Raised by Dragons, and Other News

The Mythgard Institute’s Writing Contest, mentioned before, is still going strong. This week, Twitter Fiction! My muse growled at me last week, and it doesn’t seem to like 140 character limit of this week, but we will see if I can goad it into being poetic without losing fingers (or a limb). It has been voracious and unruly. It had me writing snippets from what will probably be book 4 or 5 of my W.I.P. when I’ve yet to complete books 1 and 2, though I should also blame one of the characters involved in that little detour. I’m looking at you, Kee, and shaking my fist. No, you cannot pacify me with cookies!

In the Mythgard contest I am thrilled to say that I won 1st runner up in week 1, and 2nd in week two! (Yeah, so much for keeping my name away from this blog, but hopefully I can bury this post, or at least edit it later). This means I get to be published in their special-edition e-book!  My 2nd entry for week 2 also made an honorable mention, and I will post it below for your reading enjoyment.

Is it weird that, in the face of all of this, my brain is trying to tell me that I can’t write anything worth printing? Because it is. Somehow, I think that brutal voice will follow me all of the days of my life no matter what comes of my scribbling.

Brenton Dickieson has also won the privilege of publication twice! You can read his devastating and humorous tales in the linked pdfs above, as well as the other fantastic winners. Enjoy the honorable mention: Mud, by my good friend, David. Hopefully a wonderful dragon story of his will be published to his blog soon, too. Other honorable mentions are being posted at the Oddest Inkling: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. I don’t know the author of this one (though after reading this, I want to!) but it is brilliant: There is Not a Unicorn in the Bookstore. If any of y’all post a story for this contest to your blog, let me know because I want to link it here!

And now, for my own honorable mention. Sørina Higgins said that it made her cry, which is an overwhelming encouragement to me! Brandi, and anyone else who reads this who knows a certain dragon-connected wizard from my canon, here’s his origin story. I bet you didn’t know that fudge pie and E. A. Poe played such important roles in his wizardy history.

Raised by Dragons

At eighteen, my world popped like a bubble. I was standing in a cavern where I thought there was an ordinary basement laundry-room. That is what it had been the day before.

.
In my hands I held my first grimoire, my birthday present, heavy and bound in old leather and brass filigree. In my ears echoed the revelation: “You have wizard’s blood in you. You have to choose. Leave this world, and follow your blood, or stay and ignore it forever.”

.
But what held me rooted was the sight of my foster parents. Until yesterday, they were nothing if not ordinary. A middle-aged husband and wife, counselors for “at-risk youth.”

.
“At risk” would be a mild description of me when I came to them. Before that, my life was a succession of strangers, some nice, some cruel, most in between. I ruined every good situation. There was too much anger and far too much fear to control.

.
But they were different, strict, but also dauntless. After a while, when nothing I did seemed to rattle them, I settled in.

.

Then the blackmail began. I hated reading. Books were boring. “Fairytale” meant “Disney,” and dragons were only tattoo designs.

.
He handed me a book of short-stories and pointed one out. “We can discuss it over dessert.”

.
What he meant was “if you can’t discuss this with us, there’ll be no dessert.”

.
After months of similar extortion, he handed me Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” My foster-father smiled and said “we can discuss it over dessert. I’m thinking hot fudge pie and ice cream.”

.
I wanted to punch his smug face, but I wanted that pie more, so I sat down to suffer through another story. I was bored, at first. Archaic language, weird names, references I didn’t get, and this mysterious “armadillo,” but, by the end, I was caught. No spoilers, but the gothic darkness of it all, the tension, the subtext, left me chilled and hungry for more. He had dog-eared several other stories, the beast. I read the next one. And another.

.
After that, I looked forward to dessert discussions.

.
As I approached eighteen, I feared I would have to make way for the next “at risk” kid.

.
The night of my birthday, I came home to find my foster-mother waiting by the door. Without a word, she took my hand and led me to the basement stairs. I figured they had a surprise waiting. I wasn’t wrong.

.
And then they stood before me in their true forms. Dragons are like living cathedrals, with wings of stained glass, Byzantine mosaics for flanks, smoking-censer mouths and eyes that glow with soft, prayer-candle light. I knew I could not go back.

.
“I’ll follow my blood. Tell me how.”

.
My foster-dragon-mother nosed the nearest cavern wall. It opened on a grassy field at night.

.

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

18 responses to “Raised by Dragons, and Other News

  • Brenton Dickieson

    Well, thanks for posting this. You took a risk with this story: 1st person narratives always have the risk of sounding narcissistic. But this is the kind of dragon story I would have liked to have written–if I wasn’t so weird! Actually, your dragon in the pantry piece–which I didn’t see the force of the first time (I must have skimmed it), is exactly my kind of humour. I’m jealous you thought of it first! But I would have bungled it, leaving the whole upsidedownness as a punchline–a surprise that would confuse all but the most committed reader.
    I didn’t know you were you! To win twice is pretty amazing. I would love someday to win on the literary side of things, but pleased to be included. My strange Princess Bride-Arthur-Wall Street piece isn’t at the same level as the others, but oh well.
    And… there we are: the voices of self-doubt! So, no, you aren’t alone in that.

    • jubilare

      Lol! I hope he didn’t come off as narcissistic. This story actually came pretty easily, both because it’s been knocking around in my head for over a decade, and because the character has been with me for at least twice that.

      The dragons-in-the-pantry entry was more of a challenge. I adore reading humor, but writing it is hard! I had a third entry planned, too, but it never gelled.

      “My strange Princess Bride-Arthur-Wall Street piece isn’t at the same level as the others, but oh well.” I dunno, you had me rolling, and I felt the voices were perfect. There’s good reason you won the popular vote. Here’s to the people! There was seriously tough competition on the dragon-round, though. I’m a bit shocked that I made the cut.

