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How I Developed the Children of The Dragon Series

by Theresa M. Moore

It was something I was not prepared to do, at first. I had been playing around with several ideas all at once when participating in a fan club/writing group, and while I was working with them the seeds of the series sort of implanted themselves in the back of my mind. They did not germinate until late in 2002, when I was sorting through a bunch of documents I had laid aside in storage.

Let me back up a little. I had joined what started out as a Star Trek fan club back in 1988. It was meant to be a chapter of the International Starfleet fan association, which was formed around the idea of each chapter operating like a starship, with a ship's name. The members of the chapter were supposed to be the ship's "crew". My chapter rapidly grew into a writing group mostly because it happened to be composed of frustrated authors. We formed a newsletter we called "General Quarters", which contained news and announcements, regular ship's minutes and other nonfiction snippets. At some point we all agreed that the newsletter could also support short stories written at intervals. I suggested a "round robin" of chapters, one written by each writer in response to the previous chapter.

Among some the rules we adopted which were uncharacteristic of the other club chapters was that we were not to write "Star Trek" stories; that is, we were not to employ any character, situation or storyline from the original series or the movies. We decided almost unanimously that we would write original stories around new characters we created, and as a result we also designed a completely different starship. It was a dreadnought, something the series'producers never acknowledged to exist. The crew was completely different, and there were a few Vulcans and a couple of Romulan fusions, two Klingons and an insectoid. The immediate effect of this liberal (and some would say radical) departure from the mainstream of the series was a rich new compost of material to draw from. And so we set to work building our little sector of the galaxy.

But I was in a quandary. I did not want to write a Vulcan or a Klingon, but I did not want to write a human either. One of my friends had the audacity to write a half-alien creature from the film "ALIEN", and she was slightly obsessed with the character. I did not want to follow her example. But I was interested in vampires. It took me a week to sit down and have a serious talk with myself, and I happened to be reading "The Sussex Vampire" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the time when a lightbulb went on.

I did a little research into the "Star Trek Conchordance", an amateur catalog of all things Star Trek, and found that apart from the salt vampire in "Man Trap" and the gaseous hemavore in "Obsession", there had been no classical vampires written into the series. I asked myself, "can a vampire actually exist in the Star Trek universe, or is that something people simply pass over as too absurd? Can a vampire be as much a viable being as any other, with a culture and civilization, and can it be an acceptable species in the galaxy Gene Roddenberry envisioned?"

At the time I was placed in an unique position, in that there were several different roles I could have played on the "ship", and when our leader posited that he needed an intelligence officer I jumped at the chance. I sat down and compared all the powers a vampire possessed with the requisites for a good spy, and so Antonia Bellero was born.

Mind you she was a little rough at the edges at first. She was supposed to have paper white skin, intense violet eyes, deep burgundy red hair and the usual canines, which extended at will. I started with that. Then, a super light skeleton born of a light gravity so she could jump higher and faster, lightning fast reflexes, infrared vision and other standard features. But before long two of my friends began to write her as a "friend" character, which gave me the push toward designing her more completely. As she appeared in more and more of the members' stories, she began to take on a life of her own. Even then, I expected her to appear only when needed, to lurk in the background as a minor character.

The stories suddenly shifted to vampires (not my idea), and Antonia was thrust into the middle of an epic tale about another vampire designed by a friend and his involvement with her character. I was to be the loyal confidant, the foil against her hero's excesses and tragic end. The stories became richer and more complex until at some point it seemed like they were writing themselves, and I went blithely on developing Antonia's background, her planet of origin, and so on.

Then there were the inevitable disagreements about plotlines and taking liberties. I did understand from the beginning that when someone wrote another person's character that the manuscripts should be read by the character's owner. I had several people run their stories by me where Antonia was involved and in most cases I approved of them, or discussed the changes to mutual agreement. I also let the other writers read what I wrote about theirs and made adjustments where necessary. That was only fair.
 
But when my friend began writing her in without consulting me the stories took on what I can only describe as bizarre proportions. She put Antonia into situations that Antonia would never let herself be caught in. She also did not approve of something I wrote which created an impasse neither of us could get past. At some point I had invested some 15 stories to the series already, and one day I decided that the whole thing was getting out of hand. So I stopped writing stories to complement hers and hoped she would get her obsession out of her system.

