How Research Helped Me Build My Own Dragon
by Resa Nelson
Because I did a lot of library research for my 4-book Dragonslayer series, little tidbits that I discovered along the way helped me figure out how to make my fantasy world my own. My goal was to create something unique and personal. One of the most important things I did was to figure out how to create a different kind of dragon – one that might have really existed in our world.
When I was in school, it seemed to me that people looked down their noses at people who lived in the past. I think people who lived in the past were just as smart as anyone today, in some cases even smarter. For example, to the best of my understanding, no one has figured out how the great pyramids of Egypt were built – their architects were brilliant. It always bothers me when people today ridicule people of the past, especially when it comes to creatures they reported seeing.
While doing research, I came across a report that listed recorded sightings of dragons. The time period for these sightings began during the Roman Empire and ended as recently as the Renaissance. This report named names, and the people reporting dragon sightings included priests and government officials. The reports included information about what people saw and when and where they saw it.
So I figured these people saw something. I know what it’s like to see an animal you’re not expecting to see. I remember seeing pelicans for the first time, flying above a beach in Florida. I’d never seen pelicans, even though I knew what they were. I immediately thought of pterodactyls. I didn’t know they were pelicans at first – but I felt I was looking at huge and ancient-looking creatures flying through the air.
A few years ago, I saw a fisher cat for the first time. It was a freakish experience. I was looking out my window and saw what looked like a giant weasel creep by. I got a long, good look at it, and I kept thinking, I don’t know what this animal is. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It looks like a monster! I contacted a friend who knows about local wildlife and found out that fisher cats (which are essentially giant weasels that can measure up to 3 ½ to 4 feet in length from nose to tail) live in my area. One of their favorite snacks is housecats. I love animals, so it was a very bizarre experience to encounter an animal that I didn’t know existed, especially when it came creeping around my home. If I hadn’t been able to find out what it was, I would have told people I’d seen a giant monster weasel.
So what if the term “dragon” in the past means something else today? I’m convinced that people who reported seeing dragons saw some kind of animal – the question is what kind of animal did they see? Could it have been a bird, like a Great Blue Heron? Large birds look enormous when they’re flying and can have outrageously huge wingspans. Or could it have been an animal like an alligator or crocodile? I thought about this question for a long time. My research led me to a specific animal I knew about (unlike the dreaded and creepy fisher cat). When I started researching that animal, I began to see connections between what we think of as a classic fantasy dragon and this real-life animal that still exists today. The next time I write a guest post on this blog tour, I’ll talk about that animal and why I decided to model the dragons in my series on it.
During this blog tour I’m telling lots of stories about the research I’ve done for my Dragonslayer series. You can find out where I’ve been and where I’m going next by checking my website (http://www.resanelson.com), my Facebook page (Resa Nelson & The Dragonslayer’s Sword), or following me on Twitter (ResaNelson).
If you’d like to sample my work for free, you can download a free “mini” ebook called “Dragonslayer Stories” from my website at http://www.resanelson.com/files. No cost, no obligation, nothing to sign up for, no information gathering. I like giving away samples of my work so you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not. If you do, you can enter to win a copy of the first two books in my series, which I’ll give away at the end of this tour on Feb. 14. To enter, just send email to ResaBonusGifts@aol.com. (I won’t keep your email address – this just makes it easier for me to keep track of entries.) I’m also doing a book giveaway on GoodReads, so you can enter to win there, too.
The Dragonslayer's Sword (Book One)
For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover--the dragonslayer--disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.
Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.
Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much...or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?
Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it’s her duty. She’d rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?
Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer’s sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.
In Book 2 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid must learn that deciding who she is isn’t a decision she can make just once. It’s a decision she must make every day.
About the Author:
Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award, the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy. It was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in a 4-book series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was recently published. Book 3 is scheduled for publication in Summer 2012.
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
In real life, Resa is a fan of chocolate, travel, summer, museums, ballet, movies, and Broadway musicals (her favorites are Les Miserables and Wicked). She lives in Massachusetts.
Free “mini” ebook of Dragonslayer short stories: http://www.resanelson.com/files
Ebooks ($4.99 each) are available directly from Mundania Press at: http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)
Paperbacks are available from Mundania Press, Amazon, and Barnes&Noble:
http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)
A big Thank You to author, Resa Nelson, for being a part of the blog!!
Happy reading, everyone!