Category Archives: Dragon Age

#FlashFictionFriday: The Author’s Dilemma—Milking the Dragon

Milking the Dragon was first published in its proto form here in May of 2012. It was one of the first flash fictions I posted here, and with a little polishing and reshaping, it has become one of my favorites.


Writing fantasy has its drawbacks. For one thing, your creativity must never flag, which is my current dilemma. My work-in-progress is stalled. I keep repeating the same old crisis with slight variations. Readers notice when you milk an idea over and over, no matter how you change the scenery around it. Unfortunately, my head is stuck on dragons, and I’m not sure what to do at this point. It’s a medieval fantasy, and dragons are the medieval thing, right?

I could probably do better without all the interruptions, though.

“Ahem. You there.” Sir Belvedere stands at my elbow, looking over my shoulder. “Are you the person plotting this book?”

Surprised, I nod, wondering where this is going. Usually, my heroes just leave me to the task of writing and don’t feel compelled to harass me.

“Well, the dragon is dead. Did you notice?”

Again, I nod my head. “Yes. I wrote that scene, and if I do say so myself, you were magnificent.” Heroes require obscene amounts of praise, or they become sulky, and Sir Belvedere is no exception.

“Thank you,” he replies, attempting to appear modest and failing. “Well, the thing is, Lady Penelope has thrown herself into wedding preparations.”

“Yes, I did know that,” I reply. “I’m designing the dress.”

“Well, I’ve been booted outside. Apparently, no one needs the groom until the big day so, heh-heh, here I am… bored… looking for something to do.”

I never noticed it before, but my hero is rather unhandsome when he scowls. Note to self: give Sir Belvedere a charming pout to disguise his serious lack of a chin.

Sir Belvedere taps his foot. “Well, really, what sort of author are you? Here we are 32,527 words into your novel, and you’ve already shot the big guns! You wasted the big scene! I mean really, unless this romantic comedy is a novella, you just blew it big time.” Apparently, he also whines.

I’m shocked that this man who owes his very existence to my creative genius should speak to me thusly. “What are you talking about? I have lots of adventures and deeds of daring-do just waiting to leap off the page, and occupy your idle hands.” See? I can give a dirty look too, and I don’t whine about it.

“We-e-ell?”

I despise sarcastic heros.

“You have 70,000 or so words left, and I hope to heck you don’t intend to spend them on wedding preparations.” He looks at me expectantly. “I have nothing to do! Find me a Quest! With a capital ‘Q.’”

By golly the man is right. I have timed my big finale rather poorly, and now I must come up with something new for him to do. Hmm… maybe trolls. No, too reminiscent of Tolkien… I know! A magic ring! Nope, still to Tolkienesque.

I need to reflect on this for a while. I gaze at Sir Belvedere, wondering what I was thinking when I designed this air-headed piece of eye candy in a tin suit. “I can’t work with you staring over my shoulder, so find something to do for a few minutes.” Good Lord, I should have made him less impatient and given him a few more social graces. “Look, why don’t you sit here, and play a little ‘Dragon Age’ for a while?” I park him in front of the TV and give him the game controller.

“What the hell is this?” he looks first at me and then at the object in his hand. “I’m sure you find this odd-looking thing quite entertaining, but what is it?”

Sighing, I show him how to turn it on, and help him set up a character file. For some reason, the palladin wants to play as a dwarf-mage. That takes an hour.

Go figure.

Finally, I can sit down and invent a few more terrifying plot twists to keep this bad boy busy. The trouble is, all I can think of is dragons, but he’s already fought one, and killed it. Reviewers turn vicious when you milk plot twists. Of course, that means he has acquired a certain amount of skill in dragon molesting… heh-heh… but what good is that sort of expertise?

“Ahem.”

I look up, only to see Lady Penelope’s stepmother, Duchess Letitia, standing at my elbow. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, but we’re in desperate need of a certain magical ingredient for my special anti-aging cream.” She looks at me expectantly. “My stepdaughter’s wedding is a big deal. As you’re no doubt aware, I’m being forced into retirement after this, as the plot you originally designed said Belvedere and Penelope will assume the throne upon their marriage. You published it on your website, so it’s canon now. That means I’m done, kicked to the curb in the prime of my life.” She dabs the corners of her squinty eyes with a silken handkerchief. Her voice turns crafty. “Since this wedding is doubling as my retirement party, I simply MUST have my beauty cream.”