Later, as some of the members actually married each other and retired from club activity to carry on with their lives, no one was writing anymore and it seemed that people were growing older and more mature. At that time I decided that it was time to move on and do something else. This represented something of a surprise to everyone else, but I was determined to go for my own sanity.

I put the stories and newsletters into storage and started work on some other writing and art ideas I had floating around. Then in 1994 the earthquake in Northridge happened, and everyone was shaken up. We spent a week without power, and two months later I suffered a burst appendix. While I was in convalescence I began to rebuild my jewelry business and went along for a few years just selling jewelry at the local conventions and art fairs, and was doing pretty well until 9/11/2001. The bottom fell out soon after that because of the deep psychological wounds the event inflicted on everyone. It was not just New York, it was everywhere. I stopped selling in 2003 when my regular customers stopped coming, and some of them were from New York.

In the midst of all this ferment I did not know what to do with myself. I decided to clean house just to take my mind off the situation in Iraq for a while and came across the bundles of newsletters and writing I had amassed. I sat down with them and started reading, and came to the conclusion that all my hard work would come to waste; that there was the potential for creating a new and different universe using what came before. My writer's heart began pumping again.

I tinkered with Antonia first. Then I took all the stories I wrote and began extracting the best of each. What I came up with was a hodgepodge at first because some of the storyline was written by my friend, so I had to write new passages to replace those parts. Then I had to redesign the starship and the situations to fit my concept of where the plotline was supposed to go in the first place, and began to write a completely original story using the old stories as a skeleton.

I finished the first draft of Destiny's Forge in 2003, and designed a cover for the book in 2004. I had the kernel of the series already outlined as a group of novels starting from the beginning of the saga forward, but since I had the middle already written I thought it would be more interesting to start in the 23rd century and work backwards from there based on a "chicken and egg" premise. I came up with several different series names, too, but the one which seemed to fit best was Children of The Dragon.

I could not really publish the book in 2004. I did not even have a working computer then. I determined that if I could not find a publisher willing to take my book that I would publish it myself, and if I could not hire a printer to do it I would print it myself even if I had to go to Kinko's (now FedEx Office) to do it. I had the idea for print on demand before it became popular.

Then in 2005 I discovered Lulu.com, an online publishing service which would take digital files and turn them into paperback or hardback books. They seemed reasonable; one could get published for free and then order books via print on demand or bulk order, and they had a marketplace. So, Destiny's Forge was first printed in 2006, after starting with a manuscript which ran 396 pages in trade paperback size. Then I trimmed it down a bit, and still more, until I had a smaller, tighter book printed in 2007.

During 2007 I had the idea to write a springoff "prequel" called To Taste The Dragon's Blood, which was based on a few paragraphs in the first book. The plot takes place in 2069, and starts on Mars. I took the title from something Joseph Campbell said during an interview with Bill Moyers, and the phrase stuck in my head. The plot is part "Angry Red Planet" and part "Capricorn One", with a nod toward "Hangar 18" and the ancient astronaut theories, mixed in with a generous dollop of vampire romance and adventure back on Earth. There is also a gentle nod toward the "Indiana Jones" series of films but the actual underpinning to the whole piece is based on the plot from a novel I wrote in 1972 called "Escape to Samarra", about an archaeologist finding an ancient alien city in the desert of Iraq. [Apparently I lost the manuscript between moves from one house to another long ago.]

Then in January of 2008 I was a background actor assigned to do a scene from "Rush Hour III" starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. I was already puzzling what to do with one of my characters, Michael Burton, who had started out to be an old man when he was first conceived. But when I learned what the plot of the film was about the kernel of another idea emerged, and Red Dragon was born,  mixed with Bruce Lee and martial arts,  mythology, Chinese history and romance.

The Queen's Marksman was inspired by a variety of sources and seemed to materialize out of nowhere, arriving almost whole and complete like Venus from Zeus's mind. A blend of Victorian vampire romance and espionage adventure in the tradition of Ian Fleming, mixed with a host of other British historical events and even a dalliance with Jack The Ripper. The adventure takes place before Conan Doyle and also Bram Stoker.

