Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
Aaron Dennis… warrior of time… envoi of expansion… man who writes
Kev: What’s your latest book called and how did you come up with the title?
Today, we’re talking about The Dragon of Time. Gods and Dragons is the first in this series, and the title is based on the premise of the story; Dragons have posed as Gods; hence, Gods and Dragons. Why is the series called The Dragon of Time? Well…therein lies the mystery.
Kev: Which Genre do you have it listed under and does it cross any other genres?
This is a fantasy. Some people list fantasies as being adventures or epics, or high, or Dragons know what, but this is a fantasy.
Kev: Tell us a little bit more about it.
Dragons have posed as Gods to manipulate the people of Tiamhaal.
Journey alongside Scar, an amnesiac warrior, who seeks only to learn of his origins. After an attempt on his life by the evil Zoltek, our hero flees into the desert night and runs afoul a Paladin, a knight claiming that the Gods worshipped are actually the Dragons of ages past. Upon defeating the knight, with some help from a new friend, Scar seeks an audience with King Gilgamesh, who tells the warrior that he is the rightful heir to a forgotten kingdom, Alduheim, the former field where men battled Dragons and won, but there are some secrets buried beneath the rubble of Alduheim that trouble Scar.
Kev: Introduce us to your main character (Looks, attitude, habits, strengths, weaknesses…)
Scar is a pale, hairless brute of a man covered in scars, thus his namesake. He has no memory of his origins, yet he is unstoppable with a blade, his wounds heal mysteriously, and unlike the other tribes inhabiting Tiamhaal, Scar worships no God.
Hired as a mercenary by Zoltek to defeat Gilgamesh, Scar quickly learns the meaning of betrayal. An emotional man, seeking only answers, Scar is far too often swayed by the plight of the less fortunate, the meek, and his downfall comes in the form of a broken trust.
Kev: Provide a teaser/short passage from your book.
Once the man cleared the arched stairway and approached the throne, it was evident that he was Gilgamesh. The King of Satrone was not a large Kulshedran. He was dark, almost copperish, wore steel boots, a short, golden robe that did not hide a breastplate very well, bracers on both wrists, and he had a thick, black mustache that ran down around his lips and to both sides of his chin. It framed his frown in a manner that accentuated his sloped brow, creating the very image of a wise, sullen warrior.
“This is the one?” Gilgamesh asked as he approached.
His voice was deep and heavy and though the skin of his neck and hands belied his age, his face was smooth and peaceful. Dark eyes gazed from beneath black eyebrows. Gilgamesh’s hair was thick, black, curly, and pulled back high in a topknot.
“Yes, my Lord. This is Brandt of Alduheim,” Ehrloime stated.
“You may go,” he replied.
The lady of the palace bowed her head and exited the room, leaving Scar with the king and his guards. The flames of gas lights burned quietly. A soft breeze circulated within the throne room.
“It is quite an honor to meet you, King Gilgamesh,” Scar said with a subtle smile.
“Please, such formalities are bothersome. You will call me Gilgamesh, and I will call you Brandt.”
Scar remained politely quiet for a moment then added, “If that is your wish. Labolas has told me much of the world, of Kulshedra, Satrone, and your leadership. He has become my friend.”
“I am glad to hear it,” Gilgamesh said and sat on his throne. He extended his legs and relaxed his regal bearing before leaning his elbow on the armrest. He then rested his cheek against his closed fist. Prior to any elucidation, Gilgamesh made a movement with his other hand to the men behind him. They walked hurriedly out of sight and returned with a wooden chair for the guest.
“Thank you,” Scar said and sat down when they placed it behind him.
“We are not a boorish people like the Zmajans. No doubt Zoltek had you bowing before him wanting you to lick his boots.”
As Gilgamesh spoke, the men returned to their posts. Scar tried to relax in the chair, but it was a bit small for his stature, and the wood creaked.
“Your cultures are very different,” Scar agreed.
“Zoltek does not seek peace…I do not believe that Sahni seeks peace either. Do you seek peace, Brandt?”
“I do, yes. Through Labolas’s eyes I have seen a world that begs for it, and if I truly am instrumental to this effect, I will gladly offer my services, but as you no doubt know, all I want is to know who I am, from where I came, and what is expected of me as King of Alduheim. I am but a bladesman…I, I do not know what I can do as King.”
“I am glad to hear you speak so sincerely,” Gilgamesh replied. He then grew extraordinarily quiet. The king even half closed his eyes. His lower lip drooped a little. Scar thought he was falling asleep in the middle of conversation when the man suddenly perked up and spoke. “These are dire times. We are all so drained by this war. The citizens are tired. The farmers are tired. The soldiers are tired, and I am tired, but our enemies are not. They are relentless.
