A Thousand Words

This fall, I’m taking time to reread some of my favorite books and series, and because I’m not a monster, I’ve started with Harry Potter. I haven’t reread these books in several years. (I know. It hurts me, too. There are just so many new books to read.) So this is my first time reading from my new illustrated versions. So. Fun. I am not a very visually oriented person, so I don’t normally worry much about pictures. But the experience of reading this story is enhanced so much by these amazing illustrations.

Of course, in children’s books, pictures are accepted and even expected, but it’s gotten me thinking about the use of visuals in speculative fiction. When the imagination is being stretched to visualize fictional creatures, never-before-seen worlds, and alien architecture, does it help the reader to see an artist’s depiction? I think my answer is yes, as long as it’s done carefully and I still get to use my own imagination.

One of my favorite examples of well-used illustration is in Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy series The Stormlight Archive. Sprinkled throughout the books are fashion sketches, maps, and field drawings of creatures, all ostensibly made by one of the main characters. They’re lovely…and with such a detailed fantasy world, they help.

Tolkien was doing this sort of thing long before, when he included his own sketches from time to time in The Lord of the Rings. We don’t need these drawings to understand the action, but the visual glimpse into Tolkien’s imagination brings his descriptions to life.

Susanna Clark includes illustrations throughout Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. In this case, they aren’t particularly illuminating, but their old-fashioned style adds to the atmosphere of the book. It helps the narrative that this was written a very long time ago as a true history of England.

With all of this in mind, can I show you something that makes me happy? I recently had an artist create a couple of sketches of the plants and animals in TWIN. As it turns out, I’m probably not going to include them in the published version of the book for now. But I still want you to see my favorite ones. Because they’re too fun not to share.

gashi

montaje_yesela

 

I’m grinning right now. Because that gashi is so perfect, and the yesela’s eyes haunt me. I’ve been living on this world in my head for a while now. I can’t wait for you all to come and visit.

It’s still a few weeks before you can read TWIN, but if you want to visit the world that holds that story, check out UNA, available now on Amazon or for free on Smashwords. UNA is a collection of short stories that tells the history of the Maymar Colony, leading up to beginning of TWIN. It’s only available in ebook form for now, but that means you can download it now and start reading without delay!

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The True Mei

  
This is my favorite hour of the day.  I woke up at dawn. I dressed for work in the half-light so I wouldn’t wake my mother.  I went out onto the street, stepping out briskly, matching my speed to that of those around me so as not to be crushed by the crowds.  I taught the children all day, correcting their errors and reminding them of the rules they had memorized. I ate lunch with my fellow teachers, listening to their chatter. At the final bell, I put on my sweater and stepped into the crowds again.  Four blocks to home, my mother’s voice, the smell of dinner cooking.  We watched her favorite program after eating.  It always makes her fall asleep, but she will not go to bed until it is over.  At last the credits roll, the theme song plays, my mother’s snores stop and she bids me good-night.  I am alone with these pages and the brown lamp in the corner.  I can feel the quiet as I gently open the covers and slip into the magic.

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I don’t dare move.  As long as I look like just one more girl in the library, studying hard for exams, I ought to be safe.  I can’t understand a word of this book, though.  The words seem to dance around on the page.  It’s hard to breath. I can hear the boots of the men walking up and down.  Their steps sound angry.  The stolen documents press against my back, itching at the corners.  I must ignore the irritation, as I ignore the sweat that trickles down the back of my neck.  Keep my hands steady on the book.  Keep my face impassive. The heavy tread approaches. Two voices confer in angry mutters.  The men are right behind me now. Can the outline of the papers be seen through my dress? Am I breathing too quickly, too slowly, at all? Does my fear give off a scent that they can detect? Now they pass the table.  Now they continue down the rows of shelves.  Now they are gone.  I grip my book tightly and breath.  The first stage is done.

