If you enjoy fantasy with magic and dragons and a dash of romance – Lori Fitzgerald’s story may be one you want to read.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I live in New York with my fellow English Major husband and our two little bookworms. Medieval literature is my specialty and my passion and I would love to spend more time at Renaissance Faires during the summer, but alas my children want to go to the pool instead. I was a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade ELA teacher for many years and my homeroom students loved my dramatic readings of The Princess Bride after recess and before dismissal. Besides independently publishing under White Raven Writing, I am also a Staff Writer for the website Once Upon a Time Fans, which is the number one fansite for the ABC TV show Once Upon a Time. You can find my literary Origins articles at www.onceuponafans.com.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to begin writing? I started writing in 7th or 8th grade with a unicorn poem and from there through college I filled up two binders with stories, poems, and character and world sketches. However, my writing fell by the wayside as I walked the path of teaching and then motherhood. Once Upon a Time inspired me to create my own worlds again after 20 years. The website Once Upon a Time Fans and all the writers, artists, and crafters I met in the extremely creative Oncer fandom encouraged me that my lifelong dream of publishing could become a reality.
What is the last book you read? Dear Maymie by Debra K. Rodgers, for the Soul Gems Book Group on Goodreads. It’s not my usual (fantasy) genre, but it is a touching book written in a unique, epistolary style.
Which writers inspire you? Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea were the first fantasy books I ever read and they instilled in me a passion for the genre. The Dragonlance series by Weis and Hickman is my all-time favorite fantasy series. I also devoured all of Charles DeLint’s contemporary fantasy books, especially Moonheart. Indie author Diane J. Reed’s advice and encouragement have been invaluable to me on my writer’s journey and her writing style (Twixt, Robin in the Hood, and forthcoming Stone of Thieves) is magically eloquent.
Where did you get the idea from for your novelette, The Dragon’s Message? When I became inspired to write again I went through my old writing binders to revisit the abandoned lands of my imagination. The Dragon’s Message was created from the hand-written remnants of a story I began 20 years ago and a poem about a dragon that I had scribbled on the manuscript pages.
Can you tell us something about the story? Lady Rhiannon, keeper of the Dragon Tome, receives a message written with dragon flame in the evening sky that only she can decipher. When an old enemy threatens her castle, her father charges his champion knight with escorting her to a safe haven—the same knight Rhiannon adored as a girl. But now she must convince the knight to change his plans, for she has her secrets and her own sacred charge to fulfill, in a journey to hidden ruins where magic slumbers in the stones. Only the dragon knows if the lady and her knight can fulfill their destiny.
Who do you think will like reading your book and what other novels do you think are similar to it? I think fantasy readers who like a touch of romance and/or a medieval setting in a story will enjoy The Dragon’s Message. It’s also a novelette, only around 30 pages, so it’s a good lunch or commute read. The dragons in Rhiannon’s world have magic and their own spoken and written language, so it has that in common with a lot of fantasy works.
Are you working on a new book or story at the moment? There will be more stories set in the world of the Dragon Tome in the future, but for now I am working on a two-novelette book set in a forest realm. The first novelette, called Love Lies Bleeding, or Lady of the Forest, is finished, and I am currently drafting the second one. If you find me over on Pintrest my Forest Magic board contains hints to this new story. I also have a short story wading in a slush pile at a fantasy magazine, and another idea that I have been sketching hither and yon when I get a chance.
Where can people go to read your work and when will it be available? The Dragon’s Message is available now for only $1.99 on Kindle and Nook. Readers can also find various flash fiction, poems, and articles I have written on my blog,
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors? My best advice would be for mid-life authors, like myself, who are coming back to this path, and it is the same advice that was given to me. Diane J. Reed wrote to me words that are forever etched on my heart, which added life-breath to a spark that was growing in my soul: “I truly believe that if such yearning is within you, then that’s your soul’s way of telling you the dream is within reach. Artistic hunger is sacred fire. And if you honor it, then the universe will open up a way for you.” The way that opened was not a life-career, writing 6 hours a day in my writer’s nook path, but one that is here and there, treasured spaces of time in a busy day running errands, helping with homework, cooking dinner. But I am writing, a little each day, and publishing, and it can be done.
Good reviews, mixed reviews, bad reviews – what are your thoughts on each of those? As long as it is an honest review from a reader who has interest in the genre and has thoughtfully read my work, then I will gratefully accept it. As a former teacher, I appreciate and value constructive criticism.
If you review other’s books, what is your approach to reviewing those? If it is a book that has really touched my soul, then I will post an in-depth review on my blog. If I consider a book five or four stars I will post that on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, often with a short explanatory review. I always try to find what was positive in the book and work from there first, and I am mindful that many times a book that didn’t really captivate or excite me may have a different effect on another reader. But whatever the case, it is important to recognize the hard work and passion that another writer has put into their story. Every story comes from a special place in the writer, and they are sharing a piece of themselves on paper for all the world to see. As a reviewer, it is vital to remember that.
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When Rhiannon was small and had just learned to read, her mother brought her into the hall one day when her father was on campaign, and led her to the large table upon which a great map of their lands lay. She instructed Rhiannon to read the words of the landmarks: castle, road, mountain, forest, village. The young girl touched words inscribed over a place where trees met craggy peaks. “What does that say, my love?” her mother prompted.
“Here be dragons,” Rhiannon answered, glancing up at her mother.
Her mother nodded, smiling. She knelt down in front of Rhiannon so they were at the same height. The lady’s hazel eyes sparkled as she whispered, “I have a secret to share. But I can only share it with a little girl with red and gold hair,” she pulled playfully on Rhiannon’s braid, “who knows how to read.” Rhiannon giggled. “Are you a little girl such as this?” Rhiannon nodded eagerly, and her mother laughed. She stood up and gestured at a tapestry on the wall. “Come, child, the dragon guards our treasure.”
Hand in hand they walked to the tapestry of the sleeping dragon. “Your great-great grandmother wove this tapestry when she was an old woman. It took her a long time to complete, with her hands gnarled so, like the twisted oak by the drawbridge.” The dragon was curled up in front of a turret, with stone dolmens in a semi-circle behind it, interspersed with trees and a mountain peak in the background and bright blue sky above. The dragon’s scales were crimson and woven through with glittering gold thread, and its curved horns and talons were gold. As they paused in front of the large tapestry, Rhiannon looked closely at the eyes of the dragon; she thought perhaps she could see a slit of gold, as if the dragon were only pretending to be asleep.
Rhiannon’s mother stood on tiptoe and moved part of the tapestry to the side, revealing a slit in the stone wall. With her free hand she reached in and drew out a large leather-bound tome. She motioned her daughter to come sit with her on one of the benches that lined the walls. “Look and listen well, my daughter,” she said, and ran her fingers along the smooth cover, “this book is our special treasure, and it contains many secrets within its pages. I am going to teach you how to read them.” She opened the book as Rhiannon snuggled closer to her, her mother’s loose red-gold hair falling over the girl’s shoulder and brushing the crinkly parchment pages of the book which she turned until she came to the picture of a girl.
“The first secret is a story…”