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Thursday, April 10, 2014

The First Secret is a Story ~guest post & contest by author of The Dragon's Message, Lori Fitzgerald

Today, I'm so pleased to welcome Lori Fitzgerald, author of a new fantasy book, The Dragon's Message. She's sharing a bit about what inspired  her to write this wonderful tale. I love her cover art! Please be sure to check out her book. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy!

“The first secret is a story…”
by Lori Fitzgerald            

When I was in high school my father bought me a navy leather-bound edition of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. I read it in bed by dim lamplight in the still hours after midnight during a week when the lancing pain of an ear infection made sleep elusive. The enchantment on each page made the pain bearable and, at the same time, illuminated a magical path for my life to follow.
In college my friends knew where to find me: lurking on the deserted third floor of the library near the Celtic myth section of the stacks. As an English major I specialized in my passion, medieval and Arthurian literature, so most of my stories are infused with Celtic and/or medieval settings, and The Dragon’s Message in particular takes place in a medieval fantasy land. Medieval literature abounds with hidden meanings, for in the landscape of the medieval mind, a character, setting, object or even action have both a literal and a symbolic meaning.  There are many secrets in The Dragon’s Message. Allow me to share a few hints to their discovery with you.
Lady Rhiannon of Caer Idris lives in a world filled with castles, knights, and tournaments.  In the very beginning of the story, Rhiannon’s heart is set pounding – in fear? or in longing? – by the sight of an entourage’s heraldic banners and the coat of arms on the lead knight’s shield. Medieval heraldry began as practical badges of recognition, so that armored knights could be identified in battle.  However, the symbols, or charges, also represented the qualities that the knight and his family held important. Sir Gwydion’s family banners are a blue background with a gold band at the top. The gold (“Or”) symbolizes generosity and elevation of the mind, and the blue (“Azure”) symbolizes truth and loyalty. These are keys to the quest in the story. The family coat of arms is, in medieval heraldic terms, “Azure, a unicorn passant reguardant Or, a chief embattled Or, file Azure.” This means the shield has a blue background, and a gold unicorn with one front leg reared and its head turned to look behind it is in the center. The unicorn symbolizes extreme courage, virtue, and strength. The top part of the shield is a gold band shaped like the top of a fortress turret, which symbolizes protection…or fire. On this gold band is a blue “file” symbol (it looks like an “E”) which is the symbol of the oldest son. This is how Rhiannon knows that the troop’s leader is Sir Gwydion. Other sons would have different symbols on the shield. And here is a hint for Rhiannon’s family coat of arms: look to the tapestry in the main hall of her castle for its interpretation.
Rhiannon’s medieval world is also populated by fantastical creatures such as dragons and unicorns. Unfortunately, these creatures are dying breeds. For many years wizards under the direction of various ruling lords have been stealing these creatures’ magic for their own. Rhiannon is the keeper of the Dragon Tome, a special book that holds the language and the secrets of the dragons. But there is more than meets the eye to this lady, as some names in the story suggest. Her castle “Idris” in Celtic/Welsh means “fiery,” and was also the name of a legendary giant in Celtic myth who lived on a mountain ridge (Cadair Idris). Her great-great grandmother’s name, Aelwyd, means “from the hearth.” And even the runes that the dragon messenger writes with “its red-gold ember breath in the darkening sky” hold multiple interpretations, because dragons “do not speak in as simple or as many words as we do, for their throats are clogged with embers. So each rune has many meanings, and can be interpreted in many ways, often depending on the other runes that they are with.”
In true medieval fashion, many secrets abound in The Dragon’s Message. I invite you to enter the world of the Dragon Tome and discover them! 

A dragon writes a cryptic message with its ember breath in the evening sky...

Lady Rhiannon watches from the turret wall with an ache in her blood. She's the only person who can decipher the message as the sole keeper of the Dragon Tome. When an old enemy threatens the castle, her father charges his knight with escorting her to a safe haven—the same knight Rhiannon had a crush on as a girl. But she must now convince him to change his plans, for she has her own sacred charge to fulfill...

