Monthly Archives: June 2012

Write a dragon story with me!

Being creative runs in my family, and my mother just proved it again with her newest idea to keep her brain busy. What would happen, she wondered, if she took the list of words from one of her hidden word search puzzles and wrote a story that used all of those words?

It brought me back to my early teen years, when my dad gave me my own website to run. It was vaguely writing-centered, and I tried every month to get my friends to follow writing prompts (yep, one of them was a list of random words) to create stories. I eventually had to give up when I was the only one faithfully writing them. Everyone was just so busy, and it’s less fun when you try to do these things alone.

It’s been years now, so I think it’s time to try again. Would you like to try with me? At the end of this post is a list of 24 words that made up one word search puzzle (invisible bonus points to the first person to correctly guess what the theme of the puzzle was!). Here are the guidelines:

  1. All 24 words must appear in your story. The story may be as long or short as you would like (A few paragraphs? A few pages? It doesn’t matter!), with as many repeated words or other words as you need, but all 24 of these words must be included.
  2. “Dragon” is not a word on the list, but your story must be about a dragon or dragons. This is Dragon Crossing, after all!
  3. Email your completed story to dragoncrossing.wordpress(at)gmail(dot)com. Let me know in your email if you would be willing to have me attach your story with the others when I post my own results.
  4. Have fun! Feel free to be serious—OR completely random and silly. You don’t have to be a writer to play with words once in a while, and nobody will be judging you.
  5. You have just less than a week—I would like to have your story by Wednesday, July 4.

Next Wednesday or Thursday, I will post my own story, along with attachments of anyone else’s story who chooses to let me do so (I have a different topic planned for Monday). It will be fun to compare tales and see what we came up with!

Now, finally, here are the words:

  • Chocolate
  • Tree
  • Bark
  • Potato
  • Beaver
  • Bear
  • Mud puddle
  • Basket
  • Armadillo
  • Soil
  • Lion
  • Wood
  • Walnut
  • Coconut
  • Eyes
  • Cola
  • Mushroom
  • Pudding
  • Almonds
  • Kangaroo
  • Monkey
  • Gorilla
  • Horse
  • Dirt

Happy writing!

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Categories: Writing Projects | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Train Your Dragon: coming live to North America

Chances are you’ve watched Dreamwork’s animated masterpiece How to Train Your Dragon. If not, you really should—the story of Hiccup, the scrawny Viking boy who would rather tame than kill dragons is entertaining, and the dragons in the movie are really cute.

I found a news article today that said How to Train Your Dragon is coming to North America this week in the form of a live arena show. The same production has apparently been successful in Australia and New Zealand, and it will kick off its American/Canadian tour in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania this Wednesday (June 27th). They’ll be traveling the United States and Canada at least into next year.

Their website, dreamworksdragonslive.com, has information including ticket prices and locations, photos and video of the show, and listings of the cast and crew. It boasts 23 animatronic dragons with wingspans of up to 40 feet, complete with smoke, fire, flight, and live Vikings.  The good bit? The dragons look well done (see the trailer below), and it sounds like they put a lot of work into this show. The not-so-good bit? The average ticket price is $58.

Even if the show were coming to my city (it’s not), I’m not sure I would go see it at that price. In my mind, it falls into the category of things-that-sound-exciting-but-aren’t-worth-paying-for. After watching the preview below, I’m curious to hear what other people are thinking. Do you think this will be a decent representation of the original story? Is this kind of live show worth all the money? From the pictures on the website, I’m also somewhat skeptical of their rendition of Toothless—even if all the other dragons do look pretty convincing. What do you think?

 

 

Categories: Dragons in the News, Film Dragons | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Summer Reading–Can you recommend any dragon titles?

old books photo

Are any of your old favorites about dragons?
Image from Wikimedia Commons

I apologize for the delay of this post—I had a job interview yesterday, so there were things besides dragons on my mind. I’ll try to stick closer to schedule next week; regular posting is important to me!

