Guest: Gnaw (Heidi Lyn Burke) with A Dragon’s Guide to Not Being a Trophy

Gnaw (a dragon acquaintance of author Heidi Lyn Burke ) is on the blog today with some advice for his scaly brethren. So check out his practical do’s and don’t, and enjoy an excerpt of Heidi’s novel, Dragon’s Curse. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end!


A Dragon’s Guide to Not Being a Trophy

by Gnaw, a Dragon (with help from Heidi Lyn Burke)

As a dragon, I have been hunted multiple times. It comes with the scales. People see you and they have one of two possible reactions: they either want to kill you or they want someone else to do it on their behalf.

Thankfully, due to the dramatic retaliations against such attacks by dragon parents, the hunting of young dragons and the raiding of dragon nests is illegal in most civilized kingdoms. Though some small scale poaching does exist, men do not pose a true danger to our whelps and eggs. However, once a dragon has passed its tenth year and is recognizable as a juvenile rather than a whelp, all protection ceases. A dragon must be prepared for the dangers of knights.

These are my best tips for head-loss prevention:

1. Settle remotely.

Yes, humans have taken the best lands for themselves and their settlements continue to sprawl, but at this time the Wilderlands mid-Continent offer a sizable territory of mostly-human-free forests and mountains. If at all possible, stay here. No humans, no problems.

However, I know the desire to travel and see the world is in our blood, so if option one is unappealing to you and you must travel or temporarily abide near human settlements . . .

2. Avoid snacking on livestock.

Nothing annoys a human farmer more than missing sheep. (Maybe missing children, but human is not the ideal diet for a young dragon, anyway. Far too fatty.). Some reasonable humans will look the other way if a dragon settles in their area. Few, however, will long ignore you snatching their livestock. Even if they lack the means to hunt you, they can send away for help, hiring knights who will be more than happy to do the farmer’s dirty work.

3. Know your knights.

Sometimes even if you have carefully chosen your lair and avoided angering the locals, a knight will come after you simply because you are a dragon. They’re in it for sport and glory. When this happens, you may have to fight, but sometimes properly wielded intimidation will spare you the trouble. Is the knight young and inexperienced? Is his armor still shiny and new? Are his knees knocking with fear? Try sticking your head out of your lair, flashing your teeth, and blowing some smoke. Nine times out of ten, this will send the idiots running home to Mama. If the knight shows signs of experience or age or if they come in groups, flight is an option. Unlike knights, we dragons do not hold ourselves to archaic ideas of bravery. If you have no reason to fight, don’t fight.

However, sometimes a lair is worth defending. Also, sometimes I just get sick of being chased off. If you have considered all other options, or are just feeling cranky, it may be time to fight. If it comes down to this . . .

4. Save your fire.

Yes, fire breath is big and flashy, but don’t get carried away and lead off with that. The inner heat required to power a decent sized fireball takes awhile to build back up, and you will probably only get one shot during any given fight. If the idiot has started the fight directly in front of your nostrils, then by all means, blast away. However, a dragon has many weapons at hand. My personal favorite is bulk. Sit on the fellow. It’s a delightfully undignified way to dispatch someone, plus it takes minimal effort. Also we have tails to swipe, venomous fangs, and claws to tear.

Honestly, a one on one fight, dragon to knight, the dragon should win 90% of the time. This is why most knights are smart enough to hunt in packs or attempt sneak attacks while we are napping.

So my final word of advice is . . .

5. Be aware of your surroundings.

Always scope out a lair before you settle in for the night. Check for strange smells, campfire smoke, or any other sign of human encroachment.

If you take these simple precautions, you can live a long and happy life, knight free.


Dragon's Curse


On her first assignment out of the Academy, young healer and scholar, Shannon Macaulay is summoned to the struggling kingdom of Regone to see to the wounds of a young but crippled king. When the unwanted attentions of an aggressive knight and the sudden appearance of a hated dragon turn her world upside down, she decides to take matters into her own hands even if doing so proves dangerous. Finding herself strangely drawn to the company of the dragon, Gnaw, Shannon must force herself out of her safe world of books and botany to come to the aid of her unexpected ally in a strange kingdom, cursed by a fateful encounter with a dragon and the loss of a beloved prince. Can she learn to put aside her fears, and perhaps sacrifice her deepest desires, to help a friend and restore a family?


