Hi guys, we have Annabelle Jay popping in with her upcoming release Merlin’s Moon, we have a brilliant guest post and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Half-human, half-dragon Mani hatched from an egg and was adopted by Allanah, a human woman who discovered him after the death of his dragon mother. He possesses abilities he’s only beginning to understand, and every night he takes the form of a blue dragon.
When Mani’s secret is revealed, he takes refuge at the wizard Mansion. There, he encounters the Animal Guard, a group of people who share his affliction. But the members of the Animal Guard are under a curse by the sorceresses, and they need Mani’s aid to break the spell and resume their human forms. Growing romantic feelings for the wolf-boy Lup convince Mani to offer his help, but Mani’s own developing powers might destroy any chance at a relationship. The world of magic is changing, and as Mani and his friends fight to stop the evil sorceresses from using the deadly North Star, they must figure out what places they will hold when the battle is over.
Why I Don’t Use Outlines for The Sun Dragon Series
by Annabelle Jay
One of the most common questions I get as an author is “How do you organize your books?” or, more specifically, “Do you use an outline?”
Whenever someone in an audience raises this question, I want to say yes. I want to say that I’m that organized, that I knew ahead of time that, for example, the characters in Starsong (Book Three in The Sun Dragon Series) would travel back to the world/time of the characters in book one, that I saw it coming.
But the truth is, I didn’t.
It just sort of happened.
The reason that I never outline my books is simple: if I know what’s going to happen, I won’t want to write. My writing process is really raw−the words just flow out, unencumbered, in the first draft−and it almost feels like I’m reading the story rather than writing it. Wow, that character is in love with that other character??? I think when someone professes their love, or How could that character do that?? I wonder after a betrayal.
So why would I keep reading a story when I already know the ending?
Yet even though the lack of outline is what keeps me interested in a story, I often wish I could do it. In a universe as big as the one in The Sun Dragon Series, with alien dragons and ancient sorceresses and many, many generations of wizards, it can be hard to keep track of every story as it weaves in and out of other stories. I did retroactively make a “family tree” several times in order to keep track of who was related to whom as I continued with the series, and that helped a lot.
Luckily, I also have a publisher who lets me be me. When Anne Regan asked me for a vague outline of my plans for book three, for example, my answer was something like “Fairies??” I’m also lucky to have a wonderful team of editors, especially Dawn Johnson (the Senior Editor for my series), who help me keep track of these details. They tell me when I forget a character, or when someone is holding a stick that they dropped ten pages earlier, or when a certain dragon is supposed to have some powers but not all of them. They keep me accountable for my imagined world, even when that means telling me that a spell I wrote doesn’t make sense according to a magical rule or that my character should be naked because he can’t take clothes with him when he transforms (yes, this happened frequently in Merlin’s Moon).
Sure, these unpredictable plots make more work for my editors, but they also make cool twists that even I couldn’t have predicted. Writing can be magical, and sometimes the pieces fit together in the end in a way that is better than an intentional trail of clues could have ended with (wait until you find out the secret about the Igreefee!). Or, sometimes I need to go back and rewrite whole sections because what I wrote doesn’t lead in the direction I’m trying to go in.
Either way, writing The Sun Dragon Series felt like an adventure, much like Allanah’s adventure to the Mansion or Mani’s adventure to find and defeat the sorceresses, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before I could even move, the moon winked on like an eye after blinking and the change began. My chin-length black hair shrank into my head, and my eyes turned an even lighter blue. As my nose stretched into my snout, I hoped for a miracle, or at least no passersby on the quiet road nearby. I rose into the air as my body stretched and grew scales, while my arms reached for the moon and became blue wings. My clothes ripped off of my body, falling as tatters to the sand, and my shoes split open to make way for my claws. This was not a beautiful transformation, as I’d seen in the mirror way too many times. It was messy and scary, even for me.
“Mani?” a voice asked from behind me. I knew it was Alex even before I swiveled around, my body still working its way from human to dragon. He must have felt bad for what he said to me and come back to find me, only to discover my half-formed dragon body.
“Alex, it’s okay,” I tried to say, but all that came out were gasps and growls.
“What’s… what’s happening to you?”
I had to say something.
It’s okay, Alex, I said, using my telepathy. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about my powers, but now that you’ve seen them, I can tell you everything.
Alex stepped back like I was the blood-spurting lizard, and his round, red face twisted in disgust. “I don’t want you to talk to me ever again. You’re a freak, Mani, and after I tell everyone your secret, you won’t be able to—”
I stopped listening as one of the arms of the nearby cacti lengthened into a whip and wrapped its tendril around Alex’s waist. Once it had its needles gripped on the boy, it lifted him into the air and shook him with frustrated reproach.
Mom? I asked into the darkness. Allanah and Dena emerged holding hands, and from Dena’s other hand, a green light streamed its control over the cactus. Dena’s green skin and vine tattoos also glowed, reminding me of a storefront’s neon lights.
