Dragons are creatures of wonder and possibility. They can be evil in some stories, honorable in others. Their abilities can range from flight, to strength, to telepathy, depending on the story you read. All in all, these creatures are limitless.
This is exactly why I write about them. My series, the Dragonwall Series, is full of dragons. There are both traditional and shape shifting dragons called, Drengr. My decision to write about dragons stems from further back in my life. I didn’t simply wake up one day and say, “Hey, I’m going to write a seven book series about dragons and it’s going to be EPIC!” No. That’s far from what happened.
I fell in love with dragons at an early age. I have always been an avid reader, so when I got my hands on Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider of Pern series, it was immediate love. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this series if you haven't read it. In this series, dragons are created using biochemistry, taking small dragonettes indigenous to the planet Pern, and breeding them to become large fire-breathing beasts. There are twenty something books in this series, and I devoured every one of them. Pern’s dragons come in a vast array of colors: blues, greens, golds, browns… You name it. They hatch from eggs and bond to a rider upon hatching, sharing a mental, telepathic link. Humans lucky enough to form a bond become Dragonriders, with a duty to protect Pern from the threat that falls from the skies in the form of “thread.”
As a seventh grader, the books were a little over my head, but that didn’t stop me. Dragons called to me even then, filling my head with fantastical ideas. If I created a dragon, what sorts of powers would it have? How large would it be? Would it have two legs or four? Could it transport itself between space and time like the Pern dragons? Or was it limited to flight the way birds are?
I fell asleep at night imagining that I was a dragonrider. I would think up various scenarios with dragons, daydreaming as I put my own stories together. Most often this was done in class as I listened to a boring teacher drone on about something far less enjoyable (hey, what can I say, I wasn’t a perfect kid). My own mind became my escape. I could leave my world behind and step into whatever one I dreamt up. My favorite dragons were the honorable, good dragons, so these were the types of dragons I created in my mind.
Daydreaming about dragons became an addiction.
In high school I fueled this addiction with the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. I read the books and loved them, but they still didn’t fill the void left behind by Pern. So instead, I reread the Pern series for a second time. It took me about two years to do during my final years of high school. Then I began college, studying for a degree in physics. I never considered that with my wild imagination, I might do well as an author. Those thoughts didn’t cross my mind. Daydreaming was a secret of mine, something I didn’t intend to share with anyone.
I went on to obtain my PhD in physics. I continued to be an avid reader throughout my schooling, stealing time to read fantasy books in between classes and coursework. When I wasn’t reading, I was imagining a story that had taken shape over years past, a story of a girl who travels through a portal to a land filled with dragons. In a way, that girl was me. I wanted to see what it would be like to discover a portal to a distant land filled with dragons. What would I do once there? Where would I go? What would I find?
Thus began my world building of Dragonwall.
The story was something that developed over years and years of daydreaming. In 2012 (my first year of grad school) I decided that it was high time to write it down. That was the first time I ever considered writing a book. My desire was fueled by the need to read my own story on paper. If I wrote it out, I would be forced to live it the same way I lived any story written in a book. So I began writing. I didn’t get very far. About seven chapters in, I gave up. Writing is hard!
I had discovered Wattpad at the same time. Wattpad is a place for aspiring authors to post their work for avid readers to read for free. It’s an amazing platform. I loved the idea of sharing my story with others. But it was intimidating—putting my work out there. I put up my first seven chapters. No one read them. Zero. Zilch. I looked on Wattpad at my “competition” and became discouraged. Everyones work seemed far better than mine. Within a month, I took my work down. *Shrug* The writing life wasn’t for me. I was silly to think that I could write a book at the start of a PhD program.
Deep down, I felt a little worthless. I had failed at something that had initially excited me. Oh well, can’t succeed everywhere.
I didn’t give it a second thought until 2015. The same story was nagging at me, and even more developed than it had been. I dug those seven chapters from the depths of my hard drive and looked them over. “Hey! These aren’t so bad,” I decided. I noticed that Wattpad was doing a challenge. It was November and there was something called “NaNoWriMo” going on. National Novel Writing Month. I looked at this as a challenge. Write 50,000 words in one month? Why not? Challenge accepted! Granted, my wedding was in a month and I was pretty checked out my research. If I couldn’t focus on my PhD work, why not do something else productive with my time?
So I sat down and wrote Talon the Black. In three weeks, I finished the first draft. Don’t ask me how I pulled that off. It was crude. Riddled with mistakes. Lacking fluidity. Meandering plot. But I had something. So I took a deep breath and posted it back up on Wattpad. This time, I wouldn’t take it down.
