A Favorite Fantasy Monster: Jane Yolen’s Dragons

Today I’m answering a challenge from fellow fantasy author Aaron Volner to write about a favorite creature from the world of fantasy fiction. After giving it some thought, I decided that I would write about the dragons from the YA fantasy series The Pit Dragon Chronicles, by Jane Yolen. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Dragons, Lindsay? What a cop-out. But hear me out.

What They Are
The dragons of Austar IV are the center of that world’s ecosystems, economy, and culture. Originally a prison planet, the descendants of the original guards and convicts have carved out a unique life for themselves by domesticating, breeding, and training dragons. From the stewpots to the fighting arenas, dragons are the lifeblood of this hot, desert world.

A full-grown dragon is roughly the size of an elephant not counting its impressive wings and tail. It Their scales come in a variety of hues ranging from mud brown and mottled yellow to vibrant blood red. While most of these creatures demonstrate bestial levels of intellect, it is said that a trainer can develop an empathetic bond with his dragon. I won’t give any spoilers beyond that, as the exploration of dragons and their unique qualities is one of the central themes of the series.

Why I Love Them
I’ve read plenty of stories about dragons, but for me, Yolen’s dragons are the ones that feel the most real. The series is told from the point of view of Jakkin, a bond-boy whose life up to now has been nothing but sweeping up dusty dragons fewmets and mucking out their massive stalls. This perspective -inspired by familiar domesticated animals including horses, dogs, cats- creates a sense of realism in the mundane habits of these fanciful creatures.

As our understanding of these creatures evolves and changes through the story, we realize that these are more than stock fantasy monsters. In this series, they fill up every page and scene with their powerful scent and heart-stopping roars. If you want to lose yourself in a world of dragons, I highly recommend this series, particularly the first book.

Be sure to check out Aaron’s original post about the Darkhound from the Wheel of Time series, and be sure to check out the next installment from author Connie J. Jasperson.

Rules for the Blog Chain:

1. You must write a blog post about the subject of a favorite fantasy creature of yours and why it’s a favorite.
2. The creature may not be from one of your own books.
3. You must challenge one other author to do the same.
4. You may not pick the same creature as the person who challenged you.
5. You must provide a link back to the post of the person who challenged you, and a link forward to the person you challenged once they publish their post, so people can follow the chain if they want.

My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday, and for the last few weeks I’ve had people asking me what I want. Honestly, I want what I have. I’m finally a father (twice!), I have a loving family, more good friends than I can count, and I get to work in a field that I love. My life is blessed, and I am so grateful for it.

I suppose if I did want to ask for something more, it would be success as an author. My fan base continues to be loyal but small, and I often wish I could share my stories with more people. With that in mind, this is what I’d like for my birthday.

If you’re still doing your Christmas shopping, please consider giving the gift of one (or more) of my books to a friend or family member. Not only would this be a kind gesture to me, but you’d be sharing great stories with the people that you care about.

If you decide to buy a book of mine for someone this Christmas, please leave a comment below so I can thank you for your wonderful birthday present to me.

Love you all!

Link to all of my books on Amazon

Expressing Gratitude as an Author

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I’ve been thinking about all of the supportive people that I’m grateful for. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and I think it must take a whole community to support a writer.

Of course, authors do have some unique ways to express gratitude for special people. Many of our books start with an Acknowledgments page where we list a few specific individuals that were instrumental in seeing the project all the way to publication. We can also dedicate our books to people who have touched our lives in a special way.

Even so, I’m often worried that I’ll forget to mention someone that I’m truly grateful for. I try to compensate for this by thanking groups of people like my beta readers, street team members, and friends. While this may result in someone feeling slighted, my hope is that I can better show my gratitude by the way that I treat my friends and fans on a regular basis. Sure, seeing your name in the front of a published book can be exciting, and having a book dedicated to you can be touching, but isn’t it more meaningful to have a relationship that demonstrates gratitude and appreciation? The kind of relationship that goes beyond the books?

I know that I could probably get more sales and reviews if I hounded my friends for them, but I prefer for my friends to be friends first and fans second. If they do buy a book or write a review, I would want it to be because they either liked the story or wanted to support me in my craft. That’s the sort of fan that I’m truly grateful for, and I want to express my thanks, once again, for all of you that have shared in this wonderful adventure thus far. I couldn’t do it without you.

What Makes a Classic Novel Popular?

There are many novels that we would consider classics. Stories that have outlived their creators and found new readers with each passing generation. But not all classics are what we may consider popular in today’s culture. Many classics seem to live on mainly in schools and universities as required reading in a sort of artificial life-support rather than the healthy independence of a novel that people buy and read because they want to.

Of course, I’m not saying that assigning classic literature in schools is a bad thing. In many cases, it’s the first exposure students have to the kind of writing that challenges them to really think and consider what they’ve read rather than simply seeking to be entertained. But what makes a certain type of classic novel popular? Why are characters like Tarzan, Dracula, and Frodo Baggins still a significant part of our culture decades after they were created?

The simplest answer is that most people have been exposed to these characters outside of their original works. Movies, TV shows, and even video games and graphic novels have turned classic characters into brand names, something familiar that the average consumer feels like he knows and is therefore more willing to spend money on. These days, it’s likely that most consumers are first exposed to classic works of fiction through some medium other than their original work.

However, I believe there’s more to a popular classic’s appeal than its level of exposure. I think it’s safe to say that every classic novel has been adapted to some other medium at one time or another, but that doesn’t make them popular, just recognizable. This is why I believe that a classic book needs more than a move tie-in to make it popular today, and I think it has something to do with the quality of the original source material.

Put simply, I think it’s in the characters. A well-written character can withstand both the test of time as well as any number of adaptations, re-imaginings, and reboots as long as they are equally intriguing and empathetic. A popular classic character is both relatable and interesting, with qualities that remind us of ourselves and motivations that we can understand and care about.

Think of how many different Sherlock Holmes’ we have seen over the years. Many actors have left their own marks on the genius from Baker Street. Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch… they’ve all taken the name of Sherlock upon themselves, and yet the character himself has outlived them all. This is because Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his detective both nuanced and complex while still leaving enough flexibility within his development for readers to share in the creative process using their own imaginations. As we read a Sherlock Holmes mystery, we create our own version of the detective in our minds, and it’s that level of intimacy that builds a lasting relationship between the reader and the character.

In the end, the popularity of a classic work of fiction is probably a combination of good storytelling, characters that are relatable across different cultures and time periods, and a healthy dose of serendipitous good fortune. My only hope is that we never lose sight of the original works that introduced the world to the stories that we love, and that we continue to go back to these classic books even as we are entertained by the adaptations and reboots that pay homage to the original creator’s genius.


Thanks to Derek Schreiber for suggesting this week’s article. Leave a comment below if you enjoyed it or have a suggestion for a future subject.