I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jim Harold for the Cryptid Report.
Talking all about Dragons. Enjoy.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jim Harold for the Cryptid Report.
Talking all about Dragons. Enjoy.
Every now and then there comes a time for shameless self-promotion. Now is such a time.
My new book, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, is now available from bookstore everywhere as well as online from Llewellyn, Amazon, et al. It’s a delightfully scaly hardcover book full of Dragon tips, lore, and even a couple of brand-new Dragon tales. It is the perfect Valentine’s present for the dracophile near and dear to your heart.
Greetings friends and visitors.
It has been a while since I’ve written here. The year has been hard and busy and full in ways I never anticipated when it began.
That said, Thanksgiving is past and December’s chill is in the air. And for my Dragon-loving friends, I have news to share:
My new book, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, is now available to be preordered either from Llewellyn or Amazon. A delightfully scaly hardcover book full of Dragon tips, lore, and even a couple of brand-new Dragon tales. It will be officially our February 8th – a perfect Valentine’s present for the dracophile near and dear to your heart.
As I say around Dragons Nest, a little Dragon under the Yule tree or Chanukah bush is always better than a big Dragon sending needles and branches up in flames.
(Next project: a Dragon Tarot. But more on that in the months to come.)
I Do Terrible Things is John Goodrich’s second novel under Crossroad Press’s Macabre Ink imprint, and, like its predecessor, Hag, it provides both chills and pause. Brick by chaptered brick, John constructs a surreal tale of fright and gore, building to a denouement that would make Euripides proud. His prose is a feast – not always savory – for the senses, his violence is never gratuitous, and his characters, no matter their prominence, are all fully formed and multi-dimensional. Especially his protagonist, Donna.
Witty, real, and conflicted as hell, Donna Otálora is a reluctant heroine just trying to survive without losing her mind. Her life in Oakham, Massachusetts, is what one might call ordinary. She has work she usually enjoys, a best friend who would do anything for her, and a boyfriend who’s definitely a cut above her last disaster. So why is her sleep suddenly awash with violence and death? Why is she dreaming of slaughtering people she doesn’t even know? More to the point, is she dreaming?
Even at her worst, Donna is a protagonist you root for. Page by page, chapter after chapter, the reader is drawn into her increasingly paranoid world, relishing each piece of her puzzle as it falls into place. Her quest is not only outward but inward, as she discovers truths she never knew existed and strengths she never knew she possessed.
I Do Terrible Things is a blood-soaked, nightmarish tumble down the rabbit hole. It’s definitely worth the trip.
It is always a pleasure to spread the word about good books, doubly so when they are written by friends. Today I want to tell you about Dark Draughts, a collection of short stories by John Goodrich. (Crossroad Press, 2018)
For years, my appreciation of horror lay somewhere between the casual and the academic. Oh, I knew the classics well enough, but was not really familiar with much modern horror. Then I started reading John’s stories, of which Dark Draughts is an evocative debut collection.
Here are tales steeped in Lovecraftian mythos and ghoulish sojourns to the Old West, ancient Egypt, and the acrid battlefields of WWI. There’s even a piece of extreme grotesquery – “Champagne” – for good measure. [Note: I find “Champagne” funny as hell, but it is definitely not for the squeamish.]
Rendered in crisp, redolent prose, these 16 stories are chilling, witty, and unsettlingly modern. John delves into the shadowy recesses of the soul where ancient fears lurk, keeping us awake at night. In short, Dark Draughts is a disturbing delight.
Drink deep and keep the lights on.
“My soul is ten thousand miles wide and extremely invisibly deep. It is the same size as the sea, and you cannot, you cannot cram it into beer cans and fingernails and stake it out in lots and own it. It will drown you all and never even notice.”
There are writers who touch us, who teach us, who look at the world in eye-opening ways. Writers who not only reflect the world we live in but also dare to shape it into something the rest of us mere mortals had not even imagined. And when they are gone, and their voices silenced, there is a hole in the world; we are all the poorer for their passing.
