Category Archives: dragons

A Writer’s Insights and An Assassin’s Fate

With the stress of the holidays, or maybe just the distractions, many authors are finding it hard to stay on track with their writing and marketing. I’m reading blogs that mention burn out. For me, it’s both. I’m thinking of what to get my family for Christmas, and I’m shopping with my daughter at the mall. There are parties and plans that preempt my writing. Meanwhile, I’m losing the momentum of the story.

Hence my blog is late, and my writing even more behind schedule. My editor is yelling at me and my publisher is disgusted with my procrastination.

Oh, wait…

That’s me.

The hardest taskmaster of them all.

To feel better about this author experience, I offer several blogs for writers intent on becoming authors. The first, if you haven’t read it already, is Hugh Howey’s blog on becoming a writer. If you have read it, now’s a good time to re-read it. He offers great insight into the writing process.

1. His first insight is that the only obstacle to writing is you. To become an author you have to start writing. As simple as it sounds, many authors use various excuses to block their goal of completing a novel.

2. You can’t compare your rough draft to books you’ve read. Those have been polished and edited by professional people.

3. There is no special qualification required…to write.

4. The best writers are the best readers.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep it in mind, oh impatient one.

6. Whoever works the hardest will get ahead. In this insight, High mentions that it is easier to work hard if you are passionate about what you do. I find this very true.

7. Competition is complicated. The number of books out there isn’t important. Your book may be the inspiration or escape needed for a particular reader. Don’t let the numbers swamp you.

8. Be helpful and engaged. Authors should help and encourage one other.

9. Know your readers

10. Know your industry. Treat your writing as if it were a business.

These are the highlights of his discussion with important and insightful comments to support them. To read the complete blog, go to:

http://amazonauthorinsights.com/post/165774835635/writing-insights-part-one-becoming-a-writer

Then, I recommend reading his follow-up blogs starting with writing rough drafts. I swear he was a fly on my wall. I do a lot of my writing in my head in the shower, before I fall asleep, or generally while driving. Then, I put words to these scenes I have created. He describes this same process for his writing.

Who knew?

At the moment, I’m at what he calls “the crux.” Noting that it was a normal phase in writing relieved a lot of my current frustration. I eagerly read where he describes how to get out of this impasse. Give me that machete so I can cut my way out.

http://www.hughhowey.com/writing-insights-part-two-the-rough-draft/

There are several more blogs on the writing process that I’ll visit in a later blog.

The second blog I recommend is the Passive Voice. PG (passive guy) writes a lot about how Amazon has changed the industry in this blog and ends up with these statistics on author earnings that I found interesting.

You may, too.

A few facts from Author Earnings (emphasis is PG’s):

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/12/publishings-greatest-challenge-might-surprise-you/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThePassiveVoice+%28The+Passive+Voice%2

In 2016, two-thirds of traditionally-published fiction and non-fiction books were sold online.
• About 75% of adult fiction and non-fiction books (including both traditional and indie published) were sold online (77% of fiction, 72% of non-fiction) in 2016.
• In early 2017, Big Five publisher sales on Amazon were 20.8%–or barely one fifth–of all Amazon US consumer ebook purchases.
• As far as the earnings of individual authors who have debuted in the last three years:
◦ 250 Big Five authors are annually earning $25,000 or more from Amazon sales
◦ 200 recent small or medium publisher authors earn $25,000 or more from their Amazon sales annually
◦ Over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years are earning more than $25,000 per year from Amazon sales
• Looking at earnings of debut authors from the past five years, more indie authors are now earning a $50K-or-better living wage from Amazon than all of their Big Five and Small/Medium publisher peers put together.
• Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authors and 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.
PG suggests that traditional publishing’s greatest challenge is demonstrated by numbers like this.

Lots to think about.

Another reason this blog has been delayed is that I was reading the 800 page tome by Robin Hobbs called Assassin’s Fate. I have been an avid reader of all Hobb’s books, and I am particularly fond of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.