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It’s hard not to laugh. When the artist posed me on the stage, she didn’t say how long she would need me to stay.   She is the great Madame Clairot.  It seemed presumptious of me to ask, as if I didn’t value the honor of being her model, but now, four hours later, I wish I hadn’t been so delicate. At first there was plenty to think about.  Several visitors stopped by.  There were indecipherable mutters and clearly heard comments on the tidiness of my hair, the size of my nose and ears.  I wanted to lift my head and remind them that I am a living person and not actually a painting yet, but I didn’t.  I kept my eyes on my book, read the same three lines over and over again, tried to ignore the voices.  Then Madame kicked the all out.  I was glad at first, but after a while the silence was even worse.  I can’t even hear Madame painting or breathing or existing at all.  I’m pretty sure she’s fallen asleep.  She is very old now.  Was that…?  Did she just fart?  She did.  She farted.  Twice. It’s so quiet in here I can hear her farts. She must be sleeping then, but at least I know she’s alive.  I must not laugh.  If I start, I’ll never stop, and this job pays too well to lose it.  I think my ribs might crack from holding it in, though.  If she farts again, I’ll lose it for sure.  How much longer should I wait?

The Edge

edge

I like to sit on the edge of high up places and look out.

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to jump.

I’m not ready to die, and I know I can’t fly. Not yet.

When you look out at the world and you can’t see the ground, even though it is solid under you, you really experience the landscape.  You feel its vast openness and its wild untamed nature.  For once the air is as important to you as the earth, and the totality of everything is right there.

You know that feeling inside when you’re much too high?  Your stomach swoops and your heart beats insistently and your head feels like it belongs to someone else.  You are just a little out of control but very, very alive, and at least half of you is screaming, “Make it stop! Go somewhere safer!” but the other half of you ignores it, and the tension is exquisite.

That feeling keeps pulling me back to the edge.

I work at a tennis racquet factory.  It’s not an exciting job, but I have been there long enough to be moved into the quality control room.  It’s much better than last year’s job applying the paint and lacquer finish.  That required wearing a mask all day, and I still went home smelling of chemicals. All day long, I test a random sampling of racquets, putting them in machines, applying pressure, taking measurements.  It’s repetitive.  I have a lot of time to think about the balance of strength and flexibility.

When I was six years old, my grandfather died. I had never met him because on the day my mother married my father, my grandfather said he would never see her again.  He was a man who always kept his word, my mother said.  That is the only thing I knew about  him.

She took me to his funeral.  My father refused to go.  “He wouldn’t have gone to mine,” he said.  But she said nothing can ever make you stop being family, so we went.

I remember that everyone there was very old, and I felt shy and wouldn’t leave my mother’s side.  I don’t remember the service, but afterwards we went to the highest point in the city to release his ashes into the wind.  My mother, as my grandfather’s only child, went right up to the edge to open the velvet box.  I was afraid of heights, but I was more afraid of the crowd of wrinkled faces, so I went with her.  I watched the ashes blow out over the city.  For one second, closer to the edge than I’d ever been before, I felt what they must feel, drifting without any anchor, for one hour completely free from the earth before returning to it forever.

My mother looked beautiful in her black dress, standing there at the edge.  She stood very straight as she accepted the condolences of my grandfather’s friends.  Her eyes were sad, but she did not cry.  I was proud that she was my mother.

Later, as everyone was loading into cars to return home and go on living, I heard two old men talking.  The one said that he had been in the air force with my grandfather during the war.  They had jumped out of airplanes, parachuting behind enemy lines.

“This was a fitting end, then,” his friend said.

“No,” he answered. “He always hated jumps. Said man was never meant to fly.”

My mother took my hand.  I couldn’t tell if she had heard or not.  I looked at her as she sat next to me in the back seat of the car.  I wondered if releasing his ashes from up high was her idea.

I never asked, but I hope it was.

I’ve been seeking out edges ever since.

In the tennis racquet factory, there is a door that very few people know about.  It leads to a long set of stairs and eventually out onto the roof.  No doubt there is a rule against going through that door, but no one has ever stopped me.  I take my lunch up to the flat roof and sit on the edge, letting my legs dangle as I eat my cheese sandwich. There is nothing between me and the wind.  My crumbs blow away, going where I can’t yet go.

Sometimes when I’ve finished eating I call my mother.  She and my father have opened a restaurant, and she seldom leaves the kitchen before dark.  It is hard work, but they are happy.  This is their dream, something they have made together.  Something that won’t grow up and move into an apartment as I have done.

We don’t say much on the phone, but I know she hears the wind rushing past the receiver. She doesn’t mention it.  She speaks of ordinary things like menus and the price of fresh fish. I wonder if she knows that it is her voice as much as the cement I sit on that tethers me to the earth.

I’ve never asked, but I hope she does.