For me, Ursula Le Guin was such a writer.
The Lathe of Heaven; Left Hand of Darkness; Tales of Earthsea; The Dispossessed…In Fantasy and Science Fiction, novels, short stories, poetry, and essays, she pushed boundaries and, ahead of her time, challenged us on subjects such as race, gender, love, ethical balance (her translation of Lao Tzu is wonderful), and the power of words. Her use of language was by turns elegant, wry, funny, and profound. Her observations of our human condition were both mystical and realistic, and, to this reader, failed utopias aside, ultimately hopeful. She also understood Dragons as well as any of us.
I could go on, but Ursula’s words are far better than mine. As Harold Bloom said, she “has raised fantasy into high literature for our times.”
She raised commencement addresses, too. The following is the speech she gave at Mills College back in 1983. It was wise 35 years ago and seems positively prescient today.
A Left-Handed Commencement Address
Mills College, 1983
I want to thank the Mills College Class of ’83 for offering me a rare chance: to speak aloud in public in the language of women.
I know there are men graduating, and I don’t mean to exclude them, far from it. There is a Greek tragedy where the Greek says to the foreigner, “If you don’t understand Greek, please signify by nodding.” Anyhow, commencements are usually operated under the unspoken agreement that everybody graduating is either male or ought to be. That’s why we are all wearing these twelfth-century dresses that look so great on men and make women look either like a mushroom or a pregnant stork. Intellectual tradition is male. Public speaking is done in the public tongue, the national or tribal language; and the language of our tribe is the men’s language. Of course women learn it. We’re not dumb. If you can tell Margaret Thatcher from Ronald Reagan, or Indira Gandhi from General Somoza, by anything they say, tell me how. This is a man’s world, so it talks a man’s language. The words are all words of power. You’ve come a long way, baby, but no way is long enough. You can’t even get there by selling yourself out: because there is theirs, not yours.
Maybe we’ve had enough words of power and talk about the battle of life. Maybe we need some words of weakness. Instead of saying now that I hope you will all go forth from this ivory tower of college into the Real World and forge a triumphant career or at least help your husband to and keep our country strong and be a success in everything – instead of talking about power, what if I talked like a woman right here in public? It won’t sound right. It’s going to sound terrible. What if I said what I hope for you is first, if — only if — you want kids, I hope you have them. Not hordes of them. A couple, enough. I hope they’re beautiful. I hope you and they have enough to eat, and a place to be warm and clean in, and friends, and work you like doing. Well, is that what you went to college for? Is that all? What about success?
Success is somebody else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we can keep dreaming because most people in most places, including thirty million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty. No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure.
Because you are human beings you are going to meet failure. You are going to meet disappointment, injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you’re weak where you thought yourself strong. You’ll work for possessions and then find they possess you. You will find yourself — as I know you already have — in dark places, alone, and afraid.
What I hope for you, for all my sisters and daughters, brothers and sons, is that you will be able to live there, in the dark place. To live in the place that our rationalizing culture of success denies, calling it a place of exile, uninhabitable, foreign.
Well, we’re already foreigners. Women as women are largely excluded from, alien to, the self-declared male norms of this society, where human beings are called Man, the only respectable god is male, the only direction is up. So that’s their country; let’s explore our own. I’m not talking about sex; that’s a whole other universe, where every man and woman is on their own. I’m talking about society, the so-called man’s world of institutionalized competition, aggression, violence, authority, and power. If we want to live as women, some separatism is forced upon us: Mills College is a wise embodiment of that separatism. The war-games world wasn’t made by us or for us; we can’t even breathe the air there without masks. And if you put the mask on you’ll have a hard time getting it off. So how about going on doing things our own way, as to some extent you did here at Mills? Not for men and the male power hierarchy — that’s their game. Not against men, either — that’s still playing by their rules. But with any men who are with us: that’s our game. Why should a free woman with a college education either fight Machoman or serve him? Why should she live her life on his terms?