There are eighty-eight percent five stars out of 755 reviews. So, I’m not alone.

The story: Fitz Chivalry’s daughter, Bee, is kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society that uses dreams of special children to mold the future, often for their own benefit. Fitz Chivalry and the Fool believe Bee is dead, and they embark on a revenge mission to wipe out the whole island where this sect lives to destroy them utterly. The Fool had vowed never to return to where he grew up, was tortured, and finally escaped. But now, he joins his closet friend to wreak vengeance on his earlier persecutors.

Unbeknownst to them, Bee survives and is dragged across the land and sea by her sadistic abductor, who believes she is the chosen one. She brings along a small group from the island who bend to her commands. One minion, when given the spit of the dragon, can control the minds of those around him, except for Bee, who has special talents she hides. She can dream the future also, but she doesn’t reveal this fact to her tormentor. Others bend to her kidnapper’s vicious demands and also bully Bee.

So, yes, there are dragons and ships and magic and many old familiar characters from several of her other books that make a cameo appearance.

Read the earlier books first, write up all your apologies for chores being left undone, appointments missed, late blogs, and then enjoy this fine conclusion to the story of Fitz Chivalry and the Fool.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Hugh Howey, Hugo winners, Indie Publishing, magic, Self-publishing, Writing Tips and Lectures

Trends in Science Fiction

IMG_9503I’ve been noticing an interesting trend among authors I know. After a reasonable amount of books and years, they are taking control of their work, redoing the cover, and polishing their earlier writing.

It used to be that once a book was written, that was it. Set in stone. Now, authors can improve their work as they become better writers.

And many are doing just that.

Because of the constant updating of software in various programs, apps, and cell phones, the current society is becoming used to constant improvement and change.

I think this is a good thing…for the most part. I have gone through Caught in Time and re-proofread and fixed some of my earlier punctuation and grammar mistakes. Graduating with a Masters degree in English certainly didn’t make me perfect.

But as a more, ahem, mature woman, I find that as soon as I learn one program, phone, etc., I have a new “improved” version thrust on me that I have to figure out. Sometimes I want to scream. You hear me, Word and Windows?

Phew. Now that’s out of my system.

Alliance of EqualsToday, I want to mention an old favorite that has come out with a new book in an extensiv, ongoing series. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have a great series in the Liaden Universe that I have enjoyed over the years.

My own Alysian Universe has been heavily influenced by their stories and format. While I submitted to the traditional houses, I continued to write. I didn’t get discouraged. Well, I kept going, shall we say? When Kindle and Createspace emerged, I had a number of books already drafted. Even so, it has taken several years to get them all published. This gig isn’t easy.

I didn’t have the courage, the knowhow, or the time to be able to distribute them using the computer. I remember vividly sitting at a table at Orycon with TOR editors and being told that if I put my stories out over the Web, I would be blackmailed by traditional publishers and my books would never be published.

So I didn’t.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller also continued writing exciting stories in an expanding universe and eventually were picked up by Baen books where they now have a new novel coming out, much to my delight.Koraval's Game

Alliance of Equals is their newest offering. In fact, I received an ARC (Advanced reader’s copy) The book is due out July 5, 2016. So be one of the very first to know about it. Hot off the press. Sizzle!

The story continues for clan Korval of the Dragon-and-Tree. Master trader Shan yos’Galan and his heir and apprentice trader, Padi yos’Galan, are on a mission to re-establish their trading routes while hoping to add some new ones. Their whole clan has relocated to a planet called Surebleak (now there’s an inspiring name) after being banned from their home planet of Liad. Funds are low. Unfortunately, their Liaden enemies from the Department Of Interior are still working against them and trying to destroy their trading business by various methods.

As they visit different ports to rebuild their trade routes, they encounter problems. While this is going on, Padi hides a dangerous secret that could threaten her coming off age and even her life.

