Hi guys! Today I am excited to welcome author Tam Ames to the blog. She is here to talk to us about her story for the new Dracones anthology from Storm Moon Press.  Welcome Tam!


Popping my Historical Cherry

Well, in writing terms, anyway. I’ve certainly read a historical or two in my time, although after my bodice-ripper days, it’s not one of my favourite genres. But when I saw the call for dragon stories from Storm Moon Press for their Dracones anthology, I thought it might have potential. There are a few ways you can go with dragon shifters:

  • the contemporary shifter story (obviously with some backstory on dragons) of which I’ve enjoyed a few,
  • the knights in shining armour phase of dragon infestation, which I’ve read less of but still the genre is around,
  • Asian dragons, which could be contemporary or historical,
  • and probably something I’ve not thought of.

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I wanted to make my dragon stand out and was mysteriously inspired to try the Asian angle, and throw in historical as well. Am I nuts? Not so much. On the upside, ancient Chinese (and Asian in general) history is less commonly known than something like the Regency period or other European historical periods. As a result, I’m less likely to have someone go “that didn’t happen.” And really, it’s dragons; I think I’m already in the “that didn’t happen” zone. (But I’m open to proof.) Because it’s fantasy, it also meant I didn’t have to be achingly accurate about which emperor was ruling when, or building what. Plus, focusing on a commoner meant the character wasn’t really concerned with such things. He was a simple man trying to keep his family alive. I was able to let my imagination flow.

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Jar with Dragon Design
Korea – (1750 – 1850)
The dragon symbolized the power of the king and the pottery was used exclusively by royalty.

As I said, most Westerners know little about Asian history, myself included. What did we do before Google and Wikipedia were invented? It didn’t take me long to get some basic information about Chinese dragons, their traits, and what they were known for. Lord Shenlong, the dragon controlling the rains, his sons, the way they sounded, their colours, the properties of their fire, etc. But like any mythical creature, there are amazing conflicts of information. For instance, take dragon fire. Some say Chinese dragons didn’t breathe fire. Others say they did, but that the only thing that can extinguish dragon fire is fire itself, water only catches light and spreads the fire. It’s a bit of a paradox, which I happily utilized, because a fire breathing dragon is much cooler than one not breathing fire. I also tried to find names that might have been used in ancient times. Not to mention trying to make sure they were male by scouring ancient lists of governors and other officials I could find online.

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Dragon Pendant
Nephrite
Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

A part I really enjoyed was being able to weave in some Chinese folk tales as part of the story once I chose my primary dragon’s trait. I could only pick a couple (darn those word count limits), but I did enjoy reading the tales. Some of them were a bit like reading the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They didn’t skimp on the gory details or harsh realities of the times, and they certainly weren’t Disney sanitized (not that I don’t love Disney movies). If you’d like to explore the folk tales, this is a great link. One that particularly caught my eye, but that didn’t really fit my story is called The Two Jugglers. It certainly had a twist ending I never saw coming. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I had one of these faces about three-quarters of the way through. 0_0

I enjoyed my first foray into ancient historical territory as a writer. I’ve always been fascinated with anything in the BC time period. Both the ancient and the common combined. I don’t much care for battles and wars with dates and kings, although gods are always fun. My interest usually lies in how the average person lived. How would a poor farmer trying to keep his family alive handle a task that involved the gods, or dragons? What did people eat? How would they travel? Of course, some of it I imagined for simplicity, but it was great fun to do the research and try and find the answers. Looking at beautiful pictures of Chinese dragons and architecture was no hardship, either.

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Ritual Water Vessel
Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795)
The shape is based on Tibetan Buddhist vessels.

When I was in San Francisco with my daughter in March, we went to the Asian Art Museum to see the terracotta warriors. They have an amazing exhibit of all things Asian, from south Asia (India and Sri Lanka) to South East Asia (Korea and Thailand) and, of course, China and Japan. I took some pictures of some of the artifacts with a dragon theme which I’ve shared in this blog post.

Will I write more historical stories? If I do, they will definitely be ancient history, and probably fantasy-based. Maybe not dragons, but something that lets me take some facts and add my imagination to fill in the gaps. I hope everyone enjoys the Dracones anthology with diverse stories from some amazing authors, in whose company I am honoured to be included.

Tam Ames is a single mom to a teenage daughter who currently lives in Ontario, Canada, but spent three years in Central Europe in the late 90’s for her job. It was the encouragement and dares of some friends that inspired her to start writing m/m romance, and she’s grateful for their continued support. Traveling as much as possible with her daughter, reading, writing, and playing around on-line keep her busy, in addition to her day job. Her latest short story, “Finding the Rain”, can be found alongside six other gay dragon short stories in Storm Moon Press’ Dracones anthology. Tam can be found on her website as well as Twitter @Cdn_Tam.

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