Novel excerpt from Dragon’s Curse
The slate gray dragon crouched at the edge of the cliff, his wings flattened against his sleek torso and his long slender neck pressed to the ground. Shadows darkened the narrow ravine below his perch. He could smell the appetizing aroma of fat, sleepy sheep and hear their gentle bleating as the shepherd approached.The drake had not eaten in several days, and while nothing would suit him more than a meal of fresh mutton, he had other concerns today. He had watched dozens of travelers take the pass between Grassel and Regone over the last month, but most came in large groups or were well armed. This shepherd was alone.The narrow roadway flooded with sheep. Their wooly backs stretched from wall to wall.

The shepherd and his dog urged the livestock along the path. The dragon drew a deep breath, arched his neck, flapped his wings, and dove.

The shaggy black sheepdog barked sharply at the dragon’s descent but too late to warn his master. The dragon grasped the man in his bird like talons and swept him into the sky. Lambs scattered every which way and the dog’s yapping grew frantic.

The great winged beast dropped the man on a rocky ledge far above the canyon floor where he rolled about, gasping and shivering. He tried to scramble away, lost his footing, and fell from the cliff. The dragon swiftly struck out. He bit into the man’s shirt, arresting his fall, and pulled him back to safety. The fellow jerked about like a fly in a spider’s web for several minutes before going limp.

The dragon lowered him back to the earth.

“Now that you have realized you cannot fly, perhaps we can talk,” he said.

The man stared up at him, wide-eyed. His Adam’s apple bobbed.

“You aren’t going to eat me?”

“If you answer my questions honestly, no. There shouldn’t be any need for that, though I wouldn’t mind one of your herd for a quick snack.” The dragon’s long tongue darted out and in. “You come from Regone?”

“Aye.”

“The king, Ernest, is he well?”

“Ernest is no longer king of Regone.”

The monster drew his head back and up like a snake posed to strike and the man crumpled to his knees.

“What became of Ernest?” the dragon hissed.

The shepherd’s body shuddered. “He died, natural causes, almost a year ago.”

“Then the dragon-hunter now rules?”

“Dragon-hunter? Prince Edmond? Yes, he has ascended to the throne.”

The creature stretched out his wings. “All right, I have heard enough. I shall return you to your flock, but you must speak of this to no one.”

The man nodded and did not cry out when the dragon snatched him up and plummeted into the ravine. The gray drake deposited his prisoner on the ground, dodged an attack from the panicked sheep dog, and nabbed a fat ewe before streaking into the sky.

He came to rest on a plateau and tore into the animal’s carcass, swallowing great chunks of savory meat.

It is time to decide: settle the score or forget and move on.

He turned his eyes back to the horizon. To the west low, green foothills stretched out for miles, to the south lay near impassable mountains filled with freedom and peace.

“Not yet, but soon,” the dragon whispered. Leaving his meal unfinished he launched himself towards the craggy blue peaks of the Middland range, his path ripping apart the clouds like paper.


Heidi Lyn BurkeBorn in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

You can find H. L. Burke on:
Web | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon


Dragon’s Curse on Amazon


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Guest: Karin Rita Gastreich on The Origin of Magic in Eolyn

New guest entry today from fellow Magic Appreciation Tour author Karin Rita Gastreich. Her novel Eolyn is now available as an audiobook narrated by Canadian voice-actor Darla Middlebrook. In support of the new format, Karin is touring blogs, and has included an excerpt from Eolyn for your perusal. Enjoy, and don’t forget to enter the drawing at the end of the post for your chance to win an Eolyn audiobook!


The Origin of Magic in Eolyn

by Karin Rita Gastreich

Mathew has asked for a guest post about the origin of magic in Eolyn’s world. Rather than writing the story anew, I thought it would be fun to share the legend as it is told by the people of Moisehén.

The mastery of magic in the Kingdom of Moisehén requires many years of study. Most novices start when they are very young. By tradition, one of the first stories these children receive is the legend of Aithne and Caradoc.

Eolyn is no exception. When she chooses the path of magic, her tutor Ghemena reads the story of Aithne and Caradoc from an old and much-loved tome kept safe in her personal library. This story is one of countless legends of Aithne and Caradoc, and forms an integral part of the larger mythological fabric of Moisehén and its surrounding kingdoms.