I love the descriptions of the spaceship and the various ports. Intertwined with the science, Lee and Miller develop characters that hold mystic powers. These supernatural powers are really interesting and add a drop of fantasy flavor to a basically science fiction story.

Dragon Variation vol.1Continuing to innovate, Lee and Miller were among the first to bundle their stories into what they called Omnibus Volumes. Three or so earlier books were grouped together and a new title and cover added.

This idea, several years later, is a hot tend among authors. Some group according to topic. For example, there ‘s a new book bundle out on stories of clones by popular authors. Others pick stories with a certain theme.

Lee and Miller have taken their short stories and put them together in “story collections.” The Liaden Constellation Vol. 3stories are often related, told from different character’s viewpoints, and all are set in the Liaden Universe. I have read Volume One and Volume Two already. Now, three is out.

The process of how we read is changing, thanks to new technology and innovators such as Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

And it will continue to change.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, dragons, ebook marketing, Liaden Universe, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space ship, The future of publishing

Noir Fantasy with a Cutting Edge

IMG_0165

Is it just me or are fantasy novels getting grittier? Looking over several lists, I notice that fantasy dominates popular reading and selections for 2013, but ever since Game of Thrones, the stories I’m reading seem harsher, gorier, gritty. Does this reflect our society? And in what way? Are current writers being influenced to write coarser protagonist with more violent plot lines?51LqynbphlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

In George R.R. Martin’s last book, Dance with Dragons, the hero still standing  was a one-eyed dwarf with a torn off half face who suffers from dysentery. You end up with him at the close of the story on a gory battlefield knee deep in mud.

No swashbuckling hero him.

Skin GameAnother current favorite is the urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden fights to protect the city of Chicago against vampires, goblins and evil enemies, but he is usually tattered, aching, bruised  and needs a bath when dealing with “the dark side.” It is only after he dies and becomes a ghost that all the aches and pains go away. Yet his frustrations continue with the limitations imposed on his ghostly self. Can’t even twist a doorknob open.

Now, the next book coming out in May is titled Skin Game…and dare we hope he returns to his battered human self? And what mayhem and grotesque ghouls and evil doers will he confront to cause this transformation?

What sparked this introspection is that I’m currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and while the writing is vivid, every character seems damaged in some way. One of the main characters is Glokta, an Inquisitor, who performs particularly violent procedures to wring confessions out of his victims.

I couldn’t get to sleep last night for images of fingertips flying through the air as he hacks a confession from a prisoner, or teeth breaking under pliers as he wrenches information out for his master all the while groaning in his own pain and agony. Even the king is a fat gross fool who is manipulated by greedy and power hungry ministers. The supposed brave knight/soldier is such a self centered fool that you want to strangle him yourself the moment you meet him. Still, the story is engrossing and I do keep going back for more. This seems to be the popular offering nowadays.The Blade Itself2

Whatever happened to unicorns and strong jawed heroes that save fair damsel?

Fantasy is not reality…it’s fantasy.

Reality is for tv shows.

Interesting that two of the Oscar nominations were in the science fiction genre. “Gravity” dealt with outer space and “Her” with a man following in love with a computer.

No wonder I want to jump back into the science fiction genre where I only have to deal with space battles and the occasional deadly aliens.

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Filed under dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Noir Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic

The Overwhelmed Author

IMG_0180Are there other authors and writers out there overwhelmed by all they are told they need to do and little time in which to accomplish it?

With Amazon opening the floodgates of self publishing in 2009-2010, I am now hearing the moans of authors saying, “I have no time to write anymore.”

Marketing has reared it’s ugly head.

Even those carrying contracts with big and little publishers are tasked to do the lion’s share of their marketing. Everybody has turned to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,Google+, Goodreads, Librarything, LinkedIn, etc. and finding social media can create a black hole in their time and energy without any knowledge of what return is gotten on sales. Everyone’s experience is different. Some swear by social media, while others question its effectiveness. As old ways shift to new strategies, we feel like we’re on unsettled ground.