Machoman is afraid of our terms, which are not all rational, positive, competitive, etc. And so he has taught us to despise and deny them. In our society, women have lived, and have been despised for living, the whole side of life that includes and takes responsibility for helplessness, weakness, and illness, for the irrational and the irreparable, for all that is obscure, passive, uncontrolled, animal, unclean — the valley of the shadow, the deep, the depths of life. All that the Warrior denies and refuses is left to us and the men who share it with us and therefore, like us, can’t play doctor, only nurse, can’t be warriors, only civilians, can’t be chiefs, only indians. Well so that is our country. The night side of our country. If there is a day side to it, high sierras, prairies of bright grass, we only know pioneers’ tales about it, we haven’t got there yet. We’re never going to get there by imitating Machoman. We are only going to get there by going our own way, by living there, by living through the night in our own country.
So what I hope for you is that you live there not as prisoners, ashamed of being women, consenting captives of a psychopathic social system, but as natives. That you will be at home there, keep house there, be your own mistress, with a room of your own. That you will do your work there, whatever you’re good at, art or science or tech or running a company or sweeping under the beds, and when they tell you that it’s second-class work because a woman is doing it, I hope you tell them to go to hell and while they’re going to give you equal pay for equal time. I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is. Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing — instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.
“And though I came to forget or regret all I have ever done, yet I would remember that once I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content.”
… The Farthest Shore
I hope you are content, Ursula. The world is diminished by your absence.
As we lean into the last weekend of October, some of you who are familiar with MotD may be saying, “But wait. Did I miss Take-Your-Dragon-to-Work Day?”
No you didn’t! This year, tomorrow, October 27, is TYDtWD. So tonight, give your Dragon a good scrub, burnish her scales, and remind her of proper workplace etiquette, for tomorrow she will be walking the halls of education, commerce, politics, you name it. It’s time for Dragons to represent in the work-a-day world.
But more on that tomorrow.
Today is still about telling Dragon tales. Or, more specifically, talking Dragon books.
The time for gifting is fast approaching and so I offer a few Draco-centric suggestions for the Dragon lover on your Yule/Channukah/Kwanzaa/et al. lists, beginning for a not-so-humblebrag of my own. As the Dragons keep reminding me, being a WAFDE VIP does have its privileges, so here goes.
They are a hearty welcome to Dragon Country!
With hard science and myth, empirical wisdom, and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
Dragons for Beginners is an essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and ourselves in science, religion, art, literature, and even occult studies. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
Additions to the Draconic canon are made with every passing year. The following are among the more recent volumes I whole-heartedly recommend:
The 5th in the Lady Trent series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is a delight. Those who have followed her draconic adventures since A Natural History of Dragons will not be disappointed. (If you are unfalmiliar with the good Lady, I suggest the other volumes in the series as well: The Tropic of Serpents, Voyage of the Basilisk, and In the Labyrinth of Drakes. All are available at your friendly neighborhood bookstore or – of course – on-line.)
After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field. (Amazon)
Jessica Feinberg’s Dragon series including Earth Dragons, Metal Dragons, and Water Dragons, are whimsically illustrated books available on Kindle.
I also want to mention a couple of up-coming publications:
For the Dracophile who has most everything, there is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Illustrated Collector’s Edition (Newt Scamander, J.K.Rowling; Olivia Lomenech Gill, Illustrator). A bit pricey but very elegant. And due out in time for Yuletide.
These are but a miniscule sampling of the Dragon books out there. Anyone with further suggestions – or books of your own, please let us know. As the saying goes, the more Dragons between covers, the better.
One of my great pleasures here at the Nest – right up there with Month of the Dragon – is helping to spread the word about books my wonderfully talented friends have written.
Today, by way of a guest blog, I am delighted to share Karen R. Sanderson’s debut volume of poetry, No Boundaries.
