I sort of feel like I’m caught in my own personal version of “Ground Hog Day” with a vague notion of what transpired in the past few days and weeks. The projects, repair jobs and tasks during last nine months have taken forever to complete. Ideas and strategies materialize at a sluggish pace. As if I was trying to jog in a chest high syrupy Jell-O; slowly I press forward.
So it is with this blog.
I just finished rereading Hemmingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES and we’ll screen the 1957 adaption with Tyron Power, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn and Eddie Albert in the next few days. I’ve read that Hemmingway’s ‘Lost Generation’ fellow expatriates were the basis for the characters in this classic story, it would be interesting to research which of his friends were the basis for the different characters in the story.
Conversely I expect that many authors’ inspiration for their character’s traits come from personal introspection. I can see various parts of myself in most of the characters in my stories. Such is the case with my main character in The Littlest Dragon and the Princess. The Littlest Dragon’s strongest trait is his persistence. Once he has a goal he doesn’t give up. In retrospect looking back at my life I wonder where the inspirations have come from but it was my persistence that them to reach completion.
It’s been over two years since I’ve been posting to this blog though I haven’t been as regular as I had hoped. I now realize that when I began working on this platform that I was unprepared, unknowledgeable and basically in the dark about the process of how to get published.
Writing the story was an exhilarating if not confusing at times but I believed that because of the way in which the story developed especially those times when the story seemed to write itself and the characters began to tell me what they wanted to say that this story was an exception to the usual way that books get published. That it was meant to be. When this didn’t happen I was disappointed and frustrated so I went back to the beginning and began searching for clues from other authors for the critical steps that I needed to take to become recognized.
My first set of queries was spread over a three-month period of time. Not having a positive response I’ve spent the last two years reading KidLit and searching for avenues into the publishing world. Repeatedly I’ve read that many agents and publishers were looking for something that was fresh, however I suspect that if a story is too different from what’s been published it’s hard to make a comparison and therefore it would be difficult for the story to find success.
I’ve had little success looking for similar books because my story seems so different but while searching for stories that featured animals I came across Richard Adams’ WATERSHIP DOWN. I found the amount of negativity that Richard had to endure while seeking representation interesting and reassuring but most interesting was his strategy to find an agent. He searched for an agent that had represented books that were similar to WATERSHIP DOWN. I’m still looking but feel closer to achieving my goal.
The emperor and his council were stunned when Prince Luan presented the long lost contract that the emperor’s father had signed seventy-five years ago. As they realized that they couldn’t repay the loan and Prince Luan would take Princess Leizu as payment they were paralyzed. When the dragons saw that the emperor and his council couldn’t decide what to do the Dragon Council was assembled to address the situation. They wanted to see if the legal dragons could find any discrepancy in the contract, unfortunately they couldn’t so they went home leaving The Littlest Dragon by himself. At this point the Old Dragon Sage reenters the story and gives The Littlest Dragon some of the most important advice of his life.
It is times like this when all hope seems to vanish that we have the opportunity to learn about our character, our courage and our resolve. The dilemma is used as an opportunity to reveal and reinforce the value of learning how to lead a positive optimistic approach to life. To introduce and affirm one of the most important principles that Napoleon Hill ever taught, the insight “That with every failure and defeat comes with that situation a seed of equal or greater importance.”
I find that by taking this approach one can begin the process of stepping back from the tragedy rather than being swept away by the pain, shock and hopeless confusion that it can bring. It allows us to switch from reacting subjectively to the situation to one where we can begin to evaluate it objectively. It puts the mind in gear to look for some benefit from the horrific situation, at times there are many. By looking at the information that we encounter and learning how to filter it by the possibilities that we can take rather than by necessities we begin to see that very rarely is there a situation without hope or benefit.
It’s interesting the way my stories seem to evolve and morph as I write and go through revision. When I first wrote The Littlest Dragon and the Princess I knew that there was a neighboring Prince who had come to collect a debt from a loan that was made to the Princess’ grandfather. The scene was rather dry, unemotional and woody. As I rewrote Prince Luan’s arrival the scene exploded; much more was revealed about the prince’s character. The original appearance of a couple of messengers turned into a showy procession of drummers and mounted soldiers followed by the Prince on a very large horse. It became a grand gaudy procession; Luan had grown into a very arrogant and bossy character.