Wednesday was the first day of summer, and I realized that I haven’t done nearly as much reading as I would like. I was refreshing my summer (and future) to-read list yesterday, and found a lot of ambitious goals there, from the classic unabridged Les Miserables to thousands and thousands of pages’ worth of adventure in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I haven’t decided whether I should start by tackling these masterpieces for the first time or by revisiting shorter favorites, but what I do know is that I’ll be doing a lot of dragon reading to keep the dragons coming to Dragon Crossing.

I have a list of dragon-related books to reread, like the My Father’s Dragon books, The Hobbit, and Eragon, as well as ones I’ve never read, such as Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. My list is growing, but it is still small, so I would love your suggestions.

What are your favorite books dealing with dragons, and what are some others that you wish hadn’t been written? Were there any children’s books that made you a fan of dragons, as there were for me, or did you learn to love them as a teen or an adult? I welcome your suggestions as I add Dragon Crossing fodder to my summer to-read list.

Just for fun, what are YOU reading this summer?

Categories: Children's, Fantasy Fiction, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The Five F’s of Dragonology

The Five F’s of Dragonology, according to Dr. Ernest Drake’s guide:

“FIELDWORK—It is best by far to study dragons in their own environments.”

Wondering where those natural environments are? In the very first chapter, Dragonology shows a map of the world with the locations and descriptions of ten major species of dragons. Chapter IV tells more about how to find and track dragons, from necessary supplies to tell-tale signs to safety precautions.

“FORESIGHT—Proper learning and preparation are absolutely essential.”

Dragonology teaches and prepares young dragonologists for what they need to know about dragons, whether it be biology and life cycle or dragon behavior and how to charm them. If Dr. Drake didn’t want his students to be unprepared, all he had to do was hand them this book.

“FORWARDNESS—The student must be both daring and truly courageous.”

It would take a daring soul to go after a creature as fearsome as those described in this book—the tallest dragons are reported to be up to 20 feet high and 50 feet long. Further, attempts to interact with dragons can easily go wrong, leading to all kinds of trouble and danger.

“FRANKNESS—One must simply report honestly what one sees at all times.”

I can be frank: Not all parts of this book thrilled me. Why did the author dismiss the gas theory of dragon fire, instead favoring one involving venom and spark-producing stones in a special pouch? It made less sense to me. Since when were wyverns large, African desert creatures, and since when did Australia have pouched, hopping dragons reminiscent of kangaroos? Finally, the “spells and charms” part of the book might thrill younger readers, but it made the book feel less realistic to me. On the bright side, though, the book was thoroughly consistent, even when I would have done things differently.

“FATALITIES—Unless these are avoided, the student will make little progress.”

The humorous details in this book, such as the fifth “F” above, were amusing and set a fun tone. My favorite part was the instructions for raising young dragons. One of the warnings in that section? “It is not recommended to leave children and hungry dragons alone.”

Dragonology Book Cover

This book is BIG and red, with a textured cover.
Image borrowed from Barnes & Noble.

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons is available at most bookstores and libraries. Something strange to note, though—when I checked my library for this book, it was classified under juvenile nonfiction, not fiction. Who knows? Maybe some confused librarian thought that the book truly was a replica from Dr. Ernest Drake from the 19th century, with Dugald Steer merely the editor (this is the book’s claim). This is definitely a fictitious children’s book, complete with pop-ups, envelopes, and samples of “dragon scales,” but I think it would be a quick, fun read for any dragon-lover.

Categories: Children's | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Dragon (the bearded kind)

Image of bearded dragon

Beardies come in a variety of colors.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

How fun would it be to be able to tell people that you had your very own live dragon?

That has been my thought every time I’ve found a pet store that sells bearded dragons, so I did a little reading to see how viable an option they might be. Sadly, it looks like I won’t be able to fit a dragon into my life any time soon, but I’ve noted a few pros and cons in case you’ve ever wondered the same thing.

