An Alchemy of Dragons, Ch. 3, in which Erran is rudely awakened

Read it here: Ch. 3: Sharp rapping on the caravan wall…


…woke Erran in the early dawn on his second day in Chesny Wold.

His meeting with the wyvern the day before had been brief, dominated by beak and teeth, colorful head frills, huge eyes rising above him on a snake-ish neck, and shrieks like a hundred raging harpies. Finding the human amongst the leftovers of its meal, the wyvern had sought no introduction, but lunged straightaway. Erran instinctively dropped down among the deer bones, rolled under the trunk of a fallen tree, and froze behind it.

The massive head did not appear above him, and after about a minute of listening to angry thrashing and growling, Erran took a deep breath and a chance. He jumped up and shot his arrow into the bushes. The beast’s head whipped around after the sound, and Erran took off in the opposite direction, leaving the wyvern entangled in brambles.

It had been encounter enough, though, and he had spent most of that night in the caravan in the stable yard of the Old Ram, going through his books and crafting spells.

Now, summoned by the incessant knocking, he climbed from his bed, shaking papers from the blankets, and stepped out to find most of the Chesny Council with more questions and complaints.

He could at least tell them what kind of dragon it was.

“It’s a blood wyvern,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

“A what?” was the chorused response.


Things go downhill from there for Erran Fox, Ranger of the Beast Goddess.

Need to catch up with Chapters 1 and 2? Click here for the Index.

The illustrations for An Alchemy of Dragons draw on traditional Celtic patterns and Medieval illuminations. I got on a bit of a roll this month, and also added another illustration to Chapter 2, along with ornamental section separators in all the chapters, copied from 14th century French manuscripts.


New in Chapter 2, the signboard of The Old Ram.

An Alchemy of Dragons, Ch. 2, is ready for reading

Read it here: Ch. 2: Be a smart fox, Erran.


Chesny Wold was a soft land of green meadows dotted with flowers. The undulating terrain rose and dipped like waves in motion. They had landed near one of the Temple’s shrines, a water hole circled by standing stones carved with Nimrie’s symbols. All creatures might stop here as they pleased and be blessed by the place’s sacred aura. Yet no beasts grazed these pastures, as far as Erran could see.

Nearby in one direction, a line of trees marked a road, and in another, a soft sound and a fresh, earthy smell suggested a swift-running stream. Over one hill rose a faint haze of chimney smoke. On the slopes and ridge of another stood a dark mass that seemed to resist the dawn. Shadow and tension radiated into the air above it like a different kind of smoke.

“I would keep clear of that place, brother,” a voice called out.


Did you miss Chapter 1? No problem! Click here to see the Index of Chapters.

Like all the art for An Alchemy of Dragons, the illustrations for Chapter 2 are done in walnut ink and soft pastel on paper.

Getting a Little Perspective

So hi. How’s it going? It’s been a challenging few weeks, hasn’t it? Yes, it has. It freaking damn well has been challenging. And I’m sure those whose idea of fun is to make life harder than it needs to be have plenty more challenges in store for all of us.

But you know what? The hell with them.

Because you know what else happened since my last post? NASA started receiving the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and it’s spectacular! Here is NPR’s report about it.

Our universe is bigger, fuller, and more sparkly than I, for one, dared to hope.

To quote Jane Rigby, operations project scientists for the JWST, “Everywhere we look, there’s galaxies everywhere.”

It’s so wonderful, and honestly, by comparison, I’m just done with all the petty, trivial, back-biting toxicity that some people on our little planet want to waste everyone’s time with.

Look around you. There are galaxies everywhere! And flowers, and bees, and rainbows, and rabbits. The other day, I baked a cake with raspberries from my own garden. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of King Arthur Flour (an employee-owned company; no affiliation): Late Summer Berry Torte. It’s super easy, and you can make it with just about any fruit.

This is what matters in life.