Then, when I saw "Pirates of The Caribbean" (I could never work on Disney or Universal films; those were union studios), the idea for The Black Witch materialized. My original idea of drafting a strong female captain soon transformed into the travails of a teenaged girl trapped by the circumstances of the time and the way things were, but who still won in the end because a vampire loved her. It is the most romantic of all, but I liked the way the whole plan came together. I followed the history of the period exactly with a few minor alterations, and the story takes place in the Gulf, the Carolinas and Nassau.

After that, I thought that I should flesh out what the dragon's blood was and how it worked, the mythology behind it, and to explain that this was not fantasy or magic but a biological adaptation, so VIRUS took form. It was a slight leap forward, but necessary, since I felt I should also write about what happened after the plot of Destiny's Forge concludes. Part of it was to satisfy my own curiosity. By then, my characters were writing the books for me.
You must understand that much of these books was written whole cloth from stream of consciousness, apart from research into the history or facts of the plot's background. I allowed my mind to focus on details brought up from memory; of childhood experiences, or events in history, or impressions inspired by creative works of both writing and film or television. The algorithm of what I knew or appreciated would dictate which way the plot would go. And I, helpless secretary to the mystery of my own mind, would simply type what came into it. Later, I would go back and edit, tighten facts, straighten lopsided ideas, and finally polish.

I held back the four books above to publish Nagrasanti, the third book in the series, and since I was an illustrator I wanted to showcase some of my work, both from the original series and also because someone remarked that illustrated anthologies other than children's books were quite rare. Now I know why, but that is a subject for another article. Since then, I have republished the book as NAGRASANTI Illustrated Vampire Anthology as somehow the initial title appeared too ambiguous to convey the meaning of the content, and I wanted to revise the cover somewhat as "violet" did not seem to convey the meaning of the content. I have fallen back on the color "oxblood" as a frame for the original design.

Of course the first book was a bit of a struggle, and still is. When Destiny's Forge was published in 2006, I discovered about a month later that Paul Chafe also took the title as the primary part of a title for a novel he wrote based on the Man-Kzin wars written by Larry Niven. I encountered a bit of a problem when I used the author name "T.M. Moore", and found my books on a list with books written by a christian author. Then, thinking that the first book was perhaps a tad too long, I unpublished the whole series and republished under my real name. Then in 2009, I went for months without sales of the print books and thought they were out there too long, so I republished with revised cover designs and even tighter manuscripts. So now they are in their permanent form, and I doubt I will do it again.

For a brief time my stories were also raunchier than they are now. I was always somewhat uncomfortable with erotica, especially when the erotica got in the way of the plot or was not really germane to it. It was not that I could not write it, it was just not important to me, but there is also that tradition that sex sells. I sought advice from others and was told that I should write what makes me happy, and I was always more inclined to read books which got to the point. I gloss briefly over the sex and move on, because that's not usually what the book is about. All 7 of these books are now available on my site, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and other retailers in various formats.

Currently I am trying to finish Written In BLOOD, a picaresque adventure of epic proportions for the sheer scope of the adventures I am writing into it; a historical travelogue mixed with vampire romance and real historical events, situations and places. It has taken a long time because it is difficult to know which parts are too long and which need more research. So far it is only 360+ pages long as a trade paperback (a long way from "War and Peace"), but I am only 7/8 of the way to the end, parked at the French embassy in Strasbourg. I am mindful that I have put off publication several times already, but it is not procrastination. I am eager to write more, but I must promote what has been written already so I have to make time for that. I do say one should not set a firm deadline when writing, but I am hard pressed to follow my own advice as I have been trying to finish this book since April of last year.

So finally, I will repeat what my series is about so that there is no ambiguity: the Children of The Dragon series is a chronicle of the Xosan, living vampires from the planet Antellus who were once human but were transformed by a dragon's blood. They are stories of science fiction, fact and fantasy, myth and history, romance, tragedy and triumph; linked together by the common theme of the vampire as hero. Each book is designed to stand on its own, and to educate as well as entertain. My main goal is to remind the reader that there is so much history which has been lost, so much of the future as yet unmade, and that there are stories yet untold which are rich and fertile beyond imagination. - end.