 

 

 

 

PROS:

  1. The temperament: Beardies, as many affectionately call them, sound like they’re pretty relaxed animals. They like to climb, but they’re not particularly active and will sit still when you hold them. As a general rule, they won’t bite, scratch, or slap you with their tail like other lizards do.
  2. The hand-waving: I learned something new in my reading—bearded dragons will actually move their front legs as though they’re waving their arms. Nobody has figured out exactly what their wave means, but it looks like the human greeting. Now I really want to see this happen!
  3. The dragon factor: Lizards are neat, and fierce-looking buddies like these little Australians would be fun to have around. And even though they don’t breathe fire or fly, they’re still dragons and can still impress people.
Image of two bearded dragons

Bearded dragons are territorial, and better alone.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

 

CONS:

  1. The space: Bearded dragons can grow up to two feet long, and require an aquarium up to 60 gallons or six feet long. I know that I won’t have that kind of space in the near future, and I’m wondering how many people easily do.
  2. The money: If you want your own beardie, you’ll need to pay for the aquarium, the light, the heater, the substrate (bedding), other cage supplies, and up to ten years’ worth of fresh food—ranging from veggies to live insects. For a pet that doesn’t do much besides eat, sleep, and look impressive, that quickly becomes a big commitment.
  3. The upkeep: Speaking of big commitments, these lizards cost more than the money. Bearded dragons take time and effort, too. You need to keep the cage clean of waste, leftover food, and uneaten crickets. You need to make sure the right balance of food is purchased, prepared, and given to your pet, and you need to make sure lights and heaters keep your beardie happy, healthy, and warm enough.

In short: Bearded dragons sound like they make calm, relaxed pets, but are a big commitment in terms of time, space and money.

Have you ever owned a beardie or known anybody who owned one? Do dragons really make good pets, or should people stick with furry friends? For all the reading I just did, I still don’t pretend to know much about them, and I would still love to learn more.

Categories: Lizards | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Dragonworld: dusting off an old cover

Cover of Dragonworld

Dragonworld is full of similar black and white illustrations.
Image borrowed from Amazon.com

One of my dad’s old fantasy novels made it off the dusty basement shelf over the weekend. I was sure I had read Dragonworld by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves years ago, but I couldn’t remember what it was about and decided to give it another go.

Dragonworld is the story of a misunderstanding—when several connected tragedies strike, the neighboring lands of Fandora and Simbala jump to conclusions and blame the other side. Can one man prevent a war? Can a young monarch maintain political stability in the midst of crisis? How can the lost secrets of the dragons possibly hold the key to ending the whole mess? These questions and others like them are the threads that run through this story, keeping the reader guessing until the last chapter.

The cover of the book claimed it was a #1 fantasy best-seller on the same level as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I liked the book, but I have to disagree with the comparison—while both are certainly fantasy adventures with much at stake, the writing style and characterization in Dragonworld simply doesn’t live up to Tolkien’s. It has that same “telling” feel to it that so many cheap fantasy and sci-fi books have. That’s one of my pet peeves in the genre, so let’s not get me started…

The two primary human groups in the story are simple, but very different. The Fandorans are short, simple people, mainly farmers and tradesmen. They are governed by town elders, and there is no overarching government unless a council is called. These are no hobbits, though—where hobbits prefer not to do anything sudden or rash, the Fandorans are ready to go to war against their formidable neighbors the instant they suspect them of wrongdoing. The Simbalese are the opposite: their civilization is more advanced, with mines, cities, flying windships, and a developed monarchy. In Simbala, it is political intrigue, not raw emotion, that runs rampant.

Yes, there are dragons in this book. I don’t want to spoil the story, though, so I won’t say too much. Just know that they are central to the story (even when they aren’t there), are conscious beings (not mere animals as portrayed in Beowulf or speculated by Animal Planet), and exist separate from the humans (this is not an Eragon-like relationship). Something I really found interesting is the respect of a dragon’s fire in this story—a fire that is rarely used. In Chapter XXXII, a late-appearing yet key character explains, “For the Dragonflame is not a gift to be used lightly, or for selfish ends, and never to take a life.” I appreciated this, since today’s books and movies seem a bit flame-happy, having dragons breathing fire every chance they get. In Dragonworld, such fire is not taken for granted.

Conclusion: If you enjoy the fantasy genre, simple style and all, you will like Dragonworld. There is nothing inappropriate in its content, so adventure-loving readers of all ages can safely read and enjoy it. The idea of dragons is well-handled, and it’s a fun story. Just don’t expect Tolkien.