 

Ssebastian

Once upon a time there was a baby snake named Ssabastian.  For the longest time he looked exactly like all the other snakes.  His skin was green and brown.  His body was long and skinny.  His tongue was pink and forked.  Ssebastian’s mother loved him very much and taught him all about how to hunt for small animals to eat and how to stay out of the way of dangerous birds of prey.

As Ssebastian grew, he got very good at hunting for small animals.  Very, very good.  He often caught dozens of mice each night, not to mention the odd squirrel or chipmunk.  And since he always ate everything he caught, Ssebastian grew at an alarming rate.  His mother was alarmed.  His friends were alarmed.  It goes without saying that all the small animals in the forest were extremely alarmed.

Ssebastian grew and grew and grew.  The bigger he got, the better he was as hunting.  Soon he could catch rabbits and then racoons, and once he even caught a fox.  By this time, Ssebastian was longer than the old pine tree which had fallen over just before his birth and nearly as big around.  Ssebastian’s mother still loved him very much, of course, and now she began to worry that he would attract attention from something far more dangerous than birds of prey: humans.

Luckily, Ssebastian’s mother was a very intelligent snake.  She decided to make a disguise for Ssebastian.  Taking the bark off of many fallen trees, she pieced together a new skin that Sebastian could slither inside.  When he did this, if he lay perfectly still, he looked just like a fallen tree himself.  In this way, she planned to protect him from the notice of humans and so keep him from being killed out of panic or worse, put into a zoo for children to gawk at.

Ssebastian liked his new disguise.  It was fun to pretend he was a tree, at least at first.  He lay very still and smelled the lovely sappy smell of his bark and watched the clouds go by overhead.  After a while, though, he started to get tired of lying still, and his skin began to itch.  He longed to slither through the forest and to coil around the trees and scratch his skin on their branches.

Ssebastian looked around at the other trees.  He saw how they swayed in the wind and thought to himself that he didn’t need to be a fallen tree.  He could slither around in his disguise and be more like a living tree which moved back and forth as much as it wanted.  So Ssebastian began to move.  First, he just rolled over, and that felt so good that he slithered over to some trees and arched against them.  Their bark scraped against his in such a pleasant manner that he stretched higher and higher, reaching for their branches.  He let the branches brush against the back of his head and then ducked his head down and let the branches slide down his back.

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At this exact moment, two human children came walking through the woods.  Ssebastian froze when he saw them coming.  He was in a very compromising position: his tail in the trees, his back swooped down low and then arched high into the air, and his head ducked down in the grass.  It was too late to move, though.  The children had seen him.

Luckily, his bark disguise was very well-made.  The children began to exclaim about the cool shape of this tree, and Ssebastian thought he was home free when suddenly they started to climb on him.

“Come here!” said one child.  “We can slide down it!”

“I’m going to do flips!” said the other child.

“Bet you can’t hang by your ankles!” the first child answered.

They did.  They did all those things.  Poor Ssebastian had to hold perfectly still as the children slid down his back and climbed up again, as they gripped his bark and swung back and forth, as they bent their knees around his middle and hung upside down.  His back was hurting dreadfully, and he didn’t know how much longer he could hold his position.

Now Ssebastian was a very kind and friendly sort of snake (friendly toward everyone except small animals, of course, and even that was only because he was so hungry all the time).  As uncomfortable as he was, he actually found himself liking these little humans.  They laughed and shouted and sounded like they were having so much fun that he could hardly stop himself from trying to join in.  He tried to remember all of his mother’s warnings, and to think about her stories of the horrible zoo, but between the pain in his crooked back and the sound of laughter all around him, he couldn’t seem to remember what was so bad about these humans.

All at once, Ssebastian let his back drop, lightly setting down the child who had been clambering up it.  It felt so good to finally be released that SSebastian rolled over twice and let out a hissss of pleasure.  The children screamed.  Very loudly.  SSebastian curled around them protectively, just as his mother had done for him when he was scared as a tiny snake.  The children screamed even louder and started kicking his sides.  Ssebastian thought maybe this was a new form of play and tried to nuzzle the children with his head.  They screamed louder than any noise he had ever heard.  Then one of the children grabbed a stick and started hitting Ssebastian.  This broke open some of Ssebastian’s lovely bark disguise.  The children kept on yelling.

