To Catch a Dragon
Ndrek sat behind the bar and studied his mid-afternoon customers. Some had started drinking early, others had rented a room for the night and were just starting their day. Nothing terribly interesting among the entire lot.
Perhaps it was a good time to start work on the new spell he’d discovered.
As he slid off his stool, the door to the bar opened and the man that entered stooped to get under the door frame. Sir Leopold’s shoulders matched his height, and the gold dragon on his breastplate seemed to glow in the dim light.
The archetype for the Knights of Valor.
Now was more definitely not a good time to work on the spell.
Sir Leopold grimaced and lifted his boot off the sticky floor.
“To what do I owe this…” Ndrek paused. “Honor?”
The Knight leaned against the bar, his back to the wall as his faded blue eyes surveyed the tap room. “Don’t believe for a minute you’ve settled down as a barkeeper.”
“That is not what brought a High-Knight to my humble establishment. Perhaps you came for a Fire and Brimstone? My establishment is said to make the very best.”
Leopold stared at the pristine glasses behind the counter. “At least those are clean.”
“Too much cleanliness would scare away my best customers.”
Leopold’s eyes narrowed. “Not what I came to see you about, though I probably should.”
“Your presence is not conducive to my business. What has brought you here so you can be on your way?”
The Knight ignored the jab, reached into his cloak, and withdrew a sheaf of papers imprinted with the wax seal of the dragon church.
Ndrek sucked in a breath as he studied the sealed documents. “You have an army of Knights blessed by Dracor Himself. Why would you have need of me?”
“We’ve been issuing more of them lately. Not enough Knights to oversee all of Tamryn and the eastern provinces.”
“Then you need more Knights.”
“That’s up to Dracor,” Leopold said.
Ndrek bit back his quip about fickle gods. Knights were notoriously touchy about such things.
“Figure you’re getting bored about now. This’ll keep you busy and out of trouble. Pay’s not bad either.”
Ndrek grinned and took the papers, but he frowned as he read them. “This is a goose chase, as you Tamarians say. Dragons have been extinct since before men walked these lands.”
“Locals of Kelleran don’t agree with that assessment.”
“A dragon.” Ndrek rocked back on his heels as he tried to wrap his brain around the idea. “Are you sure?”
“Nope, but that’s where you come in.”
“Would not the followers of the Dragon God Dracor wish to be first on the scene?”
“Already sent a contingent of Knights.”
“They did not return?”
“Of course they returned. They didn’t see any dragons, and they didn’t find any proof that there’d ever been any.”
“Then why send me?”
“Found a few things that made some folks worry there might’ve been a dragon. Knights couldn’t tell if it was real or a hoax.”
“Would not the Knights know this best?”
“Dracor might take the form of a dragon, but dragons are magical beasts. Or they were.”
“No wizard was with the team you sent?”
Sir Leopold shook his head.
“So you think I will be able to tell for sure.”
“That’s the reasoning, anyway.”
Ndrek stared at the bundle of papers, including the generous payout. Far more interesting than tending bar.
Sir Leopold pushed off the bar. “I’ll send Knight Kailis over. She was on the original expedition. And Priestess Vaiya.”
“Was she on the original expedition as well?’
“No, but I figure if you find a dragon, you’ll want the healing skills of Priestess of Thalia on your side.”
Ndrek frowned. “You think there might actually be a dragon.”
“Doesn’t much matter what I think. It’s what you find that counts. I’ll send Knight Kailis over in the morning.”
The High-Knight nodded to him and left the bar, leaving Ndrek with the writ in his hands.
If Sir Leopold thought it was a goose chase, he wouldn’t be sending Ndrek, a Knight, and a Priestess of Thalia to investigate.
Sir Leopold also hadn’t become a High-Knight by being wrong.
Okay, maybe not so secret. I’ve been struggling with this latest rewrite on my novel.
When I received my beta readers’ comments, I read through them, nodded vigorously, and spent the next ten days revising my WIP with these comments in mind. I think they added a lot to the story.
Then I received the comments from my paid editor.
