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.
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.
A quick progress update on the status of my in-progress romance novels as we all sleep off the holiday either at home, because we’re lucky, or back in the office if you’re like me and have to work today.
The first draft of Gabriel’s novel is complete!
Okay, yes, it’s a first draft. And yes, it’s very rough. Most of my first drafts are. But it’s done, and it’s a lot longer than most of my first drafts. We’ll see how that goes later when I start revision.
2. I received and read through the feedback on Seducing the Ice Queen.
My Beta reader was fabulous, as always. She helped me identify a weakness that, when I’m done fixing, will make the hero more fleshed out and the story stronger. Helped identify a few other areas that need to be cleaned up, too, but I’m starting to feel a lot better about this WIP.
3. I am making the changes to Ice Queen now, and I hope to have them done before July 21st.
They are good suggestions, but not easy ones. Still, they’ll make the story better.
4. I’m thinking about cover design for Seducing the Ice Queen.
If you’ve seen any covers you think would be inspirational, please send them my way!
5. I’ve been toying with the blurb for Seducing the Ice Queen.
I worked with a professional to write the blurb for To Love a Prince, and she gave me some tips on how to build one. I’m planning to map out her advice, have a cocktail (her recommendation), then tackle it on my own. I still think I’ll hire her again to help me with this one. I really liked working with her. Yes, she wrote the blurb, but she taught me a lot, and I figure it’s an investment in both the book and my own skills
Things on my “To Do” List
I’m waiting to hear back from my editor.
It’s my first time using this editor, and I’m both nervous and excited to work with her. Once I get her comments, I will start working on another edit. Depending on the extent of her comments, I think I will still be track for a September launch date.
Alexander and Katherine
These are two new characters floating around my thoughts. I hadn’t planned on writing this story next, but they are rather insistent. Their story is already taking shape, and I’m not sure it will be ignored.
Continued from A Knight’s Prayer Part 1.
A Knight’s Prayer
Sir Gabriel blinked then stared down at the elf wrapped in his tabard. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t-”
Leopold chuckled. “Unless you’re an elf, I know you didn’t.”
Relief loosened Sir Gabriel’s shoulders. “She couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old when I found her. I was walking along the sea as part of my rehabilitation and found her among the wreckage of a ship.”
“So you brought her back with you.” Sir Leopold bit back a smile. Sometimes the gods gave you what needed in the strangest of ways.
“I’ve been searching for her family since I found her, but I haven’t found them yet.”
“Can’t be easy taking care of a child by yourself with your duties and working on healing that leg.”
“I’ve been very fortunate. People have been willing to help. Thalia’s compassion beats strong in Tamryn.”
Sir Leopold chuckled as he watched the tall, broad-shouldered Knight gently brush a lock of hair from the little girl’s cheek. Thalia may play a part in people’s willingness to help, but he suspected the Twins had a hand in it, too.
“I brought her to Aerius at King Eli’s request.”
“King Eli?” Leopold’s brows shot up. “What does he want with a foundling elf?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m supposed to be meeting with him and Queen Auburn.”
Leopold leaned back against the pew. That meant Auburn had a vision. One strong enough and with big enough implications that Eli felt it necessary to investigate. Both interesting and terrifying. The elves were formidable but isolated.
Or they had been.
And he’d preferred it stayed that way. The fewer uncertainties the better while dealing with the eastern provinces.
“Tell me when you go meet with King Eli. I’ll come along with you. He can’t intimidate me no matter how much he tries.”
“I’m afraid he’ll tell me to send her away.” Sir Gabriel tucked his tabard around the child. “I don’t know where I’d send her. I’ve tried everything I can to find her family.”
“They may not want to be found. Elves are an odd bunch.”
“You’ve met them?”
“A few times, though none that look like this one.”
Sir Gabriel cupped her tiny hand in his. “There’s something else you should know. Her eyes aren’t human.”
“Of course they’re not. She’s an elf.”
“They seem to glow.”
“Like I said, elves are an odd bunch. Never met one that wasn’t more than twice my age, and most were a lot older than that. Maybe all of their eyes almost glow as children.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
Sir Leopold pushed himself to his feet. “Staying in the barracks while you’re here in Aerius?”
Sir Gabriel nodded.
“You’re not anymore. Get your horse. You’re gonna come stay with me, and I’ll introduce you to Marcus and Brelynn.”
The young Knight’s eyes widened. “But Sir Marcus-”
“Is a good man who’ll help Brelynn spoil Aurora. Might even catch Mara spoiling her when she thinks no one is looking.” Sir Leopold knelt before the altar to Dracor as Gabriel stared at him, whispered a prayer, then straightened. He nodded toward the young Knight. “Don’t make me make it an order.”
Sir Gabriel gathered up Aurora and cradled her against his chest as he pushed himself back to his feet without his cane.
Sir Leopold smiled. Boy had a long way to go, but the gods were on his side.
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