One more fun fact—the sequel to this book was a computer adventure game from the 80’s by the same title. I’d love to get my hands on it, and I’ll let you know how it goes if I ever do.

Categories: Fantasy Fiction | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Dragon Who Helped Me Learn to Read

It was a dragon who helped me learn to read.

When I was three, my mother read book after book to me and my baby sister. Our absolute favorite was Jane Belk Moncure’s A Dragon in a Wagon, a Magic Castle Readers book about different ways to travel. In the story, young Megan opens a “Word Window” to find a dragon sitting in a wagon. He invites her on a ride that soon progresses to a car, bus, boat, sled, and other means of transportation as they pick up animal friends along the way. Eventually, they wind up at a circus, where the dragon hops into a circus wagon and Megan says goodbye as she heads home.

A Dragon in a Wagon book cover

The first dragon I loved–
Image borrowed from amazon.com

The story is cute and rhymes, but it is simplistic and not terribly unique—after all, it is about teaching kids words about traveling, and Janette Rainwater wrote a Little Golden Book by the same title years before the Magic Castle Readers series existed.

So what made me keep it stashed away all those years? It was the way it presents books as Word Windows.

Consider the story’s preface:

The Library—A Magic Castle

Come to the magic Castle
When you are growing tall.
Rows upon rows of Word Windows
Line every single wall.
They reach up high,
As high as the sky,
And you want to open them all.
For every time you open one,
A new adventure has begun.

Megan opened her Word Window and found a friendly dragon. Even when I was three, I longed to get my hands on the books in a magic castle and have my own adventures. I was determined enough to make it happen, too—after I read my first book (not A Dragon in a Wagon, which I had memorized, but the adorable Are You My Mother?) when I was four, I spent years making frequent library trips, bringing home piles of my own Word Windows in bulging bags and living adventure after adventure through their pages.

That, coincidentally, is where I discovered so many of the dragons that made me fall in love with them. A dragon led me to my love of books, and my love of books led me to my love of dragons.

Thanks to a dragon in a little red wagon for making this all possible.

Categories: Children's | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Could Dragons Be Real?

Image of Dragon's World DVD cover

Find the DVD at your local library
Image borrowed from amazon.com

Last week, I watched the DVD of a 2004 Animal Planet special called Dragon’s World: A Fantasy Made Real. It was made to look like a real documentary, and the cover boasted that you too will believe. The graphics weren’t exactly convincing, but the story surely was.

Dragon’s World shares the story of several different dragons throughout history. Between computer-generated videos of those stories and descriptions of their biology is told the tale of a modern paleontologist who discovers that a supposed dragon hoax he is trying to debunk is no hoax at all—inarguable proof of dragons has been unearthed. It feels as serious and real as any other televised nature documentary, but there is one significant difference—this one never happened.

The show explained how dragons were built to fly, how they could have breathed fire, and why they declined as the human race advanced. They answered many other questions, too:  Why did dragons survive when dinosaurs did not? How did they reproduce? What varieties of dragons were there?

It was hard to know what was real by the time the show was over. The makers of the show say it is all a big what-if, but they put a great deal of effort into designing biological and historical support for the possibility of dragons. Why would they try to persuade their audience to believe in an animal they don’t actually think exists?

After watching the careful construction of a believable family of reptiles and listening to the narrator point out how strange of a coincidence it is that cultures from Europe to Asia to South America all came up with detailed dragon legends and histories, I have just one more question:

Having successfully shown that dragons could have existed, why do these people still insist that they did not?

You can find previews and more information about Dragon’s World: A Fantasy Made Real on Animal Planet’s website here: http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/dragons/. You can find more speculations on the existence of dragons here, on Dragon’s Crossing, sprinkled throughout future posts.

Do you think dragons could be real? What makes you skeptical? Where did all the myths come from?

Postscript—I apologize to those of you who were looking for a second post last week. I unexpectedly got sick, and had to postpone blogging over the weekend. Thank you for your patience!

Categories: Real Dragons | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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