“And that ingredient is…?” I hope it’s not a complicated thing because now I have two bored characters nagging the hell out of me.

She beams and says, “Dragon’s milk.”

How odd. Another thing I never realized until this moment—Penelope’s stepmother looks positively evil when she smiles like that.

“I’m sure our dear Sir Belvedere can get me some since he’s just sitting around pretending to be a dwarf.”

Duchess Letitia’s malicious smirk offers me no end of possibilities. I consider this for a moment.

I could rewrite the original battle scene, add a bit here, tweak a bit there, and subtract the dead dragon part… ooh! Sir Belvedere could get singed milking the dragon… Lady Penelope would have to rescue herself and then him… but what the hell, he’s a hero, right? Bad days at the office come with the territory.

I look over at Sir Belvedere, who is now bashing my coffee table with the game controller. Okay, this boy definitely needs to get outside and play in the fresh air. “HEY! Sir Belvedere, I have a task for you! Take this bucket and get some dragon’s milk. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Yes, folks, I have decided to milk the dragon.

He looks up, wild-eyed and sweaty. “I will in a minute. I need to get to a place where I can save. Gah! No, no, no! I only have one health potion left!”

That’s another good plot twist. Note to self: have Duchess Letitia volunteer to supervise the stocking of Sir Belvedere’s kit with “medical supplies.”


Credits and Attributions:

The Author’s Dilemma—Milking the Dragon, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2012-2017 All Rights Reserved. Milking the Dragon was published in its first incarnation on Life in the Realm of Fantasy in May of 2012

Illustration from The Romance of King Arthur (1917). Abridged from Malory’s Morte d’Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. This edition was published in 1920 by Macmillan in New York. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/324_The_Romance_of_King_Arthur.jpg

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Dragon Age, Dragons

16 bit Inspiration

Final-Fantasy-VI-final-fantasy-vi-24610210-800-600Final Fantasy VI, originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in America as Final Fantasy III,  was one of my favorite games ever–I had it for both the SNES and the Playstation.

(From Wikipedia) “The action takes place on a large, unnamed world. During the course of the game, its geography and landscape change due to various developments in the game’s plot. During the first half of the game, the world is divided into three major continents and referred to as the World of Balance. The northern continent is punctuated by a series of mountain ranges and contains many of the locations accessible to the player. Most of the southern continent has been taken over by the Empire, while the eastern continent is home to a large patch of land called the Veldt where monsters from all over the world can be found. Halfway through the game, the world’s geographical layout is altered, resulting in its three large continents splitting into several islands of various size situated around a larger continent at their center. This altered layout of the game’s locations is referred to as the World of Ruin.

final-fantasy-vi-20060509061309295“In contrast to the medieval settings featured in previous Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy VI is set in a steampunk environment. The structure of society parallels that of the latter half of the 19th century, with opera and the fine arts serving as recurring motifs throughout the game, and a level of technology comparable to that of the Second Industrial Revolution. 

“Railroads and steamships are in use, and a coal mining operation is run in the northern town of Narshe. Additionally, several examples of modern engineering and weaponry (such as a chainsaw, drill and automatic crossbow) have been developed in the Kingdom of Figaro. However, communication systems have not reached significant levels of development, with letters sent by way of carrier pigeon serving as the most common means of long-distance communication.”

I loved that game!  I played it and beat it four times, and still to this day love it.  One of the things I loved the most about it is the sheer, unabashed love of FUN that the creators injected into it.

Final_Fantasy_VI_Opera_by_Saint_KaedeThere is a wonderful scene that takes place in an Opera House, complete with an entire opera, that is performed during a 12 minute race to save Terra from a demented octopus intent on killing her. The opera can be seen and heard here via YouTube, in its full glory.  In the original game, the music was performed on a midi and was really good, but the original composer has since released fully orchestrated versions of all the music he composed for the Final Fantasy empire at Square/Enix over the years, up to Final Fantasy IX.

distant worldsThe music of these games attracts me as much as the incredible story-lines and great artwork.  The primary composer of music for the main series was Nobuo Uematsu, who single-handedly composed the soundtracks for the first nine games. I just recently purchased Distant Worlds, his 2007 compilation of the work he did for the franchise, and it is part of what I listen to when writing.