Novel excerpt on the Origins of Magic, taken from Chapter 5 of Eolyn:
Long ago, in a land that existed before time had meaning, there lived a woman called Aithne. She grew up in a world of ordinary ways. The plants held their silence, the animals moved in secret, the wind stood still and the rocks lay cold and lifeless upon the earth. The sun shone pale through gray days and the moon barely illuminated the starless nights. The essence of Primitive Magic haunted the land, but people were unable to give form to its song. They suffered from hunger and disease and Aithne longed to help them.Aithne spent long hours pondering this problem until one day she noticed the animals were always healthy, their dark coats thick in winter and their young energetic in summer. So she began to watch them. In this way she discovered from Bear which berries are good to eat, from Boar where to look for tasty mushrooms, from Squirrel how to choose nuts and from Songbird how to weave baskets. This was the beginning of Simple Magic.

At that time a young man named Caradoc fell in love with Aithne. He learned the arts of Simple Magic and mastered them quickly. Aithne, seeing he understood her, fell in love with him. They consecrated their love under a full spring moon, and the heat of their hearts sparked a fire in the center of their village. The villagers gathered in awe to observe the blaze. With branches of pine they divided the flame so that each family took a piece back to their own home. This is how fire came to our people.

Together Aithne and Caradoc discovered the secrets of Middle Magic. The joy of their love illuminated the world, allowing them to see the stones are not cold, but rather vibrate with the wisdom of the ages. The plants and animals are not silent, but whisper timeless secrets for the well prepared ear. Aithne and Caradoc taught Middle Magic to all those willing to learn it.

At this time the Gods from the deepest and highest places of the world took notice of Aithne and Caradoc, and a division grew among them. Some of the Gods saw great beauty in the initiative of these humans. They recognized how their magic illuminated and improved the lives of the villagers. But other deities felt threatened.

“Are we to let them continue down this path?” they objected. “To become Gods like us?”

Spurred by this division, the Gods sent two messengers to Aithne and Caradoc, each representing a different side of their argument. The first messenger, Thunder, pursued the lovers through the forest and filled their hearts with fear. At last Aithne and Caradoc found refuge in a small cave in the mountains. Thunder raged all over the hills looking for them, but eventually gave up and faded away.

In the silence that followed Aithne and Caradoc realized they were not alone. A dragon-serpent sat in the cave observing them with sharp silver eyes. Like all serpents, Dragon spoke only through silence but Aithne and Caradoc, long accustomed to listening to the animals, adapted to this dialect with ease.

Do not fear, said Dragon, for the Gods who sent me find pleasure in your magic. They offer you the gift of High Magic so you may use it for the prosperity of your people.

“But Thunder told us the Gods are displeased and we can no longer use magic,” Caradoc objected.

The Gods of Thunder are jealous and fearful, responded Dragon. They believe your power threatens their dominion. You have nothing to fear from them. If you choose this path I will show you how to protect yourself from their wrath.

Caradoc hesitated but Aithne stepped forward and asked, “What must we do?”

Dragon instructed Aithne to bring three elements and Caradoc to bring four. She sent Aithne east in her search and Caradoc west. After three days both returned having completed their quest. Dragon helped each of them forge their first staff from these elements. Then she gave them a single command.

Practice magic as you will, but do no harm with this gift.


Eolyn Audiobook


Karin Rita GastreichKARIN RITA GASTREICH lives in Kansas City and Costa Rica. An ecologist by trade, her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. Karin’s first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011. The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is also available from Hadley Rille Books. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at Eolyn Chronicles and Heroines of Fantasy, or on Twitter @EolynChronicles.


Darla MiddlebrookWith experience of 34+ years as a Speech-Language Pathologist, more than 20 years as a stage & film actor and over 20 years as a trained singer with knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the voice and speech, Darla Middlebrook brings a wealth of experience to bear to develop character voices (male, female, mature, extremely elderly, creepy, bright exotic, etc) with an impressive emotional range.​

Currently, Darla is one of many voice actors who narrates podcasts for AIRS-LA (an audio internet service for individuals with visual challenges) in addition to narrating audio books. She is able to produce retail quality audio books from her home studio in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – Canada.