The nose was beginning to be almost as painful as the climbing had been, and if these children kept on hitting him, his whole disguise would be ruined.  Ssebastian realized now why his mother had wanted him to remain unseen.  He wished he had listened to her.  He wondered if it was too late to pretend to be a fallen tree again.  He decided to try it.

Ssebastian lay completely still on the ground, stretched out straight and flat.  The children cried in triumph.

“I killed him!” yelled the child with the stick.

“He’s dead!” yelled the other child.

“Let’s go tell Davey that we killed a snake as big as a tree!” yelled the first child.

The two children ran off through the trees to brag of their adventure to all their friend, none of whom, fortunately, believed them.

As for Ssebastian, he had learned his lesson.  His mother made him a new bark disguise, and Ssebastian spent many long hours lying silently inside it, resting and thinking about the peaceful lives of fallen trees.  Only at night, when it was too dark for anyone to see him, did he come out to do more hunting.  This restriction in his hunting time was a good thing for everyone.  The moderation in his diet kept Ssebastian from growing even larger than he was, and the small animals of the forest, of course, were quite relieved.

The Strange Condition of Emily Morris

Emily Morris had a condition. The doctors called it libris natarius. Emily’s father called it “Emily’s grounding problem,” usually with a chuckle. Emily’s grandmother called it “the floats,” which made the most sense to Emily. Emily herself, however, just called it a nuisance.

The condition first manifested itself when Emily was five. She was just beginning to sound out words then, and she loved to take down the giant picture dictionary and see how the letters all joined together to make a twin of the picture below. For the most part she would sit on the floor with the heavy book on her lap, conveniently weighing her down, but on the day of the incident, she decided to lay with book in front of her. So engrossed was she in the combination of words and images that she did not notice anything until the babysitter came into the room and screamed. The poor girl had good cause. Emily’s feet and legs had floated right up off the ground and were hovering at least two feet in the air. Only the girl’s tight grip on her beloved dictionary kept the rest of her planted. Emily’s father being on a business trip, her grandmother was quickly phoned. She closed her shop and came over immediately to find the babysitter in hysterics and Emily calmly hovering. Quickly assessing the situation, Mrs. Morris closed the dictionary and sat with Emily in a firm grip until the effects had worn off. On that occasion, it only took about twenty minutes.

Emily’s condition worsened as she learned to string together sentences and read entire stories. At the age of seven, she developed a passion for fairy tales, and things reached a state of crisis. The more wonderful the tale, the higher Emily would float. It became a common occurrence to enter a room and find her up by the ceiling, and if the story had captured her imagination completely, it would be hours before she touched ground again. This made it very difficult to keep caregivers, as even the most highly skilled of childcare workers are seldom trained in the difficulties of floating children. Emily began to stay at her grandmother’s shop while her father was at work. There is some question as to the wisdom of this, as her grandmother owned a book shop, but though Emily spent most of her time there up near the antique light fixtures, she always stayed in back room, so the customers were none the wiser. Nonetheless, disaster was inevitable.

On the forty-fifth day of second grade, it struck. Emily had discovered the loveliest tale of two fairy sisters in the library at school. She sneaked a small peak during class, but not enough to do more than make her legs bump uncomfortably against the bottom of the desk. She was hooked, though, and having no more self-control than the average second-grader, she eagerly pulled the book out on the walk home and began to read. It was the first time Emily had ever read a story out under the open sky (her father having been quite careful on that point). Her feet left the path almost immediately. Emily continued to read eagerly, and unbeknownst to her she also continued to float progressively higher. It wasn’t until a particularly thrilling moment of the story caused her to sigh and look up happily that she noticed where she was. When she did, she nearly dropped the book. The ground was so far away that the roads looked like little ribbons and the people like ants. Even the trees and buildings were beginning to look like toys. For the first time in her life, Emily Morris forgot all about the story she had been reading. For the first time in her life, Emily Morris was truly afraid.

It was the fear that saved her in the end. With her heart pounding in her chest and her mind filled with the questions of where she would end up and how she would ever get home, Emily gave no thought to the words she had been reading. Her brain was consumed with panic, and she began accordingly to drop toward the earth. The rapid fall made the panic increase, also increasing the speed of her fall. If she had not recently read a story in which the heroine survived a harrowing hot air balloon accident, Emily probably would have crashed into the ground at full speed. Fortunately, just in the nick of time Emily thought how similar her situation was to what the heroine had suffered, and she wondered if she, too, would be saved at the last minute by a handsome man passing by on a hang glider. Thinking off that thrilling moment, Emily’s descent slowed to a stop. She hovered for just a moment, until worry about being lost overtook her again and she dropped with a crunch into the upper branches of a convenient tree.