I read through them twice. I pondered them. I told myself over and over again that editors are usually correct and these are changes I need to make.
But actually making them?
That hasn’t really happened easily. After more than a month, I have completed less than 1/3 of what I did in ten days for beta reader comments.
But then I’m not terribly surprised.
I read the comments again, and one recommended that there was so little going on in the story that I should consider chopping it down to a novella. That surprised me as one of my beta readers liked how plot driven this novel was.
But then who wants to be told about a character’s emotional state more than once in a romance novel? Yes, that was sarcasm. Sorry.
Interestingly, one of my beta readers wanted more description of character emotion.
Another comment recommended using flashbacks to tell the back story rather than have so much of it come through dialogue. After all, who is Auburn and Eli? That told me the editor hadn’t done any research on me, or read the part where I told her this was the second book of a series. It also told me she didn’t read much in the romance genre as I can’t remember once, in over thirty years of reading romance novels, where an author used a flashback. I’ve also read a lot of writing advice about not using them as it rips the reader out of your world.
I’m not certain the editor was revising a romance novel with a mystery supporting it. I think she was revising a mystery with a romance in it. But that’s not what I wrote. Or what I wanted to write.
I’m now more than a month away from when I received the editor’s advice. I will take some of it. For example, I will try to give you more insight into the villain and why he was doing what he was doing. Make him appear less one-dimensional and motivated by more than greed and jealousy. I can do that. I can also try to throw in a few more red herrings.
But honestly, I am starting to see how bad advice can be worse than no advice at all. Worse yet is bad advice mixed with a bit of good. Trying to sort through it and pick out the parts that work, without swallowing the bad parts, is tricky.
It’s extremely hard to put so much of yourself into something like a book, then hand it out to a stranger. A professional, but still a stranger, and pay for their help to make it better.
It’s harder still when you’re not sure they’re right.
As I’ve been working on this rewrite, I’ve been spending a lot of time doing everything BUT rewriting my latest romance novel.
I am not a procrastinator by nature. As a matter-of-fact, I regularly complete projects at work early. Here may be why.
3 Reasons Science Says is Why I Procrastinate
1. Avoidance Behavior
If you dread the task ahead of you, you may avoid doing it in the short-term. You know, procrastinate. This can cause a vicious cycle, but it does play into #3 below in that it gives a temporary feel-good emotion while you’re doing something other than what you dread.
2. Lack of Motivation
People are known to procrastinate when there’s very little motivation to do a hard task. I need to think more about this. I was loving this book and on a roll with it until early July. Something derailed me.
3. Present Emotions vs Future Emotions
There’s a very real emotional punch you get when you accomplish something. And as humans, we tend to prioritize the moment over the future. And watching a funny cat video? Instant laugh.
I need to do some thinking on this. Something changed to make the task less desirable, triggering both my avoidance behavior and my lack of motivation.
How about you? Do you procrastinate? What do you procrastinate doing? What’s your fix for it?
He signed Evan Goldleaf on the document then slid it across the desk. Jerold Bellamy scrawled his signature across the paper then held out his pudgy hand to shake on the deal.
Goldleaf merely smiled, letting his reputation take over.
“Sorry about that,” Jerold mumbled as he took back his hand. “Customary and all.”
“I hope this will be a long and prosperous partnership.” Goldleaf dipped his head as he stood. He never took off his gloves, not even in the afternoon heat. Another of Goldleaf’s idiosyncrasies, but one others tolerated as doing business with him tended to make them wealthy. As it would Jerold Bellamy if he abided by the agreement. If he didn’t, well, Goldleaf would deal with Jerold accordingly.
“As do I,” Jerold said.
Goldleaf motioned toward a young man with a thick shock of unruly blond hair. “Nathan will see to all the particulars.”
It was likely the one and only time Goldleaf would meet Jerold Bellamy face to face, and he was glad for that. The man washed too little and wore too much perfume.
Nathan bowed then took the chair Goldleaf had vacated. The lad had a sharp mind and was eager to prove himself. This was a rather simple deal, but if the boy handled it well, Goldleaf had a great deal more for him.
