Monthly Archives: December 2008

How to draw dragons

Dragonclaws – it’s still Christmas and New Year holidays, and I have some free time. So I’m going on an Internet search to see if I can learn how to draw Scordril and his friends – well, his dragon ones, that is. I think I can manage Morris and Flick.

This is definitely connected with our book. It would be really good to be able to draw Threah and Scordril and Ennasif and all the rest – I know their colours and their temperaments, but have no idea how to put all the dragon bits together. 

If anyone else fancies drawing a dragon, or even a head or body or wings rather than a whole one, here are some sites I’ve found that will help: 
This is the one I will try out first. There are at least four parts to the tutorial. It just appeals to me. 
This is a live “click and follow” tutorial, from which you can make your own variations. 
This is very clear – with further pages, too. 
This one is computer art for those who have a paint program and would like to try the techniques for making a plain drawing 3D on screen.

Any of you who got a copy of Scordril for Christmas (and there are a fair few of you!), do write and tell us which dragon you liked best and what you liked most about the story. You can even draw your favourite scene once you’ve worked out how to draw dragons! You’re welcome to leave comments here or send messages via the main website contact page, and we can make arrangements to post some pix if you’ve done one.


Three cheers for Lothian

Saturday at Borders in Edinburgh (Kinnaird Retail Park) was wonderful and we sold loads of books. Mind you, the people shopping there are the very people who live in or near where Scordil is set. If we can’t sell Lothian Dragons in Lothian, we’re on the wrong road.

The members of staff were lovely. They announced Kelsey Drake’s book signing event on the tannoy every 15-20 minutes for several hours, and made the book sound really exciting and worth buying (well, it is). 

One interesting thing was that so many of the shop’s visitors were happy to talk about the dragons under Musselburgh and under Traprain Law, even if they had no relatives in the 8-12 age group. This proves to us that a book set in a place you can visit is a good idea. It also proves a longing for something exciting to be discovered in a place you’ve grown used to!

The five things most visitors wanted to know were:

1. How did we come to write this book? (You can find the answer here.)

2. Was it okay if they bought it for themselves? (Yes, many adults are reading it.)

3. Where did the dragons go underground in Musselburgh? (Answer: go to Tesco, cross the road, find the round drain cover, morph and descend)

4. Have we written a version of Scordril – or another Lothian Dragons book – for their younger children? (Now, there’s an idea!)

5. When would the sequel be out? (Watch this space.)

We also found teachers who’d heard of Scordril as a result of our visit to St Mary’s (well, I imagine that’s where news leaked from). If any other teachers would like an author visit, for World Book Day in March or at any other time, do contact us via our main website here. We’d love to come.

The Crafty Writer finds Scordril

Wow, we’ve been found by one of the best writing sites! 

A big thank you to The Crafty Writer (known as TCW and run by Fiona Veitch Smith) for interviewing us about Scordril. If you want to read all the secrets we haven’t yet shared here, then pop over to TCW and have a read of Co-authoring: when two become one

The Crafty Writer is all about helping new and established writers hone their writing craft and increase their earnings. So if you want to develop your writing further, and learn some helpful tips and skills for all kinds of writing, there are loads of articles on the TCW site to start you off. Well worth a visit.

But just for now, since we’re in the business of dragons over here, have a look at this particular post on TCW, which deals with fantasy fiction from the angle of children’s books. 

Scordril is fantasy in one sense, of course, but not the usual kind of tale set in a pre-industrial world. The Lothian dragons inhabit the 20th and 21st centuries in places where you can go visit, and they meet up with real children who grow up to become real adults who still meet up with the dragons from time to time. The other ingredients of fantasy outlined in the TCW article are likewise not all part of Scordril, and so it becomes more difficult to define which genre the book does belong in.

We’d love to hear what you think of our kind of fantasy – the feedback so far has been really encouraging. But what’s your take on our story?

Added ingredients 3

Blue moon

The fourth full moon in any farming season has been called a blue moon – but we were only interested in real blue moons. 

We found out that when particles in the air are the right size to scatter red light waves, the others will get through and make the moon appear blue.

