How I Created My Dragons

How I Created My Dragons

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the continued process with The Dragonmasters: Part One. It’s clipping along beautifully and really started to take form from the great blob. But here’s the truth: writing about fantasy creatures is really hard. Writing about a creature that only exists inside your head is different than writing a person. I know how a person moves, thinks, eats, etc. So do you.

But dragons?

That’s a different story. We don’t see the way their scales roll when they move, the whip of their tail, or if they have 4-6 toes (claws?) Do they have opposable thumbs? Do they breathe fire? Steam? Smoke? What color are their eyes? Can they speak? Can they do math? Distinction is important for the imagination of the author and the reader in this regard.

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So what do I do to picture these creatures?

Pinterest.

Finding my Forest Dragons

There’s a lot that goes into finding out how I want people to picture my dragons, and Pinterest provides the perfect space to find and organize them. (Follow me here!) Where possible, I linked to the original content, but the rest of these pictures just go back to my Pinterest board so you can see the original art.

Many of you may recognize this photo from Game of Thrones. I love it for picturing a dragon in flight, from the position of their back legs to how thin of a membrane these wings are. 

MY DRAGONS: The wings are more broad at the body and not quite as pointed at the end. I’d describe their texture as leathery.

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

This picture is wonderful because there’s clearly a relationship between the dragon and the human!

MY DRAGONS: this picture perfectly shows the way I’d describe the chest, wings, and lower body of my dragons, but with a little less bulk. They’re strong but occasionally wiry creatures, and this neck is too thick at the base. Of all the pictures I’ve found, this is the closest approximation to height as well. This face is too narrow at the nose, however.

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

Dragon tutorials are the BEST for helping me figure out basic anatomy. (Like horns, for example. Some are long, thin, and angled back. These have a wave to them. Others are straight. There’s so much to choose from!)

MY DRAGONS: They have shorter horns that come off the back of their head. They’re sharp, but not super pointy

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

I love the structure and detail of the face/scales/mouth in this picture. Very stunning.

MY DRAGONS: The  horns and what I can extrapolate of the snout are definitely what I’ve pictured on my dragons. I like that the end of the snout is a bit thicker. My dragons have a thinner neck, however.

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

 

Yet another GOT shot that I love! The best detail about this one is the wing (which actually takes place of the foreleg—this dragon really only has two legs in the back while most you see have four and wings) and the texture of the wing attached to it. I don’t like all the spikes as well, but this dragon almost appears to have a positively human appearance in the sullen eyes. 

MY DRAGONS: The low, slouched posture to the ground makes this look like one of my younger dragons in adolescence, before they have the thick muscular chest.Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

This picture doesn’t give me any dragon inspiration directly, but I love the relationship between human and dragon here!

MY DRAGONS: In The Dragonmasters Part One, the relationships between the dragons and the witches is complex, at best. This is over a hundred years before Sanna and Isadora meet Bianca, so things are very different in the Central Network. This kind of relationship, however, is what Sanna longs for at the beginning of the duology and is constantly seeking.

FUN FACT—Sanna and Isadora died at 124 years old. 

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

This is another great picture to show the details of a dragon flying, but this time with forelegs. Also, it’s a great picture of the rider. Notice how her legs are in front of the wings?

MY DRAGONS—My dragons have four legs and wings, and the riders sit in front of the wings, using them to support the ride (as you can see here.)

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

The details of the scales on this dragon are very impressive, right down to the flange around the eye. 

MY DRAGONS—The thickness of this face (and the ratio to the human) is perfect for what I picture for my dragons. This one appears to have three horns or more, and mine only have two.

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

This is a great charge to get size comparisons. This has been a huge help as I picture each scene in my head. 

MY DRAGONS—Mine are in the third row. Though not as long in the tail, their body structure and neck length is similar to the black dragon that’s classified as huge.

Defining My Dragons: How I Envision My Dragons by @kcrosswriting

Whew!

