Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Big Dragons Don't Cry (A Dragons Guide to Destiny Book I) - C. M. Barrett

Morale in the country of Oasis has never been worse. The Earthers, a tree-hugging sect, fall on their knees at the name of the Earth Mother and beg forgiveness for their crimes against twigs and weeds. The Godlies preach penitence, suffering, and stifling self-righteousness and inspire their followers into submission with terrifying images of terror of an afterlife spent being chased by a fire-breathing dragon.

Most Oasans are more concerned about this life. They all fear the dragon in the swamp at the country's edge, but they don't know that he fears them, too. Druid, whose greatest talent is for putting out fires, steams up when he learns that a cunning opportunist intends to exploit dragonphobia and call for a communal dragon hunt so that he can level the swamp for suburban housing.

Tara, a kitten with charisma, becomes Druid's ally. She'll need all her charm to enchant Serazina. This young human woman hides her ability to read emotions in order to avoid institutionalization in a society that officially promotes mental dominance. Serazina gets into greater trouble when Phileas, Guardian of the troubled land, discovers that she can read minds, too, and targets her to be the mother of the heir he so badly needs.

Phileas doesn't know that he has more immediate problems. The would-be real estate mogul is spreading rumors that the Guardian is soft on dragons. His follow-up plan involves assassination. Dead dragons, deadGuardians: It's all one to a megalomaniac who dreams of domination.

Somehow these four must overcome communication difficulties, mutual mistrust, and delusions of human superiority to save the country. Otherwise, even though Druid doesn't breathe fire, Oasis will be toast.

On my mother's side of the family, I come from a line of storytellers. My grandmother's stories ranged from my grandfather's arrest for draft resistance in England during World War I, the uncertainty of life during the Troubles in Ireland, to the day she decided to leave her marriage (but didn't). My mother's stories described a rural childhood foreign to my suburban sensibilities but infinitely attractive.
Both of them encouraged me to read and provided me with books to feed a growing habit. When I was seven or eight, I discovered mythology, and the gods and goddesses in those tales were as real to me as the dragons and cats in my own stories are now.

My first writing award came in junior high school, when I won first prize in a schoolwide competition for the best slogan on the subject of good posture. I will spare you by not reprinting it here.

Although writing has always been part of my life, that life has been crowded with other interests. One of these, my passion for metaphysical studies and practice, led to a seemingly unlikely role as the co-owner of a crystal store in Greenwich Village.

In retrospect, these roles led me down the path to fantasy. While most of the people who entered my store were as interested in metaphysics and spirituality as I was, a minority asked where the kryptonite was, and some thought I was a total whack job.

They were probably right. It was a small step from hanging out with crystals to hanging out with dragons. Accepting the bizarre directions my imagination takes has allowed me to conjure up Zen cats, gossip-vending hawks, and other critters.

What will readers like about your book?  
Readers will enjoy the contrast between dramatic tension and humor. Any animal lover will relish the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of outspoken and highly individualistic cats. While the book is a fantasy, it offers an alternative perspective on issues in our own world.

Why did you self publish? 
My book was accepted by an independent press. When my editor became ill and had to stop working, the book moved to the back burner in the publishing process. Finally, so much time passed that I withdrew it from publication and decided to self-publish.

What inspired you to write this particular story? 
I visited the Florida Everglades and fell in love with saw grass, mangroves, and alligators. I didn't know a dragon was hiding there, but, years later, he flew into my awareness, and I had the foundation for a book and ultimately a series.


Orion stood on a ridge overlooking the city. As he swayed, exhausted
and hungry, the threads of its winding, dirty streets seemed to
tighten around his neck in a noose that limited both breath and

His sister, Sekhmet, nuzzled him with her black nose. "Lost in thought?"

"Wishing you'd waited a year or so to haul me away from the good life."

"We thought we'd better get on the road before you wore out your
equipment, Tomcat Stud Whose Mind Is Stuck in His Testicles."

Orion's other sister, Bast, trotted toward them, her white fur
gleaming in starlight. "We've come to the right place. The pull is

"Praise the Many-Taloned One," Sekhmet said. "My paws are killing me."

The lights of the city flickered in eye-burning imitation of the
starry sky. "It's not going to be easy," Orion said. "The smell alone
makes me gag. It's not just the physical stench, but also the foul
odor of self-righteousness and fear. And some of the fear is mine.
I've never failed before."

Sekhmet raised her ears. "It's hard to fail when you mount a willing
cat. I'm glad you realize you're facing a far bigger challenge. It
gives me hope that you've become something more than a swaggering
young tom. She of the Rough Tongue is molding you into the cat you
were always meant to be."

"I don't know about Her rough tongue, but I've never doubted yours."

Bast growled softly. "Enough. Orion, you have to guide us now."

Panic bristled his fur. "I don't know; I can't feel anything."

Bast scraped her claws against a flat stone. "Then ask to feel. Have
you forgotten you were chosen for more than shining fur and golden

"And equipment," Sekhmet said.

He turned his back on them and washed himself briskly to hide his
shame. Any cat could find the guidance of the Long-Whiskered One, but
Orion's ability to sink into a trance had separated him from the other
males of his generation and guided his reluctant paws to this cold,
windy, hilltop. How could he forget the first lesson all kittens
learned? When you got lost, She would always nudge you home.

Orion closed his eyes and began to meditate on golden fur and eyes.
The rasp of Her tongue shivered through him, massaging away the
tension that had tightened his limbs, clearing away the resistance and
fear that had hidden his path, and even temporarily blurring the
memory of well-fed, sleek females.

The way became clear, but one final moment of doubt kept him in place.
"Are humans worth our sacrifice?"

"Not yet, they aren't," Bast said, "but we're weaving a dream."

Orion loped down the hill, praying that the gathering strands wouldn't
knot into a noose.



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