The Eolyn Audiobook (plus other formats) are available to buy on Amazon


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Guest: Will Hahn and an Interview with Cedrith Fellareon

Today I’ve got a guest on the blog. Fellow Magic Appreciation Tour author Will Hahn is touring blogs in support of his new novel, Games of Chance which will be out on the 4th of July, and he’s offered up an interview with one of the colorful supporting characters featured in the first book of the new series. So read on for a taste of Will’s writing, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom.


An Interview with Cedrith Fellareon

by Will Hahn

I’m pleased to present a brief interview with (but not really about) the character of Cedrith in the upcoming Tale of Hope Games of Chance. Cedrith Fellareon is an Elf and a member of the Sages Guild, visiting Conar, the capital of Hope, from his homeland Mendel. A polite and respected guildsman, Cedrith’s life has been turned around by his acquaintance with Solemn Judgement, the main character of the story.

“Say there, Sage Fellareon! Could I have a word?”
“Chief Archivist, for you always, how may I be of service?”
“Well, Sage Fellareon, it’s about this request on my desk, for a restricted tome. Seems to be from a student of yours?”
“Indeed? Is it recent?”
“Well no, there’s the thing- I, ahm, I did not get to it, had it a couple weeks.”
“You’ve been very busy, no doubt sir, I under-”
“And you yourself, I just realized, checked out the same book two days ago.”
“Indeed yes, I took the liberty, that is, I did not realize he ha-”
“So I thought most likely the matter was resolved.”
“Ah yes, so it has been, thanks for your concern.”
“Ehm.”
“Chief Archivist?”
“What about- well this student of yours, Sage Fellareon? Is it usual, I mean, do you normally take pupils older than yourself?”
“Older!”
“That is, I mean no insult to your age- that is, I’m sure I have no idea how old- oh, dear, I’ve given offence.”
“Not in the least, I assure you, sir. There is-”
“I am so unused to dealing with elves, you see, you are indeed the only visitor from Mendel’s kingdom I’ve ever encountered.”
“Please, do not trouble yourself, sir. There is-”
“It’s simply that this old man- is he indeed a human? Or perhaps another one of your race?”
“Do you speak of Solemn Judgement, sir?”
“The grey-haired one whose name is on this request. Your pupil, am I right Sage?”
“My dear Chief Archivist, I’m afraid you must prepare yourself for a shock. Solemn Judgement, my pupil as you call him, is perhaps fifteen years old.”
“Why nonsense, sir! Do you mean- ah, of course! So this Judgement youth is a nobleman, then? His servant spoke very well for a menial.”
“No- with respect, Chief Archivist, he only appears aged at first glance. And his manner-”
“Please, be serious! A youth? There’s not a hair on his head any color but slate. And such reserve, he spoke like someone from court.”
“He may have been, sir, for all I can tell. Judgement has ever been the very soul of comportment and civility, quite remarkable in someone so young. I can well unders-”
“What house is he from, then? One of the southern baronies? Or perhaps from Shilar?”
“Neither sir. He is in fact an alien among us. And an orphan. Perhaps you recall, that unfortunate incident last month, on the day of my thesis presentation?”
“What do y- by the Hopelord, do you mean- this was the fellow wh-who was… :: whispering :: arrested?”
“The very same, sir, on his first day in the city, though I must sa-”
“Oh that horrid hour! I can hardly breathe.”
“Let us sit, sir, perhaps some tea. Here, right here we are.”
“The very thing, thank you, Sage. I admit, since that day I had banished the dreadful thought- to think, the Law of Conar nearly broken! After four thousand years… and you tell me now, the criminal was this boy?”
“As to that-”
“I had heard tell it was some rough sailor, or a powerful mage!”
“Yes, the staff, and his high boots-”
“But everyone spoke of the villain as a man, sir, I mean an adult, Sage Fellareon.”
“Chief Archivist, if you will kindly recall, Solemn Judgement was found innocent of this, ah, misunderstanding. The Law remains unbroken.”
“Well, of course as it should be. But now I think on this Judgement fellow, I find more reasons to be unsure of him, Sage Fellareon. Do you think it quite politic to keep him here, and moreover looking into forbidden works?”
“Restricted, Chief Archivist, I must insist, not forbidden.”
“Let us not split hairs, Sage Fellareon. Just look at this list of sign-outs! I took the liberty, when I realized what book he was asking for. Despairing culture, reports of miracles from the past three centuries, burial customs- why, there are even tomes in the Ancient tongue here, yet you insist this is just a youth.”
“It does seem strange, I know, but his curiosity is very, eh, very widespread. I know of no subject he is not interested in.”
“But, books in Ancient? For what purpose?”
“Why to read, Chief Archivist. You seem disinclined to believe me? May I ask if you have much fluency, sir- I myself can hardly-”
“As to that, I can read well enough, yes- at my age, and after years of study.”
“Young Judgement reads and speaks with fluency.”
“Ridiculous! Speaks! Why even the preachers must stay within strict bounds with the Ancient tongue of our heroic ancestors.”
“You need not question my account, Chief Archivist. Ask his tutor- the Healers Guildmistress Natashi Ioki.”
“Healer Ioki! A scholar indeed, of the first rank. I suppose, heh, we could trust her word on the matter.”
“Or his.”
“What?”
“It is not possible to lie in the Ancient tongue- but Judgement speaks no falsehood, whatever the language or subject. Neither will he lose his temper, no matter how poorly he is received-”
“What! Say, are you-”
“He never fails to complete any research assigned, shirks no chore however tedious or long, nor will he drink wine or ale, hardly sleeps and never stops working to learn.”
“Only all that! You seem to think very highly of him. I suppose you can be forgiven for interrupting, in light of your approbation. Perhaps you will tell me next that he can fly.”
“No, sir.”
“Praise the Hopelord.”
“But he can swim.”
“Oh now, this is your Elvish humor no doubt. Who taught him to swim, pray tell me that.”
“This is the very point, sir. Who indeed? But the young man claims it is common where he came from. And I witnessed his skill with my own eyes.”
“You leave me without words, Sage Fellareon. What are we to do with this prodigy?”
“Do, sir? We are a Guild of Sages- I had not thought it unusual that I should endeavor to teach him.”
“Well of course, sir, of course! But I mean, after that- once this unusual fellow has learned, what then shall become of him, and what does he intend, answer me that.”
“Such mysteries are far beyond my poor abilities, Chief Archivist.”
“I should think, sir, with all respect to your position as guest here, that some thought might be taken. The subjects this, this alien is studying, I would say require caution.”
“As you please, sir. I’m here for a session with the youth now- you may interrogate him if you wish.”
“Me!”
“Certainly, Chief Archivist- satisfy your concerns, I assure you Solemn Judgement will answer every question put to him.”
“Why as to that- I cannot- that is, I prefer- ach! He is coming, those boots, I hear him from a furlong, his pace like some moving clock, or a horrid Makine.”
“Chief Archivist!”
“And always wearing that broad, flat-brimmed hat, with eyes that stare, and never blink- see, there he is coming now as you said. No, I leave him to your care, Sage Fellareon, absolutely.”
“You are quite certain, Chief Archivist?”
“No doubt, sir, I’m sure you may be trusted completely with his care. It occurs to me that I have, I must, some appointments. I cannot- those eyes! That is, I leave him to you.”
“Thank you sir.”
“You need not thank me- may the Heroes watch over you, I pray! Good day, sir.”