You can imagine the panic that was caused by Emily’s failure to arrive home after school. Hours passed before she was located, and by that time Emily, her father, and her grandmother were all thoroughly terrified. After that, Emily was taken to several doctors, who diagnosed her condition as previously mentioned but were unable to prescribe any cure other than the most obvious one. That cure was the one that Emily was simply unable to take, giving up books altogether. Not even her father, who was genuinely concerned for her well-being, could find it in himself to enforce such a terrible treatment, for what good is safety if it comes at such a cost? Instead he commissioned a saddle-maker to design a set of harnesses to keep Emily safely tied to the physical world and a cobbler to make a set of shoes lined with lead to weigh her down as she walked. Of course, this made normal walking quite tiring, but Emily considered it a small price to pay.

So it is that Emily grew up, and her condition grew with her. In her teenage years she briefly rebelled against weighted shoes and had a few more outdoor floating incidents, but happily she was always able to catch herself on the branches of a tree before anything truly dangerous occurred. In the end she learned to manage it, taking regular breaks from even the most engrossing stories to think about practical things and get her feet planted on the earth again, but it has never fully gone away.

And to this day you may walk into a room and find Emily Morris hovering a few feet off her chair, a book in her hands and a smile on her face.

Treelight

Once upon a time there were a brother and sister of exceptional talents who lived in the woods all alone with their father.  Their father was also a man of exceptional talent, but the children did not know that.  They only knew that he worked hard to make sure they had food and to keep them safe from danger and to teach them to use their talents wisely.  He was their whole world, and it was a happy world.

Then one day he disappeared, and their world was forced to get much bigger.

It did not take long for them to see signs of struggle and to realize that it had not been their father’s idea to leave them alone.  It took only a little longer to pack two small bags and sling them on their backs and find the correct direction to follow.  That last part was not difficult.  There were no footprints to be seen, but a very clear trail was left.  Starting at the edge of the small yard, birds had gathered.  They were hopping about on the ground and in the trees, twittering to each other in a happy way.  A bit past that,  a fox was lying, ignoring the delicious birds and rolling in the grass.  Down through the trees in a continuous line were animals of all shapes and sizes all apparently happy, all come to sniff or play or take a nap along the trail, drawn as if to a stream of water.  The children were amazed.  They knew their father had a way with animals and that they often came to him while he was working in the forest, but they had never seen anything like this.  They began to realize that their father’s talents were much beyond anything they had suspected.

They followed the living trail all day, and when night came they were far from home.  On and on stretched the trail in the distance, and they knew the journey would not be short.  They did not feel tired or sore.  They did not want to rest.  They felt worried and afraid.  They wanted to be at home and safe with their father again.  They decided to keep walking.  It was a dark night.  The stars seemed cold and far away.  Animals that seemed harmless and even friendly by day now seemed strange and even menacing.  They held onto each others’ hands and kept walking.

At last they came to end of the forest.  One last lone tree stood ahead and then a flat, stony ground stretched out in the distance.  They could see a few birds fluttering here and there, but the trail was much less clear now.  There must not have been many animals in that part of the world.  The children paused, not sure what to do, afraid to step out into that exposed, unknown world.

“If only we had more light,” the sister said to her brother.

He nodded, thinking of the cozy fire at home, and lamps, and candles, and the lovely paper lanterns their father had once made for them.  He had an idea.  He did not know if it would work, but there is really no point in having exceptional talents if you will not try to use them.  He walked toward the last lone tree spreading its branches before them.  Putting his hands on its rough, gnarled bark, he began to tell a story.  He told the story so quietly that his sister could not hear the words, but she understood.  The story was not for her.  It was for the tree.  She watches as the tree began to sway and the leaves shivered with happiness.  She watched as a small bud formed on the central branch of the tree and grew and grew until it was fat and round and looked ready to burst into bloom at the first touch of sunlight.  Then she knew what she needed to do.