“They’re freaks too?” Alex asked, but he shut his mouth when Grian, Allanah’s sun dragon, landed at my side.
Is your best friend always this rude, Mani? And by the way, Alex, I’m not a freak. I’m a witch. Dena is an Igreefee, an ancient race of magical people who were controlling the forest back when humans were struggling to make fire with two sticks, and don’t even get me started on Grian. He’s as tame as a cat, but you’re just a mouse to him. If you insult us again, he just might catch you in his teeth and teach you a lesson.
“Allanah!” Dena scolded, though I could tell she was trying to hold back her pleased smile. “He’s just a boy.”
“Seventeen is not a boy.”
Um, Mom, I interrupted, maybe we can argue about this when we get home? Right now we need to figure out what to do with him.
“Do with me?” Alex cried out. He struggled in the cactus’s grip, then gave up.
Right. We have two choices, and you’re not going to like either of them. Either I turn him into a lizard, or Dena does the nicer thing and takes away his memories.
All his memories?
I’m afraid so. She doesn’t have the power to move through someone’s head like a book, ripping out pages wherever she wants. She’ll leave some of his childhood, of course, but everything else will get wiped clean.
I paused. Not because I would rather have had them turn Alex into a lizard than erase his memories, but because I wasn’t ready to lose my best friend. Sure, he’d called me a freak, but I had to believe that he would have come around eventually, once I’d explained everything to him. Two dragons, a witch, and an Igreefee were a lot to take in one night, and I couldn’t really blame him for freaking out.
Allanah nodded to Dena, who approached the boy and pressed her hands on his whipping head like a coach trying to pep up a player.
“This won’t hurt,” she said, and I knew she meant it. Unlike Allanah and me, the Igreefee could only use their magic for good or they risked losing it.
Green light flowed from her palms into his head, and Alex’s eyes went blank. All of the spunk I’d grown to love just blinked off like a dead lightbulb, and in its place was a man with the memories of a child.
“Mommy?” Alex asked. Dena released the cactus limb, and he fell to the sandy desert, where he began crawling on all fours. “Mommy, snack?”
“So sad,” Allanah sighed. “We’ll need to get him home, and quickly, so that he can wake up in his own bed and assume he had a child’s nightmare. His parents will be in for quite a shock when they wake up, but there’s nothing to be done about that now.”
“I’ll take him,” I volunteered.
“No, you’ll be seen—”
“Please, Mom. I need to do this.”
“Fine. But fly the long way around and then come home—your mother and I have something we think it’s time to discuss with you.”
Gingerly I picked Alex up by his shirt collar. He felt so light to my dragon body, like a fish in the mouth of a black bear, that, as I pushed off into the air, I could barely feel the extra weight.
“Wheeee,” Alex squealed in delight.
For a year I had dreamed of that moment, of flying over New Mexico with Alex and showing him the beauty of the moon without the interruption of house lights. I had dreamed of showing him the world, one night at a time, so that every state and even every country became just a short dragon ride away. In my imaginings he would sit on my back as comfortably as he sat in the driver’s seat of his mom’s car, leaning back and relaxing into the forward motion without a worry in the world. In my dreams he had been able to say more than “Wheeee” and “Waaaa.” He had said he loved me.
I landed on Alex’s roof and gingerly used a sharp nail to unhook the window latch. The house was new, unlike ours, and I felt guilty for digging my claws into their roof. Stretching my neck in a long curve, I rested Alex in his bed and pulled the cotton sheet over his shoulders, after which he turned on his side and fell asleep.
“Bye-bye, dragon,” he mumbled without opening his eyes.
A sound shuffled down the hall, and then a knock came at the door. “Alex, honey, is that you?”
As the door squeaked open, I pushed off and climbed as far as I could toward the moon. My lungs struggled to find air, but still I climbed, until I thought I might faint or even die. Then suddenly I pulled my wings into a hug and nose-dived back toward earth. Once again I was alone.
If there’s one thing author Annabelle Jay believes with all her heart, it’s that there is no such thing as too many dragons in a book. As fantasy writer with few other hobbies—does being bribed to run with her partner or dancing awkwardly in the kitchen count?—she spends every day following her imagination wherever it leads her.
A hippie born in the wrong decade, Annabelle has a peace sign tattoo and a penchant for hugging trees. Occasionally she takes breaks from her novels to play with her pets: Jon Snow, the albino rabbit who is constantly trying to escape; Stevie, the crested gecko that climbs glass with the hairs on its toes; and Luigi, the green tree python that lives at the foot of her bed despite her best efforts to talk her partner out of the idea.
During her day job as a professor of English, Annabelle is often assumed to be a fellow student playing a prank on the class—that is, until she hands out the syllabus. When people stop mistaking her for a recent high school graduate, she will probably be very sad.