      *sighs and ruffles own hair* It’s comforting not to be alone, but alas that any have to suffer this. Still, as a friend of mine reminded me, recently… if I didn’t have that doubt, my overconfidence would make me both a less pleasant person and a less skilled writer.

      • Brenton Dickieson

        There is a pretty narrow readership for Inigo Montoya raises a sword against Wall Street dragons, but there you go.
        I laughed at “Here’s to the people.”
        I’m not surprised by your stories making the cut. As Stephen King reminds us: write to flee the demons of self-doubt.

        • jubilare

          The sheer quirkiness of it! It’s like the kind of pop-culture mayhem that goes on in my head all the time, only coherent!
          I’d also love to know the inspiration for “One Step Into Dawn.” That one left me shaking a little and wondering “what the hell did I just read?” which is awesome in a completely different way.

          Thank you. Truly.

          For me, writing seems to be charging the demons head-on a la Light Brigade. Into the valley of Death Rode the lone writer.
          There’s nothing that makes me feel quite as inadequate as writing.

          • Brenton Dickieson

            Can I ask: Is writing part of your vocation in life–your calling, your central story of purpose? I ask because I think it is pretty intriguing that if this is so (and I think it is, at least partly), then you have been placed at the centre of your sense of inadequacy.
            If so, I hope you are ready for a lifelong journey. It will not be easy. But in the biblical story, at least, you are likely to be exactly the right person: the upside down reality that great skill emerges from great weaknesses, that the powers that change the world aren’t always very powerful. I’m reading right now how Moses pleaded with the Lord that someone else do it. He knew something about inadequacy.
            Can I take a moment to affirm you? I can’t say whether your work is commercial, or viable economically, or resonant with any of the rapidly changing streams in the marketplace. I can’t say that even of myself or of the books I beta read.
            But you have something. Let me give you the highest compliment that one writer says to another: Your writing is good. No superlatives, just the sheer reality that you have skill with the pen.
            Thanks for your comments on my piece. It gave me courage!

          • jubilare

            You may, and it is. I feel that very strongly, though I know I could be proved wrong. Still, though people have been turned aside from stronger leanings, I would be a bit shocked if it turned out that this weight, desire, and drive were a red-herring. I do think I am meant to write, even through all the doubt, and I’m left praying (often quite desperately) for God’s help covering my inadequacies. I find encouragement in remembering God’s delight in using broken vessels. If I have a need that He can fill, so much the better. That’s why I love the lightning mentioned in my other comment. It’s a reminder that what comes through me isn’t always of me. Thank you for the reminder. That seems to be the best weapon against the doubts and fears. I’m to do the best I can and offer it up. What happens from then on isn’t in my power anyway. <3

            Courage, mon frére. And whatever else, don't stop writing!

          • Brenton Dickieson

            Oh, forgot to answer your question. Inspiration on One Step into Dawn.
            The “Bible” behind the story is that there is an elevator that shows up on a hill in some future community. The doors close and the person disappears forever. Then the elevator returns. It remains open until someone steps in. Rinse and repeat.
            Where do the people we go? In the story our character steps in and goes to a future where our world is no longer fit for live. Doubtless humans and life have adapted, but the air is sulfuric, toxic, deadly.
            In the short version I had to go on just the one point: would you go to an elevator to an unknown place? We sometimes glibly pass over the decision of the portkey/wardrobe, etc. When you know the threshold is a temenos to the unknown, it is hard to decide.
            It was hard to write. It would probably make a better 1500 word story. It leaves too many open questions. But I was haunted by the lurid sky, by the first breath in another world, by all we can see in a single glance at a sunrise.

          • jubilare

            Thank you! Wow. It’s such a powerful, jarring thing as it is. It might make a more coherent story if it were longer, but I think the bare-bones of it has a lot of punch and power. It’s so sharp and simple, and the unanswered questions leave a good amount of mystery without compromising what is happening.
            We do like to fantasize about portals without always considering the possible consequences. Exile through a clock and death through an elevator.

  • Brenton Dickieson

    So this is an anonymous blog, so I won’t say who wrote it. It was actually this piece in Week 1 I voted for. It was a “you had me at hello” story. The title is awesome, and then the first line…
    “Never Trust a Clock”
    That space between “tick” and “tock” is brief, but if you listen too well, it yawns wide
    –only two words with two syllables, the whole line a poem. I would pay the Literary Mafia to write like this.

    • jubilare

      You say that, but keyboard and pen protection money…
      Also, I’d bet that protection money that you can write like that when the muse strikes just so. There’s hard work, and there’s lightning, and those who think the latter belongs to them just because it grounds itself through their fingers are fooling themselves.

  • Colleen

    I love the exchange. <3

  • Krysta

    I really enjoyed this piece! Not only did it include one of my favorite things ever (dessert), but it also managed to surprise me at the end.

    I don’t think the self-doubt ever goes away for writers, but, for what it’s worth, I’ve admired all the writings that I’ve seen from you.

    • jubilare

      Dessert and E.A. Poe got great together, in my opinion, though there are a few of his stories that might be a bit too squicky to pair with pie. ;)

      The self-doubt can, to some extent, be helpful, as it spurs me to work hard, but when it gets so bad that I get discouraged, it’s a problem. So, thank you for your encouragement! It helps me keep my proverbial head above water.

  • wispywillow

    Ee! I love the glimpse of this character’s backstory. The bribery with dessert is great :D

  • Phantom Library | jubilare

    […] is also a sequel to Raised by Dragons. The names of characters have been altered to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real […]

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