It was too bad he’d lose the young man in only fifty years or so.
But then humans just didn’t live very long.
Turning the meeting over to Nathan, Goldleaf strolled through the offices, assuming a bored indifference. Few glanced his way as he appeared to be like every other successful merchant in Aerius.
His glamour spell was holding beautifully, but then most saw what they expected to see. The spell simply reinforced it. Yes, the occasional child pointed at him, or stared, but most parents quickly corrected their children and fussed at them about their lack of manners.
That suited Edrahil Goldleaf quite well.
He hadn’t thought of himself by his birth name in years. Easier to adopt a human name than listen to them mangle his elven one. Besides, no one questioned Evan. Edrahil might draw attention.
And he’d rather stay unnoticed. It had worked for 200 years. He wanted it to work for 200 more. Maybe longer.
His time in Aerius had originally been intended as a way to make amends for his trespasses. Now, his position in the capital city of Tamryn made him valuable.
Of course it did.
Few other elves could tolerate life among humans, much less build a thriving mercantile empire. And unlike so many of his kind, he liked humans. Yes, they tended to be dirty, uncouth, and always in a hurry, but they didn’t dwell on the past and forget to live. Sometimes that caused them to repeat foolish mistakes, but it also propelled them forward.
They were a boisterous, messy race, trying to cram too much into their short lives, but you’d be a fool to underestimate them. Most of the world already bowed to their dominance. If the elves wanted a place in this world, they had to find a way to coexist. Better yet, they’d have to find a way to thrive.
And Goldleaf would help them. They were still his people, no matter what else had happened.
But few elves agreed with him.
Another wedge between him and his home.
Goldleaf had been away so long, changed so much, he wondered if the woodlands of his youth were still his home. As his cane tapped against the marble floors, he knew the answer. Admitting it was something else.
But then, he had little need to admit anything. And if he were wise, he’d emulate his human companions and forget about such troubling things while enjoying an excellent glass of brandy.
He stepped out onto the street, planning to indulge in the brandy or perhaps open a cask of elven wine. Humans had never made good wine, but brandy was quite a different story.
Goldleaf’s carriage driver tipped his hat and pulled up to the building. As a footman opened the door, magic slapped Goldleaf.
The kind he hadn’t felt since leaving the elves.
His breath knotted in his chest as he searched the street for this threat.
There are lots of tropes in romance. One that I love, that lured me into the genre, is the promise of the happily-ever-after. That no matter what the author does, how twisted the plot becomes, I am going to get a happily-ever-after.
Yes, I know the real world doesn’t work this way. All I have to do is turn on the news to see that.
But reading is an escape for me. A chance to see bad people get their comeuppance. A chance to see characters learn and grow, rather than make the same mistake eighteen times and wonder why it’s still a mistake. Not that I know anyone like that…
Romance novels give this to me. It’s also why I choose to read them and to write them.
Lately, I have read a couple of books that were marketed as romance, but they lacked a true happily-ever-after. Seriously, if the heroine dies in the end, even to save her family, her lover, and the world, this is not romance. Perhaps it’s fantasy. Maybe it’s women’s fiction.
But it is NOT romance.
I have added the author that did this to my “never read again” list. Yes, harsh, but if I want a nebulous ending, I am completely capable of choosing another genre to read. Those genres may or may not give me a happy ending, and I know that walking into them.
Books like Uprooted are hard core fantasy, and while there is sadness and loss in it, we still get a satisfying ending. An ending that doesn’t kill off the heroine.
Certain tropes in romance will never appeal to me. I want my heroines to have agency, and rape is abhorrent. I will stop reading at this point.
This is part of the reason why I choose to write fantasy romance. I can create worlds where women can have power, own land, and fight wars. In addition to wielding magic, riding dragons, and having tea with elves.
Still, the happily-ever-after ending is more than a trope. It’s a keystone of the genre.
If a novel doesn’t have it, you don’t have a romance novel, no matter what an author tells themselves or their reader.
And frankly, I don’t need any more sadness. I want the happy ending.
My promise to you is that my romance novels will always have a happy ending.