LoHI_JT_front_cover

Games of Chance

For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.

In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale


About Will Hahn

Will 8Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land’s most unique hero, The Man in Grey.

You can find more of Will’s work at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords
And don’t forget to check out Will’s blog.


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Guest: Lori J. Fitzgerald on Crime in the Middles Ages: Treason

Today’s guest entry has it all: a brief look at chivalry and crime in the middle ages, a pretty book cover, an excerpt from a novelette, and a giveaway. What more can one ask from from a Magic Appreciation Tour guest? Read on to see what Lori J. Fitzgerald’s The Dragon’s Message is all about!


Crime in the Middle Ages: Treason

by Lori J. Fitzgerald, White Raven Writing

When you think of a medieval fantasy setting, often characters such as knights and ladies, castles and dragons, perhaps even Sir Lancelot or King Arthur, come to mind. The feudal system, a way of organizing society, was the reality of the Middle Ages at the source of the fantasy. A knight, a professional, trained soldier of the warrior-elite, became a lord’s vassal, a member of his retinue, by pledging military services and fealty to the lord. In return, the liege-lord granted the knights a fief, or tract of land. Knights ran their estates, kept order and administered justice in their fief, but also could be called into battle at any time and were expected to fight valiantly to protect their lord. As part of the ruling class with such an important role in society, knights were also expected to follow an ideal code of behavior.