This happened when Krakatoa erupted in Indonesia in 1883. Some of the ash particles in the clouds were one-millionth of a metre in diameter – the right size to scatter the red light. 

If you like investigating these strange things, have a look at this website for some stories and pictures. It really does happen!

But we needed a blue moon in the UK in 1950 when the events in Scordril were unfolding to a climax. So we investigated further and turned up a gem. 

Patrick Moore, in his book Guide to the Moon (published in 1953), described several sightings of blue moons in 1944 in America, in 1949 in Queensland, and in England on September 26, 1950. According to Moore who witnessed the 1950 event:

“The moon was in a slightly misty sky and had a kind of lovely blue colour comparable to the electric glow discharge. I never saw something similar before.”

Another witness said:

“It was BLUE, not bluish or powder blue, but BLUE.”

There had been a heavy season of forest fires in Canada and the smoke from these was assumed to have caused the effect, even as far afield as the UK.

And so another element of the Scordril plot was set up. We moved the blue moon forward a few weeks to suit our timeline, and then used it to bring in an event that frightened the life out of Morris when he he was outside his tent staring in amazement at a very blue moon over Traprain Law.

Going it alone

Hardly the time of year to consider tents and sleeping bags but there is something alluring about being out in a field, under canvas (or nylon these days), fending for oneself without adult supervision.

If no one ever lets you try being a hunter-gatherer, life gets a bit boring. That’s why we have Morris and his cousin Flick – who lives in Traprain village – camping in two small ridge tents a little way off from the adults on the site of an archeological dig at the foot of Traprain Law.

Morris is slightly interested in the dig and very interested in the piece of pottery he is allowed to keep, which the adults say is rubbish (they haven’t noticed the curious etching on it!). But on the whole, he and Flick prefer to get away by themselves. 

Apart from looking after their tents and feeding themselves, it seems Flick’s chief idea of fun is to climb up the Law – again! Maybe it’s a girl thing. But that’s how she comes to fall down one of its steeper slopes (you can see pictures of Traprain Law here), which leads to Morris coming face to face with Scordil.

They also get to explore a scary tunnel with a secret, and to wander round at night when a blue moon is throwing its bizarre light over the empty countryside and showing up things that no one should ever see. And they finally get to visit the Traprain dragon layr…

Going it alone is a plot device that gives great opportunities for mistakes to be made. The camping idea gave us a real context for making “going it alone” possible. And setting the book back in the 1950s when people were allowed more freedom (and camping was more primitive) clinched the deal. Definitely more fun than a PlayStation.

Dragons in character

We knew we had to make sure all the dragons had different characters. At first, it seemed as if we would only have half a dozen living under Musselburgh to deal with. But as the story became clearer, we realised there were at least another half dozen at Traprain Law (after all, if they were going to be worth rescuing, we’d need to meet them in person). And there would be further secondary dragons – but they’d perhaps be more defined by their strength or role. So far, so manageable.

The real size of the problem revealed itself when we had Scordril go to the ancient collection of dragon chronicles to read up about something crucial that happened 100 years before. That was when we found ourselves with yet another group of dragons!

Keeping track was the first task. We made lists and colour-coded them as to when anyone was alive (some were still alive in the current dragon layrs, of course, since dragons live so long). We also noted how old they were in each time period.

But how to give them characters that were memorable? Well, in the end, they wrote themselves. When interacting together, certain traits simply showed up. It was as easy as that. 

Fenror, for instance, is doubting, prejudiced and obstinate when the call for help comes – but when he gives his word, he keeps it.

Threah is funny, practical and doesn’t mince her words when she sees something needs saying – as she does when Scordril keeps getting angry. I mean, you wouldn’t want to pair off with a dragon who has so few anger management skills! (By the way, she makes a wonderful mother in book 2, but for now, you can buy book 1 here.)

Scordril himself (when not getting furious) is unbiased, curious, resourceful and brave – well he is the lead dragon. You wouldn’t want anything less.

I’ll tell you about some of the others in a future post.