Things were slow at first. Maybe people weren’t as interested in dragons as I was? Or maybe I just wasn’t getting my story in front of the right people. So I started “playing the Wattpad game” and getting my story exposure. It was hard work. Really, really, really hard work. I had to go to other peoples profiles and read some of their stories. I had to network. I had to do trade critiques and trade reads. I admire the brave souls who read Talon the Black in its infancy. It was pretty…crappy. What first draft isn’t?
When I finished my first draft, I realized something monumental. Physics wasn’t my passion. I enjoyed it, yes. I was good at it, too. But physics wasn’t what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. Writing was my passion. I vowed to finish my PhD, which I did in 2017. But I promised myself that I would eventually retire into writing. My goal still stands: I plan to retire into writing at the age of 45 (in 15 years). I currently work as a senior design engineer at a world renowned lighting company. I love my job. It presents new challenges daily. It gives me a reason to push myself. But it will never do what writing has done for me.
I got married in December 2015, one week after finishing my first draft of Talon. My draft sat on Wattpad for about 2 months. In that time, a few brave readers offered me some excellent feedback. That was hard to handle at first. Getting critiques on something you create is never easy in the beginning. It comes as a personal attack on what you’ve done. Your work isn’t perfect, it has flaws, and someone is pointing to those flaws, bringing them out into the open. Of course, I’ve grown a lot since then. Now I understand how important feedback is. I also understand how to handle it. At the time, it was a tough pill to swallow. But I knew that I wanted this story to be the best that it could be. To shine. So I swallowed my pride and read through all the feedback. Some of it left me smiling, some of it left me frowning.
The work was only just beginning. Writing a draft was the EASY part. I took my draft and began editing it, keeping in mind the suggestions I had been offered. Chapter after painful chapter, I tore it apart. I questioned my decisions. I talked to a few friends who had become fans of my work, discussing plot ideas, vetting things out.
My draft of Talon the Black grew from 50,000 words to a whopping 120,000 words (published, it’s 180,000 words. If that’s not epic, I don’t know what is).
After three months on Wattpad, Talon was getting exposure. HUGE exposure. I went from 10 reads, to 100 reads. From 100 reads to 1000 reads. From 100,000 reads to 500,000 reads. I couldn’t believe it. I had fans! What?! Wait…how did that happen?!
Not only that, people began following me. I remember there were days when I would get on Wattpad to find 200 or 300 people had followed me in ONE single day! Suddenly I had 100,000 followers and I had no idea how that had happened. Now I’m sitting pretty at over 115,000 followers.
When Talon the Black hit about 600,000 reads, I began writing the sequel, Reyr the Gold. After finishing that draft, I realized that I wanted to take things a step further. People were coming to me, asking me the same question: When can I put Talon the Black on my bookshelf at home? I had never considered publishing my work on a formal level. Writing was something I did for fun. I enjoyed escaping into Dragonwall, living life through Claire’s eyes. I never imagined anyone would want to have my book on their shelves at home. But they did.
My Wattpad fans are the reason I published my work. But the road to publication was rocky. I had to pull my draft of Talon down temporarily and completely rewrite it (for a second time). I was going to make it publication quality. When I put it back up on Wattpad, those 600,000 something reads skyrocketed.
When I hit 1,000,000 reads on Wattpad I cried. When I hit 2,000,000 I was numb. This many people enjoyed the story? Turns out, yes. I had developed a cult following. My Wattpad fans are seriously amazing. AMAZING.
Talon the Black was published worldwide in February of 2019. It was one of the biggest moments of my life. I published it independently because I had so many people screaming to get the book (now, now, now). I decided to avoid the traditional pub road because I was a full time engineer by then, working a rigorous job. Writing was just a hobby, after all. I didn’t have time to submit query letters, nor wait on an agent to find me a publishing house. People wanted the story NOW. Not in two years.
Eight months after Talon’s pub, I followed with the second book, Reyr the Gold. Sales skyrocketed. I couldn’t believe it. People who didn’t know me from Wattpad were buying my book. I had promised myself that I would be happy with one book sale per week. Instead, I was getting one per day. And with very little marketing on my part. I didn’t do any publicity stuff, and I still don’t have much time for that. Now I’m up to 5-6 books a day on average. Wow. Really?! Sometimes I still can’t believe it.
I write because I love it. I write because dragons create a sense of wonder that nothing else can fill. I write because it makes me understand that on paper, anything is possible. My journey is only just beginning. I still have five more books to publish in the series. I’ve even started a side series that takes place in Dragonwall. My first book in this series is set to publish July 3, 2020 and is already available for pre-order.
If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that a person can do anything they set their mind to as long as the passion is there. I’m lucky that I found something I love, that I found my passion. Not everyone is so fortunate. Dragons are, and will always be, my favorite topic to write about, even as I venture out into other sub-genres as an author. In the past four years, I’ve grown and learned more about writing than I could have ever imagined. I can’t wait to see where my future takes me!
<This was done as a guest post on reysdragon.comfor their blog.>