So begins a journey to hidden ruins where magic slumbers in the stones and love lies in the heart, waiting to awaken. As Rhiannon and the knight face seemingly insurmountable odds, only the dragon knows if they can fulfill their destiny...

An excerpt from The Dragon’s Message:

When Rhiannon was small and had just learned to read, her mother brought her into the hall one day when her father was on campaign, and led her to the large table upon which a great map of their lands lay.  She instructed Rhiannon to read the words of the landmarks: castle, road, mountain, forest, village.  The young girl touched words inscribed over a place where trees met craggy peaks.  “What does that say, my love?” her mother prompted.
            “Here be dragons,” Rhiannon answered, glancing up at her mother.
            Her mother nodded, smiling.  She knelt down in front of Rhiannon so they were at the same height.  The lady’s hazel eyes sparkled as she whispered, “I have a secret to share.  But I can only share it with a little girl with red and gold hair,” she pulled playfully on Rhiannon’s braid,” who knows how to read.”  Rhiannon giggled.  “Are you a little girl such as this?” Rhiannon nodded eagerly, and her mother laughed.  She stood up and gestured at a tapestry on the wall.  “Come, child, the dragon guards our treasure.”
            Hand in hand they walked to the tapestry of the sleeping dragon.  “Your great-great grandmother wove this tapestry when she was an old woman.  It took her a long time to complete, with her hands gnarled so, like the twisted oak by the drawbridge.”  The dragon was curled up in front of a turret, with stone dolmens in a semi-circle behind it, interspersed with trees and a mountain peak in the background and bright blue sky above.  The dragon’s scales were crimson and woven through with glittering gold thread, and its curved horns and talons were gold.  As they paused in front of the large tapestry, Rhiannon looked closely at the eyes of the dragon; she thought perhaps she could see a slit of gold, as if the dragon were only pretending to be asleep. 
            Rhiannon’s mother stood on tiptoe and moved part of the tapestry to the side, revealing a slit in the stone wall.  With her free hand she reached in and drew out a large leather-bound tome.  She motioned her daughter to come sit with her on one of the benches that lined the walls.  “Look and listen well, my daughter,” she said, and ran her fingers along the smooth cover, “this book is our special treasure, and it contains many secrets within its pages.  I am going to teach you how to read them.”  She opened the book as Rhiannon snuggled closer to her, her mother’s loose red-gold hair falling over the girl’s shoulder and brushing the crinkly parchment pages of the book which she turned until she came to the picture of a girl.
            “The first secret is a story…”

About the Author:

Lori J. Fitzgerald lives in New York with her fellow English Major husband and their two little bookworms. Medieval literature is her passion, and she wishes she could spend more time traipsing around Renaissance Faires and shouting “Huzzah” at jousts. She was a middle school English teacher for many years and was best known for her dramatic readings of The Princess Bride. Lori is currently a Staff Writer for the website Once Upon A Fan, the popular fansite for ABC’s hit show Once Upon A Time. You can contact her by email at

Contact Links:

Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous, epic fantasy romance. For a FREE ebook sample of her writing, read her historic fantasy short story, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.


Unknown said...

The cover is lovely and the book itself sounds even lovelier. I look forward to reading the contents! michelle_willms at yahoo dot com.

Diane J. Reed said...

Yowza—what a fantastic tale! Romance, mystery, dragons & enough magic to keep you turning the pages. I LOVED The Dragon's Message & can't wait for the sequel : D

Mary Preston said...

Stunning cover & I loved the excerpt thank you.


Unknown said...

You had me hooked with dragons. The book sounds really great and I love the cover. Definitely added to my tbr.


Unknown said...

Hello Ladies!
Thank you so much for reading my guest post and for showing an interest in The Dragon's Message. I really appreciate it! Thank you for the praise of the cover and the excerpt. The winner of a free copy of the ebook, chosen at random (by my daughter from slips of paper), is...Steph F.! Congratulations! I'll be getting in touch with you via email shortly. I am always looking to share suggestions with other fantasy readers, so I'd love to connect with all of you on Goodreads! Thank you again, Marsha, for this opportunity on your wonderful blog!
Take care and magical reading,