There is something so evocative about his music, it helps me concentrate.

And so, today I leave you with another YouTube example of Uematsu’s work, Love Grows, from The epic Final Fantasy VIII, featuring the enigmatic Squall Leonhart as the reluctant hero.  Great stories, awesome side-quests–those early Final Fantasy games couldn’t be beaten for sheer entertainment value.

I am still playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, perhaps not obsessively, but still enjoying it. I have Final Fantasy XIII for my PS3 – but I have to admit that I am unable to get completely into it. The story-line seems awesome, and the graphics are gorgeous, but I can’t seem to get too far into it.

Perhaps I’ve grown up a bit, and have my own fantasies to write.

667px-PlayStation_3_Logo_neu.svg

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Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Dragon Age, Final Fantasy, Humor, Japan, writer, writing

Java and Imaginary Heroes

EspressoOnce again I am preparing to get in the car and trundle up the highway. Going north to Snohomish.  Gotta love that town!  They have a great new coffee shop, Rock City Cafe, where the owner roasts the day’s coffee every morning. I like to go there and write in the evenings.

As a true northwesterner, I love the artisan coffees we have available all up and down the Puget Sound.  When I am in Olympia, I go to Batdorf and Bronson coffee roasters for the ambiance and the brew.

The hard part of all this traveling is being away from my home and my husband. But, as with everything, we are committed to helping our kids as well as we can.

We have a Blended Family, three from my previous marriages and two from his. Together we have three daughters and two sons. Daughter 1 is 39, Daughter 2 is also 39, Son 3 is 37, Son 4 is 35, and Daughter 5 is 29. All but Son 4 have provided us with lovely grandchildren, two of whom are providing us with great-grandchildren.

Spike-wavesOur kids don’t need monetary help, but, as I have written before, two of them have epilepsy. The oldest by 3 months, Daughter 1, has seizures that have only once progressed to the Tonic Clonic stage.  Hers are more a matter of her going away for 3 to 4 minutes and then picking up right where she left off.  Her new meds are working perfectly with no allergic reactions, and if her EEG continues to look good, she will be able to resume driving in August. But right now, she needs help getting around as public transit does work well for where she needs to go. I go north every other week for 3 days and babysit her 6yr old and try not to be the pain-in-the-arse mother-in-law.

Son 4 is unmarried. He has seizures that manifest themselves in the Tonic Clonic form. Since his last episode he is doing really well.  The fact is, he doesn’t have them if he simply takes his meds. He has them if he doesn’t.

He is on board with his neurologist and is taking his meds.  His EEG looks good too! He has excellent public transportation where he lives, and is well enough employed he could take a cab to work if he chose to. I only need to drive him when it is something complicated.

We are fortunate to live in a time when the medical community has achieved some progress in both understanding this array of conditions we call epilepsy. My family is fortunate that there are effective medicines they can take that don’t turn them stupid, and that they aren’t allergic to.

We know this condition that two of my children share is from their father’s side, as our other 3 children don’t show any symptoms. Their father’s side of the family was quite secretive about some things, and with good reason. As a society we are only now emerging from the Dark Ages when it comes to epilepsy, just within the last 20 years.

Even though I hate the drive, I love being needed. Daughters 2 and 5 and Son 3 don’t need help, so my participation in their lives is by invitation only. I respect that, and encourage it, as I have my own life, and know what it is like. Nevertheless, when your children are well-grown and living productive adult lives it is easy to lose that feeling of being connected to them. That can devolve into a feeling of loneliness and self-pity.

I am so NOT that mama.

In my early twenties I dealt with in-laws who couldn’t let go, and who made my life a misery, so I could never do that to my sons-in-law.

My Coffee Cup © cjjasp 2013Fortunately for them, I have my imaginary friends, and my fantasy life so I don’t really have time to hang around moping and feeling neglected.  The minute someone comes home to take The Boy off grandma’s hands, I am out the door!

