If you haven’t heard already, my novel Among Dragons will be serialized exclusively in Digital Dragon Magazine beginning January 2012. I’m very excited to share this novel with everyone, because it’s been a long time coming. Today I wanted to tell you a little about the story behind the story.
This fantasy novel was the first complete novel I wrote. It was a labor of love that was the culmination of years of wanting to write a book, but not knowing exactly where to start. Much like this blog post so far. Where to start? I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
Fantasy was my first love. The very first story I tried to write was fantasy fan fic based on an old NES RPG game called Dragon Warrior. That was in 5th grade. I wrote maybe about five pages worth before my attention span found easier ways to be appeased. I took to drawing my stories instead. I’d draw epic castles and horses and dragons, each with its own tale behind it. By junior high I was telling these stories to my friends and realizing that they were much more complex than one mere sketch could show. I tried my hand at writing them down again, but still my attention span wasn’t ready. Meanwhile, I devoured YA books, even to the point of getting detention for reading during lessons. My genre of choice? Fantasy of course. It was about this time that I discovered The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. To this day it remains my #1 favorite book of all time.
In high school I began writing short stories. Some of these were no more than flash fiction and have been lost. A few of the more substantial ones I still have…including my very first full short story, which amounts to my very first completed work of fiction. Sometime around my Junior year, I decided to write a novel. I called it Keeper of Darrwyn. It was a fantasy with teen angst and bad dialogue. I hand wrote about fifty pages. At some point I typed most of this into an early 1993 computer, but lost the file. I should still have those hand written pages. Keeper of Darrwyn was supposed to be a trilogy. I had rough ideas of what I wanted to do with the series, but nothing written down. Outlining? Yeah right. It slowed me down…cramped my style, ya know? Near the end of senior year I backed away from it, realizing I was way out of my league. I also became very convicted at my subject matter. How could this story honor God? I couldn’t figure it out. It was violent and intense, with nothing “religious” about it. I knew that if I wrote something, I wanted it to please God. But since I didn’t know how to do that…I stopped. I put it on the shelf and went to college, telling everyone that someday I’ll get back into writing.
I’m getting to Among Dragons. Stay with me.
It was in those first couple of years of college that Christian speculative fiction found a little popularity. Left Behind showed me Christian fiction could be fun and exciting. But it was This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti that really opened my eyes. Here was a book that wasn’t safe. It had violence and was intense. Yet at the same time it told a story that honored God. That’s what I wanted to do. I became a fierce Frank Peretti fan and read everything he had to offer. It seemed he had been around a few years. Why hadn’t I heard of him before? During these formative years I read. I may not have studied writing structure as much as I should have, but I studied how to develop a story and how to develop characters. And my teachers were Frank Peretti, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and of course Robin McKinley.
I also studied DeAnna. I met her my freshman year of college and about two and a half years later we married. That distraction I didn’t mind. Not. One. Bit.
After graduating college I made good on my promise. I started writing. I wanted to write that trilogy, but I knew it was too much for me. I needed to start with something smaller…stand-alone. So I brainstormed a prequel to my trilogy…one I could weave some theological implications into.
That prequel is Among Dragons. I wrote it in just a few months, then did a second draft that swelled the word count by another twenty-five percent. I thought it was ready. I thought I’d done something. Boy was I an idiot.
Back in those days blogs were just getting started good and I didn’t have one. Myspace was popular though. So were forums. Even then I was trying to think outside the box. I started a fledgling online magazine through a free website service, called Overflow Magazine. We lasted maybe six months. I recruited some writers to help from writer forums and Myspace. One of those was J. L. Rowan, frequenter here at NAF…though she didn’t write under a pen name at the time. I did though…I was using my great-grandfather’s name Oliver King. She read Among Dragons for me and tried to tell me what was wrong. But since I had no formal training in fiction writing, I didn’t understand the lingo and I didn’t get it. I didn’t know what “show don’t tell” meant. But for her encouragement in those early days I am very grateful.
I still proceeded to try and get my book published. I sent out to agents with a query that was certainly less than stellar. I was taken for a couple hundred bucks by an agent that was very convincing. The money was supposed to be just for printing the submissions. They even sent me a couple of the unused ones. I’m not sure if they were legit or not, but they gave up and dropped me. Knowing how bad my writing was then, it was probably a scam.
So I had Lulu print up a copy for me and it has sat on my shelf as a reminder of where I began. I went on to other projects. At first I started a reboot of Keeper of Darrwyn, calling it The Last Keeper…you know, the trilogy for which Among Dragons was supposed to be the prequel. I wrote a good 20k words on it before putting it down to tend to this Goth girl that wouldn’t leave me alone.
Fast forward ten years. I get this message from Tim Ambrose. They want me to be the featured author in an upcoming issue of Digital Dragon Magazine. I panicked because ALL my good short stories were published in Aquasythesis this year. I’ve become bad a short stories. I turn them out at a rate of about .5 a year. I racked my brain for a short story idea. That’s when I remembered that DDM no longer has a fantasy serial. (Shout out to Becky!) So I pitched them this old novel of mine that I’ve been wanting to rewrite.
Tim ran it by Randy Streu, and the brain trust of Diminished Media liked the pitch. They agreed…and here we are today. I finally have a reason to rewrite this story. DDM has its new fantasy serial. And my very first novel has a new life.
To J. L Rowan and everyone else who read that early piece of dragon lard…I promise I’ve learned a thing or two. You won’t recognize it after I’m done with the rewrite. I’ve come full circle back to my first love in writing. Epic isn’t a strong enough word.
Make sure you subscribe at www.KevenNewsome.com. I’ll be indexing each installment of Among Dragons as they come online. You can also watch for it on FB at either my fan page, the Digital Dragon Magazine fan page, or the Diminished Media fan page. Oh, and lest I forget the host website for the rebirth of this book…www.digitaldragonmagazine.net.
Want to know what Among Dragons is about? CLICK HERE.