The Code of Chivalry included several elements, among them battle prowess, largesse, gentilesse, curtesye, and trouthe. Battle prowess is strength and valor on the battlefield. Largesse is material generosity, and gentilesse is spiritual generosity. Curtesye is courtly manners, gentlemanly respect and fairness, and also involves the exaltation of women, also known as courtly love. Trouthe, or integrity, is most important; a knight who has trouthe maintains what is right in society and is true to his own ideal sense of self. If a knight followed the Code of Chivalry as a basis for behavior, then he gained and maintained honor.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that the worst crime in medieval eyes was treason, which could consist of slaying the liege lord, lying with his wife, or surrendering his castle. In fact, we see the effects of this in Dante’s masterpiece The Divine Comedy (c.1308), where the last and most terrible circle of hell holds the sinners who commited treason. In The Dragon’s Message, a terrible act of treason has impacted the life of the main character, Lady Rhiannon, and threatens her safety once again. Can the stalwart Sir Gwydion protect her this time? Please enjoy an excerpt from The Dragon’s Message:

After a while, as she picked the seeds from the apple core, Sir Gwydion said to her, gently, “You are very much like your mother.”

Rhiannon paused, then said quietly, “Thank you. I suppose I am. My father tells me so.”

Gwydion nodded. “She was a great lady, as wise and kind as she was beautiful. It was a shame to lose her so quickly.”

“It was treachery that killed her,” Rhiannon blurted.

“I know, Rhiannon,” he responded, sadly. “I was there.”

And as Rhiannon saw the compassion in his expression, her eyes began to fill with tears that she could not hold back. Unblinking, as her present vision of the knight and the ruins blurred, she saw with unnerving clarity in her mind’s eye the scene that she had blocked as a child:

A churning sea of steel pounded through the great hall of Caer Idris, knights shouting, some running, massing around her father, who sat unmoving on his throne with his head in his hands amid the wreck of chairs he had splintered in his rage. No one seemed to notice the little girl moving slowly toward the pallet on the floor, her chest heaving as her breathing became faster until she was gasping for air. Rhiannon stopped and looked down at the still form on the pallet. The bodice of her mother’s yellow gown that she had worn at the tournament was now stained the same color as her hair; glittering gouts of her life’s blood covered her neck and shoulders, ran rivulets down her outstretched arm, pooled into the cracks in the stone floor. The traitor’s arrow had pierced through her throat. Rhiannon looked at her mother’s face and was seized with horror: wax-white, like a candle, hazel eyes dulled, lips parted with unformed words. Never again would her mother see her or speak to her. Shaking and struggling with her breath as her mother did in her last moments, Rhiannon’s vision started to spiral down into murkiness as she reached out to the lifeless form, when a strong hand took hers and pulled her slightly away from the body. Sir Gwydion looked down at her, his anguished face and dented armor splashed with mud and blood. “Come away, child. It is ill-done. Stop. Breathe.” His other hand engulfed the side of her neck, his thumb on her jaw to make sure she looked into his eyes and not at the body again. “Do not look upon her like that. Your mother is elsewhere now. Come away, your father needs you.” At that moment her father looked up and saw her, and stretched out his arms to her, his face tracked with tears. She ran to him without looking back at the knight or the blood-stained pallet.


The Dragon's Message

A dragon writes a cryptic message with its ember breath in the evening sky…

Lady Rhiannon watches from the turret wall with an ache in her blood. She’s the only person who can decipher the message as the sole keeper of the Dragon Tome. When an old enemy threatens the castle, her father charges his knight with escorting her to a safe haven—the same knight Rhiannon had a crush on as a girl. But she must now convince him to change his plans, for she has her own sacred charge to fulfill…

So begins a journey to hidden ruins where magic slumbers in the stones and love lies in the heart, waiting to awaken. As Rhiannon and the knight face seemingly insurmountable odds, only the dragon knows if they can fulfill their destiny…


