Many have asked where I got the idea for this book. I have been working on it off and on since 1989. My husband was in the USMC and we were stationed in North Carolina. He was gone most of that summer on different short term trips with the squadron he worked for, so I found myself alone on those rainy afternoons.
I would go to the library on base almost everyday and check out all sorts of books. One time I checked out a book about illustrating children's books. Once I read through it, I realized I could easily write a children's book. I was naive...
I decided to write down a couple of ideas I had for a book:
a boy and a dragon
a porcupine and a cactus
The dragon book came to me faster than the other so I went with it. I wrote down a brief synopsis and then did some sketches. Over time, the idea changed many many times until finally I settled on one idea.
Then, years later when we moved back to Phoenix, AZ., we had a son. So, the book was placed on the back burner as my son took all my time and energy.
When he was 6, I told him my book idea and he liked it. That gave me hope that maybe my idea was a good one. So, the book idea was brought back out again and I tossed around different scenarios.
When my son was 8, we read The Chronicles of Narnia books and watched the Lord of the Rings movies. These books and movies gave me more ideas for my book, but it truly was the stories from the Bible that impacted me the most. Stories of covenant oaths, loyalty and fidelity to those oaths, and the sacrifice of oneself for others all came together in my story.
The legend of King Arthur also impacted my book with its tale of the quest to restore the kingdom and lands.
When my son turned 10, he pretty much forced me to get to work on the book and he even provided me movie music to help stimulate my creativity and ideas as I wrote. He's the best!
Finally, this year I finished the book and sent it to be copyrighted. I am already on chapter 2 on the second book and it is coming along nicely.
Well, that's it in a nutshell! I hope you enjoy the story and my illustrations. My prayer is to have it published and available in early 2009.
Here is chapter one. I may add a few changes to it, but so far this is what will be published...
The Mysterious Woods
The trees that stood on guard in the forest were nothing extraordinary in appearance with their deep green hue that drew cautious approaches by the villagers. But within the forest green was something more beautiful, more mysterious than anything else in all the lands surrounding it. No one alive could describe it. For no man had entered and lived to tell. Yes, outwardly, the forest was nothing to behold, but inwardly…the mystery deepened.
The young boy felt the chill of the wind strike his face. His muscular steed trampled the earth beneath his body. The tan horse with white mane galloped with the confidence of a champion over the grasses. Together they rode in desperation to try and make it home in time for dinner. The boy feared his father would be angry if he was late. He had forgotten the time while he hunted in the green hills of the valley with his trusted quiver and arrows. His empty quiver dangled on his back. The arrows had long run out and with no game in his sack to show for his hunt, so he decided to return quickly while a sliver of sun still remained on the horizon.
Its neck wet with foamy sweat, the horse tried to keep riding while the boy tugged on the reigns to stop. Finally, the beast reluctantly obeyed. The boy stood by the entrance of the forest as the colorful leaves swirled in the breeze. The enigmatic woods, the great mystery of his youth, remained quiet. A small wooden sign splintered with age, windstorms, and rainfall through the years, with letters scrawled in black paint stood near the path. The boy stooped to try and read the faded words. Beware the Dragon Forest. He placed his fingers along the grain of the wood, but he did not heed its warning to trespassers. The boy knew it from legend. He hesitated. .
He could feel the change and smell the dampness in the autumn air. The wind blew colder. Snow is coming, the boy thought. He gazed up at the towering trees staring back down at him in a menacing way, or was it his over active imagination? The sun continued to set. He knew he had to make a decision quickly because the day would soon give way to nightfall. He decided to risk entering the forest in order for his horse to drink of the lake. The boy knew of the legend, but he did not fear what was inside the mighty wooden columns whether it be a temple for a Dragon or not. The forest somehow seemed to call to him.
No, he did not fear...at least, not yet.
The trees towered over him and hid the departing sun and, suddenly, it became very dark. The indigo mist rose in the darkness from behind the trees. Black crows hovered over the tree tops in their undisguised disapproval. Black as midnight they flew. He tried to remember the mythology of the crows. One crow is a bad omen, the boy thought. Or was it two? He saw the mist all around the lake and slowly led his horse to drink. With each footstep, the mist gave way to reveal the dark earth beneath them. They heard the soft breeze echo across the width of the blue waters and the echoes of the horse’s hooves clomping in the moist dirt below. His horse stirred. The clouds had parted to reveal the waxing moon. Its partial face glowed a white light glaring down as a sort of spotlight guiding the way to the lake. Rising high above the trees, the moon caused the trees to cast the blackest of shadows all around them in a web-like pattern on the ground. The boy felt like trapped prey waiting for a spider as he made his way out of the shadows and into the clearing. From time to time the crows entered into the white light of the partial moon. Fear began to penetrate the boy’s brave façade until, finally, he surrendered.
A chill moved across his flesh. His horse hesitated and neighed nervously. The boy questioned his decision to enter in, and he quickly changed his mind. In his repentance, he turned to mount his steed to quickly leave this place, but as he turned, he lost his way and could not remember from where he entered the forest. The trees, with their black bark, seemed to have engulfed him and hid the point of his entrance. Could it be that they were watching our every move? He thought.
