Here Be Dragons? : The Myth and Magic

I’ve been thinking a great deal about dragons lately, as they are yet another one of those weird and wonderful mythic creatures who exist so prolifically across the globe. A quick search suggests some are still convinced dragons are real and do exist, but I’ll leave that to you to decide completely.

What I do want to consider is: could dragons be a case of where there’s smoke there’s fire (which kind of turns into a pun without meaning to, provided the dragon set the fire …)

Anyway, what I mean is that when you find different myths about dragons in so many different cultures, often in great detail and with great similarities, could this be a case where dragons did indeed exist, and simply because we don’t have modern versions flying around, or skeletons that are definitely dragon vs dinosaur, we wrap them into the myth category instead of extinct animals?

There’s the other thing: could dragons be a type of dinosaur? Personally, I hate to consider it since I have a pet-phobia about dinosaurs, but it kind of makes sense. Here you arrive with other prehistoric and ancient creatures who have, against the odds, seemingly survived. Deep sea creatures, sharks, alligators – they are indeed prehistoric. So why not other survivors, like say the Ogopogo in B.C. or the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland – couldn’t they be similar odd-ball survivors? And if dragons were / are a type of dinosaur, it would stand to reason that perhaps their skeletons already have been discovered, and they’ve simply been classified as a variety of dinosaur rather than anything else. There is so much we don’t know about the ancient denizens of this planet as it is: scientists are only now coming to accept dinosaurs may have been covered in feathers rather than the scaly reptiles they’re most often portrayed as.

Of course, with humans stomping all over the planet, flying over its surface, and diving deeper to the depths of the oceans all the time, is it conceivable that a creature as large as a dragon could have remained concealed for all this time? Any flying would certainly be picked up by airspace controllers, would it not?

That’s the thing about dragons: they’re just so darn big. While something like a werewolf or other man-size-or-smaller type creature could potentially have hidden or gone to ground to stay alive long enough, something the size of a whale is kind of hard to miss. And of course, something that big also needs a steady supply of food which consists of more than just sacrificed village-virgins, since you’ll run out of those soon enough, especially if they keep getting sacrificed.

So where is a dragon to hide? Or is this perhaps why we must accept they’re extinct now, but may have been around a few hundred years ago, just not post-Industrial Revolution? Could our medieval ancestors have really encountered dragons? Did St. George really slay one? Despite what some see as clear “evidence” throughout ancient writing, it’s possible we may never know for sure, since it’s so hard to distinguish between myth and fact when interpreting things like art remnants and folklore.

Is there a dragon hiding in your back garden? What do you think: complete myth, or some element of truth?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Tools of the Trade

While “tools” often connotes hammer and saw, every career and calling has its own tools. And while being a writer may technically require less extensive tools than other callings – especially at the most basic – are you loyal to yours?

I remember when I first started writing, I loved the feel of paper beneath my hand and wrote everything longhand. I was particular about the kind of pen only so long as it had a smooth, even flow and didn’t interrupt the train of my thoughts. I swore up and down that using something like a word processor or computer put a “cramp” in my writing, restricted the flow of thought.

Now, however, I can hardly imagine going back to that pen and paper, especially when typing allows me to more easily keep up with the speed of my thoughts, to get the words down before they escape: I can type far faster than I could ever write by hand. And while I hear other writers use dictation tools, I swear that I certainly won’t: typing is good enough for me. Hmm, does that sound familiar?

What tools can’t you do without? Are you particular about the place you write? The computer? Or perhaps you’re old school with pen and paper? What is your relationship to these tools? Moreover, do these tools help or hinder your progress and writing?

I still have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with my computer, since I don’t particularly trust it and am partially convinced it’s planning to eat my latest manuscript (words scribbled into a notebook won’t suddenly vanish … unless the notebook does). However, I balance this out with backing up my work frequently, and recognizing that the speed of typing and getting down ideas on the computer balances out the occasional irritation and fear when the computer becomes less a tool and more a nemesis.

What about you? Are your tools a help or a hindrance? Or perhaps, is it less the tools themselves than your ritual and attachment to them? If you don’t have your favorite pen, does that mean you can’t write?

So far as I am concerned, a tool is only effective so long as it continues to aid progress and performs to assist in whatever task we set before it. If the tool itself (like an unreliable computer) or our potential obsessive adherence to it (like not being able to write without a favorite pen / spot / etc) becomes a hindrance to progress, can it any longer be considered a tool?