Trying to decide and piece together my dragons has really come from time, reading lots of dragon books (if you don’t follow my monthly newsletter, you’re missing out!) and figuring it out as I write. Turns out that dragons are REALLY bossy. Look out for a post on their scales, eggs, personalities, and communication style!

Don’t forget to share this post with any of your dragon-lover friends and grab your free copy of my first novel, the award-winning YA Fantasy novel Miss Mabel’s School for Girls.

Miss Mabel's School for Girls is only $0.99 until June 12th! Snag your free copy today.

What is your favorite thing about dragons? Tell me in the comments!

Moana: The 3 Act Story Structure

Moana: The 3 Act Story Structure

Being an author is kind of a curse. Whenever I watch a movie, I can’t help but analyze. Everything. So when I first stumbled on Moana, I knew I had something brilliant. I sat on the floor and watched it with my son. Read: I sat on the floor in a sobbing mess while my son set the house on fire behind me.

Houses can be rebuilt. Don’t worry.

I loved it so much I turned it into a study and broke down the what and the why of this near-perfect story structure. For you other story nerds, this is going to rock. your. world.

Read on, Moanaites.

Moana: The Three Act Structure

This is all opinion, my friends. Feel free to dispute, but we all see things differently. I should also note that I draw a lot of this structure that I’ve developed from an amalgamation of three different people:

KM Weiland

Maxwell Alexander Drake

The Story Grid Podcast

Characters

Main Character/ Protagonist: Moana

Wants: to explore the ocean

Needs: to save her people

Antagonist:

Te Ka, the lava monster. The decaying crops and island as well, resulting from Te Fiti’s lost heart.

Themes:

Main Theme:

What are we defined by?

It’s important to note that, by the end of the story, Moana brings this full circle with the help of the antagonist. Which is part of the reason I feel the ending payoff is SO satisfying. Also, this is a theme that pervades throughout humanity. At our core, we are always searching for origins. For what defines us.

It’s also worth noting that even Maui struggles with this theme, as he feels he is not “Maui” without his hook.

Sub Themes

Relationships:

—The most notable of these are within her family. This theme pervades through the whole story on several levels, from her grandmother, to her parents (mostly her father), and then to a connection with her ancestors.

—Another strong, pervasive relationship extends to her and the ocean. This one is so important because it invokes a huge sense of wonder from the very beginning. I want the ocean to communicate with me and show me all the best shells! It’s this sense of wonder that, for me, makes this relationship so strong and compelling.

3 Act Structure

1st Act

Hook:

Moana’s grandmother tells the story of the missing heart of the ocean. (And children start screaming and fainting). While this definitely pulls the watcher in, I feel the best part of the hook is when Moana encounters the ocean and we see her deep connection to it.

Inciting Incident (Start of the Story):

Moana learns of issues plaguing her island; the coconut trees are dying. There is no fish.

Refusal of the Call:

Moana fails when she takes a canoe out on the ocean, then on the beach, resigns herself to being a leader. Through this scene we learn that Moana has a huge sailing deficit: she doesn’t know how to do what she wants to do. It’s quite dangerous. This sets the stakes in a beautiful way.

Key Event (Pulls MC into the story):

Moana’s grandmother shows her the ships of their ancestors, and she learns that they used to be voyagers. They used to explore the ocean the way she wants to.

1st Plot Point (Point of No Return):

Moana’s grandmother dies and gives her the heart of the ocean. Moana accepts the call to save her people, find Maui, and restore the heart of the ocean to Tafiti.

Another note: right before this happens, Moana’s father is just about to burn the canoes and demolish all chances of Moana restoring the heart. This was great to ramp up tension for what Moana is about to do.

Note 2: the death of her grandmother at this point invokes a huge sense of wonder, especially when her “soul” races after Moana and follows her into the ocean.