He became even more dismayed with this thought as the wind became colder on his skin. Jumping down off his horse, he sat down by a tree and realized his escape would not happen. His body stiffened as the thought of what was out in the night paralyzed him. Together the two watched as the mist grew denser all around the lake like a thick veil. Is this the great creature’s breath? He wondered. He now feared that he had proof of the Dragon his father had warned him about, but now his father was far away and was most definitely very angry with him.
He closed his eyes in deep thought. His room with its soft feather bed and warm pillow ran through his mind. He closed his eyes even tighter and pictured the window of his room yellow and glowing warmly from the lantern placed beside his bed. He missed his toy soldiers carved from wood and his little wooden sword. Oh how he wished he had it with him at this moment. All he had was his bow, an empty quiver, and nothing to show for his hunt. His stomach growled when he thought of the smells of the kitchen and the warmth of its fire. His belly ached from emptiness as he thought of all the wonderful food. Oh, how he missed the food!
Just then his father’s face appeared and he opened his eyes. He missed his father most of all.
Suddenly, with eyes wide open, he heard a slow elongated hiss from behind him. It startled him, and the wind blew through the trees causing a black crow to flutter away. He jumped at the sound of the wings fluttering and the “caw” of the obnoxious black bird. The tree, with its scary web-like shadows on the ground, enveloped the boy and his horse as the branches rose up across the black sky lit only by white moonlight. What is going to happen to me now? he thought to himself.
He shivered as the breeze touched his bare forearms so he wrapped his small arms tightly around his bent legs until his knees were under his quivering chin. His horse stood nearby and he was still. Its eyes looked back and forth through the trees. It sensed something was near. Realizing he would have to stay in the forest all night until the sun came up, he sighed from frustration. Daybreak seemed forever away. Oh, come quickly bright sun! the boy thought as he closed his eyes.
Just then, from behind him he heard the same hissing sound. It was nearer to him now. He felt something deep within his soul tell him that someone or something was watching him. He turned and quickly asked, “Who is there?!”
No one answered. The blue mist was all around him now.
“Who is there, I say?” He asked again, but only the wind whispered through the trees. “My father is the King!” He hoped this would scare away any robber barons hoping to harm him.
Suddenly, and as quickly as the blinking of an eye, there before him was a small fire burning. He jumped to his feet and watched the orange fire glow cut through the darkness. He supposed it came from the trees nearby, but how? He looked all around but saw no one. The only sound he heard was the flickering of the flames. Smoke rose high into the night sky as the small fire illuminated the trees surrounding it. All he saw was the detail of the tree trunks in the orange glow of the firelight. They weren’t monsters waiting to wrap him in their looming arms. They were just trees, after all.
Something on the ground sparkled in the firelight as he looked down at his feet. A small scale glistened in the fire glow. Sparkling like a jewel on the ground, the boy wondered if it could be a dragon’s scale. He picked it up and admired it closely. He put the scale in his pocket for safekeeping.
He felt the fire’s warmth as he sat down beside it. The fire gave him comfort from the darkness and cold wind. He watched the orange sparks cast off from the twigs of the fire twirl high into the air traveling ever higher and higher like the fireflies of summer. The boy saw a few stars in the sky and felt assurance that all would be fine while somehow the trees hanging overhead no longer frightened him. Instead, they made him feel safer. He blinked harder and harder as his eyelids grew heavier. He watched the flames dance into the night sky above him and his horse. He slowly lay down next to the fire and soon fell asleep. His loyal horse kept guard over the small boy’s sleeping frame as the fire remained safely lit all that night.
The next morning, the boy awoke to the sound of his horse nearby scraping the ground with its hoof munching on some grass. Only smoke rose from where the small fire had been. Realizing it had been extinguished, he looked around the quiet forest. Only a few brown sparrows rushed from the trees into the morning sky above them. A brilliant blue sky greeted him as a slight breeze filled with the moisture of morning dew blew across his face. The smell seemed familiar. It smelled like home. His horse whinnied in a friendly way and shook its head. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, the boy mounted his rested horse and inspected the small space where he had slept. Then, grabbing the reins to steady his horse, he turned it left and looked over to see the blue mist that hovered there above the lake. The sight was beautiful. The peacefulness and tranquility gave the boy an overwhelming feeling of safety. He remembered.
“Thank you.” He softly whispered to no one he could see, but he had an idea, a feeling deep within, that the legend of the Dragon just might be true. He felt a presence. This thought gave him comfort, but only for a moment. He knew now he must return to his father who waited not knowing where his son was that morning. He could almost see his father pacing back and forth from fear.
He yanked the reins right and saw there in front of him, the very spot where he and his horse had entered into the forest. He wondered why he hadn’t seen it the night before. The winds blew and more birds sprang forth from the tree tops welcoming the warmth of the morning sun. Then the boy, with hands tightly grasping the leather reins, gave a gentle kick on his horse’s side. Together they quickly rode off in between the majestic trees. The black crows still circled overhead, but they remained silent as they watched.
Riding quickly over grassy hills and through the villages, the boy never looked back at the Dragon Forest.