To me, a tool is something that helps me perform a task, or complete necessary work. I use a hammer to set a nail because a rock is less efficient, and my bare hand less so. But if the hammer keeps falling apart, it no longer serves the purpose and will slow down and frustrate me – such a hindrance should be discarded, should it not?

So, what are your tools? If one of them fails you tomorrow, will your work continue despite it, or fail because of it? Just a thought …

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Retrospective: What a Difference a Year Makes

Today is my daughter’s first birthday. Yipee! We all survived the first year of parenthood, and she’s had quite the impact on my life. From squalling infant to little critter that tries to talk and is getting close to walking, it’s hard to imagine that we’d only just met her last year this time.

Significant events like birthdays are an easy way to glance back at a year or a period of time and see how far you’ve come, how you’ve changed, but it doesn’t have to be a birthday. Where were you last year on this date? What were you doing? What has changed in your life since then? In previous posts I’ve touched on this when I’ve been looking back at journal entries, but I also keep a log book to record what I’ve accomplished, to-do lists, that sort of thing, which makes it easier to look back at my writing progress.

Where was I last year? Well, the hospital still, since the baby had just been born. But in the previous year I can look back and see that in 2010 I was at work on a particular manuscript and even working on the weekend to make up for a poor week of writing. Keeping records like this gives me a better idea of how long it takes me to complete a manuscript – even those times you’d rather not know, since technically from percolation of the original idea, initial notes, all the way to final, polished manuscript can have required a heck of a lot more time than you’d care to consider.

Why should we occasionally look back? Well, I think that we’re products of our experiences. It’s helpful sometimes to see what you were capable of (if, say, you were on a really productive streak that makes the current measly word counts pale in comparison). On the other hand, you could also see that you’ve perhaps become much more disciplined, that your productivity is up, as well as your professionalism.

Whatever the case, a year does make a difference, no matter how fast they flash by. Because even if we sometimes don’t realize we’ve accomplished anything in a year, we’ve lived to lesser or greater degrees, and we’ll never be the same again.

So, where were you last year? Do you feel like you’re in the same place, or have things drastically changed?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Whose Shadow Do You Cast?

“I’m not famous. My image is famous. It’s a shadow I don’t even cast.” – Harold Brodkey

As you read these words – or if I read yours – somewhere has formed a shadow person of the author, an image or idea that we associate with the writing. The quote above considers the idea that whether we like it or not, others will have some idea of who or what we are as writers, just as you probably have some idea – or think you do – of who I am.

It’s kind of a strange idea, if you think about it. Somewhere, somehow, your writing creates this other shadow person, the other “shadow writer” that others perceive you as.  It’s enough to almost get me thinking of other shadow creatures, but since that would lead into more of a paranormal-themed article, I’ll restrain myself. 🙂

So, from my posts, who do you think I am? You know I’m a writer, sure, that I write paranormal romances and post-apocalyptic romances. I have a young family, and a weakness for sarcasm, Coca-Cola, and the absurd. But what a flat figure I would be if that was all I am. Like you – and like any other writer – there are nuances and dimensions that sometimes don’t come into play and aren’t immediately evident via our writing or other mediums we’re working in. Some of that may be accidental or related to the subject matter, and sometimes it may be intentional, as certain characteristics are made more evident via author branding.

It’s kind of a slippery slope, I suppose, between keeping something private and personal of yourself hidden, but also putting enough of yourself into your work to be sincere, to touch or connect with others on a deeper level.

Interestingly, I found the quote in the lovely book: Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. And what she wants you to do is ignore this notion completely when writing. Why? Well, because if you spent all your time thinking about what other people would think about your writing, how it would make them feel, how it would impact them, it’s likely you’d end up with either a swollen head, or run away to hide beneath the covers and never write a word again.

Because here’s a truth that as artists it’s difficult to ignore: our art comes from us. The best art comes from somewhere really deep inside, and in some ways it’s a part of ourselves that’s splattered all over the page for everyone to see. While that deep emotional connection will likewise help others appreciate it since (hopefully) it will connect to some deep part of them, it also leaves us vulnerable, and subject to the ever-present question: “What do others think of me?”

We may take very different notions towards the importance of what others think, but like it or not, it’s one way that we shape our identity and our place in society and amongst others. What others think of us, how they perceive us, will very much influence our experience. Of course, that means there’s certainly something to be said for image manipulation and branding, being more deliberate about who or what is projected. I think to some extent we all have to control the image we show others, though you never know who may be watching when you let down your guard, and the act of creation is very definitely a letting down of your guard.

So whose shadow do you cast? Is it your own? Is it a carefully defined persona? Do you control it, or does it control you?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.