2nd Act

Strong Reaction to 1st Plot Point

We see this as a series of events, I believe, as Moana struggles through her new reality: IE—she has no idea how to sail. She’s full of hope. Fatigue. And finally (when she’s stranded on a random island) frustration and anger.

1st Pinch Point:

Convincing Maui/Getting the heart back from the coconut pirates. This is arguably one scene because there’s no definitive break, but I’d still consider it two scenes. At this point, we see what they’re up against, as well as the value of the heart.

Midpoint (the MC turns to fight against the antagonist)

Moana (and the ocean) convince/force Maui to teach her how to sail. She takes action in order to make the events come about.

2nd Pinch Point

Getting the hook back from Tamatoa for Maui.

Note: After this scene, we have a really good reaction scene where we learn more about Maui. From there, we have a montage of post midpoint “wins” when Maui reacquaints himself with his hook and prepares to defeat Te Ka.

3rd Act

3rd Plot Point (lowest point):

Maui and Moana fail to defeat Te Ka. Maui leaves. The main theme is reinforced with his words “Without my hook, I am nothing!” and then Moana’s response when she repeats her grandmother’s refrain.

This foreshadows Moana’s later strategy when she returns.

Outside Help Scene:

Moana’s grandmother comes to give her strength when she’s convinced she cannot do it. Moana has hit her lowest point and feels she cannot go on. (A very typical and necessary 3rd arc scene, IMO).

This is absolutely one of my favorite scenes from the movie. This scene invokes emotion, wonder, connection, and pulls in the two main themes I identified earlier of family and identity. I think it’s worth mentioning that Moana makes the choice to continue going forward. There’s a shift from negative (Maui leaving, their failure) to positive (she’s empowered, knows who she is, and sails on alone.)

Climax:

Moana (a now competent sailer) takes on Te Fiti alone.

Maui shows up (which could arguably be the Outside Help, but I still feel the grandmother is more established of an outside help in that regard.)

Just as Maui is about to perish, Moana calls Te Ka’s attention and faces the monster on her own. The highest point of the climax is when Te Ka crawls toward her in a burning mass of fire and smoke.

Note: The reason this climax is, in my opinion, so strong, is because it calls back to the main theme that’s been pervasive for all main characters, but in their own ways. (That of identity). That’s why this is masterful storytelling. Not to mention the strong sense of wonder that Te Fiti’s return invokes. Even Maui, at the end, learns that he doesn’t need his hook to be who he is.

Resolution:

Maui receives his hook back, Moana becomes the Master Wayfinder for her people, and her people become voyagers yet again. The island is saved!

Final Thoughts

Reading the Wikipedia page for Moana was surprisingly validating. Here are a few tidbits about the story itself that made me feel better about my own story process. (Because let’s face it: it gets ugly to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite to get it all perfect.)

—To say Moana went through drastic revisions is undercutting it a bit. The original storyline had Moana as the only girl amongst 5 or 6 brothers. The addition of her grandmother came much later. At one point, they considered having Moana save her father. Another thing that surprised me was the various number of people who worked on Moana

—Over 90 animators worked on this movie.

—Even after the development processed had finalized, and production already started on the actual show, they found major plot issues and problems and had to hire outside help to come in and fix them. Much of it revolved around emotional resonance. (Which is a major highlight of the film for me.)

What did you think of Moana?

Leave your thoughts in the comments. Can’t wait to hear what you thought!

How To Publish 13 Books in One Year

How To Publish 13 Books in One Year

It’s not news that some people can crank out up to 20 books a year. In fact, it’s considered survival in the Indie Publishing world. I’ve never met anyone that wrote this many books, but I do know. Katy Regnery. This is Katy and she is publishing 13 books this year.
Romance author Katy Regnery
I don’t do a lot of guest posting as a general rule, but when I found her, I couldn’t help myself. When I found out her schedule, I had to ask her more. She graciously agreed to an interview!

Writing Thirteen Books in One Year

From starting the first word to hitting ‘publish’, how long does it take you to finish writing a book?