After being lead to the council’s chambers by the Princess and the Littlest Dragon he became rude, disrespectful and demanding. When the council had verified the loan document was authentic they were devastated; they asked for more time to repay the money. At this point to my amazement Luan’s character came alive and took over the scene from me; I could barely write fast enough to keep up with the action. I was amazed as the scene continued to build. Refusing their plea for more time Luan’s rant grew as he shouted at the Emperor and the Council but I was flabbergasted as he ended his demands he spat on the floor in front of the Emperor. Finishing his tirade he turned and marched out of the council chamber. As he reached the door he stopped, turned around and glared at the Emperor and the Council; again he spat on the floor. What a pig!
Prince Luan is more than a condescending bully. What makes his character so interesting is that he is so spoiled and self-absorbed; he hasn’t a drop of compassion or human decency. The neat aspect of his change in character is that as we continue with the story we begin to hate him and long for the predicament to be turned around. Fortunately later in the story the Princess takes control, turns the tables on Prince Luan and he is humiliated.
“…We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files – We’d like to help you learn to help yourself – Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes – Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home – And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson Jesus loves you more than you can know…” Simon & Garfunkel
It’s interesting how a soft floating memory can be triggered by a melody and lyrics, and be pulled into my present from a past that seems like a lifetime ago. I remember how desperately I identified with Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben Braddock in the film “THE GRADUATE.” I had a suspicion that I was lost and didn’t know it. Fortunately there wasn’t a Mrs. Robinson in my life but I had my concerns and I didn’t know where to turn.
It was 1967 and I was one semester away from graduating from UCSB into one of the most chaotic times in recent history. The war in Vietnam raged on, in the streets and college campuses there was a feeling of uncertainty and I didn’t realize how much of the path ahead of me was without signposts. I felt like I was a square peg and society was waiting for me to enter their world, pounce on me and pound me into a round hole to make me fit.
The thing that I was the most leery about was that I suspected that this process of socialization might be so subtle that I would never see it coming and when the process took place I might never notice. – Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes – Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home – All I wanted to do was to find my Elaine Robinson, (Katharine Ross) and flee.
I was a product of a universal approach to education that gave me knowledge but left me without a real idea of what my strengths and aptitudes were, a clear idea of my interests and how these would translate into a profession that would help me make a meaningful addition to society.
Looking back I don’t think what I feared happened, I wasn’t socialize in a way that neuters a person’s soul and spirit, I was able to keep most of my uniqueness. I’m happy and proud of the lives I’ve touched – there are some due to my immature ignorance I wish I could offer apologies. I think that it would have been easier had I found insights into human behavior earlier in my life.
I knew I wanted to be a good person, it was instilled in me from an early age from a wonderful positive home life but I didn’t know what areas to focus on. And with that this is the reason for this blog and my children’s story, if you use the “Great Riches of Life” as a mirror or perhaps a road map it’s easier to find the greater joys in life.
This post continues the previous discussion, which explored some of the motivations and general thoughts upon which The Littlest Dragon and the Princess is based. I wanted to tell a story about a world where hard work, equality and imagination can overcome the difficulties that life can bring.
Our cultural awareness in the western nations especially the United State has significantly evolved over the last hundred years. The social equality of peoples of different ethic backgrounds and gender is beginning to become the same in most Western countries but as it does there are some questions that lurk in the back of my mind.
The international suffrage movement had little success during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Most developed countries move to give women the vote took place during the first half of the Twentieth Century. Since 1950 many of the third world countries joined this movement. My 21st Century mind finds it’s difficult to understand how anyone could truly believe a hundred years ago that women shouldn’t vote. Many proposed that if you gave women the right to vote it would put so much pressure on them that they would face mental break down. (Please!) A common belief was that since women were emotional creatures they were incapable of making sound political decisions. (My eyes are rolling.)