So here’s what we’re not going to do: We’re not going to waste any more time with crap that doesn’t matter. We’re not going to let the bastards take away our rights, ruin our environment, get us sick again, or otherwise make our lives revolve around them, because they are tiny, stupid, pointless, and they don’t matter.

Here’s what we are going to do instead: We’re going to make art and look at art. Read stories and write stories. Eat yummy things. We’re going to keep everybody’s rights – period. We’re going to keep transitioning to clean energy and saving Planet Earth – period. We’re going to pay attention to the countless galaxies and stars sparking like jewels out there in the forever and ever.

And we’re going to know that this is the reality we all live in together, not some bleak, zero-sum, dead-end bullshit a certain bunch of raging randos dreamed up for themselves.

In the Reality Universe, we live in light, color, sparkles, and bunnies, and we have cake, so we win.

Sound like a plan? Good. Let’s get on it.

Updates from the Studio:

Summer Exhibition: “From Dark to Light,” July 14 – August 20, at the Brickbottom Gallery, Somerville. Visit their website for details and directions. I will be showing one of my Blue Lake paintings.

Poetry: Four new poems are up for reading. Click the Books & Writing tab to check them out. They were all written one sunny day when I was trying to work on my porch but got distracted by the perfection of the afternoon.

Web Novel: An Alchemy of Dragons, Chapter 1, is coming next week, around July 20, hopefully. Here’s a rough hint about the in-progress illustrations, from my sketchbook:

Hammer & Tongs: New Paintings, New Words, and a Secret Project

Busy, busy, busy in the studio.

June is one of those times, isn’t it? It’s a quarter month, when the year takes another turn. The summer solstice is – checks calendar – Tuesday. Already! Omg. Things are happening. The garden is blooming, bees all over the place, beans shooting up. The baby birds are flying. I can’t help but keep moving, too.

Three new small paintings are in the Shop now. Two abstract landscapes and one representative image of the moon over my street at 2:00 in the morning. I’ve been working late a lot. See below, and Shop here.

My second ever poem to be released in public is up. Titled “Spilled Ink,” it tells the story of the painting of Abstract Landscape 6, and I think something more as well. Read it here.

An Alchemy of Dragons continues in progress. The beginning is the most daunting part of an adventure, don’t you think? It’s the first and potentially most fatal test of one’s competence. I have to start a key set of wheels turning in these first chapters, and I admit, it’s taking longer to get it right than I’d hoped. But I think it will be worth it. Aiming for July on that one. Be sure to sign up for the Newsletter for alerts when chapters are posted.

Finally, I’ve taken on a new project, a commission, which will stay a secret for now. It’s pretty big. I have no idea how long it will take to finish. I will post hints and progress reports as I go.

It’s actually a bit intimidating when I list it all out like this. It’s all been happening in just the past few weeks. Sometimes, I don’t even feel the pace of work, like the dizzying speed of the Earth’s rotation, and I have no idea where I am in my To-Do list, just as I have no innate sense of where I am on the planet. I’m just here, now, doing whatever I’m doing – painting, drawing, writing, business, gardening, house stuff, people stuff, world stuff, giving a freaking interview for crying out loud, making good on commitments, oy-geez.

Maybe I just need to put my nose back down on its comfy grindstone and avoid that big-picture perspective thing for a while.

Three new small works:

An Alchemy of Dragons

Welcome to Aeldreth, where gods live among mortals, magic is mundane, and two unlikely heroes stand between an ancient curse of poison and hate and the very soul of the world.

Erran Fox, a Ranger of the Earth Realm, loves his job. He gets plenty of fresh air, time to himself, and keeps well clear of his family’s politics. That is, until he is sent to quell a rampaging wyvern and runs into a web of conspiracies, lies, and a mysterious bard who might be as dangerous as the dragon itself. 

When the wyvern’s blood gem is stolen, Erran must find it before its deadly magic spreads. Is there anyone he can trust as he chases the thief through a maze of sorcery, betrayals, and enemies from his own past?