“Unfortunately, there is still much to be done…so much to be done, in fact, it feels as though the work will never end. I’m certain you hoped to come before me and receive answers to all your questions. If only it were so simple, Brandt.
“I must apologize to you. Though I have spoken to Kulshedra on your behalf, he has informed me that you are unknown to him…a strange anomaly, yet I believe he accepts your service. He has a plan, you see, and together we will build you a future. Pray, let your past, whatever it may have been, fall to the wayside.”
Scar winced, obviously annoyed, and without saying as much, spoke frankly to the king, “Labolas had insinuated that I was, or my family had been, part of an old kingdom with whom your own family was acquainted.”
“Yes. Our rich family history has been documented and passed on from ruler to heir for generations. My father told me of how Alduheim and what is now Satrone joined forces to defeat the Dragons. It was our unwavering faith to Kulshedra that served to that end, but the predecessors of Sahni betrayed Kulshedra, slayed the rightful heir to the throne of Alduheim, and took the castle for themselves.
“All of our people fought, but against the might of Khmer and her allies, we were driven out of Alduheim. Inneshkigal was erected in the name of King Innesh and Tironis was built in honor of his first born son who fell to Khmeran forces, and all of Satrone was built around Tironis. We are a proud and loyal people, Brandt.”
“What does this mean for me?” Scar asked in disbelief.
“It means that now is the time to take back Alduheim.”
“Then, we are to defeat Khmeran forces?”
“That will be instrumental in delivering peace, but we must also defeat Zoltek.”
“Taking back Alduheim will help to that effect as well?”
“My information states such unequivocally.”
“Can you explain it to me? I am afraid I do not understand.”
“Think of it this way,” Gilgamesh began with great patience. “Taking back Alduheim and restoring it to a true kingdom will brandish the might of Kulshedra. It will foster new alliances, and with no more of my forces fighting endlessly to enter that old kingdom, we can devote more power to the south. Furthermore, there is a great deal of hidden knowledge in that ancient, buried castle. That is why Jagongo has sent explorers to the area. It is why Sahni has been trying to hold it. It is why Zoltek has sent his covert forces.”
“I don’t understand why Sahni hasn’t wielded that knowledge against you if it is there,” Scar interrupted.
Gilgamesh allowed his eyes to relax again. He was in a very strange state of immobility, which made Scar uncomfortable. It was almost like the man was completely drunk for just a moment. Then, the king opened his eyes wide and spoke again before relaxing his appearance.
“All I know in that respect for certain is that no one has been able to find the hidden knowledge since the keep has been buried, and that has been a long time…since before my father’s rule, but now you are here, and I believe you are indispensable in acquiring that knowledge.”
“How? You said Kulshedra does not even know me.”
“Truth, but I know that you did come from somewhere, from a people whom I had been taught were all persecuted and killed by Khmerans and with that strange sword. I am told there are places that no one can enter in that buried castle. I am also convinced that you will find a way…. N’Giwah believes he will find a way, but I am certain he will not. In one form or another, Labolas will see to that. This brings us to what exactly I expect of you, but first I want you to understand that it will be your choice. I pray only that you will do what is right for everyone.”
“What do you mean?” Scar asked while crossing his left shin over his right knee and leaning forward.
“You will march due north with a squadron of my men. You will fight your way inside Alduheim, defeating every Khmeran you see, and you will find the hidden knowledge. With it, we will raise Alduheim to its proper place in the world, and I am certain that in doing so everything else will fall into place.”
“But what is this knowledge? How will I find it, or even know I have found it, and won’t there be many out there who either wish to see Alduheim remain a shambles, or worse, fight with all their strength to usurp it again?” Scar asked raising his voice with passion.
Gilgamesh slowly nodded, saying, “Truthfully, all of what you have conceived is possible, but that is the way of the world. If there are no good men willing to fight for what is just, then we are all already doomed. For the moment, we must play the hand we are dealt. I ask that you carry this mission out for me, and in turn you will have Satrone at your disposal in order to raise Alduheim. After that, I can only hope that our allegiance will start to etch away at the foundations of war. Brick by brick, we will lay a foundation of peace.
“So far as what that knowledge is, or how you can ascertain you’ve found it, I can say only that you will know when the time is right. Kulshedra has not revealed much on that matter, I am afraid.”
Scar relaxed back in his chair and pondered the proposition of the man before him. Gilgamesh was certainly determined to see peace, but Scar felt uneasy. There were so many questions playing through his mind: Does he not see that Khmer and Kulshedra must be Dragons? Their might is equal. Does he not fear this hidden knowledge? Why was it hidden? Does it truly exist? What will he do with it? He certainly did not mention giving it to me…no. I believe his wish is to wield Alduheim for his own purposes, and what about my sword? Why did he mention it…what should I do?