In addition, the Indie author is struggling with formatting, editing, cover design and downloading protocol. It’s doable, but time consuming unless you farm it out…and then beware. Everyone has a book to sell on marketing or book design. Various publishers are ready to rip off the uninformed writer who has no time to research what a good contract should look like, what distribution is best or just the basic business of writing.

Check out http://kriswrites.com to help you. It’s an exciting world out there to be sure….but overwhelming.

And if you’re writing, I am hearing the complaint that there’s no time to read anymore. Welcome to my world…and I write a book review blog. Gah!

This week I strayed off course (“Again!” you say.) and picked up Constellation 2 (just out) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Constellation 1 is also out.

Constellation

As some know, I’m deep in the Liadon Universe series and this is a compilation of short stories published over the years for various magazines and venues.

The interesting point here is that these authors kept writing and putting out work while they tried to find a publisher. They kept on. And on.

And developed a fan base, or what everyone is now calling “a platform.”

Think persistence if you want to be successful. Remember the parable of the tortoise and the hare? So, because of their persistence, they also have a wealth of content that they are bundling into anthologies. In addition, they are taking their novelettes and putting two or three together, adding a new cover and title and republishing to a new and building readership.

If you own your copyright, you can do this. Hear me Indie author…the power is yours.

Constellation2Constellation 2 is a delightful group of stories. Lee and Miller have a way of making their characters feel alive. In each story, the plot is interesting and the action strong.

For example:

In the first story, a young girl struggles in a world where women are controlled and repressed. Father has several wives picked out by his father. Women are not taught to read and are expected to stay home and serve their chosen husband . But Ina Bhar is the mousy third daughter with a clever mind and her father, a scholar, lets her into his world by teaching her to read and think. He bequeaths her the Curiat, a dangerous book that brings about his death at the hands of those searching for it. Using the book, she plots to escape her bonds, her world and those that would kill for its secrets.

Not one normally for anthologies, these stories feel like quick additional peeks into the lives of characters I have read about over the years. They are a side venture, not explored with the major plot but vignettes that adds depth and deeper understanding to characters and events already introduced in the series. They are familiar characters or situations that I am eager to learn more about.

So, here is an example of two authors who are getting creative with their efforts, and stories written long ago for other venues are finding new markets, and adding some efficiency to the role of the Indie author.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Best selling science fiction, dragons, genetic manipulation, Liandon Universe, Science Fiction Anthology, Science Fiction Novelettes

Species Symbiosis: Pets in science fiction

IMG_0193Two new kittens tear across my feet, jump and land in a tussle of ferocious claws and fur, wrestling with each other. Tails flick, haunches wiggle and soon one is soaring through the air with a mighty pounce.Image 3

Nothing like two new cats  to distract my gaze from the wet, chill weather that has moved into the Northwest.

So, throughout history and even into fictional alien worlds has humanity attempted to bond with other species.

A treecat in David Weber’s Honor Harrington series springs to mind. A sense of communication and symbiosis wrapped around Honor’s neck much like a pelted scarf.OnBasiliskStation

Sky DragonsOr the dragons of Pern by Anne McCaffrey that humans imprint on the hatching grounds and forge a telecommunication link that can transcend even time.

Robin Hobb also carries out this theme of telepathic dragons in her own dragon series. The more recent ones being Blood of Dragons and City of Dragons. Also in her Farseer trilogy, the young boy hero bonds with a wolf.Royal Assassin

The Zero StoneAndre Norton’s The Zero Stone starts a series where the ship’s cat ingests a strange seedpod and evolves into an entity that names itself Eet and follows the hero as his companion into adventures.