When I self-publish, it takes 60-90 days for a full-length novel, and 2-4 weeks for a novella, nuts to bolts. When I publish with a traditional small press, it takes anywhere from six months to a year from the first word to publication.

Ok, then let’s talk about your book covers. Do you have more than one designer?

LOL! No! Only one. I have used Kim Killion for every single cover, with the exception of The Wedding Date, my Kindle Worlds novella. When I ask Kim to do my covers, I send her the purchased art work and a complete Powerpoint or Paint mock-up of the cover right down to colors and suggested fonts. She puts it together and polishes it for me. My covers take 24-48 hours on average to complete. Katie says: Oh, so you’re, like, organized and stuff. MAKES SENSE.

That’s a pretty intense rate of book release. How long do you plan on keeping this pace going?

I have no idea. I guess for as long as possible, though it’s been an enormous amount of single-minded dedication and huge amounts of work. I guess I’d like to slow down a little and maybe publish 6-8 books next year. Katie says: Right, like the rest of us humans. I’d be entirely happy with 3. The problem is, when I’m in the middle of a story, I’m very driven and compulsive about finishing it, so I write very fast…plus, I feel very lost without a project. That combination equals a lot of books!

Your recent release of The Vixen and the Vet hit #1 on the Amazon charts. (I read it, BTW. Lurved it.) Describe that feeling in 12 words.

It’s not as euphoric as you’d think because it’s still very fleeting. <— impressive 12 words.

Book covers and accolades aside, have you paid for the braces of your editor’s children?

Katie, you are a riot. Prolific writing unfortunately doesn’t equal prolific sales, but I’m working on that. By now, I *might* have paid for a Fluoride treatment. LOL!

Outline a typical Katy Regnery day for me.

Okay…a “typical” weekday…
7:20am Woken up by my daughter to do her hair for school, followed by kisses good-bye to both kids (my awesome co-parent of a husband handles daily breakfast and bus!), then back to sleep
9:00am Wake up, maybe get dressed, make coffee, eat something, head back to my home office
9-11am Social media interaction, business, marketing, giveaways, reviewing ratings and reviews; if SM is quiet, I’ll start Writing Time early
11-4pm Writing time (2 hours – review last night’s writing, 2 hours – write fresh words, 1 hour – lunch and #LunchtimeLiveWithKaty)
4:00pm The bus comes home: “Mom” time begins
4-7pm Take my kids to their activities, help with homework, do the laundry, grocery shopping, MD appointments and errands, make dinner for my children, talk to them about what’s going on in their lives, help with baths and bedtime
7-8pm Writing time (quick review/edit of whatever I wrote from 2-4pm)
8-9pm  Dinner with my husband
9-9:30pm Social media interaction, quick review of all book sales for the day; check e-mail for other sales, marketing and business that can’t wait until morning
9:30-1am Writing time (I re-review last night and today’s writing and add fresh words. This is my most productive time…I’ve been known to hammer out 10K in these 3-4 hours.)

1:00 am Shower and bed

Advice for authors who can’t write 13 books a year but still want to be successful, myself included.

Writing 13 books a year isn’t typical, it’s nuts.

Figure out what your heart wants to say and be true to your voice. Whether it takes 23 days or 23 months or 23 years to write the book of your heart, that’s the book you’ve got to write, how long it takes is irrelevant. Readers will only respond to your writing if they’re reading little glimpses of your soul.  That said, Bella Andre once told me: “WRITE MORE BOOKS. It’s the only road to success.” Obviously I take her advice very literally! LOL!

Bottom line: Katy Regnery literally writes her brains out.

Thoughts, guys? How many books per year do you have a goal of putting out?

LINK LOVE: Click those happy fingers away, my friends.
Twitter- @katyregnery
Amazon – You can find a list of her works here because there’s many. But seriously grab See Jane Fall. <— obsessed. Be warned: Regnery’s work are full of romance and steam. Some steam the house up more than others.