Iarius Venzo, the Bard of Perna, has many faces and many secrets. In bawdy taverns or glimmering palaces, weaving lovers’ dreams or royal plots, there is purpose in all he does. That is, until he tangles with a mad wyvern and a dedicated Ranger who is more than he seems and won’t take no for an answer.

With Fox at his heels, and treachery hidden everywhere, can Iarius pull off the most delicate and dangerous gamble of his life? Or will the Realm and his own fate unravel in his hands?

From magical cabals, to enchanted hearts, and one mystical beast after another, Erran and Iarius race against time to save the land – and themselves – from An Alchemy of Dragons.


The full description of the upcoming web novel!

I’m having so much fun writing it. I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy reading it, too. Sign up for the newsletter to get email updates when chapters are posted.

In addition, a new poem,” Spilled Ink,” is up for reading. Check out it and the novel info on the Writing & Books tab.

Also, three new small paintings will be added to the Shop soon. Watch this space.

The Art of Words

A new section is added to the website!

Please click on the shiny new Writing & Books tab.


At long last, the Letters half of the classic Arts & Letters combo has arrived. Wait until you see – omg, I’m so happy about it.

Writing & Books is the index page to my written works. You can read the stuff, comment on the stuff, follow the stuff. Eventually, you will be able to order print editions via that page. At some point, I will likely add artist books and zines as well. Basically, anything bookish goes under Writing & Books.

So what is it, exactly, that I do write?

Well, similar to my visual arts, I like to switch and blend genres. You may choose among fantasies, mysteries, romances, or thrillers, but they are all linked by certain common themes. Just as nature, memory, and dreams run through all my artworks, so I think you’ll find most of my writing deals with emotions, relationships, and wild, sometimes dangerous landscapes, both external and internal.

Right now, you can dive into four of my 50-word micro-stories: “To the New World,” “The Runaways,” “A Lot of Frogs to Kiss,” and “Faith.”

Some of you may remember my 50-word story challenges, based on a surrealist word game, in which a complete story had to be told in precisely fifty words, no more, no less. I liked to raise the ante by randomly pre-selecting five of the words, which every participant had to use in their stories. It’s actually quite a lot of fun.

You can also read the very first poem I feel brave enough to show to anyone, “Night, April.”

Inspired by the American-style haiku of such intimidating giants as Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg, I decided to experiment with this form because why the hell not? To me, this is such a perfect and basic form of expression – to capture the essence of a moment, to make a picture in words of ephemeral experience – I really think everyone should try their hand at something haiku-esque, just to get the feel of it – the feel of one’s feelings. Go and take a look, and let me know what you think of my effort.

Finally, there’s the big project. Oh, boy, this is the one that’ll have you saying “Wow, Jen, you really went off the edge this time.”

Yeah, you’re damn right. I’m going straight off the edge – of the map – where there be dragons. A whole alchemy of them, in fact.

An Alchemy of Dragons

One peace-loving ranger with a past.
One audacious bard with an agenda.
And one deadly conspiracy – with dragons.

You’re not hallucinating. It is, indeed, a fantasy novel. What’s more, it’s a serialized web novel, which means it will be a hell of a lot longer than a haiku or some fifty words. It will be posted on this site by chapters, as they are written. It will probably be illustrated, too.

Now granted, fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we don’t drink tea here at the Jen Fries Arts studio – we spill it. (Actually, we do drink tea, every day, but you get what I mean.)

Yes, An Alchemy of Dragons will feature both swords and sorcery. It will have creatures and fancy outfits and very high stakes, but this is not going to be that Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings type stuff.

This is a Jen Fries project.

So check out the stories and poetry, reacquaint yourselves with the artwork, and you’ll get a sense of what you’ll be in for. I think you might enjoy it, and I hope you’ll give it a try. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t already, to get email notifications when chapters are posted.

In other news, it’s spring time. And yes, a lot of shit is happening in the world, but the trees and bulbs are flowering and the birds are courting, and that’s what I’ve decided to focus on. Look for an upcoming blog post about spring time artwork, soon. Also please visit the Shop for seasonal works available now.