The issue is that as children we tend to grow and accept the beliefs of our parents and other primary caregivers. We are taught ideas and concepts of the past, some of which are valid, some are not. Slowly social change takes place and we look back on ideas like women don’t have the capacity to make wise political decisions as provincial now but back then it was accepted common wisdom.
This brings me to the point of this post.
If the common man in the 19th Century couldn’t see that he was in error due to his ignorance about women’s capacity to vote, what are those beliefs and opinions that I hold today, that tomorrow’s enlightenment will make me shrink with chagrin from those former unsophisticated viewpoints?
I’ve taken some liberty with the appearance of my characters while writing this story. It was an interesting surprise that in the process of drawing the dragons that the different types took on different appearances. This was not something that was planned it just happened. It could be likened to dressing a strong willed small child who is very opinionated about what clothes they will wear. “Don’t put that green shirt on me, you know I don’t wear green” they might argue. The drawings would wrestle back and forth on my drawing board until their features were acceptable to them and then I could move on to the next character.
The Grand Wizar is a very social dragon that leads the dragon community in the seasonal festivities and especially the birthing celebrations in the spring. He has a plump effervesce about him where as The Old Dragon Sage is very wrinkled and has a stoic appearance. Both of these character’s dorsal crest are similar to the traditional approach of drawing an upside down V, which curves backward from their head to their tail. It was also a pleasant surprise that The Littlest Dragon dorsal crest didn’t follow suit for it was similar to fur that begins with his Mohawk hair cut and proceeds down to his tail. Not only does this hair cut hint at his mild mischievous nature the addition of this feature made the little guy more appealing, even cuddly.
There have been observations that Princess Leizu doesn’t look Chinese, this was
on purpose since I’ve aimed at a universal appeal and I wanted
her to look Eurasian. One of the biggest changes from reality was the place of women in Chinese society historically and currently.
There are things about our culture worldwide and historically that concern me but the one that really upsets me is the treatment of women. It is so discouraging the way that they are regarded and not given the same opportunities, social ranking or liberties as men. I applaud the changes in the western world even though they’re not complete and I’m horrified at what goes on in the East today. I guess it could have reflected the fact that men are usually stronger than women but the fact that this perception has lasted as long as it has truly amazes me.
I’ve put Leizu and her Aunt Wu in a position of authority in the weaving mill so they could be involved with the production of the fabric and eventually the strange circumstances would reveal why Leizu dropped that first cocoon into her tea and discovered silk. This line of attack was also taken so that I could tell a story about a world where hard work, equality and imagination could overcome the difficulties that life can bring. It is about creating a world that I would like to exist rather than the reality that still exists.
This isn’t something that is unique to me since many artistic works display utopian themes. The painter, illustrator Normal Rockwell said that the motivating force behind his presentation of wholesome American values was that he was disappointed in the world around him so he painted the world the way he wished it would be rather than the reality that he experienced.
It’s interesting how this project’s has grown in complexity. I had been constantly reminded that the creation of a book was the easy part. Finding an agent and getting it published was the difficult part.
Since I was amazed at the magical manner in which the story was revealed to me I wanted to be the exception to the rule. Now five months since completing the final drawings and eight weeks since finishing the final version of the manuscript I’m still researching publishers, agents and sending out queries.
One of the problems is that it’s hard for an editor or any other person operating the door of acceptance to know what a successful book looks like. Years ago I took a number to writing classes at U.C.L.A. ext. At the beginning of the first class the teacher, Tara Ison, makes the interesting statement, “Nobody in Hollywood knows what a successful screenplay looks like.”
Then she went on to tell her story about a script she wrote with her writing partner and all of the difficulty getting it picked up. Finally an agent agreed to represent them but told them NEVER show the scrip to anyone again, it just wasn’t a good idea. They agreed, spent about a year writing other works without success and finally parted ways with the agent. They returned to their first script, worked it a little and after awhile it finally was made. The result was the commercially successful “DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER IS DEAD,” giving Christina Applegate her first staring role.
Finally a break with my research I was able to share this post and I’m back to the work of queries and submissions.