Kev: When you wrote this work, did you write off-the-cuff or use some kind of formula like an outline?
The only thing I knew going in was that there were Dragons posing as Gods, but that there were also real Gods, and that Scar held allegiance to neither. I only ever go into a story with a very loose idea, a handful of key concepts I need to explain. After that, I let the characters do their thing. I honestly never know what’s going to happen. I often don’t even know who’s going to be the bad guy, the friend, who’s telling the truth; I just tell the story, and as certain characters develop, they display their own traits and ideas, so, all too often, a former friend betrays the hero, or the hero undergoes some emotional transformation because someone died.
Sounds messy, right? That’s where the editing comes in. After the characters make up their own story, I go in and clean up the mess, so when the audience gasps at the untimely betrayal, it seems like a premeditated act, but it was something spur of the moment that I then reconsidered and reworked throughout the whole of the story to force it to make sense.
Kev: Did you research for the backdrop of your story or any other part of it?
Well… I was in the middle of another project when I needed some rest. I like dragons, so I started looking up different kinds of dragons from different cultures across time, and found a great many commonalities
Then, I totally forgot about dragons for a while, but I started to think about Gods, and how some ineffable force of nature might present itself as a God in order to draw power from worshippers, and finally, the two concepts coalesced into Gods and Dragons.
Now, I did some research some old cultures in order to draw some parallels; I looked into Gaelic cultures, Scandinavian cultures, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, etc., in an effort to diversify the tribes and the dragons they worship. Plus, I had to do some research on the differences between dragons and how they’re viewed among those various cultures.
Kev: What challenges did this particular work pose for you?
Since, for no known reason, I chose to have 13 dragons that meant 13 countries with 13 rulers all vying in some form or another to be in charge of the world. I had to form allegiances, make histories, fake allegiances, and I had to try to make it seem like these allegiances shifted over the years. On top of all that, I was working with 8 real Gods, and how they differed.
So there’s the 13 tribes of people, all of whom look different and have a different culture and different geography, and then there are 8 sects of priests or paladins, all of whom are entirely different from one another, and, as if that weren’t enough, I had to create different powers or magic for everything, so that’s 21 differences between the people of Tiamhaal and how they get along.
Challenging? Not when you eat, breathe, and sleep a story. Once I truly delved into Gods and Dragons, it consumed me; I still have vivid dreams of Scar cutting down the opposition. I figure if a writer doesn’t dream their work, he or she isn’t really invested; you gotta’ see your work to describe it, you know?
Kev: What methods are using to promote this work?
Well…I decided to make Gods and Dragons free. I figure if I get everyone hooked on the series, when it’s time for the sequels, my fans will be begging for them. Obviously, I’m doing interviews as well, and right now I’m waiting to hear back from about a dozen reviewers, and speaking of reviewers; guys and gals, if you read Gods and Dragons, please leave an honest review. Even if you didn’t enjoy it, please leave a review; they are not for me; reviews are for other readers.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write. I don’t know what else to say. Just write, write until the whole story is down. Don’t get caught on a word or a sentence or a piece of dialogue. Just get everything down. Then, get away from it for like months, really, two months at least. That way, you’ll lose the thread of the story after it’s written, not before. Why?
If you get caught on finer points while writing, you might forget something you had originally planned, and if you don’t get away for months before editing, you’ll be so stuck in your head, you’ll miss the little things that don’t make sense, because they will seem like they make sense, because you’re freshly in the story.
When you get away for a while, and then get back to the story, you’ll lose the thread and find sentences or claims that refer to something that won’t really make sense, and that forces you to rewrite certain passages to make them make sense, and this creates a story where a reader, who was never in your head, can understand everything as they read.
Other than that? Edit. Edit! Edit! Edit! Edit! Edit!
Hire an editor if you have to, but damn if not a ton of indie books are ruined by poor editing. Don’t believe me? Try an indie book with 600 5 star reviews, and then read the 2 1 star reviews from actual readers; they always make the same complaint; “this book was hard to read because the sentences were clunky and the dialogue was not believable”, which leads me to my final piece of advice; read your dialogue out loud. If it doesn’t sound like a real conversation, go and listen to people speak, even with fantasies, even with westerns, and even with sci-fis; make the conversations real, give the characters a different inflection-this can be done with one or two key words-give the characters their own mannerisms-and then add or change a few words to make it sound like the proper genre.
It isn’t rocket science, it shouldn’t be, but it’s important to turn words on a page into a story, and that means paying attention to what real life is like, and then emulating it on paper, screen? Paper. Thank you.