Timothy Vaughn writes in Dragon and Thief about a dragon alien, named Draycos,  that blends onto the young hero’s back and legs, but can leap out into three dimensions to interact at need. Talk about getting a wild tat.Dragon and Thief

In the Liaden universe,  several family cats are cameoed and even a tree appears to communicate with the Delm of Korval, dropping magical seed pods whenever necessary.

John Scalzi’s hero, Jack Halloway,  battles to prove sentience in a small furry creature that he befriends in Fuzzy Nation.  Human and creature face off in a legal battle against the big business of  Zaracorp that has its own plans for their alien world.51CG59JWAeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

If you’re searching for a story of alien and human bonding, here are just a few samples of species symbiosis in science fiction .

Do you have any favorites?

We humans form friendships and alliances with other species on our own Earth, so why not with aliens from other worlds? From dolphins to horses, cats to dogs, many other species have enriched our life and eased the drear of coming winter with adorable gamboling and warm, cuddly affection.Kittens copy

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Anne McCaffrey, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, dragons, Liandon Universe, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Uncategorized

Does Science Fiction have a Gender Bias?

IMG_9503Is reader gender important in science fiction?

I’ve been led to believe that men and women read different types of stories.

In our writer’s group we have four women and two men. When we only had one male, the criticism was always…give more description and detail. What do the walls look like? What are they eating? Wearing? Facial features?

Then we added another guy.

Suddenly we were talking about action in the story!

Myths of the MirrorI put a lot of action in my stories, but our fantasy writer does eloquent description and engaging characters. Check out Myths of the Mirror by D. Peach. I have been learning a lot from her on how to paint details and characters into my story.

Now, suddenly, with another male voice in the mix, the comments have become…when are they going to DO something?

We don’t know what color his protagonist’s hair is, or if  eyes are blue or green…but Ted writes compelling military action stories.

Check out  http://www.perihelionsf.com/archives/blasche001.htm “To Dance With the Ladies from IO6” by Ted Blasche. When the women fussed at him, he said that he wants the reader to engage his own imagination to create the character…and plot and action drive his stories.

Both work.

Why am I blogging about this?

Because as a writer, I need to figure out my audience, and I’m not so sure science fiction is as male dominated as some might think. Or that women are all about pretty description and intense emotion in a story. I know I’m not. I like both.

I was brought up short when one of the female readers from my book group critiqued Rendezvous With Rama by commenting that she really liked how clean and straightforward the writing was. Several chimed in that David Weber just put in too much description.

Is such a thing possible?

I had thought Rendezvous With Rama dry and needing more description. I wanted to meet the aliens or have the ship on some dramatic mission, rather than have our solar system be just a fuel stop.Rendezvous with Rama

Plot, character and description is a three pronged stool and the writer needs to keep in mind the audience he, or she is aiming at while writing.

Thank goodness, science fiction is also malleable. It can be intellectual with lots of science like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, or laden with love and emotion like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffenger. It can be a mystery like Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval series or military like Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

The fun is that you can write a variety of sub genres under the cloak of science fiction. Caught in Time is a basic time travel romance with a war thrown in for the guys. A Dangerous Talent for Time is more a quest story, almost young adult, as two main characters are in their late teens, early twenties. Then, Cosmic Entanglement has a murder mystery. Past the Event Horizon takes place on a starship and is very Star Trek with a space battle and emphasizes the science and physics of space . Space Song involves pieces of all elements: romance, military, mystery, science, young adult.space-song-cover-smashwords

So, today I’m wondering how to connect with my audience, and is there a gender bias there? Anyone know of any research along those lines?

Next week I’ll be in Nashville giving a talk on “Time Travel and all things science fiction,” and signing books. Also, a big wedding, and later, a hot card game with relatives. So, timing on when I get my blog out may be influenced by wild social activities. Fingers crossed.

Fair warning.