Lori J. Fitzgerald

Lori J. Fitzgerald lives in New York with her fellow English Major husband and their two little bookworms. Medieval literature is her passion, and she wishes she could spend more time traipsing around Renaissance Faires and shouting “Huzzah” at jousts. She was a middle school English teacher for many years and was best known for her dramatic readings of The Princess Bride. Lori is currently a Staff Writer for the website Once Upon A Fan, the popular fansite for ABC’s hit show Once Upon A Time. You can contact her by email at [email protected]

Lori J. Fitzgerald on the web:
Blog | Twitter | Facebook


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The Dragon’s Message on Amazon
The Dragon’s Message on Barnes & Noble


Net Neutrality and the Writer

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been quiet lately because I haven’t been getting much done. That’s not because I don’t want to get things done. It’s more because life is the way life is. I have two small children at home with me each day, and while I appreciate that some writers out there are able to balance that responsibility with reasonable production, the fact is that I am who I am, and I don’t find that as attainable as I might like.

This is an important thing to understand. Real people who are working professionally as writers face specific struggles which other professions do not necessarily face. The majority of professional writers have a job outside of writing, be it child care, educating the youth of the world, or driving a cab. Writing is a profession which is usually not self-supporting until a writer is well-established. Yes, jobs exist for “copywriters” (and in fact that is part of my work—writing copy on a freelance basis) but the reality is that few writers (percentage-wise, at least) are full-full time.

Now, if you read the title of this piece, you’re probably wondering by now, “what’s this got to do with the price of…well, anything?”

Simple: writers are nearly always freelance/self-employed and thus responsible for most aspects of their writing careers. This means that, for the vast majority of writers, dealing with web traffic, direct sales, etc. are things they have to worry about. (On top of their other jobs, like taking care of lovely angels who think that 4:30AM is party time after only going to bed at midnight…)

So when the FCC considers allowing ISPs to levy fees on any businesses who want to have their customers have a smooth web experience, it is a very real threat to people in my profession. I’ve spent hours and hours of time optimizing my website to serve content quickly, because I know that studies have shown (and you’ll most likely understand from your own web use) that if a site doesn’t resolve quickly enough, people stop trying to connect to it. So now the FCC is considering allowing ISPs to make me pay in order for visitors to this site to enjoy the fruits of my labors. They’re considering making it legal for ISPs (and I’d have to deal with any/all of them that wanted extra money out of me) to charge me if I want, say, visitors to see the site within less than two seconds.

Two seconds doesn’t seem like a very long time, does it? Now consider that on a normal day at any given moment this site loads in a third of a second. Consider that as you approach a full second of load time, people start to give up. (Yes, we really ARE that impatient a species.) Consider that my two second figure is one which the FCC wouldn’t force ISPs to adhere to. Without Net Neutrality Comcast (just to make an example of the biggest ISP—and, probably-not-coincidentally, America’s “worst company 2014″) could hold every single website owner to paying fees to have their site resolve in less than five seconds. Or ten. Or thirty.

Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s Chairman, was a lobbyist for ISPs before he took his current position. That’s no joke. He was previously paid by the people he is now responsible for regulating. Do you know what (form) response I got from Tom when I made it clear that I had grave concerns about the FCC’s plans to allow ISPs to adopt pay-to-play policies?

Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet proceeding. We’re hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this critical issue, and so I’m very glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

I’m a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

No problem, right? I mean, we should absolutely believe that a man who was paid to do everything he could to convince politicians that they should allow ISPs to monopolize access (go check how many broadband providers you have access to, and what kinds of service you can get for what prices, then go look at countries outside of America and what THEY pay for access) is going to totally be looking out for the little guy…

I don’t believe Tom Wheeler is being honest when he says that he’s committed to Open Internet. I don’t believe that Tom Wheeler has a real understanding of what the technology means to humanity. I don’t believe that Tom Wheeler has anyone’s best interests at heart outside of the mega-corporations that control our access to knowledge and communications.

Make a believer out of me, Tom. Keep the ‘net open. Don’t let ISPs charge little guys like me just to get the chance to sell our goods and services to the people who want them. Don’t stifle innovation by burdening tech startups with crushing access fees. Don’t limit our access to the collection of human knowledge we currently enjoy.

Make the right decision. My kids are counting on you.

Ash and Dec at Disneyland