No Boundaries is a long-arced portrait limned with warmth and humor. In blank verse and rhyme, limerick and haiku, she skips across the emotional touchstones of family, friends, memory, nature, and the writer’s craft itself. This is a delightfully accessible collection, full of wry observations and little gems, including the following.
Enjoy. And be sure to order your copy in time for the holidays.
My ancestral home
I am wondering about my ancestors,
About the music they might have listened to.
I wonder what they felt when the harps
plucked at their hearts
while coal miners picked and
shoveled the coal.
I wonder about their choral voices raised in lament,
for the brothers and fathers they left behind
under the mountain.
I wonder why the mothers
did not sing for their sons,
but cried instead
among the southern valleys, among the coal.
I wonder what mountains could be moved.
There’s this gal I like to call Kenzie
Her writing shows us dragons a-frenzy
Lives with cats and chinchillas
Feeds friendly woodsy fellas
I’m grateful we’re editors friendly.
Karen R. Sanderson was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!”
Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, poet, writer, and a fabulous grandma. She completed writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.
Karen is currently pursuing a degree at Minot State University and Lake Region State College in Interpreting and Sign Language Studies.
Always love sharing when friends get into print! Congrats, Karen.
Here’s a holiday selection
From my collection
Chicken runs round the farm yard,
Wishes he was the duck.
Duck runs round the barn yard,
Wishes he was the pig.
Pig runs round the pig sty,
Wishes he was the horse.
Horse smiles, relaxes in stall.
Thanksgiving Eve, he’ll mourn them all.
My collection includes Family and Friends, God Bless Our Military, Limericks, Beautiful Earth, Art, Imagination, & Miscellany, Haiku, and My Funny Bone.
To order, go to “No Boundaries” at Amazon.
Books, Christmas gifts, Dragon Keeper's Handbook, Dragons for Beginners, Fiction, Jason and Robert Hook, Literature, Month of the Dragon, Pleasure-Dragon, Roger Zelazny, Terry Pratchett, WAFDE, Writing
Tell-a-Dragon-Tale Week is coming to a close. I hope everyone spent the chill October evenings gathered by the fireside, swapping rip-snorting, spikey-wikey Dragon stories.In bookstores and on Cyberian e-book shelves around the world, there is a treasure trove of draconic tomes. With Yule fast approaching – and knowing how Dragon and their people love books – I thought I would end the week mentioning a few volumes you might like to pick up for your libraries.
As MotD sponsor, I hope you will indulge me as I begin a few of works of my own…(Though linked to Lllewellyn, they are also available through Amazon and bookstores worldwide.)
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook: Including the Myth & Mystery, Care & Feeding, Life & Lore of These Fiercely Splendid Creatures (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2011).
Here be Dragons……
Not the slavering, whimsical monsters from childhood fancies, but real Dragons—fierce, complex, wondrous, and wild. They do not require our belief; they never have.
With hard science, and myth, empirical wisdom and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook shows us how human and Dragon lives are bound together and why Dragons are now—and ever-will-be—relevant: In their wildness lie lessons for us all.
Dragons for Beginners: Ancient Creatures in a Modern World (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2012).
Welcome to Dragon Country!
Here Dragonfire sears the grass and the wind dances with Dragon-song. Here you’ll find true Dragons, real flesh-and-blood creatures that are as fiercely alive and majestic as they were thousands of years ago.
• Learn about the three true species: Eastern, Western, and Feathered • Explore how Dragons evolved and the various types of pseudo-dragons • Study the science of Dragons: size, diet, temperament, habitat, and more • Discover how Dragons impact religion, art, literature, and occult studies • Find out how to safely interact with Dragons
This essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons is filled with what everyone must know about these extraordinary creatures. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and our-selves. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
And on the shorter side:
Because the Pleasure-Dragon Whistles, an e-tale. A young Welsh Dragon befriends a young Welsh poet. This is their story, wistful and funny as only Dragons and Bards can be.
For fans of the late, great, Sir Terry Pratchett – and who isn’t?- just out this month, Dragons at Crumbling Castle & Other Tales.