Next question is: Does science fiction have an age bias? What kind of science fiction is read by young, middle-aged and the mature audience? Is it different? Is there a preference that is determined by age? I know my twenty something daughter, who rarely reads science fiction, got caught up in The Hunger Games trilogy. Was it the plot or the characters? Maybe both.

And what group or subset is reading the most science fiction? Young kids? Old guys? Housewives?

Today, we ask questions of the universe. Tomorrow we seek answers.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, blog information, Classic science fiction, dragons, fantasy, hard science, Hard science fiction, Hunger Games, Mars, military, military science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction science, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, space ship, space travel, time travel, Uncategorized, YA science ficiton

Game of Thrones Rant

IMG_9503The human race tells a lot of stories. Everyone has a life story and some have a lot of stories…

We call them authors.

But what do these stories do? Why are they important?

I feel that they give guidelines and road maps that help us understand what it means to be human.

Joseph Campbell wrote “The Hero’s Journey” and in it tells how the protagonist faces problems, how he meets these problems and how he is transformed by the problems he faces.

From the beginning to the end, most stories show the struggle of life and how love, loyalty, “Doing the Right Thing” triumphs over wrong and evil.

It’s a template for how we should live our life. A path that points the way for human behavior.

Sure our character stumbles at times, we all do, but perseverance usually wins out to a satisfying ending. Good fights evil with courage and ultimately wins.

Usually, the bad guys go to jail, get killed or suffer. Tragedy reveals that wrong and evil carry a penalty.

And then the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” came along.

The rich handsome bank robber got away with breaking the law. He didn’t even need the money. The story ended differently.

No one blinked.

Dance With DragonsNow George R. R. Martin has taken it a step further.

I don’t mind the soft porn sex in the HBO series. It actually got my husband’s attention. Let’s face it, we humans are attracted to sex…

It’s a good thing too…for the continuance of the race.

I don’t mind the grittiness of how the characters live. Both in the book and the series my face is rubbed in the dirt of the rough side of living. Not only does Tyrion Lannister get conscripted into fighting, tramp through the mud, he gets dysentery and we get to read about him throwing up. Can’t  wait to see what the HBO version does with that.

Martin piles it on.

What I do mind, however, what enrages me, is that I get to know a character with good qualities…and they are tossed away, usually brutally, while one such as Jaime Lannister who had incest with his sister, who crippled the Stark boy, killed thousands in battle to control the throne is now being portrayed with sympathy. Oh, poor Jaime is being mistreated. And Martin doesn’t just slap his hand for saving Brienne from rape, he cuts it off.A Clash of Kings

Because he did something noble.

Finally…and gets punished.

Ned Stark loved his family, gave up Winterfell to serve his king because he was loyal, and he is betrayed. He had more than a hand chopped off.

If he were the only example, I wouldn’t be complaining so much.

A Feast for CrowsBut most characters that portray any desirable traits of love, loyalty, perseverance, courage, are tossed away, killed, punished, hurt. And the innocent Starke children are punished the most. Whether it’s Sansa in the opulent royal court being verbally abused, Bran on the run for his life in the snow, or Arya in the wilds of the woods scrambling for her life against vicious criminals, innocence and goodness are deadly traits whereas cunning and deviousness ensure survival.

What message is that telling us subliminally? That striving for good is a dangerous and fruitless endeavor? One not worth following?

But like the girl who can’t give up the bad boy, after I am literarily punched, beaten and dragged through the mud, I crawl back to the book or turn on HBO for more punishment.

And get it.

Yet again, I throw the book against the wall and yell, “Enough!” Only later, to pick it back up, hoping, hoping that there’s a good ending somewhere. That there is hope for good. That the struggle to “Do the Right Thing” is worth it.Storm of Swords

When the tale is told and the dust finally settles in the Game of Throne Series, I’ll be curious to see who triumphs…

And what it finally says about how we should live our lives.

And wonder if anyone blinks.

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Filed under dragons, erotic fantasy, fantasy, fantasy series, Political Science Fiction, science fiction