Grandma has a coffee bar to go to, and four hunky, although quite imaginary, men who need to be told what to do! Leave the door unlocked, she’ll be staggering in about the time they shut the place down for the night.

Yes.

I’m THAT kind of grandma.

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Filed under Adventure, Books, Dragon Age, Epilepsy, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, writing

Sell me that book in 100 words or less!

Aquarell_gemalt_von_August_Menken-1875 By Creator - August Menken [Public domain] via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve been participating in a month-long exercise where you get a prompt and you write the story. I have set the bar a bit high, as I am giving myself only 100 words to tell that story.  It’s a bit difficult, but I have a reason for this, beyond my usual insanity.

The back of a book has something we writers call blurbs (I know. I shouldn’t use author-speak in company, it’s not polite.)  Technically it is called “the pitch” because you are pitching your product to prospective buyers.  This little thing is critical.  Your cover must make them pick up the book or click on the icon and your pitch must sell it. But hello – you have only about 30 seconds to capture the prospective buyer’s interest enough for them to crack it open, or use the look inside feature for eBooks.

I’m not real good at writing pitches. Neither are the Big Six Publishers, oddly enough!  Even the big companies have found ways of avoiding pitching a novel simply by putting glowing reviews of other works by that author on the back cover.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Bleah.  That doesn’t sell me a book, Tor-Forge, publishing giant that you are. As you can see, on the back cover of this book there is no blurb, only glowing comments about the author’s other series of books.  This may work for a well-known author like L.E.Modesitt Jr., or Brandon Sanderson, but it doesn’t work for me as a reader.

I have observed many indies taking the same route, and skipping the blurbs entirely.

Indie authors take note: I (and millions like me) don’t buy books without blurbs of some sort, somewhere, unless I am already familiar with that author’s work. I want to know what I am buying, so even a bad blurb will interest me more than a quote from a glowing review by one of your Beta Readers.

Just sayin’!

So here I am, suffering the curse of the indie author, trying to not only be my own publicist, but also my own advertising agency.

Thus, I am going to learn how to write a blurb, if it kills me. Writing a 100 word piece of flash-fiction is called a “drabble”.  I figure if I can get this down to a fine art, I can write a decent blurb.

The original prompt went as follows:

Write A 100 Word Story (“Drabble”) . . . although a 100 word story will probably take longer than expected, it’s still going to take a manageable amount of time.

To make a drabble work,
-Choose one or two characters
-Take one single moment/action/choice and show us how it unfolds
-Give us one or two vibrant details in as few words as possible
-Show us (hint) how this moment/action/choice is more significant than the characters probably realize in the moment

I decided to use these parameters for the entire month of flash fiction.  Here is my first one, written May 1st.

Ted  (5-1-2013)

Edna stirred her coffee and looked out the window toward the shed.

“Did you feed the chickens?” Marion always asked, though she knew Edna had.

Edna looked away from the shed. “Of course I did.” Her eyes turned back to the shed. “We won’t be able to keep him in there much longer. He’s growing too big. We should have a barn built for him.”

“Ted was always a greedy boy.” Marion stirred her coffee. “I warned him he behaved like a beast.”

A rumbling bellow shook the shed. A long green tail snaked out of the shed door.

I will keep practicing until I get the hang of creating something interesting in 100 words. Blurbs  don’t have to tell the whole story, that is what the inside of the book is for! All they have to do is sell the book–be that tantalizing bit of interest that hooks the reader into buying your book. 

Yesterday’s drabble went like this:

Quaglio_KipfenbergDrake – 5-3-2013

He stood on the parapet, silhouetted against the starry sky, his wings wrapped tightly about him against the chill wind. The sounds of the darkened world below drifted up to him. The nightbird’s song. The servants in the castle below. The lowing of cattle in the distance.

Hunger, intense and overwhelming clouded his vision.

Spreading his wings Drake fell forward, the wind catching and lifting him; soaring. A scent on the wind alerted him to his quarry.

On a corner she stood, ripe and full lipped—the tamale vendor.

Silently, he dropped beside her, whispering seductively, “Two tamales, please Senora.”

I’ve had a lot of fun with this, and I may have some ideas for longer short stories here, so it’s certainly not a waste of time, even if I never get the hang of selling my own work!

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