My First Epic Fantasy Novel
J. Dianne Dotson – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Author - My First Epic Fantasy Novel

Recently, I finished writing my first full-length fantasy novel. I have written fantasy before in short stories. Several fantasy stories appear in my cross-genre debut, THE SHADOW GALAXY collection, publishing March 3 from Trepidatio Publishing. I also have the cozy fantasy short story “In the Wood of Frost and Shadow” in the WINTER OF WONDER 2022: FAUNA anthology from Cloaked Press. I do have a high fantasy short story in a media tie-in anthology that I can’t reveal just yet, which should publish this spring.

And of course, I have my blend of science fiction and fantasy in my four-book space opera series, THE QUESTRISON SAGA (start with HELIOPAUSE,  but things get much more fantastical in EPHEMERIS and its sequels).

Also, my October 2023 young adult debut via Android Press, THE INN AT THE AMETHYST LANTERN blends science fiction and fantasy. But a full-length epic fantasy novel is something new for me.

The Vale of Seven Dragons

My epic fantasy novel’s tentative title is THE VALE OF SEVEN DRAGONS. It’s tentative because its eventual publisher might require a title change. This is not uncommon. However, it’s a very fitting title. 

This new world involves a princess who would rather be a knight or a priestess-witch like her mother, a prince of a neighboring land who does everything by the book, and the end of their world’s peace as they know it. A cosmic horror element serves as the catalyst for their search for the mythical Seven Dragons of the Vale—if they even existed at all. Full of family, friendship, romance, strange realms, and sinister villains, this book has all the hallmarks of a true high fantasy adventure.

At this point, I cannot give too many details to you about this book. But I think you’ll love it.

My Love of Fantasy

I have a lifelong love for fantasy, whether in novels, films, or television. I cut my teeth reading L. Frank Baum’s fourteen Oz books, watching CLASH OF THE TITANS, reading Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS books, and enjoying EXCALIBURLEGENDLABYRINTHDARK CRYSTALDRAGONSLAYERLADYHAWKE, and the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon in the 1980s. I am also steeped in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, having studied Classics almost as a minor in university (I even translated THE AENEID). I loved reading Robin McKinley’s Damar books, THE BLUE SWORD and THE HERO AND THE CROWN, and eventually Philip Pullman’s blend of sci-fi and fantasy, HIS DARK MATERIALS

Why a Dragon Book?

When I signed with my literary agent, we went through my considerable list of existing works-in-progress and story pitches and decided upon three to showcase my cross-genre skills. The first would be an epic fantasy with dragons. The second would be an unsettling near-future science fiction mystery with some horror elements (I’m currently writing this). And the third would be a campy horror sci-fi book full of gore and glamor. 

You may wonder why we chose to go with the dragon book first. Well, it’s probably no secret that dragons have been popular for several years, what with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin and the subsequent HBO-adapted series, GAME OF THRONES (and HOUSE OF DRAGONS). Dragons are popular: they’re compelling, diverse, and serve as good fantasy story denizens, to say nothing of transport! Given that dragons are still so popular, and I had a story already cooking, it made perfect sense to finish this one first. 

I wrote the novel in two months and it’s over 100,000 words. And I loved every minute of it.

World-building a New Fantasy World

Fantasy books require extensive world-building because their appeal is to transport us into another reality. As such, writing fantasy entails fleshing out believable and relatable characters, settings that feel tangible (if not real), the politics of the setting, and any intrigue between various factions, creatures in the fantasy world, and even their foods and drinks.

A high or epic fantasy involves themes such as grand adventures and quests, elaborate interactions between peoples of the fantasy lands, and a fair dose of their own myths and beliefs as well. I had a lot of fun creating this book’s rich world and lovable characters. I think I succeeded in making it feel lived-in and yet otherworldly at the same time.

And yes, I have even drawn a map of the realm. If it’s published, however, I want someone more skilled at map-making to provide an illustration. 

The Difference Between This Book and My Prior Books

With my saga self-published, and my two 2023 traditional debut deals made before I got my agent, this fantasy novel marks a departure from how I’ve done things in the past. 

One of the greatest benefits (and there are many) of having an agent is that they have access to the editors of big publishers. The publishing business is labyrinthine, no matter how you go about it. And in 2023, it’s more challenging than ever with supply issues, AI art and writing creeping into the mix, changing staff, and several other issues happening and keeping us all on our toes. 

I love having worked with small presses, and I’d love to do that again eventually. I loved the ownership I have had of THE QUESTRISON SAGA and managing every aspect of its production. But I have always wanted one of my books to be published by a large imprint, and one big reason is the reach. Simply put, big publishers can more easily move a significant volume of books all around the world. And I want more readers to read my books! 

On Submission

As of late January, my agent put my dragon fantasy “on sub.” This means it’s on submission to a list of editors at various publishing houses. These editors were carefully chosen based on what they want to see currently, among other factors. 

So, what happens next? We wait. This could take several months. Editors are busy people reading and editing books already accepted as well as those pitched. The submission and acquistion process is complex, but this article by author Mike Chen about it that is incredibly in-depth. 

Waiting is hard, but it doesn’t mean I slow down. I am continuing to write on my sci-fi novel, I have a book tour in March, and I have edits for my October release as well. Never a dull moment, in this life as an author!

Once we get an acceptance, of course, I’ll share the news. I can’t wait for you to read this book. It’s a fun place to escape to and dwell for a little while, and I could happily write more books in the same universe.

J. Dianne Dotson is the author of THE SHADOW GALAXY, THE QUESTRISON SAGA, and THE INN AT THE AMETHYST LANTERN. She is also a science writer and artist.