothman Agency

@thecroceagency / Nick Croce, The Croce Agency

@tomwillkens / Tom Willkens, The Jeff Herman Agency

@TracyMarchini / Tracy Marchini (literary agent assistant), Curtis Brown Ltd

@twliterary / Ted Weinstein

@upstartcrowlit    Upstart Crow Literary Agency

@Wendy_G_Rohm / Wendy Goldman Rohm

@wendylawton / Wendy Lawton, Books & Such Literary Agency

@wgtwelve / William Gladstone

NaNoWriMo Starting November 1

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I’m so excited! I’ve signed up for my first NaNoWriMo. I’d never heard of this until I found it on Twitter. Then I found the official website and signed up. There are forums galore to share information and thoughts. There is a word counter and lots of encouragement.

So for the month of November I probably won’t be blogging a lot since I have a YA Fantasy novel to write – start to finish. This is so exciting!

nano_09_red_participant_120x240.png

Wisdom is Born From Experience of Growing Older

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When I was in my twenties I gave no thought whatever to aches or pains, medical screenings, etc.  The only thing we thought about was surviving financially while we finished our degrees in college and began careers.

In my thirties the only thing I thought about was having my babies and starting a family. It was a busy decade as we grew our family, moved around as my husband was upwardly mobile and I taught school. Who had time to worry about fine lines around the eyes or random gray strands of hair?

Then I turned forty. The first thing to go was my eyesight. I was shocked! For my entire life I’d had what doctors called hawk-vision; better than 20/20. But the year I turned 40 I suddenly needed glasses! I couldn’t believe it. Then as the years passed more and more issues began to crop up. Arthritis became an issue by about 45. It wasn’t bad enough to require meds, but it hurt nonetheless.  Blood pressure and cholesterol became issues.

Fifty was the real eye opener. The magic half-way point (or so I like to believe). The arthritis got worse and now I had to take Glucosamine, which actually helps. All of my friends started complaining of their aches and pains, celebrities that I grew up watching on tv and in movies began dying. Friends’ parents began dying. I had lost my mom when I was 47 and dad was in bad health (he died when I was 50).

So suddenly I was facing my own mortality. I’d had a brief cancer scare a few years ago that had resolved favorably. But I didn’t feel 50, or even 40. I felt 25 or 30. But when I looked in the mirror I was shocked to see a most silver-haired woman staring back. My knees hurt going downstairs. My energy flagged easier. What had happened to the young woman who played softball with her students?

The most bizarre aspect of this has been the psychological reckoning. It’s such a shock to realize one day that you are NOT the 20 something you feel inside. Maybe that’s why the anti-aging industry is so hot today. With most of us being in the middle-aged group (I’m at the tail-end of the baby boom, so there are a whole lot of boomers older than me), I can’t be the only one feeling this disparity. Hence the wrinkle creams and lotions, liver-spot bleaching creams, hair dyes, weight-loss products to remove that middle-aged spread, and of course cosmetic surgeries to remove double chins, eye and mouth wrinkles, etc.

That’s why I was so excited to see Jamie Lee Curtis doing the Activia commercials in her natural short gray hair at age 50. And she was proud of it. That was also when I finally stopped coloring my own hair and have loved the way the silver gleams as it slowly overtakes the natural black. It took a few years of thinking about it first, worrying if I would look so much older than I feel. But while I may finally look my age I’ve decided that’s okay. I AM 53. Why shouldn’t I look it?

The other aspect of growing older is that hopefully you also grow wiser. I feel like I have. Sometimes you hear people say “I wish I’d known back then what I know now.” But if you think about that, it wouldn’t give you any chance to grow wiser. Experience gained through a lifetime is where wisdom is born. And wisdom is the value of being older.

So as my children enter adulthood and have questions about dealing with life and its issues, hopefully they’ll continue to come to us for guidance and value the wisdom we’ve gained as my husband and I enter the second half of our lives. But hopefully they won’t ask for  too much advice, they need to experience things for themselves to become wise in their middle age, too.