She began to sing, and as she sang, the tree began to glow.  Starting with the branches nearest her, the glow spread up and up until it lit up the bulb, still quivering with life at the center of the tree.  She shifted the song, and the glow concentrated itself right there.  Now the bud was absorbing all the light from the rest of the tree, burning now with a orange light that cast pretty leafy shadows on the ground.  Gently, gently, she finished her song, never taking her eyes off the glowing ball.  In the silence that followed, she heard her brother murmer a few last words.  He stepped away from the tree.

For a moment the ball just hung there, like a glowing lantern hung right in the middle of the tree.  Then, with a soft plick, the light floated up through the branches and came to hover in the air over their heads.  In the light of the glowing ball, they could see the trail perfectly again, now marked more with small rodents and insects and a few ground birds than with the larger animals they had seen before.

Holding hands again, the brother and sister walked forward in the light that they had made.

It will not surprise you to learn that with the ability to move both day and night, they soon caught up with their father, and with the evil men who had taken them.  It will also not surprise you that three people with such exceptional talents were able to fight their way free and make their way home again safely.  What might surprise you, what certainly surprised them, was that the glowing globe they had made to light their way on one dark night continued to light the way for all the nights after.  Night after night it could be seen in the sky, rising higher and higher, sharing its light with more and more people, until finally it came to rest among the stars and be seen by all the people on earth and give comfort and light where none had seemed possible before.

Once upon a time

I bought this felt board at a thrift store the other day.  Literally a felt board, with little felt figures for telling felt stories.  Does anyone else remember Sunday School flannel graph?  Like that…but, you know, with princesses and ballerinas instead of John the Baptist and baskets of bread and fish.

At first I just thought it would be some car ride entertainment.  Then I started thinking about the storytelling possibilities.

Visual aids to telling stories are the best.  The best.  And I totally suck at them.  If you’ve read this blog for a while (Congratulations!  You are the one!) you know that it is massively lacking in the visual.  I love photography and painting and drawing and paper mache and murals.  I stalk them on the internet, and they make me very happy.  But my brain just doesn’t produce on that level.  I close my eyes to think of a picture and all that comes up are a thousand words.

So this seemed like it might be fun to try.  I used it to tell one little short story to my kids.  I wasn’t sure if they would even want to listen to it.  They hung on my every word.  Then something even more awesome happened.  They took over.

They took turns, 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 2-year-old telling stories with the felt figures.  They all listened to the others’ stories.  Well, until the littlest got carried away and refused to have an ending to her story.

Then a couple of days later, they got it out again when I wasn’t even paying attention and made up more stories.  Then they got it out again tonight and told more stories.  This time, my five-year-old helped my two-year-old with her turn and they told a story interactively.

“So where did they go next?”

“I no know!”

“To a cave or to the castle?”

“A cave!”

“And then what happened?”

“Da witches came!”

You guys, I have never heard…or seen… anything so awesome.  It went on for 10 minutes and only ended because I said it was time for pajamas.  (I know, buzz-kill, but reality is reality.  Story time may be magical, but not as magical as bedtime.)

So here’s the thing about stories for kids.  They can be the simplest things.  Really.  Just wanted to show you the story I told them, just to show you how little effort I put into it.  Not that I’m proud of being lazy.  It’s just that if you wait until you have the energy to put a lot of effort into it, you’ll never tell stories.  And you don’t need to wait for that.  Story magic is pretty strong even without much help from you.

Once upon a time there was a little baby princess.  She was little and sweet and everyone loved her.

She lived in a castle, of course.

As the princess grew up she got sweeter and smarter, and everyone loved her more than ever.  But they did not love her pet.

Because her pet was a dragon.

“A dragon is a very dangerous pet for a little girl,” they all said.

But she loved her pet dragon, and she wouldn’t let anyone take him away.

Then one day a beautiful lady appeared in the kingdom.  She was so beautiful that no one knew she was an evil ice witch.

She cast a spell that covered the whole kingdom with snow.  The castle was covered and the people were covered.  Even the dragon was covered in snow.

“Don’t worry,” said the princess.  “My dragon will take care of it.”

And he did.  He breathed fire on the ground, and melted all of that snow.

He cleared all the snow off the castle.

Then he very carefully melted all the snow and ice off of the princess and her people.

When all the snow was gone, everyone was so happy.  “Hooray for the dragon!” they all yelled.  And no one ever suggested getting rid of him again.

The End.

Told you it was lame.  But it worked.  It got the ball rolling.  My kids stories were much, much better.